Pink Panther parkrun!

(Sing to the Pink Panther theme tune) Durham, Durham, Durham-Durham-Durham-Durham, Durhaaaaaaam, etc.

After our late arrival to Durham the night before, I was thankful that Durham parkrun wasn’t too far from the town centre (just over a mile it seemed). However, I left plenty of time because I find Durham confusing as the river bends around in a horse shoe shape, so it just feels like you are spinning around the whole time (plus I didn’t want to be there, but on the other side of the river and no-where near a bridge). I had maps open on my phone (I put in headphones and listen to a podcast, as with the Pocket Cast app it pauses the podcast for each map direction, and means I can listen but not be wandering around looking at my phone making it obvious I am lost). Anyway, I think the satellites were having trouble locating me as I was often off road. I went wrong 3 times before going in the right direction, and then ended up taking the road route and not the riverside path that I had selected…

After running 1.65 miles I arrived!

The start and finish are in different places (see the map below)- the finish is much more central. It started by a running track at the Uni (a proper track- how fancy), and then began with an out and back section alongside the river, then crossed over “the noisy bridge”, went around some rugby fields, then back to the river, along one side, over a bridge and finishing on the other side. The last section (before you crossed over the final bridge) had amazing views of the castle and cathedral.

As I was running the GNR the next day (as were a lot of people judging by the number of tourists), I started near the back and tried to make myself take it gently.  I kept it nice and steady with a royal flush negative split- 10:02, 9:36, 9:12, 8:31 to finish in 29:43. I’ll happily take a sub 30 minute parkrun (and according to the usually nonsense on Strava, it was consistent with my usual efforts!).  The marshals were particularly cheerful, cheering everyone past with loads of energy.

We hadn’t made plans beforehand (I couldn’t decide between stopping on my way back to the hotel for croissants/ cinnamon rolls, or going back for a shower and going out for a proper breakfast), so I messaged Andy when I finished, and as the hotel was around half a mile from the finish, I went back for a shower and we went out to Bill’s for pancakes.

We then had a lovely day wandering around Durham – it’s such a pretty place. I love the river walk, and of course the beautiful weather helped.

A while back there was an interview with a guy on Marathon Talk who runs marathons in big dresses- there was a charity shop in Durham with a display of the dresses, and they are enormous! I had no idea that they were that big!

We didn’t have lunch (the Pret was no longer there) but we came across a lovely tea room so had a pick-me-up. I had some delicious vanilla Earl Grey tea, and a scone. All the cakes were home-made and were really good. The afternoon tea looked fab too- with one slice of cake (which you chose from the front) instead of all the little usual fancy ones.  And how pretty is the teacup wallpaper?

In the evening we went to an Italian for dinner (Prezzo I think?)- in the end I had a vegan pizza (really tasty) as I am not too keen on loads of cheese before a long run. We then headed back to the hotel to watch a bit of TV (we started the new Danish drama)- I’d done over 33,000 steps by then so I did need to put my feet up for a bit!

So, my 67th different parkrun event and a very nice one it was too. I do like a single lap (or point to point) route and the views were very impressive. I wonder how the event team get on with getting to the finish before the first runners though!

How was your weekend? How do you prep before a race?

And just like that it’s back to work! And the final GNR countdown

After my last few rather long posts I will try to keep it shorter….

(Two weeks ago …) Monday we were back to work, with a training day. Even though I had been in in the holidays, I still had so many bags of things to carry in with me, I had to do two trips to the car! After work I walked around to the bike shop to pick it up, and even had a little cycle on the way home. I haven’t ridden a bike in years (at least 3, as it’s been in the shed since we moved here) and I actually felt a little nervous getting on it to cycle back. But, that is why the saying goes “it’s like riding a bike” I suppose. Just need to get a helmet and then I can pop into town and maybe cycle to parkrun.

Tuesday night was time for a run (4 miles), and then doing a lot of work prep (again, even though I did lots in the holidays there is always more to do- crack out the laminator) and having some left over brownie in front of Bake Off.

