Reading parkrun, Bath Christmas markets and the Festive Five 2019

Yoga was on a Monday that week and if it’s on a different day it throws me out of routine. I had a bit of a cold after the first week of December, but I was feeling better with just a stuffy head at night so thought it would help (and it did). On the Tuesday my eye was very itchy, and I do get dry eyes a bit, but when I got home and looked one eye was bloodshot and a bit gunky. Conjunctivitis had been going around a bit at work, so I’d clearly caught it. I looked up pharmacy opening times, and the one in town was open later so we walked in-  it was OK but then poured with rain on the way home.

On Wednesday when I got home there was a card saying I’d missed a parcel and a charge was due- this could only mean one thing- my ugly Christmas singlet had arrived!

I listen to the Australian podcast parkrun adventurers, and they have made this so called ugly singlet (I think it’s so cute!). I headed out to collect it, doing 5 miles in the end.

It ended up being very late once I’d had a shower, so we had beans on toast for dinner (my favourite) and some stollen afterwards to get all Christmassy. I love stollen- it’s something we have always had as my grandma was Austrian, so we just always had those sort of Germanic  Christmas traditions, but I was watching and Aldi documentary the other day and they were saying that no-one had heard of it until a few years ago- this annoyed my mum a lot (and she was my dad’s mum…).

On Thursday I had to rush to get home as we were heading into London to see James Acaster. It was this strange venue in Hackney, a sort of wooden indoor amphitheatre where you just sat on the floor.  He was very funny but his tour did link a bit to politics so whereas I was hoping to take my mind off things for a few hours, that didn’t work, and of course as soon as it finished the entire audience were checking their phones for the exit polls and any hope for a good future came crashing down. I did not sleep well that night.

One week to go! 

On Friday we were off to Reading after work- we have found that staying that far away from Bath and getting the train in the next morning is better than driving all that way. The M25 had problems though so our journey took loads longer.

We were around 3 miles from Reading parkrun (In the end this one was chosen because the parking seemed easier) so I drove there in the morning. The course description says road shoes are fine, but I would say certainly not at this time of year! My trail shoes were in the car and that was very lucky- some of it was so boggy and even my ankles got wet! I was wearing my cow hat (from the parkrun tourist facebook group) and at the start a guy came over wearing the buff and started chatting to me. We ended up running the whole way together-he was from the Southampton area so I’d been to a few of the ones he had. He was also a keen tourist, hoping to reach 50 events in his first 100 runs (he was only a few away). It was just so lovely to chat all things parkrun, and this is what is magic about parkrun- turn up and end  up having a lovely conversation which would not have happened otherwise.

The route was good- out along the path by the river, two loops of some wetlands, then back along the path to the finish. But very boggy!

Once finished I headed back to the hotel where we had a cup of tea and an almond croissant (and a shower obvs) before going to the train station. Aldi almond croissants are delicious. Also I noticed on Strava that I was on 989 miles for the year- I’ve only run 1000 miles once in a year before, and that was with a concerted effort in December.

Our train took around an hour, and we listened to a podcast (so behind with Off Menu at the moment) and once in Bath we had lunch in Pret (I love their Christmas sandwich) before wandering around. The markets were so busy (as usual) so we visited all the markets and decided which ones to go back to later once it had quietened down a bit.

Someone from work was going on the same day and we actually bumped into each other which was a surprise as it was so busy! We stopped for tea and cake in the afternoon (this was a lovely mincemeat frangipane slice) before going back to the markets as they were quieter. It is so lovely there with the buildings all lit up, and carol singers (and rock choirs) dotted around the city. I bought a few gifts, some maple butter from the maple syrup stall (as it was the final week of the market, we got a deal with some maple granola too). It started raining once it was dark which was a shame, but we had booked dinner so didn’t have long to wait until then. Getting the train back worked well too, as the drive back from Reading was much easier and quicker- I think we were home at around 11.

