My cow cowl, garden centre visits, unhelpful sales people and local parkruns

The timeline for my blog is all over the place at the moment so I shall just get it all out in one go. First up, in Edinburgh we had a bit of time for a mooch around the shops. Lululemon and Sweaty Betty are close to each other, and I wanted to have a look for a summer yoga top. I have a winter one which I got from SB- it has a band around the waist so when you are doing inversions it doesn’t ride up- I do not want to flash my stomach to everyone in the class. Anyway, it has elbow-length sleeves so it is too warm for now. I have tried a few vests and t-shirts- trying to tuck them in bit they always some un-tucked and I leaves me feeling uncomfortable and not focused on the pose as much.

I had looked online and seen a few in SB but I also wanted to look in Lululemon because I just love their clothes. With help from the salesperson I found a vest and a hoodie but remembered I had a voucher to use online (and not much space in my rucksack) so I left it. In SB straight away one of the salespeople wandered over, and when I explained what I was looking for they told me they didn’t have any. I found one, but couldn’t be bothered to try it on. Back in St Albans a few days later, I headed into the SB there, and the salesperson pretty much told me the same thing. I then found two different styles of tops that had the waistband (despite being told they had none…)- I tried them on but they were way too long so it was no good.  I really like the top I have from there but the people in the stores just put me off.

While I was in St Albans I popped into a cook shop and added to my baking collection. I have a great brownie tin and I sometimes double recipes but then I have to use different sized or shaped pans which makes it harder to judge timings. I found one but it was too long, so the lady went off to check, saying she might be able to order it in, but then ended up finding one in the back. I also got a square pan (and then wondered after if I should have bought two of those too). At least I have a photo now so I can refer to that if I need to.

Running and yoga for the last couple of weeks has not been going that well. While in Scotland we did a lot of walking and I seem to have bruised my heel- it’s fine all day but then by the evening it gets a bit sore, so I have missed a few runs to try and give it time to heal.

I did a short run on the Thursday after we got back, did parkrun on Saturday (but felt really sick at the finish line even though I hadn’t gone fast). I did the London 10 miles on Sunday, then rested on the Monday. I missed the club run on Tuesday, going out on my own for a few miles instead, and got caught in a massive rain shower close to the finish- I tried to take a photo to show how soaked I was but I didn’t come out that well!

Wednesday was lovely yoga- I am starting to see a little more progress which is great (I can get my forehead onto the floor in child’s pose now which is probably the norm for most people but for a person as stiff as a board it is great).

On Thursday and Friday we had a couple of long walks in the evening instead of having a run.

On Wednesday this week I was on a course which finished early, so on my way home I stopped off at a garden centre. It was lovely weather and I took my time wandering around- it’s always such a calm place to be.

Our garden had no lavender (which surprised me- I thought everyone would have it) and I have wanted to get some for ages so I bought a couple of them plus a hollyhock and a poppy.

I then had a good hour outside pottering in the garden, planting them up and doing a bit of weeding.

St Albans parkrun at the start

This week on Saturday my car was having a service in St Albans, so I dropped it off on Saturday morning, ran the mile to parkrun, and met my dad there. My cow cowl had arrived earlier in the week (you can buy one when you are on the 20 UK events table) and at first I thought it was for when you are being a parkrun tourist, but on the facebook group I was told it could be worn at local parkruns too, as then tourists will know to come and chat to you.

It was a hot morning and so busy (400+, which is now small for St Albans)- it’s on narrow paths so it did feel very busy. We finished in just over 28 minutes after picking up the pace- it’s three laps and on the third we had had enough of looking at the lake, even though we did see goslings and coot chicks. It was nice to go back (St Albans was where I started parkrunning) but once a year is good enough. The trouble is more and more keep coming so balancing time with local and far away ones gets harder.

It was very hot and even though I wore the cowl on my wrist it wasn’t ideal summer attire- maybe I need to tie it to my top or something. The lady who was bar code scanning spotted it and we briefly chatted about touristing, so it does work!

