Clermont parkrun- alternative course

This summer we were off to Florida with Andy’s family- there were ten of us in total (including 3 kids) and it was a fantastic, but very different holiday to usual. We were away for several Saturdays, but only had a car for a couple of them. Andy had agreed to drive me to the parkrun once, and so I got to return to Clermont Waterfront parkrun (as I had been there last summer too).

Their facebook page said they would be on the alternative course for that Saturday, but it started in the same place, Lake Hiawatha Preserve which is to the west of Lake Minneola. They start at 7:30am (sensible due to the heat and humidity) and it was around a 45 minute drive away, so we were in the car at 6:30. The main course is an out and back along the waterfront by the lake, on fantastic foot and cycle paths. As we drove alongside there at around 7:10, there were loads of runners out. I had an absolute panic that I had missed the start, worried that they had changed to 7am rather than 7:30, and worried that we had got up early and driven all that way for nothing. Andy noticed that they had bibs on, as I frantically googled the course to confirm the 7:30am start time. It turned out that I did not need to panic, because there was a triathlon taking place on their normal route (hence the alternative course) and so all the runners we could see were doing the triathlon. Panic over. I had time once we had parked to run over to the toilet block, before heading to the start area. They even had helpful signs at the normal start/finish place, directing you over the road, back through the car park and to the alternative start/finish area. (You could see this from the car park, but it was very helpful nonetheless).

Views of the waterfront at sunrise, the park map and the helpful sign showing parkrunners where to go.

The alternative course was two (and a little bit) laps under trees and on trails. You had to watch out for tree roots as they were plentiful, but the route was fairly flat and the paths were packed firmly so it was a nice surface to run on. The shade was very much appreciated- Orlando was having it’s hottest week since records began, being in the low thirties as soon as the sun was up and with the crazy high humidity it was pretty tough to be outside.

Before running, after the panic! And the walk to the lake.

They only had two marshals out on the course- both near the start/finish area making sure people didn’t trip on the edges of the paths. The rest of the course was marked with little flags (the small flags on little wires that are often used on building sites), and it was fairly busy with 143 runners that day. It’s well established (and had celebrated it’s 10th birthday a few weeks prior to my visit), so I thought I could keep the person ahead in sight and be OK. The first lap went fine, and then partway through the second route I realised that I hadn’t seen any of the little flags for a while. The person up ahead had pulled away from me and was not in my view, so I stopped and started to retrace my steps. Two people who were behind me (using my tactic of following the person in front) asked me what I was doing, so I explained that I’d not seen the flags and thought I’d gone wrong. They retraced their steps with me, but another runner ran past in our original direction, indicating that we were on the right track. We then followed him for a bit, before deciding to go back to the last place we’d seen the flags. Thankfully it wasn’t far before I could see runners looping around, but in looking at my Strava after, had I continued I am not sure I would have rejoined the route.

With the flag at the start area, and all the flags in the finish funnel and my token.

As I was coming towards the finish, another runner asked me where to go- she was a bit confused by them telling us to pass the finish line 3 times (as it was two full loops and a bit, and you started a bit further back from the finish, passing it after a few minutes- see the map below). I explained to her to run to the marshal, follow the path around and then go through the finish, and she then put on an amazing sprint to speed ahead of me at the finish funnel! Looking on the results it was her first ever parkrun so I hope she enjoyed it and returns. As I ran through the finish funnel, the lady giving out the tokens asked me where Ellenbrook Fields was (I was wearing my EF vest) and I said Hertfordshire. “Ooh, posh” she replied in a Yorkshire accent, and I realised that I’d spoken to her last year too! I mentioned it to her and she laughed (last year she had asked me and I’d said near London, which usually seems to be enough info for Americans, but she was an ex pat and wanted more info). A bit of a coincidence but also lovely to see that it is a proper community and not just full of tourists.

Even with the getting lost, I somehow managed a course pb of 32:47 (vs 33:58 in 2022). I think the shade really helped! Also, this was a couple of weeks into our holiday and I’d been running regularly around the hotel grounds, so was a bit more acclimatised to running in the humidity, as opposed to last year where it was our first Saturday and I’d not run at all there.

My full up wrist with Garmin, parkrun barcode and Magic Band (needed to unlock the hotel room), flags at the finish funnel and a sweaty face after running!

After finishing, I took a few photos and then walked back to the car to find Andy. I cannot convey how sweaty I got running in that humidity- even my legs were pouring with sweat! Thankfully we had brought a towel for me to sit on (last year I sat on my buff in the car on the way back which didn’t do much!). We always pack little rehydration tabs to take with us to Florida, and I’d added one to some water to take with me, so as Andy drove back I drank it up and gradually cooled down.

Another enjoyable parkrun morning, and with the early start it meant being back super early for a shower and breakfast.