On Sunday morning I was off to run the Festive Five, one of my favourite races. I love a 5 mile race, and this one is low key- turn up, get your envelope and leave your bag in the little gazebo, and then off we go. Everyone wears festive gear (I had my Christmas leggings and my not ugly Christmas singlet), some of the girls from my running club had tinsel skirts. We ran around together and it was so enjoyable thanking the marshals- one of them had a child with her who was singing Rudolph at the top of her lungs!

Then I headed to town (around half a mile from the start I think) as I had booked breakfast at Bill’s and Andy was meeting me there. We got the timing better this year- last year I left it too long and I got really cold waiting. I had packed a top and jumper to change into as I knew I would get cold otherwise.

Then it was another busy afternoon- I made some chocolate peppermint cookies for work, we went to see Andy’s parents, once home I did some work, made some mincemeat and wrote the Christmas cards.

I used this recipe and it is really good.

So there we go, another week of December with more festive activities.

Do you like stollen or mincemeat?  Does your running club do any festive runs? In St Albans someone decorates the postboxes with crochet festive scenes (for a charity) and so the club there does a run to visit lots of them.

Tøyen parkrun (Oslo)

After we booked our weekend in Oslo I had a little look for parkruns, knowing that the Nordic countries have a few (there’s 5 in Norway) so I was happy to see that there was one in Oslo, Tøyen parkrun.  As I previously mentioned, we were travelling hand luggage only, and the hotel had breakfast included, so logistically I couldn’t get back after running it in time for breakfast, and also couldn’t pack a load of winter running kit, so I decided I would walk it. It was a 9.30 start, so plenty of time to have breakfast first and make my way there.

Our hotel was on the same street as the train station, and it was only two stops, but I still managed to have a panic about getting on the wrong train and was messaging Andy from the platform (the line split later, so some of them were labelled as going via certain stations, with some of them mentioning the one I needed and some of them not)- I needn’t have worried as they all went there. Once at the station I loaded up google maps and followed directions for the Munch museum as that was in the same park. Maps estimated a 7 min walk (and this was 9.20 so I was a bit worried), but as I came out of the underpass I could see the high viz jackets, bright signs and people meeting- always a relief!

The meeting place was by the big rock/sculpture in the centre of the park- easy to spot from the road.

I was a bit nervous about turning up to walk- I didn’t even have trainers on as I only had my snow boots with me. I had checked the results pages on previous weeks and they had people doing it in 50 mins to 1 hr 15, so I knew the volunteers would be prepared to stand in the cold for that long. The paths were a little slippery in places, but some of them had been gritted, and as there was lots of grass you could usually walk on the grass and avoid the pavements when needed.

The course was a small lap from the middle and then 3 laps around the park. The RD did the run brief in English, and said there was a little hill. They had cancelled the previous week, and he explained that they considered it because of the ice, but that the Norwegians were used to it, so if you were not used to it you should be careful as they didn’t want any injuries. The hill turned out to be a very short steep slope leading from a grassy field back up to the main path (not easy when walking so I imagine super tough when running, especially as you had to do that part 4 times). Before it started I chatted to a couple of tourists- one of them was debuting his 250 shirt and had posted in the parkrun tourist facebook group beforehand- it turned out most of the people I chatted to were from near me- Milton Keynes, Cheshunt and the South-East.

Once we started, I was keeping an eye out for the tail walker (as Andy put it, “you will have to make friends with the person who walks at the back”) but there was someone else walking a little behind me. I wanted to keep warm so I walked quickly where I could. I had opted for trousers, thermal top, jumper and my Run Disney jacket (it’s warm but thin) plus hat and scarf- Andy was bringing my big coat later as is really bulky and I thought it would annoy me while walking. This turned out to be fine because I did get warm but didn’t ever need to take any layers off.

It was so beautiful, so as well as slowing on the icy parts, I took a few photos as I went around. The higher point of the course looked across the city, and in the early morning light it was just stunning. I think the sun appeared on my final lap! There was only one marshal out on the course, but plenty of signs and cones so you couldn’t really go wrong. I said thanks to him in the first lap, but I don’t think he realised I was actually taking part in the parkrun until he saw me the second time around as I wasn’t in running gear. In the middle I was being lapped by all the runners, but by the end I was out there on my own and couldn’t see the tail walker either (they only finished 4 minutes behind me). As I came to the finish and crossed the line, the finish token and timer people were chatting, and one of them said “oh, are you doing the parkrun?” and when I said I was, they said “oh cool”, and beeped the timer and gave me a token- I had my watch in case I needed to show (but of course that’s me being irrational!).

