Ekebergsletta parkrun for my Cowell!

For May half term, the two of us had a trip to Norway booked, and I had requested a parkrun on one of the Saturdays that we were there.

Amazing sunset from the plane, soya chai for airport essentials, and the Ruter app showing me the map to get to the bus stop.

We flew to Oslo on the Friday night, staying until Sunday, so this meant I could visit an Oslo parkrun. I had already been to Tøyen parkrun back in November of 2019, so if possible I was keen to visit a different event. There are 3 parkruns in Oslo (only 7 in the whole of Norway though), but of course cancellations happen for various reasons so I wasn’t sure it would all go ahead.

Anyway, happily it was all fine. Our hotel was only a couple of miles from the parkrun, but the route was hilly and not straightforward, and a bus went right to the start, so I opted for that. Various parkrun tourist tips (from With Me Now pod and the tourist facebook page) meant that I downloaded the transport app in advance, and even went through the motions of buying a ticket (just not clicking on the final “buy” button) so I was confident in how it would work. I’d also finally got a new phone (my old one was 5 years old and the battery sometimes lasted all day, and sometimes lasted a few hours which was very stressful when needing it for navigation, and I had been to the store to see if they could replace the battery but they said no)- this meant that I was a bit more confident at using it for the maps and so on while travelling around.

I couldn’t decide what to do about breakfast until the final moment. I much prefer running first thing without eating, and only really make exceptions for half marathons where there is plenty of time from getting up to starting running. Our hotel had breakfast included, and food is expensive in Norway (although not as bad as we had feared- basically London prices) so I didn’t want to miss it, but it was only being served until 10:30. parkrun in Norway starts at 9:30, so if I took half an hour to run it would only give me 30 mins to get back to the hotel before they stopped serving, which seemed to be cutting it fine as the transport app estimated 25 min bus journey. Previously I had walked Tøyen, but partly this was because we went for a weekend with hand luggage only so I had no room for running things as it was freezing so would have needed many layers. I was keen to run this one, particularly as it was my Cowell, but also because I didn’t run the other one in Norway.

In the end I went for breakfast at 7am, when they started, and then went to get the bus at 8:30. Andy decided to come with me (I was quite relieved about that as I was a bit nervous about missing the bus- I think he sensed my panic)- the Ruter app worked really well and even directed you via maps to the bus stop. The bus stops were clearly labelled so you were on the right side of the road, and the screens on the buses announced the stops so it was all very clear.

parkrun start area- always exciting to see a parkrun sign in a different language

We arrived nice and early so had a wander around the park before I went over to the parkrun start. I didn’t fancy announcing the milestone (Cowell- 100 locations), but I did chat to the RD and there were a few tourists there so we had a nice round of applause at the briefing.

The route was two flat laps of the park, and the day was just beautiful so there were lovely views in all directions. I loved it! I ran most of it just behind a parent and child with a dog, so I wasn’t on my own, but it was a fairly small field. One tourist from the UK had run up from the centre, but he’d been there a few days and had tested this out the day before to check he didn’t get lost, so it is doable.

Finish funnel with Norway tape, mid-run photo (Andy took it while I was running), a mid run photo and my token

After finishing we of course took some photos and then headed to the other part of the park, across the road, as this is a sculpture park. Andy persuaded me to do the “footballer” pose of pointing at the shirt.

Showing off my 100 t-shirt to mark 100 locations

We’d been there on our previous trip and it had been covered in thick snow, so it was strange to visit the same place but in totally different weather- glorious sunshine and blue skies. The park is close to the water, on a hill, so there were beautiful views across to all the little islands.

Views from the park

After wandering around the park, we were by the tram stop rather than the bus stop (I think it says it’s around a 25 min walk on the parkrun course page- the bus is definitely easier as it takes you pretty much to the start). We found some e-scooters and Andy was very keen to have a go. I was reluctant, so he hired one and I ran behind him. Apparently they were limited to 5 miles an hour, but I could not keep up with him on the downhill so they were faster than that! The 1.4 miles back to the hotel took us 14 minutes- and then it was time for a shower before heading out into Oslo again.

