parkrun, afternoon tea and dogs – a few of my favourite things

For once, I was in Southampton this weekend.

I went to Netley Abbey parkrun on Saturday and was (semi) glad to see that we were doing the cricket pitch course rather than the winter course as there was an event setting up in the area on the summer course. The cricket pitch course (five laps around, you guessed it, a cricket pitch) is an exceptionally dull course. It’s flat and repetitive. However, I prefer it to the winter course has six hills and can be windy.

I helped set up, which was super quick because it’s a simple course, but all on grass so I gradually felt my feet getting more and more wet due to the previous day’s rain. Mike had sensibly brought a spare pair of shoes but unfortunately for him had not brought a spare pair of socks… haha. Wet feet all round.

The barcode sign in the distance in the middle of the field…

I did a quick warm-up (just over a kilometre) and found my legs to be quite heavy and tired. I had umm’ed and arr’ed as to whether I’d put some welly into this run but I could see it probably wouldn’t be that fast. We lined up and headed off. I had a long-sleeve on and even gloves as it was that chilly that morning! It was just a bit of a miserable morning – so different to last weekend (I’m sure all the London Marathoners and Southampton racers were feeling a little cheated).

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

The first mile was a slog and I quickly realised a quick time (for me) wasn’t really on the cards but decided to keep with the effort level and get a solid tempo effort in. I ambitiously wanted to stay around 7min/miles but on the second lap it just felt like a total graft to maintain any sort of speed. There were also tricky areas to navigate through as the grass got more and more muddy.

Photo Credit: Ken Grist

A man was running next to me who was using a metronome – basically it audibly gives off beats so he could work on his cadence (As he told me afterwards). At first I thought I’d find it annoying once I began hearing it but then it became very rhythmical and nice to zone out too. We stuck together for most of the run.On the final mile (and God knows what number lap – I had to keep count on my hand) I felt myself have a spurt of energy. Probably because at this point I just wanted to finish the monotony of running in circles on sodden grass. I finished in 21:19 and a surprisingly high finish of 24 (2nd female). I think a lot of people were resting their legs after London and Southampton half/marathon last weekend.I helped close down and had a drink in the cafe after. Two of my running friends, Kate and her husband Mark, are heading to Devon and it was fun discussing the parkrun challenges of them trying to get all the Devon ones – apparently there are quite a few! I think down South we do very well with parkruns, there always seem to be new ones cropping up all over the place. This is both good and frustrating because just when I thought I was almost done with Bristol and Brighton they start creating new ones!

Later that day I went for afternoon tea with my friends from home. I hadn’t seem them in a while so it was nice to catch up. It’s mental to me that so many have had babies or are pregnant. While also discussing about turning 30 and arranging a big joint birthday party and how we’ all getting “old” I had a moment of, “shit am I a failure here?”.

It’s so easy to find yourself falling down that silly comparison hole. I absolutely do not want a baby right now. I actually couldn’t think of anything worse. I have a lot of plans I’m excited about and I love my life. I love the freedom I have, my holidays and running… not that having a baby means that everything you once loved disappears but it certainly means change and a whole lot more responsibility and proper adulting. But I think it’s so easy to let society tell you you should be living your life in a certain way, especially when you’re surrounded by people who are living that way. I don’t regret the choices I made and the way things have gone – I’m very happy with my life 🙂 Random tangent over!Now onto the important stuff… 😉 Afternoon tea was good but it was a bit too “delicate” for my liking. I’m a big fan of the big slabs of cake and chunky scones and regular sandwiches. Teeny tiny “pretty” cakes aren’t really going to cut it with me. That said, I was the human dustbin for everyone else so I did get a good share of extra cakes and sandwiches!The scones were delicious and the sandwiches were nice but I didn’t massively enjoy the tart (which was like a bland egg custard tart) and I’m never really a fan of creamy desserts that are like posh yogurts (I think it was a lemon posset?). My friend Anna (good name) said to me, “Don’t look behind you Anna, it will really upset you”. Obviously I did… a whole table with so many scones and cakes left behind. NOT EATEN. What!?

Anyway it was lovely to catch up with my friends and eat cake. Good times.

