Local parkrun tourism and a wedding

So, Great North Run recovery went like this:


Home to tea and a gingerbread man, plus trying to work out if my medal hanger can take the weight of another one!


I needed to get a few bits in town so walked there instead of having a run- I had forgotten my lunch and this is what you end up buying when shopping hungry!


The most beautiful sunset when driving to yoga- I actually pulled over and parked so I could take a photo. Plus pumpkin sprinkles in my Bird&Blend September tea club tea!


A short run looking at the gorgeous autumn leaves, tea, and a notification that I had another 60 days of my step streak (10,000+ per day)- all good!


A rush to get home in time, to catch a train into London as we had tickets to see Adam Buxton at the London Podcast festival. We went to Leon first for dinner- I really love their vegan burgers (and so does Andy)- we have perfected our order which is two burgers, one portion of fries and one pot of hummus (to dip the fries into)- mmmmmm, so good. The podcast was really good too- the guest was George the Poet, who I didn’t know much about, but was really interesting. Originally we were going to be going straight from there to somewhere further south (like Basingstoke) as we had a wedding in Southampton on Saturday, but Andy had to work on Saturday morning so we came home.

As I was expecting a different parkrun, I decided to go to Westmill instead of my most local Panshanger or Ellenbrook.

I thought I would wear my new trail shoes, as Westmill is mainly off road. I’ve been there a few times before (most recently as tail walker) and if I go a few more times (plus a visit to Preston Park and Jersey Farm) I can up my p-index to 6 (this means I will have been to 6 different parkruns at least 6 times)- it’s a long game challenge but keeping my occupied on the run up to 250.

I also wore my fairly new Sweaty Betty capris- I won a competition on the fab FitBits blog a while back, and for ages I couldn’t decide what to get (I knew I would get a running bra as theirs are so much better than the Shock Absorber ones I used to wear)- just before holiday I finally ordered some bits, including a yoga brick and these lovely capris. I’d painted my nails ready for the wedding and they matched perfectly!

Anyway, back to Westmill. It’s a fairly hilly two lap course, but beautiful views really help spur you on. You have to drive there really- I don’t think there are paths nearby, and it doesn’t get a huge amount of people each week. Considering it is so close to Panshanger, it’s far less busy.

Once home I made some pancakes- I bought this mix (from Superfood Bakery) made with various things including chickpea flour- they were so tasty- I knew I’d need something to keep me going as you never know exactly when the wedding breakfast will be.

We drove down to Southampton in the afternoon for the wedding (Andy’s auntie was getting married) so we had a lovely time catching up with all the cousins etc.

Andy liked the wedding favours which were little bottles of whiskey and jars of jelly beans- I swapped my alcohol for his sweets! Each table had a Beauty and the Beast style table decoration of a rose inside a glass vase (it was Andy’s Auntie’s favourite film) which looked so pretty, although excuse my terrible photo!

The cakes were so pretty too- we took one home each instead and had them the next day with some tea- mine was a gingerbread/cinnamon flavour and really tasty.

We drove home after the wedding, getting home just before 2am- I am not sure when the last time I saw that time was (apart from getting up early for holidays!).

I did a 6.5 mile run on the Sunday, and then we popped to the garden centre to pick up some bargains (those dahlias on the picture were £3 each!) and to Starbucks for our free drinks.

Do you like going to weddings? Is the cake the best bit? (Although fruit cake is the best wedding cake and no-one seems to have that any more…)

Great North Run 2019- running for Ken

Sunday morning dawned bright and cold. After quickly getting ready we checked out and walked to the station, as we had a train at 8.15 to catch to Newcastle. After seeing hardly anyone on the walk, the platform was packed! The train company had left boxes and boxes of bananas out for the runners to help themselves to- such a lovely touch.

I couldn’t decide on breakfast, as I don’t usually eat before a long run, but my start time was 10.40am and of course it would be later than that, so I took some mini malt loaves with me and ate one after getting off the train.

