Unexpected parkrun tourism- Houghton Hall parkrun

So the original plan for this Saturday was to meet my dad at Heartwood forest parkrun, run there together and then go back to theirs for breakfast. Last week however, our plans were scuppered when Heartwood forest announced that it would be closed until the spring to allow the paths to recover. As we had already pencilled in a trip somewhere other than the regular places, I had a little look around. Letchworth was starting today, but they had requested a small launch so we will visit later in the year (I need it for the Queen of Herts title!). I’d seen a few people on Strava run at Houghton Hall, which is located close to Dunstable (so basically very close to the M1)- it would be around a 25 min drive from my parents home. I’d also seen it on the fab blog, blog7t, and realised that the reason why I hadn’t heard of it before was that it only started in December. It was two laps (well, two and a bit) which is always good in our book- and the route looked flat, on paths (not muddy)- winning all around.

So I was up early on Saturday so I could pick up Dad on the way- I was treated to a beautiful sunrise- it was even more pink and purple than it looks.

Anyway, the journey was very easy, although the postcode that we used took us to a little industrial park that backs onto the actual park (some other runners/ people in high viz clothes also made the same mistake as us)- easily solved as I looked at google maps and so we were parked at 8.35am. The car park was fairly small (as I had read on the blog) and although there were plenty of spaces when we arrived, when we left it was full, with people having made up spaces too.  It was so cold though- I’d had to scrape ice from my car before leaving, and thankfully made a last minute decision to bring an extra layer, so we sat in the car until ten to.

The park was lovely- very flat with fields and trees, plus a wooded area. The wind was whipping across the park during the new runners briefing and we were so cold- we did a start line selfie instead of the usual finish line one so we didn’t need to hang about at the end!

The lady in the blue top then came over to apologise for photo-bombing us! I don’t think she really did but it was funny. I also chatted briefly to another cow-cowl wearer who came from High Wycombe- one we haven’t been to yet, but apparently is very flat and an out and back (no laps!) so that’s been added to the list too!

After the main briefing, everyone walked a very short (10m?) distance to the start, where suddenly we realised we were off! The route went through the fields (on hard paths- a bit like compacted gravel maybe?), briefly out of the park and up a sort of alleyway (a tarmac pedestrian path that backed onto gardens) and then back into the park. We seemed to pass the finish line very quickly, and then we knew we had two full laps to go. There was a tarpaulin for jumpers etc., they had said we could throw them on our way past, but it was way too cold and I kept my extra layer on the whole time. After running close to the start, we then headed off into a lovely woodland section (but again, very dry underfoot) before passing through the start again. I really enjoyed it- we ran at a fair pace to try and keep warm, but did manage to chat most of the way and ended up talking to a guy as we neared the end- this was now his local but he used to run at Luton and then Hemel- he’d been to a lot of the Herts ones so we compared notes. The poor marshals looked freezing though- one in particular was jumping up and down- the third time we saw her she told us she’d managed to warm up! The little alleyway bit was a slight uphill slope- the first time it seemed flat, the second time felt a bit uphill and the third time was harder but at least the end was nearly in sight. Dad had more speed left in him, so sped off and managed to finish 9 placed ahead of me in the end.

I was quite pleased with my finish- I think I am usually about half way through the tokens (e.g. 80/160 runners) but this time I was 77/196, only 12th lady, with 27.38. Any finish with 27 at the start is a fast time for me, and this was flat (and no mud) so it felt good to run comfortably at that pace.

We didn’t hang around- on the walk back to the car I saw this cool climbing wall made of old tree trunks- there seemed to be lots of things like that all around the park. We did do some stretches before getting back in the car though- then it was home to Mum and Dad’s for a quick shower and then pancakes- how all weekends should begin!

One I would happily run again anyway- nice and flat, pretty scenery (and if you were touring, very close to the M1 and there is a big Travelodge right by the M1 junction).