Dad took me back to theirs so I could have a shower (I’d taken a rucksack with me)- Mum cooked pancakes filled with raspberries, mango and creme fraiche, before Dad took me into town to collect my car. (I was about to get in the shower when the phone rang- I very much hoped that the lady calling from the garage could not tell that I had no clothes on!)

On my way home I drove past Bunnings (which used to be Homebase and has caused much excitement among the people of St Albans)- we tried to go once before but it was queued out onto the road. This time it wasn’t so busy so I popped in and bought a few more plants- a couple of tiny lavender plants to go into the ground, and a poppy.

After ploughing through my work on Saturday afternoon, I had a bit of time to do a bit of planting before I had to walk into town for a hair cut.

Also, look at who visited one evening! This was only about 8.30pm but it’s so light now, so I could see two of the fox cubs so clearly. They were watching a pigeon on the fence and it was very funny to see them jump when the pigeon flapped about.

On Sunday morning I wanted to make a cake as Andy’s parents were coming over later, so we walked around to Morrison’s to get a few ingredients, and you may have guessed it, bought yet more plants. They actually water their plants (unlike a lot of supermarkets) and so they had a lot of shoots on them. We also had a voucher so we got about 3 plants free. We then spent more time in the garden lifting out some huge lumps of granite that were in one of the flower beds, and then filling in the holes with the new plants.

Huge rocks!

It may not look like much but we added two poppy plants, two lavender plants, a clump of agapanthus, and two fox gloves (they had seeded themselves into pots). Hopefully there will be a lot more colour here soon.

Do you tend to always go to one parkrun or do you have a few local ones now? Do you like sales people who come up to you or ones who hang back? I don’t want to be pounced on as soon as I come into a shop, but I do like a bit of help without feeling the pressure to always buy something. Do you like buying plants? I find garden centres very calming and I get tempted very easily (as you can see!).

London 10 miles- deer spotting in Richmond park

As I have mentioned on here before, I was kindly offered a place in the inaugural London 10 mile race, in Richmond park. I have been to once race before (a women only 15k race) and I had a bit of trouble getting home- I couldn’t find a bus stop, my phone was running out of battery, I ended up spending £20 on a taxi to the nearest train station, then the trains were delayed. Anyway, the London 10 mile offered some parking spaces, so I decided to avoid the public transport hassle and drive myself in.

I had to get there a bit earlier as my pack hadn’t arrived- the email helpdesk was very helpful and told me they would have spares on the day, but it meant that when I got stuck in traffic for a bit (and I had checked before I left and it was clear then) I got a bit frazzled- I am not the biggest M25 fan.  One small thing I would say is that the postcode of the car park wasn’t quite correct- it wanted me to turn left at the end of the road, but I could see a queue of cars heading into the park so after dilly dallying for a bit, I joined the queue. It turned out to be right, but I think they could benefit from some big signs saying “Sheen Gate car park” and some arrows, as probably if you are driving you are not going to be local to the area.

Anyway, after parking I walked the short distance through the park to the race village. It was a lovely sunny day and I was glad I had put on a lot of sun-cream.

The event village was great- it had a real buzz about it and had loads of food stalls (coffee and cake, churros, even things like a champagne van) and a kids play area. Lots of hay bales were strewn about for the picnic in the park after. I quickly was given my new pack, and after putting my number on I enjoyed the scenery in the park and took my time heading to the start pen (which was right by the edge of the event village).

There was a map of the route but it meant nothing to me- I was just glad we finished in the same place (the last one I did ended in a different part which just added to the complications).

In the starter pens they spoke about the awful events from London that happened the night before, and held a minute of silence for the victims and then applause for the first responders and emergency services. It felt very emotional and of course was observed by every person there.

There was a bit of a delay (not sure why) so I didn’t start running until about 10.50 (it was meant to start at 10.30)- as I didn’t have all day that was a little frustrating, but these things can’t be helped.

Then we were off! I missed the squirrel high fives as I was busy looking for deer (although as they were by the start/finish I did get a high five on my return!) and all along were signs with different facts on them- how many deer were in the park, how old the trees were etc. The mile signs had little sayings on them- they reminded me of the quirky signs at the Brighton Bright10.