It’s crazy to think that in just over 300 parkruns I’ve been to 100 different locations. There have been a few where I’ve wanted to do a particular one so we’ve made a weekend of it (for example Queen Elizabeth Country Park for my Q) but generally I’ve been to them if I happen to be somewhere near to one anyway. We are lucky that there are lots fairly close by, so lots of my list have been Saturday morning trips on a train or up the M1. They’ve mainly been in the UK, but I’ve been lucky to visit parkruns in Ireland, USA, Canada, Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands. A few other plans have been cancelled over the years (I was meant to do one in Germany a few years ago but our flight was cancelled and we had to fly out on Sunday), and we had a long weekend in Finland booked but that was summer 2020 so we all know why that didn’t go ahead. There will be lots more parkrun tourism in the future anyway. For now I shall enjoy hearing my name being read out on With Me Now!

How many parkrun locations have you visited? Which one is top of your list for one you would love to visit?

Sunny Hill parkrun- location 99!

The final part of lining up my 100th event for Norway was completing my 99th event before we went away. Dad had been to Sunny Hill parkrun earlier in the year as it was close to a tennis tournament that he was on, and said it was such a gem, and loved the look of the cafe, so it was on our list.

My mum came to watch, and my brother even came to run. Dad drove there, and I have to say I was relieved as although it wasn’t a complicated journey, the entrance to the car park to me looked more like an alleyway rather than an actual road. It’s a tiny car park but we arrived at 8:30 to lots of space, with the cafe right by the car park (including toilets that were open) and the start to the parkun just past the cafe. Everything you need right there.

The view from the top of the course, the cafe, pictures by the sign, after (the three of us) and before (me- trying to quickly get a picture before the start!)

As the RD did the briefing, they explained that they had more tourists than usual due to the event number being a Fibonacci number (event 144)- I’m not doing that challenge in the app as I tend to stick to the original chrome extension ones, so it was just a coincidence but it’s happened a few times! The start and finish areas are at slightly different places (maybe 100m from each other), and so when we walked to the start I noticed the purple pop up sign and asked for a picture. The RD noticed and explained that they move it to the finish area so we could get pictures then (I don’t think they wanted the start delayed by loads of photos, which is fair enough of course).

The course was hilly, and the sunny weather of course made this perfect. It started off with a short lap, and then two larger laps, each one with a couple of hills. The second main lap didn’t feel as bad, I think because in my mind the hill in the first mini lap was part of the first main lap. At the top of the hill you had fantastic views across London- if we looked behind to the left we could see the Wembley arch.

We kept a good pace, finishing in just under 30 minutes, not bad for a hilly course, and with negative splits too. The nature of the laps meant that we saw Mum in the finish area as we went past- the front runners had just finished as we started our second main lap- very impressive. There was a group of very serious looking runners all aiming for pb’s (from Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers according to the results)- we saw them sprinting across the park as a cool down (? or more training?) once we had finished.

Once we finished of course I needed pictures by the purple pop up, and then we headed to the cafe. I had looked at the menu and couldn’t see anything vegan on the breakfast menu, but plenty at lunch, so I had messaged them and they had replied saying that a few options could easily be made vegan. I went for the avocado on toast, which came with loads of tomatoes and tahini over the top- so good.

Avocado on toast/ hills on the course/ purple pop up sign and finish token

We enjoyed a lovely breakfast- the pitta breads that came with the scrambled eggs looked amazing. Definitely a cafe to recommend. All in all another super morning, and such an enjoyable parkrun for my 99th venue!

Leavesden parkrun (again) for my Wilson Index

I gave the new event touring a rest to have a revisit to Leavesden Country parkrun. It’s a fairly local one to me (around 30 minutes) and a really nice route, plus handily as it is the newest event in Herts it’s good for those low Wilson Index numbers.

I was there fairly early so took the opportunity to head through the woods and admire the carvings, as on previous occasions I’ve been with my dad and we have tended to stay by the start/finish area. There are loads of amazing carvings- woodpeckers, owls, on signs as well as on benches.
After and before- I needed event 29 for my WI to go from 28 to 52.

This was event 29, the lowest number that I needed, and so it had been in my calendar for a while. You never know with cancellations if these event numbers need to get moved, but it was all fine and no cancellations meant that it was on for the week I’d originally planned.

I enjoyed the run- as mentioned previously it’s a 3 lap course, with each lap starting through woods and then finishing around fields. As they are varied, it doesn’t feel monotonous like a lapped course could. There is a narrow part where you see runners heading in the opposite direction, so you can’t overtake in that section, but it’s only a few metres long so there is no need to stress.

