Kingsbury parkrun and The National Running Show

So when you’re reading this I’ll be on my jolly way to Dubai. Exciting stuff! I didn’t think I’d write another post before I left but after such a fun and eventful weekend I couldn’t help myself.

I had Friday off of work as I was catching the train to Birmingham to see friends and go to the National Running Show (which I only found out was actually the first one they’ve done!). I did a quick gym session in the morning and some pre holiday jobs before my train left just before 1pm. Happily my dad was working from home and said he could drive me to Fareham station. My train was 12:47 and at 12:10 my dad said he was just going to take the dogs for a quick walk and we’d leave after that. Sounded good to me. I mean I the queen of last minute so I didn’t think anything of it.

By 12:30 he still wasn’t home and I was now very worried. I rang him a bit panicked asking where he was – it would take just about 10 minutes to get to the station and I needed to pick my ticket from the machine. It was very very close! He replied saying he thought my train was 1pm… Erm nope! He rushed home but by that time it was 12:40 and we’d never make it. In the end we had to zoom to another station down the line (Southampton Airport). To say I was stressed was an understatement, especially as I could only get that train and it cost me £72!!! Sweaty bum indeed.

Thankfully we arrived in time. And funnily enough it worked better for my dad as it was on the way to his work where he needed to drop in for the afternoon. We both wondered why we hadn’t done this in the first place… Yeah I don’t know either. I got to Birmingham without any more issues and met with my lovely running friend, James (@runeckers on Instagram). We had a nice time catching up – actually only the third time we’ve met in “real life” but we just get on so well.

We went out for a few drinks in Birmingham. We went to a bar called Bacchus and then the Postal Vaults. Very cool places indeed. I kept trying to perfect my Brummy accent but apparently I’m not there yet. More Peaky Blinders required! After that we headed to The Rub Smokehouse and met with our friend, John, who we both knew from Marathon Talk. James knew John from one of the Sandy Ball run camps and I knew John through the Austria run camp… Weird how connected it all is.

We had a couple of cocktails to start. James had a “Walking Dead” and I had an “Afternoon Tea” (which I originally poo-pooed for sounding weird…). It came out in a teapot (but wasn’t warm thankfully!) with a tiny glass of prosecco to add (like the milk I guess?). It was very tasty. I love how funky the cocktails were. Nice to have a bit of fun with that sort of thing.For my main I went for a full rack of ribs, half a chicken and pulled pork cheesy chips. I realise how disgustingly greedy this is. But it tasted amazing, and I don’t waste food. The food was epic… I mean there was a “pizza taco” on the menu – basically a 16 inch pizza folded up full of pulled pork chicken and battered prawns.John had a far more restrained steak and James had a monster burger with a corn dog on top. It was that kind of place… epic.My ribs were very tasty and the chicken was SO GOOD (as someone who regularly eats a lot of Nandos I can say this was top notch).For pudding I went for a white chocolate brownie with ice cream. Their sister company Brownie Heaven makes the brownies and I’ve heard they’re amazing.Don’t get me wrong, it was incredible, but TINY. I looked enviously at James’ pudding choice… Two doughnuts stacked on top of each other with Nutella, peanut butter and ice cream. Fortunately (for me) he struggled with the second doughnut so I got to help him out. But it left me very full indeed!It was such a lovely evening. The three of us get on so well and could probably talk about life, the universe and on for hours. It was a great evening. John headed back to his hotel (he’d been there for work) and James and I went back to his flat, where I was staying on his sofa. My night’s sleep though was terrible. Nothing to do with the comfort of the sofa (it was lovely) but I kept waking up and my heart was racing (usually I’m around 49-52 bpm at night but it was close to 75!) and I had a lot of hot flushes (meat sweats I guess…). My own fault I’m fully aware!