The next morning I met my friend Martin (who I ran the Gosport Half with back in November). I haven’t seen him for a good while so it was nice to touch base with him again, especially while doing a very scenic (albeit hilly) 13 miles. We did an out and back route through Durley which was really very pretty and, for the most part, car free. The hills were pretty savage though!After finishing the run I dashed home to shower and eat breakfast quickly before heading back out to meet Mike for a dog walk. Mike has a 13 week year old Siberian Husky crossed with a Golden Retriever who is just adorable, called Luna. I brought Alfie so Luna had a new friend. We met up in Royal Victoria Country Park (where parkrun is held) and walked round the field before heading to the dog fair that was going on.Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many dogs in one day! There were just so many. All of different breeds and sizes. Alfie was a little bit more wary of the other dogs – he’s very much a lone wolf, whereas Luna wanted to play with EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. Ahh the excitement of a little puppy. I remember when Alfie was like that. He’s almost nine years old. That is MENTAL. I still remember how tiny he was when we picked him up and he sat in my lap. I also remember feeding him a slice of apple and then him promptly throwing it up on my lap five minutes later. Lovely.Anyway, we walked round the stalls, chatted to other dog owners and enjoyed watching the “dog recall” competition (how quickly your dog runs back to you – there was a leaderboard and everything). Then we sat and had a coffee in the cafe outside while Luna enjoyed chasing every napkin that flew past her while Alfie rolled his eyes and tried to avoid getting jumped on.They got on well though despite the age gap. It’s a shame the weather wasn’t a bit brighter but thankfully we dodged the rain on all accounts.

How was your weekend?

Do you like dogs?

How many courses does your parkrun have? Netley has several!

Double parkrun and Christmas

Another Christmas done! This year felt very quick indeed. For the first time in MANY years I’m back at work during the three days between Christmas and New Year so it hasn’t really felt like a proper Christmas at all. But hey ho, such is life when you need to take a chunk of holiday in January!

The weekend before Christmas was a bit weird. It felt odd having such a big lead-up to the day. I guess I’ve gotten used to the past couple of years where you finish work on the Friday and then it’s Christmas very soon after. Did anyone else feel this? Or maybe it was just more noticeable to me because I would be back at work on the Wednesday.

On Saturday I decided instead of going to the Netley parkrun or anywhere further afield I would go to Lee-On-Solent instead. This meant I could also run there and back and get a solid 10 miles in and then I wouldn’t have to worry Sunday. Not only that but I’d be running on Monday for the Christmas parkrun. My calves have weirdly felt very tight so I didn’t want to push things. On that note, it’s weird because they started feeling tight after I changed my trainers a week or so before the marathon (I went from Adidas Boost Supernova Sequences to ASICS Gel Exalts) and my calves felt TERRIBLE. So I tried to buy new Supernovas ASAP but as I’m an idiot I’d already thrown away the older trainers so had to continue using the ASICS until the new ones arrive and this just made my calves feel worse.IMG_2109During my run to parkrun they still felt tight and the left one uncomfortably so. As my legs were still tired from the marathon I decided not to push parkrun. I turned up to Lee and saw so many people wearing festive fancy dress… ahh damn!IMG_2086I love fancy dress and happily would have joined in (though saying that, I’d have had to have run there and back so maybe it was for the best…). My friend Rebecca had made a fantastic effort as a Christmas pudding – she looked amazing! IMG_2085There was also a band playing festive tunes which was lovely. Lee splitsMy time was 22:18. (for my 158th parkrun!). I then headed off home soon after. On my run home I spotted confetti on the floor in lovely shades of pink and purple. As I passed it by I briefly thought “ahh that matches my running gear” and as I got to the top of the road I decided it was too good an opportunity to miss so turned around and went back to do a very “Insta-worthy” photo – one for the ‘gram as all the kids are saying 😉IMG_2115The rest of the day was spent sorting stuff out for Christmas (food, tidying, presents, etc.). My dad had braved the food shops with my grandad (who was down from Stoke) so I’d missed that joyous job (ha!).

