A parkrun open sandwich

A few times I have run to and from parkrun, but the two parkruns closest to me are a little bit far away for it to be a regular thing- Panshanger is 4 miles away (equalling an 11 mile run) and Ellenbrook Fields is 5 miles (so the run there + back + parkrun = a half marathon) so I tend to run to and from parkruns when I am touring. Last weekend we were busy on Sunday, so I decided to have a long run on Saturday morning instead. I’d chatted to my Dad who had decided to go to Panshanger, as EF warned of a busy car park due to all the freshers arriving at Herts uni (you park in the Herts uni car park).

This meant I could run there and ask Dad to give me a lift part of the way home. I had to do a slightly longer run as I wanted to total 9 miles, so in the end I did just under 6 miles on the way there- I got a bit panicked that I was cutting it fine as the last bit takes a deceptively long time, but in the end I got to the start with about 10 mins to spare- just enough time to hang my jumper on the fence and then chat to Dad.

The parkrun miles were my fastest (finishing with a 9.05 mile) so I was pretty pleased with that, having not run that far since August (as we were doing the 10k).

In the end Dad dropped me off at home, which was much appreciated- I did suggest a roundabout so he didn’t have to detour at all, but that was still a mile and a half from me (as the road is more direct than the path). Then it was time to have a quick shower and then time to head into London for the rest of the day.

For some reason all the pictures of just me were super windswept, while if it was the two of us my hair was all neat!

We got the train to Finsbury park and then the tube onwards to Oxford Street- we popped into a couple of shops and picked up a picnic to take to the park. (Side note, does anyone else hate that Pret don’t put the labels on the actual food packets? We were going to share a veggie flatbread, but it was by the shelf labels for a tuna flatbread-you could see that they were the wrong way around but I just didn’t quite trust it so we got a vegan special wrap instead).

Andy wanted to see the big sculpture in Hyde Park so we walked around the lake, before walking to Trafalgar Square and then Covent Garden. On our way we popped to the BB bakery and got a pistachio cupcake to take home for dessert. I wanted to go to Lululemon and try on some running shorts, and as we cut through a side street we both stopped as we could smell the most amazing smell. We realised we were right outside a Swedish bakery, so I could not resist buying a cinnamon roll for us to share too.

We also saw a few of these rhinos- I love it when there is a trail like this (I think the best I’ve done is the Snowdogs in Brighton). We then got the tube to Angel so I could go to Bird & Blend for some of the pumpkin spice tea, but yet again (am I cursed?) the tea wasn’t for sale until the Sunday- gah!

Annoyingly we just missed a train by about 5 mins, and then the next train we were going to get was cancelled, so we ended up sitting on the platform for nearly an hour.

By the time we got home I’d walked over 37,000 steps (because of the run first thing too) so I watched some of Extra Slice (I love the hedgehog cakes so much) and had a cup of tea and shared the cinnamon roll, which was amazing. (The cupcake for dessert later was also very good, but so much icing- I have no idea how people could eat one by themselves without having frosting overload). Although I felt quite tired by the evening, I was pretty pleased that I’d run a fairly long way and been walking all day and not felt too stiff or sore. I have signed up to a half marathon in a couple of weeks, and I realised that my long runs were really in August so I needed to do a few closer to it to check I can still manage it.

Sunday was spent out and about- in the garden centre, sorting out new plants (and the shed tidy- an idea stolen from Pinterest – it hangs on the door for all the gloves, trowels etc) and visiting family.

Which baked goods can you not resist? A warm cinnamon roll is one of my absolute favourites.  Are you an icing or a cake person?  I do like a little bit of icing, and I think they make cakes look prettier, but I really can’t eat the mountains that are usually on little cupcakes.

New Forest 10K

Our race didn’t start until 10.25am, and we weren’t too far away (and had picked up our numbers the day before), so we didn’t need to get up that early. Because of the other races (full and half marathon, a 5k I think) all starting at earlier times, we didn’t want to get there with the other racers. We decided to leave around 9am, knowing that it was around 25 mins but the traffic was doubling that. We did get a nice t-shirt in the pack (and a wrist sweatband) but I always think it’s a bit unlucky to wear it before- what if you don’t finish for some reason?

Anyway, the traffic was fine until we got to the entrance to the car park where we joined a queue (this must have been at around 9.40am). It was moving all the time, but very slowly, and snaked through the forest. We had paid for parking when we picked up our numbers, but it seemed that each time one person had to pay, the entire queue stopped while the marshal sorted out the money and change. We ended up parking at 10.15am and then speed-walking though the fields to the start. We thought we had 10 mins, but in fact the race started around 10 mins late, so we got to join in with the rather enthusiastic warm up.