The next morning John, James and I headed to Kingsbury Water parkrun. This was handy for me as I needed a K for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. It was quite the miserable morning, drizzling with rain and very cold. All three of us were happy to run round together at no great speed (relatively speaking). I was keen to not stress my calf out which was feeling good, John’s on his way back into running after some time off and James is semi-injured. Normally James and John would be roaring ahead of me!The parkrun was lovely and scenic. It goes round a lake and is a two lapper (my favourite). It’s a very picturesque and of course friendly parkrun. Though it was flat it was also very muddy underfoot. I doubt I could have blasted a super fast time if I’d have been fit enough to do so anyway. It was quite slippy. We chatted as we ran and enjoyed the views. A lovely social run.We got just over 24 minutes and significantly muddy! I felt very bad getting back into James’ car as we didn’t have any towels.When we got back to the flat (John joining us this time) we took turns showering and got some breakfast before heading to the NEC for the Running Show.The Running Show was good. It was basically like a race expo with lots of stands with brands representing their gadgets, clothes, races, nutritional products, foam rollers and more.It was nice to wander round and see different things, try out a foam roller and try some “vitamin coffee”.It was ridiculously busy and very hot though.It was a great event with a lot of potential to grow. The bigger brands like adidas, Nike and Brooks weren’t there surprisingly but I imagine after the popularity this year they’ll be there next year. I will say though that had I travelled 2.5 hours on a train by myself just for the event I might have been a bit disappointed because it did feel very much like an expo. Though to be fair I didn’t sit and watch any of the talks… So I guess I can’t judge entirely fairly. We just didn’t fancy sitting watching anyone as nothing took our interest.I saw lots of friendly and family faces, like Mary from A Healthier Moo blog (bless her, I don’t know how she does it with her crazy long distance running, night shifts and looking after her adorable son, Oscar). I also saw numerous Instagram legends, like Carl from @BigCarlRunning as a guest expert inspiring everyone around him. And of course Marathon Talk friends and friendly faces from my club. And of course the lovely Anji from @Enigmagirl81 who I’ve never met in real life but chat through social media regularly.It was a very friendly place. We gained Michelle in our group (a super fast and lovely girl originally from my running club but now living in Bister – she came to Austria too so knew John as well. All four of us will be going to Sandy Balls run camp in February).After a few hours we headed to the outlet shopping centre, Resort World, where we checked out the Nike shop (I got myself a £14 top!). Then a late lunch/early dinner in Nandos. I can only get one thing from Nandos really. I do feel bad for the sheer amount of meat consumed over the weekend but it was an out of the ordinary thing…And then it was time to part ways and head home. Always a sad thing when you’ve had such a good time together. I wish we lived closer!

Have you ever been to Birmingham?

Did you go to the National Running Show?

What would you like to see at a running show?

Reading Half training day and lots of cake

This weekend was quite busy with me being in both Reading and then Brighton. I was in Reading for the Reading Half Marathon Training Session.

I’ve never done an event like this so I was quite excited about what it would entail, even if it did mean missing my usual parkrun 😉 It was nice to mix things up a bit. On Saturday morning I had a quick breakfast and got myself going at 8.30am. Surprisingly for me I arrived bang on time  for 9.30am – in fact, earlier than other people! Normally I’m late!IMG_2597I finally got to meet the lovely Tess (who writes the great blog The Fitbits) who I know through social media. She’s just as lovely in person as she is online – and, I hope she doesn’t mind me saying this, she is TINY but full of energy!

The session involved lots of different bits. We got to meet the Reading Half Marathon Run Director, Judith Manson, who was lovely and friendly and got us all excited about the upcoming event (18th March – there are still places available FYI, as well as a competition to win a place HERE).

Then we had a workout with the Townsend Twins, Francesca and Chloe, who will be doing the warm-up before the half marathon on the day. IMG_2568They took us through a solid body-weight workout involving squats, single leg deadlifts and lunges etc. followed by a core-focused workout. They gave us options to make it easier or harder which was nice as there was a variety of skill level within the room. They had a great energy and kept us going.D7B7CB84-E4D8-4528-92E8-FCAB2829CE66Then Ali Galbraith took us through a discussion on pacing.IMG_2574He gave us some good tips on how to pace our ideal race. Some of his points included:

  • Having a good knowledge of the course so you would know when the tricky sections were like any hills so you wouldn’t panic when your pace decreased and where you could pick it up later.
  • Not going off too fast at the start (such an underrated tip – this is my biggest tip to anyone when doing a half or a full marathon. It is SO easy to get over-excited at the beginning and then burn out).
  • Practising your goal pace during your training.

