Abingdon parkrun – an expensive accident

A date in the diary that I was really looking forward to was going to the Abingdon parkrun to meet-up with my Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp friends.

These guys are such a lovely, lovely bunch of people and, like I said in my Austria recap, we all got on so well. In fact, two of them actually got together (of which I was blindly unaware of at the time – apparently it was fairly obvious!). What’s been lovely is that we’ve all kept in touch through our WhatsApp group/social media and kept up with what we’ve all been doing. But it’s always nice to meet-up properly, especially for a parkrun and cake afterwards.

We all come from different parts of the UK (and Vienna!) so Abingdon was chosen as the ‘easiest’ location and a few of them had the Abingdon Marathon the next day so it made sense. For me it was a 1.5 hour drive away which wasn’t too bad at all. Actually it was nice driving away from the coast on Saturday morning as Storm Brian was getting going. I set my alarm for 6.20am and was up and out by 7am with coffee for the road. It was an easy drive and I arrived in plenty of time. Amazing for me really.Abingdon parkrun has a handy car park just next to the finish funnel so you can find where it’s all going on very easily. It’s also free for the first two hours and there’s a rather posh public toilet nearby too (you pay 10p but the experience is fabulous). Abingdon itself, if you’ve never been, is a very lovely quaint English town, similar to Salisbury, Chichester or Winchester.By 8.30am we’d all arrived and were hugging and swapping stories. It was just lovely. I love it when you can slot back into place with people like you’ve never been away.Everyone was going to run the parkrun apart from John (John is the legend that ran from Winchester to Canterbury along the Pilgrims and North Downs Way long-distance trail to celebrate his 40th. Yep) as he was suffering from a back niggle.Everyone but one person made it (Zoe, we missed you!) so it was a nice gang of us and when we had our newbie briefing for the parkrun they wrote down all our home locations and when it came to the main briefing they read them all out and asked if anyone from actual Abingdon was there today! It was amusing. So yeah, we had the newbie briefing though we really didn’t need it as Sarah, who’s from Abingdon, had given us a good briefing (if you’re a Marathon Talk listening, Sarah does the designs for Xempo and had a bazillion shout outs in the last podcast episode! She’s amazing and does fantastic running-themed products and designs – check out her website). She gave us a good guide of the course – two loops. I love a two looper. Not as repetitive as a three (or more) looper and not as long as a one looper feels.The weather, as you can see, was glorious. Yes very windy but the sun was beautiful. It was cold in that autumnal British way, but not horrific. I’d already decided I wanted to chat and run rather than do any sort of hard effort so I ran besides Sarah and we caught up. It was a lovely run that honestly flew by. I had no idea of my pace at all. The course is a bit tricky underfoot at times, running along grassy, uneven bits but overall it’s a lovely parkrun. Beautiful next to the river and lots of open green spaces.There were a couple of moments at the start where we ground to a halt. I think there were more people there than usual so a bottleneck occurred along the narrower bit, but I wasn’t bothered as I was too busy chatting! John cheered us on as we passed him which was nice (thanks for the pic too!).My time was 26.13 which I was happy with. It wasn’t a run for a fast time after all. The finishing straight is nice and straight for anyone hunting for a sprint finish.

Photo credit: John Harvey

And we carried on catching up with everyone. As we’d planned on heading to a cafe for some coffee and cake we needed to go back and put some money into the car park machine for a ticket as two hours wouldn’t be enough now (from when we first got there). I was stupidly holding too much stuff, trying to fish out the right change or card from my purse and my iPhone (my brand new case-less iPhone 7, the case is in the post) slipped from my hands…onto the concrete floor. The sound of a naked iPhone hitting the floor will possibly haunt me forever. Those around me looked horrified – everyone understood the stakes here. It had landed face down and I jokingly said, “whoops, that’s an expensive accident!” and the people behind me laughed nervously. As I picked it up and turned it over I just stared in horror. The entire screen was cracked – like a thousand tiny cracks all over it. I just stared and suddenly wanted to cry. The screen was entirely broken and smashed – it wouldn’t even work.