I had no aims for time- I wanted to enjoy it, and I had told myself if I saw some deer I would stop. I stopped a lot!

Some were further away but these were right by the path- as they were in the shade they were well camouflaged and I think a lot of runners didn’t notice them.

It was a very warm day and so I stopped at most water stations ( I missed the first one, only noticing it as I saw other people with cups)- I had eaten my breakfast at around 7.30 before driving in, and hadn’t had anything since then, so I knew I should have a few sips each time. I particularly liked the station that was encouraging people to throw their cups into the digger instead of all over the floor. I had bought a headband with me (like a sweatband) but as I was wearing my visor I ended up wrapping it on my wrist. When I stopped for water I dipped the band in the water and this helped to keep me cool as I could then rub the band on both my wrists while I was running- I didn’t want to splash my face in case I washed my sun-cream off.

At one point someone next to me said “hi Maria”- he was a St Albans Strider (a local running club) and recognised me from parkrun. I am pretty sure he has volunteered at the same time as me but I couldn’t quite work out when. It was nice to see a friendly face and we had a little chat before running our own paces.

One of the signs told you to look up and wave to the tree surgeons-they were hanging in the tree above one of the steepest hills!

I think a lot of people felt they needed to keep running but I was happy to stop and take a photo!

There were a few photographers out on the course too- some by the 5 mile marker and some at the end. I actually tried a jump but that one didn’t come out!

Near the end there was also a truck hooked up to a water mister thing- that was lovely and cool to run through.

More deer- of course I took more photos.

The course was more hilly than I expected, and in the warm weather this made it tougher. At around 4.5 miles they had a water and clif block station, so I had one of the blackcurrant ones (they got me through my first marathon)- it perked me up for a bit. I saw more deer but again I think so many runners didn’t notice them as they were too focused on the road.

Fairly hilly and you can see each water station I stopped at- the smaller stops are the deer spotting points

As this event was in partnership with parkun (some of the entry fees went to supporting it) I was totally surprised when the 7 mile sign did not have a “just a parkrun to go” on it. I mean, doesn’t everyone think that at races now? I did comment this on their facebook page so perhaps they will add it in for next year!

Running towards the finish there were lots of people out spectating, with some funny signs (“You are amazing (your name here)”- stuff like that), and as there had been kids races there were lots of children with their medals watching too. I was glad to reach the finish line.

My splits were all over the place due to the hills, stopping for photos and walking through the water stations. I really enjoyed the scenery though, and the whole event had a good atmosphere- friendly and encouraging.

The medal was rather nice too- a good chunky one, and the colours on it went with my parkrun apricot vest.

I was handed a goodie bag, picked up a bottle of water and then wandered around the events village. I got a text through right away with my time (1.47.00)- very impressive seeing as my pack hadn’t arrived, so while I had been running someone had manually changed my registration to match my new number.

I knew I needed something to eat before driving home, but I didn’t fancy much (and after parkrun on the Saturday I had felt a bit queasy and I didn’t want to feel like that driving home)- the goodie bag had some pop chips and a clif bar but I didn’t really want either at the time. I saw the most hipster thing- a smoothie stand where you got on a bike to power the blender.

They did a raspberry one with lime and something- it sounded zingy and refreshing so I went for that one.

I then wandered back to the car (I even saw more deer), wiped my face and put a nuun tab in the remains of my water before heading home.

The traffic wasn’t too bad and I got home at 3- I had to have a quick shower and then had a bit of late lunch as we were heading out again at 4- a busy day!

So, what did I think of the race?


Lovely scenic and traffic-free route through lovely park lands

Lots of deer to spot

Signs to keep you entertained en route

The event supports parkrun

10 miles is a great distance

Lots of water stations and marshals out (and they use cups which I know a lot of people don’t like but I much prefer it as it is less waste and more environmentally friendly)

The race village- well organised, well set out, lots of choice of food and drink stalls plus activities for children

The event photos are free (they are based on chip time and not your number which means you get a few without you in them)- they were ready to download on Tuesday

Did I mention the deer?

