Great Denham parkrun- completing Stay in Beds

If you have the 5k app (the purple one) then as well as keeping track of things like the alphabet challenge, you can also create your own challenges. A few members of my running club had started tracking the Bedfordshire parkruns, after completing all the parkruns in Herts, so I added it to my list of challenges. At that point I only had a couple left, Bedford and Great Denham, and visited Bedford last summer.

This April was finally the time for me to head there, as Dad fancied doing some tourism too. In fact my brother even joined us which was lovely, as he often plays football on Saturdays so then doesn’t do parkrun as much as he used to.

I was a little worried about the parking situation, as there is a car park right next to the start, but they ask parkrunners not to use it, as it is used for things like kids football matches, and instead they ask you to use a park and ride car park 1km away. We left a little later than I would have liked, but the traffic going up there was fine, and in fact the walk from the park and ride to the park didn’t take long at all (it was 0.6 miles according to Strava) so definitely a good option. We were a bit late for the first timers welcome, but at the main briefing they mentioned they are trying to get a junior parkrun agreed, but it wouldn’t be if the residents were upset with the parking arrangements, so it is important to adhere to their requests. (If you go to the parkrun page and look at the course map, you can expand the map and it opens google maps, you can then click on the green start pin and navigate towards it)

The course itself is two laps of the park, it’s very flat and all on paths. It was a beautiful day with blue skies, although there was quite a strong wind, which of course you never feel when it’s behind you, but as soon as you turn and run into it, it’s there!

Scenes of the route plus the pop up at the start.

I really enjoyed the route- the park was quite varied with grassland, a few wooded areas, some ponds, and at times you ran past a row of trees and could glimpse the river through them.

I ran with Dad and as usually chat and don’t look at watches while we run (he doesn’t have a GPS watch or anything, and I just press start and stop and that’s it) but he commented that we were going pretty quickly. I think he said more than me in the second lap. I don’t look at splits much but when cropping the route map it was pleasing to see a royal flush negative split (each mile quicker than the previous one), particularly as I felt I really slowed in the final section as we ran into the wind towards the finish line. My time was 28:23 so a fair bit quicker than I have been running recently.

The finish funnel bunting, obligatory token photo and purple pop up picture.

On that note, I loved their finish funnel! It reminded me of Clermont Waterfront, which has flags from around the world decorating their funnel. This one had bunting made from old high viz jackets- it looked so pretty fluttering in the wind.

Photos of my brother with me, and then Dad joined us. I was glad of my sunglasses as my eyes would not have been open for any of the pictures otherwise!

Time for some photos before we walked back to the car and drove home, as Mum was at home ready to cook us some breakfast.

New and old Vonoroi map! Before- that green triangle was Great Denham, and now it’s purple because I’ve been there.

The 5K app also had an update where you can now select Vonoroi when you look at the map of events. This was available if you use the google chrome extension- parkrun challenges- still the original way to track challenges. However even if you have chrome on your phone, it wouldn’t work, but now you can have the fun of looking at the map on your phone instead.

So, Stay in Beds complete, and here are the dates I visited first:

Bedford- 8th July 2023

Dunstable Downs- 2nd March 2019

Great Denham- 20th April 2024

Henlow Bridge Lakes- 27th November 2021

Luton Wardown- 4th September 2021

Houghton Hall- 27th January 2018

Millennium Country- 13th April 2019

Rushmere- 22nd September 2018

(Complete until of course another one starts in Beds…)

Have you been to any of all of these events? Are you as taken as I am with the Vonoroi map? Which challenges are you working on if any?

Holyrood parkrun – what a treat!

I absolutely love going to Edinburgh and have had many happy times there, both with and without parkruns. I’ve been to both Portobello parkrun and Edinburgh parkrun before, and when Holyrood parkrun started it was on my list as I’ve been there to run and it’s just so scenic.

We drove up via York on the Thursday night, and then up to Edinburgh on the Friday. We parked the car on the outskirts of the city (booking a car park space) by a tram and train stop, and then got the train in, so we had not car for the weekend, but you don’t need it as Edinburgh is fab to explore by foot. We were there until Monday so plenty of time to spend in the city.

I’d slightly twisted my ankle the week before so had rested it and tried a few walks, but no running as I really wanted to be able to spend time sightseeing, but also I really wanted to take part in parkrun on the Saturday. My jog there from the hotel was about a mile and a half, and I ran/walked it, enjoying the scenery and listening to a podcast. My ankle felt fine so I was happy that I’d be OK to run rather than walk it (which of course is an option but just delays breakfast!).