Do you chat to other people at parkrun? I am not really very outgoing with people I don’t know, but I find at parkrun people are always so friendly and there is always lots of common ground to talk about.

Mud, museums and mulled fruits

I do like some alliteration!

We are still working our way through the Christmas food and drink- we were given some lovely items as a sort of hamper, and had also bought a few things ourselves, and last weekend was the turn of this mulled winter warmer drink- basically apple and cranberry juice with spices. We had one cup each on Saturday, but it wasn’t the spiciest so on Sunday I added some cinnamon and star anise when warming it up- just like the Christmas markets.

On Sunday after a long run (10 miles, on a new route that I planned and then it turned out I had run it already according to Strava…) this was perfect alongside tea and breakfast. We spent some time in the garden, building a log store (from flat pack, not scratch!), which took a while but luckily it didn’t rain.

It’s been a fairly standard week- rest (walk) on Monday, OH club run on Tuesday, yoga on Wednesday and a run including some mini hill repeats on Thursday. On Friday evening I was out for dinner with some colleagues, and I was going to walk in as it’s just over a mile, but Andy wasn’t happy about me walking back on my own late at night, so I ended up driving in which annoyed me- If it was the two of us we would have walked back together fine, and so it’s frustrating that because of safety (or perceived safety) I had to drive instead.

Anyway, Saturday I had decided to go to Westmill parkrun. I’ve run there once and marshalled once, and fancied running it again. I’ve been to Ellenbrook and Panshanger loads over the Christmas holidays, so I fancied a change but as we were in London later I couldn’t stray too far.

Westmill is such a lovely location, but it was fairly dreary at the weekend- it was raining gently as I got there and it just got harder as the run went on. The route it just under two laps (you walk up a bit to the start area) and it’s not flat. They warned us to take it easy on the steepest downhill section- I knew I wasn’t going to come away with a course pb, but I didn’t want to linger as it was cold. I had worn a long sleeved thin base layer and a t-shirt, and had a zip up long sleeved top in the car. At the last moment I decided to wear the top for a bit, thinking I would tie it around my waist once I warmed up- well that didn’t happen! It was slippery and muddy but still very enjoyable and I will be back again. The marshals are fantastic (at the top of the hill were two children and their dad- one child was high fiving while the other was calling out your number- I think I was runner 57, and later one marshal called to me that she had legging envy as she liked my purple ones). When I finished, one of the volunteers was using her phone to scan barcodes- I ended up chatting to her mum (who I recognised from Panshanger parkrun and the parkrun tourist group)- she recognised my name when scanning my wristband so we chatted for a minute- I’d heard them talking about the new app on Marathon Talk so it was interesting to see it being used, although as it was raining quite hard I think the phone was struggling a little more than the scanners (but one scanner had stopped working which I think was why they were using the app). Anyway, I didn’t hang around as the rain was turning to sleet and it was so cold- it was a short jog up the hill to the car park, where I decided to not even attempt to swap shoes for the drive home as I didn’t have spare socks.

I took off the jacket and put on my coat in an attempt to warm up a bit, but it was freezing. I do not envy the marshals one bit. I finished in 30.02, and last time I ran 29.30, so I was quite pleased. Plus last time I stopped to walk at the top of the hill the second time around, and this time I ran the whole way. I think once the ground is less slippery I could aim for something quicker.

Although not this fast- I found out the other day that my Garmin has a race predictor feature- it thinks I should do 25.55 for a parkrun (yes I know parkrun isn’t a race, but it’s a timed 5k and I don’t really do 5k races because I do parkruns all the time…)? I suppose the 10k time is close- I have run 54.53 a few years ago, and the same with the half (I’ve managed one sub 2 in Brighton, and although it turned out to be a few metres short, if I had carried on with my average pace I would have still been under 2 hours). The marathon though? Seeing as last time I just scraped under 5 hours I’m not sure where I’d get all that time from.