And other top tips. Most of it was familiar to me but the tip that stood out was having a good knowledge of the course.D0B739E2-1DE7-4711-A245-3FE21DF0E41CFor some strange reason I don’t like to look at course maps too much because it’s almost like I don’t want to ruing the surprise for myself… which is ridiculous. Too often I have very little awareness of what’s coming up in the race. So I took this point away with me to change.IMG_2606Then we headed out for a 5k run. What I really liked about this (and the workout before) was that the warm-ups weren’t the old school static stretches. It was all dynamic movements to get the muscles warmed up, things like leg swings, squats and lunges. Far, far better! There’s no point stretching cold muscles.IMG_2593The run itself was good. We split off into groups due to everyone differing in paces. The group I was in had a pace of 8.30-9 minutes per mile which was led by Ali. The run was around the local area and took in the first mile of the Reading Half Marathon, so we could get a feel of what race day would be like (though I have run Reading twice before, but not the new course).IMG_2596Then we headed around the Madejski Stadium before heading back. It was a lovely crisp cold morning which we all agreed would be perfect weather for the race day. My calf felt a little uncomfortable but nothing major.Reading runThen we all met up back at the conference centre the event was held in and had our final session which was with Jim from the Berkshire Physio. They would be at the Half Marathon too – so if you need any advice or post-race massage, they’re your guys!IMG_2599Jim was super knowledgeable and pretty much everything he said he backed up with research. He talked about RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) as a treatment for an injury and also gave us some great stretches and strength exercises to keep us injury-free. One of the best exercises he gave us was called the “slump” and involved “neural flossing” of the Sciatic nerve. Instead of stretching your hamstrings with the standard static stretch, he recommended this exercise. Basically you sit on a table and slump your back to relax your spin with your chin to your chest, then you straight one leg and then bring it back down again. You continue to do this, and should feel things loosen from your leg to your back if you’re really tight. Apparently this is “flossing” your Sciatic nerve and helping to reduce tension and tightness. Obviously my explanation is a bit pants, so I recommend you google it if you’re interestedIMG_2570The event was well run and a good session. It was nice to meet fellow runners and to chat about training and things like that. I met the lovely Tamsyn from the blog Fat Girl to Ironman and Katie and Kate from the blog These Girls Do. So a fantastic bunch! I’m really looking forward to the Reading Half now 🙂

Then I hopped back in the car around 1.30pm and headed to Brighton. I hadn’t really planned lunch and didn’t really want to stop for anything proper as I just wanted to get there so I pushed on through. I did however eat four apples to keep me going. I’m not AnnaTheApple for no reason 😉

I got to Brighton and met up with my lovely friend, Charlotte. I was staying over for the night ready for a baby shower celebration the next day with my uni friends. I managed to persuade her into ordering an early dinner from Deliveroo as I was past the point of hunger and dangerously close to hanger. We ordered from a Turkish place called Almoosh Snack which we did the last time I stayed. I went for the mixed grill (which was HUGE but absolutely perfect for my hunger levels) and Charlotte ordered a large halloumi wrap and tabbouleh salad.IMG_2602My mixed grill was as I remembered it (lots of chicken wings, lamb mince koftas etc. on a bed of rice) but Charlotte’s was literally just slices of fried halloumi and her salad. It was definitely not a large wrap – and certainly missing the garlic sauce and pickles described on the menu! I rang up to complain and the man did apologise and said Deliveroo must have given us the starter version. He didn’t really offer a solution though… I’m still going to look into this further as it was a disappointing. Charlotte had to add a bagel to make it into an actual meal. Hmmm. Despite this, we had a lovely evening watching Hidden Figures (so good) and lots of First Dates (such addictive trashy TV).IMG_2609The next day I had a fabulous lie-in and then headed out into the bitter cold for a 4 mile run. I had intended on going a bit further (maybe 6 miles) but the calf was just not happy. I’d warmed it up and done some exercises before going out but it was no Bueno. It just felt so uncomfortable every time my foot hit the ground. IMG_2608The run location was lovely – the weather cold and windy but bright and the promenade was just full of fellow runners and a beautiful view of the sea. But I headed back and called it a day. 4 milesAfterwards there was a dull but non-specific ache in the calf. Hummm. Yeah I probably shouldn’t have run after running the day before. I never learn.

Our other friends soon arrived and we all headed to Metrodeco, a very quirky and friendly café in Brighton, for afternoon tea. We didn’t do any crazy crazy baby shower games but we did have a fun game where we couldn’t say “baby” and had pins that we’d try to win off of people when we noticed someone saying it. Very good fun! And probably safe to say I lost…IMG_2623The afternoon tea was amazing. There were open sandwiches of ham, salmon, creme cheese and brie. A large scotch egg sliced up, two mini fruit scones, a chocolate brownie, a mini red velvet cupcake and a selection of fruit tarts.IMG_2625We also had unlimited tea from a very large selection. I chose the Puer Tea, simply because I’d heard Victoria Beckham drank it because it was healthy (haha I’m ridiculous I know) but actually it was delicious and complimented all the sweet foods perfectly. It was like a refreshing and gentle black tea. We could change our teas whenever we fancied but I stuck with that one.IMG_2626The whole afternoon tea was so good! We could ask for more creme (clotted of course) and jam and the service was just super friendly and helpful. And, as usual, I played the human dustbin and helped where people needed it 😉 It’s become worryingly easy how my stomach can put this stuff away!

