parkrun challenges!

I have recently discovered a little parkrun extension for Chrome- it is so much fun! It was posted on the parkrun tourist facebook page but I am sure it can be found on google. Basically once you have put the add-on, you can look at your results normally, as parkrun displays them, but you get a little green button to press, which then sorts your results in all sorts of marvellous ways:

Above- the normal summary of parkrun results, and then below, once you have clicked:

You can hover over each link to see what it means (the purple ones are all volunteer roles and you get one star for 5+ times and two stars for 10+ times (I imagine it keeps going up but that’s as many as I have done for each role). You also get flags to show the countries that you have been to (Crissy Field in San Francisco was my third parkrun course and my first real parkrun tourism).

It keeps track of how many courses you have been to (which is great as I kept on scrolling up and down trying to keep count).

I am not doing too badly with the alphabet challenge- 15/25 (there is not one beginning with x). It’s handy to see the missing ones.

My favourite club (they are all of course totally made up clubs) is the parkrun Pirates club-  you need 7 C’s and one R (I first heard this on the Australian podcast)- I only need 3 more C’s to get that one.

There is also a cool stopwatch bingo, which I don’t think you could ever plan to do- basically you need a time ending in each second (01, 02 up to 50, 00)- the minutes don’t count, and I am only missing 5 (17, 18, 21, 51 and 56)- but because of trying to press start when the RD says go, I don’t think my watch is ever quite the same (and forgetting to press stop in the finish funnel) so I think that will just happen by chance.

There is also “Stayin’ Alive”, which is 3 B’s and 3 G’s (I only need two more G’s), the Bushy Pilgrimage (check), New Year Day double (check). The one I am closest to finishing is the compass club- I have Eastleigh, Southampton and Westmill, so I just need a North to finish that one (and handily I need an N for the alphabet challenge so that might be my next adventure).

I have also found out that if you look at someone else’s results (I often look at my Dad’s or his cousin’s) you can see their challenge progress too.

Of course the beauty of parkrun is that it can be anything you want it to be. It can be a superfast flat out effort, or a gentle outing catching up with friends and family, it can be about the community of your local one or visiting new places. I set myself the challenge a few years ago of running all of the parkruns  in Hertfordshire, which I managed to complete last year (and then added Letchworth this year once that came along), and although I have half an eye on the alphabet challenge, it isn’t easy to get some of the letters without expensive weekends away, so I am happy to find some other new challenges along the way.

Do you ever set any challenges like this? Which club do you think you would be close to achieving? 

Another lovely weekend in Brighton (and a course pb!!!)

On Friday after lunch we headed down to Brighton. The train takes just under 2 hours, so as soon as we arrived we checked in to the hotel and then headed out for two Brighton essentials- tea lattes from Bluebird tea (I got the Earl Grey creme latte which reminds me of the gorgeous London fog lattes you get in Canada), and a walk by the sea.

The weather was perfect- clear skies and no winds so the sea was like a millpond. We walked along to the beach huts by Hove and then walked back and went for dinner.

I didn’t actually sleep that well- the room was warm despite having the window open, and it sounded like lorries going past (I think it was rail replacement buses from early in the morning), but of course I was off to parkrun in the morning.

I’d been to Preston Park before, and last time tried to keep up with the 28 min pacer, and finshed with 27.55. I thought I would aim for something similar as a measure of fitness, and when I got there it turned out they were having a pacing event.  It was super busy though, with (I think) their second highest attendance of 588 as they had events from several running clubs on. Anyway, I could not see the pacer once I got to the start area, although they do have signs up near the start area to help you know where to line up according to your estimated finish time.

It was the perfect morning for running- nice and cool, sunny skies, no breeze, and I think all of the super speedy runners somehow pulled me along. I didn’t look at my watch at all, but just focused on keeping a high pace and trying to overtake the person in front, steadying for a bit and then going to overtake the next person. I was pretty surprised when I peeped at my watch a few metres from the line and saw a 26 on there!

My official time was 26.47! Anything beginning with 26 is a rarity for me so I was over the moon! I had offered to write the run report, so it’s here if you are interested. After finishing I jogged back to the hotel, and after a shower it was time for breakfast at the best place- Cafe Coho. They always do amazing pancakes- the last few times I have had them with berries and greek yoghurt, but I spied a new option this time- caramelised banana, chocolate marscapone and hazelnut praline. Oh yes. It was really good, but very sweet (obvs), so I think probably the more sensible choice was the berries. Anyway, good to try.

The weather was just as beautiful, so we walked along to Hove, then back along the seafront, this time getting iced drinks from Bluebird (we shared a strawberry lemonade and an iced chai as decisions are too tough in there).

