Edinburgh parkrun- 20 in the UK completed! (And maybe have a plan B)

Last Friday we flew up to Edinburgh- we were picking the hire car up before 1pm the next day so I had enough time to get to a parkrun. We went up to Edinburgh in October and I went to Portobello parkrun, so I decided to head to a different one, Edinburgh parkrun, this time around.

Edinburgh parkrun is 5 miles north of the city centre. It’s along a prom (no road) and it was a bit hard to work out exactly how to get there. It seemed there were buses that went to somewhere called Cramond, but depending on the bus you would be either a 10 minute walk or 2.5km away, and so I decided to take an uber instead. I got it to take me to the end of Marine Drive, which was perfect as that road was on the coast and looked down onto the prom, so I could see people heading to the start area.

In Scotland they start at 9.30am, and the new runner briefing is at 9.15. As I arrived earlier I had plenty of time to take photos and spot tourists- I even saw some Harpenden Arrows (it turned out to be the weekend of the Edinburgh marathon so there were lots of tourists for that).

The finish funnel had loads of flags flying, and there was also a parkrun van. There was a speaker playing music- it was great.

I loved this info board too- so many parkrun facts. There was a pacer chart so if you wanted to finish in a certain time it told you your km splits, and a board of statistics about the parkrun.

After some milling about it was time for the briefing. Now this was comedy gold and I really wish I had filmed it.

From the Flickr page photos

The guy running the briefing (who did something for parkrun Scotland- he mentioned doing all the Scottish parkruns in one weekend, and all the Irish ones- something I know Tom Williams has mentioned on MT before) was the most enthusiastic person. His briefing lasted the full 15 minutes, and included audience participation (quizzes about what he had just said), a selfie with the runners and running into the crowd and checking that people actually had their barcodes. At one point he spoke about being well hydrated, and then grabbed a doughnut water bottle from someone, and had a mini rant about being able to last for more than 30 minutes without having water, and then he threw the bottle over a barbed wire fence into the next field. He then encouraged others to do the same. It was all very funny but also a bit bemusing! He did of course mention the rules, and the course (but it was an out and back, one lapper, so very easy to explain), and he also talked about the history of the event, being one of the first in Scotland and the first in Edinburgh.

At 9.30 on the dot we walked to the start for the main briefing- lots of people reaching milestones which is always lovely to hear. It was also mentioned (not sure which briefing) that children should be encouraged to take part for their own enjoyment and not pushed beyond their means. I totally agree with this and really loved that they emphasised it.

The course was beside the water so I enjoyed the views. It was super sunny and very warm, although on the way out we were running into a breeze which helped to cool it a bit. I stopped briefly to take a photo as it was just so lovely.

From Flickr

The course had a bit of a lollypop at the turnaround point, and then the breeze was gone. It was so hot I was wishing I had worn a headband/sweatband, as sweat was pouring into my eyes and stinging them.

From Flickr- I did a thumbs up at the photographer but not as extreme as the lady behind me!

There was a cafe along the prom and there was a staff member very wisely shouting things out like “get your bacon rolls here/ hot coffee in the cafe” and they had even written things like “cake” on the pavement with chalks. As it was so hot on the way back someone said to him “a cold drink please” so he then started shouting “ice creams, cold drinks” etc.

There was a photographer out on course (at the 1k and 4k point) and there was someone snapping away at the finish line too, where the course peeled away from the main prom under some trees.

I finished in 28.01 which I was pretty pleased with (although I did think I could have got sub 28 had I not stopped for a photo!). I like to finish in under 30 minutes but as it was flat and no laps I should be a bit faster really.

My Ellenbrook fields vest is now my parkrun tourist wear (I have a Panshanger t-shirt but now it is too hot for t-shirts).

I walked back to the road and watched the last few runners heading along the prom.

Then, things didn’t go so well. I looked on the uber app, and it told me there were no cars available, but I could book one for a later pick up. I booked one for a pick up between 10.30 and 10.45 (it was around 10.20 I think by the time I had scanned my chip and walked back to the road). Not too bad I thought. I had the email confirmation, so I just had to wait. Each time I looked at the app, it told me “allocating your car”. I had brought a long sleeved top with me (I tied it around a fence near the start) so I put that on as the wind was making me fairly cold. At 10.45 I had a notification saying my pick up was cancelled as there were no cars, so please try again. Argh! I then looked and there were no cars. I  was messaging Andy as we had to check out at 12, but also pick the car up before the hire place shut at 1. It was a bit stressful. I was going to look at where the bus stop was (in the other direction from the finish line though) and I opened the uber app one more time and saw one car nearby. Thankfully I managed to get it (book it?), but as it was finishing another drive nearby it didn’t pick me up until gone 11am. I was so thirsty and quite hungry by that point but I could not risk popping down to the cafe to buy something in case I missed the pick up. There was a little roundabout so I was waiting just beyond that as it didn’t seem a sensible place for a car to stop. As I was waiting a couple walked to the roundabout just as my car pulled up, so they went to get in it! I panicked even more here, so I ran towards it and asked him “are you for Maria?” (I knew it was as the registration matched)- I was so relieved to get into the car and be on my way back. I got back to the hotel at around 11.30, so it was a very rushed shower and a short blast on the hairdryer before having some breakfast (Andy had been out on a walk around the town and got me some).