To improve:

Better signs for the car park, and improved directions in the race pack for using public transport

Send the race packs out a little earlier- it seemed that lots hadn’t arrived (and it’s a small gripe but it means I have to use safety pins instead of event clips so then I get little holes in my top)

You could buy a technical t-shirt (I saw a few people wearing them) but I do think that it could be included in the finisher’s pack- I know they have other costs but a lot of the local races I do are less than £15 and you get a technical t-shirt, so it can’t add much to the cost.

They also started a little late, and I would prefer an earlier start anyway rather than the 10.30 official start time as it means I am finished before the hottest part of the day, but that is just down to personal preference

Would I do it again?

I might, if other people I knew had signed up. I love the distance, the route was pretty, it was well organised and not too expensive for a London race. For me, Richmond park isn’t the easiest place to get to, and it did mean I spent a lot of the day in my car. I also find running in the summer more challenging, so I was happy to run it at a more relaxed pace (which would be good with a group of friends).  I often do a local 10 mile race in July but this year signed up for the 10k instead and as I was running I was very glad that I didn’t have another 10 miles to run in the summer. I don’t think it would be a course to push for a pb but it was really enjoyable. I also love the ethos that they support parkrun.

Do you like the 10 mile distance? Have you run in London? Do you like to visit things like food stalls after a race or do you tend to head straight home? Do you wear your parkrun top to races? I usually wear my club vest but it is black so I thought apricot would keep me cooler. I saw a few others but thought I would see more.

*I was given a place in the race in exchange for a mention on my blog. I bought the car park ticket and also donated some money to my local parkrun in lieu of the entry fee. All opinions are my own.

A little jaunt around Scotland

I used to travel up to Scotland a lot when I was younger as I had a friend who moved up there, but I had not been for years. For some reason we have now been twice in less than a year!

On Friday we flew up to Edinburgh from Stanstead- as we were hand luggage only this meant not too long at the airport and not too much stress once through security (as we landed there was a fanfare over the tannoy system announcing how good Ryanair were at being on time).

After parkrun on Saturday morning (see previous post) we picked up the car and drove to Pitlochry, where we would be staying for a couple of nights.

Saturday- we park in town and have a wander. Check in to B&B. Walk into town a bit too late and get caught in torrential downpour. Discover that my “shower-proof” pack-a-mac is not waterproof in the slightest. All restaurants full so end up eating chips from a chip shop under the awning of a shop.

Sunday: We did some lovely walks around the town, around some different lakes and forests, including getting slightly lost for a bit in some woods, and finding some stone carvings.

Pitlochry was a lovely little town- it was all very walkable and we could walk down into the centre from our B&B. It had plenty of lovely cafes and even a John Muir centre (we are more used to seeing things about him in the US National parks). We saw a salmon ladder, although it was too murky to see inside if there were any fish. It was so warm we even shared an ice cream.  As it was so busy the day before we had booked a meal for the Sunday evening (I had veggie fajitas which came with the most enormous pile of sizzling peppers, onions, courgettes, mange tout etc.).

Monday- Of course we went to a distillery. We were heading to Fort William and this one was on our way. Initially I was going to drive the hire car on this day, but it was too expensive to add another driver, and we found lots of the distilleries did driver packs where you took sample bottles away. Bonus for Andy- he gets mine too!

We stopped off in Aviemore for a wander and lots of people had recommended this mountain cafe, run by someone from New Zealand. This was a falafel and beetroot sandwich and it was so huge- each slice of bread was the thickness of two normal slices! Andy had a flatbread with chilli haloumi in it, which was equally as huge.

Their cakes had come recommended so we bought some lime and blueberry cake for after dinner, and a chocolate, plum and almond scone (*).

It was still fairly overcast and we didn’t want to get to the B&B too late so we didn’t stay much longer- I think if we were to visit again there would be some lovely walks nearby. We then drove to Fort William and after checking into our B&B had a walk beside the water. We were both so full from lunch that we had a bit of fruit salad, and then shared the cake.

The view from our room

Tuesday- It rained. Oh, how it rained. We had a lovely breakfast (cinnamon porridge) and took our time as it was just raining and raining.

