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?

My 350th parkrun!

I know it’s an arbitrary celebration, but I like to celebrate each 50 as it’s a long way to 500 (the next official milestone). I wanted to make it a special event, and it took a while to decide where to go. Initially I realised that Dad was away, so we would not run together, then I found out I wouldn’t have the car (Andy would be at football in Southampton), so I started looking at Cambridge parkruns as the train could have been an option (I’ve been to the parkruns that are fairly easy by train, so now it’s further afield that I have to look) but then Andy suggested going down to Southampton on the Friday. What a good plan.

I’ve been to a few around there already (Southampton, Eastleigh, Bartley Park, Netley Abbey, Itchen Valley, Winchester, Andover, Portsmouth Lakeside and Queen Elizabeth), so I had a choice between Whiteley, Fareham and Lee on the Solent. As I like Hove Prom so much, and as it had been wet weather and the risk of cancellation felt the lowest there, I opted for Lee on the Solent. It’s an out and back along the prom- there is some elevation as you run up a slope to a higher path and then back down for a bit, but it’s minimal. The parking was close by and free, and it was a fairly easy drive from where we stayed.

I got there nice and early, and had a gentle warm up along the prom, finding the purple pop up and getting a picture, and then further on finding the board for tourists to write on.

There wasn’t a new runners welcome that I saw, but as it was out and back one way, then out and back the other, maybe they don’t feel the need? It was very narrow in places (I’ve not seen a marshal with a sign warning you of rocks before) and we had to keep left for a lot of it as the front runners were heading back. At one point I realised I recognised one of the marshals as being someone from the With Me Now patreon group (and Instagram- hi Rebecca)- I managed to say hi as I ran past so that was lovely to see a friendly face.

I have to say that the whole event was really friendly- I had on my vegan runners leggings, and a couple of vegan runners chatted to me at the start, asking where I’d come from etc, and one of them bumped into me at the finish and we carried on our conversation for a bit too. I did love running by the water, but I also felt really sluggish and not great. (The benefit of hindsight as I was very sick on Saturday night and not feeling great all afternoon but I put it down to being tired) My time was 28:30 which I should be very pleased with and I was just so happy to have completed my 350th parkrun! My 250th feels like so long ago. I worked out as I tend to manage about 40 a year that my 500th will be around 3 years away still!

The finish on the beach, my token, a post parkrun purple pop up picture, and then heading back to the car.

Once finished I had to head back as the parking was only free until 10am, and I had to be back to shower and check out so we could get lunch before the football.

After my quick shower and hotel room breakfast of a porridge pot I was ready to head out! That chai latte from Cafe Thrive was really good.

I loved my visit to LOTS and I would happily go there again- it’s always good to run by the seaside and Rebecca, next time we will have a proper catch up.

Do you like to celebrate arbitrary milestones? How far away is your next parkrun milestone?

Brighton Half Marathon 2024 weekend

Brighton half is really one of my favourite races. I love any excuse to visit Brighton anyway, and the route by the sea is really pretty (although on a windy day it can of course be brutal). The crowd support is always great too- lots of people out supporting but not overwhelming.

Before (in the sunshine) and after parkrun (soaked through), pancakes and lovely Hove beach huts.

We headed down on the Friday night. After going to my running club’s Friday coffee run (I walked) I decided that I would do parkrun on the Saturday, but take it gently. Preston Park parkrun was slightly closer to the hotel, so I visited there for my 8th visit there. Although it’s not flat, it is a fast course but I started a long way back and tried to keep running steadily, finishing in 31:25. I started in bright sunshine but it tipped it down with rain on my last lap so I finished rather drenched. The sun at least came back out so I could head out for breakfast straight away (the recently discovered Nowhere Man does amazing vegan pancakes).

The rest of the day was a standard Brighton day (trying not to walk too much)- wandering down to Hove to see the beach huts and wandering around the shops, finishing with a pizza from Purezza as perfect pre-race food.

Bird and Blend visit of course, a walk to Hove, Purezza pizza

The weather had been forecast for wind and rain, so I was a bit apprehensive about that as I know I will heat up as I run, but being cold at the start is always really horrible, plus if you get wet it can be hard to warm up.

Smiling at the start, the guy with the surfboard and a few mid-race photos

Thankfully on the Sunday morning it actually started off as being sunny but cold. I was just happy that it was dry! Andy took my jacket for me at the last possible moment, and I kept my gloves with me along with a buff that I could put around my neck if needed rather than my wrist. I was really cold stood in the starting pen, and for some reason the race started late by around 10/15 minutes (something about waiting for the route to be clear)- they set off the wheelchair racers but then didn’t start any other waves for a while, and this didn’t help because I got quite cold and it took me a few miles to warm up again. I hadn’t any plans for specific times so I just wanted to run on feel, and managed to not look at my watch while I was running at all.

See below for the course- you start in the middle, head east along and up the coast, then back down to the centre, do a small loop past the pavilion and around a park, then west along the coast towards Hove, then finally east back to the centre again.

The wind was starting to pick up as we headed up the coast. The route then comes back down towards the city centre and of course you don’t feel the wind when it’s behind you (apart from blowing your hair in your face the whole time).

The section through the city was more sheltered and I enjoyed reading the signs, looking at all the charity vests and other runners. Once along the coast I could feel the wind buffeting us a bit more, already knowing that the final 3 miles heading back into the wind would be tough. At one point I was overtaken and swallowed up briefly by the 2 hour pacer group (I knew there was no way I’d manage that time but expected it to be ahead of me) and then later by a guy carrying a surfboard and wearing flip flops. Actual flip flops.

The rain still held off, and at around 10 miles the route turns back with the final 3 miles heading back along the coast, and I am not kidding when, as you turned, pretty much every runner groaned or said something about the wind. It was really strong and we were running right into it. Looking at my Strava was quite funny as all of my miles up to that point were 9:something, but that immediately dropped for the final few miles. This was head down and get it done. I also got really cold at that point- from being all sweaty from running, to being chilled by the wind was hard. I also had to stop and use the toilets- I thought I needed to go at the start but this is usually psychological and is fine when I run, but this time I still needed to go and would rather use the real toilets rather than the port-a-loos at the finish. It was also so nice to be briefly in the warm (well, sheltered from the wind), and even better, the water was warm! Just one mile to go (and a bit) after that!

It was tough running into the wind, and although I still enjoyed running by the sea, that last mile was just a get it done mile rather than an enjoyable one. I was very glad to finally reach the finish line and see a foil blanket as I was really cold by that point.

Mid run photo (smile to trick yourself into thinking it’s OK/ at the end with my coat

It’s then tricky as you have to try and get out of the finish area but the path next to it is really narrow. Andy had come to meet me (with my coat- hooray) but it probably took nearly half an hour to get out of the finish area and to the pier where he was. We had originally planned to stop for lunch but I was so cold I just wanted to get back to the hotel, so Andy went to get us some lunch (Oowee burgers and marmite waffle fries) and I went to get a mega latte from Bird and Blend on my way back. I realised that we didn’t even get a banana at the finish line- you did get a can of water (bonus for being recyclable) and a few bits in the goodie bag but the only vegan thing was a bag of energy chews so not really for after.

Medal, marmite waffle fries and mega latte (vegan version)

After lunch (and a shower) we popped out for a little walk but it hammered it down so I was even more glad that the rain had held off until after the race had ended.

The most delicious croissant for Monday breakfast, a little walk, topping up tins of tea and a movie once home.

On Monday we popped out for breakfast before heading home- it was really good not to rush back on Sunday afternoon. As always, a great weekend where we packed a lot in over the few days.