Dinton Pastures parkrun on the way to the Bath Christmas markets

We quite like our yearly trip to the Bath Christmas markets, but not the long drive. For the last couple of years we have stayed in Swindon- the first year I went to Swindon parkrun (and we then drove to the park and ride but had a nightmare finding a space) and last year we stayed in Swindon and I got the train to Chippenham parkrun, before we got the train to Bath. This year we decided to stay in Reading, as the train was just under an hour. It also meant that I could get a new letter for my parkrun alphabet challenge!

Dinton Pastures parkrun was fairly close to the Holiday Inn (well, it looked close on the map but was actually over 1.5 miles away, which is OK but not when you have booked a train that morning…). It’s only been going since July- this was event 20- which explains why I hadn’t found it when looking for events beginning with D back in the summer.

We drove to Reading on the Friday night and then on Saturday morning I left for parkrun, armed with my phone and google maps. It was gently raining at first, but by the time I got there it was raining pretty hard. The entrance to the park had a separate pedestrian path, and I had seen some arrows in the distance so I headed there, but hesitated as I couldn’t see anyone around and wondered if it was the route marker and not an arrow to the start. A guy walking along saw me hesitate and offered the directions, and we chatted as we walked to the start. Weirdly it turns out he had run at Ellenbrook Fields before as his daughter is at uni in Herts (it’s right by the uni campus), so we could chat about the course! I love coincidences like that.

The new runner brief and main run brief were pretty quick- no-one wanted to hang about in that weather (I briefly chatted to a tourist who was from Bristol and on her way to Sussex- somehow we ended up talking about Crissy Field parkrun in San Fran) and soon we were off. The course is apparently two laps, but because you don’t run on exactly the same paths, it feels like one lap. At one point there was an arrow for lap 1 in one direction, and lap 2 in the other, but that was all I saw.

I just followed the people in front as always! There were lots of enthusiastic marshals on the way around- even more impressive on a damp and rainy day. At one point I stopped to take the photo (below, top left) because it was a really pretty view. I would love to go back on a sunnier day! I think trail shoes would have been a good idea (something which only occurred to me when I was driving to Reading), although the paths were sort of hard packed gravel with a few puddles and lots of leaves to contend with- it was all very flat apart from one short slope so it was all fine in road shoes really. My trail shoes would have kept my feet a little drier but that’s all.

I didn’t hang about once I finished, as I needed to get back for a shower and to make our train.  I knew I needed to get over the motorway straight away, but after that the route took me through a housing estate and then onto a bit of nature reserve- here I got very confused and the map just kept recalculating as it didn’t think I was on a road, so I went around in circles and back on myself for a bit- I ended up running 2 miles back- whoops!

Andy had made a cup of tea for me, so I jumped in the shower and then had the tea to warm up (plus an almond croissant and some satsumas).

Then we had just enough time for me to dry my hair before we checked out and drove to the station, to catch our train to Bath- I’ll get to that another day. My text came through to say my time was 29:19, and annoyingly for the stopwatch bingo I only need 17 and 18- so close! (By the way, the parkrun adventurers podcast had an interview last week with the creators of the running challenges chrome extension which I am using to keep track of all sorts of parkrun challenges including the alphabet one, so it’s worth a listen if you are interested).

So,  after a long hiatus I have ticked off another letter, and now *only* need I, J, K, Q and (international tourism) Z.

Do you like to chat to other people at parkrun? I am not usually very confident at chatting to people I don’t know, but because we always have a shared interest it always seems much easier at parkrun. Also the saying goodbye bit is always weird but there’s a natural cut off with the start of the run so that seems to help a bit too.

Brighton 10K 2018

We stayed in the centre of Brighton so it meant I could get up pretty late on Sunday morning as the race started at 9.30, so I left the hotel at around 9.10. Andy walked with me so I could give him my jacket at the last possible moment- it was beautiful blue skies but felt colder than the Saturday with a cold wind. We saw a few more snails on the way so of course I couldn’t resist a few more photos.

