A few new running routes, a bit of tennis and more new plants

This week has been more tiring than usual. I had a lot to do when I got home on Monday and didn’t finish until 9.30pm. My mum was booked to have an operation and so I was up at 5am on Tuesday to collect her from her house and then drive her up to the hospital. The day was then of course a little stressful as we waited to find out how it had gone (all good so far). I was booked on a course so thankfully it meant I finished a bit earlier than usual. Once home I headed on a run straight away instead of waiting for the 6.30 club run.

I knew there was a park close to the town centre, and by following a dog walker I manged to find this path through it- the Ayot Greenway (possibly another old railway line)-I felt super tired though and so just before 3 miles I headed back. I am sure I can plan a loop (as I am not so keen on out and back routes) as the path does come out onto a road at the other end.

On Wednesday we did yoga outside again. Someone had brought along some large joss sticks and the smoke kept the mozzies away- no bites this week. It was so great to be outside again- it adds another element to the class and feels more relaxing and calming. We did some visualisation work and I find this is really helping me as when I am having trouble sleeping I can think of it.

Usually before yoga I get home and have to plough through work but I decided to chill out and watch some of the tennis instead- with a view of the garden from where I was sitting it started to feel very relaxing.

Our agapanthus have flowered and they add a lovely splash of colour to the patio.

On Thursday I had a meeting after work which didn’t finish until late, and it turned out my mum had been discharged from hospital (and my sister picked her up), so I went to see her on my way home. By the time I got home I decided I was too tired and would leave my run for Friday after work instead.

I’ve not managed to see much of the tennis, but on Friday after my run (I went on a hunt for another new route, and sort of found one, although I followed a path that didn’t come out where I thought it would) and some dinner, I sat down and watched a fair bit of the Murray match- we shared the salted caramel frozen yoghurt (with a nice bit of sauce in there too).

On Saturday I had offered to barcode scan at Panshanger, as we had our niece coming over at 10.15.

They get fairly busy now (300+) so they have taped off an area for the scanners to stand behind.

I have not done that job at parkrun for ages (maybe a couple of years) and I had a few moments where the barcode wouldn’t scan initially, but thanks to some tips from another scanner (a very competent 9 year old who volunteers regularly) it went by without a hitch. It was grey when we started but by the finish there were beautiful blue skies. I treated myself to a chai latte from the coffee van for the walk back to the car, as I didn’t have breakfast before I left (I didn’t want to get up earlier after such a busy week) and I wouldn’t have time when I got home.

After spending time with our niece, we drove up to the fireplace shop- we are hoping to get a wood burner, and we had someone out to knock a hole in the chimney earlier in the week.

We were close to a garden centre so we stopped there to have a look too- I’d been given some vouchers for my birthday but annoyingly I left them at home. I was doing a race on Sunday and that was only 10 minutes away from the garden centre so I decided I would pop in on my way back instead.

I saw lots of butterflies on the plants as we wandered around.

I love wandering around a garden centre anyway, and we found a few plants and made a mental list (which is a mistake, I should make an actual list because my brain is no good at remembering things when I am tired).

I’d been wanting to make this recipe from the Pip and Nut cookbook for ages- strawberries marinated in lemon juice and honey, on top of toasted sourdough and almond butter. In my pack from the WR10k I had a little squeezy pouch of almond butter, and we had some leftover sourdough, some strawberries and even a lemon! The perfect lunch! Incidentally, how annoying are those pouches? It feels like there is so much left in the packet that won’t come out- I’d much rather get a spoonful from a jar.

Mum messaged me after lunch to tell me Dad was on Centre Court, so I watched a bit of that in between baking a cake for Sunday and pottering in the garden.

Later on I found out that my brother had to take my mum into A&E, and as he has to get up very early for work I offered to pick her up- I ended up collecting her at about 10.30pm and while I was waiting no less than 6 police cars with their lights flashing screeched into the A&E bay. The nurse who treated my mum told her there had been 7 attacks on the staff just that evening. What is wrong with people????

