January parkrun touring- close to home

Of course my first parkrun back after having a holiday was going to Jersey Farm and running with my dad. I’d been away for all the extra parkrundays over the holidays, so I was really looking forward to getting back to one.

I nearly forgot my barcode, and had to run back inside and could only find this one! Whoops!

Jersey Farm was actually not too muddy, as it had rained a lot in the week. There was one big puddle but actually if you stepped gently the water didn’t even go over the top of your shoe, so it was OK. We ran together and after finishing, walked back to the big puddle so I could get a picture in it.

The puddles and then a cup of tea to warm up after.

There were two girls trying to pick their way around the outside, and I did try and show them that the middle was actually better as it wasn’t that deep, compared to the squelchy mud around the outside, but they weren’t convinced!

The following week we had been asked to wear red for Comic Relief (and donate some money too- I even got an email from Sir Lenny Henry thanking me for the donation). I was keen to visit somewhere else, so in the end we opted for Aldenham. We’d been there once before, back in 2016, and on that day there were only 25 runners, I finished 16th with my dad and brother 10th and 14th! They were all runners too, with the final person coming in at 36 minutes! How things have changed. Two of my friends were parkwalking, and of course they have the tail walker role too.

Views of the lake (?) and the fab keyring for completing the 12 days of Christmas challenge with my running club.

It was a cold morning and I rally didn’t want to take my jacket off at the start area. Usually I wear gloves in the winter and my hands warm up quickly, and I would tend to take the gloves off after the first lap of a two lap route, but this time they stayed on the entire time.

My nails matched my tribesport top but that was being covered with the red top for Comic Relief anyway.

The route is two laps of the water (reservoir/lake?), very flat but lots of tree roots to look out for. I managed a course pb which was quite unexpected and nice to see in the text, this time 56th out of 110 runners- slightly more than last time! It’s a pretty route, but you have to pay to park (although there is a reduced rate for parkrunners) and I wonder if this puts people off.

Beautiful sunrise at home and then on my way to Panshanger plus all the ice.

For the third weekend I was off to Panshanger. One of my aims is to get to 100 runs at Panshanger (a single-ton)- I started the year on 90 and so this was my 91st run at Panshanger. Even though it’s my closest, I don’t run there as much as if my parents are about I’ll head over to JF, however they were away so I opted for a parkrun sandwich. I wore all green in celebration for a club mate who was doing her 250th parkrun, but in South Africa so it was being with her in spirit. There were huge frozen puddles near the end of the course but you could easily avoid them and the going was pretty good. An enjoyable run chatting to someone who recognised me from Instagram (hi Sam) but I was pretty cold by the time I got home!

I also marshalled at a couple of junior parkrun events over the course of the month, always a fun thing to join in with on a Sunday.

One Sunday above and another Sunday below!

My final January parkrun was a brand new to me event so I’ll save that for another time.

How has your January been? It seems like parkruns are getting a big boost in numbers at the moment.

Jersey Farm- running one week, volunteering the next

After being in Florida for nearly 4 weeks (and being happy to make it to one parkrun while I was out there) it was lovely to be home and back to a parkrun routine. It was Jersey Farm parkrun for two weeks in a row- the first one was a lovely run with Dad.

We ended up being in matching outfits unintentionally (250 tops and blue shorts/crops) so had to get a picture of course. Jersey Farm is obviously a tourist magnet for those alphabet hunters as J is a rare letter, so there is always someone by the sign who you can ask to take a photo for you (and take one for them in return).

It was quite a warm day and I was still struggling to sleep with the jet lag, so we took it easy and chatted (as we so often do) and it was very enjoyable. I couldn’t decide whether to wear sunglasses or regular glasses, and I’m so glad that Dad persuaded me to opt for sunglasses as it got very bright not long after we had left.

After breakfast at my parents, I had some jobs to do in town, and treated myself to a matcha latte from a cafe- it was so good (and so pretty).

The following Saturday we were both back at Jersey Farm again, this time as marshals. For the last couple of years, I’ve got Dad a 10K race entry for his birthday, and this year we were doing the Bedford 10k. It started at 5:30pm on the Saturday, so not a good idea to run parkrun the same day. We both decided to volunteer, and ended up being at a marshal point together. (I had mentioned this in the email as I knew a few of the points had more than one marshal, but of course said we were fine to be at other points if needed).

We ended up being at one end of the park, where there is a track that leads to a house. The “Caution Runners” sign was to warn motorists of the runners, but we were instructed to stop runners and let any vehicles pass. They were only expecting the post van, but we had a couple of vans drive up and back, but when it was quiet. The summer route (that we are on) has an outer and then inner lap, and so the marshal point has to cover both paths during the run. There were 3 of us (we had a lovely D of E volunteer with us too), so after the first runners went through on the outer lap, I stayed with the D of E volunteer, and Dad moved to the inner loop ready for the front runners. They were passing by before the tail walker was at the outer loop, but once they had gone through we were all back together on the inner loop.

