A Christmas Day parkrun and other festive going-ons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mile End parkrun and a Bluebird surprise

Originally I was going to head to Fulham for the parkrun there (cross referencing the parkrun tourist tool with the tube map made my eyes go funny after a while) and had some lovely helpful directions from the friendly folks on the parkrun tourist facebook page. However, when I started to look into train times, it turned out that because Putney Bridge (the nearest station) was past the split on the District line, the trains weren’t very frequent and it all got a bit complicated. So I went to Mile End parkrun instead- still on the District line (we were staying right by Blackfriars, on the same line) but in the other direction and before any splits which made the journey easier.

I allowed time to miss my train and to get lost in the park, so I was on the platform at about 8.15am- there was not one other person on either platform, it was quite spooky!

Thankfully the parkrun was very easy to find- I did write out the instructions (and which tubes I would need on the way out and back) on a post it note, but pretty much as soon as I came out of the station I could see the edge of the park. It has a cool feature of a green bridge (a bridge with the park on top, so the park can carry on past the road), and as it’s a long thin park it just meant walking to the bottom of the park.

Despite it being fairly mild on Friday, it was really cold on Saturday morning and I was wishing I’d brought my gloves with me. Also, when I first arrived there were only a couple of volunteers and no runners.

It was damp and misty so you couldn’t see the tops of the tall buildings/ the green bridge/ a Change 4 life poster/ my instructions

At around 8.50 runners started appearing- I guess that most of them walk or run so you can get there as close to 9 as possible. Randomly a lady came up and chatted to me- it turned out that she used to live in Harpenden and used to run the St Albans parkrun- such a small world! The RD did a very friendly new runners talk and then there was a very festive briefing (reindeers and dogs on a short lead please…)- he had a whistle which he blew to get everyone listening which I quite liked!

The route was two laps, although as you can see it was more like out, around a little lolly-pop shape and then back again. As the park had a divide in the middle of the paths (I think to divide the cycle path to the walking bit) and you kept to the right, it meant that the faster runners were kept away from everyone else. Although it’s pretty flat, you did run up over the green bridge and another incline, but it was a very fast course. I wasn’t sure how I’d do, but I ended up with a fairly speedy time and nice mile splits of 9.34, 8.57, 8.35 and then 7.55 for the final sprint!  Whether it’s always a fairly speedy one (the tail walker was running when I passed him) or it was just that one I’m not sure, but I finished with 27.55 and I was nearer the back, 91/131 – my 36th course (I think – hard to scroll up and down with the list of events now).

As my Nan was from that area of London, I decided to donate my time from that parkrun for the ARUK charity (there’s a link in the results email).

I was really cold, and I had a few mins before my train so I popped into Starbucks for a warm drink to take on the tube with me. I am not normally a fan of Christmas music but they were playing The Muppets singing the 12 Days of Christmas which I do approve of! Andy had been out for a walk and got us a cinnamon roll for breakfast, so after a shower it was time for another wander in London. We’d seen signs for Christmas by the River, but that turned out to be a few small (and expensive- £6 for mulled wine!) stalls. It was still very misty- you couldn’t see the top of The Shard.

We had decided to avoid the crowded places, so after walking by the river for a bit we got the tube up to Angel. Here I somewhat ruined Andy’s surprise by commenting that I thought there was a Bluebird tea shop in Angel now. We had a little wander and then “happened” to come across it- this was a bit of a Christmas surprise for me (whoops). Although to be fair it was still a surprise as I had no idea where it was and that we were going there. Andy let me choose some tea (I went for the vegan Snowball tea which is black tea with coconut, chocolate and vegan marshmallows) and then of course had to get myself one of their amazing tea lattes.

On the map, Finsbury Park didn’t look that far (where we needed to get the overground from), but in reality it was about 2.5 miles, so after that and walking back from the station to home we felt we had earned an afternoon on the sofa.

It was too hot for the fire so we just had some candles on instead. First up was Home Alone (such a classic) and then it was time for the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special. It’s nearly 10 years old now, but there are so many little touches that epitomise a British Christmas.

