Welwyn 10K 2024

I’ve completed this race twice before- the first time I ran it, it was in Welwyn village and was a very hilly route on lots of country roads. Last year it moved to Panshanger Park, and despite it being a baking hot day (remember those?) I really enjoyed it. Yes, there are hills, but they are in the first half, and it’s so scenic in the park and it’s fantastic to be on a traffic free route.

A few other OH ladies were also taking part. We met at the start- it’s very relaxed with the parking right by the start, you pick up your number on the morning and then it starts.

Unlike last year, it was raining as I was driving, and it felt quite cold too. I had opted for a vest and shorts because I got so hot last year, and actually this was OK as once I started running I warmed up.

Here’s the route- there’s a very steep uphill section where it says Chisel Shelf, another shorter one further around on that section, and then a long section by Poplars Grove, but after that it’s mainly flat and then slightly downhill to the finish.

The High Sheriff was there (under a huge umbrella)- she really is making her way around lots of the sporting occasions in Herts.

I ran with another OH lady (Shelley- I also ran with her for the summer solstice run)- we ran together last year too and enjoyed setting the world to rights as we tend to do when we run together.

Pre-run selfie, the high sheriff with her umbrella, and a few mid-run photos.- the bottom right one shows how steep the hill is about to be!

It actually stopped raining before the start which was good, and once I started running I warmed up quickly. I had to walk up the first steepest hill, and then spent a while catching up with Shelley as she had run up the hill.

The final hill is the reverse of the final section of the parkrun route- in the parkrun route you run down, but this was up and it feels a lot longer when you are running up! I walked a bit here too as it’s a fairly long section, but after that it was time to run the rest (around half left I think). We did have a few spots of rain as we ran around one of the fields, and as we headed back towards the finish area you could feel a cool breeze, but this was quite welcome.

Medal selfie, photos in the frame and a close up of the medal, and tea with oat milk

A few of the OH ladies had already finished, so after we finished and collected a medal and cup of water, we stood by the finish to cheer the others in. Last year the wonderful Planted Coffee van was at the finish, and I was a bit disappointed this year as they had put out that a coffee van would be there, and when I asked if it was Planted, told that it was, but then it turned out to be a Cafe 2U one. The scouts had a coffee and tea station too, raising money for a trip to Switzerland, and they had oat milk so I went for a cup of tea from them. A cup of tea after a run really helps me to feel better so it was perfect.

Of course we took a few photos with the frames before it was time to head home. A shame that it was a drizzly day but easier conditions than the baking heat of last year. I still enjoyed the route so I will be back again next year I am sure!

What is your drink of choice when you have finished running?

A panic jog to wonderful Southall parkrun

I’m not aiming for Lon-done because there are so many, but lots of my NENDY’s are now in London and so I am gradually making a dent in that section of the map.

I was not sure where to go and Branka was free and fancied ticking off another London event, and suggested Southall. This wasn’t particularly on my radar, but I rewatched the With Me Now video and this made me really look forward to it.

Branka had booked a Just Park spot right by the park at 8:30, and picked me up just after 7:30 to give us loads of time to get there. All was going well and we were having a lovely catch up in the car, but then we ended up taking a wrong turn (all those roundabouts underneath underpasses are so confusing) and headed up the M1 for a bit. Thankfully there was a services that we could turn around in, but this meant we didn’t arrive at the parking space until 8:45. We were both happy to miss the first timers welcome, and though that 15 minutes would be plenty of time to get to the park. However, we had not banked on our sense of direction (or lack of). If you know me or have read this previously, you will probably know that I am not great with directions. Never mind, I’ve learnt how to use live view on Google Maps. Only for some reason the route took us in a bit of a circle, with us running up and down the same street and retracing our steps for a bit, even when Branka tried her apple maps. When we finally reached the park it was 9am and we could see the parkrun being started. Panic jog indeed!

A few photos taken as we walked around during the event.