I do love cheering on the runners and walkers (even saw some vegan runners- yay). So many of them say thank you (we always do when we run, but you don’t always hear others around you), but a lot of the walkers apologised for being slow- they are not by us for long but I kept saying that they were all welcome to walk the whole way. I really wish this message was out there more because people should not be feeling guilty for walking at these events.

I commented on the parkrun adventurers post about marshalling, and so got a surprise on Tuesday morning when I saw they had chosen my photo for the cover of their podcast that week! Fame at last!

Mum made us a delicious breakfast once home (vegan pancakes with apple compote- made with apples from their friend’s garden) and we met up later for the race (but I’ll post that another time).

Bedford parkrun

Some of my club mates had been doing a “Stay in Beds” parkrun challenge- all the parkruns in Bedfordshire, so I joined in. When I looked, I only needed 2, Bedford being one of them. After we’d driven up there for the George Ezra concert and I’d seen that it wasn’t to bad of a journey, I decided to head there. The Cambridge and MK Vegan Runners were having a meet up there too, so another reason to head there.

parkrun were celebrating 75 years of the NHS, and had asked everyone to wear blue, so I wore my Ware 10k race top.

The drive up there was fine, apart from me going slightly wrong in the centre and then having a bit of a diversion, but I arrived with plenty of time, to find that the car park had free parking for 3 hours on a Saturday, you just had to get a ticket to display. I had a bit of a jog around the park first, and then got very confused as to where the start area was, as I found the finish area but could not work out for ages where it started. It turned out to be close to the car park, so when I had run past in my warm up, I hadn’t noticed it as not many people were there yet.

I saw a few of the vegan runners, so had a little chat with them. We asked someone to take our photo, and then the weirdest thing happened- after they had taken our photo with one of the VR’s phones, they got their own phone out and asked us to stand still while they took one with their phone. It’s a public place but that felt a little strange.

The RD at the start gave a wonderful little speech about the NHS, and pointed out a few of the team who were NHS workers. I saw a couple of people running in their paramedic gear which didn’t look like the most breathable fabric- kudos to them.

I loved the wildflower meadows that were part of the park. It was a varied town centre park, with a little lake (featuring cygnets), a few wooded areas, a band stand and a cafe. It tipped with rain at the end!

The route was just under 3 laps (I think they said two and a half), starting lower down in the park and finishing in the centre. It felt like a well supported event with lots of marshals on the route, and loads at the finish area (reminding us to keep right as faster runners headed left into the finish). It was pretty flat, but as you went past the lake it then went gently uphill- all fine but the third time up there I was feeling more tired.

After I’d finished, I ran back over to the lake to see if I could spot the cygnets again, as I’d seen them while running, and while I was there is started tipping it down with rain. I had seen a nice vegan cafe in the town centre, and was originally planning on going there before driving home, but I was soaked through so quickly so decided to just head home instead.

I’m there in blue with the other VR’s. Plus cakes, matcha and pistachio butter.

The vegan market was in WGC, so in the afternoon I popped in. I got myself a strawberry matcha (so good), picked up some pistachio butter (I’ve not yet opened it) and bought some cakes from Kim’s Vegan Cakes as they were half price.

102nd parkrun visited, and only one left for the Beds challenge now (Great Denham)- that will be in the autumn I think.

Do you like different parkrun challenges? Did your parkrun do anything for the NHS 75?

Summer Song Season- 2023 edition

This time of year is just the best for outdoor music. Sometimes we head off to a festival, but this year we went to separate gigs instead.

First up, George Ezra in Bedford. This was a Friday night and just had such a great feel, relaxed and friendly (and the most little kids I’d ever seen at a concert). We just drove up after work and didn’t even get home too late either (although later than planned due to getting a long diversion after a road closure).

Saturday was another one, this time Pulp at Finsbury Park. I went to Jersey Farm parkrun in the morning with Dad, and then we went into London in the afternoon, of course visiting Bird and Blend (and a dinner at Leon- their vegan burger is so good). Pulp were supported by Wet Leg who were good too, and then Pulp were just brilliant- it had such a celebratory feel.

The following weekend on the Saturday we were back in London again, this time going to Wembley for Blur.

This was just amazing. Self Esteem was the support act, and she was brilliant, and then Blur were just fantastic, classic after classic. The only slightly disappointing thing for me was that I could not really see the stage- there were big screens and sometimes if the crowd parted in the right way I could glimpse one of them, but I like to actually see the stage, particularly when they have additional artists on stage (they had the London gospel choir for Tender). But anyway, it was such a great night.

For the antidote of being in loud and crowded spaces, on the Sunday we went for a walk around Panshanger, getting a matcha from the coffee van for the walk (and for the energy after all those late nights!). Then time to watch Disney You Tube videos (with my Orange Bird mug)!

Do you like going to see live bands?

Ekebergsletta parkrun for my Cowell!