As we’d had a late breakfast, we didn’t have lunch, stopping for a bit of tea and cake a few hours before dinner, and then we got the train home on Saturday evening. I ended up with a headache, I think probably from not drinking enough, so instead of my planned 13 mile run on Sunday I thought I would see how far I would manage.

I was actually OK when I woke up on Sunday but I went out a bit later than planned (around 9am) so I did just under 10 miles.

When I got home it was time for a nuun tab in water, a smoothie, and a date filled with peanut butter- these are quite salty because I made with the peanut butter at the bottom of the tub and it all seems to sink there. That was enough to keep me going so I could have a shower before breakfast.

As it was such a lovely day we had planned a walk for Sunday afternoon, and we ended up doing 5 miles, so I still had a lot of time on my feet.

The rest of this week has been very busy with work things- I managed one run after work on Tuesday, and a couple of walks in the evening, but yoga wasn’t on and I was home too late for a run on Thursday. A few photos: (Clockwise from top)-I tried the blueberry nakd bar and was pleasantly surprised- I don’t  always like blueberry muffins as the blueberry flavour can be a bit fake/sweet. A few Bluebird purchases including lovely red velvet tea. Wuntu were doing free Costa drinks so I stopped on Friday on my way home. Crisps made with chickpeas- I approve of the salt and vinegar flavour!

What do you have planned for this weekend?

A Christmas Day parkrun and other festive going-ons

Event teams do not have a put on a parkrun on Christmas day, but many of them choose to. I know that for some people, going running on Christmas day seems crazy, but parkrun isn’t just about the running- it’s so much more about the community. For some people, this may be their only chance to be with other people for that day, and for families it is a great way to get some fresh air before spending the day inside.

I love parkrun (had you noticed?) and running, and so was very pleased that Panshanger had decided to put an extra event on. I knew it would be busy as not many other Herts events were on, so I parked a little way away and ran there- turned out I was more like 1.5 miles than 1 mile, which meant I was running pretty fast at the end! I’d worn my festive leggings and also a hairband with “Merry Christmas” on it, although at one point it was so windy the hairband blew off!

I also ran past some llamas (fa-la-la-llamas if you will….) on the way, but didn’t have time so had to stop on the way back for the photo!

The actual parkrun was fab- it was very busy at the start (Panshanger begins in a car park and them immediately goes through a gate and onto a path through woods, so it is always a bit stop start)- there were 364 runners to squeeze into the gap so no surprise there. I wasn’t in any hurry so just walked a bit and waited for the way to clear. Looking up and seeing the sea of santa hats was just great. It was my 130th parkrun ( a good round number to get to on Christmas day too). It started raining half way around, so I didn’t hang around much after having my barcode scanned as I had to run back to the car too- it was properly raining once I got to my car.

Then it was time for a shower, breakfast and a bit of present-opening (which by the way, was nearly as disaster as recently we had to get a new fridge-freezer and Andy suggested that we did that as our Christmas present- it was only recently that it got mentioned and it turned out he was joking- how was I meant to know???)- I got some lovely cosy penguin pj’s, some Bluebird tea (surprise!), Lush shower gel, orange oil for my vaporiser and some ginger muscle rub.  Andy was happy with his whiskey and particularly enjoyed playing with his new fire set (no idea of the actual name, but a poker and other things to poke to fire with basically). We had decided to have lunch at home, as often I go to my parents and Andy goes to his, and we thought having more time at home would be a bit more relaxing too, so we had a bit of time to listen to music before lunch needed putting on.

After lunch (goats cheese and caramelised onion tarts with roasted sweet potato wedges, broccoli, carrots, green beans and mange tout- no sprouts thanks- and a bit of Christmas pudding) we felt the need for some fresh air, so we had a quick walk before loading the car up and heading over to St Albans. It’s a bit different now there are little children involved- we’ve got a nephew (4 months old) and two nieces (10 months and nearly 2 years) and we were trying to sort out visits to both houses around their nap times, but it turned out that they all just kept going for the whole day. The afternoon was filled with general relaxing, a bit of present opening (with my family we did a secret Santa- I opened a present, finding a nice navy jumper, only to be told that was my brother’s as they had the wrong labels on them!), going between both houses to make sure we saw everyone, and a bit of cheese and pickle in the evening (I love piccalilli).

