Irchester Country parkrun- UK alphabet completed!

I wrote this last weekend before everything started shutting down…

Irchester Country parkrun was probably Plan C for the weekend. Originally we were going to Norwich for the weekend as Andy had tickets for the match (Southampton were playing there), so I was going to head to a parkrun near Norwich. I’d had a conversation with my dad, and as he had football tickets too (to Watford) he’d said he would go to Ellenbrook Fields (Jersey Farm is off for the next few weeks to allow the paths to recover) so he could get back in time.

Then the football was called off, so a weekend at home beckoned.  I fancied some tourism but knew Dad needed to be home early, and then realised that he didn’t, because his football was also called off. Quite late on Friday I persuaded him to go with me to Irchester Country parkun, as I have been trying to tick off my alphabet for ages now, and it is just about within touring range. I wrote down the directions and saw about the £1 for parking, but that was about it for prep!

I got to Dad’s at around 7.30, and then he drove us the rest of the way (in his electric car so we are minimising our tourism impact!).

We parked up at around 8.45, paid the £1 for parking and then followed the stream of people down the hill to the start. It seemed like such a lovely park, but no time to look around, because as we got to the start area we realised the new runner briefing was already going on. Thankfully the course was simple (out, 1km loop and then back) so it was fairly quick to understand. There were loads of new runners, and we heard in the main briefing that there was a 5k graduation for Running Buddies (hence all the first timers).

After waiting for a few people heading up to the start area (the same thing happens at Ellenbrook) we were off. Dad was running ahead, and so I just enjoyed being out in the woods. The country park is so pretty- loads of huge trees and so many paths through the woods. The route seemed to go gently uphill for a bit, with smaller steeper sections (but nothing terrible) in the loop. There were loads of marshals and they were all very cheerful and enthusiastic. On the way back, there were people heading out in the other direction and that is always fun as you can cheer each other on.

The final part was gently downhill so made for a strong finish. After scanning we heard someone bang the gong so went to have a look – it even had the parkrun symbol in the middle. We were trying (and failing) to get a selfie with the gong in the background, and someone offered to take our photo. I recognised her, and she turned out to be Liz, a bit of a parkrun uber tourist who I’ve bumped into a few times (including at Heartwood Forest) and follow on Strava. As we were chatting I suddenly recognised Mary as the RD, and she had come over. It was lovely to chat in real life, and had I been more organised I would have looked on the volunteer roster to see, as I knew she had worked to set it up.  I then saw the parkrun sign, and decided that a photo in front of it would commemorate the occasion properly- UK parkrun alphabet complete, now all I need is a Z!  (I need another I for my name badge though!) We drove back home where Mum cooked us pancakes. I had offered to go straight home as I am a bit worried about my mum getting the virus (she ticks a few of the at risk boxes) but she was OK with me coming over, so we made sure to stay a long way apart. (Added later- my parents are now isolating themselves so my brother is living with us as he still has to go to work).

Not sure when the Z will happen, especially with all the parkrun countries being cancelled due to the virus. We were looking at booking the Eurostar for the Easter holidays so I could do Zuiderpark (in The Hague- meant to start at the end of March) but I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.

If you need an I, or are fairly near then I would say head to this parkrun – three laps of a cricket pitch/football fields is still a good parkrun, but I am a sucker for one laps, and getting out into the woods just feels so good for the mind.

Are you chasing any challenges at the moment? 

And what do other people do on a Saturday morning?

Plan A/B/C for parkrun! (A visit to lovely Netley Abbey)

For the first weekend of half term, Andy suggested heading down to Southampton. He would get a ticket for the football, I could go to a parkrun, and we could visit his grandma. Sounded good to me. What with parents evening the week before, I hadn’t been out much (3 miles in the tail end of storm Ciara on Monday, and 4 miles on Tuesday) and hadn’t even had yoga as I didn’t get home in time, so I was really looking forward to parkrun on Saturday.  We were staying in the centre of Southampton, so my plan was to run to Southampton common- I’d done that before, so I knew it was doable, and would save faffing with the car and so on. However with another storm on the way (and I am sorry, but Dennis is the Dennis from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to me) I drove, so that if for any reason Southampton was cancelled, I could look at other options.

