A catch up and another visit to Brighton

So the weeks have just been flying by. On the Sunday after getting home and unpacking we walked into town for our free Starbucks drinks. I was worried I’d feel tired or need a sleep in the day, but I think the combination of the super early start (3.30am) and the run plus walking around the  park meant that I slept fine on the plane and so was OK. In the early evening I felt a bit sleepy but nothing too bad, and the week was OK- it took me a bit of time to get to sleep each night but I wasn’t waking up any more than usual. I did feel very sleepy when I was driving, so I did have to have the window down a few times!

Argh! Why won’t the photos be the right way up??? I liked the green cup that Andy had which is why I took the photo.

After letting friends and colleagues know about our holiday, the messages and cards haven’t stopped coming, which is so lovely (but unexpected in a way). My favourite one was from one of Andy’s aunts, who put on the inside “Congratulations (at last)” which did make me chuckle!

The first week back was very busy- I had a course on Tuesday with a later start, so I did a run first thing. On Wednesday I had to travel to a meeting after work and so didn’t sign up to yoga as I didn’t think I’d make it back in time (in fact I could have made it, so when I got home I had a run, although it was so dark and even though I chose routes that I thought were well lit, they weren’t in places so after that I found my torch), and then on Thursday I had a meeting somewhere else in the afternoon. We’d booked to see Bohemian Rhapsody which I just loved. We also had shutters fitted in our dining room- we ordered them back in the summer but they took a while to be made so we’ve had no curtains or anything in there since Easter- it’s made it feel so much cosier.

Friday was a nice evening at home, catching up on TV and relaxing. On Saturday I’d arranged to meet Dad at Ellenbrook Fields parkrun (we were so close to going to the inaugural Jersey Farm parkrun, as it is less than a mile from where they live- the new event from when Heartwood Forest had to close- but they had asked for a quiet launch because reading between the lines it was complaints from locals which meant the other event had to close, so we are going in a few weeks)- anyway, it was a lovely morning for a run, and despite us chatting (me less so the further around we got) we managed a speedy (for me) 27:29. Then it was back to Mum and Dad’s for pancakes.

I had a fair bit of work to do, but also needed to do some jobs in the garden, and luckily I decided on the garden first (clearing leaves and a bit of cutting back) because once I came inside and showered it pelted it down.

I needed to pop to town, but it was still hammering down so I drove a little closer and then walked the rest of the way- I’d signed up to the Caffe Nero app (you got a free drink) so I got myself a winter spiced hot chocolate, which may be my favourite so far, not too sweet. If you bring your own cup you get an extra stamp on your reward card too.

On Sunday morning thankfully the weather was better, so I had a nice 8 mile run, past the fountain (with a lovely display of poppies in the centre), before heading over to see Andy’s family in the afternoon.

OK, so now I think the photos are trolling me…. 

Week 2 was more standard- a walk after work on Monday to pick up a lamp from John Lewis, a run on Tuesday (with my torch), yoga on Wednesday and another run on Thursday- I had a lot of bad traffic so the runs were cut short due to being home later than planned and having a lot of work to do later on in the evening.

I did get to wear my new Run Disney top as it’s a long sleeved one- perfect for this time of year.

Then on Friday it was time to pack, have dinner and then head to the station as we were going down to Brighton for the weekend.

I’d decided on Hove Prom parkrun as it was the nearest to the hotel, and very easy to find. I’d also not been to it for ages as recently I’ve been ticking off the other Brighton parkruns/ staying further away. It was sunny but very cold as I ran down there. I had seen there was a snail trail for a local hospice (the same one that did the snowdogs a few years ago) and so my run down here had a few deviations while I took photos. As I went to take a picture of the snail by the big i360 tower, someone else was taking photos of it so I had to wait. She apologised (I said I was fine to wait of course) and then she told me she was the artist- we chatted for a bit about the process- they had to submit their designs and then the sponsors chose the design which would reflect their company- her design was Quadrosnailia (love the play on words).