I’d looked up my 10k pb 54:53 from the Brighton 10k back in 2015, and originally I was thinking of going for one, but when I wrote down the mile splits it seemed I would need to run faster than my parkrun pb for twice the distance (and beat my 5 mile pb) so I just thought I’d try to keep an 8 on each mile and see how I got on.

The route starts by the seafront and you first head out towards Hove (this time with the wind behind), turning at just after 2 miles to come back along the seafront, past the start/finish area at about 4.5 miles, with a second turnaround point to head to the finish.

As the wind was behind at the beginning, I made the most of it and tried to keep a fairly sharp pace from the start- 8:56 then 8:45 were mile 1 and 2. As we turned we ran into the wind and it felt a lot harder by the beach huts. As I’d run parkrun there the day before I thought a bit about that and how close I was to a course pb. After the Hove lawns you head up onto the road (I heard someone say “I hate this hill” which made me laugh so much because it’s a tiny slope  from the prom to the road, no where near a hill!) and there it was easier because we were a little more sheltered. 8:51 and 8:47 for miles 3 and 4. Each time I glanced at my watch I could see 8 something, and I think I had in my head I needed 8:40 ish for a pb, and although I was sometimes quicker, I was often behind it, so decided not to stress. Mile 5 was quite tough as we ran past the finish area and of course could see loads of people who had finished- the wind seemed harder here too so it felt a little bit of a slog (nothing awful but just hard work)- I had the standard maths confusion as there were km markers and I thought I’d seen them all, and to add to that near here a marshal was shouting 1.5km to go, when after that I got to the 8 km point and realised he had meant 2.5 km- I was very confused about my maths converting from km to miles before I saw the sign!

I managed 8:43 for mile 5 so I felt I was speeding up. At the turning point thankfully the wind was then behind me and with less than a mile to go I tried to speed up. I’d looked at my watch at the 9km point and thought I was within a shout of going under 55 mins again, so I tried to push on and kept my mind busy with a combination of overtaking people in front and counting up to 100. Mile 6 was 8:23 and then the final bit was 7:31 pace so I did put in a speedy finish!

I stopped my watch in the finish area (showing 54:16) but I had no idea what my official time was, and I also couldn’t remember exactly what my pb was! I then had a bit of a shocker as I’d arranged to meet Andy by the tent with the flag, and waited around a bit, taking a photo of my watch and with my medal, and in the end texted him and it turned out he was in the meeting place- I was at a different tent- whoops!

It was time to head back to the hotel for a shower- we stopped at Pret for a hot drink because I was getting quite cold again (despite having my lovely run Disney top to put on).  When I got my text through, my chip time was 54:11, which made it an official pb! For some reason Strava thinks I ran the 2015 one in 52 something (I definitely didn’t!). I realised that this was the first time I had run it since 2015, because in 2016 it was cancelled due to a storm, and then I didn’t do it last year because I think it clashed with a half marathon.  Anyway, I’m very pleased with that because when I looked at my pb I did wonder how on earth I had managed to run it, so to actually beat it was a great feeling. (Just need to somehow transfer that over to parkrun, although usually when it comes down to it I’d rather just run around and enjoy a parkrun rather than aiming for a time…Runner’s World pace calculator thinks I should be able to do 25:59,  and if I use my best ever half time it says 25:55!)

On our way back we saw vegan runners wearing these amazing enormous animal costumes- the one above is a massive chicken but there were other animals too- big kudos to them for running in something that would be easily caught by the wind.

I had bought a Christmas bun at Gail’s on the Saturday (they are a bit like cinnamon buns, but with christmassy things like dark chocolate, candied orange and frangipane- so delicious) so I had that for breakfast before a shower and drying my hair. We then went for a little wander around the shops, had lunch at Leon (vegan Christmas wrap for me, plus hummus and waffle fries to share) before getting the train back home.