Of course once I arrived I just could not stop taking photos. It is such a stunning location with Arthur’s Seat in the background.

The scenic start line and the purple pop up and flag

I was there ahead of the first timers welcome with plenty of time to get photos by the purple pop up, as I was meeting Andy at the breakfast place after so would not hang about too much at the finish.

I had been warned about the elevation- you basically run one lap but it’s a mile uphill, then a mile of flat, then a mile downhill, although you finish slightly uphill again so save some energy for that! The first timers welcome shared that, and mentioned how they encouraged walkers too. It felt very friendly.

Toad crossing signs, the very busy start, the beautiful yellow gorse bushes and the lake at the top

I couldn’t hear anything at the main briefing and didn’t even realise that it had started. I chatted to a local guy for a bit before he stopped to walk, and that was good as it meant I didn’t set off too fast. I’m used to courses with undulations (Panshanger and Jersey Farm are both up and down courses) but running a mile uphill is very different to short up and down sections. As it was curved you couldn’t see the next part of the course and I kept thinking that it must be the top, but no, it kept going. It was however absolutely stunning. The forecast rain had stayed away, but with the darker skies it looked even more dramatic. Once at the top the course went around a lake, so up ahead I could see all the runners reflected in the surface. Then the downhill started- I got overtaken more there than anywhere else. I’m not the best at steep downhill anyway, but with my ankle I needed to be even more careful. I just loved the views- if you looked to the left and slightly behind you could see the sea, you could see all the monuments on Calton Hill, it was all there.

I was so happy to be running again after a week off, and then the views on the downhill section

Once finished I got a few more photos before heading to breakfast.

Purple pop up pictures

There were 445 participants that day- it’s a popular one but after the first part it thinned out quickly so it can take that number of people.

You can see the elevation below- they have a chart on the FAQ section of their facebook page too- be prepared!

After the photos, I ran/walked to Loudon’s where Andy had booked us breakfast- he was walking from the hotel and met me there. They do delicious vegan pancakes so of course that is what I had.

Then we had a wonderful few days in Edinburgh. It was super windy (up to 50mph) due to a storm, so all the gardens were closed, as well as the botanical gardens, and we didn’t think a walk up Arthur’s Seat was advisable in that weather so spent more time in the centre instead, going to a museum, visiting Bird and Blend and of course enjoying all the amazing vegan food options available.

A windy walk in Edinburgh/ sunshine in the park/ pancakes at Loudon’s

It was coming up to Andy’s birthday so the Buttermint matcha was something he chose for a birthday treat.

Black Rabbit vegan cinnamon and Biscoff buns (heavenly), Bird and Blend matcha, the amazing tea chest in their store, and our purchases!

All in all, a fantastic weekend in Edinburgh. I’m so glad I got to experience Holyrood parkrun, it really is special because the scenery is so amazing. Definitely one to add to your list if it’s not already on there.

For me it was parkrun 353, course number 111, my third Scottish and my third Edinburg one!

Is Holyrood on your list?

Medina IOW parkrun- the parkrun with the most courses?

For the Easter weekend we were off to the Isle of Wight, and hooray, there is one parkrun on the Isle of Wight (Medina IOW), so guess where I’d be on the Saturday morning!

Now, Medina IOW is known for being a bit rogue as they seem to have many locations and many courses. I did email the team to check, as they are not that active on facebook, and it says to check the news page for the current location but I could not see anything referring to it on the course page. The team were very helpful at replying, telling me that the current course page was correct. It definitely was correct for the location, but see below for what I thought I was running:

And then compare it to what I actually ran:

Slightly different! I did think it was strange that there was no mention of a second lap in the first timers welcome, but then I thought I must have remembered the course wrong.

Anyway, back to Friday- parkrun preparation included eating lots of delicious vegan food in Cafe Thrive (in Southampton), having a walk around the park while Andy was at football, and then getting the ferry over on the Friday night. I know some people would do the trip in the morning but I would be quite stressed by that, plus you had to be at the ferry terminal an hour before, and it then takes an hour, so that’s an early start.