Anyway, time for parkrun- it was so busy! There were a load of students from Warwick uni down, but maybe the race on Sunday made the numbers swell too. Out of interest I looked back at my past Hove Prom results- I first ran it in 2015 (my first UK parkrun tourism) and I ran 27:39, and 108 people ran it, in 2016 I went back and ran it in 28:11, with 136 people running, and then this year there were 373 runners- such a huge difference! I hadn’t looked at my pb in advance, and wasn’t really pushing it (I had a race on the Sunday) but in the end I was close to a course, with 27:52. Ah well, I wasn’t after one. I was a bit annoyed at some of the people during the run briefing though, as some people just would not be quiet, despite some volunteers walking through the crowd and shushing. There was also a really yappy dog which was so high pitched it was hurting my ears. It’s just so rude to talk over the briefing as well as meaning you might miss important information- this time for example they had to talk about a slight course deviation because they had tried to sweep the pebbles off the prom but couldn’t get rid of them all.

Then it was time for breakfast- we met at Cafe Coho and Andy had already ordered so when I got there my breakfast had just arrived- perfect timing! Delicious pancakes with berries, yoghurt and toasted coconut.

After a shower we had a super long walk along the prom to the lagoon at Hove, spotting more snails (even found the Fat Boy Slim one by his cafe) and then walked back to the centre of Brighton. We could not have been luckier with the weather- it was gorgeous, although it did get really cold once the sun went down.

We had a bit of cake to share in the afternoon, and then did a spot of shopping. I had to go to the jewellers as we’d got our wedding rings from a shop in Brighton (Ring)- we ordered them in May and then picked them up in September, and it fitted me fine, but now it has been colder it has been slipping off, so I wanted it re-sized. When we picked them up, Andy had his re-sized there and then, so I thought they would do the same for me. When the guy in the shop got out a packet and put my ring into it and asked for a contact number, I think I made a fool of myself by saying “oh, are you not going to do it right away?”- we did explain that they had done that for Andy and they were all very nice to me but they said mine would need to be sent to the workshop and they would post it to us! I’d only got used to wearing it!

We’d booked Food for Friends for dinner- sharing delicious tahini dips to start, and then I had a lovely sweet potato and pomegranate salad- good fuel for Sunday! I shall save the race for another post as this is rather long (yet again).

If you do use a reusable cup or metal straw, what do you do with them the rest of the time? If I know I am going to have a drink, I’ll take a cup with me (although the free  Starbucks drink is a medium and the cups I have are only small sized), but then if I am still out I’ll have a cup with dregs in it to either slosh around in my bag or hold the whole time. And the same with a straw- I have a bamboo and a metal straw, but then how do I keep it clean in my bag? I need some sort of pouch- no good using a plastic bag because then that will get thrown away once the milk or whatever gets on it, and then that’s more rubbish. Any clever ideas?

And the other reason for our Florida holiday

In my recap I mentioned that we had somewhere to be on the Tuesday morning. Well, it was a trip out to the Botanical gardens because we had our wedding to get to.

It was our 20th anniversary in the week, so everything just fell into place- we looked at a few places abroad but this just seemed the best option (it was legal in the UK, we wouldn’t need to go anywhere to pick up the license first, sunshine, a Disney race…).

All we had to do was sort out what we would be wearing, and bring the rings with us. (We also had to get some paperwork signed by a notary in the UK so that the licence was ready). In the end I had decided to have someone come to the hotel room and do my hair for me, and the person I chose included makeup (although I never wear makeup, I decided that some light makeup might be a good idea for the photos), and to be on the safe side they suggested allowing a couple of hours, so Andy went off to Magic Kingdom while I was sorted.

(This was quite funny because I had told her that I have quite thick hair, and when she arrived she said something about how it did look fairly thick, and we looked at a few hairstyle ideas, and then when she started to pin it up she went “woah, there is so much- it doesn’t look that thick”. Luckily we’d left plenty of time for everything and she even finished early.)

