Church Mead parkrun for my 300th!

Over Christmas I realised that my total number of parkruns was creeping up, and my first one in January was going to be my 300th. I have an agreement with my dad that we’ll celebrate all the arbitrary milestones (as it’s going to be at least 5 years until the next official one between us now), and so I requested a new event. Church Mead started up last year, in Amersham, around a 45 min drive from St Albans, so doable in a morning, and it was finally time for us to head there.

The weather was not very inviting- pouring rain and strong winds- we were quite pleased that the start sign was visible from the car park. We had to walk along a very short path from the car park to where everyone was assembling. It actually wasn’t too bad once we got out- we sheltered from the rain under a tree before the new runners welcome took place (along with very enthusiastic volunteer children rounding us all up).

The course is two laps, muddy and very hilly. We were warned of so called chicken sh*t corner being particularly muddy that week. It does make me chuckle when event teams have names for various parts of the course.

You start off right by the car park, so we walked back to the start together once the run briefing had been carried out. After a shortish flat part we were soon heading up the hill, and my, this is some hill. It just kept on coming- after a mile we were still not at the highest point of the course! After most of the hill was done, the runners headed into the woods- this was also tricky ground as there were big flint rocks half covered by mud and leaves, so it was hard to see where best to place your feet.

Once out of the woods you headed back down the hill on the other side of the field, along the bottom and then back up the hill for the second lap. If I had not been trying to keep up with my dad I definitely would have walked on the second time going up that hill, but somehow we kept on going.

As we headed downhill it felt like we were running into the wind and rain, but then on the uphill of course you can’t feel the wind helping at all.

I was surprised to get token 24 when I finished as it felt as though there were more runners ahead of us. I think we did overtake a few people on the way up the hill the second time around, and I suppose the rain kept a few regulars away.

We had to head back quickly as my parents were having some of their friends around, so we head to speedily get back, shower and change before breakfast. We did have time to thank the RD and also have a quick chat with someone who went to parkrun for the first time that morning- in that weather and with that course it was not an easy first visit!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day parkruns!

It’s always a bonus at this time of year when we get more than one parkrun each week. As Christmas Day fell on a Sunday, it meant that we could do two in a row if teams put them on.

My chosen pair of parkruns was Jersey Farm on Christmas Eve, and then Panshanger on Christmas Day. Panshanger feels like a tradition for Christmas Day for me now- it’s the only one I’ve been to on Christmas, both running and volunteering. I can run there from home so it’s perfect to not have to worry about busy car parks, traffic or things like that.

The weather played ball on both days, with sunshine on Christmas Eve. I forgot to take a photo of my finish token, something which is a bit of a habit/superstition with me (for example, if they have an issue with results I can then at least know whereabouts I finished). The text came through though so I needn’t have worried.
After breakfast at my parents, I headed off to pick up Andy as we had ordered some buns from the amazing vegan cafe in Letchworth (Vutie Beets), and they were shutting at 3. A gingerbread bun was enjoyed in front of some classic Christmas movies (Home Alone).
The three of us trying to do a selfie, running through the woods on the way, at the end, and my barcode pic.
I wore my Christmas hat on Christmas day but it was really mild and I was too hot- I basically carried it and then put it on for a photo at the end! It marked the end of the Run Up 2 Christmas challenge. I managed 140km in the end, which included some walks (I started tracking walks in the snow as I couldn’t run). Our team did really well as we didn’t have a huge number of members. I really enjoyed this, as sometimes at this time of year going out for a run isn’t that appealing, but you know you will feel better for it.
Back to parkrun, my Dad and brother met me at Panshanger which was lovely- nice to run around with them and enjoy the bonus parkrun. I’d run there through the woods, listening to my Christmas Spotify playlist and generally feeling very cheerful.
Once home and showered I had a Christmas Day bun while watching the With Me Now, including an appearance of PSH!

I also had a look on the app and appear to have achieved single-ton (100 visits to a single parkrun) but in fact this includes volunteer visits, so I have 13 runs to go before I officially achieve this. (The app is great but the running achievement chrome extension is the only one with “official” challenges that I will count).

After all the runs leading up to Christmas, I had a few days off running. We had a lovely walk another day with my parents and were lucky enough to see a kingfisher for ages (diving into the water, sitting on reeds and even on the fence). My mum took this amazing photo of it- the colours are just so beautiful.
We watched Glass Onion (thoroughly enjoyed it) and generally chilled out. Plus the final bun (chocolate orange). It’s probably a good thing that the cafe is not closer to home!

We were off to DLP for New Year, so no parkrun double (or even single) for me over that weekend, so that marked the end of 2022 parkruns for me, and what a great way to finish the year.

Snowy runs and St Albans parkrun repeats

On the 10th December I went to St Albans parkrun with Dad. I had realised that I’d not been there for about a year, and was keen to try out their newest route. It was the first parkrun I did, and it used to be out along a path, 3 laps of the lake and then back. For a long time it’s been on the alternative course, laps of a field, because of flooding by the lake, but they have created a course that takes in the lake (confusingly, still 3 laps but not like the old route at all).

It was a frosty and beautiful morning- some of the lake was frozen, the grass was covered in frost but with bright sunshine so it just looked amazing. One of those perfect winter days.

