Prospect parkrun in Reading – en route to Bath

For a few years now, the two of us have headed to Bath Christmas markets at some point in December. They haven’t been on the past two years, but this year they were properly back so we decided to visit. Over the years we have travelled and stayed there with various combinations of driving, using the park and ride and getting trains, and the best combination for us is driving to Reading, staying there overnight and then getting the train the next day. The train only takes about 45 minutes from Reading, whereas the drive takes ages and the park and rides get super full.

This also means I can combine it with a parkrun trip. My Bath Christmas market parkruns so far have been Swindon (now called Lydiard but it was Swindon when I went there in 2016), Chippenham (2017), Dinton Pastures (2018 for the D for my alphabet) and Reading in 2019. Handily, we picked a city centre hotel and the closest parkrun was Prospect, one I’d not been to before. We parked in the station car park so it would have been a bit of a pain to drive anywhere, and as the parkrun was a couple of miles away it was a good warm up and cool down.

The run there was straightforward- almost a straight line from the city centre, although when I got to the park I could not work out where the start line was and ended up asking a council worker as it seemed like a big park. This was lucky as I was going in the wrong direction and as it was not a huge parkrun (participant wise) I could have easily missed it!

The morning was absolutely freezing and even though I didn’t have long to wait before the start after arriving, I got really cold. The course was two laps around fairly muddy and fairly flat playing fields. I spent most of it running behind a few people who were chatting away, although at one point a marshal (who must have known them) told them “hurry up stragglers”- not the best thing to hear and could have bothered others but I didn’t mind.

That was my 91st different parkrun course- gradually getting my way to 100! A goal for 2023 I think.

After getting back to the hotel and briefly warming up it was time to get our train to Bath- we’d picked up sandwiches in Reading before getting on board so could have lunch as we travelled.

Christmas Baby Yoda jumper, Bath markets, delicious vegan pizza

The markets were absolutely heaving- often it’s busy but this seemed exceptional. It is always so pretty with lights projected onto the cathedral, a huge Christmas tree and various carol singers dotted about. We’d booked a pizza place for dinner and then went back around the markets in the evening when it was a bit quieter, and then got the train back late that evening.

Do you like Christmas markets?

Hatfield 5 Postbox Nerd!

Often I have not been around for the Hatfield 5, as it coincides with the occasional day which means we may well be at a lovely European Christmas market. This year (2022), I was around so decided to sign up. It’s a great race- you pick up your number on the day, parking is right there by the start, lots of marshals, a flat route, and lots of club runners take part.

Saturday was a regular parkrun at Jersey Farm with Dad- after our touring for his 250th and to reclaim Queen of Herts, we hadn’t actually been there for ages (I’d not run there since July) so it was great to run/walk to the start together and enjoy the route.

The race didn’t start until 10am, and you could collect your number up until 9:45, so I got there at about 9:30 to pick up my number and catch up with my running friends. It’s so good to be at a local race as you bump into people that you’ve not seen for a while. It starts at one of the Uni buildings (did you know that the library was used as the outside of the hospital in Bad Sisters?), so there are real toilets if you need them, plus a shelter from the rain. The bag drop was supervised but you just attached a strip with your number to your bag- I’d brought along a jumper for after and that was about it.

We had our traditional pre-race picture on the stairs and then it was time to head to the start.

Stair photo, after with medal in front of wonky Christmas tree, during the race, and the special postbox.

I had purposely not looked at my previous times, as I knew my 5 mile pb was from there (something like 44:44) and I didn’t think I would be close to it, so just wanted to enjoy it.