However, this is an absolute parkrun gem, and as we got closer the marshals pointed us to the start, and told us we could catch up with the “person in orange” (tail walker)- we headed past the start/finish area and all the volunteers cheered us on. We were run/walking as Branka is recovering from an injury, and at one point were overtaken by another runner who was late to the start. We had probably gone around a km (we could always see the tail walker and were gradually catching her up) when she turned around and began walking back to us. The person who had overtaken us had told her, and she had come back for us. Honestly, it was such a kind gesture. We ended up chatting to her a fair bit on the way around too (hopefully she will come to Panshanger soon as it was on her list but she was put off by stories of how bad the parking can be)- she was so lovely as she chatted to us a lot but also chatted to the marshals, cheered on runners as they headed past and collected the cones etc on our final lap.

As well as the most wonderful tail walker (above), this event had such a welcoming team of volunteers. All of the marshals on the route were fantastic and there was lots of chat between participants and volunteers which added to the community feel.

When we finished we of course had the purple pop up sign photo (and were photo bombed by one of the volunteers), were offered chocolates, admired their token sorting board (below) and chatted to a few of the team. It was so wonderful.

As Branka had the parking space until 10:30, we had a wander around the park for a bit, visiting the globe sculpture and again chatted to a few locals walking through the park. The park itself is wonderful too- so varied with lots of wildflower areas, a community orchard, a recently re-created pond, some brilliant looking playgrounds for kids, outdoor fitness equipment – so much packed into a small area. Yes on paper it’s three laps of a small patch of greenery in a built up area, but it’s so much more than that.

Our journey home was more uneventful, just more catching up on parkrun plans as usual!

So, that was my 365th parkrun (one for every day of a year!), and my 115th different location, and ticked off another London event. There are so many that I only gained a small purple chunk on my map!

Before and after! Spot the difference…

Have you turned up late to a parkrun before? The only time this has happened to me before was when I was in Dublin and got lost, then got a taxi, and arrived at 9:40 when thankfully the briefing was still going on! I was cutting it close when I went to Southwark but I was there for the briefing so that was fine.

A Panshanger parkrun sandwich before The Foo Fighters!

That says it all really! I wanted to keep to a local parkrun because we were off to London later on, and as I am working on my single-ton (100 at one event), I opted for a parkrun sandwich to Panshanger. It’s an OK distance to run (a little over 2 miles each day) and it’s nice to do a little further on a Saturday. If I go to Jersey Farm we’d have the walk there and back, but I’ve not been there for ages, so have usually been driving to parkruns instead.

It was slightly overcast but I decided on sunglasses as it was meant to be sunny later. I should have worn a visor too though.

OH ladies selfie and then views on the parkrun route

The run there is mainly through fields and woods so it’s a lovely peaceful start to the day. Once I was at Panshanger I met up with a few fellow OH ladies and we had a little catch up. Most of them were walking but I was going to run slowly so headed off at the start.

The run was enjoyable but uneventful- I took a fair few photos on the way around as the park is just so pretty. At one point the view in front of me was half blue skies and half dark grey clouds- a sign of things to come!

Token and purple pop up sign

Once I had finished and scanned, I spent a few minutes looking at the people scanning in their 250 tops- they just looked a bit different to my top but I can’t put my finger on why. I am not sure if mine has just faded over time, or the fabric is slightly different. The sky was getting darker so I started running home, and when I was in the woods it absolutely bucketed it down- the trees offered a little shelter but not much. By the time I was out of the woods and in the fields, it had stopped raining so I think I had timed it pretty well.

Later in the day we headed into London to see the Foo Fighters. We ended up driving as the part of the train line we needed was closed for engineering works, and the drive took ages and we were at a standstill for so long. They were at the Olympic Park so we parked at Westfield. I was surprised at how busy it was there- we ended up getting a quick sandwich in Starbucks for dinner (and shared a Crosstown doughnut) and then had to make our way to the stadium.