Delicious salad for lunch, hot cross bun cookies, chai latte and a magnolia in the sunshine

The Isle of Wight is pretty small, so although our hotel was on the south of the island, and the parkrun was back where the ferry docked, it was only around a 20 minute journey in the morning. Andy came with me as we had our eye on a breakfast place after, close to the parkrun start.

Finding the parkrun signs is always a bonus! The briefing area by the leisure centre, the purple pop up and a tree covered in blossom by the finish area.

It was such a beautiful spring day with beautiful blue skies. I ran through the park and was happy to find arrows and the finish area quickly, but everyone seemed to be heading up to the leisure centre, and this was where the first timers welcome and main run briefing were held before walking to the start. The main briefing was a long one, with the ED playing a song from the olympics over a tannoy to inspire everyone with their run, and then there were many thanks and milestones and other arbitrary things. By the time we had walked to the start line it was nearly 9:10 so messaged Andy to let him know we were about to start, as I thought he would wonder otherwise, (although he had no phone reception so he didn’t even get my message).

The route started with a lap of the field, before heading along the river for an out and back section, and then retracing your steps around the field again. It was pretty flat, but the section by the river had very uneven ground (which we were warned about in the briefing)- the path had been created with the hexagonal plastic grid sheeting, and filled with gravel, only most of the gravel was gone so you were running on the edges of the sheeting, and it had cracked in places so you had to look carefully at all times to check your footing. I would have preferred to have my trail shoes on as they have thicker soles so are easier on ground like this.

The out and back section was narrow and we had to keep to one side as other runners were already heading back. Once the tail walker had passed it was OK to overtake runners when needed, but it was a busy course, a bit like Maidstone where you feel like it should be fast because it’s flat, but it isn’t really because of the number of people. I did like that it had such a welcoming atmosphere and lots and lots of walkers as well as runners. As it was the Easter weekend, lots of the volunteers had various Easter hats or bunny ears on and we were even offered sweets at the finish line.

After the standard purple pop up selfie attempt, when someone usually takes pity on me and offers to take my photo, I walked back to the leisure centre to get my jacket from the tarpaulin of trust, and then walked back through the park to meet up with Andy and to get some breakfast. Although he hadn’t got my message, he realised that he hadn’t seen any runners go past for a while so had worked out it had started late.

So that was my 110th different parkrun course, and 352nd parkrun overall. It was very enjoyable and if I ever decide to work on all the parkruns in Hampshire (Champshire?) then I have one of the more difficult to get to ones ticked off.

Acai bowl, the port, pancakes and a Mermaid matcha

We went to Peach Cafe in Newport- a vegan cafe with lots of delicious options and amazing looking cakes on display. We shared an acai bowl and pancakes topped with scrambled tofu and smoked coconut (I think meant to imitate bacon), plus a matcha and some tea. I was very excited to see that they served Bird and Blend matcha- especially Mermaid matcha which has been discontinued. It was really good, but it was fairly slow service and I was sitting there staring at the pastries the whole time, so I ended up buying a chocolate hazelnut croissant to have later- maybe that’s their tactic?

Views of the coast, posing by the needles, NT tearoom and more coastal scenes

The weather was beautiful so we headed over to The Needles (along with everyone else- we sat in a queue for the car park for around 45 minutes)- we enjoyed a long walk along the coast and up to the lighthouse and were very excited to find a National Trust tearoom still open as we hadn’t had lunch. They were doing hot cross bun scones (their fruit scones are vegan and the guy checked and these ones were too) so of course we had to get those.

We stayed until the Monday so it was good to make the most of going there and seeing lots of the island, which is definitely my preferred way of parkrun touristing- I’d like to be somewhere that happens to have a parkrun, or go to a parkrun and then spend time there seeing what else is there. I think we definitely visited most of the vegan cafes on the IOW while we were there!

Does your local parkrun have different courses? St Albans is trialling a new one at the moment as the lake is so often flooded, and Panshanger has a “cow” course for when the cows are in one of the fields, but both of these start at the same place as the regular courses do.

Twin Lakes 10 Miles 2024

OH ladies running club is 10 years old this year, so we have been joining in with lots of events to celebrate. One of the chosen ones was the Twin Lakes 10/20, a 10 (one lap) or 20 (two lap) race around the lakes of Milton Keynes. I’d not done it before and really like the 10 mile distance so I signed up. It’s ideal for anyone marathon training as it’s a supported long run, and they let you drop down to the 10 if you’ve signed up to the 20 as well.