It probably wasn’t the ideal race preparation (I was doing a 10k in the morning) but these things can’t be helped.

Are you good at finding new running routes? I do find myself looking to see if there are pavements as I drive, but then once you get off road I have no hope. What do you do to relax when you are busy?

The WR 10K and being less busy than I had planned

On Tuesday night last week we had our monthly 8 mile route planned out (we were going to run it the week before, but it was so hot that we ran a shorter and shadier route, and pushed it back a week). It was raining very hard on Tuesday! When I got to the meeting point we were told we would be running it in reverse- it’s a hilly route anyway, but it would mean the last couple of miles would be gently downhill. Of course this meant we had some beasty hills to run up earlier on.

It was good fun, but the rain got harder as we ran on. Usually we cut through a bridleway for part of it, but a couple of the group wanted to go along the road- we ended up having a race (the bridleway won) and this resulted in an 8.55 mile in the middle of the run! Not too shabby! The last couple of miles downhill should have been OK, but the pavement is right by the road, and under trees, so we were getting sprayed by cars, dripped on by trees, and rained on. I was fine when running but the second I stopped I was freezing and could not wait to get home for a hot shower.

I took a photo as there was mud splashed all up my legs although it didn’t come out that well.

By contrast yoga on Wednesday was inside (more rain) although our teacher did say if the weather was good we could do another session outside later in the year. It was a fairly strong session where we held poses for a long time- some of the lunge poses were very tough on my legs especially after the longer run the day before, and I think I nearly fell asleep in the final relaxation!

On Thursday I had a short run after work, and on Friday I met a friend at The Waffle House for a long overdue catch up.

The weekend was going to be so busy- Wimbledon parkrun with Dad, Crews Hill plant shopping in the afternoon, a meal out with my family in the evening for my dad’s birthday, marshaling in Milton Keynes on Sunday morning, stopping by IKEA on the way home and then possibly visiting Andy’s parents. Although I still had two early starts (not as early at a weekday, but I was still leaving home at 7.30am both days which is not much later than when I leave for work), we ended up having Saturday afternoon at home, and after measuring the things I wanted from IKEA it turned out they wouldn’t fit in my car so we will save that for another day.

I had to report for marshal duty by 8.30am, and luckily it had taken a little under an hour so I had a bit of a wander on the way to the tent.  They asked for a tail runner but as I wasn’t in sports gear (more importantly a sports bra) I didn’t feel I could offer, although as it turned out the tail runner walked the course. I think it would have been good to know in advance as I would have offered to do that straight away. We had to hang around for a bit but soon they asked for people who would like to walk around the course to their position so I headed off with the first group.

We walked the course in reverse and I ended up being on the first point we got to, basically right at the finish funnel, as there was a 5k and 10k option. As the race didn’t start until 10, and this was still before 9, I walked along with the rest of the group. We ended up talking about parkrun, as there is one at Willen Lakes (where the race was)- one guy mainly did that one and another guy was on 300+ total runs and well over 100 different courses- a proper uber tourist!

After getting a bottle of water from the tent (we had been told to have one) and chatting to some of the marshals in the finish area, I got into position.

At one point a lot of geese came out of the lake and started filling the path- I wasn’t too keen on them, but luckily they didn’t come too close to me. There was also a black swan- I have only seen those before in Madrid. I could hear the music playing from the start/finish area so it ended up being a great location with a good atmosphere.

Once the race started I had a bit of a complicated job- basically orange numbers were 5k runners, and they had to do one lap of the lake, so when they got to me I could direct them to the finish. Purple numbers were 10k runners, and they had to do 2 laps. However, people could either drop down or step up to the other distance, and to add to that complication they had run out of one colour of race bibs…. I spent a long time shouting “5 k runners, well done, head into the finish, 10k runners you’re half way there, keep going around”. Initially it was OK but with a race with all abilities (and like parkrun, people could walk the whole thing) there were 10k runners finishing their second laps (the winner finished in around 40 minutes) when there were still 5k runners on their first lap.