On Wednesday I popped to Starbucks to pick up my free drink, and then once home my tea club had arrived- pumpkin spice season baby! I had a walk (no yoga this week) and the air felt distinctly autumnal. Andy’s parents and auntie popped over for a catch up later on which was lovely.

Thursday was a 3 mile run, and tea in my new Canada mug- I love the little maple leaf on the inside of the mug. The evening was spent packing and sorting because we were off to Durham on the Friday.

Friday was a bit of a rush to get home, and finish up the packing. Pip& Nut emailed to say that their new limited edition flavour is pumpkin spice almond butter- let’s go pumpkin spice crazy! Our GNR whatsapp group was pinging like mad as all 20 people were working out the logistics. I am not sure if I have mentioned it before, but the reason why I was running it was for MND. My Uncle Ken, in the picture above, loved the GNR and wanted to run it 20 times. Sadly when he was training, he felt some twinges and was ultimately diagnosed with MND, and sadly passed away a couple of years ago. This year a team of 20 family and friends are running his 20th for him (20 for 20 for Ken)- I only knew a few people in the team- one of them was my lovely Uncle Brian (Ken’s brother in law)- the last time I ran the GNR back in 2012, Brian and Ken ran it together. More recently we introduced Brian to parkrun (a few years ago) and he’s well on his way to his 100 t-shirt now and totally loves it. The aim was to raise £10,000 between us and we were well on the way.

After dinner we drove to Stevenage to catch the train up to Durham, arriving just after midnight and having a shortish walk to the hotel.

I shall save the weekend for another post.

Are you a pumpkin spice fan? I saw on John Oliver that there is now pumpkin spice spam- I think that’s a step too far!

The final two weeks of holiday- running and drinking tea

After landing in Manchester and getting the train back to Milton Keynes (thankfully I didn’t fall asleep and miss the stop- that was my main concern after 2 overnight flights in a row) I had a fairly chilled out week planned. The jet lag wasn’t as bad as it has been- sometimes I have had terrible trouble falling asleep at night, but this time I found I felt suddenly very sleepy at around 4pm, and would battle through the evening, and feel a bit groggy in the morning but nothing too bad.

My inverse taper was meant to be starting once I got home, and I had pencilled in an 8 mile run for the Tuesday morning. However, when I woke up I felt weird, sort of dizzy (I get a sort of delayed motion sickness thing sometimes, especially if I have fallen asleep on something moving like a train or car) so I did a very gentle 3 miles to help reset the body clock.

The rest of the day was spent finishing the unpacking, sorting out some of our lovely souvenirs (we got some more art), doing some gardening, tea in the afternoon to stay away, and walking to town to get my free Starbucks drink before the voucher ran out (it’s only valid for a week and runs out each Wednesday).

On Wednesday I felt much better, and as I had run 8 miles on holiday, ended up going a little further (10 miles). I was feeling fairly stiff and so did a bit of yoga when I got home- I am sure I am very late to the party here as I have seen her mentioned on lots of blogs before, but there is a short sequence on the Yoga with Adriene for post-run, and it was just what I needed.

I got on with some work as I was feeling much better, as well as a bit more pottering around, sorting out the dining room and things like that.

I baked some cookies and Andy had the good idea to make ice cream cookie sandwiches-very tasty.

On Thursday I did a short run in the charity vest, as I realised I hadn’t actually run in it. The vest was a bit gaping under my arms and wasn’t that comfy, so I think for the race I will wear my club vest underneath. Hopefully I won’t get too hot, but I can’t see another solution as I think I’ll get fairly uncomfortable (plus it was very low cut so I felt a bit self conscious in it). At least I remembered to test it out before race day!