Heading to the stadium, earplugs and crosstown

The concert was brilliant, and I tried out loop earplugs for the first time. I had begun noticing more ringing in my ears after going to see various bands, and when we saw Ash in that tiny venue we were so close to the speakers and I was actually a bit worried about causing damage. I was so impressed with how well they worked- at one point I inched them out a bit to hear the difference, and it really dulled the extra sounds so you could hear the actual music better.

Views from the concert- loved it!

So, that was parkrun number 364, and my 96th at Panshanger. That single-ton is getting closer!

Summer Solstice 10K 2024

A local club, the St Albans Striders, host lots of 10k races, including this Summer Solstice 10k, held in the evening of the summer solstice. Despite it being close by and often well-attended by my club, I’ve not ever done it before. Often I’ve been at a yoga class, or had a meeting after school which meant I couldn’t get back in time to head out. But this year, the diary looked clear enough with a meeting that ended at 4:30, so I signed up.

It’s a bargain at around £15- you get a medal at the end, a water station on the route and water at the end, so not bad for that price.

It happened to be the same day as one of the England matches, so traffic getting home was a bit of a nightmare as I think everyone was leaving to be home for the 5pm kick off. I didn’t manage that but I did get home in time for the goal.

I find evening races harder for fuelling and being hydrated, so this time after making myself drink more than usual during the day, I opted for a cup of tea and some toast, hopefully leaving long enough between that and the race start.

Heading to the start line with mu number- look at the weather!

You had to collect your number on the day, and the registration opened at 6:45, with the race starting at 7:45, so I got there at about 7, walked around to collect my number, walked back to my car to sort it out and swap into my vest (it was way too hot for a t-shirt which I was wearing), and then walked back to the start to find the rest of my club.

It was such a gorgeous evening! Earlier in the week it had been forecast to rain, but by midweek that had disappeared and we were lucky with just beautiful sunshine. I opted for sunglasses because I struggle in the low sun, but a lot of the route was shaded so I probably would have been fine in my regular glasses.

Pre run photos- pink on one side, green on the other, then alternating, the attempt of a jump and trainers!

Of course we had to get some photos, and when we realised we had 3 in pink and 3 in green (and me in black) we tried out different formations. We also were persuaded to try a jump (which I have never managed to do)- it ended up being my favourite photo as half of us are jumping and half are not.

My mid run selfie attempt/ scenes of the race and the start/finish arch

After a quick briefing we were off. The route started in a park, soon joining the Alban Way (an old railway line that is now a footpath and cycle path), eventually doubling back coming back to the park again.

I ran with Shelley, and took a few photos mid-run as it was so pretty with the low evening light. She did convince me that I could do a mid run selfie, but as you can see above I cannot, and in fact nearly ran into a bush while I was trying to take it!

Medal photos and such a gorgeous sunset

As we headed to the finish some of our OH ladies who had already finished were cheering us in, so after getting our medals and a cup of water we headed to join them. The race did have a great atmosphere and was encouraging to the back of the pack runners, despite being organised by a club (with a speedy reputation).

The medal is really pretty too- such pretty colours with the km markers around the outside of the sun shape. Totally worth it! I got a bit chilly and I think if I did it again I’d leave an old jumper in the field as then I could put it on once I finished (as they said there was no bag drop). But that is a minor thing and just something to remember for next time.

There were food stalls (including vegan options) but it felt too late to eat a big meal by then, so I drove home, showered and had some cereal before bed.

How do you cope with evening races? I am definitely getting better- I did a 10k in Bournemouth years ago and that was not a good experience as I had eaten lunch too close to the start time, whereas the Bedford one I did with Dad last year was better in that respect.

Also, the next morning I was so thirsty. I drank a glass of water, water with a rehydration tab, made a matcha and also had a green smoothie. I was definitely a bit dehydrated!

A revisit to Leavesden and a volunteer celebration!