At one point a guy watching came to ask me how I would know when to send the 10k runners to the finish- I had to explain that they need to remember when they have run the 2 laps- I can’t recognise all 800 runners!

Once the tail runner came through it was easier as then everyone was being directed into the finish, so someone came out and moved a fence to make it clear (and so no-one could carry on with another lap).

It was really good fun- I love marshaling at parkrun as I just love to cheer people on. I managed to get smiles from most people, although it did surprise me just how many wore headphones (it was allowed as it wasn’t on roads). I am sure some of them heard me but some of them didn’t register anything- a shame to miss the atmosphere of a race.

Once most people had finished, they then had a mile race.  This caused one of the organisers a lot of trouble as he kept cycling around the course trying to find out how many runners were left. I thought the mile was for children, but it was for anyone, and I saw a lot of the people running heading back out (it was £6 and you got another medal..). The marshals all lined up along the main path, and the runners had to run out for half a mile and then back. Although they were running the opposite direction to the main race- it would have been so much easier if they did it  in the same direction as they wouldn’t needed to have waited for so long. Some really young children took part and it was great to see their grinning faces as they headed to the finish.

I do think it would have been easier to have a few more barriers out, as a lot of people were just wandering across the path, totally oblivious to the runners. I was doing my best to warn them (politely of course) but at one point a kid on a scooter nearly took out a runner.

Once the mile race was over we were put to work clearing everything out of the tents, before taking apart the metal fencing and carrying the fences up a mound to be put on a van. This was hard work and my arms and shoulders were very sore the next day. Just before 1pm we were released- given a goodie bag and t-shirt (the sizes were so tiny- I ended up getting a large but the XL seemed pretty much the same size), and we also get a subscription to the magazine for 6 months.

As I didn’t need to go to IKEA, I just came home. It was such a lovely day that we ended up walking into town, down to the lakes, around them and along country roads for about 6 or 7 miles (it’s one of my running routes and although we took a slightly different route through town I don’t think that would cut any off).

Are you scared of geese or any other animals like that? Do you wear headphones in races? Do you like running in the rain?

Womble-spotting (tourism to Wimbledon parkrun)

Originally this Saturday was going to be a local parkrun- my dad will be working at Wimbledon for the next fortnight and usually has one of the international officials (Dorin) staying with them- they were either going to head to Panshanger, where they have run for the past couple of years, or cycle to Ellenbrook fields. However, I had a message from Dad this week saying that he needed to deliver a fridge to their flat (they rent a flat and were in it this past week for the qualifiers too) so would I fancy going with him to Wimbledon parkrun? Well, I am not going to turn down some tourism!

He picked me up at 7.30am and the journey took around an hour, so we got to the car park in the common with plenty of time to visit the toilets (thankfully open even though the cafe wasn’t), and have a little nose through the window at the cafe menu.

There were lots of high viz jackets out on the common opposite the car park, so we waited there for a bit and it wasn’t long before Dorin turned up (he had run from the flat- 1 or 2 km away)- he was wearing an apricot Panshanger top that Dad had given him. A little later three more of the officials came- Mircea (also in an apricot parkrun top) who also knew Dad well, and then Elzbieta and Juan who had been persuaded by Dorin and Mircea to try out parkrun for the first time. Dad had even printed off their barcodes but they had ended up stopping at a hotel on the way and they had kindly printed them off for them too.

Our “before” photo- Dorin, Mircea, me, Dad (he had his apricot top on underneath), Elzbieta, Juan.

There was no new runners briefing – just before 9am the RD stood on a bench and addressed the crowd- it was really silent- I was very impressed. They had a few milestones to cheer (some J10’s, 50’s and then a few people on 300 runs celebrating the impressive but unofficial milestone). They then had a little speech imploring people not to funnel-duck- it is obviously a big issue there (maybe it’s worse at the busier parkruns when the funnels are longer?) as they threatened “bad cop” next week. Finally a lady stood up to say she would be offering a free yoga session on the common afterwards- how lovely.