On Sunday I had contemplated another run but with my calves not feeling right at all I decided a day of rest was best. I cursed myself for writing a bloody blog post on not being injured. Honestly, I do know how to tempt fate don’t I? Never, EVER again will I be so arrogant to assume I’m out of the runner god’s sniper sight.IMG_2134Instead I went out with my family to Romsey where we’d be reliably informed (by Facebook no less…) that there would be a Christmas market. Well, I assure you it was not a Christmas market. It was just a market and really wouldn’t have been out of place any day of the year. But hey ho. There was a gin stand (my mother was happy!), pies, meat, vegetables, bread and cakes. Not bad but not Christmassy. We had a nice walk round Romsey, which is a very quaint English town and then headed home for an evening watching films (finally saw Sully, brilliant!) while doing a jigsaws puzzle. Rock and, indeed, roll.IMG_2140Christmas morning I was off to Netley for the annual Christmas parkrun. My dad was going to come but as the turkey had still been frozen the day before it meant he needed to attend to it that morning (usually my parents cook the turkey overnight). To be fair, it was probably for the best as the weather at Queen Victoria Country Park was AWFUL.IMG_2146I headed down early to help set-up and we all miserably set a “skeleton” course out (which basically means we didn’t do all the flags and cones because the majority of people coming that day would have come before so would know where to go and it would mean we could pack up quicker to go home at the end).IMG_2147The wind was blowing an absolute gale. As we were on the winter course it meant that we were right next to the water’s edge and it was so cold and wild. I had come dressed in my elf outfit and was quite thankful for the extra layer of wool and hat!IMG_2153The wind along the front was AWFUL and I felt so unfit struggling against it, especially going up the hill. But by mile two I managed to feel a bit more “with it”. My left calf was really not happy though. Bugger. It was painful, just felt very stiff and tight. Not right at all. Hmmm, time to have a bit of rest then! Netley splits

I finished parkrun in 23:35 which wasn’t too shabby at all. Christmas parkrun in my view is never one to blast – it’s a good festive run. IMG_2165It was rather muddy though!IMG_2152There was a table of snacks and Bailey shots set up, people dressed up and Christmas music. It was good fun.

IMG_2171Thanks Beth for the photo!

My friend Nick, who is part of the set-up crew, came first (he’s very speedy) and we joked that he’d gotten “Christmas number one”. Hilariously he replied that it seemed fitting as Ed Sheeran, a fellow ginger, had also gotten the Christmas number one. Hehe.IMG_2161We packed up quickly and I headed off home ready to start Christmas properly! My sister and Mike were already there so I quickly got showered and sorted ready to open presents with everyone. We’re the type of family who opens presents first. It’s all very chaotic and crazy with wrapping paper everywhere, my mum offering cups of tea or bucks fizz, a strong delicious smell of turkey, the dogs trying to eat everything and everyone trying to get to grips with who’s got what from whom. I love Christmas with my family and wouldn’t change a thing!

To add to the stress my dad and I thought it would be a great idea to make a pudding this year. As both him and my mum are still doing Slimming World (and doing very well!) he decided the Slimming World Chocolate Log would be perfect (amongst all the other puddings of course). So we quickly got to work on that. Obviously though, as is Apple Family standard, we were missing self-raising flour (why on earth would you check these things beforehand right?). Luckily we had normal flour and baking powder so we went with that!

And as usual we didn’t read the instructions properly to realise that once it comes out of the oven you need to roll it and then let it cool. Well, we just left it to cool flat. IMG_2173So when it came to adding the filling and trying to roll it stone cold…well, it didn’t quite work.IMG_2174That said, it did hold its shape and actually tasted very nice! Not really my sort of thing it must be said as I’m not a huge fan of chocolate and fruit together but it was a nice addition to the other puddings I had 😉Christmas dinnerWe had a prawn starter (basically just prawns with either a sweet chili dip or a Marie Rose dip, delicious!), followed by turkey with all the trimmings and then a slice of the chocolate log… and maybe some trifle and lemon tart as well 😉

Then we played an awesome but very simple game called Bottle Top.IMG_2195You basically have to stack wooden coins on top of a bottle. The aim is to lose all your coins and not knock any coins off, but you can’t go higher than nine levels. It’s very tense!

The rest of the day was spent enjoying time with the family, playing with my puzzle (I’m fully addicted and almost finished my LOTR-themed puzzle) and eating more food. I had a lovely evening snack of Christmas cake (from Betty’s tea shop in Yorkshire!) and stollen.IMG_2201Heavenly! We did manage our annual Christmas walk down the beach with the dogs but it was SO windy and wild it was very much “heads down, go go go” kind of walk. Only a handful of other dog walkers seemed to brave the weather like us. It was good to get out though and the dogs needed the run.