(Also, it was my 136th parkrun, and with some weird number magic, I have run 36 different courses, 53 at Panshanger and 24 at both Ellenbrook and St Albans, then 2 at Westmill and 2 at Hove Prom- I quite like all that symmetry)

Once home, showered and having eaten breakfast it was time to head into London. We had tickets for the Wildlife Photography Exhibition in the Natural History Museum (fun fact- if you have tickets you can skip the long queues at the entrance).

I’ve not been there for years, so it was great to have a wander around before going in to see the photos. The exhibition itself was amazing, although there were themes about how humans were affecting the animals, and one of the portfolios contained such a shocking image (it was part of a portfolio about poachers hunting rhinos) which actually made me tear up it was so awful. There were entries from children (in a separate category) which were equally as impressive. Anyway, we must have spent a good 90 minutes just inside the exhibition. We had timed it to match with the Lumiere festival, where light installations are all over London for one weekend, so once it was dark we headed outside. We managed to find a few of them, all impressive in different ways, before heading to Mildred’s (a lovely veggie restaurant) as we had vouchers. The one in Soho was jammed, so we got the train over to Kings Cross and walked up to the one there- still busy, but only 30 min wait for a table. I was totally starving, as we had not had lunch, only a nakd bar (we were going to get some tea and cake, but all the cafes by the museum were full or outdoor seating only, and it was pouring with rain, and in the museum itself the cake was over £4 a slice so we didn’t bother), so we shared some guacamole and corn chips to start- they didn’t last very long! After dinner we wandered back to the station as there were more lights around there- and huge crowds too.

The demolition of the Shredded Wheat factory continues

On Sunday morning I did a slightly shorter long run, of just under 8 miles. The forecast was for snow all morning and possibly icy pavements, and we were going to the cinema at 11.45, so I didn’t want to be out running too long. When I left it wasn’t snowing, but as I ran it started, and gradually got heavier. By the end I had snowflakes going in my eyes, and each time I stopped my glasses fogged up so I had to keep going really!

It was really cold though and I was glad of my ridiculously thick headband to keep my ears warm. Then again, a quick shower, breakfast and hair-dry and it was off to the cinema to see The Post. It was a brilliant film- I didn’t know much about the story it was covering, but it was very interesting, and with the stuff going on in the US at the moment, was very fitting.

Do you like going to museums or exhibitions? It’s the first time I’ve been to this one (a friend recommended it to me) but I found it brilliant and would definitely go again in future years. Have you ever been to a light festival? This was certainly better than the Nottingham one we went to a few years ago. Do you think race predictors are accurate? 

Power tools and beauty products

That’s two sort of opposite things right there!

But first, the week: Monday was a rest day, and after work we went to see Jumanji. I don’t remember the original film very well (just that it was scary) but this one was pretty funny so a good way to spend a couple of hours. I was really pleased to actually manage a club run on Tuesday- since November time things just went wrong (bad traffic/ late meetings/ run leader being ill) and I think I only managed one. We met up for a planned 4.5 mile fartlek run- we ended up warming up for a mile or so, doing alternate slow jogging/ faster jogging/ sprinting between lamp posts, and then running steadily for the last bit to total 5 miles. It was great because someone came out with us who usually ran parkrun distance and had once run 4 miles- she was so pleased with herself for managing the 5 miles so it was great to celebrate with her. I managed my fastest time going up the road with the lampposts which I was pretty pleased with too.

On Wednesday yoga was back on after the Christmas break, and it was fantastic. There were lots of new people (including a couple from my running club) so the teacher kept it a little more gentle. I was glad I’d completed the “homework” a few times (we were emailed a sequence with warm ups, strength exercises, options for the middle bit and then cool down) as I think usually after a break m arms would struggle in the downward dog. I always sleep well after yoga too and this week was no exception.

On Thursday I headed out for a 4.5 mile run- I was originally going to do some sort of lamp post interval but as we did that on Tuesday I kept it steady. The new shoes are so comfy- I really wish I’d changed over sooner as these are just like running in springy slippers or something.