I also made my version of the Gail’s bakery Christmas bun (it’s like a cinnamon roll but with orange peel and almonds and dark chocolate and all sorts of good things)- using a basic cinnamon roll mix and then sprinkling the dough with a few chocolate chips, orange peel and a few leftover chunks of marzipan. As it can be left overnight to rise in the fridge, it’s perfect to make ahead, so I put it into foil tins and have frozen the others for another day.

On Christmas Eve we started off with a cinnamon roll, pot of tea and fruit for breakfast before heading over to St Albans. We had a few bits to look for (mainly I wanted to get Andy some whisky chocolates which kept being out of stock each time I went in), and I had a voucher for The Pudding Stop and thought I might buy our Christmas pudding from there. We parked a way out of town and walked in, aiming for a long walk around the park and lakes too, but it was so cold and I’d not even brought gloves with me, so it got cut short. Sadly when I asked, the puddings weren’t vegetarian (they must use beef suet), so we came home, had some soup to warm up, wrapped up more and then went on a longer walk near home.  Of course after all the fresh air we could spend more time watching Christmas films- A Muppet Christmas Carol (while we had some tea to warm up), and then after dinner It’s a Wonderful Life and The Snowman- more classics.

Which Christmas movies do you like to watch? Which London parkruns do you recommend (especially if they are easy to get to..)? I feel like as London is so close I could really visit a few more- Fulham is on the list but I think I’ll be doing it once Dad is back running again.

The first few days of the holidays including a trip to London town

So the first thing I did was have a run on Wednesday morning- of course! I could actually go out in the light (just about). When I got home I did 30 mins of the yoga “homework” (along to the soundtrack of Muppets Most Wanted) while I waited for the water to heat up. I couldn’t linger too long as I was meeting a friend for breakfast at The Waffle House. After breakfast we walked up through the park to have a look at the (teeny) St Albans Christmas market. I spotted a few more of the nutcrackers.

I have some of those decorations made with dried oranges and cloves and things, and there was one stall that sold them, and also little bottles of refresher oil. I have added a few drops of orange oil to mine before ( as they are a few years old) and as the oil was on sale I decided to get some as it is a mix of the different scents. On my way home I popped in to see Mum and Dad, and then once home I decided to put the oil onto the decorations. It came in a tiny bottle (just like the essential oils) and so I assumed it had a dropper (and how many times have I said the saying “to assume is to make an ass of you (u) and me”?)- wrong call. There was no dropper, so I basically poured half a bottle all down the Christmas tree. As I’d already put presents under the tree I had to kick them out of the way (nothing breakable- phew) and then spent ages mopping it all up and wiping it off the tree. Argh! The smell was so overpowering I had to open the porch door!

On Thursday I had a slightly longer run in the morning (6 miles maybe), and then after a bit of pottering at home (er, watching Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas while I did some wrapping as our box was down to 7% which was making Andy anxious) I walked into town as I was having my hair cut. I didn’t really think it through- the appointment was at 1.30 and it takes a good hour. Andy’s parents were coming at 4pm, and the walk home is around 30 mins. As I’d left at 12.30 (I needed to go to the post office first) I hadn’t had lunch, so by the time my haircut was finished I was really hungry but also needed to walk home before they arrived. I could have bought something in town but that would have added more time, so in the end I had a couple of crumpets when I got home at about 3.30- just in time!

I’d made these mincemeat slices in the morning so we enjoyed a piece with a cup of tea (basically it’s a base from a caramel shortbread, topped with mincemeat, apple, flaked almonds and marzipan hearts)- very tasty.

On Friday I finished decorating the Christmas cakes and walked around to the local shop to get photos taken for a passport.

I went for a penguin theme this year- I used cloves for the eyes so they look a bit like they are wearing star shaped sunglasses!