A successful Christmas indeed.

How was your Christmas?

What did you have for Christmas dinner?

What are your family traditions?

Netley Abbey parkrun Review

So I thought I’d start a blog series on different parkruns. Though of course the parkrun website is always the best and first place to look for information about where the course is, parking etc., it’s always nice to have someone give you a first-hand account of what a parkrun is like. Obviously I haven’t done a huge number so this will hopefully be a growing list (one more until parkrun tourism #20!). And if anyone fancies contributing or doing a post, that would be fab (or pointing me in the direction of other people’s posts so I can link to so there can be more than one view). I thought I’d start with my home parkrun, Netley Abbey parkrun.img_1762Location: It’s set in the lovely Royal Victoria Country Park. It’s not that hard to find and once you arrive at the park you can usually see the signs and flags. The scenery is pretty with lots of trees, foliage and a view out to the sea.

Parking: There are lots of car parks in RVCP. It’s £1.50 to park if you buy a one hour ticket and leave a spare parkrun barcode printed next to it on display (and can park from 8-11am). Otherwise I think it’s £3. There are places outside of RVCP but they’re residential areas and, understandably, people can get a bit annoyed with lots of cars parking up and down their road. But usually parking isn’t an issue.

Amenities: There’s a lovely little cafe on the grounds and this has toilets (just outside of the cafe). The cafe serves hot drinks, cold drinks, cake, crisps, ice cream and snacks and lots of hot food options. It’s great!

Course: There are quite a few different course options at Netley due events that happen throughout the year and due to the weather. The usual course is a three lapped course that starts along a stone-tracked path (not horrific to run on as the stones are quite compact and small, but not as nice as flat ground).

img_5532The start area on the stones

Then you head up into Bluebell Woods. There’s a small hill that is neither very steep nor long lasting and then you head off to do a quick loop round the wood bits on a dirt/road track.

img_9264In the woods

You then come back down the small hill (keep to the right!) and swing round to go along some road for about 30 seconds before heading onto the grass. The grass is fairly even though there are some sneaky potholes to be wary of.img_9863You go round a few trees to finish off the lap before starting on the stones again. During the winter there can be many puddles on the stone track and you’re likely to get muddy and wet.netley-abbey-parkrun-courseUsually during winter we switch to the winter course which is tougher. It again involves three laps but instead of running straight to Bluebell Woods it goes down a decline towards the nearby coast and you run alongside the water for a bit. This can get very windy and if it’s raining can be hard-going. You then run back up another path, but this time at an incline which though isn’t that steep does seem to go on forever. The rest of the route is fairly similar though instead of going along the grass you just head back down the stone path to repeat the lap.netley-winter-courseOccasionally, due to summer events, we’re moved to the cricket pitch. This is called the “Marmite Course” because it’s five laps of the pitch which are very flat but quite dull. It’s a great way to get a PB but it does drag on. It’s also tough remembering how many laps you’ve done!

netley-abbeyThe cricket pitch on a misty morning

Elevation: Like I said, one small hill you do three times. You get to run back down it so it kind of evens up.netley-abbey-parkrun-elevationElevation gain is 70ft over the entire run.

Number of participants: This parkrun isn’t hugely busy. We normally get 200-250 participants. It gets busier if other parkruns in the area have been cancelled for whatever reason. Though it isn’t that busy it can feel crowded at times because of the switchbacks. We have a lot of “Keep Right” signs on the course to try and ease this but it doesn’t always helps as faster runners want to overtake and if there are a lot of runners with running buggies. Running with dogs is also allowed and a couple of people do it regularly but the dogs are usually well under control.img_2483It’s a very friendly parkrun and I fully recommend it. No it’s not a PB course but it is pleasant and pretty!

  • Tamsyn Smith from Fat Girl to Ironman blog wrote a recap of the winter course HERE. You can also see more information from their Facebook page and Twitter.
  • Emily writes a fantastic blog reviewing different parkruns and she wrote a recap of the winter course here.

If you’d like to write a parkrun review for this parkrun or any other one you’ve been to, please contact me: annatheapple@gmail.com I’d love more input!

Have you ever been to Netley Abbey before?

Do you like big parkruns or small parkuns in terms of number of participants?

Do you like to go to a cafe after parkrun?