I’ve tried out this deodorant as I would like to use a more natural product. This is the best of the ones I have tried, and the smell is not too strong which I prefer. I’ve been using this Body Shop lotion at the moment as after a run my skin gets very sore- I try very hard to not go from cold to hot quickly (the number 1 cause for the chilblains too) but even if I wear a buff and potter around at home for a bit before a shower, my skin will go red and get all itchy. This cream does sooth it, plus it smells amazing too. My only complaint is the packaging- I don’t know why it isn’t in a tub because I have to cut it in half and scoop out the cream after a while as it doesn’t squeeze out very well. I do like the Lush pots that you can swap for a face mask too.

For my last face mask I tried out this seaweed one, and it’s really good. It makes me feel like I am channelling Mrs Doubtfire. Last time I tried the Oatifix one, but that was so thick it was hard to keep it on your face.

I was sent these Better You magnesium products a while back and have been using them after running. Magnesium helps with muscle recovery as well as sleep, and I do have some supplements that I take (when I remember….), particularly when I’m not sleeping well.  Applying it to the skin directly can result in faster absorption rates, plus some people may find it easier to use this than remember to take a supplement.   I was sent some flakes (saving these for after a super long run), body butter and spray.  The Recovery Spray is easy to apply (just spray on) but I did found that it stung a bit- initially I wondered if it was down to sensitive skin/having just shaved my legs, but I tried it on my arms and it was the same. According to the bottle, the tingling indicates a magnesium deficiency and will reduce once you levels go up. The Body Butter has a lovely scent- with coconut oil, cocoa butter and shea butter- it’s rich but not overpowering. It takes a bit of rubbing in,  but I haven’t found any stinging or tingling with this. They are all suitable for vegans and are not tested on animals.  As well as being available online they are on sale in Holland and Barratt and other health food stores.

On Saturday I was off to Ellenbrook to meet my dad and brother- it was Dad’s first parkrun since his little knee op and he was really looking forward to it. For the last few visits I’ve arrived pretty late- I always forget how long it takes me to drive over to Hatfield. For some reason today I was early (8.30), so I had a little run around the surrounding streets before it started. This very much confused Dad as he parked close to my car and then could not work out where I was! Anyway, the run was good fun- there are still some big puddles but most of the paths were OK- we ran around together at 9 min mile pace – Dad had been saying he felt tired but then as the finish came into sight he wondered if we should go for it- I said yes and we started speeding up- he was going to slow and let me finish ahead but he was way ahead of me (well, one second) so he stayed ahead- just before I got to the finish a lady overtook me and promptly apologised- she’d heard us say we were going for it and decided to try and keep up with us. Of course I don’t mind her going past me- it’s a timed run and not a race, and it’s all good fun.  My 135th parkrun and a little quicker than last week (the ground is getting better at 28.39.

I planned to walk over to the Galleria (a sort of outlet centre) as I wanted to look for some cheap tennis balls, and was going to go to Aldi on my way back to the car, so I changed trainers to less muddy ones and added a hoodie and coat to my layers. When I got to the shops, they weren’t actually opening until 10am, and I realised that it would be a while before I got home, so went to Caffe Nero for a toasted teacake and cup of tea.

After not finding any cheap tennis balls, I walked over to Aldi- I was only after a few bits (chia seeds for porridge, nice cereal bars, maple syrup) but ended up being tempted by maca powder (with vitamin B12 apparently), cacao powder, stollen bites and biscuits. Not such a healthy shop!

When I got home it was power tool time! Well, I had to wait for the water to heat up for a shower, so I thought I may as well do the hard work all in one go. I wanted some bits of wood for work (another teacher is going to burn some numbers onto them with a special pen) and we have piles of wood in our garden. Andy gave me a quick lesson on using the electric saw before he was heading out. I was never a fan of D&T when I was at school (I spent several weeks using a hand drill that looked like a little egg whisk to drill holes in some metal so that I didn’t have to use the metal heater thing to bend it) so this was not my forte.