Andy messaged to say he as getting the train when I was going into the final lap, and as I passed the bottom part of the park he was crossing the road so came to the middle to meet me and of course I needed a picture with the frame.

My official time was 51:09 and for my 219th parkrun, 68th event and 5th country. I was really glad to have been able to do it, as it was such a pretty start to the day. As soon as I stopped I got a bit cold so we were glad of the museum close by  to have a look around and warm up (and use the toilets).

I think that is the snowiest parkrun I’ve been to- we have had some lovely frosty mornings, and I have been to Panshanger in the snow- they don’t tend to need to cancel because the paths are all off road so don’t get very icy compared to normal paths in parks.

Have you run a parkrun in the snow or ice? Does your parkrun often cancel in the winter?

Oslo Christmas markets (and museums)

Herts schools have something called an Occasional Day, which it appears neighbouring counties don’t get- basically a day off to be taken when the school wishes (I think historically it was to do with not being at work on Boxing Day so having a day off in lieu of that?)- usually ours gets added onto the summer holidays but this year it was on the final Friday in November (the last time this happened we went to Copenhagen for the weekend)- as we love a Christmas market of course we had to book something. The original plan was Munich, to see the markets there and then to go to Nuremberg on the Saturday, but Easy Jet cancelled our flights so we decided to head to Oslo instead.

Heavy snow and cold temperatures were predicted so my decision was made- snow-boots it was!

Andy picked me up from work and we went straight to Heathrow – we got dinner in Pret (my favourite) after going through security- this was their vegan Christmas sandwich and it was really tasty with roasted butternut squash, stuffing, cranberry sauce and toasted pecans. So good.

Our flight landed fairly late but it was easy to get the train (the normal commuter trains go from the airport and are cheaper than the express trains). There was so much snow as we were coming into land- just seeing the fir trees laden with snow made me feel so excited!

When I was little we lived in Denmark for a bit and made some of these little heart pouches- I saw lots of them in Oslo and have since downloaded a template so I can have a go at making some more.

Our hotel did breakfast (a really lovely one, with so many vegan or gluten free options) so after we had that we headed out for a wander around the city. After walking into the centre, admiring the central Christmas market and walking down to the water, we got a tram out to the sculpture garden- best to enjoy it in the light! (It was only light from 9.30 to around 3). The city centre had only a dusting of snow, but in the park it was proper deep snow. Honestly, we could not have been there on a better day- the low winter sunlight made everything look even more beautiful.

The light, I just love it.

There were some interesting sculptures too, but mainly I just loved seeing all the snow and trees.

Once back in the city we walked to the castle, saw the changing of the guards, then walked back to the water, as there was a fort there.

We’d got an Oslo pass, which included transport and museum entry (we had ordered them online and just collected them from the tourist information centre in the train station), so we went to the Resistance Museum, which was really interesting.  I had heard a podcast recently about the teachers refusing to  teach the Nazi propaganda, so it was interesting to find out a bit more.

After popping back to the hotel for a cup of tea, we headed out to the Christmas markets in the dark. (We tried to buy something with cash, which was left over from a trip several years ago, and it turned out that in October they got new bank notes so we had to visit a bank to have it converted).

There was a central one, and then one run by the people who herd reindeer (Sami ) with lots of things made from bone, fur and so on. All the markets had these fire pits so you could stand by them to warm up a bit.

We ended up going to Leon for dinner, and had bought a delicious school bun from a bakery to share for dessert. (We have only had these before in the Norway pavilion at Epcot- cardamom buns with vanilla custard and toasted coconut).

