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…

The consequences of being too greedy… ice cream and running don’t mix

The weekend after a marathon you want to basically do nothing. And well, that’s pretty much what I did! Well, sort of.

On Friday night a bunch of my running friends and I went to a very lovely Chinese in Southampton (actually my friend Mike’s stepmum’s) called Shanghai Bay. Now I’m actually not a big Chinese food fan. I’m more an Indian fan, but Mike assured me that this was not your everyday British Chinese restaurant. It was where the local Chinese community come to eat. When you see 90% of the customers are Chinese you know it’s going to be authentic and tasty!As none of us really knew what to order, Mike suggested he just get a selection of bits and pieces to share between us (cue Anna mini panic on sharing food. Needn’t have worried! So much food!). There was a large turning bit in the middle of the table so we could rotate the different plates round which was great for the sharing situation. We started with a platter of ribs, sesame prawn toast, spring rolls, crispy seaweed and peanut chicken skewers.Very tasty indeed. And obviously I loved the ribs. Then following this we had crispy duck pancakes followed by mountains of main courses… sweet and sour, black bean beef and another one (a pork dish, no idea what it was but it was delicious). Oh god, so much food… We barely made a dent! The above photo isn’t when all the dishes are out… I got too distracted eating to take better photos! So yes, we were quite full afterwards. It was also highly amusing seeing some of the “older” generation using Snap Chat filters for the first time. I don’t use Snap Chat either so it was quite an education for all of us!Then after those fun and games we all headed to the nearby Sprinkles Gelato for a bit of pudding… even though we were all feeling quite full. But as we know, there is a separate stomach for pudding.I ordered the Sticky Situation, which I’ve had before… basically a dessert in a jar. It was vanilla gelato with cookie dough, white and regular chocolate sauce, chocolate buttons, real cream (not the cheap squirty stuff). But yeah, it was FILLING. Mike and Kate ordered the peanut butter version of it and they struggled towards the end too… I guess a crepe, waffle or a smaller sundae might have been a more sensible choice (as the others had gone for) but that’s not how I roll!
I was SO full (as you imagine). It was delicious though. We all stumbled out of Sprinkles feeling very much in a sugar coma. I went to bed that night not feeling my best!

And unsurprisingly I woke up not feeling my best. But I headed to Southsea to meet my marathon buddy, Joe, his friend Matt and Matt’s dad for the Southsea parkrun. I parked about a mile away (near The Tenth Hole, where we’d be going for a post-run trip after) and jogged down. A handy little warm-up – which I never usually do before parkrun.The temperature and weather were fantastic. It was lovely and warm and the breeze was fair minimal. The perfect time for a trip to Southsea parkrun!
Joe was planning on testing his marathon legs and I was just planning on surviving. My legs had felt fairly good post-marathon but I wasn’t expecting or really intending on attempting anything too fast or crazy.

We started far too far back. Joe should have been far more forward (being the sub 18min 5k’er he is!) so the first 100m or so I was dodging and weaving between people. Joe and Matt zoomed off and I just tried to get my legs going. Surprisingly things seemed to go OK as I got faster and faster. Southsea parkrun course is quite dull in that it’s a flat 1.5 mile run along the prom and then a turnaround and 1.5 mile run back. But it’s a quick one if that’s what you’re looking for. I managed to get my legs to go faster and overtook a number of people. My legs felt fine and my lungs felt fine… but my stomach was NOT happy. I felt incredibly sick. In fact, I was genuinely concerned I would BE sick. And the smell from the cafes nearby made things so much worse.

