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).

Highbury Fields parkrun- plenty of laps!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a solo parkrun adventure, but the start of half term coincided with my dad being away, so I decided to head to Highbury Fields parkrun. I’ve quite like going to parkrun via train, and have been working my way through the parkruns on the train line between here and Kings Cross. Highbury Fields was the only one left, and as it’s 5 laps I’ve been intrigued to see how it works. I have been to a 5 lapper before, at Heslington in York- it was on a cycle track- so this would be quite different.

The quickest way for me to travel was to get the train to Finsbury Park, and then change to the underground and go one stop on to Highbury & Islington. You can pay contactless on that route now, rather than having to buy tickets, so that made it easier., and the park could not get closer to the tube station- a very easy one to get to via public transport.

I had written out my instructions as I am very liable to forget them. It all worked out well, and I got to the park nice and early, around 8:30, so had a little jog around the outside of the field. This was when I really wondered how on earth the parkrun fit in there. On the map, the park looks like a triangle shape and so I headed up to the wider part, but it was still really small and I don’t think I managed 1km.

There were lots of people warming up, and some friendly volunteers standing around and chatting- there seemed to be a lot of tourists but I wonder if half term had something to do with that. There was a couple who I wanted to speak to but were always a bit far away, wearing t-shirts that when they stood together said ‘we love parkrun”- fantastic.

I left my jacket on the tarpaulin by the start/finish area at the last possible moment as it was quite brisk, but of course I warmed up as soon as I started running.

I also got to see The Garage- I wonder how many gigs I had seen there in my younger years!

Once we started, the course became clearer- we actually ran laps around the outside of the park, mainly on pavements and a small part in the top section of the park on the paths there. They had told us we had to keep track of our own laps (of course) and I ended up running behind the same 3 people, so that made it easier. Each lap went gently uphill for one side of the park, across the top, then downhill and around the outside/bottom of the park. I wondered how congested it would be, and I did start getting lapped by the super speedy runners in my second lap (I think), but it wasn’t ever too bad, and of course by the time I was on my third lap onwards, the speediest ones were finishing so the course was thinning out. At the final corner was the most enthusiastic marshal who was cheering everyone and ringing a handbell- he was brilliant.

After I finished, I jogged along Upper Street towards Angel, via Bird and Blend. They weren’t open until 10, so I hung around outside for a bit before getting a chai latte (they do the best ones and I wasn’t passing up an opportunity to visit). I was going to get some breakfast too, but the trains back from Kings Cross were only every half an hour and I didn’t want to have to wait until the next one, so I waited until I got back to WGC, heading into Caffe Nero for a vegan croissant and tea.

That was my 94th different parkrun location and number 305, and I am quite pleased that my map on the parkrun challenges chrome extension joins up home to central London without any gaps.

Have you ever run a parkrun with 5 laps before?

Itchen Valley parkrun – name badge complete!

When Itchen Valley Country parkrun started, I had it in mind for the I for my alphabet, but despite going to Southampton fairly regularly, I ended up going to Irchester for my I. It was still on my list as a parkrun to visit, and as I am having fun with the parkrun Chrome extension, the name badge challenge meant I needed a second parkrun beginning with I.

It all finally fell into place this January- Andy was going to the football, we were going to visit his family down there, and so we drove down on the Friday evening, stayed in a hotel (around a 6 minute drive to the parkrun)- perfect!

Of course, any sort of touring at this time of year is not as easy as that. The cold weather, following on from lots of rain meant that one by one, parkruns were cancelling due to ice. Itchen Valley posted that they would do a course check in the morning but that they should be on. But I didn’t really have a plan B, as the next closest ones had cancelled. There was one around a 30 min drive away that was on, but that was really too far as we had to be out by 11. (One slight worry was that it seemed to disappear from the 5k app overnight- not sure why).

Left is the 5k app on Friday night, right on Saturday morning where Itchen Valley no longer seemed to be there.

I left leaving as late as possible, but there was no confirmation post that they were still on. I then had to scrape the car (had forgotten about that joy) and so despite being so close, I parked up at something like 8:47 am. Rather too close for comfort- as I walked up to the start area the new runners welcome was just about to begin. At least it was on!

