Northala Fields parkrun for the compass challenge

So on the final Saturday of the holidays I decided to have a little parkrun adventure on my own. I looked at a a few options including Valentines or Victoria Dock for a V, but the train + tube times were adding up, so in the end I went for Northala Fields- I would tick off the N, and also complete the compass challenge (having already run Eastleigh, Southampton/South Oxhey and Westmill).

It meant I had to drive, and although it was 45 minutes away, this was on the M25 so I left at 7.45 to allow loads of time. The journey was actually really easy (even for me)- M25, then M40 into London, which would then turn into the A40, and then at some point (when the satnav told me, and also when the big mounds appeared to my right), exit and turn right. The car park was right there, although filled with the most enormous pot holes so I did briefly worry about getting my car stuck!

Northala Fields have these cool hump hills, which were from when the original Wembley stadium was dug out. One of them has a path spiralling all the way around to the top, so of course I had to run it to get the cool shape on Strava!

I had a little wander around before heading up.

Mmmm, cinnamon swirls…

It took longer than I thought- I’d run 0.8 miles and it was getting closer to when they would do the new runner briefing, so I took a few moments to enjoy the view before heading back down. It had boards up showing what you could see- the weather was beautiful but a little hazy so I couldn’t see everything on the boards.

I had planned to put my long sleeved top in the car before the run, but as time was getting tight I tied it around my waist instead. I headed along to the briefing, where all the tourists were given a lovely welcome.

I saw a few other people with their cow cowls and said hi to them (although they were from Guildford and I just could not remember where it was at all- my geography is not great as if two places begin with the same letter I get them muddled). The guy doing the briefing had been to Panshanger and said how beautiful it was (it really is)- it was on the parkrun profile this week so check it out if you are interested. The main briefing was great- they had big pieces of paper for the milestone people to hold (eg a big purple 25, a red 50 and so on)- the people celebrating milestones stood on the bench holding the paper, so that even if you could not hear the briefing, you could see who was celebrating.

The course was busy with just over 300 runners. It started off on a fairly wide path with grass on either side, so even though (again) I started a bit far back, I managed to overtake people and get into my stride.  The route looped around the back of the spiral hill, went past the start/finish area through some wooded parkland and then around playing fields.

The view from outside the cafe- you ran past this to get to the playing fields section. 

On the far end of the playing fields we ran along the pavement, before heading back into the field, back through the wooded area, past the start/finish area (which I wasn’t looking forward to but was good to be cheered on by the runners who had finished), back around the edge of the spiral in the other direction, and then along to the finish. I felt like I was going fast, but I didn’t look at my watch at all. My miles were pretty consistent according to Strava- 9.11, 8.42, 8.45 and then 8.22 for an official time of 27:41

I like to take a picture of my finish token, and as I was getting my phone out, Bruce Li (who takes brilliant parkrun photos) came and asked me if I wanted a finisher photo. I agreed (we all love a photo at parkrun) and then I chatted to him for a bit. He saw I had Panshanger on my t-shirt, and then I realised that he had visited Ellenbrook and created a video of the course.  It was really lovely to chat to him- he told me that as this is his home run he takes photos at the start, runs it (in around 20 minutes I might add!) and then takes finisher photos for as many people as possible. What a lovely way to be a part of the parkrun community.

I did look in the cafe as I had heard good things, but there was a huge queue and I could only see cooked things on offer- I was hoping for a toasted teacake or something. I had a nakd bar and some water in the car so in the end I headed back and did some stretches before driving home.

So, another letter added, and a new club achieved (totally unofficial of course).  I think every parkrun is worth visiting, but this one felt quite special. The spiral was good fun, and the local just felt really different to other parks.

Then this week I got a message from someone saying I was on the parkrun instagram account (and also on the facebook page it turned out)- they had used one of the photos of me at the finish for their post about where everyone had been this weekend- fame at last!

If you like touristing, how do you decide where to go next?

Easter holidays part 2 including number 100 at number 100!

Onto the next part of the Easter holidays (which was now over a week ago!): Saturday was Ellenbrook Field’s 100th parkrun! I met Dad there (he had cycled and I drove) and we ran together. At the start they remembered the runner and also the mayor who had both died recently and been involved in parkrun. They also mentioned something about the 100th runner, but I didn’t really hear that.