Then we walked into town to get the train into London. After leaving our bags in our hotel we walked over to Covent Garden and enjoyed looking at all the Christmas lights. We had a lovely Christmas hot chocolate (with nutmeg and cinnamon) from Host coffee in Covent Garden, before walking to Trafalgar Square and along by the river for a bit.

After a quick dinner in Leon it was time for the main event- Hamilton. We’ve had tickets for what feels like ages, and seeing the recent Curb series has just added to the anticipation.

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It was brilliant- I am glad we didn’t listen to the soundtrack before we went as I think that would spoil the story and surprises. The performers were just amazing- it’s pretty intense dancing that they are doing fairly constantly. Anyway, well worth the wait.

Although we live close to London (25 mins ish on the overground, then either a drive or 30 min walk back from the station) it was so nice to be able to go a few stops on the tube to the hotel. Of course, this meant I could visit a London parkrun too, but I’ll save that for another day.

Do you like going to see shows? I think the last one I saw was The Book of Mormon.

A frosty parkrun, a trip to London, water troubles and some Christmas prep

On Saturday morning I was up early (scraping my car because I hadn’t put the car cover on because the weather didn’t say it would be frosty…) heading to parkrun. I was going to go to Westmill, as I fancy running it again (plus Wonky Bear was going to be there) but then Dad told me he was marshalling at Ellenbrook so I went there to see him.

It was so cold- a lot of parkruns nearby had cancelled due to ice, but as Ellenbrook is mainly on grass it went ahead. (Also, one of the regular volunteers got some salt to put down on the start/finish area). The tarmac taxi-way which is the start and finish route was sparkling in the sunshine, so it was a case of taking it gently. Some of the route was really hard to run on- about half way around you run back on a path again, and a combination of not much foot traffic plus a shady route meant that the ice went across most of the path still. They had added extra marshals on the route to warn people and had told everyone to not aim for a pb.

As I ran I kept looking out for Dad- all the marshalls were wrapped up like Michelin men so sometimes I was quite close before I worked out it wasn’t him. I ended up running with Donna (my lovely run leader from the club) and I ended up wondering out loud to her if he’s not made it in the end. He ended up being the very last marshal, 1km from the end (just before the runway started)- all the marshals give loud cheers but it was great to see him. Once I’d finished I put my jacket on and walked back up the runway to see Dad.

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I wrote in the frost (this made my finger go numb…) as it was still so thick everywhere- Ellenbrook even set this as their cover photo.

By the time I got to the end, the tail walker had gone past so we walked back and had a little chat before heading back to the cars to warm up. I was freezing! I didn’t get home until much later than usual, and I was so cold so I decided to have breakfast (and more importantly, hot tea) before a shower. We had toasted hot cross buns with the  lemon and ginger marmalade that I’d made a few weeks ago (to test/quality control it before I gave the rest away as presents)- luckily it was very tasty.

As well as the standard long way walk into town, I finally got around to covering the Christmas cakes in marzipan, as well as having a mammoth present wrapping session.


On Sunday I headed out for a run in the morning- still a week after the snow, the shady and less walked on pavements are still pretty icy. I was going slowly and concentrating on the ground, until at one point I needed to run under some trees. I was looking up as some of the branches looked broken and as if they would fall any moment. Of course the moment I looked up I landed on some ice and skidded- luckily I caught myself before I fell.

On Sunday evening we headed into London to see Idlewild- they were doing a tour of an album that was released 15 years ago (I feel so old!). It was at Koko (formerly the Electric Ballroom in Camden) so we just got the tube in. I wasn’t feeling that inclined on the way (normally it’s PJ’s on by 9pm on Sunday nights) but as soon as they started playing it was all worth it.

On Monday I headed home quickly after work to squeeze in a quick run and shower as I was heading out for dinner with the girls from Andy’s family. On my run I’d had to hop across a huge flood as a water main had burst. I reported it on the website when I got home, as it was flooding the road too. My good deed didn’t get repaid though as I woke up on Tuesday to find we had no water in our taps. If I turned them around to hot, a little came out (obviously some left in the tank) but no normal water. I was so glad I’d had a shower and washed my hair the night before! Weirdly it was a different water main that had burst (maybe frozen pipes?) close by.  I had to clean by teeth by dipping my brush into my glass of water from the night before. It did make me think about how we take water for granted.