The route is nice and flat, heading out from the uni, along a cycle path, through some residential areas, alongside a dual carriageway for a short section before going back on the cycle path and then back to the uni. I was not looking at my watch, trying to run on feel. At one point I saw a cool black postbox, so of course I stopped to take a photo. As I did, I heard someone from behind call out “postbox nerd”, so I laughed and then carried on running. They then asked me why I was taking a picture of it, and I was about to launch into a speech about With Me Now pod, and how in lockdown people got into looking at the cyphers on postboxes, when the person caught up with me and I realised that it was actually Danny Norman the presenter himself. Oops! I knew he was running it but thought he’d be ahead, and the thought just didn’t enter my mind! I think he felt a bit like other people might judge him for saying something like that to someone he didn’t know, but I wouldn’t have minded even if I didn’t know them as I sounded jokey. Anyway, we ended up running and chatting for a bit before he overtook me, and then later I went past him and we had another chat.

My official finish time was 45:44 which was way faster than I had expected, so I was very pleased.

Once you crossed the finish line there was a huge queue for water and medals, which I hadn’t seen before when I’d taken part. I ended up being next to Danny’s partner in the queue, so we had a nice chat before getting some water and a medal. I also caught up with some other running friends (the lovely Branka who I know via parkrun) and a colleague that I used to work with and haven’t seen for ages. I chatted a bit to some of my club mates at the end and one of them offered to take the photo for me as I was admiring the wonky Christmas tree!

It was a chilly morning so I didn’t hang about for too long, quickly picking up my bag from the drop and heading home for a shower and then the next Disney film that Disniversity were covering.

Hove Prom parkrun and Marmite fries! (Brighton weekend)

We had an occasional day at work one Friday in November (this is when the school is closed- we have one day a year and can choose when it will be- something to do with making up for the bank holidays that are in the school holidays). Anyway, in the past we have headed off to a European Christmas market, but this year the Friday was a week too early, so we went down to Brighton instead.

We had planned to get the train, and had paid for parking, bought our tickets and were waiting on the platform, but there had been signalling failures and something else (one problem on the northern line and one on the southern line), then the platform changed and we could not get up the steps and across the bridge in time, and then the next one was cancelled, so we ended up getting a refund for our train tickets and driving down, so we got there much later than planned, but as that was the Thursday night we still had all weekend ahead of us.

A walk to the beach huts, delicious vegan pancakes, a walk by the sea with a B&B chai

We went out for breakfast on the Friday- there is a fab cafe (Wolfox) that has a host of vegan options, so I went for the pancakes (of course). The weather was amazing for November- blue skies for miles, so we walked up to Hove, popped in and out of shops and generally got our fill of fresh air and sunshine.

It being close to Christmas (ha ha) meant that Pret were doing their delicious Christmas sandwich. It is good that lots of companies make these fake meat alternatives to help people transition over, but as someone who didn’t ever like the taste of meat, I don’t really want to eat a vegan turkey sandwich, and Pret seems one of the few places that actually uses veggies rather than the meat alternatives.

We went for dinner in Purezza (all vegan pizza place that is amazing) and then had another walk around after that too.

Hove prom parkrun selfie on the beach, marmite fries and vegan burgers, parkrun token and of course another drink from B&B (one for each day)

On Saturday I headed to Hove Prom parkrun as that was the closest to our hotel. It was their 300th event which got me thinking back to when I first went there. Back in 2015 it was my first UK tourism at their 17th event. It has got a lot bigger since then!  They had pacers so I tried to keep between 29 and 28 minutes, and ended up with 28:02.

Andy had been out to the flowerpot bakery to buy one of their vegan chocolate almond coconut croissants, so I had that in the room as we had to check out at 11. Then it was time for more wandering, more sunshine and more fresh air. Perfect.

Before heading home we went to Oowee for vegan burgers and Marmite fries. Something that I did not know existed until seeing them on the menu. They were so good! But so salty! We shared a large portion and that was probably too much- we will know for next time.

Autumn run scenes from Sunday, vegan croissant from Flour Pot Bakery, photo from Hove Prom and tea with Taskmaster

Of course I had to pop in to Bird and Blend for a few times too- they do the best chai lattes, fact. Then it was time to head home for tea and Taskmaster, and then a regular Sunday with a long run in gorgeous autumnal weather and of course a croissant brought back from Brighton.