I even got a little touch up kit which I suppose I would have used had I been at an all day event.

We then got an uber from the hotel to the botanical gardens (we did hire a car but didn’t fancy navigating into downtown Orlando and the people who organised it said most couples get one down there) and then met the couple who organised it. They had my bouquet (I’d chosen them in advance) and a flower for Andy, and then we walked into the gardens to the gazebo where we met the officiant.

The couple who organised it for us also took photos, so after the ceremony we then had around an hour walking around the botanical gardens for various photos with one of them taking more posed photos, and one of them sort of hiding and taking the more natural ones.  They have all been sent to us electronically so we can decide which ones we might print out.

After that, we headed back to the hotel (another Uber), changed into  normal clothes (and I wiped the makeup off and just kept my hair) and we were off to Magic Kingdom!

We hadn’t told anyone, so from then on we had to be super careful about any photos in whatsapp in case our rings were on show (that’s not a good way for family to find out). We told our parents when we got back on Sunday, and then gradually started letting people know- that’s been the hardest bit in a way, because we did it abroad because I didn’t want a fuss and really could not imagine getting married in front of even a few people, but it seems to have created more excitement in a way.

WDW Wine and Dine 10K 2018

I was really looking forward to this part of the holiday, although as it got closer we did wonder if we should have done the 5k instead as that was on the Friday, and not the same day we flew home…

The long-sleeved top we got with our race entry at the expo/ signs around Disney Springs about Run Disney races and then my number all ready to go.

We had been to the expo on Thursday morning, and I’d been quite restrained with shopping- getting a Run Disney vest, a nice running jacket (they both say every mile is magic) and a mug, as well as picking up our numbers and long sleeved shirts. (After that we went to a few normal shops and I got a cool penguin t-shirt and then some nice essential oil sprays – we’d seen someone use one on the plane and it was so refreshing to smell, and the little travel pack were under 100ml so you could have one in your hand luggage).

We had been back to our room on Friday afternoon for a few hours to pack as much as we could, get out our running kit for the morning, and also have a bit of a rest, as we’d planned a late night watching fireworks at Hollywood Studios and then Epcot. Because we’d driven (rather then getting the bus) we were back at the hotel at about 10.40pm, and probably in bed with lights out at 11pm. The alarm was set for 3.30am though, so it wasn’t a long sleep!

At the expo I had also got this little magnetic pocket thing (the magnet won’t damage phones or credit cards), which clips to your waistband (most of my summer leggings have good pockets but lots of the winter ones don’t)- I packed it with a cereal bar, lip balm face wipes and tissues.

The race bus picked us up from the bus stop close to our room just before 4am (it said all runners needed to be on a bus by 4) and it wasn’t a long journey to the Magic Kingdom car park where the race started. Andy ate his cereal bar but I didn’t fancy mine- I wouldn’t usually eat before a parkrun or long run, but with races when you are hanging around for a bit I usually do, although I think the super early start messed with my stomach as I didn’t feel hungry at all.

We had to go through security and then we joined a queue to see Mickey and Minnie, but the queue was an hour and they were leaving in 45 mins, and then at around 4.45 we were all called to the starting pens, so we decided we would try for a photo at the end.

There was a huge stage set up and the people did a great job of keeping us entertained as the race didn’t start until 5.30am- I’d never usually get somewhere so early especially as we already had our numbers. They had interviews with participants, songs and dances, videos of previous years, clips from their sponsors/ charity partners (a local food bank). Somehow we were in the first section, and pretty much bang on 5.30 they set us off with some fireworks and a blast of music! As we ran, every 5 minutes or so we heard another lot of fireworks go off, so we knew the next wave was being set off.