Walking through Newcastle there was such a good atmosphere, after dropping our bags off (we found a Stasher location where you book online and pay for it to be locked away, as there were no left luggage facilities in Newcastle) we were soon at the start. The plan was to meet up with the whole of the fundraising team. I was running with MND as my Uncle Ken (who loved running and the GNR) wanted to run 20, but was sadly diagnosed with MND and passed away after running 19 of them. His son organised the team, including Ken’s wife, so 20 of us were running Ken’s 20th. Anyway, there had been lots of chat on the group Whatsapp, but when it came down to it we just couldn’t find them- originally they were going to be by the orange and white start, and then they messaged  to say they were somewhere else but we couldn’t find them.

Andy took my “before” photo (it was chilly, hence the hoodie and t-shirt on top of my running vest) and so sunny- I kept closing my eyes so the turning was the attempt to only have to stare in the direction of the sun for a split second before he took the photo!

Anyway, we spent so long looking for the team that despite us being at the start a good hour before it started, when I went to my pen they had closed and I had to climb over a fence (other people did that too)- last time I ran it I think I was 40 mins before crossing the start line and nearly missed my train home, so I didn’t want that to happen again.

I didn’t have a real plan for the race- I thought I could beat my previous time of 2:27 (which was my first half marathon after having a significant operation and I really didn’t know if I’d get to the finish) but other than that no ideas. I knew it wouldn’t be a pb course for me (plus I hadn’t trained for a fast time, just trained to get up to the mileage)- it’s fairly undulating and doesn’t compare to Brighton in that way.

Anyway, it was hot, and very soon after starting I was regretting not packing any suncream or my visor. I tried to run on the right hand side which was in the shade some of the time. Kudos to the crazy people in massive costumes- I took the Paw Patrol photos as my niece loves them!

Last time I ran it (2012) it was a drizzly day and I remember not really loving the route – you run over the bridge early on which feels like a bit of an early part of the race to have something so iconic. Also loads of kids were throwing bottles of water and energy drinks at the runners which wasn’t fun. This time, perhaps because of the sunny weather, there were more crowds on a lot of the route, so even though the scenery for the most part was pretty boring, there were lots of signs, cheer points and bands to keep me occupied. There were also loads of people giving out goodies such as slices of orange and watermelon, various sweets, and one brewery was even handing out cups of beer!

I didn’t look at my watch until I’d run 3 miles, and that was quite nice to think I “only” had 10 miles to go.

Along the route were some shower stations, which were amazing! Basically tunnels a few metres long, spraying fine mists over the runners. After running in the heat and sun these felt like heaven! Not so good for people wearing glasses though! The first few bridges had motivational signs (one said something like You’ve done the training, now settle in to your pace, and then another one less friendly-Don’t stop now people are watching…).

I don’t usually drink anything in half marathons- maybe a sip of water in the final water station, because usually if I drink more I get a bit of a sloshy stomach, but it was so hot and I knew I needed to (seeing as I hadn’t had much in the morning before going to the train station), so for the final 2 water stations I ended up picking up a bottle (booo) of water, and keeping it with me. There was a Clif shot block station at around mile 9 (mile 8.5 according to Strava where I slowed!), and I picked some up there as I used to quite like them when doing long runs and knew that they were safe for me to eat. They had cut the packs in half which was quite good, so each person had 3 in a pack and didn’t need to try to open them. The ground at that point was super sticky though- as I think there were actual gels as well. Bleurgh!

I knew there was a big hill coming up- last time the Red Arrows were doing an air display so I got to watch them as I ran. This time they weren’t even there (so I thought it was VERY cheeky to have the photo of them at the end…) but I’d said I would message Andy so he could work out when I’d finish, so just after mile 11 I walked for a few strides to message him- 2 miles to go and one of those would be glorious!

Once the hill was done, there’s a short steep downhill and you can see the sea! This is the best bit in my opinion! The crowds are crazy, you turn left and see the 12 mile marker and know that you are nearly finished, with a flat mile along the seafront. At this point I suddenly felt really overwhelmed with emotions, thinking about how Ken loved this race so much, and how special it was that so many members of his family, and so many friends were there for him. I also remembered that last time I had run it, I was looking out for members of my family, as Ken and Brian (the one who we do parkrun with a bit) were running it and so I was looking out for them. I had to try and think about other things, and ended up counting up to 100 and back again. When I actually crossed the finish line I burst into tears (which I’ve only done at marathons before)- a guy in the finish funnel next to me gave me a pat on the shoulder which was really lovely.