Then we played some more games (quizzes, no horrible baby shower games involving nappies!), the mother-to-be opened presents and then we headed off home. A lovely weekend with lovely people 🙂

Have you ever tried Puer tea?

Do you enjoy the games usually played at baby showers?

Are you running any half marathons this year?

My trip to Llandudno and a Christmas party

Life lately has been so good. I know I’m probably a broken record on this front but I’m very happy right now. Running is going well. I’m loving my job. I have a solid group of friends who continually make me smile every day. Life is indeed good.

I’ve just got back from Llandudno, seeing my grandparents, and instead of the usual “oh god it’s back to work” I was actually quite happy to go back. Not necessarily as happy about the super early morning, but you can’t win them all.IMG_1646Spending the four-ish days in Llandudno was lovely. Unfortunately my grandad wasn’t his usual energetic and fighting fit self due to an ongoing cough he couldn’t shift, but it was nice to be there anyway. Though he did go on an epic 5.4 mile walk with my dad around the Great Orme while I was out doing my long run on the Monday morning. I mean, as you do when you’re almost 84 right??My 15 mile long run was great. It was very icy and frosty but it was nice to get out in some different scenery. To make life easier I used a 5.6 mile loop that my grandparents had marked out for me (on proper maps, with elevation charts and everything!). This was handy because it meant if the roads were too dangerous I wasn’t going to be too far away from their house to stop.Llandudno runIt also felt a bit easier in my head mentally to think I was doing two-three loops rather than 15 miles. It was a great route because it went from one coast to the other, so you got to the see the sea twice which is always a win in my book.IMG_1697I didn’t have any choice but to wear my shorts as I hadn’t packed any leggings with me (I live in Anna La La Land where I don’t consider any negative prospects ahead, just everything running smoothly and the sun perpetually shining). But actually my legs were fine. It was my the tops of my ears and my fingers that suffered. I was wearing my Nike gloves and they’re still quite thin so my hands got really cold. I ended up pulling my sleeves down over them too. I made sure to  stop a couple of times to take some photos – it was so beautiful (with or without snow, really) that I had to.
Snowy LlandudnoThe first lap was good because I was new to the route and had to double-check my carefully written out paper instructions to ensure I was going to the right way, which helped pass the time. The second lap I just zoned out as I knew where to go. When it came to finishing the second lap I was at over 11 miles I didn’t fancy doing another lap as it would make my long run too far (almost 17 miles) and I really couldn’t be bothered. Instead I started the third lap but turned around when I hit the golf club, which we’d walked to the day before and I knew was 2 miles, so there and back would get me to my 15 miles. Perfect.
15 milesThe rest of the time in North Wales was good old fashioned family time. Lots of walking, quality quiz time (I love a quiz) and good food. My grandparents eat really healthily and light so the only indulgences were when we ate out for food (we had an Indian and a Christmas meal) or when I bought a chocolate drenched waffle at the Christmas market…IMG_1802Some thing have to be done. We also did a fun walk around Llandudno to find all the different Alice in Wonderland statues (called the “Alice Trail”). I love stuff like this.IMG_1799Then I was back at work on the Thursday, just in time for our Christmas do. It was at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which was rather fancy and meant I could put on a sparkly dress.IMG_1868The event only cost £5 and we got a drink on arrival, half a bottle of wine, two drinks tokens and a three course meal. I mean, that’s not too shabby at all! I got myself all glamorous (well, as glam as I can really) and enjoyed a fun evening of food and dancing. IMG_1871I did drink but not to excess as I had work the next day (and not to mention a marathon the following weekend). I’m actually not a huge drinker. I don’t mind getting a bit tiddly but I hate the feeling of wanting to be sick or the room spinning, which inevitably happens after drinking too much. The dinner was great (even more so because my friend and I got to split someone else’s meals between us as they hadn’t shown up). And the pudding was a pudding BAR. I will unashamedly say I returned after my first selection for more. I must have eaten about nine different selections (tiffin, rocky road, mince pie shortbread (!), blondies…). I mean, to be fair they were quite small.Historic Dockyard Christmas partyAnyway it was a really fun evening. It was nice to have a Christmas party with people who were around my own age. However, it did make for getting up on the Friday morning somewhat tricky. Luckily though everyone who’d been just as foolish as me not to take a day off or a half-day was in the same boat, so I wasn’t alone in my grogginess at work!