On Boxing Day I’d been persuaded to meet with the OH ladies for a training session including using a parachute! I’d planned a long run, so I decided to run there (about 4 miles), join in with the session and then run home. I missed the first part of the session (they run around a small loop in pairs in opposite directions, and when you meet your partner you both turn back around and try to beat the other person home)- and I was really wishing I’d worn gloves as the wind was so cold.  I saw a few more fallen trees on my way there too. The parachute session was fun- there’s only one, so while we were waiting we did a bit of a speed session- running up and down the taxi-way, with the person at the back having to overtake and go to the front of the line. Running with the parachute felt very weird- you had to work hard against it but you also felt a bit more stable than normal sprinting because it was lifting you up. Good fun anyway, and I was glad I’d made it, although after getting home (10 miles in all) my legs were pretty sore.

Mince pie porridge helped me to warm up a little while I waited for the water to heat up (this is just porridge with some of the Meridian mince pie filling stirred in, and then topped with a few flaked almonds). Now the trouble is, the days are already merging and I have no idea what I did for the rest of the day! Probably a walk, possibly some baking of some sort, who knows! Although we did watch Muppets Most Wanted in the evening (my turn to choose the film)- I can’t resist singing along with all of the songs!

Did you have a good Christmas? Do you like to get some fresh air? We often used to have a bike ride or walk when I was little, but it’s harder to time that so it’s still in the light if you have a bit of a later lunch.

A parkrun in the rain, getting cold and finally using our fire!

On Saturday I met Dad at Ellenbrook for parkrun. It was pretty miserable weather- only about 5 degrees and raining, so I sat in the car for a bit before finally braving it. Dad had driven (he often cycles but not surprisingly didn’t fancy it)- I was heading to theirs for breakfast after, so I told him not to wait but we ended up running together. I’d worn a visor to try and keep my glasses dry, but the rain was too hard. I didn’t even spot my friend Elaine (she was marshaling) until we called out “thanks” and she said “hello”- I recognised her voice but couldn’t see properly!

Flying feet! It was slippery and very muddy in places, although the worst part (the “water feature”- a muddy track that is under water for a good 10 metres) has been filled with sand so it wasn’t so bad any more. Also, the cows were standing up. I thought cows sat down in the rain? Or is it when it is about to rain??  I had worn gloves and took them off after around a mile (my hands tend to warm up fairly quickly)- I did offer them to Dad as he had forgotten his and he really feels the cold, but apparently he wasn’t keen on wearing the flouro pink ones!

Anyway, an enjoyable run, finishing in 27.44 and 1st in my age cat! That doesn’t normally happen (I think the rest of the people stayed at home in the dry!).

Our lovely tree is still so colourful- not tan lines but mud lines! And watching the rain from my car…

I’d packed jogging bottoms and a jumper, so after driving to my parents I changed- I wished I had packed a proper change of clothes though as then I could have had a shower- not sure why I didn’t. I had to spend ages wiping the mud off my legs- I thought I just had some splashes but actually it was a proper coating! We then had breakfast (pancakes of course)- my sister came around with her husband and baby, my brother was there, and Andy joined us later, so it was lovely to all catch up.

Mum lent me these slippers (from one of their hotels in China) so at least my feet were warm!

In the afternoon we walked into town and I made some caramel shortbread for Sunday. Then after dinner we went to the cinema to see The Florida Project, which was really good. It’s set in the shadow of Disney World, following a child and her friends- they all live in motels and so it does show the struggle that the parents go through, but the children were brilliant and it was very uplifting at times too.

On Sunday I didn’t set an alarm and didn’t even wake up until 8.45! Crazy! I headed on a run- I ended up doing 10 miles. I’d worn a top and jacket, thinking I’d take the jacket off after a bit and tie it around my waist, but in fact every time I considered it, the wind would blow more and make me feel chilly, so I kept it on the whole time.

This is my “I wish I had worn a buff” face- my skin gets so sore and it looked like I had sunburn when I got home as the skin on my neck and chest was so red and itchy.

After a shower it was time for breakfast- on Friday I had been into town (for a massage) and so I had of course had to go to Gail’s (an amazing bakery). I usually go for the chocolate almond croissants, but they had a sour cherry and pistachio croissant so I got one of each (plus a scone for another time).

I warmed them in the oven while I made the tea (Bluebird Bonfire Toffee tea) and then we had half of each. Mmmm, so good.

We then walked the long way to town (about 3 miles) and I had this tasty smoothie when I got home to give me a bit of a boost to power through some work.

We had tea at Andy’s parents and then when we got home, it was finally time to use the log burner! We had it fitted in the summer but of course we needed to wait for a cold day to actually use it.

It was so cosy, and after getting so cold at parkrun, on my run and on the walks to town it was lovely to relax and feel warm- the perfect end to the weekend.

Do you have a different breakfast at the weekends? I’ll happily have porridge every week day in the winter and muesli in the summer, but I will often have something different at the weekend to make it more of an occasion and a bit more relaxed. Are you wearing gloves on your runs now?