We then all walked 400m to the start, which faced the way we came- the international crew were at the front of the line (Dorin has run Panshanger in 19 minutes and the other two guys thought they would be at a similar pace), Elzbieta was aiming for 5 minute kms, so headed a bit further back, and I went further back still with Dad- he decided he wanted to run with me which is always good as we have a bit of a catch up (until I run out of breath and then he just talks to me!).

The route was such a lovely parkrun- I thought it would be out in the open but it was mainly through woods on wide flat paths. There were occasional tree roots to look out for (although a lot of them had been sprayed with white paint), and every now and then it narrowed so about 3 people could run side by side, but overall it was pretty perfect. The running conditions were lovely  as it was cloudy and not too hot, but the route was so shady it would be welcome on a hot summer day too.

It was a two lap course and at the half way point they had a guy stood there with a stopwatch calling out times- we were told 14 something which seemed good (I was just hoping for under 30 although I knew I should go a bit quicker as it was totally flat). We did speed up a bit during the second lap, and it seemed to go by really quickly- we thought we had about half a lap to go and I looked at my watch to see 2.55 miles already run.

The finish was where the run briefing was, and Dad decided he had a bit of a sprint finish in him- as he was heading off a guy ran from the sidelines and started yelling (cheering?) at a guy behind me, saying funny stuff like “come on, I’m younger than you/ you can see the finish line, hurry up…”- anyway I was overtaken by the guy storming through- he did a very impressive finish indeed.

The funnel was fairly long and we had to bunch up a bit as just behind us was a big group of people. It’s funny, I always feel like I am near the end as I suppose the crowd thins out towards the end, so I am always surprised when I see the number of people still to finish. My time came through on Sunday morning with 27.46 so I was very happy with that. Position 260/405

There was someone taking photos at the start so I didn’t really take any -I took this one at the end as I collected my bag from the bench- just to show the lovely wide tree-lined path. Sadly I didn’t see any wombles, but I think perhaps the trees were just too thick and they were hiding in there somewhere.

(Note my much redder face in the “after” photo!)

Then, we did something crazy…. we went to the cafe for breakfast! That was my 111th parkrun, my 22nd different UK course, and my first post-parkrun cafe visit! I did sometimes used to get a chai latte from the coffee van at Panshanger, but drinking on the walk back to the car isn’t the same.  Usually if we have travelled somewhere we have headed back as Mum would make us a lovely breakfast, and if I have been away I’ve got something to take back to where we are staying.

I had a toasted teacake while the others had omelettes, bacon sandwiches or full English breakfasts, and it was lovely just chatting away about the tennis, how they had been spending time in England, and of course how great parkrun is. I’m not taking parkrun for granted at all, but it’s lovely to see it from fresh eyes every now and then. They were all so amazed seeing little kids (one finishing very high up) as well as much older people running, and were really pleased to see the park being used for a community event. Juan was so keen and was even talking about buying an apricot shirt to be delivered to my dad, who would then pass it to him the next time they met at a tournament!

We must have been in the cafe for over an hour- we’ve both said we need to try and do it every now and then at other parkruns as it does add to the occasion. We had a fridge to sort out (well, Dorin came with us to help Dad get the fridge out of the car, into the flat and then take the old one back out) and then of course London traffic meant we didn’t get home until nearly 1pm!

So parkrun 111 achieved (I love the symmetry of that number) and my 22nd UK course (also a palindromic number).

Did you used to love the wombles? Do you usually go to a cafe after? (I do love the Panshanger coffee van of course, or breakfast at my parents house). Have you spotted any good running clubs lately? Here had the wimbledon windmillers and I imagined them running with their arms circling constantly, but sadly I spotted no-one doing that. Will you be watching Wimbledon?

Deer spotting but not in a race this time (and a Strava mile)

After going to Maidstone parkrun we first headed to Nymans, a National Trust garden (it kept making me think of Newman from Seinfeld). There were parts of a ruined building there, but it was basically huge gardens which we walked around for ages, getting inspiration (and buying a plant) for our garden.