I’m working most of Christmas (except the Bank Holidays) but I don’t really mind as everyone is so jolly and festive. Plus I have a holiday to Dubai in January to look forward to. I’ll have my Portsmouth Coastal Marathon recap coming soon! Spoiler: I finished and I’m not injured 😀

Did you have a work Christmas party?

Do you run in the snow?

Do you cope well with being hungover?

Tooting Common parkrun and the Harry Potter escape room

On Saturday I headed to the Tooting Common parkrun in London. This meant another early morning catching the 6.39am train.

Luckily it wasn’t ridiculously cold, but it was still fairly chilly. I was in my running gear plus a jumper (which I’d wear later after the run) and a big winter jacket with a fresh travel mug of coffee to take with me. I was going to meet my friends at 11 after parkrun for some escape room fun (more on that later) so I had a big bag with me as well full of a spare set of clothes, baby wipes, deodorant etc. The best you can do when you don’t have a shower!

On the train I chilled with my iPad watching Mudbound (really good film!) and my coffee. But in the back of my mind I was feeling a little stressed. The thing is, the parkrun I’d chosen wasn’t exactly the quickest one to get to. It was about 20 or so minutes on the tube and then a mile from the tube station. And as my train didn’t get in until 8.23am I was cutting it fine. Not only this but the tube I absolutely needed to get in order to get there in time was the 8.28 one. GAH. I could have made life so much easier on myself by choosing a parkrun that was a little closer to Waterloo, but I wanted to get another letter done for my alphabet parkrun challenge. There are no easy ‘T’s around where I live so this was perfect (I say “perfect” loosely here).

As the train pulled into the station I was like a runner at the start of an Olympic race, I was ready to go go go. As soon as the doors opened I leapt out and stormed it down to the barrier and then out down to the tube. My big bag didn’t help but I had to just move quickly. I thankfully got on the right tube and then was just left catching my breath and standing around for the next sprint. It’s amazing how stressed you can get just standing around waiting and not being able to do anything. The train arrived at almost 10 to and I raced out. I had a map screenshotted on my phone and had memorised the roads I needed to know. I saw another runner running from the tube so assumed I was in good company as they headed in the same direction as me. Though it was slightly awkward as I was running just behind them like some stalker girl.I remember running past a really nice coffee/cake shop and thinking “ooh” and then “FOCUS ANNA”. I got to the Tooting Bec Commons where the parkrun would take place and saw a number of runners. I asked one girl who was running if she was heading to parkrun and she said no. This stumped me a little as I just assume anyone running near to a parkrun would do it! Luckily though I could see a crowd of people in the distance and the welcoming signs of high-vis.I arrived with a few minutes to spare, so quickly stripped off my jacket and jumper and dumped my bag on a big canvas sheet that had been laid out especially for this purpose. I’d done a little bit of research beforehand and knew the course was flat and three laps, but also that it was narrow at points so if you wanted a speedy run you needed to be near the front. This always makes me nervous as “speedy” is so subjective. But I DID want a good time (for me) so tried to position myself in a spot that was behind the clearly very speedy types (you can always recognise them) and in front of the more casual runners. It’s a hard judgement and I was sure I’d probably get overtaken but there we go, you just have to guess!

I got my music sorted (always a requirement for a fast run for me) and then we were off. Tooting Common parkrun is run mostly on tarmac and basically in a triangle. The first bit you run down a path to get onto the “triangle” that you do three laps of. This starts as a long tarmac path, which is great for getting the speed up and finding your place in the crowd. Then you make a fairly sharp turn onto a more mud/compacted trail path. This felt *very* slightly uphill but I might be imagining it. Then you turn left again and run down a nice flat straight of tarmac. The first lap felt quite comfortable (comfortably tough I hasten to add). The second lap begun and I felt the effort of maintaining the speed (around 6.40min/miles) start to become tough. I remember starting to notice more of the course on this lap as the first lap was a complete blur. Like, oh look there’s a nice pond, a children’s play area and nice trees. The marshals, as always, were really energetic and friendly in their support. I tried to thank them all verbally or give a thumbs up as I passed – even if you’re going for a time, they deserve it because they’re standing in the cold! I also feel like they gave me a lot of cheers and support as they could see my gurning face and pain train grimace.