Mickey and Minnie/ the big screen/ one of the mile markers/ the medal)

The first few miles were along big roads between the two parks, and as it was so dark we couldn’t see much of the scenery (but then it’s all pretty similar with lots of trees, green spaces and man-made ponds) but there were lots of things going on for us to look at- characters with people queuing up for photos, big screens playing songs from The Little Mermaid (mainly) and bands. The tough bit was the loop as it was an on/off ramp and although it was a gentle hill, it seemed to go on for ages! I got confused there and saw the big screen, feeling surprised that the next one was playing the same song until I realised that was where we had already been!  I slowed down to take a photo of each mile marker, although looking back later some of them were linked to countries but others were themed as postcards from different countries. By then we could see the big Epcot ball and knew we were getting close to the park.

It was more lively in the park with more spectators, and more music playing. The buildings were all twinkling with fairy lights (they way they do during the fireworks) and there were loads of photographers. We had a photo pass  included with our tickets, and you could link your race number, so every now and then you would run through some very bright lights and it took me a while to realise that the photographers were just beyond the lights. As we ran past the stage in front of Spaceship Earth, I saw people running in to stand in front and have their photos taken, so I told Andy that on our way back we would get a photo there too. The route through the park went around the world showcase lagoon, with a little detour (I think around some building work by France), and then on our way back we got a quick photo before running out of the park and into the finish area. They were calling out everyone’s names as we finished which is always a nice touch.

The finish area was very efficient with loads of people there giving out scary-coloured rehydration drinks (I’ll pass thanks), water, medals (woohoo), bananas and then little Run Disney boxes filled with snacks. The wait for Mickey and Minnie was only 10 minutes, so we joined it and ate our bananas in the queue. Then it was time to get the bus back to the hotel, have a shower and finish packing.

We must have been back at the hotel before 7.30am, so after showering we walked over to the cafe in the hotel grounds and shared a cinnamon bun. Then it was time to check out and head to Epcot for a final morning- we both wore our medals (lots of people did) and we got so many “congratulations” from various people which was lovely.  As we had only shared the cinnamon bun we decided to share a second breakfast of a school bread (the cardamon spiced bun filled with custard and topped with coconut)- sitting in the sun enjoying one of those was a pretty good post-race treat.  The park was totally rammed- it was the only Saturday we were there and seemed full of hen dos and locals on various versions of pub crawls (drinking around the world…. showcase), so we only went on a few rides in the end, watching the France film (both nearly fell asleep), going to see the Pixar shorts film, and then one last trip to Soarin’ to finish the holiday in style.

We left the park, drove to the airport, checked our luggage and had a wander before our first flight (to Miami). I’d packed the lavender spray and put that on my flight pillow and eye mask in the hope that it would help. I fell asleep on the internal flight for a bit, then our main flight was from Miami at 10pm (we nearly missed the fight because we found where we thought the departure gate was, but in fact the sign was for the gate and it was down some stairs, and by the time we realised there were more people downstairs they had nearly finished loading the plane so that was a bit of a panic for me), so I just put on my eye mask, loaded up some podcasts and went to sleep- the lavender spray helped but probably the 34,000 steps plus the super early start had something to do with it! They woke me up to ask me if I wanted dinner (I think because I had requested a veggie one) but that must have been about 11pm and after being up at half 3 I wasn’t fancying dinner!). I pretty much slept the entire time, waking up about 30 minutes before we landed.

The best snacks! We tried a caramel apple chai latte (which basically tasted like Philharmagic smells- I am glad we had it once, but once was enough!). delicious almond kringla from the Norway bakery, the cookie sandwich with pumpkin ice-cream, an almond banana soft serve from the food festival, a Dole Whip and our newest discovery of school bread (also from the Norway bakery).  Until next time Disney…

A half term trip to Florida

This is quite a long post – sorry! 

