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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
It’s always a bonus at this time of year when we get more than one parkrun each week. As Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, it meant that we could do two in a row if teams put them on.
My chosen pair of parkruns was Jersey Farm on Christmas Eve, and then Panshanger on Christmas Day. Panshanger feels like a tradition for Christmas Day for me now- it’s the only one I’ve been to on Christmas, both running and volunteering. I can run there from home so it’s perfect to not have to worry about busy car parks, traffic or things like that.
I also had a look on the app and appear to have achieved single-ton (100 visits to a single parkrun) but in fact this includes volunteer visits, so I have 13 runs to go before I officially achieve this. (The app is great but the running achievement chrome extension is the only one with “official” challenges that I will count).
We were off to DLP for New Year, so no parkrun double (or even single) for me over that weekend, so that marked the end of 2022 parkruns for me, and what a great way to finish the year.
The first Sunday in December, a local running club hosts the Festive Five, a five mile race close to the town centre. Everyone wears festive gear, it has a great feel to it, and this year it perfectly coincided with our club’s Christmas brunch.
It’s one of those fab small, relaxed races where you collect your number in the morning, there’s a small gazebo/tarp for bag drop, and so there is no need to rush or stress. I ran there is it was less than 2 miles away so it’s the perfect warm up, plus I had started the Run up 2 Christmas as part of the With Me Now patreons team, and needed to start totting up the miles for our team target.
Compared to how mild it was the previous week at the Hatfield 5, it felt freezing that morning. I’d wrapped up in a long sleeved top and then my (not at all ugly) Christmas vest, long leggings, buff for my neck and gloves, but I didn’t ever get too warm when running.
Festive running gear on, delicious vegan pancakes, my chocolates and the regular Santa from the finish, and of course tea to warm up with in the afternoon.
Lots of our club were there, and running it was just great fun as all the marshals dress up too, and give festive cheers (including one person who shouted at me “go little elf girl” as I ran past!
I finished in just under 50 minutes, so slower than the Hatfield 5, but this race is not flat whereas Hatfield 5 is, and I was just happy to enjoy it.
After we finished, the few of us heading straight to brunch walked into town and met the rest of our club in Megan’s for vegan pancakes (excitingly these are on the main menu and you don’t even need to ask to see a different menu or anything). It took ages to warm up after though- I had packed a hat and an extra layer in my bag drop bag, but the walk home after was very chilly.
Sadly this year they didn’t have a vegan option at the finish- you usually get a chocolate Santa but in previous year there have been a vegan option, so I popped into Holland & Barrett to get some vegan chocolate to enjoy in front of the fire to warm up in the afternoon.