Christmas food in November- yay or nay?  What do you think your best distance for a pb is? I suppose I don’t tend to properly race a parkrun, but I think I am better at the slightly longer distances where I can warm up and get into it a bit.

A catch up and another visit to Brighton

So the weeks have just been flying by. On the Sunday after getting home and unpacking we walked into town for our free Starbucks drinks. I was worried I’d feel tired or need a sleep in the day, but I think the combination of the super early start (3.30am) and the run plus walking around the  park meant that I slept fine on the plane and so was OK. In the early evening I felt a bit sleepy but nothing too bad, and the week was OK- it took me a bit of time to get to sleep each night but I wasn’t waking up any more than usual. I did feel very sleepy when I was driving, so I did have to have the window down a few times!

Argh! Why won’t the photos be the right way up??? I liked the green cup that Andy had which is why I took the photo.

After letting friends and colleagues know about our holiday, the messages and cards haven’t stopped coming, which is so lovely (but unexpected in a way). My favourite one was from one of Andy’s aunts, who put on the inside “Congratulations (at last)” which did make me chuckle!

The first week back was very busy- I had a course on Tuesday with a later start, so I did a run first thing. On Wednesday I had to travel to a meeting after work and so didn’t sign up to yoga as I didn’t think I’d make it back in time (in fact I could have made it, so when I got home I had a run, although it was so dark and even though I chose routes that I thought were well lit, they weren’t in places so after that I found my torch), and then on Thursday I had a meeting somewhere else in the afternoon. We’d booked to see Bohemian Rhapsody which I just loved. We also had shutters fitted in our dining room- we ordered them back in the summer but they took a while to be made so we’ve had no curtains or anything in there since Easter- it’s made it feel so much cosier.

Friday was a nice evening at home, catching up on TV and relaxing. On Saturday I’d arranged to meet Dad at Ellenbrook Fields parkrun (we were so close to going to the inaugural Jersey Farm parkrun, as it is less than a mile from where they live- the new event from when Heartwood Forest had to close- but they had asked for a quiet launch because reading between the lines it was complaints from locals which meant the other event had to close, so we are going in a few weeks)- anyway, it was a lovely morning for a run, and despite us chatting (me less so the further around we got) we managed a speedy (for me) 27:29. Then it was back to Mum and Dad’s for pancakes.

I had a fair bit of work to do, but also needed to do some jobs in the garden, and luckily I decided on the garden first (clearing leaves and a bit of cutting back) because once I came inside and showered it pelted it down.

I needed to pop to town, but it was still hammering down so I drove a little closer and then walked the rest of the way- I’d signed up to the Caffe Nero app (you got a free drink) so I got myself a winter spiced hot chocolate, which may be my favourite so far, not too sweet. If you bring your own cup you get an extra stamp on your reward card too.

On Sunday morning thankfully the weather was better, so I had a nice 8 mile run, past the fountain (with a lovely display of poppies in the centre), before heading over to see Andy’s family in the afternoon.

OK, so now I think the photos are trolling me…. 

Week 2 was more standard- a walk after work on Monday to pick up a lamp from John Lewis, a run on Tuesday (with my torch), yoga on Wednesday and another run on Thursday- I had a lot of bad traffic so the runs were cut short due to being home later than planned and having a lot of work to do later on in the evening.

I did get to wear my new Run Disney top as it’s a long sleeved one- perfect for this time of year.

Then on Friday it was time to pack, have dinner and then head to the station as we were going down to Brighton for the weekend.

I’d decided on Hove Prom parkrun as it was the nearest to the hotel, and very easy to find. I’d also not been to it for ages as recently I’ve been ticking off the other Brighton parkruns/ staying further away. It was sunny but very cold as I ran down there. I had seen there was a snail trail for a local hospice (the same one that did the snowdogs a few years ago) and so my run down here had a few deviations while I took photos. As I went to take a picture of the snail by the big i360 tower, someone else was taking photos of it so I had to wait. She apologised (I said I was fine to wait of course) and then she told me she was the artist- we chatted for a bit about the process- they had to submit their designs and then the sponsors chose the design which would reflect their company- her design was Quadrosnailia (love the play on words).