Where would your ideal long weekend be?

Junior parkrun marshalling and Totoro in London!

After heading to Bury Fields parkrun for Dad’s 250th, I had to head off home and get ready as we were off to London to see Totoro! It’s one of my favourite films, and the RSC had been putting on a performance at the Barbican. We had booked an early dinner and had a bit of a wander around London first, before heading to see it.

About to see Totoro, iced tea with dinner, Christmas lights and the poster

London was looking quite festive, despite this being the start of November! I won’t go into details as they asked for the show not to be spoiled, but suffice to say that if you love the film then you would absolutely love this performance and I can highly recommend it.

In all the layers for marshalling at junior parkrun, a pretty mushroom, pumpkin spiced doughnut and my view from my marshal point.

My niece and nephew were not coming to juniors, so I had offered to marshal (as if they come I will run with them). The weather had decided to be utterly awful. I ran down there as it is less than a mile away, with a view to then do a longer run after. By the time I got there I was soaked- I think the trouble is that I didn’t want to wear loads as I knew I would get hot on my run, but of course standing around for half an hour needs many layers. As the kids started running it did stop raining at least, but by that point I was so cold. I did enjoy cheering them on, and when it finished I then did another 6 miles- I think after 2 miles my hands began to warm up!

What made it better though? A pumpkin spiced doughnut from Crosstown (we had popped in of course when we were in London!).

It reminded me of how grateful I am to all of those parkrun volunteers in these colder months- I much prefer marshalling in the summer when it’s too hot to run and nice to stand around and cheer- standing about in the cold and damp is much harder than running around in the same weather I think!

Do you like Totoro? What is your favourite show to see?

Leavesden Country parkrun to reclaim Queen of Herts

We’ve not had a new parkrun in Herts for ages, and there was much excitement when Leavesden popped up a few weeks ago.

I would of course be travelling there with Dad. We were in no rush to head to the first one, and anyway had plans (his 250th venue had already been chosen) so we were there for event 4 in November.

Listened to With Me Now in the week I heard that Danny, the presenter, would be heading there, which also meant lots of listeners were heading there too. We’d already arranged it so it was a happy coincidence and of course I had to wear my WMN cooldown hoodie.

I had seen a few posts on their facebook page regarding parking, and chose the main car park as the postcode for the satnav, but it turned out to be OK and not too busy when we arrived at 8:30. I think by then the tourists had died down a bit, meaning they didn’t have such huge numbers as in their first few weeks.

The starting field was full of With Me Now merch, and I got to say hi in real life to a few running insta friends (Hi Branka and Holly) which was lovely.  The venue has everything you could need- parking on site, a lovely looking cafe (plus toilets), a playground and lots of interesting sculptures linking back to the history of the park in aviation.

The course was three laps, going around playing fields and then through woods. There is one narrow part where you meet runners in the other direction (almost like the middle part of a figure of eight) so you were asked to not overtake in this section, but it was only a few metres long so it’s easy to wait until after if you were in that position. It isn’t flat, but not hilly either, just a bit undulating. I think trail shoes might be better in winter but at that time the ground was fairly firm and the muddiest part was the field in the start/finish area. I don’t always like lapped routes, but as each lap was varied I really enjoyed it and was quite surprised as we came into the finish.

At the finish, Danny was chatting to someone else about lovely Ellenbrook Fields, so we joined in with the chatting and I asked for a photo. Last time I met him (at Kingdom parkrun) I chatted to him but felt a bit awkward asking for a photo, and regretted that as he always says on the pod that he’s happy for photos. Of course, I am not looking at the camera in the photo, but at least my eyes are open!

Of course I got a picture with Dad too, to commemorate our visit and to celebrate Queen of Herts once again!

That was my 90th different parkrun venue- gradually chasing down the Cowell!

How many parkrun events have you been to? Does your region have any good names? I quite like Champshire for completing all the parkruns in Hampshire!