That turned out to be the right call. On Friday night the cancellations were coming thick and fast, and my list of potential ones was getting shorter and shorter (cancelled: Eastleigh- which would have been by Plan B, Mountbatten School, QE2, Brockenhurst, Havant, Moors Valley, Chichester, Winchester, Lymington Woodside…) and Southampton cancelled too. With the kick off being an early one at 12.30, I didn’t want to head too far away as we needed to check out and get breakfast beforehand. Netley Abbey was my Plan C, and then I think the tourist tool listed as the closest ones after that Whitely, Lee on the Solent and then Fareham. I wasn’t sure if I had time to get to the further ones, so charged up my headphones and decided that if all the closer ones were called off, I’d jut have a run by myself instead. But at 8am Netley Abbey posted that they were on!

I’d got into my running gear and so I could leave straight away. I knew I had to drive over a toll bridge to get there, and had made sure I had enough change to go both ways. However, when I got to the toll booth, I put the money in and nothing happened- a thing was spinning around, but the barrier was down and the charge was still displaying as if I hadn’t paid. I could see my 20p coin in the wheel, but there were no coins in the rejected coins slot, so I put some more money in and again nothing happened. I pressed the help button, but nothing happened there either. I only had enough money with my for one more try, so I reversed out (luckily it was very quiet) and went to the next booth, and thankfully that worked. I was feeling rather stressed out- it is cash only so I am not sure what would have happened if the payment hadn’t worked then.

Driving into the park I saw a fair bit of flooding, but the actual park was fine. I’d been there before with Andy for a lovely walk by the sea (back in 2018), so I knew a little of where to park.

It was very windy at this point, but thankfully no rain. I was only there about 15 mins before the start, and fancied doing a bit of a jog to warm up but didn’t want to miss the first timers briefing ( I think it has lots of different routes) so I just stood around instead. I expected it to be busy at Southampton has around 1000 runners so I thought some of them would head over.

The first timers briefing was nice and brief (3 laps- the important bit!) and it was hard to heard the RD because the mic was broken, so they had to shout- not easy in all that wind! They did mention that one of the golden batons was being passed on, but I couldn’t see it, or hear where it had come from. Anyway, soon we were off and running along, avoiding the puddles.

I noticed once back at the hotel that I had splashes of mud on my face, and looking at the picture I could see one on my nose and chin!

You can see from my Strava screenshot that GPS does not like wind or trees, and I am keeping this as proof that if anyone moans that a course is inaccurate because their GPS was short or long, remember that the only accurate way to measure a route is physically measure it with a wheel. This parkrun was 3 identical laps, and I am very sure I did not veer off at any point! The first bit of each lap felt busy because it was fairly narrow paths with runners further ahead going back on the same path (keep left) and then in the next lap the faster runners were lapping in the same direction, with other runners passing in the opposite direction. The bit by the water seemed wider (and was just one way) but it was so windy, my legs were being blown into each other! I wasn’t fussed about time, but somehow managed mile 2 and 3 with the exact same pace (9:19), finishing with token 203 for a time of 29:30.

I ran back down to the water to take a few photos, and then headed to the cafe where I needed to buy something to get change for the toll bridge (as I’d used up my change on the way).

After buying some tiffin and running back to the car, it turned out that the pay machines were by the cafe. As I was running back to the car the first time a group of runners commented that I had some cake in a box, and as I ran past them the second time (after paying) they asked me what I was doing- I think they thought I had gone back to buy more cake! So I had to explain that I needed to pay and didn’t realise the machines were by the cafe. Although to be fair, there were lots of lovely looking cakes so I could have easily bought more!

On driving back to the hotel I had another fail- I just typed in the shopping centre into Google Maps, because that is where we had parked, but it actually took me into the high street and to the pedestrian entrance, and with no-where to pull over I had to just drive in the general direction and try to work it out. I was doing so well for time, but it ended up being a bit rushed – we walked to Bill’s but they had a long wait, so we went back to the hotel, I had a shower and we checked out, and then went back to Bill’s. Thankfully they had a table, so we had a nice brunch before Andy was off to the football. Their pancakes were huge- normally they are more like scotch pancake sized, but these ones were like side plates! I couldn’t eat all of mine. I went for a juice (carrot, apple and ginger) which was so refreshing and delicious.

While Andy was at the football I wandered around the shops for a bit- I got a few birthday cards and gifts, and I had a John Lewis voucher so bought this cute puffin jumper (makes a change from penguin jumpers). Then I sat in Pret with a cup of tea and listened to some podcasts- much nicer than walking around busy shops!