It was slightly terrifying (even though it only works when your hand is on the trigger) and also really hard work as it vibrates loads. I managed to saw up 10 pieces and the plan is to do the rest tomorrow- I was tempted to do a few more but my hand and arms were getting tired so I decided to quit while I was ahead (and still had all my limbs). After that I got on with the garden jobs within my comfort zone (no power tools needed)- raking the lawn, sweeping the moss off the patio and putting leaves in the compost.

It’s been lovely to have time pottering about in the garden. With the days so short, I am only at home in the light at the weekends, so it’s nice to actually make the most of that time. After putting up new bird feeders (for seeds) last week, I noticed another old bird feeder stand, so I got a little cage thing to hold fat balls (I did have a long debate with myself about buying them because they contain animal fat, but in the end the stuff I read about birds needing food at this time of year won- I’m not going to eat them, and I suppose lots of vegetarians have dogs or cats and buy them meaty pet food), and put it out this morning as soon as I got back from parkrun. While I was hanging it up, I noticed a robin on the compost bin- it then hopped to the fence and then down to the feeder- is this a record for shortest time for a bird to find the food?

Mum and Dad lent me some of their old binoculars, and already I’ve seen a woodpecker, the robin plenty of times and a little blue tit. I’ve around moved the plants on our dining room window sill so I can sit at the table and have a view  of the garden (the biggest one was in the middle and blocked a bit of the view before), so I had a leisurely lunch watching the garden.

Do you like bird watching? I used to be a member of the YOC when I was a child, but my knowledge has faded a bit. I do like seeing birds in the garden and find it very relaxing to sit and watch. Have you tried any new beauty products recently?  Do you like shopping in Aldi? Where we used to live was about a mile away so we would sometimes walk there and get a few bargains, but now we have moved it’s not so easy. We have a Lidl a similar distance away and although it had good Christmas things, the regular items don’t seem a nice as the Aldi ones. Although we are supposed to be getting an Aldi in WGC so I may be able to walk to one again.

*The magnesium products were sent to me in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

Just like that, back to normal

So last Tuesday was my last day of the holidays- I went on a run first thing, did a bit of work and a bit of pottering, and then walked the long way (5 miles) to town. Then just like that it’s back to work and as if the holidays didn’t even happen!

I’d ordered some tea from Bluebird in the sale (how nice does Mince Pie tea sound??), and it all arrived during the week. I’d ordered quite a bit and they included a few free bits, including a bag. I have one of their bags already and always use it as it rolls up nice and small (although since it went through the washing machine it’s a bit more wrinkly!).

While in town I popped into Sainsbury’s to get some peanuts (and this is why we do online shopping because I can’t just get what’s on the list…)- I ended up looking at the reduced stuff, and found a couple of Burt’s Bees things- a set with foot cream and body lotion, and a little glass thing (maybe for candles?) with lip balms- I usually keep a lip balm in the car and for some reason this brand doesn’t seem to melt as badly as other ones, but recently I’d lost it. Anyway, the glass thing didn’t have a price label (or a barcode)- I asked someone if they’d find out how much it was, and she came back a bit later and told me I could just have it because it was probably the last one and they had no idea of the barcode or anything. It was very kind of her (as I am sure they would have an emergency code to put things through on the tills) but I felt very bad going through the self checkout in case someone else asked me what I was doing with it.

Yoga wasn’t on this week, so on Friday when I got home I did the “homework” set for us- it was around 35 minutes in the end I think and I felt a lot better after. I keep thinking I need to try and find some time at the weekend to add in an extra session, so following this routine could be the way to go.

On Saturday I was off to Ellenbrook- it was so frosty!  We’d gone out on a walk on Friday evening, and although it was cold, it didn’t seem that bad, so I hadn’t covered my car. This meant I left later (after scraping the car) and only just got to parkrun at 8.55! Dad was marshalling one of the final points so he was still there, not needing to head off until after the start, so we had a little chat before the main briefing.