Rain was forecast but luckily there were only a couple of short showers and nothing to make us head inside.

We then went to Sheffield Park (confusingly in East Sussex) and had another walk around the gardens there. There were loads of ducklings swimming about on the pond.

They also had some huge Californian Redwood trees (including this one that had been chopped down)- not quite like Yosemite but some were 30m high.

Of course we had to visit the tearoom for a bit of lunch, before we drove to Tunbridge Wells. We had booked Bill’s for dinner and had an hour or so before so had a little wander around the shops. I was very excited to see they had a Bluebird Tea shop there!! Of course I bought an iced chai latte (they make it with almond milk and their own chai concentrate plus a little honey and it is so delicious) .

I also bought a few fruity blends as we have been making iced tea at home and running our stock a little low.

I went for Pink Grapefruit (which they had a sample of in the shop- so zingy), Retro Ted (coconut, pineapple, lemongrass and rose), Lemonade and Cherry Bakewell (white tea, almond and berries). Now the problem is- which one to make first?

On Sunday we headed over to Knole park for our final NT place of the weekend.

It reminded me of a cross between Ashridge and Hatfield House with huge gardens filled with people walking and picnicking, as well as a house, cafe and shop. We had a quick walk around the house (I am not so keen on the insides but it is in our pass so may as well look) before having a lovely long walk around the grounds.

Even though the car park was busy we didn’t pass many people as the grounds were so huge- we even walked past a golf course at one point!

While we were walking the sun even came out for a bit.

After a visit to the tearoom of course (we shared some lovely fruit cake) it was time to head back- these deer were right by the car park.

Three more NT place visited- we are going to get value for money from our membership!

We got home at around 4.30, so I decided to give the Strava mile a bash- they are challenging people to run their fastest mile in June. I could not work out a one mile route without any road crossings, but I worked out that if I ran out the back way from home there is a little path through some woods that then runs through a park. You then run out onto the pavement but it only crosses one road, which is a cul-de-sac, so there is less chance of having to stop. I would have to turn around at the end, but I would just run until I heard my watch beep.

I ran gently to the start and didn’t start my Garmin as I didn’t want to have to stop it and save it separately. I tried to look on my phone at Strava to see my recent fastest mile but I could not work out how to find out (my fastest mile is apparently 5.44 which is when my watch got confused as to where I was…). I decided that anything under 8.30 would be good as that is the fastest mile I have run in a parkrun.

It was hot and I felt a bit hungry as we hadn’t had lunch, and I felt like I kept looking at my Garmin while I was running- I hardly ever do this. It always seemed to say around 8.22 which was good. I had to turn around at about 0.75 miles which was annoying as you lose momentum (I tried to take it as wide as I could)- there was an option to turn right at the end of the road but then there are more road crossings and I didn’t know where the mile would end. The final .2 seemed to take ages- I ended up counting to 100, and then decided to run on a bit after my watch beeped as sometimes Strava takes a bit of mileage off my Garmin (e.g. a 5 mile run will end up being 4.9 miles on Strava)- I didn’t want that to happen! Once I felt like I was safe I just stopped and gasped for breath, before very slowly heading home. When I uploaded my time I had run 8.17 which I was pretty pleased with. I don’t think that Sunday afternoon is my best time, but it was the only time I could have managed it before the end of June, and it was fun to have a go.  At least now I have a baseline and something to aim from.

Also, look at this:

I loved doing yoga outside last Wednesday, but I did get bitten on my foot and my leg- the one on my foot was right where my sandal strap was, and it was super itchy inside my running socks (that’s the hotel carpet!)- I ended up heading to Boots in Tunbridge Wells to get some after-bite stuff. It’s only really gone now and that’s a week later! (Although I should not complain too much as some people get a much worse reaction than that)

Did you try and attempt a Strava mile? Do you have some nice parks close by? Do you like a picnic? 


