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 ūüėČ (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 ūüėČ (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 ūüėČ

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

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?

What I’m loving lately – October

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while… all the things I’m currently loving lately.

Harry Potter clothing:¬†During my meanderings around the delights of Amazingstoke’s Festival Place last weekend I popped into Primark. In general I don’t do much shopping in physical life. As in, non-online shopping. But occasionally I’ll pop into H&M as there’s one local to me. We don’t have a very accessible Primark nearby (it’s in the centre of Southampton and I don’t generally go there that often because the¬†Internet and Whiteley, a little but fantastic shopping village nearby, save me from such efforts).

Anyway, I’ve digressed. So I went into Primark to hunt down a really nice sports bra someone at work wore when running (she wore it as her running top outside, I¬†didn’t spy on her getting changed or anything weird). I didn’t find the sports bra but I DID find a Harry Potter jumper. And, weirdly, Harry Potter underwear.I bought the jumper but not the pants (and forgot to take a photo of said jumper…). The jumper will go nicely with my Harry Potter¬†t-shirt ready for my friends and my Harry Potter-themed escape room at the beginning of December. There are four of us and we’ve each got a house that fits our personality. I’m Gryffindor ūüėÄNew boots:¬†And as a nice segue… a few weeks ago when I was in Chichester my friends and I¬†popped into a charity shop because the Harry Potter-themed window lured us in. Most of the window items had been sold (including an amazing looking Harry Potter chess set!). However I then spotted a very cool pair of boots in almost perfect condition. For ¬£8.50!
OK I rarely wear heels but I’m sure I can push the boat out one day… After all, I no longer have a standing desk at work (I mourn for it daily, believe me. It just means I have to get up and move about more frequently. But it does mean I can relax a bit more at work) so really I could wear heels.

Gin: And another great segue(!),¬†my lovely friend Charlotte and her husband, Paddy, gave me a prototype Christmas present when we were in Chichester. A sort of “make-you-own hipster gin” ingredients set.How cool is this? So each little jar contains different ingredients, like dried lemon peel, cinnamon, juniper berries etc. that you can add to a gin and tonic to spruce it up. Gin has become rather “in vogue” (though to be fair to Paddy and Charlotte, they were loving it waaaay before it became cool) and my dear mother has appointed herself some sort of gin connoisseur recently. She’s bought about five different kinds of gins! So when I showed her this little set she was VERY excited. That evening we made up a few glasses of lemon and juniper berry flavoured gin. Ooh er!So fancy! It tasted very nice. I’m not a big drinker but my drink of choice is a G&T. So crisp and delicate.

Protein powder: Speaking of tasty things. I am currently OBSESSED with the MyProtein marzipan-flavoured protein-powder. I adore it. I add about 20g (so maybe a scoop?) of it to my porridge and it rocks my world. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet or crazy strong, but subtly almondy. I was using the Chocolate Smooth flavour but this is SO much better. I got a small pack as I wasn’t sure what I would think (450g I think) but I’ve since gone back and bought a 1kg. I also bought the Cinnamon Danish flavour and the Speculoos. I had to Google what Speculoos was though. It’s a limited edition flavour (as is Marzipan) so I thought what the hell, why not.As a side note, as I’m living at home I obviously get these things delivered there. My dad also buys lots online as well (usually some random cables or part for his latest robot craze or yet another Alexa – I swear Alexa is becoming an omnipresence in the house. You can’t move for her) and he mentioned the other day that it can be quite disappointing when something is delivered but it’s for me not him. He grumbled that it’s usually¬†“running gear or some powder of some sort”, which did make me laugh. He’s not wrong.

Cake: Cake has been very much in my life in a big way recently. The guys at Wiggle are fantastic at bringing in snacks and baking. It seems like every week we have something new to munch on. I’m not mad. On Monday last week it was one of the guy’s birthday and he brought in a chocolate cake he made. Someone else from another team had also baked him a cake too! A chocolate melt-in-the-middle cake. Obviously I had a bit of both. I was glad to have tried both as well because at the end of the day as he picked up the cake he’d baked to put in the fridge he dropped it on the floor! How devastating! I mean, it was hilarious but equally heart-breaking¬†at the same time. RIP cake.And I’ll try not to think of just how many bits of cake I had the other week when someone left. There was¬†literally an idea table covered in delicious home-baked goodies. I’m an absolute sucker for anything home-baked. After eating 80% of what was in the bowl I decided not to have any more (it was only 10am…). I put it in my drawer and tried to forget about it. Well, the afternoon came and the cake was promptly eaten. *Sighs* I had the best intentions at least.

Christmas snacks: And on the note of delicious snacking, I popped into Lidl before work one morning (handily located on the road from my gym to work. I love Lidl and am really glad I can frequent it more often). I love browsing supermarkets (I’m a strange breed I know) and Lidl’s Christmas selection is always worth a gander. As a side note though, their bakery is at the front of their shop and it gave off the most intoxicating, delicious scents of freshly baked pastries, bread and cakes. I almost passed out (this was post-workout after all). Once I came to my senses though I found one of my¬†favourite Christmas snacks:¬†lebkuchen gingerbread. I first had them when I was in Berlin visiting my friend and they were amazing. I mean the big fat ones you can get at the Christmas markets are the best (I don’t know if they’re the same things but they’re very similar). They’re gingerbread but very soft and almost cake like. I’m not a huge fan of hard gingerbread (the British creations) but these are DIVINE.Running: And finally something to do with running! I’ve “officially” started marathon training. I mean, nothing much has really changed to be honest. My long runs will be getting longer and I hope to do a speed session once a week. The speed session is a new addition to the rota because I never normally do it (other than a speedy parkrun occasionally).

Yesterday I went out at lunch with the intention to do some sort of speed workout. Originally I was going to do two minutes of hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy as many times as I could be bothered but during my (almost) mile warm-up I decided to do mile repeats. The lake next to the office has a¬†gravel path around it and it’s about a mile long so I decided to just blast it round, have a jogging break, then repeat. My intention was to go sub-seven minutes for the mile as this is what I’ve been able to do on some miles at parkrun. Well, I definitely surprised myself. I managed THREE mile repeats (with 0.4 mile jogging recovery) at sub 6.45 pace. I mean it was TOUGH, both mentally and physically. But I did it!¬†I definitely needed those recoveries between but I felt strong maintaining the pace (though it did feel like death. God I hate speed work). Afterwards though the feeling was AMAZING. In the end I did¬†10k total and I was around a minute off my PB! Not too shabby.¬†SplitsUnfortunately though after showering and getting back to the office, I had the most ridiculous red face which quite a few people commented on. Wonderful.

What kind of speed work do you do?

What Christmas treats do you like?

Are you a Harry Potter fan?