I also had a memory on facebook pop up- 4 years ago I did Crissy Fields parkrun in San Fran- that was my first tourist parkrun, as up until then I had run at St Albans as my local, and then Panshanger once it started. Who knew that 4 years later  it would have become such a fixture in my life? Now I’ve run at 66 different events which just seems crazy! In the autumn following on from this we were in Brighton and I looked up to see if there was a parkrun there, and did Hove Prom, and after that my interest in visiting different events started growing. Now it’s the first thing I look for when we go away, whereas back then it had only just started to occur to me that I could visit other parkruns!

On Friday I drove to the outskirts of St Albans and walked in to the centre as I had a back and shoulder massage booked in- just what was needed after attempting to sleep upright for two nights! Then I had breakfast in Pret and visited my parents. My sister and niece were also there, so we sat in the garden and caught up. I’d bought a few bits in Hotel Chocolat in town (I had a 15% off voucher, so it would be rude not to…)- I hadn’t realised quite how warm it was, and had left it all in my car boot. When I got home, well, some of it was rather liquid!

I had a car full as I had a few parcels delivered there while we were away (well in fact some of them arrived before we went but I wasn’t sure so had put their address down to be sure)- some Bird&Blend tea, and I finally spent my Sweaty Betty vouchers that I won from a Fitbits competition. I love their victory run bra (way better than the shock absorbers in my opinion), and also got some leggings and a yoga brick. At yoga we sometimes begin by laying down with the brick under our shoulder blades, and it feels so restorative, so I am thinking once term starts I may just lay like this in front of the TV! I also needed to borrow the wallpaper stripper from my parents because we need to start sorting out the hall- urgh!

On Saturday I headed to Panshanger so that I wouldn’t be back too late and could help with the wallpaper stripping. The steam kept setting off the fire alarm, and it was a really hot day so not the best way to spend it. We did get a fair amount done, but I think it’s going to take us a while!

As a post-holiday treat we had bought extra frozen fruit and some granola, and Andy made us acai bowls for breakfast- so good. I also got a “top fan” badge for With Me Now (my fave parkrun podcast)- how exciting! (Clearly I have had too much time on my hands in the holidays!)

On Sunday I did a 12.4 (ish?) mile run and a bit of yoga, had another acai bowl for breakfast, did some work and then we headed to see Andy’s parents for some belated birthday celebrations (brother in law and nephew). The run was hot by the end, but I was glad to get that many miles done as I felt confident that I could take on the GNR.

On Monday we could have done more wallpaper stripping, but it was too hot for that so instead we went around to Capel Manor, which is a gardening college that you can look around. It was quite interesting, with rows of pretend houses so you could see different styles of front and back gardens. It had a walk through a forest, and a big lake to walk around. I had a few bits to sell so took some photos and put them on Gumtree (I am not sure the best place to sell things but at least this way I don’t have to faff with the post office).

Tuesday I did a 3 mile run to loosen out my legs, as they were feeling a bit stiff after the 12 miles, and then had to head to work as it was time to move all the furniture. (Our school gets cleaned over the summer and they basically pile all the furniture into one part of the room and we have to put it back)- on a hot day this wasn’t the most appealing thing but it needed to be done.

My reward was a slice of apple cake in front of Bake Off in the evening- hooray!

This is me sheltering under a tree as it had just poured with rain!

On Wednesday after a short walk in the morning to stretch my legs (where I got caught in a heavy rain shower) I headed back into work to continue sorting out my room, and then in the afternoon my sister in law, niece and nephew came over and we went to the park. Every other time it has rained, (and we’ve still gone to the park) but this time it was dry! It did pour once we got home though.

Thursday I did 6 miles, made myself pancakes for breakfast (these were a mix made with things like chickpea flour and were actually really tasty), did some gardening, and then Andy got my bike out of the shed of doom, and I walked it around to the local shop for them to give it a service. I then walked into town as I had a few things that needed sorting (including tightening my glasses, although now they are too tight and I need to go back…). After everything was sorted I sat in a cafe for a bit, with a magazine for company. It’s good to have this sort of me time.