The third lap I managed to overtake a girl who’d been in front of me for a while but had to stop and stretch her calf, then I was on the heels of a guy who was running the same pace. He started looking behind him and then guiding me through other people and giving me the odd encouraging comment. I could barley respond. As the songs changed to the next one on my iPhone I could hear my gasping breath. Not a fun noise it must be said. I managed to drop the last lap to 6.30min/mile and was literally counting down the 0.1s to the end. I saw a girl just ahead of me ask which way to go as we finished out last lap of the triangle and saw we turned off to the right to head to the funnel. I was glad she asked as I hadn’t a clue! As I saw the funnel ahead and made my final sprint I genuinely thought I was about to hurl. That horrible, horrible feeling of almost being sick because you’re trying so hard is awful and one of the main reasons I hate short distance running. You don’t get that in a marathon (or at least the way I run a marathon!). I crossed the finishing funnel in 20:17 (but actually 20:18 officially and second female) with the contents of my stomach still thankfully inside.It took me about five solid minutes to get myself together though. I was absolutely rinsed. I was OVER THE MOON though. My third fastest parkrun (20:06 being my PB and 20:17 from Chelmsford parkrun so many years ago). I couldn’t have given anymore. But it does give me encouragement that a sub-20 minute parkrun might be achievable before the end of the year. As long as I remain uninjured and healthy!I caught my breath and then found my stuff and put my jacket back on as I started getting cold again. As I cheerfully walked back to the tube I noticed that cake shop again (called Crepes and Cakes by Nazish Omar – very nice indeed). Well, it would be rude not to! So I popped in and bought myself a very nice looking slice of rainbow cake. A little “well done me” present. I didn’t eat it then though as I wasn’t quite ready for solids yet 😉 (Actually I haven’t eaten it yet at all because of later foods. It’s safe in my freezer though for a day in need. My parkrun rainbow cake).From there I headed to Liverpool Street on the tube (smiling like a Cheshire cat, looking a bit of a loon in my short shorts it must be said). I had a bit of time before I met my friends so I scoped around for a coffee shop where I could grab a warm drink and a loo to change in. After walking around for ages – so many places closed! – I finally found somewhere that looked ideal. I was cold and really hungry by this point and saw they did fresh porridge, I was sold! Unfortunately after I ordered a coffee and the porridge I found they didn’t have a toilet. Great. Oh well.Anyway I ate the lovely steaming porridge before meeting with the first friend who’d arrived. We found a Costa and I managed to get changed there. Suitably attired for our Harry Potter themed escape room 😉 (Terrible loo selfie there, apologies).

With two more of my friends we got to the Enigma Escape Rooms for what has to be described as the most awesome escape room we’ve done yet (this was our fourth). If you like Harry Potter and like this sort of clue-based puzzle room thing it is definitely for you! It was SO much fun. You’re not actually locked in in this one, it’s more about passing the different classes (e.g. Potions, History of Magic, etc.). God it was awesome. We had put ourselves into the different houses and were wearing our corresponding t-shirts (I’m in Griffindor).We also managed to do the escape room without any clues (these rooms can actually be quite tough and in the previous ones we’ve done we’ve had to ask for help) and finished with 11 minutes to spare. We got a special little wristband thing because we didn’t need any clues and an “Outstanding” level of achievement in our overall OWL (right, I know I sound like a loser right now but I DON’T CARE).After this we headed to the Strut and Cluck where we met the final friend for a lovely lunch. I had a pulled turkey shawarma which was just delicious. It was a little small in my usual portion sizes so I ordered some bread and pita to go with it. But for normal appetites it would be fine.
Obviously an occasion like this will always require pudding so we headed to Shoreditch, not too far away, where the Boxpark is. Apparently this is the world’s first ever pop-up mall. It was very quirky. In fact, it was full of people so hipster it made my teeth hurt. Like you know if you ever walk into Topshop and you see a lot of the clothing and think “who on earth would wear this?”, well pretty much everyone in Shoreditch. It was quite a fun place to look around. It was full of quirky vegan eateries, street-food and, yes, lots of dessert spots. We first went into the Dum Dum Donutterie.After seeing so many cool artisan doughnuts on Instagram and always being so sad they’re always in London I was chuffed to finally see some amazing looking donuts. It was tough to choose but I went for the salted caramel one – I mean, technically it was a “cronut”. It was very dense.
Then, as not everyone wanted a doughnut, we headed to Nosteagia, which is a Hong Kong themed dessert bar (not sure if this is the right term but whatever) which made “bubble waffles”. Basically waffles full of deliciousness. One friend went for a Nutella one and another friend went for a peanut butter themed one, whereas I went for a honeycomb one.Yes, I know. I just couldn’t decide between the doughnut and this. In my head I was sure I’d eat half of each. Hummm.I started with the waffle which was delicious. The waffle itself wasn’t that sweet, but the ice cream, cream, popcorn and salted caramel sauce made it the ultimate pudding. After having about half I decided to try the doughnut. I’m actually not a huge doughnut fan (I really don’t like the jam-filled ones that are predominately popular in the UK) but this was no simple doughnut. It was dense and delicious, a bit like a very dense cake. SO good. (Un)fortunately though, both puddings were far too good to not eat the entirety of. I’m just far too greedy for my own good and finished them both. I’m not even mad. Life is too short to not eat the good stuff. Memories not calories 😉