I had the sense to go and put my car park ticket in my car and then walked back over to the Austria gang. I didn’t really know what to do. They all expressed the same sentiments as me: “oh shit”. Yep. I also suddenly realised that the one person I’d normally ask for help in this situation was uncontactable due to the fact that my phone was broken.

Sarah helped me adult and told me to come to the cafe where we could sort out what to do there. She let me borrow her phone and I rang my parent’s house phone (the only number I could remember – reminding me I probably should have a few more numbers written down in my purse for such situations). As my mum answered I immediately burst into tears on the phone as I explained what happened. Bless my mum, she replied “I’ll get your father”. My dad calmed me down and told me he’d meet me in Southampton where we could go to the Apple shop and see what could be done. We arranged a time and I said I’d ring when I got close to Southampton… then realised I couldn’t. Idiot that I am. Instead I wrote down his mobile number on my hand (old skool) and would text him on Sarah’s phone when I was leaving, knowing it would take me 1.5 hours to get there.

I then got in the queue with John to order a peppermint tea and a cake. John asked for cake recommendations and I scanned the options and said that I thought the toffee pecan looked amazing and that’s what I was going to order. As I’d sort of pushed in with John (very naughty of me I know, but I was all stressed out, no excuse I know) I let him order first. He took my recommendation. Unfortunately he also took the last slice. How rude!! He wasn’t even sorry, the cheeky bugger. So instead I went for a freshly baked warm Smartie cookie with Nutella drizzled on it. I mean, I thought I didn’t like Nutella but actually I think I might be converted… I think I had a bad toast and Nutella experience once that put me off, but let me tell you, on a cookie it’s something else. And I think it was probably better than |John’s slice of cake. Just saying.Of course I didn’t have a phone anymore to take a photo of it so borrowed Sarah’s again (thank you, thank you). I felt a bit at a loss without my phone… no way to upload my run to Strava (did it even happen…?). But it was lovely to sit and chat with the guys and eat copious amounts of cake. As it was Michelle’s 50th parkrun Sarah had amazingly baked a cake (how nice is that??) so I had a couple of slices of that as well. Consolation cake, you see. Michelle, by the way, ran in the ELITE wave of the Great South Run the next day. SHE IS SO FAST. I’ll do a separate post on the Great South Run soon!How beautiful is this square where we had coffee? It was a bit blustery but the autumnal colours were just gorgeous. And because it was quite chilly I got another hot drink, this time a turmeric latte. So fancy, eh!It was…interesting. I quite enjoyed it, as I do like turmeric, but it wasn’t the nicest drink on the planet. A bit bitty at the end. Glad I gave it a bash!

And then sadly I had to head off to sort my phone out. What slightly annoyed me was a man, whom I didn’t know, commented on the fact that I was getting my dad to help me. He was being very friendly and nice and he himself had tried to help me with where I could go to get my iPhone sorted but I said no thank you and explained that my dad was helping. He then said, “ah yes, and I imagine he’ll be footing the bill too” – he said it quite fondly but it really rubbed me up the wrong way. I was quite affronted and, as politely as I could, explained that actually wasn’t the case. Yes I made not be a fully functioning adult but I DO NOT get my dad to pay for things for me. I am perfectly capable of paying for my own mistakes, thank you very much. What an assumption!

Anyway, I said my goodbyes and headed off home. I made great time and met my dad outside the Apple shop. We did try a non-Apple screen fixer guy but he said he couldn’t guarantee the fingerprint technology would work when he was done… it would also ruin my Apple warranty and mean in the future I wouldn’t be able to sell the phone.So in the end I decided to go for the more expensive, but guaranteed fix, with Apple (which would also be covered partially by my phone insurance). Annoyingly it would need to wait until Wednesday until they had a free appointment. Apparently I’m not the only idiot who drops and ruins their phone…

So that was my Saturday! Rather hectic but still rather lovely. I was running the Great South Run the next day (a late decision for me as someone in my running club was giving their place away as they could no longer run) so I had a nice easy evening. Michelle, the lovely Michelle, had baked me some blondies as a thank you for a favour I did for her a few weeks ago so I made a rather good start on munching my way through that as well! Honestly, I don’t dare to think about my cake consumption this weekend because it didn’t stop there…! More on that on my Great South Run recap 😉

Have you ever been to Abingdon before?

