Daventry parkrun – another one off the Alphabet list!

These past few days have been a bit crazy busy. I had a work conference in Birmingham on Wednesday so headed down to the NEC stupidly early that morning.

The conference was great. Really interesting and genuinely insightful for my job. I got to see s lot of talks, take a lot of notes and just generally get my geek on. I was like a sponge. What was nice was that Wiggle were a VIP company so that meant free beverages all day, an area to chill in and free buffet lunch. Well, if you know me at all you know buffets are a nightmare…the fear of food running out means I over-compensate and just eat far too much. It was worth it though, very tasty!Handily James (fellow Marathon Talker) lives in Birmingham too so I took Thursday and Friday off and so we could hang out a bit. We planned to get some good running and eating in, which made the trek up norf so much more worthwhile.

On Thursday we had a solid eight mile run. James kindly slowed down for me as normally he’s rapid. It was an “easy” day for him – he trains properly, not like my randomness. The run was great, I felt strong and it was nice running with James as he obviously knew the area and I could leave the navigations to him (essential, I’m sure you agree).After the run we freshened up and then went to Birmingham city centre to play mini golf at a place called Ghetto Golf. Birmingham just seems to have so many cool places and just the walk there from the train station was cool with all the cool shops, restaurants and graffiti. So much more exciting than Southamptom ha!Ghetto Golf itself was so good. I mean, it was bat shit crazy but it was such a laugh.The different holes had crazy themes and were just a bit mental. Lots of old school themes like a Blockbuster video shop, a pool table and inside a bus to name just a few (as well as some rather risqué objects to navigate round!).I lost, though I’d like to stress, just but it was just such a laugh I didn’t care. I allowed my competitiveness to cool a bit 😉We even treated ourselves to a few beers. Neither of us are huge drinkers but the odd one or two now and again is quite nice. I’m quite liking beer as well…albeit only the lighter stuff.
Then we headed to the Meat Shack for some incredible burgers and sides. I had one with blue cheese and bacon with some cheesy fries and then shared halloumi fries and frickles. Oh my gawwwwd so good.It was a great restaurant – super friendly and great service and the food amazing. I’m never normally a burger person but when a restaurant just does burgers you know you’re in for a treat.I mean, ideal pre-parkrun food right? Easily burnt off after 5k…ha. James was kind enough to take me to Daventry parkrun to get my ‘D’ for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge.It was drizzly and cold but finally t-shirt temperature. Though annoyingly probably not warm enough to not wear gloves as I found out during the run and finding my fingers very chilly indeed.The parkrun is fairly small with under 200 people. It had a clever line-up area at the start with the paces lined up (35 mins, sub 30, 25 mins etc.) so people could position themselves nicely at the start without having to overtake a lot of get overtaken. The course is a mix of compacted trail and mud. It was good during the times on the compacted trails where I could stretch it out a bit (for me anyway) but in the mud and on corners it was a bit precarious. I could only imagine James finding it all too funny if I’d fallen over and was covered in mud…The course was a one lapper which is quite rare in the grand scheme of parkrun. Usually there are at least two laps as generally parks aren’t big enough to have 5k’s worth of running available. The course was pretty, running through lots of trees and scenic paths as well as a nice stretch alongside the lake. It was lucky that it wasn’t that windy but I can imagine that stretch being quite hellish in the wind. I was trying to push the pace as much as I could and managed to overtake all the females bar one in front of me, who was running with a dog. (Photos from Daventry parkrun Facebook)At mile three I felt myself flagging a bit and as I came round the corner to the finish it was a steep short incline that just killed my legs at the final push.I got 20:52 and 16th place (2nd female) and I am more than happy with that! I wanted to see a 20 and I’m glad I managed it, even if I did just squeak it. James smashed his PB with 18:17 which just makes me wince thinking about it. So fast.So I now only have J (which I’ll do in June in Jersey), Y, I, V and Z left! All the hard ones really! Yeovil will have to be a bit of a day-trip I think 

After parkrun we headed to the nearby American diner-themed restaurant, Buddy’s, for brunch. The restaurant was really retro and had lots of crazy decor, like retro signs and posters. It was really quirky.We both ordered the Seattle breakfast (they had lots of American themes). I swapped the hashbrowns for toast and added black pudding. It came with grilled gammon, beans, eggs and mushrooms. I was going to share the pancakes with James but in the end I didn’t fancy them. I’m not a huge pancake fan unless they’re covered in ice cream and chocolate… 
Anyway it was delicious and served with unlimited tea. Perfect post a soggy run! I was covered in mud and felt a bit gross but to be honest the need for food won out of social etiquette. It always does for me 😉

That evening James had worked his magic and found a local half marathon race for us to do the next day. We’re both training or the Brighton Marathon so we’re in the market for a long run. Having a half would be a great way of getting in some solid miles – we could run before and after to make up the distance we needed.

