Blickling parkrun

As previously mentioned, at the end of October we had a weekend in Norfolk. There were quite a few parkruns fairly close, but the most interesting to me was Blicking, at a National Trust venue. On the Friday drive up we stopped in Norwich and had dinner in The Waffle House (they do an amazing hummus and avocado waffle)- this would be good to combine with a parkrun if you were going to any of the ones in Norwich.

Even though our Air BnB was around 10 miles away from Blicking, it was a good half an hour drive through twisty country single track lanes- not my favourite!

Wet in the car on the way, waffles from Norwich, parkrun token bucket and start area

As I walked to the car park I got absolutely soaked and I did consider going back, but I knew I’d regret it. I was dripping all over my notes for the journey, and the first bit of the drive was not fun as the lanes were full of huge puddles, but the rain eased off and when I arrived it had stopped raining altogether.

It was easy to find as I got closer as of course the NT has the lovely brown signs. The car park was nice and big (and free for members if you scanned your card) and the start was close to the car park.

The course was just under two laps, so the main briefing was close to the car park, and then we were all walked to the start, completing the just under two laps. It was through really pretty grounds, with views across fields, a section through wood and with some interesting buildings to see. The paths were fairly wide, it was undulating but nothing hilly. As it was nearly two laps you ran past the finish area on your first lap which was good too- lots of volunteers out clapping etc.

I got to use my new 250 band for the first time- I was so paranoid when I ordered it that I would have entered the incorrect barcode number, so I was very relieved when the results text came through!

89th venue visited and another very enjoyable one. There was a nice looking cafe (The Muddy Boots cafe- what a great name!) but I was heading back to breakfast with Andy.

Tesco Wicked Kitchen cinnamon roll for breakfast, sea views, massive lunch and the pretty stained glass window in the place we stayed in

We spent the rest of Saturday exploring various parts of Norfolk- a walk along the coast to see the seals, an NT place actually called Horsey Windpump (it’s actual name- a sort of windmill that pumped water from the land) and then back to Blicking for a late (and huge) pub lunch and a walk around the water and through the woods.

Walking through the woods and then a cosy cup of tea to warm up

So, event 89 visited and hooray that my 250 band scanned! Much easier than flipping over the blue one (as the barcode is now on the outside but ICE details are on the inside).


Harlow parkrun

During September I was mainly visiting Panshanger parkrun due to various factors (Dad being away so not visiting Jersey Farm, not having the car so needing to go to one I can get to on foot), but I also fancied a bit of tourism. I know I won’t be getting to my Cowell (100 different events) this year, but I am inching closer.

I was looking on the 5K app (now that the tourist tool seems to be gone) and noticed Harlow parkrun (not to be confused with Harrow parkrun). It isn’t new, but for some reason I had not scrolled in that direction before. It was around a 25 min drive so one weekend in September I headed off on a solo tourist trip.

It was very easy to find following the course page directions. The car park was right by the start- the car park is in a dip and the park is sort of around and above it, so I headed up and out (with the exit on my right) and saw the parkrun sign straight away. I was there fairly early so did a short warm up run but as it’s quite twisty I ended up going back on myself a bit.

The course sounded a little confusing, but it is basically two non identical laps, with the second lap being slightly shorter (and avoiding “the hill” of the golf course section (which isn’t in their winter course- a course that seemingly the regulars prefer). There was an out and back lollipop section too, but really just think of it as two laps. It was well signed and with lots of marshals.

It was a really good day weather wise- the beginning of autumn, so I took it fairly steadily and stopped for photos as I ran around. I can’t believe that I’d not been there before, as I think it’s been going on for a similar amount of time to Panshanger. Of course being able to run to a local one is fab, but this was a short drive.

So, my 88th venue visited. Slowly getting closer to the big 100 venues!


DLP August 2022

It’s always sad leaving Florida, but what helped this year was knowing we would soon be back in the Disney magic, with a Bank Holiday trip to DLP.

We got the Eurostar over (my fave way to travel), and stayed in a hotel in the Val D’Europe area (either one stop on the train or around 20 min walk from Disney).

The 30th anniversary celebrations were still going strong, although as it was warm they were only doing the extended parade (with a big dance section in front of the castle) in the morning, with the other parades just being the traditional ones that keep moving. They have the catchiest tunes there!

It was also the end of Princess Week so we got to see some additional princess parades. When we had been before the Marvel Campus had not opened, so it was good to wander around there and see the superheroes on the roof, sample the new ride and food in the new restaurants.

As it was warm and open for long hours we headed in early each day and then went back to the hotel for a rest in the afternoon before going back for the evening. This worked well and meant we managed all the rides that we wanted to visit, plus we got to see the parades a few times, plus of course the awesome drone show before the fireworks.