For May half term, the two of us had a trip to Norway booked, and I had requested a parkrun on one of the Saturdays that we were there.

Amazing sunset from the plane, soya chai for airport essentials, and the Ruter app showing me the map to get to the bus stop.

We flew to Oslo on the Friday night, staying until Sunday, so this meant I could visit an Oslo parkrun. I had already been to Tøyen parkrun back in November of 2019, so if possible I was keen to visit a different event. There are 3 parkruns in Oslo (only 7 in the whole of Norway though), but of course cancellations happen for various reasons so I wasn’t sure it would all go ahead.

Anyway, happily it was all fine. Our hotel was only a couple of miles from the parkrun, but the route was hilly and not straightforward, and a bus went right to the start, so I opted for that. Various parkrun tourist tips (from With Me Now pod and the tourist facebook page) meant that I downloaded the transport app in advance, and even went through the motions of buying a ticket (just not clicking on the final “buy” button) so I was confident in how it would work. I’d also finally got a new phone (my old one was 5 years old and the battery sometimes lasted all day, and sometimes lasted a few hours which was very stressful when needing it for navigation, and I had been to the store to see if they could replace the battery but they said no)- this meant that I was a bit more confident at using it for the maps and so on while travelling around.

I couldn’t decide what to do about breakfast until the final moment. I much prefer running first thing without eating, and only really make exceptions for half marathons where there is plenty of time from getting up to starting running. Our hotel had breakfast included, and food is expensive in Norway (although not as bad as we had feared- basically London prices) so I didn’t want to miss it, but it was only being served until 10:30. parkrun in Norway starts at 9:30, so if I took half an hour to run it would only give me 30 mins to get back to the hotel before they stopped serving, which seemed to be cutting it fine as the transport app estimated 25 min bus journey. Previously I had walked Tøyen, but partly this was because we went for a weekend with hand luggage only so I had no room for running things as it was freezing so would have needed many layers. I was keen to run this one, particularly as it was my Cowell, but also because I didn’t run the other one in Norway.

In the end I went for breakfast at 7am, when they started, and then went to get the bus at 8:30. Andy decided to come with me (I was quite relieved about that as I was a bit nervous about missing the bus- I think he sensed my panic)- the Ruter app worked really well and even directed you via maps to the bus stop. The bus stops were clearly labelled so you were on the right side of the road, and the screens on the buses announced the stops so it was all very clear.

parkrun start area- always exciting to see a parkrun sign in a different language

We arrived nice and early so had a wander around the park before I went over to the parkrun start. I didn’t fancy announcing the milestone (Cowell- 100 locations), but I did chat to the RD and there were a few tourists there so we had a nice round of applause at the briefing.

The route was two flat laps of the park, and the day was just beautiful so there were lovely views in all directions. I loved it! I ran most of it just behind a parent and child with a dog, so I wasn’t on my own, but it was a fairly small field. One tourist from the UK had run up from the centre, but he’d been there a few days and had tested this out the day before to check he didn’t get lost, so it is doable.

Finish funnel with Norway tape, mid-run photo (Andy took it while I was running), a mid run photo and my token

After finishing we of course took some photos and then headed to the other part of the park, across the road, as this is a sculpture park. Andy persuaded me to do the “footballer” pose of pointing at the shirt.

Showing off my 100 t-shirt to mark 100 locations

We’d been there on our previous trip and it had been covered in thick snow, so it was strange to visit the same place but in totally different weather- glorious sunshine and blue skies. The park is close to the water, on a hill, so there were beautiful views across to all the little islands.

Views from the park

After wandering around the park, we were by the tram stop rather than the bus stop (I think it says it’s around a 25 min walk on the parkrun course page- the bus is definitely easier as it takes you pretty much to the start). We found some e-scooters and Andy was very keen to have a go. I was reluctant, so he hired one and I ran behind him. Apparently they were limited to 5 miles an hour, but I could not keep up with him on the downhill so they were faster than that! The 1.4 miles back to the hotel took us 14 minutes- and then it was time for a shower before heading out into Oslo again.

It’s crazy to think that in just over 300 parkruns I’ve been to 100 different locations. There have been a few where I’ve wanted to do a particular one so we’ve made a weekend of it (for example Queen Elizabeth Country Park for my Q) but generally I’ve been to them if I happen to be somewhere near to one anyway. We are lucky that there are lots fairly close by, so lots of my list have been Saturday morning trips on a train or up the M1. They’ve mainly been in the UK, but I’ve been lucky to visit parkruns in Ireland, USA, Canada, Norway, Denmark and The Netherlands. A few other plans have been cancelled over the years (I was meant to do one in Germany a few years ago but our flight was cancelled and we had to fly out on Sunday), and we had a long weekend in Finland booked but that was summer 2020 so we all know why that didn’t go ahead. There will be lots more parkrun tourism in the future anyway. For now I shall enjoy hearing my name being read out on With Me Now!

How many parkrun locations have you visited? Which one is top of your list for one you would love to visit?