As we turned around and headed back I tried to maintain my pace (now with a very slight headwind, but you can always feel these things when you’re trying to run fast) and I remember several guys effortlessly gliding past me (or so it seemed). There was a very young lad sailing along just ahead of me and I tried to hold on to his pace. I did wonder where his “responsible” adult was though as he was very much under 11 and running solo. But that did help distract me from the sicky feeling to consider what you’d do if you had a very young child who could outrun you so much but wanted to join you at parkrun. You’d have to find someone just as speedy that he could run with I guess. Running parent problems!My official time was 21:44 which I was really pleased with. I was more pleased that I wasn’t actually sick. Though after finishing I had to take myself off to a nearby bush and breathe deeply for a good few minutes before I was in the clear. I wasn’t sick but good god I was close. Lessons have been learnt.Joe didn’t do as well as he’d hoped (19.30ish…so slow! ;-)) and Matt got a PB. Matt’s dad did very well as well and we all agreed our previous night nutrition (the boys had had chips and beer) hadn’t been stellar so our performance wasn’t too shabby all things considered!And then Matt and his dad headed off while Joe and I headed to The Tenth Hole for a post-run coffee. We had originally intended on having cake or breakfast but the reality was I felt so sick even the smell of food was turning my stomach. So we settled instead on a coffee and ordered cake to take-away.I knew future Anna would regret not getting cake! I also got three little cake’s for my parents (they come as a trio of cake selection). This way they’d still get cake but it would fit into their Slimming World diet being smaller cakes. I chose a s’mores Rolo brownie and a peanut butter caramel cake (sweet ‘n’ salty – there was more popcorn on top but I nibbled at it).They’ve gone into the freezer to stock-up my cake supply. I honestly couldn’t have had stomached them. Who even am I! In fact, I didn’t actually eat “breakfast” until 1.30pm as I really just didn’t feel right. That will certainly teach me and my greedy self. The coffee was lovely and it was nice to catch-up with Joe again post marathon. Then I headed to Asda to do some food shopping (best time when you really don’t want to be around food…) and had a very lazy day not doing much else.

The next morning, after a deliciously long lie-in, I intended on heading out for about 8-10 miles. I felt so unmotivated and, weirdly, still tired. I just really didn’t fancy going. I took Alfie for a walk to get my head in the game and decided instead to head out for three miles and see how I felt. Well I headed out and within the first 30 seconds I was already feeling like I wanted to go back. But I thought the first mile is always the worst so give it more time. Nope, two miles in and I was already wanting to be home. Everything felt fine, no niggles or anything like that, but nothing felt right, if you know what I mean. I just felt very lethargic and not enjoying the run so I headed home. When I finished I just felt even more tired and not right. I wondered if I was coming down with something…

After getting showered and sorted my mum suggested a nice walk along the Lee-On-Solent prom and then a coffee. Well that sounded lovely. Sometimes you just need to spend some quality time with your mum!We had a nice coffee and chatted away before heading back down the prom to the car. Exactly what I needed! I’m glad I hadn’t tried to push my run earlier as I really didn’t fancy it and I’m not actually training for anything right now (more on that in another post). So for now I can have those days when I don’t fancy running and not run. Lovely. I might have also picked up a slice of coconut vanilla cake and a chocolate beetroot cake to join my other cake friends in the freezer… 😉

The rest of the day was spent chilling and catching up on life admin and Graham Norton. Some days you just need to chill. I still wasn’t feeling entirely well so the relaxing and care-free day did wonders. Especially as the coming weekends I’m going to be busy again!

How do you relax?

Do you ever spend one-on-one time with your mum? What do you like doing together?

Have you ever felt/been sick on a run?

A gentle nudge for parkrunners

As you may be well aware by now, I’m a huge parkrun fan. parkrun is a big hug in a mug for me. I love the concept (free 5k events all over the UK, and indeed the world!). I love the community. I love the non-competitive nature of it. It’s inclusiveness. I love the fact that you can go to different ones and almost “collect” them and build up your stats.

Yes, I am a parkrun devotee. I love my home parkrun, Netley Abbey. OK the course can be tough; three laps meaning three inclines, the terrain can be tricky (compacted gravel and grass) and it can get a bit hairy when a lot of people show up (shouts of “keep right!” can be heard throughout). I’ve been going there now for a good number of years and I’ve become a fairly regular member of the set-up and close-down team for those years too. It’s a great way to volunteer and still be able to run. I love chatting and laughing with the crew and often feel guilty when I can’t make it because I’m heading off somewhere else that weekend.