Anyway, time for parkrun- it was so busy! There were a load of students from Warwick uni down, but maybe the race on Sunday made the numbers swell too. Out of interest I looked back at my past Hove Prom results- I first ran it in 2015 (my first UK parkrun tourism) and I ran 27:39, and 108 people ran it, in 2016 I went back and ran it in 28:11, with 136 people running, and then this year there were 373 runners- such a huge difference! I hadn’t looked at my pb in advance, and wasn’t really pushing it (I had a race on the Sunday) but in the end I was close to a course, with 27:52. Ah well, I wasn’t after one. I was a bit annoyed at some of the people during the run briefing though, as some people just would not be quiet, despite some volunteers walking through the crowd and shushing. There was also a really yappy dog which was so high pitched it was hurting my ears. It’s just so rude to talk over the briefing as well as meaning you might miss important information- this time for example they had to talk about a slight course deviation because they had tried to sweep the pebbles off the prom but couldn’t get rid of them all.

Then it was time for breakfast- we met at Cafe Coho and Andy had already ordered so when I got there my breakfast had just arrived- perfect timing! Delicious pancakes with berries, yoghurt and toasted coconut.

After a shower we had a super long walk along the prom to the lagoon at Hove, spotting more snails (even found the Fat Boy Slim one by his cafe) and then walked back to the centre of Brighton. We could not have been luckier with the weather- it was gorgeous, although it did get really cold once the sun went down.

We had a bit of cake to share in the afternoon, and then did a spot of shopping. I had to go to the jewellers as we’d got our wedding rings from a shop in Brighton (Ring)- we ordered them in May and then picked them up in September, and it fitted me fine, but now it has been colder it has been slipping off, so I wanted it re-sized. When we picked them up, Andy had his re-sized there and then, so I thought they would do the same for me. When the guy in the shop got out a packet and put my ring into it and asked for a contact number, I think I made a fool of myself by saying “oh, are you not going to do it right away?”- we did explain that they had done that for Andy and they were all very nice to me but they said mine would need to be sent to the workshop and they would post it to us! I’d only got used to wearing it!

We’d booked Food for Friends for dinner- sharing delicious tahini dips to start, and then I had a lovely sweet potato and pomegranate salad- good fuel for Sunday! I shall save the race for another post as this is rather long (yet again).

If you do use a reusable cup or metal straw, what do you do with them the rest of the time? If I know I am going to have a drink, I’ll take a cup with me (although the free  Starbucks drink is a medium and the cups I have are only small sized), but then if I am still out I’ll have a cup with dregs in it to either slosh around in my bag or hold the whole time. And the same with a straw- I have a bamboo and a metal straw, but then how do I keep it clean in my bag? I need some sort of pouch- no good using a plastic bag because then that will get thrown away once the milk or whatever gets on it, and then that’s more rubbish. Any clever ideas?

And the other reason for our Florida holiday

In my recap I mentioned that we had somewhere to be on the Tuesday morning. Well, it was a trip out to the Botanical gardens because we had our wedding to get to.

It was our 20th anniversary in the week, so everything just fell into place- we looked at a few places abroad but this just seemed the best option (it was legal in the UK, we wouldn’t need to go anywhere to pick up the license first, sunshine, a Disney race…).

All we had to do was sort out what we would be wearing, and bring the rings with us. (We also had to get some paperwork signed by a notary in the UK so that the licence was ready). In the end I had decided to have someone come to the hotel room and do my hair for me, and the person I chose included makeup (although I never wear makeup, I decided that some light makeup might be a good idea for the photos), and to be on the safe side they suggested allowing a couple of hours, so Andy went off to Magic Kingdom while I was sorted.

