All the puddings

This weekend was full of highs and lows. Let’s get the lows done quickly, shall we?

I ran on Monday night and my shin/calf was really niggly. It had niggled slightly at parkrun a week ago but I put it down to it being really cold and my muscles not being warm enough. But Monday clarified things. It didn’t feel right and afterwards it felt pretty crappy. I’ll go into this in another post but basically this is rubbish.

Anyway, I didn’t run again until deciding to try a few miles before parkrun this weekend (because I was panicking I hadn’t hit the 8 mile long run I needed to for Tokyo). Though I knew I was lying to myself. I knew the run wouldn’t go well really and this was just to avoid me going to parkrun believing I could run and having to DNF. So on my pre-parkrun walk with Alfie I ran up the road with him and decided it was a no-go. I got back home, wrapped up in warmer clothes and headed to parkrun to set-up and volunteer.img_6900It was very cold and despite having several layers on and a hat I was cold. I was grumpy as I was overthinking about my leg, running and marathon training…but I was eventually cheered up by the lovely parkrun crew. You can’t be too sad at parkrun!

After parkrun and a hot bowl of porridge, I headed to the gym to take out some of my frustrations. I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine which made me feel a little better about not running and then did a fantastic glute workout which I’m still feeling today. This included:

• Squats
• Landmine squats (these are great for really working on your depth)
• Monster walks with a resistance band
• Cable pull-throughs
• Leg press burnout
• Single leg deadlifts

I left the gym feeling accomplished and far more happy. Sometimes you just need to sweat it out!

I was also feeling good because I was going out for a Christmas meal with my friends. It’s always so nice to dress up. I wore a very sparkly dress with sparkly shoes and felt really happy 🙂img_6924

We went to the Cams Mill pub (where the Fareham parkrun starts at). It was very nice!img_6935We’d made our menu selections a while ago and I was disappointed with myself for choosing trout as my main rather than turkey (who does that!??!). I think my rationale was that I didn’t want to over-do turkey before the big day. I was very jealous when the mains came out though. However, my trout was delicious (and I got some leftover turkey from one of my friends so it was a win-win!)cams-mill-pubAnd again I was annoyed that I’d selected a pear tart for pudding… but then realised I’d chosen it because the cheesecake was chocolate orange which I don’t really like. I’m not a Terry’s Chocolate Orange fan at all! And Christmas pudding is a bit too rich and alcoholly for me.

The pear tart, however, was really really good. The ice cream was lovely and creamy and the tart was lovely and (dare I say) moist. No big nasty chunks of pear in which I was fearing. As nice as it was, I got serious food envy when I saw the cheesecakes. They looked so good! My friends laughed at me for ordering the inferior pear tart and I grudgingly watched them enjoy their cheesecakes (the far more popular pudding choice). Isn’t it the way when even though the meal you’re eating is nice but you see something that looks more appealing suddenly your meal isn’t as good…just me?

However, I was very lucky that two of my friends didn’t finish their cheesecakes and passed them down to me! Now, on reflection, I can say the pear tart was the better pudding. I’m still not a chocolate orange fan and who serves cheesecake with orange sorbet?? But I can’t say I complained too much 😉 Though I felt very full afterwards!!  Just call me the human dustbin…

I did have a few gin and tonics as well, because it’s Christmas 😉 Though amusingly my first G&T didn’t actually contain any gin and I was sipping away thinking “this is lovely!” until the barman ran over to me and said he needed to put the gin in as it got taken before it was ready! Oops. Shows how much I drink!img_6940Anyway the evening was good. Nothing like good friends and good food to make you feel 100 times better.

Christmas meal number two this week 😀

Are you going to any Christmas parties or meals this year?

Will you be dressing up?

What would you normally order on a Christmas menu?

Edinburgh parkrun Review

Morning, morning. I have another parkrun review, this time from my running club buddy Andy Cockrell. He’s a super speedy and super smart. He has kindly offered up a review for the Edinburgh parkrun. Hope you enjoy!