Pancakes and fruit for breakfast/ cinnamon bun and school bun/ chia fruit pot at breakfast

On the Saturday after breakfast I got the train a few stops along to the parkrun- I will do a separate post on that. I walked it as I didn’t have space in my hand luggage for trainers and a load of running gear (layers would be needed), and as our hotel did breakfast and Norway is pretty expensive and parkrun doesn’t start until 9.30 if I waited until after running to eat, they wouldn’t be serving any more. A few factors! The Munch Museum with lots of Edvard Munch’s paintings was in the same park as the parkrun, so Andy met me there after, and we had a wander around. It was fairly small, but they are moving to a bigger site. I had only seen his Scream painting before, so it was good to see some others- there were some beautiful ones of the landscape with huge pine trees.

Then it was time to get properly into the Christmas spirit- we got the train to the centre and then a bus out to the open air museum (Norsk Folkemuseum), as it also hosts a huge Christmas market. There were big crowds there- lots of locals going as well as tourists, which is one of the elements of the Germanic Christmas markets that I really love.

The main church had amazing ornate wood carvings all over it

The main square had a huge Christmas tree and loads of stalls around the edge, and then as you walked around the museum (which was huge) there were loads of stalls, food stalls, children dancing, big fire pits to warm up by and so many pretty decorations.

I bought a couple of decorations, although I couldn’t buy marzipan because you had to have an app to buy from that stall.

That pig is made of marzipan- it was huge!

We treated ourselves to a hot chocolate as the temperature was much colder that day.

Near the market were lots of museums, so we visited them afterwards as it was getting dark- the Viking Ship Museum (people had been buried in the ships, a bit like being buried in a pyramid, with lots of artefacts, and they had been discovered 100 or so years ago and preserved), the museum all about Polar Exploration (again, so interesting, and with the actual boat inside the museum as well as lots of exhibits) and a museum about the Kon-Tiki, a raft that crossed the Pacific). We got good value from our Oslo passes, and it was good to have some indoor things to do when it was so cold outside.

By then it was dark so we popped back to the hotel for a tea and to warm up, and then headed out for a final wander around the shops and the Christmas market. There was a big ice skating rink and it seemed everyone there was an expert!

On Sunday we had a fairly early flight so after breakfast we headed straight to the airport. The countryside was covered in snow and as we whizzed past on the train I felt like I was in The Snowman. I’d had a few busy weeks at work and so this just felt like the perfect antidote to all of that- so much fresh air and beautiful scenery. I felt so festive when I got home- time to crack out the Christmas playlist on Spotify!

Have you been to Norway? Do you like going to Christmas markets or museums? 

Cinema trips, feeling more festive, and tea

Following on from the Brighton 10K, I was home on Monday not too late so did a lovely 4 mile run.

On Tuesday we had booked cinema tickets (for the first time in ages) to see the film about the Le Mans 24 hour race. I hadn’t got my free Starbucks drink yet, so popped in after work to pick one up. I’d been awake in the night for a couple of hours with a really bad headache and I think I hadn’t had enough to drink (and worked until nearly 10pm on my laptop), so I made a cup of tea to take with me to the cinema to make sure it didn’t happen again.

I really enjoyed the film, not knowing anything about it (it was based on a true story) but it was so loud and so exhausting to watch- I felt like I’d been driving for 24 hours by the time it finished!

I also took in a pack of peanut butter cups- these Pip & Nut ones are so good and mean I don’t need to bring back a load of Justin’s ones from when I go to the USA- hooray!

On Wednesday at yoga we had a focus on properly moving from the plank into being on the floor, keeping our elbows over our wrists (instead of tracking back)- oh my goodness me this was so hard and by the end my arms were like jelly! It felt like awful tricep dips! It’s so interesting how the body is so clever at adapting and finding the easiest way to do something, instead of the correct way.

On Thursday after work I had a 3 and a bit mile run, and then came home to some salt and vinegar peanuts- anyone else love these? I really love them but the KP ones burn my lips a bit- not so good! Andy put the fire on for a cosy evening of watching The Crown.

I really liked this autumn self care guide that popped up in my feed- after having several evenings working late in front of the TV, it was a good reminder to take care of myself too.