Ellenbrook at the moment has many puddles- last week the finish runway was completely submerged (you can see the photo on their news page), and this week the runway had totally dried up but there was a huge puddle at 3.5km.

We ran together, and when we reached the puddle there was a choice of a diversion through a field- we went for that as the puddle was knee deep on very tall people, and the ground is very rutted so as you could not see the ground it would have been easy to fall and twist an ankle (you can see the little diversion we took in the map above).

At the end of the runway I said to Dad that he could push on if he wanted to, as he is faster than me. We had kept a good pace (9.05, 9.07, 9.04) and he thought about it, but then decided that we would finish together. As we ran past the start, we pushed a little to try and overtake a couple of other runners, and as we reached the finish we could hear the volunteers shouting out numbers- 98, 99- I got a big cheer as Dad let me cross ahead of him and I was given token 100!

I thought that was it, but in chatting to people after it turned out I had won a prize – not one but two dresses (t-shirts) for the Herts Year of Physical Activity. Great- I needed new decorating clothes 😉

After chatting for ages, I headed to Mum and Dad’s for pancakes. My sister and niece were there, so it was lovely to spend time with the family.

Panettone French toast for breakfast one day (we still have some in the freezer left from Christmas), hot cross bun dough, pink tea (Bluebird Red Velvet), yummy Montezuma’s eggs, and home-made hot cross bun toasted and topped with marmalade.

Later on Saturday afternoon Andy’s parents came over, so I made some hot cross buns. We had asked to borrow some hedge cutters as we needed to trim a rather out of control hedge in preparation for our new fence being put up, and Andy’s dad ended up helping with it and spending a few hours in the  garden cutting it down with Andy.

The garden has started coming to life a bit more now- some of the tulips are flowering so there is a bit more colour.

On Sunday I had a longer run in the morning, 7.5 miles, before it started raining too hard. I spent the rest of the day doing work, before having a walk in the late afternoon to get a bit of fresh air and stop looking at a screen for a bit. I did a little more wallpaper stripping too- it’s getting there slowly.

It was Andy’s birthday on Monday, and he had taken the day off work so we walked into town to get the train into London. We went to the Museum of London, which I’d never been to before. It had the 2012 cauldron and lots of information about it (each part was shaped differently and given to the countries that took part after the Olympics finished). We walked all around London, and ended up having a late lunch at Mildred’s (a lovely veggie restaurant) before getting the train home.

On Tuesday I had to be in all day as the fence was being done. I went out on a quick run first thing, just to get some fresh air and steps, and then had to hang around at home, pottering about while the guys were in the garden.

That photo shows about half of the laurel bush that had to come down before the fence was put up (to be fair the guys said they could do it with the bush there, but it was easier for them if it was gone) and then the old fence panels- what a mess!

There’s a path under that puddle somewhere!

Wednesday was a quiet day- a 6 mile run first thing, breakfast and pottering at home including more wallpaper stripping and then the big job of sorting the tea cupboard. It was a total mess but I put a lot of the loose leaf teas into little jam jars (with the labels), and it looks so much neater now. I decided to use some of the peach cobbler tea to make a tea latte (you make the tea, leave to cool then top up with milk, ice and peach slices). It was really good-  I shall make it again for sure. I walked into town to meet Andy as we had a cake voucher for John Lewis, so we shared this fudge cake which was rather nice.

I also started a little job of painting some photo frames.

I was pretty pleased with how they turned out- they are going to go up in my office.

Thursday was a work day, and in the evening we went to the cinema to see Thoroughbreds, which was a bit like Strangers on a Train or something- dark and tense.

On Friday morning I walked into the station and then headed into London to meet with some friends. We had booked afternoon tea at the B Bakery (the one that also does the afternoon tea bus).

It was such good food (one of my friends can’t have dairy at the moment and they now do a vegan afternoon tea so she was very happy). I loved their teapots so much, especially the bird one. When they asked if we wanted more tea, instead of topping up with hot water (which is fine) they got fresh tea and teapots- we could have chosen a different blend but I stuck to the one I had chosen as it was so good- I think it was called After Five, it was black tea with cocoa and mint.