It felt like I was in the funnel for ages, getting some water, a medal, a goodie bag, walking past the people queuing for photos in front of the Red Arrows… At least my tears dried and I felt alright once I’d got another bottle of water.

I have to say I love the medal- such a nice colour, but the t-shirt is rubbish! I was so disappointed! They were unisex and the smallest was small, and it’s huge- just like my Bristol 10k one- what a waste of fabric.

I found Andy fairly easily and we wandered over to the charity marquee- here they had “tea, chocolate and hugs”- I had a cup of tea which is just my favourite thing after a long run, followed by a banana (as the goodie bag had nothing that I fancied straight away). I had a lovely chat with some of the volunteers but no-one in my team was there- some of the faster runners had to head off, and others were still out on the course.

Last time we got the Metro back to the city centre, but the queues were awful, and Andy had seen that there were buses (to give you an idea, he had got the Metro out there, and even though my time was something like 2:15, he had only just arrived when I finished!), so we queued for a bus instead.

Once back in the city, we popped into Caffe Nero (it was right by the bus stop) and I got a chai latte and then used their toilets to change out of my really sweaty running vests (I wore my charity vest on top of my running club vest, as on its own it was too baggy and low cut), and also to throw out some of the heavy goodie bag (including a tub of tuna- no thanks!).

Also, look at what we could see from the bus- a giant teddy bear in a shop window!

We went to a burger place because I wanted something really salty- we did share those sweet potato fries because the portion was enormous! The pickles were so good too!

I took a lot of photos of the cute Elmer elephants around the city- I love things like this!

Then we picked up our bags from the hostel, I changed in the toilets and then popped to Pret for train snacks- I got a cookie and the lady saw my medal and gave us a second one for free- how kind!

Our train journey was all good- we’d booked seats and although we had to change somewhere, and our second train was a bit delayed, it was OK. I think we got home just before 10pm, so it was time for a quick shower before bed time.

Not a bad number of steps, although I think I’d done nearly 10,000 before I even started the run!

Goodie bag was fairly well stocked- a lovely Clif bar (but probably the worst flavour- I like bananas but not banana flavoured things), random Special K things, face cream and SPF.

The total so far raised (from the team) is £9788 (out of £10,000 target)- if anyone feels they can spare a few pennies then please click here– the words written by Andrew (Ken’s son) are really special too.

My chip time was 2:14:49, so I was pretty pleased with that time because of the heat- solidly beating my time from before, although this run was not about finish times, it was about finish lines, and I felt so lucky to be able to make it to the finish line when so many people can’t.

Pink Panther parkrun!

(Sing to the Pink Panther theme tune) Durham, Durham, Durham-Durham-Durham-Durham, Durhaaaaaaam, etc.

After our late arrival to Durham the night before, I was thankful that Durham parkrun wasn’t too far from the town centre (just over a mile it seemed). However, I left plenty of time because I find Durham confusing as the river bends around in a horse shoe shape, so it just feels like you are spinning around the whole time (plus I didn’t want to be there, but on the other side of the river and no-where near a bridge). I had maps open on my phone (I put in headphones and listen to a podcast, as with the Pocket Cast app it pauses the podcast for each map direction, and means I can listen but not be wandering around looking at my phone making it obvious I am lost). Anyway, I think the satellites were having trouble locating me as I was often off road. I went wrong 3 times before going in the right direction, and then ended up taking the road route and not the riverside path that I had selected…

After running 1.65 miles I arrived!

The start and finish are in different places (see the map below)- the finish is much more central. It started by a running track at the Uni (a proper track- how fancy), and then began with an out and back section alongside the river, then crossed over “the noisy bridge”, went around some rugby fields, then back to the river, along one side, over a bridge and finishing on the other side. The last section (before you crossed over the final bridge) had amazing views of the castle and cathedral.

As I was running the GNR the next day (as were a lot of people judging by the number of tourists), I started near the back and tried to make myself take it gently.  I kept it nice and steady with a royal flush negative split- 10:02, 9:36, 9:12, 8:31 to finish in 29:43. I’ll happily take a sub 30 minute parkrun (and according to the usually nonsense on Strava, it was consistent with my usual efforts!).  The marshals were particularly cheerful, cheering everyone past with loads of energy.