Although I didn’t have time for breakfast on Friday and we were heading to Starbucks for lunch, so I ended up having an almond croissant instead (brunch?)- they heated it up and it went a bit soft! (Still tasty though)

My tea club for November arrived and I loved the gorgeous packaging- such pretty drawings. Each month the postcard is designed by a different artist so it’s lovely to see the different styles.

On Friday evening I met Andy in town as we had to get a few bits from the shops, and we walked around to Caffe Nero to try a festive hot chocolate (I think a hazelnut one?) and a little look around John Lewis as I wanted to get some boots with my vouchers. As we will be making Christmas cakes with the children at work I tried out the recipe and it seemed to go down pretty well.

On Saturday I drove to my parents and then walked to Jersey Farm parkrun with Dad (my 6th run there- working on the p index).

It’s a fun course to do in the autumn/winter as it’s a bit muddy and a bit up and down, so it feels a little like cross country (compared to running on a tarmac path). One of the marshals shouted that she was spotting everyone’s leggings- I did see a few funky ones and even some festive ones. Dad ran ahead as he is working on breaking his pb, so I had an enjoyable run on my own, finishing in 30:24

We then walked back home where I had a shower and then Mum cooked us pancakes. They are planning a trip to Canada next year so we had a lovely long chat about the places they should visit and how long to spend in each place.

Once home we walked into town while it was still light (not much of that about at the moment)- I was feeling festive with my candy cane jumper and “Mince pies before guys” t-shirt which never fails to make me laugh (I took some pics in the changing room as some of my friends were at a Christmas market and the whatsapp group got a bit carried away with festive things!).

I also got the sparkly boots, and a really cosy jumper (pretty much the only one in the shop that didn’t contain wool, as I find that so scratchy).

I had some work to do so did that once home (it was dark by then anyway).

On Sunday morning I had a rather horrible experience- I was running along a track that leads past some houses and fields into the back of the park, when I heard barking, turned around and saw 4 dogs hurtling towards me, all growling and barking. I stopped (as I have been told that standing still is better than running) and screamed “oh my god!” at them and the guy walking them. He called something along the lines of “it’s OK, they are just chasing each other”- well it didn’t feel like that. He called them back, and once they were back at him I turned around and started running again, but the same thing happened.  I felt so panicked as a couple of them were really big dogs. He called them back and walked across to the field by the side of the road, but didn’t put any of them on leads. I watched them for ages, not wanting to run again in case they ran back across the field and chased me again. Once I couldn’t see them any more, I burst into tears which was very unexpected, and I couldn’t get my breathing to work. I walked for ages, and just could not calm down. I considered ringing Andy but it’s a private road (public footpath) so he wouldn’t be able to drive along there anyway. Once back in the park I had calmed down and could run again, but it made me really cross  that it had affected me that much. I think I’ll be avoiding that place from now on too.

In the afternoon we went to Andy’s parents house for a bit of a catch up, then once home I made the Christmas cakes, and in the evening we were off to see Frozen 2! (I didn’t wear my ears in the cinema in the end…)

I loved it! It was so beautiful- amazing autumnal colours in the woods, and the ice palaces just looked so bright. I liked a few of the songs but they didn’t all jump out at me (unlike Moana where I pretty much loved every song straight away) but I’ve been listening to it since then and there are some growers (including the song by Weezer- anyone else remember them? I used to love their Buddy Holly song and Island in the Sun). I was also glad to see it before any kids at work tell me any spoilers!


Off to Brighton again!

After saying how much I preferred running on Mondays, the next week I ran on Tuesday instead because on Monday I was meeting a friend for dinner straight after work.  We went to Bill’s and had a lovely catch up, so it was worth the mixing up of days.

On Tuesday I had a 3 mile run, and Wednesday a 4 mile run (no yoga that week).  I was due to have a late training course on Thursday but it was cancelled at the last minute so I headed home and used the time to catch up on other work bits ahead of our weekend away, because we were (surprise surprise) off to Brighton!