And then I headed home. It was a lovely, lovely Saturday full of my favourite things 🙂

What did you get up to at the weekend?

Do you like Harry Potter? Which house would you put yourself in?

What pudding would you have gone for?

Southwark parkrun – my fastest parkrun in AGES

On Saturday I got up at the ridiculous time of 5.55am to get the 6.39am train to Waterloo. Normally I tend to get up earlier in the week if I go to the gym (*cough* an hour earlier than this) but at the weekend getting up super early just feels SO much worse. I do like my sleep!

But anyway I was off for a fun day in London so once the initial “oh my God it’s so early” feeling had passed and I was up and ready to go, coffee in hand, I was fine. I was going to meet up with my friend James (a fellow Marathon Talk lover whom I’d met at the Skidrow Marathon film showing in London a few months ago).I’d downloaded Hunt for the Wilderpeople on my iPad and once I was set up on the train I just eased into a nice relaxing journey (after loving Thor so much I was keen to see other films by Taika Waititi – by the way, Hunt for the Wilderpeople was BRILLIANT).

I got to Waterloo and met with James (he’d come from Birmingham) and we headed to the tube to get to Southwark parkrun. My train had arrived at 8.25am so we were needing to be fairly speedy about getting there, bu the tube journey wasn’t supposed to take long at all thankfully. Though we would have been fine had we not have randomly gotten out at the Southwark station and then realised we were still three miles from Southwark park. Oops. So we had to quickly dash back down to the tube and then get off at the RIGHT stop (Canada Wharf). I’m so glad I’m not the only person who does these sort of silly things – or maybe it’s my presence that causes it?We arrived at the park with literally less than 10 minutes to spare. We both lamented the fact that we needed a wee but just had no time. We found an ideal tree to dump our bags (I tried not to worry that I had my iPad in there and we were in London…but it was amongst loads of other bags so I just hoped for the best!)James and I had talked tactics beforehand, discussing what kind of times we were aiming for. He’s super fast (we’re talking a sub 19 minute 5k’er) so was aiming for sub-19. I was thinking I wanted to see how fast I could do after some really consistent running and speedwork lately. I haven’t done a flat parkrun in ages and I knew Southwark was supposed to be a good one. I said to James I hoped for a 21:30 as I was recently doing 21:40ish for fairly flat parkruns. He told me I couldn’t have brunch if my time had 22 at the start. He was joking 😉 but I knew I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t close to 21 minutes… maybe sub 21:20.Very soon after we’d arrived we were lining up and off we went. The course at Southwark is lovely. It’s all on concrete (which I don’t mind at all – no tricky areas underfoot) and it is indeed very flat. It goes around a lovely pond and it’s beautiful with lots of trees and foliage. It’s three laps, which I was slightly disheartened by as I find them mentally tough, but actually it was quite nice. Though it was somewhat amusing to see a guy in front of me try and finish on his second lap and the marshals explaining to him that he had another to go. Maybe he regretted his sprint (fake) finish…