Brighton and Hove parkrun

I’ve done a couple of the parkruns in Brighton before (Hove prom twice, and Preston Park once). Andy (who is turning without being asked into my parkrun tourist planner- he found the hotel near Bushy, and that Andover parkrun was close to our hotel) noticed that Brighton and Hove parkrun is very close to Hove station, so we booked a hotel by Brighton station so it would be easy to get to.

We arrived on Friday night and to save me the stress of the ticket machine in the morning (honestly, why do small things like this make me so stressed? I usually prefer to go to a person because then I know it’s the right ticket…), I bought my tickets the night before (there was an option for “travel tomorrow”), so all I had to do in the morning was get dressed and walk around the corner to the train. I could have run there as it was only a couple of miles, but as we were only there for the day I didn’t want to get back too late. It was £2.80 return so not too bad (I have paid that sort of thing for parking at a parkrun in some places).

To be extra helpful (or because he knows I am not good at travel, who knows…) Andy had sent me a screen shot of the journey times to and from Hove station- I like to be there early so I got the 8.23 train which arrived in Hove at 8.26- nice and short.

Luckily I left the time because for some reason, even though I had looked at a map, I thought that the parkrun would be closer to the sea than the station, so I knew that as the sea was on my left, I had to head downhill (or left). I had maps out on my phone with the pin in the centre of the park, and I couldn’t work out why I was getting further away. After realising I was going the wrong way, I headed back up the hill to the station, but then the map wouldn’t spin around so left on the map was right in real life so I got confused again. It turned out that there was a pedestrian bridge over the railway tracks, and once I had done that, it was an easy run up the hill to the end of the road, left at the end and the park was in sight.

It was a bit damp, but the forecast rain hadn’t materialised yet. I could see a bunch of high viz people in the centre, so I headed over. It happened to be their 10th anniversary, so some people were dressed up. The RD called out for any new runners to head over to “the red vicar”- I think he was dressed as a cardinal? Anyway, the briefing was amusing (he checked we had our barcodes, then that we had the fiver for him….)- and then it was time for the run briefing. Now, usually everyone listens carefully during this, and I feel that not only is it polite to do so, but imperative, because sometimes there are changes to the course or safety information to share.  There were a lot of people there (461 runners), but I could not hear a word, so many people were talking. I was quite annoyed and found it really rude. The team give up their time so that people can enjoy a free and timed 5k, so the least you can do it be quiet for a few minutes during the briefing.  There were pacers and they waved their little flag things about- I was near the 30 minute one at the start (but again you couldn’t hear at all).

Once we started it was enjoyable- it sounds complicated but you start a little bit before the finish, doing one small lap and then two big laps. There is a little incline on each lap, but nothing too steep and then you have a nice long downhill at the end of each lap too.  I try to make a point of thanking each marshal as I run past- I really appreciate them giving up their time to marshal, and I know that when I have marshaled it is lovely having the runners show their appreciation. One of the things I love about parkrun is hearing the call of “thank you marshal” echoing through the park. But I did not hear a single thank you from anyone else. Do people not do that at every parkrun?

There were two ladies talking loudly at the start, and on the second lap I caught up with them- they were talking about a friend of theirs who does Good Gym, and one of them said “I’m too selfish to give up my time to dig up a garden” and I did think to myself “and too selfish to listen to the run briefing”…

Anyway, I enjoyed the run and I think on the first little lap I caught up with the 30 min pacer, and then on the second lap I caught up with the next one (I can’t remember the number though- 29 or 28 mins possibly). I managed to push the pace on the final lap, doing a nice negative split with 27.43 (9.13, 8.37, 8.33 and 7.21 for the little bit- not the easiest to do on not a flat course).  The best thing about lapped courses is that you get top 3 personal records on all the strava segments!

It had started to rain quite heavily on the final lap, so I didn’t hang around at all- I took a few photos on my run back to the station. I was about to miss a train, but it was delayed by a few minutes so I still managed to catch it. By 10 o’clock I was sat in Cafe Coho- there was a lovely hot cup of Earl grey tea waiting for me, and the pancakes weren’t far behind!

So another enjoyable Brighton parkrun (Bevendean Down parkrun is the one yet to visit, although that is a bit out of town so I am not sure I’d manage it without a car). I think probably Hove Prom is the easiest one for me to visit, but when it’s super windy it is nicer to head inland.

Have you collected any parkrun “sets?” Do you find train travel a bit stressful? I enjoy it once I am on the train, and I don’t mind if there are frequent trains so if I miss one it’s fine, but buying the correct ticket and getting to the right platform adds to the pressure a bit. Do people thank the marshals as they run past at your local parkruns?  Maybe it was too cold and rainy…