Have you ever dropped your phone?

What kind of expensive mistakes have you made? Please make me feel better…

MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp – part 2

Continuing on with the Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp… 

*Catch up with part one if you missed out*

So Wednesday was the day I was probably least looking forward to. We had a planned “session”. Being a rather lazy runner who doesn’t do much (*cough* if any) speedwork, interval sessions and track workouts aren’t really my thing. It’s partly down to associating speedwork with injuries and partly down to not having a terribly strong desire to whittle down my PB’s. So the pain-gain balance doesn’t quite work for me.

Martin (Yelling – of MarathonTalk podcasting duo) was great at putting people (me!) at ease the night and morning before. It’s easy to big these things up and start worrying. He helped us frame things in in a way that meant we could go into the session relaxed and excited, using it as a way to challenge ourselves without freaking out.

We headed out in the morning after breakfast.We had about two miles of gentle running to the area where we were going to do the intervals. Martin led a warm-up routine (high knees, bum kicks, etc.) and then we had time to do our own personal preparations.

The session was 3×2 minutes 5k or faster efforts with two minutes static recovery, followed by about six minutes of rest and 10 minutes of 10k effort, followed by rest (can’t remember how long) and then 3×2 minutes again. I was dreading the shorter efforts as I’m a long distance runner and hate sprinting. Funnily enough though the shorter sections were far more preferable to me than the horrific 10 minute long effort, which reminded me of why I hate 10ks.

Suns out guns out 😉

Martin was great at shouting out the times and also picking us up on form, reminding us to keep our hips high, use our arms, raise our knees…stuff like that.For the 10 minute effort we ran five minutes one way and then turned round and ran five minutes back. This was horrific, I won’t lie. I was annoyingly in the middle of the groups so was on my own. The demons in my head telling me to slow down, not bother, decrease the pain…but I pushed on. It was nice to do a session like this in a group, knowing you weren’t alone in your pain. But it was tough. I thought I’d then struggle on the third session (the second set of short sprints) but actually I maintained relatively similar speeds to the first sprints.Then we jogged a mile to the little local cafe for some refreshments. Ahh it felt good to have worked hard! I say this ALL the time but I do need to do sessions like this more often. In the cafe I was able to spot a pudding that I knew 100% I needed in my life before I left Austria. Oh yes, I would be back.

After showering and lunch, Rob drove a few of us down to Mariazell for a little wander about as we didn’t do much exploring the day before. The little town is a popular pilgrimage destination and very pretty, and wasn’t far from the villa by car. Weirdly it’s known for its gingerbread and honey so lots of shops were selling this (including gingerbread ice cream).Alongside these shops there were lots of touristy stalls selling all manner of tacky memorabilia, like key-rings, postcards and even water bottles with the Pope on. Obviously.There was a lovely area where you could see the surrounding view as well as a hop scotch that demanded immediate attention. After meandering around a bit we decided to enjoy a nice coffee and snack in one of the cafes under the basilica.The coffee came with a chocolate marzipan which was just delightful. I gobbled it up quickly so I wouldn’t have to share 😉

Wednesday evening after dinner we had a quiz made by one of the run campers, Dave. It was hilarious. Bless Dave, he’d obviously given a lot of thought to it but it did unravel a few times, despite his meticulous eye for detail (“Data Dave”). Despite the bumps, it was a really good quiz with lots of laughter.Before coming on the holiday together we’d been asked to send our favourite running/motivational song to him and then we had to guess who’s song was who’s during the quiz. After spending a few days with each other it was a really fun thing to try and do. I chose Muse’s Knights of Cyndonia which I think surprised a few people (apparently Destiny’s Child’s Independent Woman seemed more my bag). Can I just add that I was on Martin’s team for the quiz and he was about 100% useless.