I really should have had a plan B! I prefer when I can run there myself- this was 5 miles away but in fact if I had run back I would have arrived sooner- I’ll know for next time!

But, it was very enjoyable, and now I am on the UK most events table, having been to 20 different UK parkruns. I ordered my cow cowl yesterday, so hopefully it will arrive before my next tourism (we are going to Kent at the end of June so I am aiming for Maidstone parkrun that morning, and I need to plan with Dad to visit the last couple of Hertfordshire parkruns too).

Are you a fan of public transport? Have you been to Edinburgh? Do you like to visit different parkruns? Have you ever forgotten your barcode? (Quite a few people in the briefing had forgotten theirs)


Half term is nearly here and some random photos

We are off to Scotland tonight- I am hoping to get to Edinburgh parkrun, but I have seen that there are road closures because of the marathon and other races, so who knows.

Onto the random photos:

This shower gel is amazing- cherry and almond milk and basically smells of marzipan. Winner.

Ages ago (Easter…) I ordered a selection of these chia charge bars (some are flapjacks, some are nakd style bars). The chia charge cocoa karma bar is amazing- more like the Lara Bars you get in the US. I shall be ordering some more when I get around to it.

We have been seed-sitting (looking after some seedlings for Andy’s parents while they are on holiday). The fox cubs had been enjoying getting a few of the little pots each night and flinging them across the patio, so we got an old shelving unit from the shed and put them up there- it seems to have worked so far!

Bees love the foxgloves.

I want to paint our fence (green I think) but I am a bit worried that the paint will drip through to next door.

I’ve got a sun shade for my car to keep the steering wheel from being boiling hot. But it really only fit my old car (I only remember this on those hottest days)- on Thursday after a boiling hot day at work, this greeted me! I think I need to invest in a bigger one!

This week has gone:

Monday- pop to see Mum and Dad after work (sit in their garden), come home and finish up work, have dinner, do some weeding in the garden, then make pb blondies for work- a very jam-packed day.

Tuesday- OH run to the lakes and back. Wore a t-shirt and should have worn a vest. It’s way too hot now for t-shirts, what was I thinking?

Wednesday- Yoga- lovely session focusing on breathing. I managed for the first time ever to do the top bit of the pairs downward dog thing, although I did fall off on my first attempt and ended up with a mini egg lump and bruise on my knee (I iced it once I got home). Very pleased that I managed it though.

Thursday- a run looking for shade, although some of the paths I took through the woods turned out to be way too narrow and full of stinging nettles and brambles.

After we get back from Scotland I have a few bits planned, including doing the London 10 Mile race on the Sunday. Entries close at midnight on the 1st June so if you fancy it, make sure you sign up asap!

Do you like 10 mile races? Do you think I could paint the fence?  Any Bank Holiday plans? 

Lee Valley half marathon 2017- running with my dad

As I have mentioned before, I had signed up to run the Lee Valley half marathon on Sunday. The main reason was that my dad decided he wanted to run a half marathon. I had suggested a lot of different ones to him, and in the end this one ticked the boxes- local so we could go there on the morning, late enough in spring so that he would have time after his holiday to train, an interesting sounding route, and he would be allowed to raise money for a charity of his choice. He had run a half marathon before when he was younger (the Berkhamsted half for anyone local, although back then it was two laps so the awful mile long steep hill was repeated) but had really struggled and not enjoyed it at all.

He has been keeping me updated on his training (and our family via his Just Giving Page- raising money for MNDA as his cousin has recently been diagnosed)- he’s been sensible as he has a slight ligament issue (he had around a year when he couldn’t even run a parkrun as his knee had to heal, he had to give up tennis because of the twisting and turning, and now he runs with a knee brace the whole time) and also he does a lot of cycling so was making sure to have rest days and not run long the day after a long bike ride. He’d managed an 18k run a week and a half ago, a bit later than he had planned because he’d had a virus, and although he’d completed it he had to walk sections of the final few km. I felt like that was plenty but he was a bit apprehensive on the morning of the race.