Location: The Edinburgh parkrun takes place on the shorefront of the Firth of Forth between Cramond and Silverknowes in the north west of the city.  Once you’re on the shorefront, follow the stream of runners and you’ll find the start.

Parking: There are two options for parking.  The first is the car park in Cramond village at the foot of Cramond Glebe Road to the east of the start line.  The car park at Cramond does fill up quickly, but further on-street parking is available along Cramond Glebe Road.  The second option is to park on Marine Drive on the Silverknowes side of the course to the west of the start line.  Both options are free and equidistant from the start line.edinburgh-parkrun-photo-wg12-1

Photo credit: WG12 from the Flickr group

Alternatively, there are regular busses to Cramond.  It’s then a 5-10 minute walk down Cramond Glebe Road to the shorefront.

Amenities: There are public toilets at the Cramond end of the Promenade which are open from 0830 each day.

The Cramond Bistro opens at 1000 and offers hot drinks and homemade cakes (the scones are particularly good).  This is located on the River Almond Waterfront, just follow the promenade around to the left where the river meets the shore when returning from the finish line.  Alternatively, go down the steps opposite the entrance to the car park.

On the Silverknowes side there is Boardwalk Beach Club which opened earlier this year.  It is located between Marine Drive and promenade about halfway along the course.  If you have non-runners or spectators with you, this is a good place for them to base themselves as the patio area looks out onto the promenade.

Course: The course is effectively an out and return along the shorefront, with a small loop at the turn point to prevent the turnaround from being too tight.edinburgh-parkrunThe start line is about 500m east of Cramond Village, usually marked by banners and flags.  The route then heads east along the promenade towards Silverknowes.  With the number of runners, the start can seem a bit narrow, but the route widens up very quickly; the main promenade is 20m wide so there is plenty of room for everyone.

The route follows the promenade winding along the coast for 2km before heading left when you reach Gypsy Brae to hug the shoreline for another 100m, before turning right to run back to the main promenade.  Turning right onto the promenade, you then run 2.5km back along the shore towards the start line.  When running west you have a fantastic view of the Forth Bridges further along the coast.  With about 500m to go there’s a fork in the promenade.  Take the left-hand fork and you enter the finishing funnel.

The course is entirely on tarmac, so mud and slippery conditions under foot are not generally an issue unless it’s icy.

Elevation: The course epitomises the phrase “as flat as a pancake.”  There are no discernible elevation changes apart from where the promenade forks with 500m to go, but even that is a very gradual rise of around 1m!

edinburgh-parkrun-photoPhoto credit: from the Flickr group

Number of participants: On average there are around 350 runners each week, but average attendance is increasing.  There have been up to 500 runners at recent runs, with a record attendance of 642.  For a city the size of Edinburgh there are a disappointing number of local parkruns, the only other one in the city is in Portobello on the East side of the city which was set up last year.  Despite this, attendance at both runs is still increasing with Portobello seeing around 250 runners each week.

Other: The course record is 14:31 for men, set by Ross Toole and 16:35 for women, set by Sarah Inglis.edinburgh-parkrun-photo-wg12Photo credit: WG12 from the Flickr group

It’s a Scottish parkrun so remember it starts later at 0930.  As it’s on the coast, the wind can be an additional challenge at times, but at least the wind will be behind you for half the run.  In the winter, the wind can have quite a bite to it, so remember to dress appropriately!  On a calm day, however, it is a very fast course.

Check out their Facebook page and Twitter for more info!

Have you done any non-English parkruns?

Do you prefer a flat but potentially windy course or a hilly but less windy course?

Where do you draw the line?

So lately I’ve been using the elliptical machine to keep my cardiovascular fitness up while I wasn’t running much. I could have done a spin class but I didn’t really fancy it. I wanted something similar to running and something that I could control depending on how I felt.