(This was quite funny because I had told her that I have quite thick hair, and when she arrived she said something about how it did look fairly thick, and we looked at a few hairstyle ideas, and then when she started to pin it up she went “woah, there is so much- it doesn’t look that thick”. Luckily we’d left plenty of time for everything and she even finished early.)

I even got a little touch up kit which I suppose I would have used had I been at an all day event.

We then got an uber from the hotel to the botanical gardens (we did hire a car but didn’t fancy navigating into downtown Orlando and the people who organised it said most couples get one down there) and then met the couple who organised it. They had my bouquet (I’d chosen them in advance) and a flower for Andy, and then we walked into the gardens to the gazebo where we met the officiant.

The couple who organised it for us also took photos, so after the ceremony we then had around an hour walking around the botanical gardens for various photos with one of them taking more posed photos, and one of them sort of hiding and taking the more natural ones.  They have all been sent to us electronically so we can decide which ones we might print out.

After that, we headed back to the hotel (another Uber), changed into  normal clothes (and I wiped the makeup off and just kept my hair) and we were off to Magic Kingdom!

We hadn’t told anyone, so from then on we had to be super careful about any photos in whatsapp in case our rings were on show (that’s not a good way for family to find out). We told our parents when we got back on Sunday, and then gradually started letting people know- that’s been the hardest bit in a way, because we did it abroad because I didn’t want a fuss and really could not imagine getting married in front of even a few people, but it seems to have created more excitement in a way.

WDW Wine and Dine 10K 2018

I was really looking forward to this part of the holiday, although as it got closer we did wonder if we should have done the 5k instead as that was on the Friday, and not the same day we flew home…

The long-sleeved top we got with our race entry at the expo/ signs around Disney Springs about Run Disney races and then my number all ready to go.

We had been to the expo on Thursday morning, and I’d been quite restrained with shopping- getting a Run Disney vest, a nice running jacket (they both say every mile is magic) and a mug, as well as picking up our numbers and long sleeved shirts. (After that we went to a few normal shops and I got a cool penguin t-shirt and then some nice essential oil sprays – we’d seen someone use one on the plane and it was so refreshing to smell, and the little travel pack were under 100ml so you could have one in your hand luggage).

We had been back to our room on Friday afternoon for a few hours to pack as much as we could, get out our running kit for the morning, and also have a bit of a rest, as we’d planned a late night watching fireworks at Hollywood Studios and then Epcot. Because we’d driven (rather then getting the bus) we were back at the hotel at about 10.40pm, and probably in bed with lights out at 11pm. The alarm was set for 3.30am though, so it wasn’t a long sleep!

At the expo I had also got this little magnetic pocket thing (the magnet won’t damage phones or credit cards), which clips to your waistband (most of my summer leggings have good pockets but lots of the winter ones don’t)- I packed it with a cereal bar, lip balm face wipes and tissues.

The race bus picked us up from the bus stop close to our room just before 4am (it said all runners needed to be on a bus by 4) and it wasn’t a long journey to the Magic Kingdom car park where the race started. Andy ate his cereal bar but I didn’t fancy mine- I wouldn’t usually eat before a parkrun or long run, but with races when you are hanging around for a bit I usually do, although I think the super early start messed with my stomach as I didn’t feel hungry at all.

We had to go through security and then we joined a queue to see Mickey and Minnie, but the queue was an hour and they were leaving in 45 mins, and then at around 4.45 we were all called to the starting pens, so we decided we would try for a photo at the end.

There was a huge stage set up and the people did a great job of keeping us entertained as the race didn’t start until 5.30am- I’d never usually get somewhere so early especially as we already had our numbers. They had interviews with participants, songs and dances, videos of previous years, clips from their sponsors/ charity partners (a local food bank). Somehow we were in the first section, and pretty much bang on 5.30 they set us off with some fireworks and a blast of music! As we ran, every 5 minutes or so we heard another lot of fireworks go off, so we knew the next wave was being set off.