Now, volunteering is a crucial part of making parkrun work. Without people giving up their time it wouldn’t work. People can volunteer and not be runners as well. It always amazes me when people become part of the parkrun community this way despite not wanting or being able to run. Run Directors, barcode scanners, course marshals, timekeepers etc., are all so integral to a Saturday’s parkrun.But often forgotten are the set-up and close-down crew. I obviously don’t know what happens in every parkrun, but at Netley we need to be there an hour before the 9am start. We need to get out the signs and parkrun paraphernalia from the store cupboard, which is  no where near the start (it’s the only safe place to store it on the park grounds) and then walk the course and set it up. I suppose at smaller parkruns or more obvious routes don’t require that many signs or that much walking in order to set the course up but for Netley we basically have to walk an entire lap (a mile). We usually don’t have enough people to make this process as efficient as possible. 
Now this is all fine and dandy during the summer months where it’s warm and sunny but when autumn and winter hit, it can be a rather miserable process. It sucks when you wake up for parkrun and see the weather outside. Rain battering against the window, frost, mist, COLD. It’s more of a struggle to get yourself to go. If you “just” run parkrun then you might hide in your car until the last possible minute and then dash off to the start at 8.55am. But the set-up crew have been out there for a good hour in that weather. I can’t speak for everyone else, but normally I’m rather cold, wet and a little grumpy. Peeling off my layers and heading to the start is a hideous process. I’m not overreacting when I say that during the winter I do tend to dread that hour before parkrun. We normally don’t get time to warm-up with a nice jaunty jog around the park.

OK I’m whining and moaning and this is out of the spirit of parkrun – of which, despite all this, I still adore. My moan is no one’s fault – it is what it is. We’ve tried to streamline things as much as possible of course but the weather and time of year can’t be helped.

So this year I’m going to take some time off at winter in setting the course up. It just wears down my love of parkrun and I don’t want that. I also want to explore other parkruns. I want a lazy Saturday morning, getting up at the last possible minute to race down to the start. To hibernate away in my car until the final second. Or have a bit of time to stretch my legs and get the blood flowing before I need to run.

What I will ask though please is when you’re next at parkrun, give a thought to how those signs were put there, who set the barcode table up, who placed each cone on the course, how the finish funnel is where it is…. parkrun fairies don’t exist. parkrun devotees and volunteers DO. Maybe consider giving up that extra time in bed and heading down to help them out. Or when you’re finished, how about clearing the course away instead of dashing home to the warmth or to the coffee shop for a post-run hot drink? It really does help.

Right, moan over!

Do you go to parkrun?

Do you volunteer?

Is your local parkrun course a simple set-up or more complicated?

All the running and all the food

Two things in life make me very happy (amongst other things of course, but in general these two rank pretty high). Food and running. And these things have been going nicely hand in hand over the last few days.

So you know I said I love my new job? Well I REALLY love my new job. On the last Friday of the month Wiggle organise a run and a cycle for everyone to join in with, if they want. For the last couple of months I haven’t been able to join in, either due to coming back from injury or just not fitting in with my running schedule. But this month I was good to go finally!

They had a few different events you could sign up to: a speedy cycle, a mountain bike session in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, a gentle 5k, a trail 7k I’m QECP or a scavenger hunt walk. So it’s very inclusive. You didn’t have to do any but it was all free and started at 2.30pm Friday. I signed up to the trail run and was feeling excited. I had actually won an internal competition as well so had some brand new season dhb gear to test out too.Friday was also the national Macmillan bake sale so there was a ridiculous number of cakes floating about the office too. Happiness all round! I’d already come pre-prepared with cash ready to donate and invest in some solid pre-run fuel. I actually wolfed down my porridge at double speed when I saw them putting the cakes out as I didn’t want to miss any of the good stuff (I have s genuine fear of food running out. It’s a symptom of being the greedy person I am).So before 9.30am I’d already eaten my porridge, a peanut butter brownie, a questionable vegan brownie, a sausage roll and a GIANT scotch egg (with bacon in it). It was incredible.My work colleagues laughed at me in wonder. I like food, what can I say! 

By 2.30pm everyone who wanted to get involved was changed and ready to share lifts to their destination. We arrived in short time to QECP and got going. The group was a nice mixed bunch of men and women, some super speedy and some less so. The pace was nice and easy though the hills were sharp and frequent. We actually followed some of the parkrun route. We’d stop and walk for a but so people could catch up or catch their breath and it was a lovely amble through the beautiful countryside. The trail was a bit muddy and slippy with some tree roots and rocks about but nothing too technical. I got to know a few more of my work buddies better and chat to people I didn’t know, which was just great. Some were avid ultra marathoners, some occasional parkrunners so it was a nice mix. I find it so easy to chat to people who I already have the common ground of running with.The 7k flew by and I felt great. A few of the guys suggested another 7k loop and after a moment’s deliberation (and a quick calculation of mileage) I decided to join. I think there were about seven of us in total that did the second loop. I was a bit worried that they’d shoot off as they were all quite speedy but hey promised not to leave me behind. And asides from the first 1km straight up a giant hill, it was fine and I felt quite comfortable running.We didn’t push the pace to any extremes but we didn’t stop this time. I actually felt really good. I forget how much I love running off-road and should really do it more.At the end we grabbed a quick drink in the cafe and then one of the guys drove me back to the office to collect my car. It was a lovely way to end the week!