Last week on Friday we got the train to Gatwick, and then flew to Tampa on the Saturday. The flight was fine (lots of films to watch including a couple of new ones with Hearts Beat Loud and Leave No Trace, plus some Disney classics of Moana, Inside Out and The Lion King to get me in the Disney mood), but we must have queued for a good hour at immigration after. Anyway, after picking up the car and a quick supermarket stop, we drove to Orlando and checked in to our first hotel- Pop Century, which is themed around the culture of each decade.

Thanks to the wonder of jet lag, I was awake pretty early on Sunday so treated myself to a run around the hotel grounds- there was a big lake with signs for the running route so I ran around it a few times, avoiding the path closest to the water because of all the signs about alligators and snakes. There are signs all around there about different things that happened (from when certain films were released to when toys were first marketed and technologies invented and so on) so it was good to keep me entertained while I ran around. I was worried about it being hot but it was fairly cool at that point before the sun came up. I then managed to get lost, because although I had remembered the room number, I had forgotten to check the building number. I messaged Andy but he didn’t see it, and so in the end I had to just try my luck (thankfully I was right first time).

We had to check out that morning as we were transferring to the Contemporary resort (the one that the monorail goes through) and so one w had checked in there, we had the luxury of being able to walk to Magic Kingdom. Because of it nearly being Halloween, there were pumpkins and decorations everywhere (this also meant that the park closed early unless you had tickets for the party, so we had to plan which day we would see the Magic Kingdom fireworks).

The decorations were very impressive, and we managed to get on a lot of rides too. We used the Disney app which meant we could book Fast Pass tickets 3 (?) months in advance (and for the big rides, they go straight away)- then once you had used your final one of the day, you could log on and book more for that day. Andy spent a lot of time in queues getting us more passes!

Philharmagic is one of my favourite attractions- it’s a 3D theatre show with clips from some of the classics- Little Mermaid, Lion King, Aladdin, but we also went on Pirates, Small World, Peter Pan and the classic Tiki Room. We could not resist getting a dole whip float- you can only get them at Disney or  in Hawaii- it’s sort of pineapple soft serve  on top of pineapple juice and it is so refreshing (but huge- we shared it although our philosophy with snacks is to share them so we get to try twice as many things…)

The park was hosting a Halloween party so we went back to the hotel, popped to Disney Springs for an Earl of Sandwich and a pootle around the shops, and then headed to Epcot for the evening- it’s my favourite park, especially for the fireworks (which sadly are ending next summer). We had time to do the Nemo ride, see the manatees and watch the fireworks.

I also found a Totoro bag in the Japan shop <3 (also how cool are the Minnie Vans? Sort of ubers for getting around Disney…)

Monday was time for Animal Kingdom as we had passes for one of the newest rides, a boat ride through the Avatar land- very pretty and relaxing. I haven’t been there for years as for our last few trips to Disney we have missed that park out, so it was good to go back and see The Lion King show (live singing and dancing). We did some of the walks around the animal enclosures and the safari ride, and even got some lunch there. Veggie options were always so poor, but we found a place that did hummus with veggie sticks and mini pitta breads so we shared that. Then it was back to Magic Kingdom as it was one of the days there wasn’t a party so we could stay for the fireworks (plus rides on Buzz Lightyear, Winnie the Pooh, Jungle Cruise). We had a photo pass included in our booking, so we could get photos by the Disney photographers. We had seen online that in the newish land there were all these lanterns (like at the end of Tangled) and it was a good spot for a photo at night, so we queued for a while there to get a picture taken.

It always looks so pretty at night. The fireworks show was a new (to me) one, about dreams coming true. They had some cool music medleys with various Disney songs, and lots of projections into the castle as well as fireworks.

On Tuesday morning we were off somewhere, which I’ll get to another time (I’ll stick with Disney today) and then in the afternoon walked back to Magic Kingdom. This time our treat of choice was a cookie sandwich- the bakery on the Main Street does them with fresh chocolate chip cookies and your choice of ice-cream (we went for pumpkin).