What’s also nice about the course is that you can see other parts of the course while you’re running so James and I could shout over to each other at different parts as we ran. I saw my Garmin was hovering around 6.45min/miles and I decided to cling on to that for as long as I could. I didn’t feel terrible and I wasn’t dying so I felt like I could maintain that speed (at least for 5k anyway!). My only main worry was the fact I still needed a pee…it was dangerous territory to push the pace any more! I’m not sure I could have gone much faster though.I felt very much in control of the run though which was amazing. I remember thinking, “this is the best feeling in the world; to be running the fastest I’ve run in AGES and feeling everything working as it should and feeling strong”. I might have cursed myself with such thinking, who knows.I sprinted to the end, stopped my watch and promptly bent over next to a tree thinking “this is the WORST feeling in the world”. That horrible sprinting, lactic acid, everything hurts kind of fast running induced feeling. But it disappears quickly and I glanced at my Garmin.
IT STARTED WITH A 20. WHAT! And not just sub-21 minutes… actually well into the 20s. SUB 20:30! I was OVER THE MOON. 20:27, third female and 40th overall. I will damn straight take that!I saw James who’d finished already of course (thanks, James, for the pics!) and he told me he’d PB’ed! 18:47 – amazing time!! So fast. So we were both very pleased.
Randomly a lovely chap came over to us and gave us a leaflet about a running event and then offered us some banana bread. I will take any cake that is offered to me, regardless of who it is. You might be a full-on stranger, but I will take your free cake, thank you very much.Sadly it was a little dry though! But hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Especially when your friend also brought cake 😉Very tasty white chocolate chip brownies! Well, you absolutely can’t beat a bit of homemade cake after a very successful parkrun. My smile couldn’t have been wider.

After collecting ourselves and putting some clothes back on (hilariously James threw on a “I hate running” t-shirt) we headed towards the river to eventually get to some brunch. The walk was lovely to stretch our legs after a speedy run and we took some photos and chatted away.The views were beautiful. It really was a fantastic walk. It was chilly but I was OK in my shirt, jacket and coat while my legs were fine weirdly enough.James did laugh a little at just how many photos I take… I know I’m ridiculous sometimes but I just love having the photos to keep as memories later on (and of course for my blog). Now that I have so much memory on my phone (I used to have 16GB, I now have 128GB) I can keep them on my phone without having to delete any. I like to look back at them 🙂 We also found Paddington!Ahh how cool is that! I want to see Paddington 2 at some point as I so much enjoyed the first one.

Finally we got to The Breakfast Club, where we were going to get some brunch, but I was so dismayed to see such a giant line outside it!James made the executive decision that we’d wait – and I was grateful he did that because I have no patience and would have just wandered off elsewhere to somewhere not as good. I mean, all it meant was standing and chatting for a bit which, considering we’d met up to catch-up, seemed like a fairly decent way to spend some time! It wasn’t raining and it wasn’t too cold. And the nice hostess from the restaurant brought out hot chocolates for everyone in the queue!
I mean, how good is that? They even had marshmallows in them. Delicious. Around 40 minutes passed very quickly and we were inside picking from some delicious options. I decided to forgo my usual fry-up and decided instead for Beer Cheese Benedict (with a side of bacon). It was INCREDIBLE. To save on calories I went for roasted butternut squash instead of the breakfast muffin though (ha I’m fully joking here, I genuinely liked the sound of the butternut squash better). James got the chorizo burrito (I had a little bit of food envy it must be said). We also ordered a serving of banoffee pancakes to share (without the banana as we’re both not big banana fans). Basically big fluffy pancakes with salted caramel and chocolate sauce with vanilla cream.My god it was good. The Benedict was rather rich but it was fantastic. We we were both full to the brim by the end. So obviously the next thing to do in that sort of situation is to head to the Borough Market and walk round food stalls… There was so much good food on offer… stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, SO much cheese, mushrooms, condiments, Prosecco, bread. But I couldn’t see any sweet stalls or cakes. We hunted around for ages until we eventually asked one of the cheese stall guys (I reasoned that he wouldn’t be offended as it wasn’t like we were asking about other cheese stalls). He pointed us in the right direction. The cake stalls were indeed very good but there still weren’t that many which I was surprised about (though there were a few tasters!). We both really fancied buying some cake but nothing looked that good (and at £3 a doughnut, quite expensive!).

I’d previously done a bit of research before this trip to find decent food spots (one of my favourite things to do before a trip) and I remembered seeing a bakery that looked amazing called Konditor & Cook. The cakes looked AMAZING and were reasonably priced. There were also samples so I was very happy.I went for a Fudgepacker brownie (as named because 20p goes towards a gay right’s charity), which was salted caramel…omgawwd and a slice of the red velvet cake. I could have bought so much more though.I was so stuffed though that I packaged them away into my bag to go promptly into the freezer at home for another time. I CANNOT WAIT. And then James and me headed back to Waterloo to say our goodbyes. Such a fantastic day. I mean, good company, parkrun, brunch and cake. Can you really do better?

I was adequately fuelled for the next day’s 17 miles (which would include the infamous Gosport Half Marathon, which I’ve entered four times and never run).

Would you wait in a queue for a restaurant?

What London parkruns have you done?

Do you lie-in at the weekend?