The plan was to run together and enjoy it with no time in mind (hopefully under an hour but not really minding). The route went through the forest, gently undulating but no big hills. There were some funny signs to read along the way (“Watch out for bears” being my favourite, as well as signs over a bridge saying “dry feet” and then another one pointing to the river saying “wet feet”) and the scenery was gorgeous. At first it was very congested as the paths seemed a little too narrow for the number of runners, but after a mile or so the paths opened up and we could stop the constant overtaking and settle a bit.

I’d be interested in seeing all the routes on the same map (as an overlay)- there was marathon and half happening at the same time, and every now and then we’d join with another lot of runners with different coloured numbers. Sometimes we’d follow them, other times we would peel off in a different direction. Our numbers were blue so we had to follow the blue signs- it was very well signed plus there were loads of marshals at every joining point so you couldn’t go wrong.

There were a couple of water stations but we avoided them. I did like it that they said if you were caught dropping litter you would be disqualified, but then at the water stations they had cups (good) but were telling people to throw their cups on the floor, even though they had a few bins- I really don’t think putting your cup in a bin is going to slow you down that much.

At times the paths were quite stony and a few times I twisted my ankle or got a big stone wedged in my shoe- I should have worn my trail shoes because the soles are thicker but as it had been dry I’d gone for my normal road shoes. It was fine as most of it was on soft forest paths and a few bits of tarmac. Although it was a bit cloudy, it got really warm and I really regretted not having a headband on to keep the sweat from my eyes. I had worn the sweatband on my wrist but that got soggy fairly quickly so wasn’t much use!

The miles ticked by quickly (they actually had km signs for the 10k but I used my watch) and it didn’t seem like long before we were heading around a field and into the finish area. Andy wanted to have a strong finish but my legs were feeling tired from the 7 miles on Saturday, so he ran off and I tried to catch up with him (flashbacks to every parkrun with my Dad!)- mile 6 was my fastest mile at 9.03 with an 8.37 for the mini bit.

My chip time was 58:42, and there was a lot of detailed info on the website (I was 98th women out of 747/ and position 364 out of 1259 runners). The text didn’t come through for a few days which was weird as usually the text things come instantly, but that doesn’t bother me as I could see my time on the website if I really needed to know asap (I didn’t).

The finish area was well organised too- lot of teenagers (in sort of army uniform) handing out medals, water, bananas and goodie bags. A banana after a race is my favourite. I was a bit miffed because Andy got some bourbon biscuits in his bag whereas I got some plain ones. The goodie bag had a big box of fish oil in it (not so good for vegetarians) as well as some sun cream which will come in handy. The medal is a lovely chunky one, with different coloured ribbons for each distance (to match the numbers and signs).

On the website they also had this cool image to show you the people finishing around you (I’m the blue dot).

We wandered around the stalls for a bit and bought some brownies from the Peachy Cakes stall- a vegan peanut butter one which we shared that evening, and then one with oreos and m’n’m’s which we shared on Monday.

I quite liked the magazine that we got with our numbers. I’d been to the New Forest before but never seen that many horses, however this time around we saw so many horses, plus wild donkeys and even wild cows. I wasn’t sure if some had just escaped but it said in the magazine that there were something like 150 wild donkeys and loads more cows.

After the wander we found the car (thankfully we’d parked near the end of a row as I think it would have taken us ages otherwise) and headed home. We stopped off at the services for a hot chocolate as for some reason I really fancied one, and made pretty good time (considering the M25 on a Sunday).

All in all I really enjoyed the race- it had a lovely atmosphere, loads of marshals, nice scenery and was well organised. I think if they made people pay for parking in advance then there would not have been the long queues to get in (or just add the fee on to the race entry as it was fairly reasonably priced).

Have you been to the New Forest? Would you wear a race t-shirt during the actual race?

Rushmoor parkrun- one step closer to Bingo!

Last weekend we headed to Aldershot/Farnborough on the Friday night, as it is on the way to the New Forest. Originally the plan was to stay further south so I could do the Queen Elizabeth Country Park parkrun, but we couldn’t find a hotel near/cheap enough, so this was plan B. The hotel (one of those Village hotels) was around a mile from the start of Rushmoor parkrun (not to be confused with Rushmere parkrun in Buckinghamshire….) so I didn’t need to leave that early.

