Celebrating IWD by parkwalking at Stevenage

For IWD I decided to volunteer as parkwalker. I’d not done the role since the launch weekend, so it felt about time to get the blue bib back on. It was a really cold day, so it was hard to work out what to wear as I would warm up while walking, but obviously not as much as if I was running. As a last minute thought I took my RU2C hat with me and was very glad of it- I kept it on the whole time.

Stevenage is a well resourced parkrun with a free car park, a cafe and toilets all there in the centre of the park. The start and finish area are in slightly different places, and at first I walked to the start before realising that the volunteers were collecting at the finish funnel.

Volunteer team photo, sunny views and my token- with 2 people behind me they were just shy of 300.

I loved the welcome chalk board close to the start.

When I arrived, there was another parkwalker (recovering from a hip operation) and we ended up chatting with the tail walker rather than being a big ahead. Just ahead of us were a couple who were walking it, but they were chatting to each other and so we just hung behind them.

Amazing brunch plate from Mildred’s, sticky toffee pudding, the tea chest and a latte.

When I finished I could not hang about for too long as I was off to London to meet with some friends. We were going to lunch at Mildred’s, and as I got there a little early I had time to pop into Bird and Blend.

I’ve been a member of their Brew Societea for ages, and one perk is that if you are in store, you can ask to see the tea chest and take a sample from it. I have been to the stores plenty of times, but never been brave enough to ask before. As they were preparing my drink, I plucked up the courage to ask. Of course they were fine, and I was very excited to find some mulled cider tea- usually a Christmas only drink (but a lovely apple and spiced fruity blend) and we had run out at home.

At Mildred’s I could have chosen so many things, but in the end went for one of their brunch plates with scrambled tofu, black bean mole, sweetcorn fritters, blue corn tortillas, pink pickled onions, avocado and salsa- so many delicious things. We chatted for so long that we even had space for dessert, so I had the sticky toffee pudding and it was amazing.

Sunday running through the woods to junior parkrun, vegan strawberry cheesecake doughnut from Crosstown and lunch at Caffe Nero- I really like that their vegan ‘sausage’ roll has lots of veggies in there rather than a fake meat filling.

Sunday was another parkrun themed day, this time meeting our niece and nephew at junior parkrun. I ran through the woods first which was lovely but also very muddy! I thought it would be better as the weather had been dry for a few days.

Andy had been into London too, and popped to Crosstown (he was after the St Patrick’s Day Guinness doughnut so got me a doughnut too), so I had that to enjoy on Sunday.

Preston Park parkrun and a weekend in Brighton

I was signed up yet again for the Brighton Half Marathon, one of my favourite races, so of course no excuse is needed for a weekend in Brighton around the race.

As we headed down on the Friday, it meant I could go to parkrun on Saturday morning. After going to all the parkruns in Brighton (there are 5), I tend to go between the two most central, Hove Prom and Preston Park. Our hotel was closest to Preston park, so that was where I headed to. This also handily works on my p-index (the number of parkruns you have visited for that amount of times, eg if you have been to 5 different parkruns 5 times each, your p index is 5). (Currently my p-index is 6, as I have been to 6 parkruns 6 or more times- Panshanger(87), Ellenbrook Fields (39), St Albans (28), Jersey Farm (30), Hove Prom (9) and Preston Park (6). To get it up to 7, I need to get the lower ones up to over 7 visits, so the Preson park visit would help. (My next highest is Westmill at 5, so I need to go there 2 more times…)

Preston park parkrun, the statue at Hove, Bird and Blend tea, and parkrun token

I headed to the parkrun, taking my time as it was not far from the hotel. There were loads of runners there, including lots of people down for the half marathon weekend. They had pacers and I was very tempted to go for a faster time, but then I had to be sensible as I had had a bit of a cough and didn’t want to make my cold any worse. In the end I ran 29:02, which I am pretty pleased with as I have barely been below 30 minutes this year.