Maidstone parkrun- the first tourist outing of my cow cowl

First up (and this is totally not a complaint) I still can’t claim my 100 parkrun t-shirt (which I earned in March) because they have had issues with stock. I am really not complaining- I would love parkruns if they had no t-shirts, and no-one can complain about getting something for free. But I do look forward to celebrating these milestones. So when I did my 20th different UK course I was very quick to order my cow cowl (an unofficial piece of merchandise to show that you are on your way to 100 different venues)- you can order it once you are on the UK most events table (20+ UK events). I wore it to St Albans (which is really a home run) and then forgot it when I was marshaling last weekend, so as we were off to Kent this weekend it was the first thing to pack!

The start was right around the corner from where we stayed (the Village hotel)- it’s even on the directions! I did check my phone because the road didn’t look like a “real” road- but as you follow signs for the Museum of Kent Life I should have trusted myself really.

The start area was by the museum, which had a few animals (donkeys, ducks, little horses) as well as lovely flowers and a pond.

I kept my eyes peeled but didn’t see any tourists.

The new runners briefing was great- they explained that if you run here regularly they have a little index card box, so you can leave a copy of your barcode inside- it’s by the finish which means even if you forget your barcode, they will have one there. (I’ve passed that idea to Ellenbrook Fields too).

Taken at the end- what a great idea!

The start was slightly downhill to the towpath, then you ran along the towpath for just over a mile, crossed a bridge, ran a little loop of a playground and then headed back over the bridge and along the path. To finish you ran beyond the start, up “a little hill”- (it was little but tough after a flat finish).

They said that the first 5 rows were for sub 20 minutes, and the back was for walking at around an hour, but with nearly 400 people there it isn’t easy to get into finish time order. I wasn’t too fussed about my time- I had entertained going for my fastest mile (the Strava challenge for June) but when I saw how narrow the paths were I left that to another day. It was very stop start because at times it was only wide enough for 2 people at most.

It was very pretty by the river (canal?)- I really enjoyed the scenery. It was a lovely shady route too- the weather on Saturday was overcast but warm, but it would be a good option for a sunny day as it was mostly shaded. We had been asked to keep left, and although I could overtake people one at a time, I kept getting stuck for a while. Soon the fastest runners were heading back in the other direction which meant overtaking was not really doable. The bridge was very weird- it was so wobbly to run over- sometimes it would bounce up and you would hit it sooner, and other times if it was bouncing down it felt like you were falling slightly. I wasn’t a fan. We were told we could spread out once we had passed the tail runner- for me this was at around 1.8 miles. I did manage a royal flush negative split of 10.05, 9.20 and 8.59 because of the ease of running at my pace once it had thinned out.

The marshals were really great- very encouraging and a few of them were in groups so you had an even bigger cheer. They also had a few (3?) photographers out on the course.

This was me coming up to the final hill, having just run past the start. I was wanting to stop right about then! (From their Flicker page)

As you approached the finish the path bends, and on the bend were loads of people (runners who had finished, and marshals) cheering you on. They all know it’s a tough finish.

Then as you round the bend you can see even more people (above- from their Flicker page again)- really great to see.

After I finished and had my chip scanned, I walked back down the hill- I did cheer people past but also got distracted by a little pony in the field.

My time was 29.31, position 208/384 – I was happy to be under 30 minutes.

I also had to have a selfie with the Li’l Sebastian (anyone else a Parks and Rec fan?). I then walked down to the water to take a few photos. Some runners were still going and on my way back the marshals gave me a big cheer (as I was walking)- I thanked them but felt I had to explain that I had already finished and was just taking photos- otherwise they would have got confused over me heading away from the finish and back to the hotel!

I headed back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast (the hotel has a Starbucks in the foyer- iced tea = a lovely post-run drink) before we headed out for the day (but more on that another day).

Do you like out and back runs? I sometimes quite like it in a race as I can look out for people I know further up the field, but sometimes it makes the turnaround point feel further away.