My hands were so cold- I took my gloves off briefly to collect my token but that was it. It really was freezing.
The Sunday was just as cold, and my long run was another freezing but beautiful run, although this time under cloud rather than gorgeous winter sunlight.
In the afternoon I popped out on a walk to collect some greenery for making a wreath, and saw holly leaves just draped in frost. We also put up our Christmas tree.
On Monday I woke up to loads of snow, meaning work was closed (well, we had to set online work). I made the most of being home by heading out on a run at lunch time as I knew that I would not be running before work on frozen pavements on the following days. Of course I made a snowman in the garden too- I am sure that is a rule?
I could not get over how much snow we had! Back in 2021 we had some snow on the Sunday night, but it was all gone by the Wednesday. This was still around the following Sunday, and of course unless pavements had been cleared they were really dangerous. We attempted a few walks in the week but that was not easy as the pavements were so slippery. (We do own a snow shovel and had cleared our driveway and the pavement in front of our house on the Monday, but I appreciate that not everyone can do that).
One day I went out on a lunch time walk as the snow was not as bad there. I spotted some cool Christmas postbox toppers!
(Snow on my Monday run, Stitch Christmas cup and my wreath)
Snowy St Albans parkrun and our garden a week after the snow, all the cancellations on the 5k parkrunner app, and Christmas gear on at parkrun)

On Saturday 17th December I was meant to be heading to Letchworth parkrun for a meet up with the Herts branch of Vegan Runners. However, the snow was still around and loads of parkruns had already cancelled. Letchworth were on, pending on a morning course check, but you have to drive along narrow residential side roads and I wasn’t confident that they would be OK (lots of the side roads around here were still terrible and icy), and I would have had to leave before their course check had been made, so I made the decision to go to St Albans again as they were on (as they have their off road course that they can use). It was great fun, crunching through the snow, and it felt easier than when it’s muddy. I wasn’t even as cold as the previous week as I had taken my gloves off before the end.

It was only after that I realised I could have tried for Groundhog day (2 identical times, 2 weeks running) as I don’t often go to the same parkrun twice in a row, but with the two different courses it would not have been easy. 30:24 the first week and then 33:05 on the snowy (and hillier) route. But as ever, very thankful that the event was still on.

Festive Five 2022

The first Sunday in December, a local running club hosts the Festive Five, a five mile race close to the town centre. Everyone wears festive gear, it has a great feel to it, and this year it perfectly coincided with our club’s Christmas brunch.

It’s one of those fab small, relaxed races where you collect your number in the morning, there’s a small gazebo/tarp for bag drop, and so there is no need to rush or stress. I ran there is it was less than 2 miles away so it’s the perfect warm up, plus I had started the Run up 2 Christmas as part of the With Me Now patreons team, and needed to start totting up the miles for our team target.

Compared to how mild it was the previous week at the Hatfield 5, it felt freezing that morning. I’d wrapped up in a long sleeved top and then my (not at all ugly) Christmas vest, long leggings, buff for my neck and gloves, but I didn’t ever get too warm when running.

Festive running gear on, delicious vegan pancakes, my chocolates and the regular Santa from the finish, and of course tea to warm up with in the afternoon.

Lots of our club were there, and running it was just great fun as all the marshals dress up too, and give festive cheers (including one person who shouted at me “go little elf girl” as I ran past!

I finished in just under 50 minutes, so slower than the Hatfield 5, but this race is not flat whereas Hatfield 5 is, and I was just happy to enjoy it.

After we finished, the few of us heading straight to brunch walked into town and met the rest of our club in Megan’s for vegan pancakes (excitingly these are on the main menu and you don’t even need to ask to see a different menu or anything). It took ages to warm up after though- I had packed a hat and an extra layer in my bag drop bag, but the walk home after was very chilly.

Sadly this year they didn’t have a vegan option at the finish- you usually get a chocolate Santa but in previous year there have been a vegan option, so I popped into Holland & Barrett to get some vegan chocolate to enjoy in front of the fire to warm up in the afternoon.

Prospect parkrun in Reading – en route to Bath

For a few years now, the two of us have headed to Bath Christmas markets at some point in December. They haven’t been on the past two years, but this year they were properly back so we decided to visit. Over the years we have travelled and stayed there with various combinations of driving, using the park and ride and getting trains, and the best combination for us is driving to Reading, staying there overnight and then getting the train the next day. The train only takes about 45 minutes from Reading, whereas the drive takes ages and the park and rides get super full.

This also means I can combine it with a parkrun trip. My Bath Christmas market parkruns so far have been Swindon (now called Lydiard but it was Swindon when I went there in 2016), Chippenham (2017), Dinton Pastures (2018 for the D for my alphabet) and Reading in 2019. Handily, we picked a city centre hotel and the closest parkrun was Prospect, one I’d not been to before. We parked in the station car park so it would have been a bit of a pain to drive anywhere, and as the parkrun was a couple of miles away it was a good warm up and cool down.

The run there was straightforward- almost a straight line from the city centre, although when I got to the park I could not work out where the start line was and ended up asking a council worker as it seemed like a big park. This was lucky as I was going in the wrong direction and as it was not a huge parkrun (participant wise) I could have easily missed it!

The morning was absolutely freezing and even though I didn’t have long to wait before the start after arriving, I got really cold. The course was two laps around fairly muddy and fairly flat playing fields. I spent most of it running behind a few people who were chatting away, although at one point a marshal (who must have known them) told them “hurry up stragglers”- not the best thing to hear and could have bothered others but I didn’t mind.

That was my 91st different parkrun course- gradually getting my way to 100! A goal for 2023 I think.

After getting back to the hotel and briefly warming up it was time to get our train to Bath- we’d picked up sandwiches in Reading before getting on board so could have lunch as we travelled.

Christmas Baby Yoda jumper, Bath markets, delicious vegan pizza

The markets were absolutely heaving- often it’s busy but this seemed exceptional. It is always so pretty with lights projected onto the cathedral, a huge Christmas tree and various carol singers dotted about. We’d booked a pizza place for dinner and then went back around the markets in the evening when it was a bit quieter, and then got the train back late that evening.

Do you like Christmas markets?