The next day we drove to the bottom of a mountain and got a chair lift up to about half way so we could run the rest of it up, then run all the way down (hi, I’m a runner and do pointless things).I thought we’d be in one of those enclosed car things, not actually sat on a ski lift right out in the open. I’ve used one of these before when I went skiing but it’s slightly different seeing hard rocks and ground below you rather than fluffy snow (though I do realise both would cause injury). But we survived!

Running up the mountain was more like run a bit, slow down, die a little, run a bit more, die a bit more, crawl. But the views more than made up for the lactic acid overflow invading my quads and glutes.We arrived at the top to find a play area. I mean, come on, what a fantastic place for a play area. Obviously a tester had to be done!So much fun. One day I’ll be an adult, but not yet!Then we began the descent down. Well, after a few photo opportunity moments, including Martin finally getting his “T-Shirt Around the World” photo for MarathonTalk. We also did a mini photoshoot where Martin took photos of us running past him with the beautiful scenery behind. Mine sadly didn’t come out too well!The run down felt fabulous after all the uphill running but after a while it became tricky in its own way. Getting your footing right on the unstable rocks and tiny trail paths required serious concentration.It was around 11k of running down to reach our destination, another lake. It was a fantastic run. I mean all you had to do was look behind you to see where you’d come and be blown away. And hearing cow bells in the distance as well and the smell of the pine and the all encompassing peace… it really puts it into perspective that not all runs are created equal.The lake was crystal clear. I think it took all of five minutes before a few of us had stripped off and gotten into the water. Luckily the busses had been dropped to the car park so I handily had my bikini and towel to hand. Then I enjoyed an ice lolly and coffee. Divine. What utter luxury.

That afternoon I did something I rarely (if ever) do. I got my kit back on and headed out with a few others for ANOTHER run. Double day running, baby! (Oh hey, Anna, maybe this is why your knee niggles now?) This was purely for cake though, I hasten to add. The others were going for 10k but all I fancied was a very gentle 5k and then a pit-stop for the mammoth cake I’d spotted the day before.My fellow run camper and friend, Sarah (super speedy, she holds the record for fastest fancy dress nun at London Marathon and has a marathon PB just over 3 hours) and I shared one of the monster cakes… Normally I don’t share food but I’m glad we did. Look at the size of my slice!Covered in custard, chocolate sauce and cream. I think we have a winner!

We went out for dinner that evening and the less said about that the better! I made a spectacularly bad decision on what I ordered and ended up with five fish goujons on a salad with a watery garlic dressing/sauce. The problem we had was that the menu was in German and we only had a few people to translate so it was a bit of a guess.

With my mediocre portion of disappointing food I decided the only way to improve matters was pudding. But lo and behold I fared badly in that area too. I was led to believe I was ordering a delectable strawberry cheesecake but received instead some suspect strawberry mousse. So, what does any normal person do? Order ANOTHER pudding. Obviously.I ordered the apple strudel and all was well again.

The next day, Friday, was less eventful as we’d be leaving for the airport (insert sad emoji here). Originally it was going to be a 10k time trial but no one was really up for a serious speed sesh after ALL the running we’d done so we headed out for a relaxed jaunt, some doing 10k and some doing 5k.

In true Anna style, I blithely ignored Martin’s map chat and directions beforehand because I assumed I’d always see someone ahead or near me. I’m rubbish with directions anyway so really there was no point me listening. Yep, I’m actually a 29 year functioning adult apparently.

Off we went and straight away I found myself alone again with the lead pack sprinting ahead. All fine, all fine, I can still see them. La la la plodding along. Wait, where’ve they gone? I’m sure they went down this road. *10 minutes later* wow this is steep. It looks like it’s going up this mountain. That can’t be right. I remember them saying there was a slight incline…but this is tortuous. Hey where’s everyone else?