The course was really icy, but actually much easier than the boggy mud of the last few runs. There were huge frozen over puddles to avoid, and the first path was a bit slippery, but the grass was nice and firm, with the ground not quite frozen solid. At one point I took my phone out to take a few photos, but then decided that I’d have a cool down run and take some then instead.  I really enjoyed the run- I chatted to a few people I knew in the first couple of kms, and then just enjoyed the scenery and greeting the marshals (I knew the last 3). I finished (29.07- a couple of minutes faster than the boggy ones), got my barcode scanned and then headed off towards the fields to take more photos. On the way back the long-horned cattle were right by the fence, and as I’d worn my cow cowl I couldn’t resist getting a cow selfie (cow cow cowl selfie…). As I ran back to the finish to collect my coat, a couple of people stood by the finish line were staring at me looking very confused (as I had on my apricot vest)- I had to call out that I’d already finished and was just taking a few pictures as I think they were worried I’d got lost somewhere.

After the run I headed over to Mum and Dad’s- Mum made us  little drop pancakes alongside some mango and blueberries (and of course, tea). I’d taken clothes to change into (and how weird is this?? I found the missing lip balm in the pocket of the hoodie I’d chosen- no idea how it got there but so strange that I found it a few days after getting a replacement), but in the end Dad insisted on getting me a fleece to go over my hoodie as I wasn’t really warming up as much as I thought I would. I then took Mum to Bunnings (a DIY shop) as I wanted to get some bird feeders for our garden and she hasn’t been well and fancied an outing.

Then once home it was time for a bit of pottering in the garden, a walk into town and then watching a film in the evening.

On Sunday I headed out for a long run, but the pavements were really icy and slippery so I ended up veering from pavement to verge to road.

The demolition work at the Shredded Wheat factory has moved to another building- I find it fascinating to see how they are doing it (I really thought they might just explode it) but it’s going to take years. I thought I was going on a 7 mile route, but it ended up being 8 miles, so it was a bit of a rush to have a shower as Dad was popping by to look at our front gate and help us take some logs to the tip.

It was time for brunch after all that- we tried out the mince pie tea (it’s black tea with almonds, orange peel and cinnamon) and I made some French toast with a little panettone (plus maple butter and raspberries). We walked to the shops to get some bits for the garden, and then suddenly I felt really tired. I’m not sure why, but I ended up sitting in the living room looking at the garden for ages.  I did think that perhaps I’ve not run that far in a while, but I think I ran 9 or 10 miles on Boxing Day (with the parachute training in the middle) so I’m not sure. At least Monday was a rest day! We went to the cinema to see Jumanji- I remember being very scared of the original one, but this one was very funny, not taking itself too seriously, and was a good way to spend a few hours in the warm.

Do you do online shopping or get tempted by things in the shops?  Did you manage many parkruns over the festive period? Do you put out bird food?  When we moved there were lots of old bird feeders in our garden but filled with mouldy bird food- I am going to make sure I check on ours so that won’t happen.


Snow, stollen and several mudbaths

I was very glad on Wednesday that it was a rest day for me, as I looked out of the window and saw more snow.

I had some work to do, so decided to get on with that as I had nothing planned. I did get super cold sat at my desk though (and a dreadful case of “mouse-hand” – which is what we call it when your right hand goes so cold from being so very still sitting on the mouse for hours on end), so after lunch I walked the long way to town- 5 miles in all. The pavements weren’t too bad but the wind was so cold.

I did get treated to another gorgeous sunset- the colours at the moment are so beautiful. As I got to town the sun was properly setting and loads of people were taking out their phones and snapping away.

I also got to see the giant projector that is on the old Shredded Wheat factory (they have finally started to demolish it)- the whole thing is huge and the projection shows various animations. It’s very clever as the spinning candy cane things were lined up with the columns of the building.