In the wilderness between milestones (still well over 3 years to my next one) chasing random challenges (hello Wilson Index) is a fun way to occupy the time and also to help me decide where to go. I know I go on about it, but as Ellenbrook Fields didn’t come back after the pause, I do not feel I have a home parkrun. I think Panshanger is my official one, and I do love it there, but it’s not the same.

Anyway, the Herts branch of Vegan Runners UK have a fab stats person (Gary) who each week produces some stats linked to parkrun attendance in Herts- number of Herts locations visited, number of VR’s at each location and so on. I have been to all the Herts parkruns, but not in this calendar year, and so I decided that this weekend I’d head to a Herts parkrun that I’d not been to this year, to move myself up on that table. I’d been to Jersey Farm, Panshanger, Letchworth, St Albans and Aldenham, so my choice was between Leavesden, Westmill and Stevenage.

A couple of other members of my club fancied Leavesden, so it was decided!

It is a super convenient parkrun- there is parking right by the start (you can see the flag from in the car), there is a little cafe and toilets by the start, it’s not too far a journey and not too difficult to find. It doesn’t seem to get huge numbers, but I think that’s a good thing as it’s a 3 lap course with one section where you have to keep to one side as runners come in the opposite direction (almost like a figure of 8 with the middle section where people meet). For us this was fine but if it was busy then it would be harder to pass- we had 99 participants that week.

I ran with Fiona and we had a lovely time chatting about all running and parkrun (and how much we missed Ellenbrook). It was sunny as I left home, but as we drove it had started to rain, and it drizzled on and off during parkrun. Nothing too bad but not really the weather we expect in June! The shade of the trees was still appreciated more as shelter from the rain.

Of course once finished we had to get a few photos. Gary (of VR stats fame) was also there so we got a picture for the VR club, plus of course we needed one of our little touring group too. Gary was also with a guy who used to run at Ellenbrook, so the day felt very themed towards that- lots of our club got into parkrun tourism after the pause because they didn’t have a parkrun home any more.

The cafe at Leavesden is really nice but we all had to head home so just went back to the car after taking the photos and scanning.

When the VR stats came through my name was on several of the categories-

Finished Top 20 for Gender: 13th at Leavesden Country parkrun – Maria W, Fastest Female Times: (I was number 3)- 00:29:57 Maria W Leavesden Country parkrun, Most Herts Finishes -11 (along with several others- the top person has 24 this year), Most Herts locations visited in 2024- I am on 6 which is now joint top of the table! I think this is the one I am most likely to do well at as I could potentially visit them all (although maybe would choose not to revisit a couple…). So it was worth me visiting there just to see my name in lights!

On Sunday I was off to Norton Common junior parkrun (Letchworth), as Branka was celebrating her v250! What a fantastic achievement! It was also their first birthday (which is why we had party hats on). The park is so pretty! I’d been for a little wander around as I sometimes park there when going to Letchworth, but the junior parkrun route is so lovely with all the tall trees. It has a wilder feel than the more manicured parks that other junior parkruns are in. Anyway, I was barcode scanning which was good as I was then at the start/finish area for the event.

Congratulations! Very much looking forward to seeing the green shirt in real life!

It was even more of a celebration as another RD was also celebrating his v250! All the things! Finally the High Sheriff has been making her way around all the Herts parkruns, and she was visiting. I think this is the third time I’ve seen her now- she was at St Albans, Letchworth and now Norton Common juniors.

Of course, if I am in Letchworth I am going to head to Vutie Beets for breakfast after. I opted for a crookie this time (croissant + cookie) and tea, and then bought some buns to take home and share with Andy later. Because the weather was so good (at long last) we had a long walk in Panshanger in the afternoon before watching the football in the evening.

Panshanger park/ breakfast/ on my walk/ the birthday decorations at NC.

How do you choose which parkrun to visit? I know I am in a great situation with so many within a short distance. I am still going for my single-ton at Panshanger so that is still on the cards for when I have a busy weekend too.