With spin it’s very much go-go-go, whereas I can do whatever I fancy on my own. But invariably I’d find it so incredibly dull and would require some sort of entertainment to get me through. I found watching YouTube videos on my phone an effective way of keeping me on the machine. I would want something a bit mindless but also motivating and inspiring. So I ended up watching lots of fitness vloggers go about their lives. This entailed the types of training they did in the gym, the foods they’d eat and just generally what they’d get up to. Pretty much like the blogs I read really but visual, obviously.

I found myself watching videos of vloggers who I’d never in my wildest dream ever want to be like (which is actually quite different to the blogs I read). Not because they’re terrible people but because their goals are so far beyond what I’d ever aim for or want. But it wasn’t half fascinating to watch.

Some of the fitness vloggers were bikini competitors. At first I really had no idea what that was. I knew it was vaguely bodybuilding but I had no idea that you could (or would even choose to) train for months to just stand on a stage, in a bikini, and basically show your body off. These women would train, bodybuilder-style, in the gym and then drop their calories down to “cut” in order to show off their newly honed muscles. Like really cut down their weight – we’re talking 16% body fat.

To me it doesn’t look attractive at all. Why on earth would you do that? Why would you want to? For a short period of time on the stage?! Many of them would apply a shed loads of fake tan, wear unbelievably thick make-up, have fake nails, fake hair and boobs… and these muscles popping out everywhere from their hard bodies with barely an ounce of fat on them.

And before they’d go to that point, I’d watch them weighing out their food. ALL their food. Counting macros and calories with scrupulous detail. As the competition gets closer and closer, their food would basically be oats, tilapia fish, chicken, sweet potato and rice. I even watched one girl take her scales TO THE BEACH to weigh out her snacks while she sunbathed.

But this is a genuine thing. Apparently this is not crazy disordered behaviour, but an effective route to achieve their goal. They are not seen as disordered, but focused and determined. They work hard, striving every day to get one step closer to their dream. They have coaches, actual qualified professionals (most of the time), who guide them through this process.

I watch, fascinating and bewildered. I enjoy watching it because it’s just so mad and bizarre and I’m carried along their journey, hoping they do well. Whatever “well” turns out to be… winning a trophy, placing so they can go to another, better competition, or just achieving a certain body to prove they could.

It got me thinking. Their goals are a million miles away from my goals. I love running and hope to run many marathons in my time. I want my body to be strong and injury-free. Of course I try and watch what I eat most of the time (weekend adventures aside…) and I care about what my body looks like. But I have to stop myself before I say, “I’m not as obsessed as they are”.

Am I sure about that?

I’ve had many people (non-runners and people who aren’t interested in fitness) say to me “I don’t know how you do it”, “you’re so motivated”, but mostly “you’re crazy”. I get up at 5am most weekdays to go to the gym to remain strong and healthy for running. I’ll spend hours over the weekend running long runs while most people will be in bed. I walk round a park on freezing Saturday mornings setting up a course to then run round in teeny tiny shorts, my thighs turning pink with the cold. And I’ll finish smiling.

I’ll turn down social events when I’m in the thick of marathon training, or make sure I’m leaving so I can get home in bed for 9pm. I rarely drink alcohol. I’ll cry to my dad on the way to work about my latest injury. I’ll sob because I so desperately want to be outside, in that blizzard/hurricane/storm so I can get in my precious miles. I’ll pour over my spreadsheet to make sure I’m getting in the miles I need, I’ll analyse past performances on Strava comparing where I am now to where I was then. Can I run that pace? Am I faster? What’s my segment best?

I’ll endure hours of painful sports massages. I’ll roll about on the floor in awkward positions to get that knot out of my calf/glute/hamstring. I’ll spend hundreds of pounds on trainers, gymwear, running clothes, gels, foam rollers, running books and magazines, running holidays… it goes on and on.

There’s not one day that passes that I don’t not think about running or what I’m going to do at the gym. My weekends revolve around my running and fitness. My year is broken into when my next marathon is, when I’m training and what races I can squeeze in between.