I got back to my parent’s house (which is now where I live) and had a lovely hot shower and a light dinner. I say a light dinner only because my lovely mum and brought me back a few pieces of cake from her bake sale at the hospital where she works. A scone, a slice of Victoria sponge, a slice of lemon drizzle cake and a chocolate crispy cake…well I was done!The next morning I was up early to catch the train to Reading to meet up with my friend, George, who I used to work with at my old job (I also did the Tough Mudder event with him a while ago) and his fiancée. He’s such a nice guy (and his partner is lovely too!) and we’re very likeminded in our love of food. In fact they have a blog which they’ve recently just started (check out their CookNoBook Instagram). The plan was to do the Reading parkrun and then go for lunch. They’ve never done a parkrun before so I was more than happy to introduce them to it.Amazingly I got to theirs without a hitch and we headed to Thames Valley Park where the parkrun was held. It was super busy and cars were parked all along the road. We parked a little walk away and got there just before the first timer’s brief.The course is nice and flat and relatively simple. A straight run out over a small bridge and then two laps around the country park bit. It goes alongside the Thames and the rather was thankfully just a little chilly but the sky was blue.

Ala, George’s partner, isn’t a regular runner so was a little nervous but we were all looking forward to it. George is like a Duracell bunny and has tons of energy. He’s in good shape from lots of martial arts. I wedged myself towards the front so I wouldn’t get too crushed or held back and George and Ala headed further back. I wasn’t sure how my legs would feel after the run the day before by as soon as we got going I felt good and decided just to see what I could do.

The first km or so is on grass and it was a little slippy but then you get onto more compact trail and it was fine, although with a few muddy patches and puddles to jump over.  As we got through the first loop I worked out what kind of speed I could hold onto and planned when to push the pace a bit more. It’s nice having two laps because you can be a bit more strategic about how you can pace without rinsing yourself too soon.As we came over the bridge again and headed on the finishing straight back to the beginning it did seem to go on forever however and it took a lot of effort to keep pushing. I managed to overtake a couple of people at the end and finished in 21:46 with a negative split. Very happy indeed. George, who I thought would overtake me at some point, was just behind in 22:01. Damn those two seconds! For his first parkrun and his first crack at running in a while that’s insane!! Nicely done indeed. Ala came in not too long behind us around 28 minutes. Again, this is amazing for her first parkrun and her not being a regular runner! I’m so happy for them! And they enjoyed it too 🙂 they said they felt very accomplished.From there we headed back to theirs to shower and get sorted. Then we headed out for some coffee, followed by lunch. The lunch spot, Bluegrass BBQ, was everything and more that I could have dreamed for. BBQ fodder at its best.We were eager beavers and actually had to walk round the block before the breakfast menu turned over to the lunch menu at 11:45. When it came to ordering, I went for the Boss Pit Platter with a side of frickles (fried pickles).My god it was good. I was glad I ventured away from my usual safe bet of just having ribs and having a platter of different things to try. There were baby back ribs, brisket, pulled pork, burnt ends, 1/4 chicken, cobs and a mountain of chips. I traded George some brisket for one of his St. Louis ribs and I was all set!
I couldn’t manage all the chips or frickles but everything else was hoovered up. God it was good. No room for pudding though for once! We did a little bit of walking after lunch (an absolute necessity to help digestion…) and headed to a lovely local event called Reading Town Meal. It’s a great event supporting the local community and fresh produce. It had chefs in training from the Reading University cooking a two course meal FOR FREE for people to munch on. It was first come first serve. Obviously we didn’t need a meal by we did get a fruit crumble to share between us…though I could only a mange a couple of bites!
There was lots going on, like face painting, free cake decorating for kids, vegetable stands, bread and things like that. It was great! But I couldn’t even think to have any more cake sadly…as good as it looked! In fact, on my way back to the station I couldn’t even manage a free Hotel Chocolat chocolate! Who even am I?? I was a very full and happy bunny in my train back home (and for once, the right train!).