We got the train down on Friday night, and of course I was off to parkrun on Saturday morning.

I had opted for Hove Prom, as it was slightly closer to the hotel, but also I am working on my p-index (it’s at 5 currently, which means I have been to 5 parkruns at least 5 times) and needed to go to Hove Prom to begin getting it to number 6. These little challenges keep me busy!

I was surprised to see rain when I left the hotel as it wasn’t forecast, but thankfully it wasn’t heavy. I got to the seafront with about 10 minutes to spare and kept my hoodie on until the last possible moment- there was a really cold wind.

I started fairly slowly (and somehow ended up in the finish funnel behind some walkers so couldn’t overtake for a bit) but sped up in the cold wind. I had wished I’d brought gloves with me. Anyway I enjoyed it (it’s two laps out and back along the prom, starting in the middle) and when I finished the guy behind me asked the time as he saw me stopping my watch. My time was 27:24 which I was pleased with but very surprised when I got the text through congratulating me on a course pb- for some reason I thought I had run faster there, but when I looked it up it was Preston Park I was thinking of. Time to celebrate!

I met Andy at the Cafe Coho closest to our hotel and enjoyed a delicious breakfast of pancakes, and then headed back for a shower.

After a pop into Bird& Blend to pick up a drink (I went for a snowball latte which is made with their snowball tea- chocolate and coconut- plus vegan marshmallows) we walked along the seafront to Hove. Back in the town we picked up a wrap to share from Pret, and then stopped for tea and cake a bit later. I managed to make a start on Christmas shopping, and we went to the Hotel Chocolat cafe for a drink (although weirdly they would not serve the drink without the cocoa whip, but served it on the side??).

We got a takeaway pizza- this vegan one is soo tasty with pesto and veggies.

I got my race things ready and painted my nails (I love the five-free nail polish) and we had popped to Gail’s to pick up a Christmas bun so had that in the evening too.

On Sunday morning it was such luxury to be able to get up not long before the race started- you had to be in the pens at 9.20am, and our hotel was maybe 10 mins walk. I’d chosen to wear a long sleeved top in the end (my Run Disney one).

The race starts near the pier and you run west along to Hove for just over 2 miles, turn around and run east for 3 and a half miles, past the start line and then turn back and run west again for the final half a mile or so. It’s super fast and flat, but I didn’t think I’d be going for a pb (particularly with getting a course one at parkrun the day before). I really enjoyed it- at one point I was running and thought I saw someone spectating who I followed on instagram, and as I was looking a runner next to me commented “you look relaxed” (which Andy later found hilarious as I am the most un-relaxed person ever)- I replied thanks and that I was enjoying it, and that I liked his tutu (he was wearing a tutu). It was good to hear and it made me think a little more about race motivation. This route is a fab one for a pb (I think all my 10k pb’s have some from this course) but this run is a great reason to visit Brighton for the weekend, and I just love running by the sea and seeing all the crowd support and so on.

My 10k pb is 54:11 (from this time last year) and this year I was around 55:18 but a few years before that I was trying hard to get in under a hour (and my first 10k was 70 mins). Looking at my splits after nearly all my miles were under 9 minutes, so it was nice to see that I was running as this faster speed and feeling more comfortable (it wasn’t easy, but I wasn’t totally wiped out for the day either).

Andy met me at the finish line and had bought an almond croissant for my breakfast, so we headed back to the hotel, made a tea while I had a shower and then I could enjoy breakfast.

After a walk around the town we headed to Leon for lunch- we have our order perfected- two veggie burgers, one portion of waffle fries and one pot of hummus to dip the fries into. So good.

And of course I had to pop to Bird & Blend to get a drink for the train (this time, a classic chai latte).

I chilled out listening to the film podcast on the way home (and may have fallen asleep at a few points too), and then once home it was time to unpack and then watch a bit of TV- such a great weekend.

Look at the gorgeous festive tea tin! (And the Christmas room spray).

Are there races that you like to do again and again? Are you always chasing pb’s or do you run to enjoy them? Dare I ask if you have started your Christmas shopping?