We hadn’t made plans beforehand (I couldn’t decide between stopping on my way back to the hotel for croissants/ cinnamon rolls, or going back for a shower and going out for a proper breakfast), so I messaged Andy when I finished, and as the hotel was around half a mile from the finish, I went back for a shower and we went out to Bill’s for pancakes.

We then had a lovely day wandering around Durham – it’s such a pretty place. I love the river walk, and of course the beautiful weather helped.

A while back there was an interview with a guy on Marathon Talk who runs marathons in big dresses- there was a charity shop in Durham with a display of the dresses, and they are enormous! I had no idea that they were that big!

We didn’t have lunch (the Pret was no longer there) but we came across a lovely tea room so had a pick-me-up. I had some delicious vanilla Earl Grey tea, and a scone. All the cakes were home-made and were really good. The afternoon tea looked fab too- with one slice of cake (which you chose from the front) instead of all the little usual fancy ones.  And how pretty is the teacup wallpaper?

In the evening we went to an Italian for dinner (Prezzo I think?)- in the end I had a vegan pizza (really tasty) as I am not too keen on loads of cheese before a long run. We then headed back to the hotel to watch a bit of TV (we started the new Danish drama)- I’d done over 33,000 steps by then so I did need to put my feet up for a bit!

So, my 67th different parkrun event and a very nice one it was too. I do like a single lap (or point to point) route and the views were very impressive. I wonder how the event team get on with getting to the finish before the first runners though!

How was your weekend? How do you prep before a race?

And just like that it’s back to work! And the final GNR countdown

After my last few rather long posts I will try to keep it shorter….

(Two weeks ago …) Monday we were back to work, with a training day. Even though I had been in in the holidays, I still had so many bags of things to carry in with me, I had to do two trips to the car! After work I walked around to the bike shop to pick it up, and even had a little cycle on the way home. I haven’t ridden a bike in years (at least 3, as it’s been in the shed since we moved here) and I actually felt a little nervous getting on it to cycle back. But, that is why the saying goes “it’s like riding a bike” I suppose. Just need to get a helmet and then I can pop into town and maybe cycle to parkrun.

Tuesday night was time for a run (4 miles), and then doing a lot of work prep (again, even though I did lots in the holidays there is always more to do- crack out the laminator) and having some left over brownie in front of Bake Off.

On Wednesday I popped to Starbucks to pick up my free drink, and then once home my tea club had arrived- pumpkin spice season baby! I had a walk (no yoga this week) and the air felt distinctly autumnal. Andy’s parents and auntie popped over for a catch up later on which was lovely.

Thursday was a 3 mile run, and tea in my new Canada mug- I love the little maple leaf on the inside of the mug. The evening was spent packing and sorting because we were off to Durham on the Friday.

Friday was a bit of a rush to get home, and finish up the packing. Pip& Nut emailed to say that their new limited edition flavour is pumpkin spice almond butter- let’s go pumpkin spice crazy! Our GNR whatsapp group was pinging like mad as all 20 people were working out the logistics. I am not sure if I have mentioned it before, but the reason why I was running it was for MND. My Uncle Ken, in the picture above, loved the GNR and wanted to run it 20 times. Sadly when he was training, he felt some twinges and was ultimately diagnosed with MND, and sadly passed away a couple of years ago. This year a team of 20 family and friends are running his 20th for him (20 for 20 for Ken)- I only knew a few people in the team- one of them was my lovely Uncle Brian (Ken’s brother in law)- the last time I ran the GNR back in 2012, Brian and Ken ran it together. More recently we introduced Brian to parkrun (a few years ago) and he’s well on his way to his 100 t-shirt now and totally loves it. The aim was to raise £10,000 between us and we were well on the way.

After dinner we drove to Stevenage to catch the train up to Durham, arriving just after midnight and having a shortish walk to the hotel.

I shall save the weekend for another post.

Are you a pumpkin spice fan? I saw on John Oliver that there is now pumpkin spice spam- I think that’s a step too far!

