parkrun challenges!

I have recently discovered a little parkrun extension for Chrome- it is so much fun! It was posted on the parkrun tourist facebook page but I am sure it can be found on google. Basically once you have put the add-on, you can look at your results normally, as parkrun displays them, but you get a little green button to press, which then sorts your results in all sorts of marvellous ways:

Above- the normal summary of parkrun results, and then below, once you have clicked:

You can hover over each link to see what it means (the purple ones are all volunteer roles and you get one star for 5+ times and two stars for 10+ times (I imagine it keeps going up but that’s as many as I have done for each role). You also get flags to show the countries that you have been to (Crissy Field in San Francisco was my third parkrun course and my first real parkrun tourism).

It keeps track of how many courses you have been to (which is great as I kept on scrolling up and down trying to keep count).

I am not doing too badly with the alphabet challenge- 15/25 (there is not one beginning with x). It’s handy to see the missing ones.

My favourite club (they are all of course totally made up clubs) is the parkrun Pirates club-  you need 7 C’s and one R (I first heard this on the Australian podcast)- I only need 3 more C’s to get that one.

There is also a cool stopwatch bingo, which I don’t think you could ever plan to do- basically you need a time ending in each second (01, 02 up to 50, 00)- the minutes don’t count, and I am only missing 5 (17, 18, 21, 51 and 56)- but because of trying to press start when the RD says go, I don’t think my watch is ever quite the same (and forgetting to press stop in the finish funnel) so I think that will just happen by chance.

There is also “Stayin’ Alive”, which is 3 B’s and 3 G’s (I only need two more G’s), the Bushy Pilgrimage (check), New Year Day double (check). The one I am closest to finishing is the compass club- I have Eastleigh, Southampton and Westmill, so I just need a North to finish that one (and handily I need an N for the alphabet challenge so that might be my next adventure).

I have also found out that if you look at someone else’s results (I often look at my Dad’s or his cousin’s) you can see their challenge progress too.

Of course the beauty of parkrun is that it can be anything you want it to be. It can be a superfast flat out effort, or a gentle outing catching up with friends and family, it can be about the community of your local one or visiting new places. I set myself the challenge a few years ago of running all of the parkruns  in Hertfordshire, which I managed to complete last year (and then added Letchworth this year once that came along), and although I have half an eye on the alphabet challenge, it isn’t easy to get some of the letters without expensive weekends away, so I am happy to find some other new challenges along the way.

Do you ever set any challenges like this? Which club do you think you would be close to achieving? 

A brilliant running movie and lots of blog-min

One of the joys of the holidays is that I can get on top of the blogmin- I do not know how many emails I have deleted this week (does anyone else get so much spam about bluetooth speakers?), but every now and then I find a good one. I was emailed a while ago to say I was listed here on the UK top 75 running blogs. They also do a list of Top 50 UK Baking Blogs  list (I didn’t even know that the GBBO had a blog…) which is worth looking at if you’re into baking at all- I’ve found a few new ones to follow.

The best email to get was about the Skid Row marathon film. I went to see this in London last September when the Marathon Talk podcast held a special screening. It was a fantastic film, and it is very exciting that there are now going to be screenings all over the UK. You can see the trailer on You Tube here. From their press release: After amassing an incredible 13 awards from 10 different US film festivals during the 2017-2018 season and critical acclaim in the US press, documentary Skid Row Marathon is having its first official cinema release in the UK this Summer. The film will be will be distributed by CinEvents as an exclusive, one night only, Event Cinema release on Wednesday 9th May 2018 in over 100 selected multiplex and independent cinemas nationwide. The film will be released in association with The Big Issue, Runners World, The Running Charity and Marathon Talk. 

Skid Row Marathon is the truly heartwarming and inspiring story of an unlikely group of individuals from LA’s Skid Row, an area well known for being impoverished and forgotten by society. The feature-length documentary focuses on the story of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell over a period of 4 years as he coaches a long-distance running club from the Midnight Mission on LA’s infamous Skid Row.