Andy had been to the Flour Pot bakery to get breakfast for us to have in our room (delicious vegan croissant) and then we were off for our traditional walk to Hove. It was glorious weather so we made the most of it. Of course we had to go into Bird and Blend for a tea latte to accompany the walk.

The pavilion at dusk, a walk by the sea, Purezza pizza and Crosstown

Crosstown had recently opened so we bought a couple of treats, and had dinner at Purezza- good carb loading.

The forecast for Sunday included sleet, so it wasn’t that great. I could not decide what to wear, as one year I was way too hot, but equally you don’t want to be freezing cold for a couple of hours. In the end I went for capris, t-shirt with my club vest over the top, buff and gloves. I wore my jacket to the start and at the last minute gave it to Andy, and at the end he walked to meet me with it.

The race was enjoyable, although I got a bit of a stiff leg at one point. I stopped to stretch a few times, but it just wasn’t right. I think the adverse camber of the start just aggravated something. I didn’t have any aims for time, but estimated I would be similar to the last two years (2:08:23 in 2021 and 2:07:37 in 2022- I had to look it up on the text message). I finished in 2:07:04, so pretty consistent with those times, and if I had not had the sore leg I would have been a little faster too.

I do love this race, but the start/finish area is what needs working on. This year they tried to have a dedicated runner space close to the start pens, to try and help with the congestion, but at the finish there was nothing. I timed it on my watch and it was 30 minutes from finishing to meeting Andy by the pier (which is right by the finish)- we were given foil blankets and thankfully the forecast sleet had not made an appearance, but I was really freezing by the time I met up with him.

Medal and Kermit at lunch, race finish, amazing mega latte and marmite fries.

We went straight for a cup of tea to warm up a bit as I was not feeling great, and then to lunch at Oowee burgers- it’s all vegan and they do marmite fries which is just what you want when you have finished running. Tp stay hydrated we also went to Bird and Blend- they were advertising a mega latte with their seasonal strawberry and nutella pancakes tea, and even offered vegan squirty cream (who even knew that was a thing?) so I had that and it was just what I needed.

Since January I have stopped working Mondays, so to make the most of this we actually stayed down in Brighton for the Sunday night and travelled back the next day, which was a revelation!

So, a weekend of running, fresh air and eating delicious vegan food.

I ended up resting for the entire next week as my leg still had a tight muscle and I didn’t want to do any damage. By the next parkrun, I was OK to take it gently and thankfully felt fine.

Are there races that you love to do each year?

Grovelands parkrun- my NENDY for ages

If you are not sure, NENDY is Nearest Event Not Done yet (or NENYD if you want to swap the final two words around).

My initial idea for parkrun tourism was to visit Lordship Recreational Grounds parkrun, in North London, as I could do a similar journey to the previous week, getting the train to Finsbury Park and then changing to the underground. However, engineering works meant that there was a rail replacement bus which takes ages (over an hour- I think if I had got the 7:50 train I would have got to Finsbury Park after 9) so that was off the table. I then thought about driving to an underground station and going in that way- I could easily drive to Oakwood station and then head in.

After realising that the purple icon on the 5k app was showing the actual location of my NENDY, I realised that Grovelands parkrun was only a little drive further than the underground station I was aiming for, so decided to plan to go there instead.

In the woods at the start, and scenes from Grovelands park including a large manor house.

There isn’t a car park listed, just street parking, which did make me worry, but when I looked on google maps the road was wide and quiet, with enormous home and driveways and plenty of parking. I knew the vague direction I needed to be heading in (past Cockfosters tube, keeping going straight until I got to the road I needed to park on, where I needed to turn left). I was nearly there, and then started seeing warning signs for the ULEZ coming up, which I didn’t think I would be driving into. (The car is electric, but still I would need to register). I looked again at the maps and they were swirling and recalculating- I’d lost connection and so had missed my turning. I had a bit of a panic at this point as I was gone 8:30 and I didn’t know how far I’d gone past the turning. Thankfully it wasn’t far (maybe a mile) and when I got closer the map loaded up again so I was reassured that I was in the right place.