Canons Park parkrun

Not to be confused with Cannon Hill in Birmingham (which I went to earlier this year), Canons Park is close to Stanmore, so when it was suggested by a club mate as a little road trip I decided to join in.

It was also Christmas in July, as celebrated by the parkrun adventurers pod, and a time to wear my ugly (not ugly) Christmas singlet. Normally I wear it in the winter over long sleeves, but it was actually OK wearing it on its own. I did suggest Christmas running gear but no-one else joined in- ah well!

Seriously- how cute is the koala design? It’s hugging a pineapple and even has on a little Santa hat. Adorable.

We arrived nice and early- one of our club members (Mel) was keen to run here as it was close to where she used to work, so she knew where there would be parking. We parked in the road right by the park entrance, but others parked in the tube car park and walked through, so I think there are lots of options. There was one toilet open before the start which a few people queued at.

There didn’t seem to be many people there even a quarter to, but by the time we’d taken photos by the sign and then listened to the wonderful new runners welcome (so very welcoming) there were more- around 150 I think.

The course was three laps, and lots of it was through woods so it would be good on a hotter day too, although a few roots to look out for as you came out (maybe harder to spot going into the glare of the sun). Three of us ended up running together which was lovely- it’s always nice to chat and run.

There wasn’t a cafe (it’s being renovated according to the course page) but the volunteers had tea and coffee at the finish, which was such a nice touch and meant that lots of people hung around at the end. We had chatted to a few tourists at the start (one of them had Panhanger as his NENDY so he was asking about it), and we chatted to more at the end. One person was very confused by my Christmas top- when I said it was Christmas in July, he said something about the football in Australia (women’s world cup) so I don’t think it was quite clear the link.

So that was my 103rd location and a very enjoyable one at that. After finishing it was time to head home and watch England’s first match, so a good start to the weekend all round.

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?

Lordship Recreation Ground parkrun and a vegan market visit

Lordship Rec has been on my list since it started, as it’s fairly close by in North London, and accessible by underground. I had looked into it before but rail strikes meant I went to Grovelands, and postponed this visit.

After achieving my Cowell (100 events) in Norway, this was my 101st event. I drove to Oakwood tube station (there is on street parking not far from the station) and then got the Piccadilly Line to Turnpike Lane, where it was less than a mile to walk. Now, that might sound simple, but I get lost very easily. However, Andy had pointed out to me that within Google Maps there is now a Live View within Google maps- if you press it and hold up your phone, it inserts large arrows (and writing that says “this way”) so you can easily see which way to start walking. This is an actual game changer (see below for a couple of screenshots)- so often I walk the wrong way for a bit, and it takes a while for the maps to update. It really meant the walk/run was so simple and I got there with plenty of time to spare and no stress.

I was there for event 33, along with lots of 500 clubbers- the most I’d seen in one place I think. There were only 131 participants on that day, so it’s a nice manageable size too.

The start line is in a slightly different place to where everyone meets- there is a little lake/pond, with the start line shaded on one side, and then the meeting place (with the flag) on the other side, outside the community centre. The park is quite small so I don’t think you would have trouble finding the start. I saw lots of the high viz signs as soon as I got in there, as the route goes right around the perimeter of the park.

It was a baking hot day, even stood in the shade on the start line I already felt too hot, so knew I needed to take it gently.

The route is three laps of the park, it’s pretty flat so could be very fast on a cooler day. There was little shade, and in the final lap I stopped and walked for a bit as I felt like I was really pushing myself.

The park itself is great, packed with facilities such as a skate park, pump track, splash pool, playground, community centre…. the list goes on. Before the start I was looking in the pond and a dog walker started chatting to me, pointing out the turtles, and then asking about the runners as he had seen them from his window. I did tell him about how there were always walkers and tail walkers as he said he would never run, so you never know, he might get involved.

As I finished I had to go and stand in the shade for a bit to feel OK, and then I scanned. There was a lady talking to the scanner who had not printed out her barcode, so she was about to walk away, but I asked her if she had registered, thinking there was a way for me to find her barcode on the 5k app, but when she pulled up her email and I showed her the link to click on, she got it up on her phone- phew! I am still so annoyed about my friend who came with me once (literally the week before they accepted phone barcodes)- she hadn’t printed it out and they would not scan her (well, one scanner was about to and then another one came over and told them not to)- I am sure this is one reason why she hasn’t been back. Anyway, I digress. This parkrun had such a strong community feel, the park was full of facilities and the route was all paved and pretty flat. Lots of ticks all round.

After finishing running, I headed back to the tube and then drove to Hatfield House as the vegan market was there. I was hoping to bump into some Herts VR’s, but I didn’t see any of them there. I did get the biggest iced chai, but there wasn’t really anything breakfasty, so after buying a few bits (the vegan honey was the main reason I went there as I had bought some before and ran out) I came home as by that point I was very very hungry and needed breakfast (well, lunch by that point!).