However the half he’d found, the Ironbridge Half Marathon, was sold out. But James emailed the race organiser to ask if anyone was dropping out and if there were two places available by any chance. Amazingly there were! After some back and forthing he secured us two places. We’re super grateful to the organisers for letting us slip in last minute! I was super chuffed because I’d been gutted about Reading being cancelled last weekend and I’d been to the Ironbridge quite a few times as child with my grandparents and parents as my grandparents live in Stoke, not too far from there. It was going to be a blast from the past! And having s race to do is always a nice way to mix up the drudgery of long run training.

So an early night of solid sleep and up early bright eyed and bushy tailed for the half the next day!

Have you been to Birmingham before?

Have you ever entered a race last minute?

What’s your essential item in a fry-up/breakfast?

Dubai Marathon Goals

Having missed the Stubbington 10k on Sunday because I was being sensible, I decided to try running at lunchtime on Monday instead.

When I woke up Monday morning and headed to the gym (for strength-based training – not to run) the weather just looked awful. It was tipping it down. Even Alfie was not amused on his early morning walk! But I was resolute that I would run, come what may (dependent only on my calf feeling good of course).Thankfully come lunchtime my calf was feeling perfectly fine and the rain had stopped. I quickly got myself together and headed out. My plan was run the 10k distance I’d missed the day before. Not race it of course but just cover the distance. I was prepared to cut it short if necessary and had a good route for this with several points to turn back around.The run felt great. Well, my calf and other body parts felt great. My fitness…ehhhh. That said, I was running around 8 minute miles and my shiny new watch (well, “new” since Christmas) was telling me that according to my heart rate (around 140 bpm) I was running at an “easy pace”. I mean, it didn’t feel tough and I wasn’t out of breath – I could have chatted to my imaginary friend if I’d have fancied 😉 I guess I was just aware of how far a mile is… and how far a mile followed by 25.2 more would be. I’ve only run 10.6 miles since the Portsmouth Marathon so we’re talking three weeks of no long runs.

Without sounding arrogant or complacent though, I’ve run enough marathons now to know I can complete one (providing I don’t have a show-stopping injury or problem during the race). I’m not worried I won’t be able to finish and I’m certainly not questioning whether or not to do it. I’m going to Dubai for goodness sake – even if it takes me six hours, I’m doing the marathon!

It’s kind of like knowing that your car can get you to a far away destination. It might not be the smoothest drive, the weather might suck, the roads might be tough, the car might not be a race car but instead a little Fiat 500, but you know the engine can cope as long as it’s got the fuel. You can never guarantee, of course, that something won’t happen along the way outside of your control but in theory the car should be OK to complete the journey.

Knowing I can complete the distance isn’t my worry. It’s how tough it’ll feel and how bad my legs will feel after the marathon. The worse the training the worse the recovery. I’m not so stupid to assume that because I’ve run 12 marathons before will mean it’ll be a doddle. A marathon is NEVER easy. It’s a physical and mental battle however many you’ve run before. It’s not a walk in the park or indeed a parkrun. Those miles can tear you apart and laugh in your face. Hours of running. HOURS of mental and physical grit required.

Initially my goal was to be somewhere near my 3:24:06 PB but that realistically is not going to happen. I’d need to set out with that intention to hit that time and I’m not going to (I’m not sandbagging here I assure you). To be thoroughly boring and same old same old I’m going to hope to get around 3:45, anything under that would be marvelous. I’d absolutely love to get sub 3:30 but again realistically this is going to be a tough ask fitness-wise and I don’t really want to cause any further issues for my calf now that it’s on it’s way back to normal. The closer to 4 hours I get the bigger the issues I’ve had, I imagine, but we’ll see. Heat and humidity could play a factor here. It should be around 25 degrees during the day but the marathon starts 6am so it should be 10-15 degrees hopefully for a big portion. The course is entirely flat with few major turns (joy of joy, I can almost feel my mind melting in boredom). So it’s anyone’s guess really. I’ll decide how I feel closer to the time.

Happily the marathon is on the last day of the holiday so I can enjoy Dubai without issue beforehand. Oh sure I probably need to be a bit careful what I eat the day before and get a good night’s sleep but I can’t see this being an issue. I suppose ideally having the marathon at the beginning would be best but actually I’m happy with how it’s planned. After the marathon all I need to do is eat (which I’m pretty good at) and then later get on a plane to go home. It’ll probably be a super uncomfortable journey home but least I can just chill to some degree.

**Just going to add the necessary disclaimer right here: I’m fully aware I’m probably jinxing things here by saying all the above. Famous last words and all that…Fingers crossed it does turn out OK.***

Excitingly before I head to sunny Dubai, this weekend I’m heading to sunny Birmingham to meet up with some running buddies. Also, now brace yourself as this is super exciting, I’ll be getting another letter for my parkrun Alphabet Challenge! (Yes OK it’s not that exciting, but it is to me). I’ll be doing Kingsbury parkrun, whoop whoop! Following this I’ll be going to The National Running Show. I’m only staying for the Saturday but I’m quite excited. I’ve never been to one before. I’m imagining it to be a big running expo type thing. Exciting stuff.

Have you ever been to The National Running Show?

Are you confident with your running ability when it comes to races?

If you could be any car, what would you be? I’ll stick with my Fiat 500, cute and dinky 😉

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?