I was hoping it would go OK, having run the Brighton half at the end of February, but in fact I’d managed one 9 mile run, then I’d been ill so had missed a week, then we had a weekend at Disneyland Paris so no running then either- not ideal race prep! So the plan was to not even look at previous 10 mile race times, just run on feel and enjoy the route.

Catherine, an OH runner, had signed up to the 20, so I travelled by myself as I thought I’d want to get home after running rather than wait for another loop. The navigation there was fine (it’s where Willen Lakes parkrun is) but I found the parking app a bit stressful and it took me about 10 minutes to get it sorted. You had to pick up your number on the day, so I had allowed about an hour before the start to get my number, visit the toilets (there are real toilets rather than port a loos) and eat a cereal bar for breakfast. After the trouble with parking, the bathroom queue was already quite long so I opted for that first and I am glad I did as it was much longer when I came out. Picking up my number was quick, and it was so cold so I sat in my car to put the number on and eat my cereal bar. With about ten minutes to go I thought I should have a look for Catherine, and managed to bump into her at the start.

I am not kidding when I say it was cold- I was actually shaking because I was shivering so much. I was so glad I had taken my gloves with me, and originally was going to keep my jacket for after but kept it on as I don’t mind running with it around my waist. We were given a standard race briefing and then told not to fall in the canal because we might get weil’s disease (I mean I don’t think anyone plans to fall in a canal…) and then we were off. Within minutes I’d put my buff around my neck rather than carrying it on my wrist as the wind was just so chilly.

Run views, my number in the warmth of the car, and Catherine and me at the start.

The route claimed to be flat, but in reality it was not flat like a road race, with lots of little slopes up to bridges that were short and steep. The second half was along a canal- it was narrow (we were warned not to fall in) and the ground was so uneven with lots of large chunks of tarmac missing so you had to watch your footing carefully. At one point I was just thinking that it was a miracle that I hadn’t fallen over, and then came around a corner and saw that a runner had fallen. She had several people with her but she was really wailing. There were lots of marshals out on the route so she would not have been far from a checkpoint but I felt so awful for her, particularly if she was using this as a training run for a marathon- hopefully she was OK.

I did take off my jacket for a bit as I warmed up, but the wind was cold so at times I would then get a chill from being sweaty and then the cold wind blowing. I’m never sure what the best option is clothes wise for this sort of weather.

The other tricky part of the canal was that it was so narrow it was not good for overtaking or being overtaken. At times I could hear runners coming up behind me, and I’d move as far to the right as possible, onto the grass if there was some grass, but the runners going past were very close to the water. Every now and then it would widen as we went under a bridge, so some people would go then, and a couple of times I went past runners then too, but it wasn’t easy to run at your own pace.

The wheel at the start/end, the canal, the finish in the park and then a medal pic

I really enjoyed the scenery of the run, and it was a sunny day which helped, but overall I found the route quite tough and by the end I was feeling really tired. We had a small detour around a flooded patch of path and I stopped to take a photo, and this was probably less than a mile to the finish and I would have happily not carried on. The poor 20 mile runners had to run through the finish arch to begin their second lap- something I would have found extremely hard to do. I was very glad I was stopping at one!

At the finish they were announcing your name, and then I was very happy to see Mel (an OH lady) handing out the t-shirts. I’d opted for a tree not tee (I LOVE it when races offer this) but all the finishers had to walk past the t-shirts before getting water, so we had a brief chat. I then saw another OH runner (Anna) finish just a few minutes after me. I had thought more of them were coming, but didn’t know if people had dropped out. It turned out that some of the “fun club” runners (they run at 6am together) had all travelled up together but as they had no space in their car they didn’t tell anyone. I was glad I’d happened to see them as I would have been strange to find out after that they were all there. Anyway, we had a nice chat after before I had to get back as my car parking was about to run out.

Random tankard, medal and tea, medal, and cereal bar

The medal was lovely, although I do feel like a fraud as it had 20 on it but I only did 10! We did get the most bizarre memento- a plastic tankard with a shamrock on it, and some “sports lotion” (anti chafing cream maybe?), but also a delicious (and vegan) Tribe bar.