After running and scanning I headed to the cafe for breakfast. This parkrun has all the facilities right there- the parking is right by the start, as is the cafe. I popped back to my car to get a hoodie, and then joined the queue and was sat down by 9:45, with my tea and blueberry croissant. I even got to have some parkfaff, although not with parkrunners. After a while, the cafe was getting busy and so a couple of women asked if they could join me- we ended up chatting and it turned out their kids were doing gymnastics in the building nearby, but one of them was interested in parkrun but worried about running, so I explained to her about the tail walker and park walkers, and also junior parkrun as there is one in the same park. Hopefully she gets to one at some point.

I know that the Wilson Index does not appeal to all parkrunners, but I quite like having some of the choice made for me. After achieving the alphabet and my 250th run (and well on the way to 100 locations), it’s a long way to any other milestone, official or not. Where I live means I have lots of local parkruns to choose from- if Dad is about we will most likely do Jersey Farm, but if not I have lots to choose from and so having something like this to focus on means that some weeks my choice has been made. As someone who is not good at decision making, it helps a lot!

On the Sunday of that weekend we had a little day out in London planned. Off to see Six (tenuous link here as it’s to do with numbers?), dinner at Mildred’s and then to the Disney Wonder of Friendship exhibition.

Mildred’s dinner (Covent Garden location)- we shared the hummus to start and it was huge! Then we shared two mains so we could sample lots- these are the nachos hidden under all those pink pickled onions and salad! Plus lavender lemonade for me- I love floral drinks like rose or lavender and so this was perfect. Six was brilliant too- I didn’t look into it too much before we went, but I loved that the band were all female, and the six of them were pretty much on stage the entire show- very impressive.

The Disney Wonder of Friendship exhibition was quite fun too- you had a time slot to enter, and before each experience you were greeted by a cast member, who would explain how it worked. They were all interactive in different ways- the Lion King section had swings that you sat on and had to swing in time with the music, plus drums to play with, and the Lilo and Stitch area had wobbly surf boards to go on.

Another busy but fun weekend, and getting ready for my 99th venue for the coming weekend!

Popping to Pocket parkrun

Originally this was planned for the start of the Easter holidays, but things don’t always go to plan. I was looking forward to it as I had seen a club mate go there, although after it turned out she had been to Peter Pan parkrun and not Pocket- I mean, they begin with P so in my mind they are the same!

My dad picked me up on the way, with my mum and brother coming along to watch and then to join us for breakfast after.

The parking was in a leisure centre close to the start, and the start was in a field next to a nature reserve. Pocket have two courses, and this was the summer course- a two lap course through the nature reserve, alongside a river and then back to the field. It really was my kind of parkrun- I loved Ellenbrook Fields as it was through varied terrain (fields, woods, alongside a river), it was flat, shaded in places, scenic. Bury Fields reminded me of this too (slightly less flat) and Pocket had the same vibe.

I went for green and black colours rather than red, white and blue…

It was the weekend of “man puts on hat” so some people were wearing red, white and blue- the RD explained that people were celebrating the first weekend of the summer course. As someone who purposefully wore no red white or blue that day, pleased me greatly!

Mid-run scenes and the big statue at the end.

We ran together, chatting, although a bit less chatting from me on the second lap- finishing in 28:36 for my fastest time of the year.

I’d seen a statue on the way around so after scanning we wandered back to have a look. It was a life sized model of the tallest man who had lived locally- I liked the style of the metal, and a photo had to be taken to compare our heights of course. We did think about going to the cafe that the team mentioned, in the leisure centre, but when we went in the leisure centre staff told us that the person running the cafe hadn’t turned up yet, so we headed into town. I had seen a new vegan cafe, Oscar’s, open fairly recently and was keen to try it, and happily my family are always keen to try these places too.

They did waffles which I was tempted by, but in the end I went for avocado on toast which was a good choice. My dad went for the same, and both my mum and brother went for the vegan sausage sandwich, apparently very tasty too. They also had these amazing looking cinnamon buns, so we all bought cakes to take home and have later. Later on in the day we met my parents at a garden centre and did some plant shopping (as most of the customers were occupied elsewhere…). The cinnamon bun was very appreciated after some gardening in the rain!

The course map- apparently the winter course is a rude shape…

So that was location 98 for me! The Cowell (100 locations) is in sight!