Using the liberating power of running, the marathon training raises the spirits of Skid Row’s inhabitants and gives them a sense of purpose and a new lease of life. If club members refrain from drug abuse, stay off the streets and out of prison, the Judge will take them around the world to run marathons. Directed by Mark Hayes, this moving film documents the runners as they fight the fierce pull of addiction and homelessness at every turn. It’s a story about second chances and overcoming obstacles. With the surge in numbers of rough sleepers in the UK in the past year, Skid Row Marathon acknowledges the devastating effects homelessness can have. It showcases what the discipline of running and the power of friendship can do to change lives.

Skid Row Marathon was produced by Gabriele Hayes and Doug Blush. Blush is an award-winning producer, editor, and director who has worked on such films as 2018 Academy Award Best Documentary winner Icarus, 2012 nominee The Invisible War, and 2013 Oscar Winner, 20 Feet From Stardom.

I found the film really interesting, really emotional, and really relevant to life over here.  There are so many news stories about the number of rough sleepers in the UK increasing, and you don’t need to be interested in running, but just interested in people.  Tickets are available here, so check out if there is a screening near you. Seriously- go and see it. (I was emailed the info through, but I am just happy to share it on here because I think it’s great).

Finally I was emailed about a new event, the Ciderthon.  It’s a half marathon with a cider taster every mile taking place in Wells, Somerset on the 29th of April. The event will be showcasing local ciders, raising money for Dorset and Somerset air ambulance while bringing runners from across the country to try a new challenge! As someone who doesn’t drink, the cider part doesn’t appeal but it does look like a pretty route. You do have 6 hours so you could do it as a long walk I suppose. If you use the code Maria10 it will give you 10% off at checkout.

Have you seen the Skid Row Marathon film or would you like to? Do you like films about running? I was so annoyed when I accidentally recorded Breaking 2 on HD (when we didn’t have that channel in HD) so I still haven’t seen it. I saw a great film about the Barkley marathons on Netflix.

Do you get a lot of random emails about your blog?

Easter holidays part 1 and the Run Mummy Run book

The Easter holidays have been a good balance of relaxing, running, baking, getting on top of work, catching up with friends and jobs at home.

I made a simnel cake and decided to have a go at toasting the marzipan. As I don’t own a blow torch, I put it under the grill and it seemed to work well. It smelled incredible while it was toasting too.

On the Tuesday morning after the Bank holiday I had a 6 mile run in the morning, before spending the rest of the day doing work.  (I probably had a walk in the afternoon, but I now wish I put my walks on Strava too as it turns out I cannot remember without checking on there to see what I did).

On Wednesday I drove to the outskirts of St Albans and walked the rest of the way in, first up for a shoulder and back massage, and then to meet some friends from work for brunch.

We went to Bill’s, so I didn’t even need to see the menu as their pancakes are one of my favourite breakfasts.  After doing a few jobs in town, I went to see my parents and ended up staying for a lot of the afternoon, just sitting in their kitchen watching all the birds in their garden and catching up with them.

On Thursday morning the weather was beautiful. I had a lovely run (5 miles) and saw so many trees covered in pink blossom. A day of work followed, until 5.30 when I walked into town as I was having my hair cut. I have been going to the same hairdresser for years now, and she of course knows how thick my hair is, but she always gets someone to help her dry it, and I always have the comments about how thick my hair is. I think it’s a compliment, but it’s weird because it’s nothing I do, I just have thick hair. I suppose it’s like tall being being told constantly that they are tall. I know I have really thick hair, but I don’t really know what to say when people tell me.

On Friday I was meeting up with friends, and thankfully it was another beautiful day so I walked to my friends house (although it was a little further than I thought- walking takes a lot longer than running!), and later enjoyed a walk in the woods.

Onto the book. A while ago I was sent the book Run Mummy Run by Leanne Davies and Lucy Waterlow

When they offered to send it to me, I did explain that I am not a mummy, as I wasn’t sure whether the book would be aimed at me or not. I had heard of the facebook group, as a lot of the women in my running club are in the group, but I’d not looked into it any further.