We sat there and shared it while the parade was going past, and then had a bit of a chilled out afternoon going on some of the classics like Carousel of Progress, the  People Mover, Philharmagic, the Muppets outdoor show about the  declaration of independence, before going out for dinner and then going to Epcot for Soarin’ (which had changed- it isn’t just California any more, it goes all over the world with lots of CGI and so in my opinion isn’t quite as magical as it was before) and the fireworks.

On Wednesday we went to Hollywood Studios in the morning for the Toy Story ride (so much fun), I watched the Beauty and the Beast show while Andy did Rock and Rollercoaster and the Tower of Terror, we both went to the Little Mermaid show, saw the Muppets show and went on the Star Wars ride and then queued up to meet BB8.

Then it was back to Epcot for more fun (Soarin’ again, because I still love it even if it isn’t as good), the Canada show and the ride in Mexico.

The Food and Wine festival was going on while we were there, and I thought it might be interesting to see, but it surpassed by expectations. There were loads of food stalls (but they looked permanent) dotted all around the world showcase, each with 3 food offerings (plus lots of drinks)- they were sort of tasting plates, so usually around $4 which isn’t too bad. After looking at some of the menus the other day, we had decided to have a small breakfast and then share a few items for a late lunch/early dinner. We got some lovely sundried tomato hummus with little almond crackers, a gigantic German pretzel, some shaved ice,  and then some amazing guacamole and chips.

The decoration was brilliant too, and it had the atmosphere of a Christmas market or something, with people milling around and eating/drinking.

Of course we watched the fireworks too- I shall never get tired of that show.

On Thursday morning I’d pencilled in a run, as we had booked a breakfast in the Kona Cafe at the Polynesian hotel, but I didn’t realise it was quite that early (8.30am) so I saved my legs for walking around the parks. Breakfast was amazing and I have no doubt we will go there again. We shared two dishes- I got the tropical fruit plate, and Andy got some banana-stuffed French toast (they even put the bacon on the side so it wouldn’t touch the food) which came with the most amazing fruity sauce.

After getting the boat across the water to Magic Kingdom (noticing that overnight the pumpkins had gone, being replaced by Christmas decorations!), we walked back to the hotel, checked out (we were moving to Coronado Springs) and drove out to the Wide World of Sports for the race expo.

The expo was just on such a huge scale- number pick up was in one building, t-shirt pickup was in another, with vendors in one place and Disney stuff in another, there were signs for the queues for the merchandise… crazy. It only started on the Thursday so I think we were lucky to get there before it got too busy.  Our race shirts were long sleeved, and I also got myself a Run Disney vest and jacket, as well as a cool little pouch thing to use when my leggings don’t have pockets.

Then we had a speedy shop- visiting Bath and Bodyworks in one shopping mall for me to top up my supply of hand sanitsers, and then a few clothes shops in another (some trainers, leggings, a penguin Christmas t-shirt and jumper for me) before racing to Animal Kingdom as we had passes for the other new Avatar ride. This one was really weird- a bit like Soarin’ where you were looking at a big screen, but instead of being in a seat, you sat on a sort of bicycle thing and were clamped in from the back. The idea was some sort of dragon ride around the Avatar planet, and it was so realistic that you could feel the dragon “breathing” between your legs. I was very nervous as I don’t like rollercoasters, but I would do that ride again. Another safari visit and the Up bird show, and then it was time to go to Magic Kingdom (we did park hop a lot!) for the fireworks (and managed to fit in the Buzz Lightyear ride and the Haunted Mansion too- up until now the queues had been crazy, and then once we were at the front of the line and the whole ride got evacuated so we did wonder if we’d ever make it). I was so shattered by the time we checked in to the hotel and then I saw the signs for the race buses- runners had to be on them before 4am on the Saturday morning. I did wonder if we had made a bit of a mistake at that point.