There was no purple sign so the main sign will have to do! Also, do you like the tree growing out of my head in that photo?

The park was varied with a little lake, a wild wooded area (I could hear so many birds calling), lawns, tennis courts and a grand looking manor house. They mentioned at the first timers welcome that the start might be a few minutes late as the RD had been told that there were delays on the underground- very thoughtful. I chatted briefly to another tourist who had come up from Wimbledon as she was completing all of the London parkruns. My journey was super easy in comparison!

The route was just under 3 laps of the park, with a bit of a hill in each lap. There was a brilliant marshal at the top shouting out personalised running advice to each person- keep your eyes up, move your arms (and to me) keep your elbows close to your body. She was so encouraging but helpful too.

As you ran around the earlier laps the timer was calling out times too, so you could get a bit of an idea. As I neared the final part he was telling everyone that sub 30 was in their reach. and I’d not gone below 30 minutes this year, so pushed a bit, and managed 29:37- super!

So, my 95th event! I didn’t even know the park was there, so I’m thankful to parkrun was making me explore more of this area that is fairly local to me. And at least now I understand what the purple icon on the 5k app means!

Half term including junior parkrun marshalling

Half term was a chilled out affair. After my little solo parkrun adventure into London, I was local on Sunday morning, marshalling at Beehive juniors.

Marshal at the ready, the view, breakfast after and the whistle.
I was even given a whistle (a good idea to attract attention if needed) but thankfully all was well. I do love cheering people on at parkrun, and the children seem to particularly appreciate it.
The clear chalk stream in Panshanger, running through Ellenbrook Fields on the way to the car garage, and my reusable cup.
I had a couple of longer runs (good half marathon training) as the car had to go to the garage so I dropped it off and ran the long way home one day, and then ran straight there the next day and picked it up. The contrast in the weather was crazy though- the day I ran home it was still foggy in the middle of the day and really cold, and the next day was t-shirt and sunglasses weather. I went for a couple of walks in Panshanger (still bringing my reusable cup, although the lid broke- it was many years old- so I started looking for a replacement).
A visit to Vutie Beets (gorgeous vegan cafe in Letchworth) and parkrun planning

One day I headed up to Letchworth for a little walk around and a visit to Vutie Beets. I had a delicious chai latte in the cafe, and then bought cinnamon buns to take home and share with Andy.

I did a bit more parkrun tourism planning. I actually just realised that the NENDY icon on the 5k app is purple with a sort of cross hatch in the middle rather than the tick (if you’ve been there) or the parkrun tree (if you haven’t). For some reason I hadn’t realised it before, even thinking when I was in Southampton that the one nearest to be had disappeared from the app. So I think when seeing Grovelands as my nearest, I thought it was further than it actually is as I had not realised the symbol matched up with it. More on that in my next post…

OH ladies Friday run and another peanut butter covered breakfast

I was so happy on Friday to be able to join in with the club run. They always post pictures on Fridays of their runs and coffee after, and as it was half term it meant I could come along! We had a lovely walk along an old railway line first (a route I wouldn’t run on my own, but in a group it’s great) and then we went for a hot drink after (tea for me). I love my running club- it’s so supportive and the social side is just as important as the running. I tend to meet up a lot at parkruns, but don’t make the club runs very often so this was great.

I also got my hair cut- it suddenly had got very long. I actually went on the Monday after half term- since Christmas I’ve gone to working 4 days a week, Monday being my day off, and I absolutely love it. I love my job but it is so exhausting and time consuming- there is always work to do at the weekends and in the evenings, and so having a little longer at the weekend has really made a huge difference.
Half term also included some baking from my latest vegan baking book (by Freya Cox from Bake Off), and catching up on the next Disney movies for the Disniversity podcast (Aladdin).