I had toast for breakfast, and even put on suncream as it was already very sunny. Dad picked me up just after 8am and drove to the water park. Lee Valley is where the water sports were held in the Olympics, and now it is used as a sports venue for white water rafting and kayaking. There are also miles of pathways by rivers and canals, lots of bird spotting hides and picnic areas. We had to park on a field but as it was so dry this wasn’t an issue. It was a short walk to the main building- the reception was downstairs and there were clear signs directing you upstairs to the cafe and sun terrace, where you could collect your number.

It was a gorgeous morning for a race – sunny but quite chilly first thing. We had to collect our numbers in the morning and that was very easy with about a 5 minute queue, and then we waited outside on the terrace looking out across the fields and waterways. We decided to visit the toilets (as it was a building they had real ones and not port-a-loos which means I will actually use them) before finally going to the bag drop so we could keep our jumpers on for as long as possible. The bag drop was right next to the registration desk, so it was all very handy. We bumped into a few girls from the club- lots doing the 10K and a few doing the half. The 10K started at 9.45, so they all headed off to the start. There was a little confusion as the 10k start was in a slightly different place to the half, added to that the inflatable finish arch having the word “Start” emblazoned across it. But they have said they were aware of this so would sort that out next year (this was it’s first year).

The half began at 10am, and we started off fairly near the back. A while ago we were thinking of around 2.10, but after Dad was ill and then had a bit of a struggle at the end of his longest run, we took all time off the table and just said we would run steadily- he didn’t want to need to walk any of it. We enjoy running parkrun together, and this was just extended really. We kept at a pace where we could chat the whole time, and just enjoyed the scenery. The Lee Valley park was lovely and well worth a visit- I was so impressed that instead of being left to rot, something good for the community and nature has come of it. We ran along canal towpaths, by the side of rivers, past a huge weir, past wetlands and through little wooded areas. We saw plenty of people out walking and cycling and at one point there was even a sort of dog training park with A-frames and hoops and things for the dogs to jump over and through.

The course was two laps, although they weren’t identical as you didn’t run through the finish area in the first lap- there was a bit of an out-and-back before you joined the loop, which you then repeated in reverse at the end of the second loop to get back. It was clearly signposted and there were mile markers (and km markers for the 10K)- it is never good seeing the 8 mile marker when you are only a few miles in, but as it was so flat and so pretty it didn’t ever feel too long. There were lots of marshals out on the course, and arrows all over the place too. We stopped at three water stations for a sip of water (around mile 4, 8 and 11) as it was fairly warm and at the final one ended up chatting to a girl who was struggling- she told us many of her injuries and illnesses that had happened during her training, but at least by this point there were only a few miles to go so we could encourage her with that thought.

I just felt so happy during the run- the sun was shining, the breeze was keeping me fairly cool, I was chatting with Dad and thanking all the marshals. One of them commented (in a jokey way) that we weren’t running hard enough as we were still talking, and at the end Dad asked if the time was OK for me. It’s hard to explain, but (despite my moan about Brighton half last week) I don’t run for time. I could have run faster, but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much, and sometimes it is just good to properly enjoy the race. At 10 miles I said “just a parkrun to go” which Dad found very amusing. When we got to 11 miles Dad mentioned it was uncharted territory for him as this was beyond the 18k he had managed in training, but he was still feeling fine (a bit achey) and we didn’t need to walk.

As we neared the finish line we saw a group of OH ladies (who had run the 10K) and gave them a big shout.

One of them took a few photos of us as we were running and they are just great as they totally sum up the race- we just enjoyed the whole thing.

The finish area was right by where people were canoeing, so it was brilliant to see everyone using the rapids and flipping upside-down. They had a cool conveyor belt thing that people sat on in their canoes, and it carried them to the top of course so they could then canoe downhill through the rapids, and then repeat.

At the finish area we had a drink (I’d packed nuun tabs in my pocket) and they gave us a banana so we stretched and watched other people finish for a bit. Of course we had to attempt a sweaty selfie- it is not easy to take a photo as neither of us are good at keeping our eyes open when there is a camera about!

We then walked back to the cafe area (bumping into two of the club half marathon runners- one had managed a pb despite it being a training run for the London marathon!), picked up our bag, and then we decided to have a drink in the cafe. The car park didn’t close until 2pm and we didn’t end up leaving until around 1pm (we did some more stretches on the grass by the car before heading home).

The medal is lovely too (although I do sort of wish it wasn’t the same as the 10K one…). It was their first event and I hope they do it again next year as it was well organised and such a pretty route. One I would look at doing again for sure.