Once home in the warm I made some little Christmas pudding truffles- we had quite a bit left over, and I’d seen this recipe on the internet (a Nigella one I think)- basically mix up the crumbled pudding with some golden syrup, melted chocolate, and rum or something (I left that bit out), then decorate with melted white chocolate so they look like little puddings. I had some bags and tags left over from the fudge so I parcelled them up for my parents and my cousin.

On Thursday I went out for a run in the morning, but the pavements were so icy that I spent a lot of it walking. I had wrapped up well, and so I didn’t mind just spending the time getting fresh air and listening to podcasts. It was so pretty (I love seeing the different types of ice and the patterns made by it) but at some points huge puddles had frozen into smooth sheer ice- I couldn’t smash some of it when standing on it, so it was pretty thick and very slippery.

Then I went to see my cousin and his wife- they don’t live far away but we don’t meet up that much (and as they are both teachers you would think we’d manage to meet up more in the holidays)- my parents went over too so we had a walk to a local pub for some lunch. It was so nice because I had no need to look at the time at all. On my way home I stopped to get some wood for our fire, and then went to get my car washed (a job that’s been on my list since the summer holidays…), and then after dinner we went to see Star Wars. I’m not a childhood fan or anything, but I quite enjoyed it (and I do like the little puffin things).

On Friday I had another run- it wasn’t raining when I set off but by the time I was half way around the freezing sleety rain had started and it was not fun. Once home I got on with my favourite passtime- baking, and specifically, baking a stollen.

It is a bit of a lengthy project, because you have to activate the yeast, make the dough, soak the fruits, let the dough rise, add the fruits, let it rise again, roll it out, let it rise (lots of rising going on), but the results are so good. Anything with marzipan wins in my book, and it must be my Austrian heritage that explains my love of all their festive traditions (gingerbread). One for us, one for my parents and one for Andy’s parents.

On Saturday morning I was thinking of going to Panshanger parkrun, but Dad was time-keeping at Ellenbrook so I went there instead. I left a little late and on the short jog from the car park to the start, blasted by the freezing wind, I wasn’t feeling that inclined. I’d not been to Ellenbrook for a couple of weeks, and it was somewhat muddy! It’s a flat route, mainly through fields,  but the paths had been covered in huge puddles, and as it’s sort of sandy (silty?) underfoot anyway, it was just boggy. The wind was crazy- we were promised in the briefing that by the end it would be a tail wind and that we would most certainly have earned putting our feet up afterwards.  At one point it felt like I wasn’t moving as the wind was so strong, and at other times you’d aim for your foot to land somewhere, and the wind would whip it away and then your foot would end up in another puddle. By the end of the first little loop I’d managed to soak both feet by going into puddles up to my ankles. My poor (chilblain-prone) feet! M brother came along too, so we ran together for a bit which was good, but in the end we were concentrating too much on avoiding the biggest puddles to chat!

After finishing (30.49) I put my coat on and chatted to Dad for a bit. I had a stollen for him in the boot of my car, so I needed to wait. The final runner came in past the hour mark, and then we helped packing the table away and things, so I was pretty cold by the time I got back to the car.

I actually ended up cleaning my trainers later on, as I wanted them to be dry for Monday (new years day). So much mud came off them- I usually only clean the soles as they need the mud gone for grip, but ended up cleaning the tops too. We spent late afternoon at my parents watching football. On Sunday we headed to Milton Keynes. The original plan was to pop to Ikea (is that even possible) to get some shelves for our living room, pop to the shops (I wanted to get some new shoes and have a 50% discount for Sweatshop) and then have a walk around Willen Lakes. Well, even though we felt fairly quick, by the time we’d finished (and in fact the Sweatshop was not in either shopping centre but by the snowdome so that meant a bit more of a wander) it was nearly getting dark and as the lap of Willen lakes is about 3 miles we decided to head home and save it for another day.