After reading the book, I would say it is a great book to get for someone who is just starting out with running. The chapters cover topics like staying safe when out running, walk/run intervals, injuries, races, fuelling, training plans ranging from beginner 5k plans to improver marathon plans, and even a section called “Pay it forward”, looking at running groups, volunteering and cheering at races (and even has tips on how to set up your own parkrun).  There are some sections aimed at parents (including specific sections on running while pregnant/breastfeeding and so on), but I just skipped over the parts that weren’t relevant as most of the book was. It did cover some female runner issues not linked to parenthood too (e.g. infertility, chafing). The book was sprinkled with anecdotes and little stories from RMR members and this made the book feel a bit like reading a magazine with lots of different people contributing to it.

Since I started running (back in 2008) the advice around nutrition has really moved on. The book talks about everyone being different, and making sure you are adequately fuelled, but mentions that you can probably run for an hour in the morning before breakfast. Personally I can run much further before breakfast, having worked up from 3 miles to around 15 miles. But when I first started running I remember feeling so terrified that I would collapse while out on a run, because I had read so much information about making sure you eat a snack before you go, and eat as soon as you get home. Of course everyone is different and we are still learning things about the human body, but I felt it was refreshing to read a different take compared to most of the running literature.

I would have found this very useful when I first started running, so if you know someone jut starting out then it would make a great present for them. You can also check out the RMR website for other articles based around running.

Do you like reading books about running? I have really enjoyed the Angharad Finn books (The Way of the Runner and Running with the Kenyans), and Rosie Swale-Pope’s book Just a Little Run Around The World.

Do you like to read? And if so, when? I always read before I go to sleep, but in the holidays I quite like reading for a bit in the afternoon too, with a cup of tea of course.

Do you have something that people always comment on? And if so, how do you respond?

*I was sent this book in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

The Easter weekend including plenty of cake

After parkrun in the morning we drove to Royal Victoria country park for a bracing walk by the water, before visiting family.

Then we headed to a National Trust place (Mottisfont) for a walk around the gardens and of course a visit to the tearoom. Because of a late breakfast I’d only had a little salad for lunch, so I was pretty hungry later in the afternoon. Usually we would share a piece of cake (they are huge) but I saw the hot cross buns and could not resist, so we shared one of those (toasted) and a piece of rhubarb bakewell cake.

The gardens were lovely to walk around, and thankfully it didn’t rain while we were there so we just wandered for a few hours, enjoying the sights of the spring flowers.

On Sunday we headed to Hughenden (another National Trust place), which was absolutely rammed. They had closed the car park and were asking people to park by the church and then walk up, which was fine with us, but it did surprise us.

Of course, after a walk and a visit to the house we had to visit the tea room for something to call lunch. This time I went for a scone (it is because I have only recently discovered that I like this type of cream, so I think I am making up for lost time) and Andy had a piece of coconut and lime cake.

The weather was still playing ball so on our way home we stopped off at the main park in St Albans and walked around the lake for a bit before heading home.

On Monday after a longer run (8 miles) it was time to tackle some decorating. We have lived here for nearly two years now but still not sorted all the rooms, so we started stripping the wallpaper in the dining room. Stripping wallpaper is my most hated job, because you make more of a mess before things get better.  Also, the wallpaper on three of the walls is really thick and comes off in layers, so you need to steam each section two or three times to get it off. The steamer cuts out after a certain amount of time and has to be left to cool, so we did some, had lunch, and then it was time for the cinema (we had booked tickets). We saw Isle of Dogs, which was pretty funny in places with some brilliant styles of animation in there. Once home it was time for another round of wallpaper stripping before a late dinner. There are still two walls to go as well…

Did you have a good Easter weekend? What food do you generally go for in a tearoom/cafe? 

Portmouth Lakeside parkrun- tourism but not where I originally planned…

The two of us had planned to go away for the long Easter weekend, and possibly some of the following week. Originally we had Wales in our sights, and so I was of course thinking of Conwy parkrun for some amazing scenery and another parkrun course. The weather hadn’t been great (and our fence totally blew down and the bill for a new one is rather high), so we decided to save Wales for when the weather could have been better, and head south instead. Now I am keeping half an eye on the parkrun alphabet (still loads of letters to do – D, I, J, N, Q, U, V, Y, Z) and so I looked into Queen Elizabeth Country Park parkrun (I think it’s the only Q in the country?). There are no hotels nearby but we found one around 20 minutes away, so we planned to head down on Friday stopping off at a few places on the way, drive there on Saturday morning, I’d do the parkrun and then change in the toilets after (I would not be running too fast as it looked like a slippery and steep route), and then we could head off for the day. Anyway, as the weekend got closer we had more and more rain, and it seemed that the parkrun would be a total quagmire. It then turned out that the hotel we booked (the Village hotel close to Portsmouth) was right by the start of Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun, so it seemed sensible to change plans and do that one instead.