I shall save Saturday for another post as I decided to have a little parkrun adventure to finish the holidays with.

Do you like afternoon tea? Where is the best one that you have had? 

A brilliant running movie and lots of blog-min

One of the joys of the holidays is that I can get on top of the blogmin- I do not know how many emails I have deleted this week (does anyone else get so much spam about bluetooth speakers?), but every now and then I find a good one. I was emailed a while ago to say I was listed here on the UK top 75 running blogs. They also do a list of Top 50 UK Baking Blogs  list (I didn’t even know that the GBBO had a blog…) which is worth looking at if you’re into baking at all- I’ve found a few new ones to follow.

The best email to get was about the Skid Row marathon film. I went to see this in London last September when the Marathon Talk podcast held a special screening. It was a fantastic film, and it is very exciting that there are now going to be screenings all over the UK. You can see the trailer on You Tube here. From their press release: After amassing an incredible 13 awards from 10 different US film festivals during the 2017-2018 season and critical acclaim in the US press, documentary Skid Row Marathon is having its first official cinema release in the UK this Summer. The film will be will be distributed by CinEvents as an exclusive, one night only, Event Cinema release on Wednesday 9th May 2018 in over 100 selected multiplex and independent cinemas nationwide. The film will be released in association with The Big Issue, Runners World, The Running Charity and Marathon Talk. 

Skid Row Marathon is the truly heartwarming and inspiring story of an unlikely group of individuals from LA’s Skid Row, an area well known for being impoverished and forgotten by society. The feature-length documentary focuses on the story of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Craig Mitchell over a period of 4 years as he coaches a long-distance running club from the Midnight Mission on LA’s infamous Skid Row.

Using the liberating power of running, the marathon training raises the spirits of Skid Row’s inhabitants and gives them a sense of purpose and a new lease of life. If club members refrain from drug abuse, stay off the streets and out of prison, the Judge will take them around the world to run marathons. Directed by Mark Hayes, this moving film documents the runners as they fight the fierce pull of addiction and homelessness at every turn. It’s a story about second chances and overcoming obstacles. With the surge in numbers of rough sleepers in the UK in the past year, Skid Row Marathon acknowledges the devastating effects homelessness can have. It showcases what the discipline of running and the power of friendship can do to change lives.

Skid Row Marathon was produced by Gabriele Hayes and Doug Blush. Blush is an award-winning producer, editor, and director who has worked on such films as 2018 Academy Award Best Documentary winner Icarus, 2012 nominee The Invisible War, and 2013 Oscar Winner, 20 Feet From Stardom.

I found the film really interesting, really emotional, and really relevant to life over here.  There are so many news stories about the number of rough sleepers in the UK increasing, and you don’t need to be interested in running, but just interested in people.  Tickets are available here, so check out if there is a screening near you. Seriously- go and see it. (I was emailed the info through, but I am just happy to share it on here because I think it’s great).

Finally I was emailed about a new event, the Ciderthon.  It’s a half marathon with a cider taster every mile taking place in Wells, Somerset on the 29th of April. The event will be showcasing local ciders, raising money for Dorset and Somerset air ambulance while bringing runners from across the country to try a new challenge! As someone who doesn’t drink, the cider part doesn’t appeal but it does look like a pretty route. You do have 6 hours so you could do it as a long walk I suppose. If you use the code Maria10 it will give you 10% off at checkout.

Have you seen the Skid Row Marathon film or would you like to? Do you like films about running? I was so annoyed when I accidentally recorded Breaking 2 on HD (when we didn’t have that channel in HD) so I still haven’t seen it. I saw a great film about the Barkley marathons on Netflix.

Do you get a lot of random emails about your blog?

Easter holidays part 1 and the Run Mummy Run book

The Easter holidays have been a good balance of relaxing, running, baking, getting on top of work, catching up with friends and jobs at home.

I made a simnel cake and decided to have a go at toasting the marzipan. As I don’t own a blow torch, I put it under the grill and it seemed to work well. It smelled incredible while it was toasting too.

On the Tuesday morning after the Bank holiday I had a 6 mile run in the morning, before spending the rest of the day doing work.  (I probably had a walk in the afternoon, but I now wish I put my walks on Strava too as it turns out I cannot remember without checking on there to see what I did).