On Friday we had an early Fast Pass for Test Track but then before we were leaving got an email saying the ride had stopped so our passes would be valid all day if it was fixed, or on something else if not. This meant we could have a slightly later start. Earlier in the week we had looked at the Norway bakery and seen some amazing looking foods, so had decided to head there for breakfast, sharing an almond Kringla (a bit like a soft pretzel I suppose)- we kept seeing people buy school bread, so after googling them, decided to share one of those too. This was a very good idea. They are basically cardamom spiced buns filled with confectioners custard and topped with toasted coconut. So good.

More rides (Nemo/ seeing the manatees/ Spaceship Earth to hear Judy Dench say “math”) and then a quick whizz over to Disney Springs to look in the art shop and get a few gifts for family, plus an Earl of Sandwich for dinner, and then we went back to the hotel for a rest and to pack as much as possible, plus get our race bits out. This was the only rain of the week- it poured as we drove back to the hotel from Disney Springs, so we had to make a run for it from the car- perfect timing as by the time we were packed it had stopped. It was our last night and there were Star Wars fireworks at 8.30pm and Hollywood studios and then the Epcot ones at 10pm, so we decided to see both of them, especially as it would be our last chance for Illuminations and we both really love that show. We even managed to do the Toy Story ride again. We did have our most disappointing snack- we’d seen a peanut butter cupcake in the bakery at Hollywood Studios and decided we would share it, but it turned out to be chocolate, with weird white icing and then just sort of peanut sprinkles covering the icing, so it looked like peanut butter icing but it was just weird white stuff in disguise! Ah well, at least we know not to bother with a cake next time!

I’ll save Saturday and the race for another post as this has gone on rather a lot!

Have you ever been to Disney? If so, which is your favourite park? While the Magic Kingdom is very Disney (and yes, magical), I think Epcot would win if I could only go to one. What type of rides do you like? I don’t like rollercoasters so I think Disney is pretty good for me as they do thrill rides but in such clever ways, so there aren’t too many rides I won’t do. Do you get disappointed by snacks?  That cupcake did annoy me because it just looked and sounded so good, but it was really just OK.

Wendover Woods parkrun and a Gruffalo!

The past week was a pretty standard week- rest day on Monday (a walk after work), a run on Tuesday (cut short because the traffic was so bad that my journey home took around 90 mins), and yoga on Wednesday. I was going to run after work on Thursday too, but I was feeling pretty tired, so when Andy suggested a long walk I decided that would be a better option. We went out for about 3 miles, very enjoyable in the mild weather and evening light.

On Friday I met Andy in town after work because we realised that our John Lewis cake vouchers were about to run out (they were only valid from 9th October or something) so we shared a piece of cake (chocolate, orange and redcurrant or something- very tasty) and a hot chocolate.

Earlier in the week I had been looking on the parkrun tourist tool (you can google it and it magically tells you your nearest parkruns, and you can select to remove ones you have been to if you want to see your nearest new ones). I still have half an eye on the alphabet, but really a journey to a D or K is too far at the moment. If I get a couple more G’s, I can get the “Stayin’ Alive” badge on the chrome extension (you need 3 B’s and 3 G’s), but the G closest didn’t grab my attention. Since doing all of the Hertfordshire ones, I did look to other counties to see if I could add another one to my list. Buckinghamshire is one bordering county, and when I wrote down the list (9, plus one prison one which I can’t include) I’d already run at 3 of them (Black Park, Linford Wood and Rushmere) so I thought I’d tick another one off. Wendover Woods caught my eye as it is probably the closest (just beyond Tring), it was one lap, through woods and looked really pretty.

The next morning on my way to work, I put on the newest With Me Now podcast (it’s the reincarnation of the old parkrun Show podcast with the same two presenters- Danny Norman and Nicola Forwood- and if you are interested in parkrun tourism, then I would really recommend it- it is much more for parkrun fans than the official one because the two of them are so passionate about parkrun but also very involved in their local ones) and anyway, the episode was entitled Bendover Woods- yup- Danny Norman had visited there last weekend! I didn’t realise how new the parkrun was- when we went on Saturday (I picked up my brother) it was event number 6. They seemed to have loads of tourists, and I heard someone else mention that they heard about it on the parkrun podcast, so maybe that upped the numbers a bit too?