We ended up heading into Southampton town centre on the Friday- the traffic was awful driving down and it was still pouring so we wandered around the shops for a bit (I needed some new trainers for general wear as my current ones are years old and have started to rub the back of my foot) and had dinner before driving to the hotel.

I did get confused as on the course page it mentions the Starbucks where they get a drink after, and I thought it was the Starbucks in our hotel lobby, but it turned out to be another one. Of course this made me panic for a bit but when I looked at a map it was 0.3 miles away and really the next block of buildings along the road. All I had to do in the morning was walk across the car park to the path (the photo above is of the hotel from the path) and then I’d be on the parkrun course. As I was a little early I did a bit of a warm up jog around the lake.

Here is where I wished I had packed my trail shoes as there were some big muddy puddles.

Not too bad but my ID is now covered in mud and you can see how deep some of the puddles were.

After my warm up I headed to the start area- nice and easy to find. The route is sort of an out and back, as you go along a path to by the hotel, turn back on yourself and run towards and around the lake, then back around the lake, back along to the hotel, and then back to the finish.

I went to the first timer briefing where they explained the course and welcomed lots of first time parkrunners- always good. Then it was time for the main briefing. I tried to stand about half way back but it was hard to work out where exactly to place. They had a sort of siren thing to get everyone’s attention, but the megaphone was not helping at all. Everyone near me was quiet, but I could only hear a muffled noise, with pauses for claps. You can of course fill in the gaps yourself (thank the volunteers- clap- well done for someone reaching a milestone- clap- well done for someone else getting a milestone- more claps) but it’s a shame to miss out on this because I think this is where the community feel comes from. Otherwise it’s more like a normal run if that makes sense? I’m not sure what the solution is really, but it’s a shame that even with people being quiet they can’t hear the briefing. Anyway, onto the run.

It was all very flat (at one point you run under an underpass but that’s it for elevation changes) although it felt very busy. I started too far back (behind some walkers it turned out) and it was hard to overtake as the paths were narrow, and you had to keep to one side because of the faster runners heading in the other direction.  At one point everyone was told to keep left, as there were runners heading back, but this one girl (wearing headphones) was still over on the right. All the runners were shouting at her to move left as the first runners were charging towards her, but she didn’t hear and so the lead runner actually bashed into her and knocked her over to the grass. She looked pretty surprised, and I do feel that they are both partly to blame because she really should not have her music on so loud that she can’t hear people shouting to her, but then both of them should have seen each other as it was a straight flat path.

The route was quite enjoyable, as it was good to run by the lake, however it was close to a busy road and you could hear the loud drone of traffic the entire time. Someone kept on shouting “go Maria” from the other side, and it would confuse me for a second before I realised I was running close to someone else named Maria. I ended up chatting to her at the end as she was cheering on her mum and dad, so was walking next to the course as I was walking back to the hotel. I managed to keep overtaking people the whole time, with splits  of 9.39, 9.06, 8.40 and then 7.55 for the final bit, so I felt pleased with that. 28:36 was my official time. Of course the bonus of visiting a new parkrun is that you “PR” in all of your Strava segments.

I could see a few runners on the far side of the lake as I walked back to the hotel.

All in all a successful bit of tourism and it finished with a Starbucks from the hotel lobby. You can’t get a hotel much closer  to the start line (the Village hotel in Maidstone is also very close to the start, with the Premier Inn being even closer). If only hotels would post their closest parkrun it would make touristing so much easier.

Do you know any good hotel/parkrun combinations?  What did you get up to over the Easter weekend? How does your parkrun make sure that everyone can hear the briefing? When I went to Bushy they had speakers in the trees, but seeing as they have 1000+ runners it is not surprising that they need them. At Ellenbrook the RD just has to climb onto a gate and shout, but then with less than 200 runners and a fairly wide path it’s not too hard to hear.