*Sighs* I decided to randomly turn off from the main path to find my own little way slowly up the nearby mountain. Luckily I realised my error after hitting 5k and deciding the best thing to do was just turn around and go exactly the way I’d come. Worst case I’d bump into people coming the other way, best case I’d just get back to the villa.I arrived back to find the 5kers back and I was the first to return. I’m sure it must have looked strange me being the first back – the sudden rocket speed I’d gained! But turns out Martin’s route was longer than 10k whereas mine was pretty much dead on. I basically just clarified my stupidity. Though, no names, at least I didn’t have to hitchhike my way back after getting lost like someone else did… 😉

And then we were off to Vienna for a few hours before the airport. Vienna is infinitely less interesting than the Austrian mountains and lake so I won’t recap it, asides from a rather delicious slice of Mozart cake.I kind of don’t want to sing the praises of this camp too much. There will be a limited number of places for next year’s “proper” run camp and I’d love to go again. We were able to feed back a few issues (for example, for vegetarians, it was noted that more options were needed) but otherwise it was a pretty successful trial which everyone thoroughly enjoyed.I mean, it does kind of depend on getting a good bunch of people as well (of which we were supremely lucky. Everyone was just lovely and we bonded very nicely – I sincerely hope to keep in touch), but the scenery, the villa and of course the running was fantastic. If you can get there, I’d say GO.

Check out Sarah’s review as well here!

Have you been to Austria before?

Have you ever ordered badly at a restaurant?

Ever ordered to puddings?

MarathonTalk Austria Run Camp – part 1

Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp… well what do I say? Having been on three Sandy Balls Run Camps previously I knew as soon as I got the email invite this was a trip for me.

Described as a sort of ‘tester trip’ to see if the camp would work next year as an official MarathonTalk run camp, 14 of us headed out to Austria to joining Martin Yelling and a lovely guy called Rob to Rob’s luxury villa in the middle of nowhere somewhere outside of Vienna to run, chill and just have a good time. Martin, for those who don’t know, is one half of the running podcast MarathonTalk (if you don’t listen, do you even run?). He’s also married to the super fast Olympic elite runner, Liz Yelling. He’s not too shabby a runner himself either 😉It wasn’t a training camp per se, of which I was happy about as I prefer a more relaxed environment for these sorts things. It was very much similar to the previous Run Camps where you could run as much or as little as you’d like. More like a meeting of like-minded people in a beautiful setting with a bit of running thrown in.

The week started with my running club friend, Michelle, and I being picked up by Martin at a motorway services on route to the airport (he was coming from Bournemouth and handily Michelle knew one of the other guys going on the trip who was also being driven by Martin so we were able to blag a lift as well). At the airport we met up with more of the run campers and had breakfast.Standard procedure for me pre-holiday! Especially when you don’t know when you’re next going to eat. Go big or go home.

It was nice to actually meeting Martin properly. At Sandy Balls there are over 100 people and you don’t really chat to him or Tom Williams (the other podcaster). Martin’s a lovely guy – very relaxed and fun. Pretty much like he is on the podcast, but with fewer censors 😉 All the other run campers seemed very nice too and straight away I felt relaxed and happy. It was going to be a good week.We arrived at the villa to find a table spread with Prosecco, beer, soft drinks, water and fruit and had a bit of a refreshment before being shown our rooms.

Now when they described the villa as luxury they weren’t joking. It used to be a hunting lodge owned by a rather posh Austrian toff back in the day. Lots of wood panelling, fur rugs, antique furniture and deer antlers hanging from the walls (and a pinball machine because obviously…). There were three floors and each floor offered a different style of room. Some rooms had their own ensuite and some shared bathrooms between a couple of rooms. I was lucky to have a room with its own bathroom, though to be honest it wouldn’t have been a hardship to have shared. After the Sandy Balls Run Camp anything is an upgrade! 😉After dumping our stuff, it was time to stretch the legs out and have a little run around the beautiful lake just a stone throws away. The loop around the lake was 2.5k and for the first two loops we stuck together as a group, chatting and basically just gawping at the incredible scenery. The third lap Michelle and another run camper, Stuart, peeled off ahead. Michelle and Stuart are fast runners so I got caught up with their speedy pace while we were chatting!It was a fantastic group of people and amazingly we all just got on straight away. The common link of loving running obviously helped this, but despite all being different ages, with different backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences we just meshed. Of course I knew Michelle, and I also knew three of the others from previous Sandy Balls Run Camps but even with those who I didn’t know I found I could relax and easily chat to straight away.There was a good mix of people and downtime often involved meandering conversations and debates regarding interesting topics such as social media, minimalist living, favourite foods and hot pants (I’m not even joking).Dinner was prepared for us by the lovely staff (they did a fantastic job of taking care of us for the week – even providing us with a seemingly never ending Milka and Haribo supply). We all sat on a long table together for meals and it made for a very social and open environment.On the first night I did get somewhat confused and thought we were only getting soup and had a mild panic, only to relax when I realised a main course of fish and apple strudel pudding would be coming too. Whew. I was very well fed in the camp!