Am I obsessed?

Where do you draw the line between determination and obsession? When does drive and ambition turn into something darker? Do you need to be an outsider looking in to gain a certain perspective? Am I wrong to have judged those bikini competitors just because it’s not my goal and it’s not what I’d do?

I guess we all have our own obsessions and goals… and it’s managing them and keeping them under control that’s key. I know from experience of injuries not to put my whole heart and soul into running because when it all comes crumbling down, you need something to be left with, whether that’s anything to do with fitness or not. But after thinking about it, I do judge those vloggers less harsh now. We all have goals, and those goals require different routes and methods, however bizarre they seem to me. People in glass houses…

What do you think?

Would you say you’re obsessed about anything?

Has anyone ever commented on your hobbies?

Back to parkrun and training like a girl

Happy Monday everyone, didn’t the weekend just fly by?

Well, I’m back in the running game again after a bit of time off. I feel raring to go again after reigniting my running mojo and my shin/calf feeling a whole lot better. I ran three miles on Monday evening and then six on Thursday. Both of those runs felt really good. I’ve obviously lost a lot of speed and endurance, as is natural with taking time off, but it didn’t feel like I was really struggling or that it was such a shock to the system, which was pleasantly surprisingly.

This is probably due to the fact that I retained some level of cardiovascular fitness through using the (very dull) elliptical machine. I find this machine soo dull but I’d watch YouTube while I was on it and it definitely helped pass the time!

Anyway, so Saturday morning saw me at Netley parkrun for the first time in ages.   Ordinarily I’d have probably kept going but volunteering even if I wasn’t running but I’ve been really busy recently. I felt very bad when I saw the core team set-up guys and they jokingly saifd, “who’s this stranger, then?”. But they welcomed me back, thankfully.

Though it was very cold that morning! I do prefer it cold and dry then wet and warmer but it’s still tough to be outside walking around for an hour before you start running. I forget how easy parkrun is when it’s beautifully sunny and warm… the winter months are definitely a trying time.img_6765We’re now on the winter course, which is slightly different to last year’s winter course due to the construction work happening on the chapel. This means we run part way on the grass round the chapel. Huge piles of leaves cover the route though so we had to do a bit of improvising to clear the way…img_6764We used the signs as brooms to sweep away the leaves. Oh the things we do for the love of running!

I had sensibly worn long trousers and different shoes to set the course up, then headed back to my car to take them off and switch to my trainers. I wore shorts, which was very nippy! But I knew once I got going I’d be alright. I’d stayed over my parent’s house the night before and annoyingly had forgotten my socks so had to borrow my mum’s. She lent me some lovely sparkly ones (the photo doesn’t really show)…img_6767The start area is a bit more cramped and as I hadn’t done this course before and I wasn’t aiming for a fast time, I just wedged myself somewhere in the middle. This proved a little bit of a mistake as I was then hemmed in amongst a a lot of people not really my speed. But really it didn’t matter as I managed to get round them as we broke out into a bigger space.

The run felt a lot harder than my previous two runs and I guess that’s because it is a hilly course (two hills you do three times) and I was very cold going into it and din’t warm up until mile two. But mainly because I’m unfit in terms of running.img_6766

One of my friends said afterwards to me that he noticed I wasn’t in my usual area of the field – I was a fair way back from where he’d thought I was going to be. I’m not that bothered because, as long as my training goes OK, I can look back at this and see how far I’ve come. It’s always fun seeing the progression and working hard to get better.capture




My time was 23:59, so just squeaked a sub-24 which I’m happy with. I definitely hope to do some speed work this marathon cycle but I’m going to allow a few weeks of getting gently back into things to avoid re-niggling!img_6782So a successful parkrun! It was so nice to be back and see friendly faces again. Though it’s invariably cold and miserable in the winter, parkrun is definitely still worth going to!