In the evening we went to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. I enjoyed it (apart from all the gory bits at the end) but when we left Andy said to me “did you know anything about Sharon Tate and what actually happened to her?” and my answer was no- after finding out I think the film would have been more tense if I had known!

On Friday I was meant to be getting the train down to Brighton to meet  up with a friend, but she wasn’t well so we’ve had to postpone. I ended up going on a walk, doing some baking for work, doing a bit more work, and then later in the day Andy got the train down with me (the plan was he’d drive down later and meet me there).

We had a delicious pizza (Fatto A Mano- I love their vegan pizza with roasted veggies and pesto) and then a lovely walk along the seafront to Hove as the sun was going down.

I heart my “save the bees” top.

Saturday was time for a parkrun sandwich- the last few times I’ve either been to Preston Park, or visited new (to me) Brighton ones such as East Brighton and Bevendean Down, and I fancied going back to Hove Prom.

I didn’t need my hoodie after the first few mins of running- it was warm!

It’s a bit further from the hotel (I think it was 1.6 miles) so it made a nice parkrun sandwich. The weather was beautiful, and it was packed! The first time I ran there, there were just over 100 runners, and this week there were nearly 500! Its fab to see how much parkrun is growing.

After breakfast at Cafe Coho, we found that there was a pro-democracy protest going on, so we walked down there. They had a few speakers including Caroline Lucas, so it was well worth going.

The rest of the day was great- wandering around the shops (of course getting a drink from Bird & Blend), along the seafront, stopping for tea and cake (this was delicious vegan carrot cake from Wolfox cafe), and popping to Leon for dinner before getting the train back.

On Sunday I went out for 11.5 miles (and some yoga once home)- I felt good on the run although I did stop for a while in the middle as I bumped into someone from my running club and I’d not seen her for ages. One week to go until the GNR!

I painted my nails with nail polish from Wideye (no formaldehyde or nasties which apparently there are lots of in my beloved Essie- I am going to move over to more natural colours as I finish the other bottles).

So, the final few weeks were a nice mix of pottering around at home, catching up with family, getting up to speed with my running, and then finished with a little getaway to Brighton.  I have loved the little yoga videos after my runs, so I am going to try and keep up with that once I go back to work, although the temptation in the evening to rush to the shower and have dinner is pretty big. We shall see.

Do you look to do a parkrun when you are away? When did you discover parkrun tourism?

Do you sell things on ebay/ gumtree/ depop? I won’t go into it now, but gumtree is not my favourite but I am not sure if I can be bothered with the faff of posting things…


The start of our holiday- Vancouver and Central parkrun (Burnaby)

So I’m home now from a wonderful holiday in the USA and Canada. I’m going to recap in several parts in the aim to keep each post a readable length!

Our trip started on a Thursday night with a train up to Manchester. This was on one of the hottest days, and of course the trains were delayed- we ended up waiting for a couple of hours at Milton Keynes, and even looking up Manchester airport parking options in case the train was cancelled. Thankfully it turned up in the end and we got to our hotel at about midnight.

After a little walk around Manchester first thing on Friday, we got the train to the airport and flew to New York (due to catch a flight to Vancouver later that day). Luckily we got to the airport nice and early because although we had checked in, when we got to drop off our bags we were told (very nicely) that we also needed the Canadian version of an ESTA (these didn’t exist the last time we went to Canada)- we applied over our phones (fiddly doing the long form on a small screen) and could show the email as proof so we were OK to fly. The flight was fine- we were upstairs on the plane in a sort of exit row, and I had an empty seat next to me so we felt like we could spread out. I watched a film (the one about Ted Bundy), and started watching the new Mary Poppins but the time went quickly and we soon landed. Then, because I had changed my name after getting married, I had to have a new USA ESTA, and so we had to join that queue (vs returning ESTA which was a far shorter queue), and I am not kidding you we were in that queue for well over 2 hours. Luckily our connection was a long one, and after finally getting our bags, re-dropping them  off and re-going through security (my most hated part of travel) we walked up and down by the gates to make sure we were tired for the second flight. I had a slight panic because before boarding they called out my name, saying they needed to see me at the  desk, but it turned out they were checking the Canadian ESTA (so lucky I could show them the email on my phone) and were checking every single person- I just happened to be one of the first names they called. As someone who gets easily panicked this didn’t really help any pre-flight worries!