The actual park was beautiful. Of course the frosty weather and blues skies all helped, as it was one of those perfect wintery days. The team showed us their new tourist board (a whiteboard for people to write where they were from), but the condensation on it had then frozen so no-one could actually use it. It was a fab idea though- hopefully next time.

The course was described as one lap, but if you look at the map it wiggles all over the place, with lots of twists and turns and meeting points. It did make me laugh when the volunteer said to us to all have a look at the map to try to remember it- there was no way! They said it was clearly marked (it was) and I just need to follow the person in front anyway.

It started off on a field, which was totally frozen solid. Any small ruts were proper ankle breaker bumps, so I heeded their advice and took it as a scenic gentle run, no thoughts of pb’s in my head.

Mid-run scenes-a few icy patches and a beautiful section through the woods.

After going around the field, we headed into woods, and here it was so interesting as some of the puddles were frozen solid, with all the bramble leaves coated in a layer of frost, and then other parts of the path had big muddy puddles. It shows how sheltered some of it must be. At points you could see people much further ahead, as the course loops around- I passed a marshal standing by some tape, and later passed him on the other side of the tape.

It was still super frosty when I finished, so no chance of even a speedy run into the finish funnel. My time was 36:53, and as we had to speedily check out I headed straight back to the car to get back to the hotel. It does seem like a lovely park and I would happily run there again if I was nearby.

The Strava route shows how wiggly the one lapped course is!

On the 5k app it soon showed up that I had finally completed my name badge- I quite like that it took ten years. As I have an S in my name, my first run at St Albans, back in March 2013 is on there, as well as my first tourist run of Crissy Field in 2015 (now sadly closed). I also had a notification that I had achieved another badge, Old MacDonald, which was a parkrun beginning with E, I, E, I, O (the second letter I finished it off for me)- happily that badge contained Ellenbrook Fields for my first E.

That was my 93rd location too- I am still working towards the 100, hopefully this year.

Church Mead parkrun for my 300th!

Over Christmas I realised that my total number of parkruns was creeping up, and my first one in January was going to be my 300th. I have an agreement with my dad that we’ll celebrate all the arbitrary milestones (as it’s going to be at least 5 years until the next official one between us now), and so I requested a new event. Church Mead started up last year, in Amersham, around a 45 min drive from St Albans, so doable in a morning, and it was finally time for us to head there.

The weather was not very inviting- pouring rain and strong winds- we were quite pleased that the start sign was visible from the car park. We had to walk along a very short path from the car park to where everyone was assembling. It actually wasn’t too bad once we got out- we sheltered from the rain under a tree before the new runners welcome took place (along with very enthusiastic volunteer children rounding us all up). My Dad (without me realising) had spoken to the RD so I even got a little shout out in the main briefing for my 300th! I was shouting “arbitrary” in my head!

The course is two laps, muddy and very hilly. We were warned of so called chicken sh*t corner being particularly muddy that week. It does make me chuckle when event teams have names for various parts of the course.

You start off right by the car park, so we walked back to the start together once the run briefing had been carried out. After a shortish flat part we were soon heading up the hill, and my, this is some hill. It just kept on coming- after a mile we were still not at the highest point of the course! After most of the hill was done, the runners headed into the woods- this was also tricky ground as there were big flint rocks half covered by mud and leaves, so it was hard to see where best to place your feet.

Once out of the woods you headed back down the hill on the other side of the field, along the bottom and then back up the hill for the second lap. If I had not been trying to keep up with my dad I definitely would have walked on the second time going up that hill, but somehow we kept on going.

As we headed downhill it felt like we were running into the wind and rain, but then on the uphill of course you can’t feel the wind helping at all.

I was surprised to get token 24 when I finished as it felt as though there were more runners ahead of us. I think we did overtake a few people on the way up the hill the second time around, and I suppose the rain kept a few regulars away.

We had to head back quickly as my parents were having some of their friends around, so we head to speedily get back, shower and change before breakfast. We did have time to thank the RD and also have a quick chat with someone who went to parkrun for the first time that morning- in that weather and with that course it was not an easy first visit!