Them, finally it was the end of term. I usually have a meeting after work on a Tuesday, but as it was the last day we didn’t, so I’d booked a massage. I headed into town and had a little wander, and then a drink in Starbucks. There are nutcrackers all over St Albans at the moment so I hunted for a few of them. The massage was very well needed (as I was told by her at the end) with a few painful knots to be sorted, but mostly it was the sort of good pain (not really pain- more like relief) to get rid of all the crunching when I move my shoulders. The lady I see always has lovely scents going on in the room, and this time was a very festive mix of peppermint and orange, which on paper sounds strange (flashbacks of my mum making me drink my orange juice after I’d already cleaned my teeth because she was worried about scurvy) but in reality was really uplifting.

Do you feel ready for Christmas now? 



Decorations, afternoon tea and a running talk

Last week we put up the Christmas tree and decorations- above are a few of my fave.

I even wore my Home Alone jumper to properly get into the festive spirit!

On Wednesday I got out my other festive leggings and wore them to yoga, as it was the last one of the term. The room we use had lovely fairy lights strung up (as well as the lights in the garden on) so it looked so cosy and inviting. Instead of a normal class, we had a few sequences to work through, as last week we’d asked for some yoga moves to work on during the holidays. After the class, Josie emailed us the moves which had a few warm ups and then a selection of poses (according to what we would feel like we need at that time) and then cool down sequences. It’s so useful and I am going to set a reminder on my calendar so that I do them a few times a week.

On Thursday after work we had afternoon tea at a local hotel with our team. In the entrance hall was the most amazing gingerbread village. The tea was lovely (although we did have a bit of a faff with the bill as at first they hadn’t taken our deposit off, and tried to charge us a higher price). We had a little secret Santa and the person who bought for me must know me so well!

Apparently because he’s wearing green, and a big hat, it’s basically a mini version of me!

It was a bit of a rush as at 7.30 I had to be at a school a mile or so from home, for a talk by Ben Smith (the guy who ran 401 marathons). The afternoon tea was at 4.30 so I thought I would be fine, but I didn’t end up leaving until gone 6.30, and then a 25 min journey was a lot longer due to traffic- I just had time to park the car and visit the bathroom before we were off out (we walked). The talk was organised by a local running club, so when you got there, as well as a mug of mulled wine (included in your ticket price and probably the number 1 reason why Andy agreed to come along- 2 for him!) they had loads of amazing looking home-made cakes for sale. Alas, I was too full from the tea to even contemplate any. The talk was so interesting though- I knew a bit of his background (the headlines really- that he was bullied in school) and I’d heard him on Marathon Talk, but I didn’t know a lot of the background. Well worth a visit if he’s doing a talk near you. The running club were the ones who organised the race that was cancelled last weekend- they had said that they were going to donate the entry fees to charity in memory of a runner who had died, which was a lovely idea.

Last Friday we had Christmas Jumper day at work (although as many people have pointed out to me, every day is Christmas jumper day for me in December….). I wore my Joyeaux Narwhal jumper as it is the most Christmassy (and not a penguin in sight).

I did, however, add to my winter jumper collection- Dorothy Perkins were having a big sale (something % off everything, I forget how much) and I could not resist another penguin jumper (you can never have too many penguin jumpers) and then saw these robin jumpers too. I shall be wearing them in January too, just because. (Also, the package was thrown over our side gate into our back garden because no-one was home- I am hoping that the only reason it got thrown over was because they thought it would be clothes and nothing breakable, but still…)

It was very nice to have a Friday night at home- the last few weeks we’ve been heading off to a Christmas market or something, which of course is good, but it was lovely to know that once I was home, I didn’t need to go anywhere else.

Do you get into the Christmas jumper spirit?  Have you got your decorations up?