Sunday was time to marshal at junior parkrun, again in the sunshine. I was glad of the shade of the big tree as I could wait there before they started running. Once home I got to try out my newest vegan purchase on a homemade aƧai bowl. Perfect in the hot weather.

I was thinking about my preference for touring – driving or public transport (and this was a combination). I get anxious when driving somewhere new, so I like the trains or undergrounds as then I don’t need to stress about getting lost while driving, or getting stuck in traffic, but of course with trains you can have cancellations etc. I will count myself lucky that I have so many parkruns that are within travelling distance.

Do you have lots of parkruns near to you, or do you need to make more of a day of it if travelling? Do you prefer public transport or driving?

Norway 2023

Following on from parkrun in Oslo, we had another day there before picking up a hire car and doing a little road trip. We spent Saturday in Oslo.

We hired e-scooters for a bit (something I would not wish to repeat- they were OK when there were cycle lanes but I was not a fan of being on the roads, especially with the trams)- this was mainly so we could get to Handbakt, a bakery selling lots of vegan goodies (including school bread which I’ve not had since going vegan).

We wandered around the palace gardens, walked up the opera house (it has a sloped roof so you can walk up it), found a cool sculpture park where all the sculptures had been designed by children, and went to Nordvegan for dinner. We shared a salad bowl (you picked mains and toppings etc) and lasagne, and then carrot cake after.

On the Sunday we got the train back to the airport to collect our hire car, and then we were off on our road trip- one night in each place. We went to Voss, then stayed in a mountain lodge on the way to Fjellstove where we had a little self catering place too, then to Alesund, then a hotel on Geiranger Fjord, the Friday night in Lillehammer before driving back to Oslo on the Saturday. There was amazing scenery the entire time- we stopped the car so many times to hop out and take photos. We also had places to stop at including a wooden stave church, walks to glaciers, amazing waterfalls and even a skywalk with public toilets that had windows so you could look out across the fjord as you used the facilities!

When in towns, vegan food options were easy to find, but we had a couple of days where most places were shut due to Whitsun (late May Bank Holiday) so we ended up with a supermarket picnic one day. I got quite good at using the breakfast buffets and sorting a vegan breakfast- they all had allergens clearly marked so I could easily see if the bread was OK. Rye bread with fruity jam and lots of fresh fruit tended to be what I went for, plus cups of tea of course. I was amused by the sizes of the cups as they got smaller and smaller as the holiday went on (we even started with teapots)- seems such a waste of teabags having to brew such a small cup as I am going to brew multiple ones, whereas with a big cup I’m just using one.

The drives often went through long tunnels (up to 25km long) and some even had roundabouts in them. They also had sections of coloured lights to help keep drivers alert- such a good idea.

And yes, one place had whole avocados at the breakfast buffet so of course I made myself avo on bread for breakfast!

The overlook on the top right picture looked down onto a tiny town- it had a glass floor section and I wasn’t keen at standing on it. One couple were having wedding photos there- a very spectacular place for them. The bottom right is the view from the public toilets there- the cubicles had windows that looked down onto the fjord- amazing.

We did some walks to see some glaciers. Both so interesting, but also really worrying as they had markers to show where the glaciers were even ten years ago- climate change is having such a huge impact in places like this. A good reason to swap your dairy milk for plant based milk if I ever heard one.

This was a national park we stayed in for one night, Briksdalsbreen, and once the day trippers had headed off on their coaches back to their cruise ships, we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We walked up in the evening, as it was light so late (basically it didn’t actually get dark, so even at 11pm it was still pretty light)- in the daytime there are queues for this swing as it’s a social media moment, but there was no-one else around so of course I had a go!

In Alesund we found a gorgeous cafe (but more of a coffee bar with a proper food menu) for dinner, and lots of places had vegan brownies so I did treat myself one day. Here’s the comically tiny tea cup (I mean, the teabag barely fit in it) and also each time we had to get a ferry, the satnav would just show the route going into the water! The ferries were great- the hire car had a tag (a bit like the tag you can get for the French toll roads), so no need for tickets, the charges were just added to your bill. You just joined the queue and every 20 mins ish a ferry would turn up, you’d drive on (toilets on board were handy during longer road trip sections) and then drive off once you reached the other side.

Another tiny tea cup.

Scenes from the boat tour we did of the Geiranger fjord. It was amazing, and definitely lived up to all expectations.

Then we walked up to a waterfall at the edge of the fjord for more amazing views. I was not a fan of the big cruise ships dominating the scenery though.

On our drive back through the mountains to Lillehammer- loads more snow, snow covered lakes, just beautiful and felt like we were at the top of the world.

Olympic ring spotting in Lillehammer- a lovely walk down to the lake and around the town.

So, there was have it. A wonderful week away with just beautiful scenery at every turn.