On Wednesday I drove to the outskirts of St Albans and walked the rest of the way in, first up for a shoulder and back massage, and then to meet some friends from work for brunch.

We went to Bill’s, so I didn’t even need to see the menu as their pancakes are one of my favourite breakfasts.  After doing a few jobs in town, I went to see my parents and ended up staying for a lot of the afternoon, just sitting in their kitchen watching all the birds in their garden and catching up with them.

On Thursday morning the weather was beautiful. I had a lovely run (5 miles) and saw so many trees covered in pink blossom. A day of work followed, until 5.30 when I walked into town as I was having my hair cut. I have been going to the same hairdresser for years now, and she of course knows how thick my hair is, but she always gets someone to help her dry it, and I always have the comments about how thick my hair is. I think it’s a compliment, but it’s weird because it’s nothing I do, I just have thick hair. I suppose it’s like tall being being told constantly that they are tall. I know I have really thick hair, but I don’t really know what to say when people tell me.

On Friday I was meeting up with friends, and thankfully it was another beautiful day so I walked to my friends house (although it was a little further than I thought- walking takes a lot longer than running!), and later enjoyed a walk in the woods.

Onto the book. A while ago I was sent the book Run Mummy Run by Leanne Davies and Lucy Waterlow

When they offered to send it to me, I did explain that I am not a mummy, as I wasn’t sure whether the book would be aimed at me or not. I had heard of the facebook group, as a lot of the women in my running club are in the group, but I’d not looked into it any further.

After reading the book, I would say it is a great book to get for someone who is just starting out with running. The chapters cover topics like staying safe when out running, walk/run intervals, injuries, races, fuelling, training plans ranging from beginner 5k plans to improver marathon plans, and even a section called “Pay it forward”, looking at running groups, volunteering and cheering at races (and even has tips on how to set up your own parkrun).  There are some sections aimed at parents (including specific sections on running while pregnant/breastfeeding and so on), but I just skipped over the parts that weren’t relevant as most of the book was. It did cover some female runner issues not linked to parenthood too (e.g. infertility, chafing). The book was sprinkled with anecdotes and little stories from RMR members and this made the book feel a bit like reading a magazine with lots of different people contributing to it.

Since I started running (back in 2008) the advice around nutrition has really moved on. The book talks about everyone being different, and making sure you are adequately fuelled, but mentions that you can probably run for an hour in the morning before breakfast. Personally I can run much further before breakfast, having worked up from 3 miles to around 15 miles. But when I first started running I remember feeling so terrified that I would collapse while out on a run, because I had read so much information about making sure you eat a snack before you go, and eat as soon as you get home. Of course everyone is different and we are still learning things about the human body, but I felt it was refreshing to read a different take compared to most of the running literature.

I would have found this very useful when I first started running, so if you know someone jut starting out then it would make a great present for them. You can also check out the RMR website for other articles based around running.

Do you like reading books about running? I have really enjoyed the Angharad Finn books (The Way of the Runner and Running with the Kenyans), and Rosie Swale-Pope’s book Just a Little Run Around The World.

Do you like to read? And if so, when? I always read before I go to sleep, but in the holidays I quite like reading for a bit in the afternoon too, with a cup of tea of course.

Do you have something that people always comment on? And if so, how do you respond?

*I was sent this book in exchange for a mention on my blog. All opinions are my own.

Portmouth Lakeside parkrun- tourism but not where I originally planned…

The two of us had planned to go away for the long Easter weekend, and possibly some of the following week. Originally we had Wales in our sights, and so I was of course thinking of Conwy parkrun for some amazing scenery and another parkrun course. The weather hadn’t been great (and our fence totally blew down and the bill for a new one is rather high), so we decided to save Wales for when the weather could have been better, and head south instead. Now I am keeping half an eye on the parkrun alphabet (still loads of letters to do – D, I, J, N, Q, U, V, Y, Z) and so I looked into Queen Elizabeth Country Park parkrun (I think it’s the only Q in the country?). There are no hotels nearby but we found one around 20 minutes away, so we planned to head down on Friday stopping off at a few places on the way, drive there on Saturday morning, I’d do the parkrun and then change in the toilets after (I would not be running too fast as it looked like a slippery and steep route), and then we could head off for the day. Anyway, as the weekend got closer we had more and more rain, and it seemed that the parkrun would be a total quagmire. It then turned out that the hotel we booked (the Village hotel close to Portsmouth) was right by the start of Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun, so it seemed sensible to change plans and do that one instead.