Once the football was finished we went to see Andy’s grandma before the drive home (which was horrendous- so much rain and wind and wet roads- urgh)- I needed that tea and tiffin when we got home (I shared the tiffin).

Anyway, what a lovely start to half term, with another parkrun visited and brunch out.

Did your local parkrun cancel due to the storms? 

Southwark parkrun and a day in London town

I used the excellent tourist tool to work out which parkrun to get to on Saturday morning. Southwark was not far- a half a mile to the tube, a few stops on the Jubilee line and then a short walk at the other end. When I was running to the tube station, I saw a girl out running and looking at her phone, and she asked me if I was heading to parkrun. She was actually going to Burgess, and I hadn’t looked at that one so I wished her luck (I am no help with maps as you will see later on…)

I found the park fairly easily and had a bit of a jog around as it was really cold that morning, and I didn’t have a buff or gloves or anything. The park had lots of bird boxes and lots of spring flowers peeping through. It seemed very small- it always amazes me how the lapped courses can be squashed into these tiny parks.

The first timer briefing was useful- the course was 3 laps but on the first lap you went to the right of a tree, and the other two laps you went around the left- you can see it on the Strava map. It’s completely flat and on nice wide paths. Just before the main briefing I noticed someone in a Dolly neck-tube (the cat from With Me Now pod) so I started chatting to the guy about touring. The main briefing was really good as the RD got all the volunteers to stand on a mound in a big line, side by side, and this seemed to keep most people quiet and listening. Then we walked around to the start and were off. There were lots of people (479) so the first few metres were a bit congested but it cleared very quickly. The laps seemed to go by very quickly too- I am not usually a big fan of laps. During the second lap the tourist (Matt) caught up with me so we chatted for the rest of the time- he had plans with his wife to go to Canada and Norway among other countries, so we talked about parkruns we had been to, and ones on our list (and how my non-parkrunning hubby needs a bit more persuading to go to places where there happen to be parkruns!). He was an RD at a fairly local parkrun too, so managed his time between there and touristing.

There was an out and back part of the course which is always good as you can then see lots more people ahead or behind. Considering it was a small course there were lots of marshals out too.

I was quite pleased when I saw my splits and I had managed a royal flush negative split- 9:31, 9:22, 9:18, 9:06 (29:10).  That was my 70th different parkrun- it sounds a lot but then there are people who have been to hundreds!

At the end I asked someone to take my photo in the selfie frame, and then headed back to the tube.

That was fine, but when I came out of the station, I must have come out of a different entrance because I was very confused, maps wouldn’t load on my phone, so it was a while before I went the right way…

I also don’t think Strava knew exactly where I was?

Andy had been to Gail’s to get us each a chocolate almond croissant, and after a shower we headed off for a wander around London. We went to Borough Market, then across to Spitalfields, where we bought a doughnut from Crosstown Doughnuts to share late. We then walked along the river, over one of the bridges and to the Tate Modern. We had a late lunch in Leon, then wandered back to Borough market where I could not resist a pink latte from Bird & Blend (made with their red velvet tea).

Once home we made a pot of tea and shared the doughnut- peanut butter with blackcurrant jam. I am not normally a big doughnut fan but this was really tasty.

On Sunday I headed out for a long run. I wasn’t sure how I would feel after the Saturday, as I had totalled something like 33,000 steps, but in fact I felt OK. I did loops near home, as somehow that feels easier than doing one big loop, and also meant if I wanted to cut it short then I could. Once home I did some yoga stretches (including legs up the wall), showered and then had porridge and pink tea (red velvet).

I had some work to do, so I got on with that and then later we headed out to the cinema, to see David Copperfield. Now, I did not know anything about the film- I’d seen a trailer and that was it, and I did wonder for a lot of the film who would teach him magic. (In my defence the beginning of the film is sort of the end, with him on stage about to perform, so I thought it would be a magic show). Anyway, I really enjoyed the quirky style and loved how the characters loved each other.

Do you ever totally get the wrong end of the stick with films? I remember watching La La Land and wondering when the time jump would happen, as I thought  it was set in the 20’s but the beginning was that big traffic jam. Not sure where I got that idea from (possibly just the style of writing on the poster?).  Are you a doughnut fan? I am not usually, but in Portland in the summer we went to Voodoo doughnuts and they were good too.