Our finish times were 2:17:42 (and 4), but that wasn’t why we did it. Dad was totally chuffed as it was a pb for him, but he was over the moon to finish feeling strong and not struggling, not needing to walk at all, and of course raising money for MNDA (£600 at last count).

What do you most enjoy about races? How was your weekend?

100 parkruns!

So I have been working towards this milestone for a while now and it was such a fantastic morning. I stopped at the shop on the way to get some napkins, and then met my mum in the car park. She had made around 60 fairy cakes (carrot cakes, chocolate cakes and cherry cakes)- all in an IKEA bag for easy transportation to the start line (I on the other hand had two tins in a bag, but my tub wouldn’t fit in any bag so I had to awkwardly carry it).

Ellenbrook have a table (they use it mainly for token sorting and organising the volunteer jobs) so when we got there they moved it to next to the finish line and we piled all the cakes on (I forgot to take a photo until after running so there was already a lot gone by then). I introduced mum to Lynne who pretty much volunteers each week, as she usually marshals at the loop so they would be able to chat while we were running.

I was busy chatting to a few runners and I was about to head up to the start when I saw Denise- she wanted to try on a milestone shirt (she was the one who managed to order her 100th as a child size) so I had brought one with me. She quickly tried it on and then we headed to the start line. I hadn’t seen my dad or brother at that point, and when I was catching up with some other OH runners Dad came up and said that Tony had got a puncture on the cycle over. Dad had run 18km on Thursday (his longest run before our half next weekend) and found it a bit of a struggle at the end, so he was going to walk/run parkrun. Tony wheeled his bike up to us and Dad took it from him to wheel it up to the start. He said later that he did the first loop behind the tail runner and quite enjoyed seeing them encourage the children at the back. Anyway, back to the run. In the run briefing Tim, the RD, got me to wave and mentioned that not only was it my 100th parkrun, but I had volunteered 36 times- I didn’t realise as you don’t get a total in your emails like you do with your run. They are trying to encourage more volunteers at Ellenbrook so he was pointing out that you can volunteer without giving up your run.

We set off and I waved at mum (as you run past the finish area on both the little and big loop).

The run went well- it was a gorgeous day- sunny but with a strong breeze (which only hit you at certain points), and the mud had dried in most places making the running surface nice and firm. I ran with Tony for a bit, and tried to keep in sight a group of OH ladies. A few of the marshals congratulated me on my way around which was lovely. I also spotted 3 of the km marker posts, so I only need to find where the 1km one is now! I managed to catch up with the OH ladies at around 3km (just past the cow fields) and kept pace with them until the runway. At the start of the runway you see the 4km marker, and that was strange as normally I feel like I am nearly finished, but the thought of a whole kilometre (although as I run in miles I spent some time wondering how many minutes that would be- 6 maybe?) made it feel like the end was further.

I nearly caught Zoe (one of the OH ladies) right at the end- I finished (position 69/127) in 27.53. I am so pleased with this too, as the parkrun I ran the week after Brighton half was hard and I felt tired the whole way. This one (the week after WGC half) I felt strong and although I felt like it was fast and I was breathing hard and pushing myself, I didn’t have that heavy legged feeling (which I did have on our Tuesday night club run this week).

My post-run red face! I was very excited to have actually run my 100th as you can see!

After having my barcode scanned I went straight over to Mum and saw how she was getting on- lots of the cakes were already gone (and like a pro she had been topping up from the supplies in her bag under the table).

Tony finished in 30 minutes and went to get his bike, and Dad came in at 37 minutes, in his words being “captain sensible” and run-walking it.

While we were telling people about the cakes (next time I would also do labels I think) Tony and Dad tried to repair the puncture but they could not find the thorn- luckily mum had driven and could put his bike in her car, as it wouldn’t fit in mine. Some people had brought money with them, and were surprised that we weren’t asking for anything. I did think after that I should have asked if we could mention my dad’s fundraising page,  and the RD did say he might be able to share it on their facebook page which would be good. But really it was just such an enjoyable social occasion. I think Ellenbrook misses out on the post-parkrun cake culture a bit, as there isn’t really a cafe that people go to. I think there is a Starbucks somewhere on the uni campus, so I think they sometimes go there to process the results, but it’s not right by the finish so I think a lot of people just head home. Mum really enjoyed herself as she just loves to chat to people, and I suppose after seeing us go by on our second loop, it wouldn’t be long before the first people finished and she started giving out cakes.

I briefly chatted to someone with one of the cow cowls, and so I asked her how many she had done (26 I think)- some of the runners with her said they had a debate over whether the number should be 21, because your home parkrun doesn’t count. Dad then said we would need 22, as we sort of have two home parkruns really.