We ended up heading into Southampton town centre on the Friday- the traffic was awful driving down and it was still pouring so we wandered around the shops for a bit (I needed some new trainers for general wear as my current ones are years old and have started to rub the back of my foot) and had dinner before driving to the hotel.

I did get confused as on the course page it mentions the Starbucks where they get a drink after, and I thought it was the Starbucks in our hotel lobby, but it turned out to be another one. Of course this made me panic for a bit but when I looked at a map it was 0.3 miles away and really the next block of buildings along the road. All I had to do in the morning was walk across the car park to the path (the photo above is of the hotel from the path) and then I’d be on the parkrun course. As I was a little early I did a bit of a warm up jog around the lake.

Here is where I wished I had packed my trail shoes as there were some big muddy puddles.

Not too bad but my ID is now covered in mud and you can see how deep some of the puddles were.

After my warm up I headed to the start area- nice and easy to find. The route is sort of an out and back, as you go along a path to by the hotel, turn back on yourself and run towards and around the lake, then back around the lake, back along to the hotel, and then back to the finish.

I went to the first timer briefing where they explained the course and welcomed lots of first time parkrunners- always good. Then it was time for the main briefing. I tried to stand about half way back but it was hard to work out where exactly to place. They had a sort of siren thing to get everyone’s attention, but the megaphone was not helping at all. Everyone near me was quiet, but I could only hear a muffled noise, with pauses for claps. You can of course fill in the gaps yourself (thank the volunteers- clap- well done for someone reaching a milestone- clap- well done for someone else getting a milestone- more claps) but it’s a shame to miss out on this because I think this is where the community feel comes from. Otherwise it’s more like a normal run if that makes sense? I’m not sure what the solution is really, but it’s a shame that even with people being quiet they can’t hear the briefing. Anyway, onto the run.

It was all very flat (at one point you run under an underpass but that’s it for elevation changes) although it felt very busy. I started too far back (behind some walkers it turned out) and it was hard to overtake as the paths were narrow, and you had to keep to one side because of the faster runners heading in the other direction.  At one point everyone was told to keep left, as there were runners heading back, but this one girl (wearing headphones) was still over on the right. All the runners were shouting at her to move left as the first runners were charging towards her, but she didn’t hear and so the lead runner actually bashed into her and knocked her over to the grass. She looked pretty surprised, and I do feel that they are both partly to blame because she really should not have her music on so loud that she can’t hear people shouting to her, but then both of them should have seen each other as it was a straight flat path.

The route was quite enjoyable, as it was good to run by the lake, however it was close to a busy road and you could hear the loud drone of traffic the entire time. Someone kept on shouting “go Maria” from the other side, and it would confuse me for a second before I realised I was running close to someone else named Maria. I ended up chatting to her at the end as she was cheering on her mum and dad, so was walking next to the course as I was walking back to the hotel. I managed to keep overtaking people the whole time, with splits  of 9.39, 9.06, 8.40 and then 7.55 for the final bit, so I felt pleased with that. 28:36 was my official time. Of course the bonus of visiting a new parkrun is that you “PR” in all of your Strava segments.

I could see a few runners on the far side of the lake as I walked back to the hotel.

All in all a successful bit of tourism and it finished with a Starbucks from the hotel lobby. You can’t get a hotel much closer  to the start line (the Village hotel in Maidstone is also very close to the start, with the Premier Inn being even closer). If only hotels would post their closest parkrun it would make touristing so much easier.

Do you know any good hotel/parkrun combinations?  What did you get up to over the Easter weekend? How does your parkrun make sure that everyone can hear the briefing? When I went to Bushy they had speakers in the trees, but seeing as they have 1000+ runners it is not surprising that they need them. At Ellenbrook the RD just has to climb onto a gate and shout, but then with less than 200 runners and a fairly wide path it’s not too hard to hear.