The final two weeks of holiday- running and drinking tea

After landing in Manchester and getting the train back to Milton Keynes (thankfully I didn’t fall asleep and miss the stop- that was my main concern after 2 overnight flights in a row) I had a fairly chilled out week planned. The jet lag wasn’t as bad as it has been- sometimes I have had terrible trouble falling asleep at night, but this time I found I felt suddenly very sleepy at around 4pm, and would battle through the evening, and feel a bit groggy in the morning but nothing too bad.

My inverse taper was meant to be starting once I got home, and I had pencilled in an 8 mile run for the Tuesday morning. However, when I woke up I felt weird, sort of dizzy (I get a sort of delayed motion sickness thing sometimes, especially if I have fallen asleep on something moving like a train or car) so I did a very gentle 3 miles to help reset the body clock.

The rest of the day was spent finishing the unpacking, sorting out some of our lovely souvenirs (we got some more art), doing some gardening, tea in the afternoon to stay away, and walking to town to get my free Starbucks drink before the voucher ran out (it’s only valid for a week and runs out each Wednesday).

On Wednesday I felt much better, and as I had run 8 miles on holiday, ended up going a little further (10 miles). I was feeling fairly stiff and so did a bit of yoga when I got home- I am sure I am very late to the party here as I have seen her mentioned on lots of blogs before, but there is a short sequence on the Yoga with Adriene for post-run, and it was just what I needed.

I got on with some work as I was feeling much better, as well as a bit more pottering around, sorting out the dining room and things like that.

I baked some cookies and Andy had the good idea to make ice cream cookie sandwiches-very tasty.

On Thursday I did a short run in the charity vest, as I realised I hadn’t actually run in it. The vest was a bit gaping under my arms and wasn’t that comfy, so I think for the race I will wear my club vest underneath. Hopefully I won’t get too hot, but I can’t see another solution as I think I’ll get fairly uncomfortable (plus it was very low cut so I felt a bit self conscious in it). At least I remembered to test it out before race day!

I also had a memory on facebook pop up- 4 years ago I did Crissy Fields parkrun in San Fran- that was my first tourist parkrun, as up until then I had run at St Albans as my local, and then Panshanger once it started. Who knew that 4 years later  it would have become such a fixture in my life? Now I’ve run at 66 different events which just seems crazy! In the autumn following on from this we were in Brighton and I looked up to see if there was a parkrun there, and did Hove Prom, and after that my interest in visiting different events started growing. Now it’s the first thing I look for when we go away, whereas back then it had only just started to occur to me that I could visit other parkruns!

On Friday I drove to the outskirts of St Albans and walked in to the centre as I had a back and shoulder massage booked in- just what was needed after attempting to sleep upright for two nights! Then I had breakfast in Pret and visited my parents. My sister and niece were also there, so we sat in the garden and caught up. I’d bought a few bits in Hotel Chocolat in town (I had a 15% off voucher, so it would be rude not to…)- I hadn’t realised quite how warm it was, and had left it all in my car boot. When I got home, well, some of it was rather liquid!

I had a car full as I had a few parcels delivered there while we were away (well in fact some of them arrived before we went but I wasn’t sure so had put their address down to be sure)- some Bird&Blend tea, and I finally spent my Sweaty Betty vouchers that I won from a Fitbits competition. I love their victory run bra (way better than the shock absorbers in my opinion), and also got some leggings and a yoga brick. At yoga we sometimes begin by laying down with the brick under our shoulder blades, and it feels so restorative, so I am thinking once term starts I may just lay like this in front of the TV! I also needed to borrow the wallpaper stripper from my parents because we need to start sorting out the hall- urgh!

On Saturday I headed to Panshanger so that I wouldn’t be back too late and could help with the wallpaper stripping. The steam kept setting off the fire alarm, and it was a really hot day so not the best way to spend it. We did get a fair amount done, but I think it’s going to take us a while!

As a post-holiday treat we had bought extra frozen fruit and some granola, and Andy made us acai bowls for breakfast- so good. I also got a “top fan” badge for With Me Now (my fave parkrun podcast)- how exciting! (Clearly I have had too much time on my hands in the holidays!)

On Sunday I did a 12.4 (ish?) mile run and a bit of yoga, had another acai bowl for breakfast, did some work and then we headed to see Andy’s parents for some belated birthday celebrations (brother in law and nephew). The run was hot by the end, but I was glad to get that many miles done as I felt confident that I could take on the GNR.