A winter week in France

On the first Sunday of the holidays I headed out on a run- seeing lots of flooded pavements. I wore my festive leggings for probably the final time of the year. I was also amused by the sign showing where “Ground control deliveries” were going- is Major Tom visiting WGC?

After some pottering and packing we were off to the airport to fly to Nice. Dad had given us a lift and wanted to be home early, so we had plenty of time in the airport. As there was a Leon, we opted for an early dinner, which turned out to be lucky as someone on our plane had an epileptic fit and they had to land somewhere else so she could be seen to be paramedics. It was pretty late by the time we arrived in Nice (as they had to refuel and do some paperwork) so we were glad to have already eaten.

We had a few days in Nice- our hotel was close to the water so each day we had lovely long walks along the coast in one direction and then the other.

There was a Christmas market so we went to that a couple of times, although it was much smaller than when we had been in the past.

It was warm in the day but chilly at night and so we managed to work our way through a fair number of Christmas classics- Home Alone, the original Gavin and Stacy Christmas special, It’s a Wonderful Life, Muppets Christmas Carol, The Snowman….

There was a Chinese Lantern festival so one day we caught the tram out to the park to have a look- they were really impressive.

We wandered around the old town, walked up the steps to the gardens that overlook the sea, and walked around the flower market. It’s definitely a place to mooch around.

I’d packed my running kit so one two mornings had a sunrise run along the coast.

Our hotel had a nice breakfast with plenty of croissants and fruit, and as it was Christmas some little nutcrackers on each table too.

On Boxing Day we flew to Paris as we had a few days booked at Disney. This was trickier as the trains were on strike- we had to get a coach from the airport, which was fine, but our hotel was one train stop from Disney.

In the end we walked it most days (25 mins ish) although one day it poured with rain and we tried several times to call an Uber and they would each get within about 5 mins of us before cancelling! A little frustrating.

The Downtown Disney / Disney Springs/ can’t remember what it is called area had some little Christmas market style food stalls, and the Studios park had a mini Christmas food market too. One of the stalls did fresh crepes, and one day I had one with goats cheese, rocket, honey and walnuts which was just so delicious.

One stall did vegan foods (there were veggie and vegan options elsewhere too) but my favourite thing from it was a hot apple juice with cinnamon- it was so warming. I’d bought a few cup cosies as gifts this year and had also got a couple for me- this is my festive reindeer/Mickey one!

(Andy had mulled wine)

We had an extra day in Disney, as originally we were going to head into Paris on the Saturday to see a Van Gogh exhibition, but with the trains hardly running it didn’t seem worth getting stuck. It was busy, but we had managed to do pretty much all the rides that we wanted to do, seen the parade a couple of times (Disney do produce earworms), seen the projection/firework show (they have silent fireworks which seem like such a good idea) and seen a few festive shows including Mickey’s Swing Band, with a live band, singers and dancers (and Mickey rocking an awesome drum solo!).  There was a new Frozen show which ended up being very good- Olaf was on a screen moving about and talking, with Anna and Elsa appearing on the stage and singing. Plus the decorations are just so pretty.

I had seen on Instagram that there was a big gingerbread house in the main hotel (the one by the park gates) so we went there- it was very impressive and smelled wonderful, but they didn’t have any for sale (unlike in Florida where they sell the pebbles/ biscuits). Luckily one of the stalls outside sold gingerbread so we bought a Rudolf.

It was very very cold! I had packed long sleeved thermal tops, t-shirts and a jumper for each day, but ended up wearing a sweatshirt over my jumper. If there was a queue for the ride you were often inside which was a bonus because you could warm up a bit! We had a fair bit of rain on the first night (luckily it had only started as we were making our way to the exit) and the Friday and Saturday were fairly grey, but on Sunday we had beautiful blue skies and frosty grass- it made everything even prettier.

The only thing that irked me was that the parks are supposedly non-smoking, with signs up and notices on the maps, but this is ignored by a lot of people so wherever you walked you would have plumes of smoke being blown into your face. Anyway, apart from that it was a great couple of days.

We got the Eurostar home, which is so much easier than flights (we just couldn’t do the logistics easily for a train on the way out). We bought a new decoration for our tree which I put on as soon as we had unpacked.

Have you been to Nice or Disneyland Paris? Where is good for a wander?

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.