For the NY-Vancouver flight, as soon as the flight had taken off I put on my headphones and eye mask, and loaded up some sleep stories from Calm, and although I woke up each time the story ended, I could just put on a new one and then drift off.  Immigration in Canada was far quicker, and after getting our bags and a taxi we were in our hotel at about 1am (which I think was 9am UK time)- as I was setting my alarm I heard that my dad was on his way to parkrun at home which was a weird thought!

When we booked our trip I had planned to go to Richmond Olympic parkrun, which is near to Vancouver airport and would have meant a 40 min Skytrain ride, but a few weeks before then I had seen (on the parkrun Canada facebook page) that a new one was launching (Central parkrun in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver) and this was only a 20 min Skytrain ride away result! Luckily they don’t mind people turning up to inaugurals in Canada, so I was OK to head there. Although I’d set my alarm, we both woke up before and Andy walked with me to the train station (he knows I have a terrible sense  of direction, and I had no data on my phone for Canada, and I had downloaded the Vancouver map but directions don’t work when the map is offline).

I was slightly apprehensive about finding the start, but I needn’t have worried because I could see the parkrun flag from the platform!

Me with my tired and slightly nervous face on the way, with my watch, train ticket and barcode- DFYB.

I chatted to a few tourists including one from Bristol who had been to a parkrun in Seattle the previous week, and the core team chatted too. They were worried that not many people would turn up, but they had 116 runners in the end.

The park was gorgeous and I was so glad that I chose to go there. (Despite it’s cool name, a few locals said that Richmond Olympic parkrun was like running up a gulley? and not particularly shaded- it’s out and back and possibly not so scenic). The park was filled with huge redwood trees, so it was lovely and shaded. There were black squirrels which I’d never seen before (despite looking out for them in Letchworth as there are some there). The route was two laps, and it went past ponds, clearings in the trees where loads of people were doing tai chi- with every turning there was a new view. Towards the end of each lap there was a slight incline, but nothing that you could call a hill. It was just beautiful.

(A few blurry photos from while I was running)

From their facebook page- I’m there in my apricot Ellenbrook Fields vest – too hot for t-shirts!

The two lap nature meant that you ran through the start/finish area which meant lots of lovely cheers from the teams. Lots of people were thanking marshals on the way around, which always makes me very happy.

After finishing and scanning my barcode, I chatted to a few other tourists for a little bit. I was trying to do a selfie with the sign in the background, and failing miserably (I still can’t get the hang of it, and always move the wrong way to where I need to move to get the right bit of background in) so someone offered to take my photo very kindly. I had sent Andy a text (no data in Canada for me) but it hadn’t sent so I didn’t want to hang about too much in case he worried, and of course we wanted a day in Vancouver so I got the train back. (My time was 28:31- this came through on email later in the day)

Yay- a new flag on Running Challenges!

After breakfast (in fact, second breakfast as I’d eaten a brioche roll when I’d first woken up as I already felt pretty hungry and hadn’t eaten anything since before the flight to NY, a good while ago by that point) we headed out for a wonderful day in Vancouver. It really is such a beautiful city. I think anywhere with water is vastly improved (lakes, rivers, oceans) and combined with the mountains in the background and the masses of green trees it is a perfect combination. We walked to Stanley Park and watched seaplanes taking off, watched for cormorants, seagulls and starfish on the beach, headed into the park for a bit to admire the collection of totem poles, and then walked back to the centre. I thought I would feel more tired, as the time difference is so huge, and we did sit down on a bench for a bit, but other than that we kept walking.

