Roding Valley parkrun- fun with the flooded course

At the start of November our club had arranged a little road trip to Roding Valley parkrun- it’s no far from Herts, close to the Essex border, and we originally had 8 of us going. However, the weather was not great (lots of rain) and so only the hardiest 3 of us travelled there in the end. I think you’ll be able to see why!

We drove and had no problems parking in the little car park close to the start- there was a second small car park a few hundred metres further away which also had plenty of space. We did get there before 8:30 (I am happy that others in my club like to be early to parkrun too), but it’s a small event so even on a better week weather wise I think the car park would be OK.

We had seen on their social media that they were on their B course as their A course was flooded, and as we were there early had a little walk along the path to look at all the flooding. It looked like a small lake in the middle of a field, but there is no lake there at all, it was all just flooded fields.

Some of the B+ course, posing with the sign after and more of the deepest bit of water.

The first timers welcome told us they were on their B+ course, and that we would get wet feet. That was very true, but they neglected to add that we would get wet ankles and wet legs too…

B+ course water feature, running next to the flooded fields, a picture taken by a photographer who was there (in all my green glory!) and the three of us by the sign at the end.

The course was just over two laps- an out and back section along the edge of a field, then a loop around fields, past playgrounds and through water. This was repeated, and then the out and back section was completed for a third time before going to the finish funnel.

The out and back bit was fine- muddy fields but nothing too bad. However, once on the loop it became clear that this was certainly the most cross country like parkrun I’d done (and I am including Jersey Farm when the path up to the finish area runs with water like a little river). One part was so deep I was in up to my knees, and I know a few people fell over in it. On the second lap the marshal had worked out the shallower parts and was encouraging everyone to keep right, and that was better (I’d gone left on the first lap). It was fun though- once your feet are wet they can’t get any wetter, and it just felt a bit manic. I was very very grateful to the volunteers for standing around in the cold. Thankfully the rain eased off and stopped while we were running.

The finish token number was not as low as I had expected- more hardy souls braved the weather than expected (I was number 64)- my poor green leggings at the end and then us at the new runners welcome trying to keep warm at the start!

When we had arrived, someone had asked about the purple pop up sign, and it was still in the storage shed. There were lots of tourists (there was a Met Police sports club meeting there too) and so some of the volunteers kindly got it out during the run. I don’t think I have ever been asked to take quite as many photos after parkrun- I must have taken pictures for maybe 5 or 6 groups of tourists. I think everyone very much wanted proof that they had run in such tough conditions.

We had all packed spare shoes and jumpers for the journey home, which were very much appreciated. Of course one you are home and have warmed up, you feel great! Plus my trail shoes had a nice clean in all the deep puddles!

So that was my 105th different parkrun event. I’m gradually filling in the gaps on my map (Roding Valley is between Gunpowder and Valentines, which I have already been to, so it was quite satisfying to join them up).

Clapham Common parkrun- so very very busy!

As mentioned previously, we had a weekend in London and so of course I had a look to see if I could visit a new parkrun. I’ve been to some of the most central ones, and not knowing the underground map it took a bit of time looking at course pages to see one that I could get to via the tube. I settled on Clapham Common as I could get to it from the Northern Line to Clapham Common station (although afterwards someone let me know that Clapham South was nearer the start/finish area and on the same line). After briefly going the wrong way to the tube (Borough station is not that near to Borough market it seems) I got there with plenty of time to spare, and was happy when I came out of the station and saw the Caution Runners signs very quickly. However the actual start area was nearly a mile from the station, right on the other side of the park. There were loads of runners heading in that general direction, but I was glad I’d left plenty of time as I got there just in time for the new runners welcome. This was delivered in a very entertaining way, with an interactive element- the volunteer would say “we have two laps. How many laps?” and we would all have to say “two” etc.

They asked people to line up in order of finish times, although there were not actual signs (Preston Park in Brighton have signs out in the start area which is very helpful), but then when the RD spoke I could not hear them at all- there was so much chatting and despite several runners shouting “quiet” people were just not paying attention. In the new runners welcome they had warned us of roots and low hanging branches, so I was glad I’d listened as I could not hear the main briefing at all.

The course is two laps of the perimeter of the park- very flat but as it was so busy (and with tree roots) not one to aim for a fast time I don’t think. I was there to enjoy the experience, but I think if I was aiming for a faster time I would have been quite stressed as it didn’t even thin out on my second lap. At times it felt like runners were making up their own routes across the park- there would be 4 or 5 paths being created by runners rather than everyone following one path, and I had no idea if I was on the correct one or not! You can sort of see this in the photo above- there are runners to the far left of where I was running, and two other paths on the right of me, as well as the one I was on at that point.

I didn’t get lapped but I did hear the first finisher head in just as I started my second lap. As I got to the finish line, the funnel was full and backing out onto the course (again, I don’t mind this but if you were aiming for a certain time it could be a bit frustrating). I was very surprised that they didn’t have a double funnel, as other events with similar amounts of participants do. On the week I was there, they had just under a thousand people taking part (and if you added in the nearly 50 volunteers, it would have been over a thousand). The funnel was out, back and out again. The guy in front of me tried to let me go in front of him, as it turned out he was with the guy behind me. I just said something about keeping in order, but then as they chatted I realised that it was their first one, so I explained how the barcodes and tokens worked. They then could see why I needed to keep in order. We had a nice chat about the various London parkruns that they could head to in the ten minutes ish that we were in the funnel for!