Parade finale, 30th celebration vegan panini, vegan stand in the studios and my winning score on the spiderman ride!

The food trucks were still in the studios too, so I was spoilt for choice with food options which is something I never thought I would say about France!

Dole whip, vegan chocolate cake, mocktail in our hotel and the 30th Starbucks mug

Of course we had plenty of Dole Whips (it was very warm in August), and had to have the vegan chocolate cake one day. Starbucks had the 30th mug in (it had been out of stock on our previous visits) so I was pleased to take one home as I do like those mugs- they are such a good size (huge) and stand up in the dishwasher well.

I was a little apprehensive about how I’d cope with the long days, as after avoiding covid for however long, I finally succumbed to it in the holidays and had it the week before we went to DLP (thankfully I tested negative really quickly)- it took a while to get my energy levels back after spending a few days totally in bed. I had packed my running kit, as I thought it was better to have it and not need it than wish I’d packed it, but as we ended up going in fairly early each day I took the kit home unworn.

The new Marvel campus is quite fun- there were random things happening like spiderman fighting on the roof of one of the buildings. One ride is a re-jig of the rock and rollercoaster (not something I would go on), but the other ride was really good fun- a bit like the Toy Story Mania in Florida-it had motion sensors so you had to wave your arms around and shoot the spider-bots. We finally found out that my arachnophobia is good for something as I got a much higher score than anyone else in the carriage!

Next up- spooky season!

WDW Summer 2022

I usually love the anticipation of a holiday- looking forward to it is a huge part of the enjoyment. However this time I wasn’t convinced that we would actually manage to get there, so it was only when the plane arrived that I really felt excited. A combination of covid restrictions, risks of catching germs at work, strikes, flights being changed and Heathrow being told to limit passenger numbers just meant I felt like it might not happen.

In the end we flew to New York one evening, stayed in a hotel near the airport that night and then on to Tampa the next morning (immigration queues at NY have been horrendous in the past and we have nearly missed connecting flights as you have to go back through security once you have passed through immigration, so this way meant we would not worry about missed connections).

Spoiler- it did happen! Here I am at Clermont Waterfront parkrun close to Orlando

First up we stayed a little outside of WDW (we hired a car to drive up from Tampa), and then half way through took the car back and stayed in a Disney hotel for the remainder. While off Disney property we went to Universal a few times- we’d not been there for maybe 15 years, and Andy was keen to go. There are not many rides that I enjoy there as I’m not a rollercoaster fan, but I could appreciate the attention to detail that they had in the Harry Potter lands, and still go on the ET ride- such a classic! They had good vegan food options there- we often had a meal to share in one of the Harry Potter restaurants which was a sort of pie with beetroot and apple salad.  Of course we also went to Voodoo Doughnuts at City walk.

The weather was as you would expect in August- blue skies, hot and humid, and then crazy thunderstorms. We had a particularly bad one driving back from Universal one night, where at one point the motorway was at a standstill because you could not see anything, and it was flashing lightning every second or two. As lots of the Disney rides are inside it was usually OK (sometimes we’d go into a ride and then by the time we came out it had clearly rained and stopped), but the Skyliner (a cable car linking some of the hotels including where we stayed to Epcot and Hollywood Studios) would stop if lightning was anywhere nearby, meaning we’d have to get a bus which took a lot longer.

Kona Café and Ale&Compass breakfasts

The food at Disney was plentiful and tasty as always. I think Disney are really upping their game with veggie and vegan items. We had a few breakfasts out (including my favourite, Kona Café in the Polynesian hotel- their banana stuffed French toast is amazing and they do a vegan version, hooray!).

Slider and meatballs from the Earth Eats stall plus hummus, pitta, salad from a Star Wars restaurant

EPCOT have a food and wine festival that has been on when we’ve been in October, but it started super early this year so was on while we were there too. Lots of the stalls had vegan options but they also had an Earth Eats stall, with all vegan options.

Salad in the Sam Eagle restaurant, amazing pineapple upside down cake from Erin McKenna’s bakery at Disney Springs, delicious Mexican salad and the guava mousse.

The guava mousse from the Shimmering Sips stall was my favourite- it was more like a cheesecake with a biscuit base, guava topping and then toasted coconuts. Perfect and tropical tasting, and way cheaper than desserts in the restaurants (it was $6 I think, and we shared each time as it was pretty big).

Vegan tacos from the Carribean Beach resort, vegan pizza from Blaze at Disney Springs, vegan doughnut from Voodoo Doughnuts at Universal City Walk and lemon cake from Erin McKenna.

The beauty of WDW is that there are loads of restaurants at each resort (counter service and sit down), and anyone can go to them, not just guests of those hotels, so we spent a bit of time wandering around other resorts and sampling the food there. Those tacos were really good although a bit weird that they came with fries!