Anyway, it turned out that the business park where the hotel is was a mile away, but the hotel to the parkrun start was more like 2 miles- whoops! Combined with a slight panic when I ran past some army signs about dog patrols and this meant I arrived more than a little flustered! When I was close I re-started the directions because I wasn’t 100% sure I was in the right place having seen basically no runners (and it gets several hundred runners).

They had a really friendly welcome board with some photos of the core team, the volunteer roster, and pace per km and per mile for a huge range of finish times.

They were having a junior takeover  (I think to promote their newly started junior parkrun) so all the main jobs (including the briefings) were by children (with their adults hovering and whispering hints). In the main briefing they asked for where the tourists were from- someone near me said “Southampton” and they then asked if anyone had come from further. I was about to say Hertfordshire, when someone behind me said “Germany” and then someone else said “South Africa”- I think they win!

The course began in some playing fields and was two laps, all fairly flat. The main paths were quite pebbly (bigger lumps than gravel) so I ended up running on the grass for the field bit. I’d imagine in winter it would be tougher to do that. The route then went out of the fields and along a pavement for a bit, before heading down next to a canal- this bit was lovely (and also shaded)- before running close to the start/finish area to do it all again. I find two lap courses seem to go by fairly quickly- it doesn’t seem long before you are back at the start and then you only have one lap to go.

I tried to keep in mind that I had a 10k race the next day and realised after the first two miles I was going a bit fast, so I tried to ease off a bit.  I finished in 28:51 and when I looked at the parkrun challenges chrome thingy I realised I’d filled in another slot on the parkrun bingo as I needed a 51! This sort of made up for the not ticking off the letter q- I only have 3 left for bingo now.

Anyway, I was pretty tired after that and Andy did message me to say he’d come and pick me up in the car, but with all the army stuff around I wasn’t quite sure where he’d park or where we would meet (there seemed to be lots of clearways with no stopping etc.), so I ran back (and instead of going back the way I came through the business park, blindly followed google maps on my phone which then took me into a bridge without a pavement – luckily a bit of the fence was trampled down so I could hop over it and get to an underpass!) – I got back around 10am so not too bad.

Anyway, after that it was time for tea and a cinnamon roll (the bonus of the Village hotels is that they tend to have a Starbucks in the lobby, and Andy had picked us up breakfast while I was running back) and a quick shower (they downside of those hotels is the 11am checkout time which doesn’t give much time for drying hair!).

We drove to some nearby gardens which were included in the National Trust pass (not actually NT though) and looked at the beautiful flowers. Then we drove into the New Forest and picked up our numbers (and paid for parking), before heading to Lepe, by the water, for a lovely walk along the coast. There was lots of info about the war as it was used to preparations for D-Day, so it was quite interesting. Despite being a bit overcast you could see across to the Isle of Wight and over to Portsmouth.

There was a nice looking tearoom by the water so we shared a piece of cherry and almond cake (a bit like a bakewell slice) and then drove to see Andy’s Grandma.

We’d booked Bill’s in Southampton for dinner, and then had a bit of a wander around IKEA after that (we know how to live!) before getting our kit out ready for the New Forest 10k the next morning.

Have you ever seen a junior takeover? Do you have a local junior parkrun? There is one around a mile from here, but I’ve never been as I’ve not got children- I think it might be a bit weird to turn up to one without any.

Another weekend in Brighton

I am so behind with blog posts at the moment, so this is from 2 weeks ago now. For the final weekend of the summer holidays we had booked a Friday night in Brighton. After getting the train down and dropping our bags off at the hotel, we made it to Bird&Blend tea for drinks to take with us on a lovely long walk along to Hove Prom.

We had dinner in Leon and then the next morning I went to parkrun and we met for breakfast after in Cafe Coho (I love their pancakes with berries).

Then we had the rest of the day to wander around Brighton. We headed East along the coast (we normally go West towards Hove) and saw a sort of car drag race thing happening (an official thing with a start and end gantry) so we watched that for a bit. It was really hot and there were so many people sunbathing on the beaches.

We  went around the shops in the lanes for a bit in the afternoon, and when we felt we needed a sit down, went into Cloud 9 for some tea and a piece of cake to share.  Then we walked back to Hove, before going to Food for Friends for dinner. We had sat down at the table and began looking at the menu when we were approached by one of the members of staff, asking if we could move because we’d been sat at the wrong table by mistake, and they needed to put our table with some others for a bigger reservation. Of course this was fine with us, but they were so apologetic and told us we could have bread and olives as an apology. This was lovely of them, and it wasn’t something we would usually order but it was a great selection of different breads with the all important balsamic vinegar to dip into.