We drove out to one of the visitors centres, and after being told off for not having walking boots (even though we told the lady we were only there for one more day, she told us quite seriously to drive back to Fort William and to buy some walking boots), we found a walk through a forest to Signal Rock.

It actually stopped raining for the walk, so we enjoyed the views and fresh air (the midgies, less so).

Just as we were nearing the car park the rain started, and as we got into the car it was torrential yet again. We drove out towards the coast for a bit in the hope of passing the rain, but it seemed fairly set in, so we headed back to Fort William as there was a little museum there. We mooched around the museum for a bit, had lunch in a lovely little cafe, wandered around the town a bit more and picked up a little picnic tea. We drove to the canal to see Neptune’s staircase (8 locks)- so we walked up one side and down the other.

There was even a teeny bit of blue sky.

We had a little picnic with these views, and I got out the scone * for us to share after. Sadly, it turned out to be some sort of cheese scone, and not the plum and chocolate one I had asked for- how annoying!

Wednesday- we had a long drive back to Edinburgh so left early. I took a few photos as we were driving- it was so scenic.

Once we returned the car (which took 35 minutes because there was one customer in front of us and no other members of staff, and this customer was being a right pain) we had a few hours to wander around Edinburgh.

Blue skies!

More blue skies!

We were going to go out for lunch as we wouldn’t be back until after dinner time, but it was so sunny we got some picnic bits and sat in the park.

It was so peaceful and a lovely end to the holiday. We had time for a bit more of a wander around the centre before we got the bus back to the airport.

Now, we just had to go straight through to security, and at Edinburgh they have the big body scanners. I was randomly selected to go through one, and I made sure I had nothing in my pockets, not even a hairband (I was stopped before and then had to have a proper search because it called up an anomaly which turned out to be a small hairband in one of my pockets- they are clearly very sensitive). On the screen it shows where the anomaly is and it was my hair! After having the pat down I had to turn around and the lady had to lift up my hair and pat it down too! That has never happened before- I do really need a haircut though!

Our plane was a bit late landing (no fanfare this time) and we got home at 9pm- the good thing about going away for only a few days meant that unpacking only took about 10 minutes!

Have you ever been to Scotland? We are already planning another trip for sometime next year. Do you like more active holidays? 

Edinburgh parkrun- 20 in the UK completed! (And maybe have a plan B)

Last Friday we flew up to Edinburgh- we were picking the hire car up before 1pm the next day so I had enough time to get to a parkrun. We went up to Edinburgh in October and I went to Portobello parkrun, so I decided to head to a different one, Edinburgh parkrun, this time around.

Edinburgh parkrun is 5 miles north of the city centre. It’s along a prom (no road) and it was a bit hard to work out exactly how to get there. It seemed there were buses that went to somewhere called Cramond, but depending on the bus you would be either a 10 minute walk or 2.5km away, and so I decided to take an uber instead. I got it to take me to the end of Marine Drive, which was perfect as that road was on the coast and looked down onto the prom, so I could see people heading to the start area.

In Scotland they start at 9.30am, and the new runner briefing is at 9.15. As I arrived earlier I had plenty of time to take photos and spot tourists- I even saw some Harpenden Arrows (it turned out to be the weekend of the Edinburgh marathon so there were lots of tourists for that).

The finish funnel had loads of flags flying, and there was also a parkrun van. There was a speaker playing music- it was great.

I loved this info board too- so many parkrun facts. There was a pacer chart so if you wanted to finish in a certain time it told you your km splits, and a board of statistics about the parkrun.

After some milling about it was time for the briefing. Now this was comedy gold and I really wish I had filmed it.

From the Flickr page photos

The guy running the briefing (who did something for parkrun Scotland- he mentioned doing all the Scottish parkruns in one weekend, and all the Irish ones- something I know Tom Williams has mentioned on MT before) was the most enthusiastic person. His briefing lasted the full 15 minutes, and included audience participation (quizzes about what he had just said), a selfie with the runners and running into the crowd and checking that people actually had their barcodes. At one point he spoke about being well hydrated, and then grabbed a doughnut water bottle from someone, and had a mini rant about being able to last for more than 30 minutes without having water, and then he threw the bottle over a barbed wire fence into the next field. He then encouraged others to do the same. It was all very funny but also a bit bemusing! He did of course mention the rules, and the course (but it was an out and back, one lapper, so very easy to explain), and he also talked about the history of the event, being one of the first in Scotland and the first in Edinburgh.