The next day I went to the gym in the morning and got in a good workout. I did 45 minutes on the elliptical machine and then did a chest and shoulder workout. I imagine my strength workouts will have to take a backseat very soon but I was really chuffed to get a personal best for my bench press.img_6811Chest is not an area I used to train at all (“I’m a girl” was my excuse). But I soon realised that in order to be a more balanced athlete in terms of strength and muscle I need to train my entire body. I train my back so why not my chest? And I’ve felt it hugely help with my other lifts too.

After my workout I showered and got ready to meet my parents for a Nando’s and a cinema trip. We saw Allied which was alright…very, very cheesy but not a bad way to spend an afternoon after you’ve eaten a lot of chicken!

How was your weekend?

Are there parts of your body you either don’t train or hate to train?

Do you run during the winter?

Burgess parkrun Review

Another week, another parkrun review. I hope you’re enjoying these and/or find them helpful! I love parkrun so for me I love hearing about other ones around and I hope people find the information helpful – especially as they’re written from runners who have a good knowledge of that particular parkrun.

Anyway, this one, Burgess parkrun, is written by the lovely Gemma (@peeriegemgem), an avid runner and Twitter friend.m
Location: Burgess Park is in Camberwell, South East London and is the Southwark boroughs largest park. Along with Southwark parkrun it can claim to be the most central of London parkruns.  The easiest way to get there on public transport is to head to Elephant & Castle tube station (on Bakerloo and Northern lines) and walk about fifteen minutes down the Walworth Road or get a bus.  On bus, locate Citymapper to stop on Camberwell/Albany Road as this is the nearest entrance to start/finish of the run.  (pic shows entrance)

Parking: Being in Central London, parking is on the limited side although the website does note there is some spots available in Addington Square and on Albany Road and this is free for up to four hours.

Amenities: There are toilets available in the tennis court centre which should be open just before the run begins.  These are just as you head into the park on the right hand side.img_8078After getting an absolutely drenching visiting a friend for their 50th parkrun (see Wally – dressed for the occasion!) we headed over for warm mugs of tea and avocado on toast where the results are processed at Fowlds Café, Addington Square.  It is very small on the space front so head over promptly once you’ve finished your run to get a seat!img_8083Course/Elevation: The course is an out and back with two laps of a lake in the middle.  (See pic)  Note the start and finish are not at exactly the same point as the start was moved further back to ease congestion. Most participants wander up, leave their belongings at the finish on a waterproof sheet and head to the start. img_8072The course starts with a long straight of about a kilometre before turning back on itself, out towards the lake, twice around, and then heading back to the finish (but cutting short the full kilometre straight!).  It is well marshalled at each turn so the only thinking required is remembering two laps of the lake!  There is a slight dip where you go through the underpass on the final straight and this is about the point where you want to consider kicking in for that final sprint.

I may be slightly bias as this is my first parkrun and where I have done the most runs, but it remains one of my favourite runs.  It is a very friendly parkrun and I have made many friends after running Burgess over fifty times.

It is a fast flat course (see elevation!) that doesn’t get too congested once you are out of the start.burgess-elevationIt is ideal for pram/buggy runners – one flew past me as I headed onto my second lap of the lake. The volunteer team are very enthusiastic and there are usually post run goodies on offer.  I tucked into fruit and homemade brownies as post run fuel – yum!

Number of participants: This parkrun has really grown in size since my first days of attending two years ago.  Back then a hundred was average but the record attendance has now hit nearly 300.  As the Saturday I picked to return was the worst monsoon rain I’d ever done a parkrun in, there were 149 brave souls facing the rain.

Other: Check out the Burgess Park Facebook/Twitter as they post updates fairly regularly.  Sometimes people take photographs which will appear on social media and there tends to be socials organised a couple of times a year.

Do you enjoy doing parkrun in fancy dress?

What’s the funniest fancy dress you’ve seen for a runner?

Are you a fair-weather parkrunner?