Before going to the train station I wanted to stop off at Bird&Blend (I am doing so well not calling them Bluebird any more) as they made a Brighton cup which I had looked at on the Friday but hadn’t decided. Anyway, I also wanted to go there on the Saturday as it was the 1st September and I wanted to get some of the “Honey I’m Comb” tea from the tea club ( out in September).

(Yes, still having the problems with the upside-down photos…) but when I asked about it, they told me that they were in store but not on sale until the Sunday- insert sad face. They were so lovely and when I ordered an Earl Grey cream latte for the train journey (basically a London Fog- Earl grey + vanilla + steamed almond milk) they told me it was free as a way of an apology, which of course they didn’t need to do. We would just have to head to another one before the end of September!

Of course, anyone who has got a train recently will know what a faff it can be, and after getting to the station with 10 mins to spare, our train was promptly cancelled. We managed to get a Gatwick Express and then change there, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

On the Sunday morning I did 7 sunny miles before getting myself sorted for going back to work on the Monday- how have those 6 weeks gone by so fast?


Bevendean Down parkrun- what amazing views!

As I am sure you will know, I love any excuse to visit Brighton, and so to make the most of the final weekend of the school holidays, we booked a Friday night down there.

The weather was amazing and we enjoyed a long walk to Hove prom and back before having dinner in Leon.

Of course I would parkrun in the morning, and have already been to Hove Prom and Preston Park a couple of times, and Brighton & Hove once, so I started looking to see if a different Brighton one would be possible. We got the train down so it had to be either a runnable distance from the hotel, or accessible via public transport. I had discounted Bevendean Down parkrun on a previous visit as it looked a little way out of the city, but when I revisited the course page it mentioned a train station, Moulsecoomb, around a mile from the start.  Excitingly (for me), this was two train stops and a 6 min journey from the main Brighton station, so I decided to head there.

Sign to the park/ views from the start/the path to get there/ my map showing where I was compared to the start

I bought my tickets the night before to save on the morning panic, and had emailed the link from the course page so I could look at it on maps once I got there. Thankfully I left loads of time, getting a train that arrived at 8:17 am (with a backup of a train 10 mins later). The course page does warn that it’s hard to find, and it turned out I went a different (slightly longer) way than it described. I was running along a residential street and saw the sign to the park, so followed the path instead of the map for the last bit. As I reached the lower end of the field, I saw a couple of runners heading to the left, so I followed them and could see a few high-viz people so I knew I was in the right place- phew! I got there at 8:45 so I was glad I hadn’t got the later train.

Everyone collected by the finish area (the start and finish are in slightly different places)- there was a tarp to put any belongings on, so I left my jumper there. There weren’t many people and I ended up chatting to a girl in a Finsbury Park apricot top, and her mum, who’s come along to walk the first lap.

At 9:00 everyone walked back along the edge of the field (back the way I had come) to the start. I was looking for the amazing views that were promised, but all I could see were the houses in the estate.

I didn’t actually walk on the first lap but my running was so slow it looks like I did!

However, I needn’t have worried as look at that elevation- we were going up for some fantastic views. They warned the first timers that it’s two laps, and behind the first hill that you could see, was another, even bigger hill, so we should pace ourselves. I was going along for the views and had no illusions about any sort of good time.

It was a small group (32 runners) that set off, and even as I ran past the finish area (it’s two and a bit laps) I was very near the back.

The course started by the bottom of the field, running along to the finish, before turning and running up along the field- it was as I got to the end of this that I could see the hill that they meant! It was steep and long.

However, when you got to the top of the hill you were rewarded with the most amazing views-you could see all the way down to the sea, including the big tower (i360 thing).

Then you ran down where we had started, and then did that all again. I had worn my trail shoes (again it was advised on the course page) and I was glad I had as the ground was uneven and I found it hard to run fast on the downhill. On the second lap I could see a group of people ahead of me all walking, so I thought I’d catch them up, but then as the hill carried on I ended up walking too!

The marshals were fantastic, and lots of people were waiting and chatting by the finish area. I got one of my highest token numbers (28) but my slowest time (minus tail-walking)- 36:04- that shows you how tough it was as it was 5 mins slower than my Tring time from a few weeks ago- also a hilly route.

The lady I had been chatting to offered me a lift back to the station, which was so kind of her, and on the walk back to their car we came the way described- there were even parkrun arrows on the street to show how to get to the start.

I met Andy in Cafe Coho for pancakes and then we spent a lovely day walking around Brighton (35,000 steps in total!) but I’ll get to that another day.

So, another Brighton parkrun done, and I must agree that this is a pretty  special one. Yes, it’s tough and hilly, but who cares about times when you have amazing views like that?