As well as seeing lots of regular runners and club friends, some of our club had been off on super long runs- the first few came back after running 11 miles so of course a piece of cake was in order.

Paula and Jan had run 15 miles- they arrived a little later for very sweaty hugs and of course some cake. They were so sweet as they had said they wanted to make it back in time to celebrate with me.

After most people had left we helped with the token sorting before heading back to the car park- I have a few bits left which I’ll take into work this week, but we didn’t have much left (always better that than to run out).

The results were processed really quickly, and I got my “welcome to the 100 club” email too. I can’t claim the t-shirt yet, but there is no rush as I’ll be wearing it for 3 years at least! (250 is the next milestone, so perhaps I’ll get that before I am 40…).

I went back to Mum and Dad’s- I had a quick shower, my sister came over with her baby, and Mum made us all pancakes for a very late breakfast (I think I got there at around 10.30)- a great start to the weekend.

So now the focus moves over to my 20 different UK events- my last count I was on 16, and I have one planned for April, and either one or two in May. There are still a few Hertfordshire ones that I haven’t been to, so I need to co-ordinate with Dad to see when he can fit in our next lot of tourism. I’m not sure when I will manage it, hopefully by the summer holidays.

One of the regulars took a lot of photos (here) and someone with a running buggy made an awesome time-lapse video of the course which is well worth a watch and may hopefully tempt some more tourists our way.

How many home parkruns do you have? Which courses would be in your top 3?

A gorgeous frosty morning

I was so very happy when I checked the weather on Friday- the 10 day forecast was basically the same every day- sunny and frosty, highs of around 5, and lows of -3. I love these days, there have been some amazing sunrises on my way to work, and everywhere just looks so pretty when it is covered in sparkling frost.

On Sunday morning this was the view from our window, so it made me look forward to my run even more. I took ages to get ready because working out what to wear is so hard- too many layers = not good, but on a longer and slower run I feel like I am more likely to get cold. In the end I went for tights, long sleeved top, jacket, buff, ear warmers and gloves.  I hadn’t planned a route, but had vague ideas of going along the old railway line and then trying to work out how to get out to Panshanger (where the parkrun is)- I had seen on Strava that it could be done but I could not quite work it out.

I kept on stopping as there were so many pretty views.

I saw hardly anyone out though- for the last few weeks I saw a fair few runners and lots of cyclists. There were a few races going on locally (the Fred Hughes 10 in St Albans, and the Essendon 10k and 5k nearby) so I wonder if lots of the local runners were there.

I had to stop a few times to check maps on my phone too, so it was a very stop-start run, but that is fine with me.

At first I went along the old railway line, and then I ended up running along country roads (which luckily turned out to have pavements).

I was very pleased when I came out of a village and could see Panshanger park along the road from where I was- made it!

I ran along the parkrun route for a bit, of course stopping for more photos. I saw a lot of people walking their dogs in the park, and a couple of very cheery runners- I love it when people say “morning” back.

The ground was so icy in places- puddles were very much frozen solid.

I had worn my new white jacket again, and I was very glad of it- it kept me warm but not too hot- there are lots of vents. Although when I stopped running I really heated up. I kept my gloves on until about half a mile from home too- it really was so cold. After doing an out and back mile (two miles? One out and one back anyway) in the park, I retraced my steps and didn’t get lost once! Awesome! I think this one is about 4 miles from home, so marginally closer than the 5 miles to Ellenbrook- it’s even closer as the crow flies but of course I can’t run there in a straight line. As I left the park I think my watch said just over 7 miles, and in total I ran just over 11, so it would be a great option if I needed to do my long run on a Saturday and still wanted to do parkrun.

While I was stopping my watch and podcast outside, I scraped the ice off my car to survey the giant crack- it doesn’t seem so bad from the outside but from the inside it is pretty huge and very distracting. I then headed inside for a warm shower- I stayed in so long that the hot water ran out!

We had some bits left over from the breakfast with my parents, so I had a bit of a random breakfast- some fruit smoothie, tea (of course), some cooked blueberries (I needed warm food) and a croissant that I spread with peanut butter and then added a few chocolate chips to, before heating it in the microwave.

I then had a bit of a pottering day- a bit of work, a bit of housework (washing and sorting), some baking (the banana bread from the Pip and Nut book)- I even cleaned my trainers!

OK  I should perhaps have taken a “before” photo, but the pink ones especially were basically caked in mud, and the trail ones on the bottom right were brown and not blue.

How was your weekend? Are you enjoying this wintery weather? Do you have a lot of friendly runners/cyclists near you?