I did get new shoes though- I used to love Mizuno’s so thought I’d give them another go as they didn’t have any of the Asics that I liked. I did try on some Boosts as lots of people in the running club rave about them, but the ones I tried had uppers so thin they felt all stretchy and weird. I’m not one for new years eve- we watched a film (Moana- my choice) and then I got grumpy when the fireworks outside seemed to carry on until gone 1am- don’t these people realise I’ll be off to parkrun in the morning?

New years day is the only day where parkrun hq let you run two events, and lots of events stagger their start times so that you can manage two. I’ve not done it before- last year we went out for breakfast instead as I was recovering from a bug, and the year before I ran one and my dad and brother ran the later one (but I think that was 10am at St Albans so I don’t think I would have made it there on time). I have run an unofficial double for the Ellenbrook test event- Dad and I ran Panshanger at 9am and then hot-footed it over to Hatfield for the 10am test event.

There was lots of activity on the parkrun tourist page, and of course it could be a good way of visiting two new events. I briefly considered this, but the nearest events that I’ve not done are not that local (or in London), I didn’t want to be twice as stressed about driving somewhere that I’ve not been to before, and at new events I quite like to hang around for a bit and take photos. I wanted to do the double properly, so decided that my two closest (and favourite) events would be the best bet. Panshanger started at 9am, so I parked away from the start (to give me an easier getaway). I met up with a few people from my club (who all accused me of being far too cheerful- maybe because I don’t drink?) and as we were all doing the double we’d agreed it would be a sociable run and no fuss about times. Panshanger has had permanent markers installed (see the pic above)so I took a few photos on the way around. It can be fairly muddy, but it wasn’t too bad- just one section through a field where you couldn’t really get much of a grip. I had packed spare socks but in the end I didn’t need to change.

Then it was off to Ellenbrook, which was starting at 10.30. By the time I got my chip scanned and walked back to my car (it’s half a mile from the start), it was 9.45, and it is a 15 min drive, so I  would not have made a 10am start, but the wait until 10.30 meant I did get cold. I’d taken my coat so I put that on and walked around to the start- Dad was there (giving out tokens) and he said that he could tell all the people who’d run already with the mud up their legs. It was nothing compared to what was to come!

There was someone dressed as a stag to launch something about the Herts year of sports- the person actually ran the whole thing in the costume which was crazy! More rain since Saturday meant that the puddles were even bigger- we were told in the brieding that it would be the muddiest parkrun of the double, and that was certainly correct. I had mud splattered all up the front of my top as well as a total coating on my legs. After one foot ended up in a puddle it seemed pointless to try and avoid them any more. It was good fun though- the group of us that had run at Panshanger stayed together for Ellenbrook too- reaching the taxi-way for the final km felt so strange to be running on a hard surface.

I thought Ellenbrook would be busier (I knew some people only coming out for the later one) but in fact there were 303 at Panshanger and only 194 at Ellenbrook. I think some people went to a different second one ( St Albans was also on at 10.30). Anyway, it was fun, but I was really tired after. I think having the gap between them made it much worse as I got quite cold in the middle, and of course neither route was easy due to the mud. Also, as I finished running at about 11am, I then had to get my chip scanned and walk back to the car, so I got home at about 11.45- too late for breakfast!

I’m glad I did it anyway- it was a fun way to start the year and of course a couple more towards the next milestone. Panshanger time- 32.58 and Ellenbrook 30.36, for parkrun numbers 132 and 133.

Clockwise from top right- shoes and socks after the double, after Ellenbrook, after Panshanger, one clean and one dirty shoe mid-clean! At least they have a week to dry out before the next parkrun!

After a bit of brunch (I had a shower, then sat on the sofa under a blanket trying to warm up) we went to the cinema to see Molly’s Game, which I thought was very interesting and well-done (if a little tiring to watch- they speak to fast! However, when I needed to stand at the end my legs were so stiff- bad move!

Did you manage a parkrun (or double) this year? Do you like visiting new parkruns? Have you seen any good films recently?  Are you a fan of stollen?