Mickey food

Of course there had to be Mickey shaped food (pretzels and waffles). I also tried a dill pickle and I have to say it was really good but a bit too much (we did share it).

And saving the best ’til last, of course there were Dole Whips. They are available in so many places now, and there are lots of alternatives to the pineapple (which is still the best).

One thing I was really impressed with was their move to reusable plates. In all of the newer counter service places, they had reusable plates and cutlery rather than disposable, with places to sort them when you tidied your table plus staff to help. They have a long way to go with this (look at the Dole Whip cups- just plastic…) but it’s a good move.

WDW was celebrating it’s 50th anniversary so there was lots going on for that, with parades, a new Epcot show (not as good as Illuminations, but still enjoyable) and all of these gold statues around the parks. It was good fun spotting them, and even on our final day I found a couple more. I wasn’t so keen on the Magic Kingdom fireworks show, so we tended to head to Epcot in the evenings more.

Star Wars things

Star Wars land in the studios had been further expanded with a new ride (Rise of the Resistance- we’d been on Smugglers Run back in 2019 and I love that ride). I found the new ride rather immersive (I am not a fan of actual people doing role-play) but it was also good fun and I could just about handle the little drop- I do not do rollercoasters or anything that drops, but I did manage it 3 times on the holiday so it is OK. Our tickets included the photo pass so we got lots of pics of the two of us- usually we manage a selfie or two on holiday but it was nice to have some more professional ones. I also loved the magic shots- especially the Baby Yoda one!

There were some other new rides including Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, with the catchiest song, and a Guardian’s ride which Andy went on several times but I didn’t (as I’ve mentioned, I don’t like rollercoasters). That one was so new you had to join a virtual queue via the app and then you were given a time later in the day, which worked pretty well.

Porg mug and in Trader Sam’s

We also went to a few fun places including the Star Wars bar in the land (Oga’s Canteen?) where we had our drinks in Porg mugs (so cute) and DJ Rex plays tunes, and Trader Sam’s Grotto (based on Jungle Cruise, one of my favourite rides for all the puns). This was my favourite as fun things happened all the time. If someone ordered a certain drink, the volcano you could see through the windows erupted, and one of the drinks was zombie themed and so the server came over with googly eye glasses on. Hard to explain but it was really enjoyable.

Frozen ride, meeting Olaf, Norway ears on in Norway land and the snow at the sing along Frozen

Of course we had traditional Disney fun too- lots of Frozen action including sing a long Frozen, meeting Olaf and going on the Frozen ride every time we went to Epcot! Sing along Frozen sounds better than it is as there are two “historians” who talk you through it in a very funny way. I bought some Norway ears from Epcot, as I had packed my Frozen ones but they have sequins on the band and at one point a photographer asked me to take them off for a photo and they were so very tangled in my hair.

We were not sure how the new fastpass system would work (Genie+), but it was OK. You now have to select your park in advance, and can only hop after 2pm. You had to log on to the app at 7am to see what was available in the park you were going to, but every 2 hours you could get a new one, or when you went into the queue for the one you had booked. You could only do one of each ride each day, so if we did Frozen at 10am we could not book another lightning lane for that ride that day, but as we tended to go to a different park in the afternoon it meant we pretty much didn’t queue (apart from for Rise and Avatar which you had to).

I also had fun posing with the various images and statues around the parks. When we first arrived a few of the Pride things were still up- I loved those rainbow balloons.

In our final few days, the autumn decorations started appearing in the parks too, as they would be hosting the first of their Halloween parties (they start those in August!). I love seeing all the pumpkins- they were all so themed with where they were, for example ice creams carved into the one above the ice cream shop.

And of course I had to get a few cups for my collection. I was happy to see the Epcot Starbucks one as in Paris they had been out of stock, although I’m glad I bought it when I did as by the end of our trip they had sold out.

Once we were staying in Disney I did a few runs each week, around the lake by the hotel, and parkrun wasn’t an option by then as we didn’t have the car. But it was good to have a cut back on mileage I am sure, and running in that humidity wasn’t easy.

As always, it went by in a flash, but as always it was a brilliant holiday.

Clermont Waterfront parkrun- reclaiming my USA flag!

Back in 2015 I ran at Crissy Fields parkrun in San Francisco (my first parkrun tourism as I’d only run at St Albans and Panshanger before then), but sadly it has since closed, and this meant that on the fab parkrun challenges chrome extension I lost my USA flag, as only current events show there.

I’ve wanted to run at Clermont Waterfront for years, but have never managed to sort the logistics (our last 2 Florida holidays were for one week and so the only Saturday was the Saturday that we were leaving, and one of those was spent with us taking part in a Run Disney event). But this time, it all worked out! We flew into Tampa on the Tuesday morning, and had a hire car for the first week, and Andy had agreed to drive me.