At 9.30 on the dot we walked to the start for the main briefing- lots of people reaching milestones which is always lovely to hear. It was also mentioned (not sure which briefing) that children should be encouraged to take part for their own enjoyment and not pushed beyond their means. I totally agree with this and really loved that they emphasised it.

The course was beside the water so I enjoyed the views. It was super sunny and very warm, although on the way out we were running into a breeze which helped to cool it a bit. I stopped briefly to take a photo as it was just so lovely.

From Flickr

The course had a bit of a lollypop at the turnaround point, and then the breeze was gone. It was so hot I was wishing I had worn a headband/sweatband, as sweat was pouring into my eyes and stinging them.

From Flickr- I did a thumbs up at the photographer but not as extreme as the lady behind me!

There was a cafe along the prom and there was a staff member very wisely shouting things out like “get your bacon rolls here/ hot coffee in the cafe” and they had even written things like “cake” on the pavement with chalks. As it was so hot on the way back someone said to him “a cold drink please” so he then started shouting “ice creams, cold drinks” etc.

There was a photographer out on course (at the 1k and 4k point) and there was someone snapping away at the finish line too, where the course peeled away from the main prom under some trees.

I finished in 28.01 which I was pretty pleased with (although I did think I could have got sub 28 had I not stopped for a photo!). I like to finish in under 30 minutes but as it was flat and no laps I should be a bit faster really.

My Ellenbrook fields vest is now my parkrun tourist wear (I have a Panshanger t-shirt but now it is too hot for t-shirts).

I walked back to the road and watched the last few runners heading along the prom.

Then, things didn’t go so well. I looked on the uber app, and it told me there were no cars available, but I could book one for a later pick up. I booked one for a pick up between 10.30 and 10.45 (it was around 10.20 I think by the time I had scanned my chip and walked back to the road). Not too bad I thought. I had the email confirmation, so I just had to wait. Each time I looked at the app, it told me “allocating your car”. I had brought a long sleeved top with me (I tied it around a fence near the start) so I put that on as the wind was making me fairly cold. At 10.45 I had a notification saying my pick up was cancelled as there were no cars, so please try again. Argh! I then looked and there were no cars. I  was messaging Andy as we had to check out at 12, but also pick the car up before the hire place shut at 1. It was a bit stressful. I was going to look at where the bus stop was (in the other direction from the finish line though) and I opened the uber app one more time and saw one car nearby. Thankfully I managed to get it (book it?), but as it was finishing another drive nearby it didn’t pick me up until gone 11am. I was so thirsty and quite hungry by that point but I could not risk popping down to the cafe to buy something in case I missed the pick up. There was a little roundabout so I was waiting just beyond that as it didn’t seem a sensible place for a car to stop. As I was waiting a couple walked to the roundabout just as my car pulled up, so they went to get in it! I panicked even more here, so I ran towards it and asked him “are you for Maria?” (I knew it was as the registration matched)- I was so relieved to get into the car and be on my way back. I got back to the hotel at around 11.30, so it was a very rushed shower and a short blast on the hairdryer before having some breakfast (Andy had been out on a walk around the town and got me some).

I really should have had a plan B! I prefer when I can run there myself- this was 5 miles away but in fact if I had run back I would have arrived sooner- I’ll know for next time!

But, it was very enjoyable, and now I am on the UK most events table, having been to 20 different UK parkruns. I ordered my cow cowl yesterday, so hopefully it will arrive before my next tourism (we are going to Kent at the end of June so I am aiming for Maidstone parkrun that morning, and I need to plan with Dad to visit the last couple of Hertfordshire parkruns too).

Are you a fan of public transport? Have you been to Edinburgh? Do you like to visit different parkruns? Have you ever forgotten your barcode? (Quite a few people in the briefing had forgotten theirs)