Anyway, onto the parkrun. The journey was straightforward, and we arrived at about 8.40am- just before the exit we passed under the bridge which goes from the Tring car park to the parkrun and saw someone in a high-viz jacket walking over it. I think they would make a good (but super hilly) NYD double! There was loads of parking at the woods (run by National Forestry I think) and the area where people met for the briefing was right by the car park. We saw a sign for a Gruffalo (I think it said monument/ sculpture) but we wandered about a bit and couldn’t find it. We had the new runners briefing promptly, which turned out to be most people there I think. There were a few milestone runs, and as they were announced the photographer came into the crowd and took some photos of the people celebrating which was a lovely touch. The RD then did the main briefing, with a warning about a short course deviation as there was building work going on.

We then had to walk a short distance (they said 400m ish) along a track to the start. We had been warned that the start was mainly downhill, with the second half being mainly uphill, so we knew to take it fairly steadily.

I quite like that the course map looks a bit like a baby hippo

As we ran down a track we passed the Gruffalo model, so I said to Tony we’d have to go back at the end so we could have a photo.

The course went down through woods with some quite steep sections, and then steadily up again- there was one short steep bit where most people were walking, but we just ran very slowly up- you then got to a bit of a ridge-line with gorgeous views across a valley, before heading up more gently towards the finish. I think it wouldn’t be too bad once you got to know where the up and down bits were, although I am never that fast on the downhills either as I worry about slipping or tripping. The final mile was +123ft, compared to the +202ft in Bevendean Down (which you do twice) or +219ft of the first mile of Tring, so although it seemed hilly, it wasn’t that bad. We took our time and enjoyed chatting to each other, and of course the lovely views.

Once we finished (34:38) and had our barcodes scanned, we walked down the hill to where the Gruffalo was standing, for me to get my photo. There was a trail there, and we saw this amazing owl bench (a bit like the carvings at Heartwood Forest) so I wonder if the trail had the other animals from the story? Anyway, Mum was making us pancakes so we didn’t hang about- a quick visit to the car park machines and then off we headed. It would be a good place to visit at another time, and we have suggested to Mum that if we go back in the spring she could come along and enjoy a bit of bird watching while we run.

I thought it was my 50th parkrun course, but wasn’t 100% sure, so when I got home I checked that I was correct. A very enjoyable venue for my 50th different one (and 168 in total). I still have 5 of the Buckinghamshire ones to visit, so it will take a while, but it’s nice to have a different focus to help me choose where to visit.

Bottom right is where the statue was- overlooking a valley, very scenic indeed

Breakfast was lovely (of course)- although I’d packed tracksuit bottoms (after last week when Mum had to lend me some legging) but stupidly I’d put them in the same bag as my water bottle which then leaked all over them, so when I got them out of my bag they were all damp. At least it was fairly warm on Saturday so I was OK to stay in my kit and just put an extra jumper on.

In the afternoon I had some work to do, and then once that was finished I pottered in the garden a bit before walking to the shops to get some salad for dinner.

On Sunday morning I went out on a run- I ended up doing 8 miles in perfect running weather; cold but bright, virtually no wind. Everywhere was looking amazing.

After a shower and breakfast we walked into town and it was so warm I got an iced chai for my free Vitality drink- October is nearly over and this is just crazy. On a sad point I watched a bit of Autumn watch- it’s in the US but they were saying that the later winters are having adverse consequences for some animals- some birds would usually migrate once the lakes freeze over, but because that is happening later their winter feathers have grown and they can’t fly the distance.

How do you choose which parkrun to go to?  Are you working on any challenges at the moment?