On the drive I’d passed a Starbucks, so I was going to head there on my way home for a cup of tea, but the internet was not working on my phone at all. I was in the car trying to load up maps and nothing worked, and as I didn’t have long left on the car park time either in the end I just had to drive out. Then I went the wrong way and had to do a million point turn at a dead end, before seeing signs for the M1. The signs had taken me a different way and so I didn’t pass the Starbucks on the way back which was a shame. I had brought warm clothes with me and in the car park had quickly taken off my t-shirt and put on a dry one, and a jumper, but I was cold and thirsty so ended up stopping at the services for a tea. Side point- I know lots of people love Costa, but it is my worst coffee shop- their plant milk is rank first of all (although sometimes they seem to do Alpro coconut which is good) but they are just so slow. I do not understand how they are so slow in every branch. Seriously how long does it take to put a teabag in a pot and pour on hot water? They don’t need to boil a kettle or anything. So you can tell I was desperate as I stopped there!

Then it was time for a shower, lunch, and then time to chill in front of a movie (Wonka) which is the best way to recover from a race!

Do you like the 10 mile distance? Would you like a lapped race?

Gladstone parkrun- parkwalking

My friend Branka was keen to do Gladstone parkrun, and when I looked at the route and saw all the photos, it was added to my list too as it is in a very pretty park.

The day we chose to go was the day before I was running a 10 mile race, and Branka was going to parkwalk, so I decided to volunteer as parkwalker as well so we could walk together (and I could not be tempted to run the day before a race).

I am not sure if anyone had done that role there before- it wasn’t on the roster for the weeks before and I couldn’t see any photos on their facebook page for example, and it did take a bit of emailing to hear back from the team.

We arrived nice and early to am empty park, and ended up chatting to a couple of tourists for a little bit, as they had on some With Me Now gear too. Once the event team turned up, we got our bibs, and then I had a rather disappointing conversation with a marshal, who said to me “you’re not going to walk really slowly are you?” She continued to be negative about walking at parkrun, basically saying it was ridiculous that people were walking and not running, and that if people wanted to walk they should go to one of the health walks held on other days in the park, and that if people were walking to get fit they needed to walk quickly. I said something to her about how parkrun are encouraging walkers, but she then decided to walk to her marshal point so the conversation ended then. The RD was really welcoming, and I didn’t want to bother him with that issue at the time as he was very busy sorting out everything to make the event run smoothly. It did really surprise me, and I think if I was new to parkrun it would put me off. I have been going long enough and have enough confidence with it to know that I can walk, but I could see how one comment like that would put off someone from ever returning.

The first timers welcome continued in that theme a little, with the person telling us about how they have some of the fastest buggy runners, and VI runners, mentioning a few records, and then the main briefing was super quick before we started.

The park is really pretty, with lots of lovely tree tunnels, views of the Wembley arch, various art instillations and memorials. We had a lovely time walking together, and were not the only ones walking. On the second lap we chatted to one of the marshals who wanted to know about the bibs we were wearing. She said she had an injury and couldn’t run, but would like to walk, so we encouraged her to volunteer as a parkwalker- hopefully she will on future occasions.

There were a few marshals still out on the second lap, but also some of them had gone- we could see a few up ahead and had to follow them, and work out where we were. It isn’t the easiest course as you can see above- a sort of butterfly shape but there were plenty of path intersections to cross. We were ahead of the tail walker the whole time, so this wasn’t good as the marshals shouldn’t stand down until the tail walker has passed.

Even when we finished there was still no sign of the purple pop up, so we had selfies in our parkwalker bibs and then one by the Gladstone park sign instead.

An enjoyable 109th different event, and definitely a memorable one!

Selfies without the purple pop up to prove we were there!

I did enjoy the course- it was undulating and would be tough to run, but none of the paths seemed super steep and none of the hills went on for too long. I did email parkrun HQ about some of the issues so they said they would contact the team.

Breakfast catching up on the live t-shirt reveal, my new giant cup and a picture of the parkwalker bib from Gladstone facebook page (my collage cropped me out but I am there!)

Once home I watched With Me Now live as they unveiled the new v1000 t-shirt (a With Me Now yellow colour!), having tea in my newest DLP purchase, the biggest cup ever!

Visiting B&B, pizza for dinner, mega latte and the Moonwalkers

Then we were off to London for the afternoon, to visit Bird and Blend (a vegan creme egg mega latte was mine!), but mainly to go to The Moonwalkers, a brilliant show/ experience about all the people who have walked on the moon, narrated and produced by Tom Hanks.

Do you walk at parkrun? Have you been a parkwalker?