Preston Park parkrun and a weekend in Brighton

I was signed up yet again for the Brighton Half Marathon, one of my favourite races, so of course no excuse is needed for a weekend in Brighton around the race.

As we headed down on the Friday, it meant I could go to parkrun on Saturday morning. After going to all the parkruns in Brighton (there are 5), I tend to go between the two most central, Hove Prom and Preston Park. Our hotel was closest to Preston park, so that was where I headed to. This also handily works on my p-index (the number of parkruns you have visited for that amount of times, eg if you have been to 5 different parkruns 5 times each, your p index is 5). (Currently my p-index is 6, as I have been to 6 parkruns 6 or more times- Panshanger(87), Ellenbrook Fields (39), St Albans (28), Jersey Farm (30), Hove Prom (9) and Preston Park (6). To get it up to 7, I need to get the lower ones up to over 7 visits, so the Preson park visit would help. (My next highest is Westmill at 5, so I need to go there 2 more times…)

Preston park parkrun, the statue at Hove, Bird and Blend tea, and parkrun token

I headed to the parkrun, taking my time as it was not far from the hotel. There were loads of runners there, including lots of people down for the half marathon weekend. They had pacers and I was very tempted to go for a faster time, but then I had to be sensible as I had had a bit of a cough and didn’t want to make my cold any worse. In the end I ran 29:02, which I am pretty pleased with as I have barely been below 30 minutes this year.

Andy had been to the Flour Pot bakery to get breakfast for us to have in our room (delicious vegan croissant) and then we were off for our traditional walk to Hove. It was glorious weather so we made the most of it. Of course we had to go into Bird and Blend for a tea latte to accompany the walk.

The pavilion at dusk, a walk by the sea, Purezza pizza and Crosstown

Crosstown had recently opened so we bought a couple of treats, and had dinner at Purezza- good carb loading.

The forecast for Sunday included sleet, so it wasn’t that great. I could not decide what to wear, as one year I was way too hot, but equally you don’t want to be freezing cold for a couple of hours. In the end I went for capris, t-shirt with my club vest over the top, buff and gloves. I wore my jacket to the start and at the last minute gave it to Andy, and at the end he walked to meet me with it.

The race was enjoyable, although I got a bit of a stiff leg at one point. I stopped to stretch a few times, but it just wasn’t right. I think the adverse camber of the start just aggravated something. I didn’t have any aims for time, but estimated I would be similar to the last two years (2:08:23 in 2021 and 2:07:37 in 2022- I had to look it up on the text message). I finished in 2:07:04, so pretty consistent with those times, and if I had not had the sore leg I would have been a little faster too.

I do love this race, but the start/finish area is what needs working on. This year they tried to have a dedicated runner space close to the start pens, to try and help with the congestion, but at the finish there was nothing. I timed it on my watch and it was 30 minutes from finishing to meeting Andy by the pier (which is right by the finish)- we were given foil blankets and thankfully the forecast sleet had not made an appearance, but I was really freezing by the time I met up with him.

Medal and Kermit at lunch, race finish, amazing mega latte and marmite fries.

We went straight for a cup of tea to warm up a bit as I was not feeling great, and then to lunch at Oowee burgers- it’s all vegan and they do marmite fries which is just what you want when you have finished running. Tp stay hydrated we also went to Bird and Blend- they were advertising a mega latte with their seasonal strawberry and nutella pancakes tea, and even offered vegan squirty cream (who even knew that was a thing?) so I had that and it was just what I needed.

Since January I have stopped working Mondays, so to make the most of this we actually stayed down in Brighton for the Sunday night and travelled back the next day, which was a revelation!

So, a weekend of running, fresh air and eating delicious vegan food.

I ended up resting for the entire next week as my leg still had a tight muscle and I didn’t want to do any damage. By the next parkrun, I was OK to take it gently and thankfully felt fine.

Are there races that you love to do each year?

Grovelands parkrun- my NENDY for ages

If you are not sure, NENDY is Nearest Event Not Done yet (or NENYD if you want to swap the final two words around).