So, logistics first. There’s not public transport available, and it was around a 35/40 minute drive from where we were staying (just to the west of the WDW gates). WDW covers a huge area so depending on where you are staying it could take much longer. I had looked at ubers before, but I don’t have roaming so would not be able to get one for the way back. Car seems to be the only real way of getting there. It starts at 7:30am due to the heat, so something else to remember!

Sunrise on arrival and the flags at the finish funnel

The directions on the website were excellent. I had read that they had two different routes, and was slightly worried after reading a post on the UK parkrun tourist facebook page where the people ended up on the wrong side of the lake, but I needn’t have worried. They use the same car park for both routes, and the Lake Hiawatha Preserve car park was easy to find via google maps. We double checked that the route matched up with their directions (West on HWY 50/ Turn right onto 12th Street) and all was good. I wanted to get there in plenty of time, so we left at around 6.30am and arrived just after 7am, as the sun was rising over the lake. Beautiful.

With regards to facilities, there was a big car park opposite the start, and just down from the start was a block containing toilets, as well as drinking water fountains. These blocks were repeated along the lake shore too.

There were no worries about finding the start- I could see the parkrun flag from the turning into the car park and the finish funnel had already been set up, decorated with flags from all over the world.

Run briefing, sign on the path and a few views from the start

So, onto the morning! As the sun was just coming up, we walked to the lake to watch it (and look for alligators), and then I wandered over to the start area. I chatted to a few people who turned out to be locals, and then listened to the new runners welcome. It was a simple out and back route, with a downward slope before the turnaround point to help you work out where it would be.

I decided to have a quick dash to the toilets before it started, as I had more water than usual before we left (because it was just so hot and humid there)- at around 7:23 am I was deciding if I had enough time, but the blocks were so close and no queues so it was all fine and I was back before the main briefing started.

It was lovely to have lots of tourists as it felt like a holiday event, but equally there were lots of locals there too- a nice balance. There were lots of runners from the Clermont triathlon club and from Clermont runners listed on the results. Fun fact- someone in my running club did a triathlon there. I asked her about alligators and she said that they had put food on the bank on the other side to tempt them over, and also there were trained marksmen in boats while they swam (a few km- not just a dash in the water either)- I do not think that would convince me!

Leading up to this, we’d been in Florida for a few days but I am not sure how well I ever adjust to the heat. It was mid to high 30’s with such high humidity (average is 80% but it had been much higher that week) that I knew I just had to run gently to finish it. This was a run to enjoy the scenery and not a run to go for a specific time. One of the regular runners asked me if I had run in Florida before- I think they were worried about Brits abroad struggling and underestimating the heat/ humidity combo.

Anyway, we were soon off and I was just loving the scenery. Running by water is always fantastic, and this was no different. The path was wide, with 4 lanes marked on it- the outside two for walkers/runners and the inside two for cyclists. It was busy with other people as well as parkrunners, but it soon thinned out.

Look how beautiful! 

I kept the steady pace, and took a few photos while I was running. The path started off being shady, but then the trees disappeared and I was thankful of my sunglasses (and wishing I’d remembered my visor). I didn’t see any marshals on the way, and at one point felt slightly lost as there were a few paths to choose from, with runners and walkers on all of them. I chose to keep closest to the lake, which turned out to be correct, and I soon saw the 2 mile sign pointed in the opposite direction so I knew I was still in the correct place. There was a marshal at the turnaround point (a very enthusiastic one it must be said) and there were more signs on the way back. Near to the part where I nearly got lost was a sign with an arrow showing parkrunners to go straight one. I could have done with that on the way!

As it was an out and back, lots of the faster runners were heading back before I reached the turnaround point, and lots of them were waving and being very friendly – it had a good atmosphere. I was feeling the humidity by that point so made myself stop and take a few photos every now and then. I didn’t want to get to the point where I just wanted it to be over, because I’d looked forward to it for so long.

Coming towards the finish funnel was brilliant, as lots of people who had finished were hanging about and cheering the runners in. There was a board to hold (rather than a selfie frame) saying “I completed Clermont Waterfront parkrun”- I took the photo for someone else and then asked if the next person would take mine for me- it turned into a little queue!

So, that was my 87th different location, parkrun number 282, and as mentioned previously, I have reclaimed my USA flag!

I was absolutely drenched in sweat- I’ve never seen my top so wet through. I had worn a buff on my wrist which I used to frequently wipe my face, but I had to sit on it on the car journey back! My time was 33:58, which for a flat course is on the slow side for me, but I think I was sensible because I was not used to running in that heat. We had packed some rehydration tabs to take with us anyway, so I’d put one in a bottle of water and put that in the car so I could drink it on the way back to the hotel.

Do you have any parkruns on your bucket list?