I did like their token sorting buckets, clearly labelled for each lot of 100 tokens.

Zig zag finish funnel, token sorting and of course the purple sign picture.

I couldn’t hang around after as I needed to get back for the hotel breakfast. We then had a busy day in London, walking all the way to Camden (8 miles), having a late lunch/early dinner at Purezza and going to see the moon exhibition in Southwark Cathedral.

The cup again makes an appearance at Bird and Blend- one day a pumpkin spiced latte and one day an Earl Grey Creme latte (basically a London Fog).

(Not the best vegan options in the hotel so when we saw that Buns from Home did a vegan cinnamon bun I got one to supplement my fruit and yoghurt).

Seeing the moon, and total step count from Saturday!

Junior parkrun marshalling and a trip to Brighton

For the first Sunday in half term I headed off to junior parkrun to marshal. It was such a beautiful day, so I ran the slightly long way there, enjoying all the autumn colours.

Ready in my high viz/ pancakes for after/ my view/ feeling official with a whistle!

A few minutes before there were hardly any runners, but with around 5 minutes to go there were loads of people there. My point was the first spot, so I could see the start/finish area and meant I could have a nice chat with some of the other volunteers before walking to my spot. I always feel very official when given the whistle, but thankfully I didn’t need to use it.

Once finished I ran home and then made myself some pancakes with maple apples (home grown apples from our garden).

It was such a beautiful day that we headed to Panshanger for a walk and of course a delicious drink from Planted Coffee Co ( a pumpkin chai latte). On a side note, at the beginning of the year I bought one of these Joseph Joseph reusable mugs. I have a few others, but didn’t often use them as I didn’t like the drinking opening being uncovered (just imagine all the germs hanging about inside your bag etc). This solves that issue as there is a little flap that closes over the drinking opening, so it’s kept clean when being carried around. It’s not an insulating one, but then I don’t want one for a take away drink- I want to drink that straight away. (I have a Bodum one that I take to work- I make my tea at home and then by mid morning it’s cool enough to drink). Half a million single-use coffee cups are thrown away every day in the UK and only 0.25% of these are recycled which is just shocking. Just picture that amount of coffee cups in landfill every day. I do think that we might need to be forced into this (eg by charging a lot more for the takeaway cups like they did with plastic bags in supermarkets), and I would recommend this if you often get a takeaway drink. I’ll step off my soap box now.

One day in half term I headed up to Letchworth for a walk around (I even saw one of their famous black squirrels) and a visit to Vutie Beets- a chai latte and the fluffiest most delicious pancakes, and time to chill out.

One day I got the train down to Brighton to visit a friend. The trains were not playing ball so I ended up spending longer on trains than I did actually in Brighton, but we managed to fit a lot in- a walk to Hove, a visit to Bird and Blend (there’s the cup again), lunch at Cafe Coho and a wander around the lanes.

I had a few chilled out days with runs in the autumn and plenty of tea (and matcha) at home.

And I was very excited on Friday to be able to join in with the club run, which is a run and then coffee (well, tea for me) after. It’s so good to have social time together and is a great treat for the holidays.

We were off to London for the weekend (including a new parkrun)- coming up next!

Cassiobury parkrun for a 25th!

It was time for another OH road trip, this time to Cassiobury parkrun in Watford for a club mates’ 25th parkrun (hooray for official milestones) and another one completing Queen of Herts (all the parkruns in Herts).

Cassiobury is a super flat and popular course, with several hundred runners going there each week. In the week leading up to it we had had a lot of rain, and so this was an even better option as apart from a tiny bit at the start, it’s all on tarmac paths so no chance of mud.

We were there nice and early, parking at the bottom of the park (close to Daisy’s in the Park- the lovely cafe that I’d been to when celebrating Dad’s 50th event) and then walking up through the field (getting wet feet from the long grass). We met up with the rest of our group and of course had some photos taken by the sign, and listened to the new runners welcome. Even though I’d been there before, I hadn’t been for a while and it’s always good for a refresher. I remembered two and a bit laps, but it was two and three quarters and handy to have a reminder of how many times to pass the finish funnel before heading in.

Beautiful tree carvings at the start, the purple pop up photo, time on my watch (which I didn’t quite believe) and the finish token.

There were 440 runners there that day, but it didn’t really feel busy after the first few hundred metres. Sometimes on these trips we run together, but this time we were all on our own so I decided to push hard and see if I could get sub 29, as I’ve only managed that once this year. I glanced at my watch a couple of times to see I was doing 9-something minute miles, but as I had not worked out a time or pacing I didn’t have much of an idea what to aim for, so just ran on feel. As I got close to the finish I tried to pick up more pace but was surprised by how close the finish funnel was to the edge of the route- I thought I’d have a bit further to go somehow. I was really chuffed to reach the finish line with a sub 28 parkrun!

After finishing and scanning I headed back to the end by the finish funnel to cheer on everyone else, and do some stretches. Once done we were heading back to Shelley’s as she was hosting a little celebration with amazing (and vegan) carrot cake, and a little look at some Tropic goodies. It was such a good start to the weekend, just chatting about parkruns and running.

Delicious vegan carrot cake, tea, parkrun magazine and the 5K app telling me how close I was to a course pb!

When my result came through I was so pleased to have run my fastest time of the year, but a teeny bit frustrated that I was 4 seconds off a course pb! Ah well, I am not sure I could have run much faster had I had known.