Mickey and Minnie/ the big screen/ one of the mile markers/ the medal)

The first few miles were along big roads between the two parks, and as it was so dark we couldn’t see much of the scenery (but then it’s all pretty similar with lots of trees, green spaces and man-made ponds) but there were lots of things going on for us to look at- characters with people queuing up for photos, big screens playing songs from The Little Mermaid (mainly) and bands. The tough bit was the loop as it was an on/off ramp and although it was a gentle hill, it seemed to go on for ages! I got confused there and saw the big screen, feeling surprised that the next one was playing the same song until I realised that was where we had already been!  I slowed down to take a photo of each mile marker, although looking back later some of them were linked to countries but others were themed as postcards from different countries. By then we could see the big Epcot ball and knew we were getting close to the park.

It was more lively in the park with more spectators, and more music playing. The buildings were all twinkling with fairy lights (they way they do during the fireworks) and there were loads of photographers. We had a photo pass  included with our tickets, and you could link your race number, so every now and then you would run through some very bright lights and it took me a while to realise that the photographers were just beyond the lights. As we ran past the stage in front of Spaceship Earth, I saw people running in to stand in front and have their photos taken, so I told Andy that on our way back we would get a photo there too. The route through the park went around the world showcase lagoon, with a little detour (I think around some building work by France), and then on our way back we got a quick photo before running out of the park and into the finish area. They were calling out everyone’s names as we finished which is always a nice touch.

The finish area was very efficient with loads of people there giving out scary-coloured rehydration drinks (I’ll pass thanks), water, medals (woohoo), bananas and then little Run Disney boxes filled with snacks. The wait for Mickey and Minnie was only 10 minutes, so we joined it and ate our bananas in the queue. Then it was time to get the bus back to the hotel, have a shower and finish packing.

We must have been back at the hotel before 7.30am, so after showering we walked over to the cafe in the hotel grounds and shared a cinnamon bun. Then it was time to check out and head to Epcot for a final morning- we both wore our medals (lots of people did) and we got so many “congratulations” from various people which was lovely.  As we had only shared the cinnamon bun we decided to share a second breakfast of a school bread (the cardamon spiced bun filled with custard and topped with coconut)- sitting in the sun enjoying one of those was a pretty good post-race treat.  The park was totally rammed- it was the only Saturday we were there and seemed full of hen dos and locals on various versions of pub crawls (drinking around the world…. showcase), so we only went on a few rides in the end, watching the France film (both nearly fell asleep), going to see the Pixar shorts film, and then one last trip to Soarin’ to finish the holiday in style.

We left the park, drove to the airport, checked our luggage and had a wander before our first flight (to Miami). I’d packed the lavender spray and put that on my flight pillow and eye mask in the hope that it would help. I fell asleep on the internal flight for a bit, then our main flight was from Miami at 10pm (we nearly missed the fight because we found where we thought the departure gate was, but in fact the sign was for the gate and it was down some stairs, and by the time we realised there were more people downstairs they had nearly finished loading the plane so that was a bit of a panic for me), so I just put on my eye mask, loaded up some podcasts and went to sleep- the lavender spray helped but probably the 34,000 steps plus the super early start had something to do with it! They woke me up to ask me if I wanted dinner (I think because I had requested a veggie one) but that must have been about 11pm and after being up at half 3 I wasn’t fancying dinner!). I pretty much slept the entire time, waking up about 30 minutes before we landed.

The best snacks! We tried a caramel apple chai latte (which basically tasted like Philharmagic smells- I am glad we had it once, but once was enough!). delicious almond kringla from the Norway bakery, the cookie sandwich with pumpkin ice-cream, an almond banana soft serve from the food festival, a Dole Whip and our newest discovery of school bread (also from the Norway bakery).  Until next time Disney…