My initial idea for parkrun tourism was to visit Lordship Recreational Grounds parkrun, in North London, as I could do a similar journey to the previous week, getting the train to Finsbury Park and then changing to the underground. However, engineering works meant that there was a rail replacement bus which takes ages (over an hour- I think if I had got the 7:50 train I would have got to Finsbury Park after 9) so that was off the table. I then thought about driving to an underground station and going in that way- I could easily drive to Oakwood station and then head in.

After realising that the purple icon on the 5k app was showing the actual location of my NENDY, I realised that Grovelands parkrun was only a little drive further than the underground station I was aiming for, so decided to plan to go there instead.

In the woods at the start, and scenes from Grovelands park including a large manor house.

There isn’t a car park listed, just street parking, which did make me worry, but when I looked on google maps the road was wide and quiet, with enormous home and driveways and plenty of parking. I knew the vague direction I needed to be heading in (past Cockfosters tube, keeping going straight until I got to the road I needed to park on, where I needed to turn left). I was nearly there, and then started seeing warning signs for the ULEZ coming up, which I didn’t think I would be driving into. (The car is electric, but still I would need to register). I looked again at the maps and they were swirling and recalculating- I’d lost connection and so had missed my turning. I had a bit of a panic at this point as I was gone 8:30 and I didn’t know how far I’d gone past the turning. Thankfully it wasn’t far (maybe a mile) and when I got closer the map loaded up again so I was reassured that I was in the right place.

There was no purple sign so the main sign will have to do! Also, do you like the tree growing out of my head in that photo?

The park was varied with a little lake, a wild wooded area (I could hear so many birds calling), lawns, tennis courts and a grand looking manor house. They mentioned at the first timers welcome that the start might be a few minutes late as the RD had been told that there were delays on the underground- very thoughtful. I chatted briefly to another tourist who had come up from Wimbledon as she was completing all of the London parkruns. My journey was super easy in comparison!

The route was just under 3 laps of the park, with a bit of a hill in each lap. There was a brilliant marshal at the top shouting out personalised running advice to each person- keep your eyes up, move your arms (and to me) keep your elbows close to your body. She was so encouraging but helpful too.

As you ran around the earlier laps the timer was calling out times too, so you could get a bit of an idea. As I neared the final part he was telling everyone that sub 30 was in their reach. and I’d not gone below 30 minutes this year, so pushed a bit, and managed 29:37- super!

So, my 95th event! I didn’t even know the park was there, so I’m thankful to parkrun was making me explore more of this area that is fairly local to me. And at least now I understand what the purple icon on the 5k app means!

Highbury Fields parkrun- plenty of laps!

It’s been a while since I’ve had a solo parkrun adventure, but the start of half term coincided with my dad being away, so I decided to head to Highbury Fields parkrun. I’ve quite like going to parkrun via train, and have been working my way through the parkruns on the train line between here and Kings Cross. Highbury Fields was the only one left, and as it’s 5 laps I’ve been intrigued to see how it works. I have been to a 5 lapper before, at Heslington in York- it was on a cycle track- so this would be quite different.

The quickest way for me to travel was to get the train to Finsbury Park, and then change to the underground and go one stop on to Highbury & Islington. You can pay contactless on that route now, rather than having to buy tickets, so that made it easier., and the park could not get closer to the tube station- a very easy one to get to via public transport.

I had written out my instructions as I am very liable to forget them. It all worked out well, and I got to the park nice and early, around 8:30, so had a little jog around the outside of the field. This was when I really wondered how on earth the parkrun fit in there. On the map, the park looks like a triangle shape and so I headed up to the wider part, but it was still really small and I don’t think I managed 1km.

There were lots of people warming up, and some friendly volunteers standing around and chatting- there seemed to be a lot of tourists but I wonder if half term had something to do with that. There was a couple who I wanted to speak to but were always a bit far away, wearing t-shirts that when they stood together said ‘we love parkrun”- fantastic.

I left my jacket on the tarpaulin by the start/finish area at the last possible moment as it was quite brisk, but of course I warmed up as soon as I started running.

I also got to see The Garage- I wonder how many gigs I had seen there in my younger years!