Once in the centre we had to stop by a David’s tea for an iced peach tea (so good), and then went to get an early dinner in a pasta place. I could not resist popping into a Bath and Bodyworks (I love their hand sanitisers) so I picked up a few bits for the holiday. We had seen this amazing bakery close to our hotel, so on our way back we stopped to get an evening snack- pretzel for Andy and a dark chocolate and cherry scone for me- so good.

We didn’t stay up too late as we had an early start- our train to Portland was leaving at 6.30am- I’ll save that for next time.

Are you a fan of flights?  Where is the furthest you have travelled to a parkrun?

Tell me about your favourite city…

Holiday prep and a heatwave!

As I didn’t run on the Sunday I needed to get a long run in on Monday (Great North Run training)- I had pencilled in 11 or 12 miles, and headed out with what I thought was an 11 mile route. I got so hot and thirsty and remembered that I hadn’t had my free Starbucks drink yet, so I stopped in town after 11.5 miles, got an iced chai and drank some, the half ran and half walked the mile home, carrying it with me. Once home I sat in the garden, did some stretches and enjoyed the rest of the drink. I needed that!

I didn’t fancy a big breakfast and ended up with a toasted hot cross bun and a peach, so later on when the runger struck I made some beans on toast- we had sourdough in the freezer and I added some marmite to the toast to make it extra savoury- so good!

I had a lot of work to be doing so got on with that, and then when Andy got home from work we went out to cut the hedges out the front- this took a good hour with all the clearing up. I was doubly glad of my big lunch then to tide me over to dinner.

On Tuesday I had a haircut booked, so walked into town, enjoying the glorious blue skies.

My hair had got rather wild so it was good to have it all smoothed and sorted. My haircut was at 10.30 so in my head I thought I’d have breakfast after, forgetting that it takes a good hour to get it cut- I was so hungry by the time I had finished. I had an almond croissant and a cup of tea (and yes I know it was super hot, but there was AC in Caffe Nero so it balances out). I had to get some cash for our holiday so popped into John Lewis for that, and got a few travel miniatures from Boots while I was at it.

Then it was operation stay cool. After the walk home (in the midday heat) I was sweltering and no-where seemed cool. I was so glad I wasn’t at work! I did some packing and generally had a lot of iced drinks.

In the evening I topped up the bird food and made an extra bird/ animal bath with an old plant pot (I added a brick as a ramp for things like hedgehogs as you never know). Then we went to see The Lion King 2 (or whatever it is called) with some Candy Kittens (a gift from a friend at work) as a snack.

The Lion King was good, but then the original is good. I did enjoy the little extras but I still don’t see the point of all of these remakes (well apart from cash-money for Disney).

I spotted these doughnut peaches for 10p and they were delicious!  On Wednesday I had a short run, shower and breakfast (including peaches) and then drove to St Albans and walked into town for a massage. It was very relaxing and thankfully I’d got there with enough time to sit in the waiting room and cool down (as it was nearly a 2 mile walk from where I parked). I had a few last minute holiday prep bits to get, and then sat in the cool of the A/C in Pret and had a tea and cookie. I asked for a bit of soya milk to go in my tea and I ended up being given frothy milk so it was a bit like a latte (a London Fog latte is so good).

I visited my mum who was looking after my niece, then popped to see my sister in law to deliver a few birthday cards, and then came home to do a few more holiday bits.

On Thursday (the hottest day I have ever known!) I went out on a 8.5 mile run, as my last longish run before holiday. I am taking my running things with me but I am not going to be spending hours doing long runs (plus it’s going to be warm where we are going). The Vitality drink comes through each Thursday so I got one on my way home, and after around 5 minutes all the ice had melted (on Monday I ran home with it and it was still full of bits of ice). Madness.

How did you cope in the heat? How good are you at getting ready for a holiday? I have plenty of lists but I always feel like I am forgetting something important!