The next morning we met for breakfast (a continental affair) and prepared for the first proper run. This was to be a longish run following a route Martin and Rob had rec’ed for us on a previous trip. The plan was to stick together as a group and stop for a coffee halfway at lovely Austrian village before heading back.We were all of mixed abilities, from the super speedy Michelle (~18 min 5k PB) to the less cheetah tendencies. But despite this we stuck together, regrouping often, admiring the views and having impromptu photo shoots 😉The run was fantastic. We stopped halfway in Annaberg (my hometown) for a quick refreshment (Diet Coke and an ice lolly for me) before continuing our loop back to the villa. 14 miles in total. The day was ridiculously hot and after the run the obvious thing to do was jump in the lake. It was chilly but once you were in it was perfection.Lunch was hoovered up at rocket speed, the run having taken three hours! All that stopping, all those photos… I mean it was impossible to just run and not gawp. The terrain has been mixed; road, track, off-road, hills, declines… a bit of everything.

It’s certainly hard to say for sure but I think this was my favourite run… but it’s a close call.
That evening we ate al fresco with a BBQ of recently hunted local venison. Not being much of a drinker normally I found myself enjoying a cold Austrian beer each night. And pudding of course!Tuesday a few of us woke up early to get in a quick lake swim before breakfast. I’m not actually that keen a swimmer ordinarily but I love swimming in fresh water (but not arctic British dodgy lakes). I mean, it was pretty chilly I won’t lie but it didn’t half wake us up.After breakfast it was hard start with running uphill. I found this run quite tough and challenging. I let the demons in when I felt myself slacking behind the faster group but it was a good motivation to keep pushing. The risk of being left behind was never a reality as the other slightly slower group were behind me with Rob and Martin. Some of the second group preferred to do more walking, and this was fine. There were no judgements, no leaving people on their own. You felt very safe and un-pressured on the runs to go at your own pace and distance.Again, lots of stopping and taking photos. It wasn’t like the runs were non-stop. Though that terrain was challenging, it was never insurmountable, whatever your ability. The faster runners like Michelle and Stuart would run further ahead and then turn back to collect back with us. Everyone could get out from the run what they wanted.We ran through some gorgeous scenery and eventually reached the top part of the run. There was a chair lift option but a few of us decided to walk (or run!!) to the top. It was almost two miles and when I say uphill I mean some serious uphill.We arrived at a lovely little cafe right at the top where there was a beautiful tower you could climb up.After a quick refreshment, it was time for some fun downhill running all the way to the town, Mariazell, at the bottom.As always, the views were amazing and it was fun to stretch the legs out after such a punishing climb to the top.

We reached a beautiful view just before entering the town and the bells of the basilica were ringing, seemingly welcoming are arrival. All very magical.This required a celebratory ice cream and Diet Coke of course!

When we arrived back at the villa of course another lake swim was in order. One of the run campers, the lovely Becci, brought her GoPro so we had some fun lake pics. Such a great way to finish a run. I need to find me a lake…

And that will finish part one. Honestly it’s so hard whittling this down as there’s so much to say. I wish I could literally tell you everything but I’ll be getting to sound a bit like, “this one time, in Run Camp”… But anyway, part two to follow eventually!

Have you ever been to Austria?

Do holiday training camps appeal to you?

Do you swim much?