Once we started, the course became clearer- we actually ran laps around the outside of the park, mainly on pavements and a small part in the top section of the park on the paths there. They had told us we had to keep track of our own laps (of course) and I ended up running behind the same 3 people, so that made it easier. Each lap went gently uphill for one side of the park, across the top, then downhill and around the outside/bottom of the park. I wondered how congested it would be, and I did start getting lapped by the super speedy runners in my second lap (I think), but it wasn’t ever too bad, and of course by the time I was on my third lap onwards, the speediest ones were finishing so the course was thinning out. At the final corner was the most enthusiastic marshal who was cheering everyone and ringing a handbell- he was brilliant.

After I finished, I jogged along Upper Street towards Angel, via Bird and Blend. They weren’t open until 10, so I hung around outside for a bit before getting a chai latte (they do the best ones and I wasn’t passing up an opportunity to visit). I was going to get some breakfast too, but the trains back from Kings Cross were only every half an hour and I didn’t want to have to wait until the next one, so I waited until I got back to WGC, heading into Caffe Nero for a vegan croissant and tea.

That was my 94th different parkrun location and number 305, and I am quite pleased that my map on the parkrun challenges chrome extension joins up home to central London without any gaps.

Have you ever run a parkrun with 5 laps before?

Itchen Valley parkrun – name badge complete!

When Itchen Valley Country parkrun started, I had it in mind for the I for my alphabet, but despite going to Southampton fairly regularly, I ended up going to Irchester for my I. It was still on my list as a parkrun to visit, and as I am having fun with the parkrun Chrome extension, the name badge challenge meant I needed a second parkrun beginning with I.

It all finally fell into place this January- Andy was going to the football, we were going to visit his family down there, and so we drove down on the Friday evening, stayed in a hotel (around a 6 minute drive to the parkrun)- perfect!

Of course, any sort of touring at this time of year is not as easy as that. The cold weather, following on from lots of rain meant that one by one, parkruns were cancelling due to ice. Itchen Valley posted that they would do a course check in the morning but that they should be on. But I didn’t really have a plan B, as the next closest ones had cancelled. There was one around a 30 min drive away that was on, but that was really too far as we had to be out by 11. (One slight worry was that it seemed to disappear from the 5k app overnight- not sure why).

Left is the 5k app on Friday night, right on Saturday morning where Itchen Valley no longer seemed to be there.

I left leaving as late as possible, but there was no confirmation post that they were still on. I then had to scrape the car (had forgotten about that joy) and so despite being so close, I parked up at something like 8:47 am. Rather too close for comfort- as I walked up to the start area the new runners welcome was just about to begin. At least it was on!

The actual park was beautiful. Of course the frosty weather and blues skies all helped, as it was one of those perfect wintery days. The team showed us their new tourist board (a whiteboard for people to write where they were from), but the condensation on it had then frozen so no-one could actually use it. It was a fab idea though- hopefully next time.

The course was described as one lap, but if you look at the map it wiggles all over the place, with lots of twists and turns and meeting points. It did make me laugh when the volunteer said to us to all have a look at the map to try to remember it- there was no way! They said it was clearly marked (it was) and I just need to follow the person in front anyway.

It started off on a field, which was totally frozen solid. Any small ruts were proper ankle breaker bumps, so I heeded their advice and took it as a scenic gentle run, no thoughts of pb’s in my head.

Mid-run scenes-a few icy patches and a beautiful section through the woods.

After going around the field, we headed into woods, and here it was so interesting as some of the puddles were frozen solid, with all the bramble leaves coated in a layer of frost, and then other parts of the path had big muddy puddles. It shows how sheltered some of it must be. At points you could see people much further ahead, as the course loops around- I passed a marshal standing by some tape, and later passed him on the other side of the tape.

It was still super frosty when I finished, so no chance of even a speedy run into the finish funnel. My time was 36:53, and as we had to speedily check out I headed straight back to the car to get back to the hotel. It does seem like a lovely park and I would happily run there again if I was nearby.

The Strava route shows how wiggly the one lapped course is!

On the 5k app it soon showed up that I had finally completed my name badge- I quite like that it took ten years. As I have an S in my name, my first run at St Albans, back in March 2013 is on there, as well as my first tourist run of Crissy Field in 2015 (now sadly closed). I also had a notification that I had achieved another badge, Old MacDonald, which was a parkrun beginning with E, I, E, I, O (the second letter I finished it off for me)- happily that badge contained Ellenbrook Fields for my first E.

That was my 93rd location too- I am still working towards the 100, hopefully this year.

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?