Saturday morning saw me going to the Walsall Arboretum parkrun with fellow Marathon Talk fan and runner James, who lives in Birmingham. It’s not local to me at all as I live near Southampton so it was quite the parkrun tourism.Sadly I do already have a W (Winchester) but I love a bit of tourism regardless and it was supposed to be nice and flat and not too far from where I was staying. James and I got there at 8.30am which felt quite early but actually worked out well because it was about a 1km walk to the start area and we both needed a wee beforehand.
The Walsall Arboretum is a beautiful park. There’s a large pond, lots of trees and grass, a little river flowing over some picturesque rocks and just a pleasant atmosphere. It was lovely. There’s a little cafe as well with a loo so that was handy. Apparently Walsall rarely gets called beautiful but from what I could see, it was lovely.It was their sixth birthday so there were a few fancy dresses and a good turn out of people.The run director spent some time thanking everyone and talking about how far they’d come and then the Mayor of Walsall said a few words – quite cool that he was there (tho he wasn’t running). It was really a very friendly and lovely parkrun.
I hadn’t really planned how I was going to run. I set myself a range of between 22 and 24 minutes, thinking that was probably about right. I had my music and was just going to see how it went without too much stress.
As we started my legs felt a little sluggish but then I found my rhythm and got into it. And I really got into it. My legs just seemed to go, go, go. The course was wide enough to easily overtake people and not be hemmed in (where I started anyway) and it was a slight downhill so this worked nicely.
The course is three laps, but it didn’t feel like too much of a drag that some three lappers can because it was split out into two sections really. The first section goes around the lake/pond and then the second runs up a path alongside the river and then comes back down on the other side. So you can see runners on the other side, which is always nice and distracting. (Photos from the Facebook page).The marshals were super friendly, cheering us along – one of them even holding their parkrun birthday cake for the runners to see. It looked great! I saw James ahead near the front going super fast. His training has been awesome (he’s also doing the Brighton Marathon). But then I just focused on the music and getting my little legs turning over as fast as I could.I was running alongside a few other guys and this helped me to cling on to the speed. I looked at my watch and noticed I was fully sub-7 minute pace and this both shocked me and gave me a huge confidence boost.
I finished, thought I stopped my walk and headed to see James (who had finished in the ridiculously fast time of 18:23!). Annoyingly I didn’t realise I hadn’t actually stopped my watch so had no idea what my time was! I thought it might be around 21 minutes but would have to wait until the email/text to come through to be certain. I was really happy anyway as it felt like a solid effort of a run and I’d experience no calf or hamstring niggles. Hurrah!My time came through later as 20:30!! I am over the moon! I cannot believe I managed to get such a speedy (for me) time. James smashed his PB as well by like over 20 seconds. But both of us were concerned about the course being short as James only got 3 miles on his watch and I wasn’t certain at all because I hadn’t stopped my watch, though he checked other people’s results on Strava and it seemed to be fairly accurate – and I guess the trees didn’t help with the satellites. Well, whatever I definitely got a sub 21 minute parkrun (and James definitely got a PB as it was such a significant improvement). Very happy to see the 20s again, despite my rubbish training lately.
I also got to use my brand new very swanky barcode wristband.Very handy and I love the colour. No more barcode confusions for me…
For lunch we decided to go for something unhealthy and entirely delicious at the Original Patty Man burger place (OPM). We got there quite early and thankfully beat the rush – as we were ordering a queue had started to build up outside!
I went for the bacon cheeseburger with a side of cheesy gravy fires. Omgaawwwd it was so good. But extremely messy.In true Anna fashion though it didn’t leave me stuffed and as James and I had spotted a “dessert lounge” called Pirlo’s as we walked to the restaurant we knew exactly what was going to happen next…
We both looked at the menu and I instantly spotted the biggest sundae option – the mega sundae. Happily James has a similar appetite to me and had seen the same one. When we ordered and the server realised we didn’t want one to share hewarned us of its size… we were like, “pfffft, you clearly don’t know our capabilities”.
The sundae came with chocolate, strawberry and Ferrero Rocher ice cream (which I swapped for salted caramel), lashings of Nutella, cream, brownie and Kind chocolate chunks.Oh my god it was good. It was enormous but so much fun to eat. Literally chocolate everywhere. I’m changing my opinion on Nutella. I used to be like “meh I don’t care for it” but now I seem to be realising what the fuss is about.
We went home STUFFED. Full to the brim. Luckily we didn’t have much else planned except for James’ running club awards night (where there was a buffet…ahaha). There was a quiz which our team did spectacularly badly in (we came last) but was good fun. I did feel fairly sick though throughout the evening…but a couple of buffet sandwiches and some chicken nuggets helped calm my tummy 😉
The next morning, as James and I are both training for Brighton, we’d planned a long run. James was going to do some tempo miles while I ran an easy 18 (18 miles is NEVER easy but you know what I mean). I was going to follow James’ route but he’d run back to me after his tempo parts (he’d get a solid 20 miles). He’s really good at training, like he does all the proper speed work, easy runs and tempo sand runs like 70 miles a week. Amazing amazing. I wish I could run as much as him but such is life. He’s good to hit up for advice though because he knows his stuff.
My tummy didn’t feel great it must be said. But as we started running it calmed down and I felt surprisingly good. My legs felt fine and I felt in the zone and on it already. James didn’t feel quite as good and decided to just stick with me for the run rather than do his extra tempo miles. I thought that was probably a sensible decision. Our greed got the better of us the day before! Clearly I’m far better than him at over-consumption of food and then running 😉
We ran about four miles to the canals and then ran along them for most of the run. It was lovely and flat and nice underfoot. I obviously had no idea where we were or where we were going but it was nice to not have to think about the route and to just follow someone else.My dad grew up in Birmingham and one of my granddads lives in Stoke-On-Trent, not too far away, so when I was a child we’d often drive to Stoke and past Birmingham and I’d always remember my dad telling me about “Spaghetti Junction” – with all it’s crazy bridges and roads going over each other. James’ route went underneath the junction so I had to stop and get a few pics.Even though you probably couldn’t describe it as scenic, it was strangely quite impressive and looked very cool.It was quite surreal to be running under roads that my parents used to drive us over back in the day. Oh the nostalgia.The run carried on without any issues for me (asides from a wild wee in a rather open but empty area…the fear was real). I felt bad for James though because his tummy really wasn’t feeling great. But he pushed through. Our pace was fairly easy between 8.20-8.40s and I just felt like I was gliding along. I did get a weird overwhelming sense of tiredness around 12 miles and felt myself lagging a bit but then I managed to pepper myself up a bit and got back into the zone.
18 miles seemed to fly by. The route and company definitely helped it stop being a slog. The weather was wonderful. Sunny and cool, though by 15 miles the two of us were hot and started talking about cold beverages…We stopped at a convenience shop to grab a water which helped!I am SO pleased. SO so pleased that this long run went well. Big thanks to James for pulling me along and finding a really decent route!
So Brighton seems to be no longer in contention. I just hope that I continue to pootle along as I am. Fingers crossed!
Have you ever been to Birmingham?
What’s your favourite ice cream flavour?
Do you have any weird nostalgias?