On Monday we could have done more wallpaper stripping, but it was too hot for that so instead we went around to Capel Manor, which is a gardening college that you can look around. It was quite interesting, with rows of pretend houses so you could see different styles of front and back gardens. It had a walk through a forest, and a big lake to walk around. I had a few bits to sell so took some photos and put them on Gumtree (I am not sure the best place to sell things but at least this way I don’t have to faff with the post office).

Tuesday I did a 3 mile run to loosen out my legs, as they were feeling a bit stiff after the 12 miles, and then had to head to work as it was time to move all the furniture. (Our school gets cleaned over the summer and they basically pile all the furniture into one part of the room and we have to put it back)- on a hot day this wasn’t the most appealing thing but it needed to be done.

My reward was a slice of apple cake in front of Bake Off in the evening- hooray!

This is me sheltering under a tree as it had just poured with rain!

On Wednesday after a short walk in the morning to stretch my legs (where I got caught in a heavy rain shower) I headed back into work to continue sorting out my room, and then in the afternoon my sister in law, niece and nephew came over and we went to the park. Every other time it has rained, (and we’ve still gone to the park) but this time it was dry! It did pour once we got home though.

Thursday I did 6 miles, made myself pancakes for breakfast (these were a mix made with things like chickpea flour and were actually really tasty), did some gardening, and then Andy got my bike out of the shed of doom, and I walked it around to the local shop for them to give it a service. I then walked into town as I had a few things that needed sorting (including tightening my glasses, although now they are too tight and I need to go back…). After everything was sorted I sat in a cafe for a bit, with a magazine for company. It’s good to have this sort of me time.

In the evening we went to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I enjoyed it (apart from all the gory bits at the end) but when we left Andy said to me “did you know anything about Sharon Tate and what actually happened to her?” and my answer was no- after finding out I think the film would have been more tense if I had known!

On Friday I was meant to be getting the train down to Brighton to meet  up with a friend, but she wasn’t well so we’ve had to postpone. I ended up going on a walk, doing some baking for work, doing a bit more work, and then later in the day Andy got the train down with me (the plan was he’d drive down later and meet me there).

We had a delicious pizza (Fatto A Mano- I love their vegan pizza with roasted veggies and pesto) and then a lovely walk along the seafront to Hove as the sun was going down.

I heart my “save the bees” top.

Saturday was time for a parkrun sandwich- the last few times I’ve either been to Preston Park, or visited new (to me) Brighton ones such as East Brighton and Bevendean Down, and I fancied going back to Hove Prom.

I didn’t need my hoodie after the first few mins of running- it was warm!

It’s a bit further from the hotel (I think it was 1.6 miles) so it made a nice parkrun sandwich. The weather was beautiful, and it was packed! The first time I ran there, there were just over 100 runners, and this week there were nearly 500! Its fab to see how much parkrun is growing.

After breakfast at Cafe Coho, we found that there was a pro-democracy protest going on, so we walked down there. They had a few speakers including Caroline Lucas, so it was well worth going.

The rest of the day was great- wandering around the shops (of course getting a drink from Bird & Blend), along the seafront, stopping for tea and cake (this was delicious vegan carrot cake from Wolfox cafe), and popping to Leon for dinner before getting the train back.

On Sunday I went out for 11.5 miles (and some yoga once home)- I felt good on the run although I did stop for a while in the middle as I bumped into someone from my running club and I’d not seen her for ages. One week to go until the GNR!

I painted my nails with nail polish from Wideye (no formaldehyde or nasties which apparently there are lots of in my beloved Essie- I am going to move over to more natural colours as I finish the other bottles).

So, the final few weeks were a nice mix of pottering around at home, catching up with family, getting up to speed with my running, and then finished with a little getaway to Brighton.  I have loved the little yoga videos after my runs, so I am going to try and keep up with that once I go back to work, although the temptation in the evening to rush to the shower and have dinner is pretty big. We shall see.

Do you look to do a parkrun when you are away? When did you discover parkrun tourism?

Do you sell things on ebay/ gumtree/ depop? I won’t go into it now, but gumtree is not my favourite but I am not sure if I can be bothered with the faff of posting things…