The next morning I met up with fellow Bournemouth Marathon trainees, Mike, Matt and Joe, and we headed out for a 10 mile run. It was quite humid and warm but otherwise good weather to run in. We all agreed that it might be nice to have a day like that for the marathon next week… But who knows eh!

We kept the pace conversational and it flew by. When we finished the 10 I wanted to carry on and do two to three more miles afterwards so waved goodbye to everyone.I just like to do 13 miles the week before a marathon, it just works for me doing half the distance. I also wanted to see how my legs felt running solo after a long run. I really don’t know where I am with my pace for this marathon so it was nice to see what my legs naturally felt like doing. I don’t think I’ll be running near the 8 mins though! But I’m just going to see how I feel on the day. If anything at the beginning feels too hard, I’ll slow it down. I’m not aiming for a PB (that would be foolish considering I’m not in that sort of shape!) but equally I think I can do a bit faster than a four hour marathon. We shall see.

How was your weekend?

Have you been to Reading recently? It’s got quite a nice selection of coffee shops and restaurants.

Do you enjoy a platter at a restaurant? I quite like a meze board for the variation.

Oxford parkrun review

It has been AGES since I had a parkrun review. I really must get back into them as they’re quite handy and I’ve done so many more since. I have my lovely friend Michelle (from the Austria Run Camp and used to be part of my running club) to thank for this post as she’s kindly written up a review of the Oxford parkrun. She’s now a DOCTOR (not only is she super fast but she’s super smart) and so this is now her local parkrun. Let’s get to it. (All photos are from CJ Photos found on their Facebook page).

Location

Oxford parkrun takes place in Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park which can be found on the far north of the city, just outside the ring road. The park itself is the largest in the city and has received a Green Flag Award.The 42 hectares of parkland are split into Cutteslowe Park to the north and Sunnymead Park to the south with a bridge joining the two. During World War II large parts of the park were used to grow vegetables and afterwards continued to be home to allotments. More recently this area of land is managed to provide community woodlands and a semi-natural wildlife area.Parking

There are two car parks available at the park; Harbord Road to the north edge of the park and the other at the south just off the A40 if you’re heading towards Headington. Both are pay and display however charges don’t come into effect until 10am.

The two main entrances to the park are also where the car parks are for those travelling by two wheeled or two footed transport. Oxford Parkway/Water Eaton park and ride is approximately a mile down the road so ideal for any keen bean wanting a mile warm up and cool down. From here you can then get either the bus or train into Oxford city centre and spend the rest of the day exploring oxfords colleges, shopping streets and cafes. The park and ride costs £2 to park for 11 hours and then bus is £2.80 return (although train is only £1.90 if you have a railcard!).

Amenities

Okay I’ll start by ticking off the two most important things…firstly yes there are toilets within the park. Secondly post parkrun coffee and cake is within eyesight of the finish line. The San Remo cafe located within the park is where everyone tends to head (I can’t vouch for it personally though having not been). If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous then there are several lovely cafes and bakeries in Summertown which is very close by (walking distance).Within the park itself are several children’s play areas, table tennis tables, a miniature railway, beach volleyball courts, a skate park and outdoor tennis courts. There are also cricket and multiple football pitches which are used by local football clubs on a Saturday morning. For hide and seek lovers there are several geocaches hidden within the park and a marked 18 point orienteering course. Or if you just want to be outdoors with nature there are areas of wildflowers, oriental flower beds, allotments and community woodland.

As well as the parkrun course there is also a 1 mile course marked around the park.

Course

The course itself starts in a northerly direction on an area of grass, your run 1 and 3/4 loops of the small grass field (marked with posts which you go around, a bit like a rounders pitch) and then you leave the field at the southernmost point to head out and complete 2 large laps of the park.The large laps start with a slight downhill on tarmac and then you turn left to follow the southern perimeter of the park on the grass. This is where you need to be careful as there are some rabbit holes and mole hills as well as the grass being slightly banked. After a short stretch of gravel path you turn onto the main open field which you follow the edge of for 3 edges of the square. Again, this is grass with a trodden “track” and signs marking the route. When I ran the course it was soft underfoot due to recent rain but I can imagine during winter to can become very muddy so don’t wear those new shiny trainers!!
When you get to the final edge of the field the grass track turns to a gravel path. This is the only real uphill on the course but is not steep and only about 200m long. At the top of the track you turn left onto a tarmac path which you then follow through a sharp right then an almost 180 degree left turn to complete the first large loop.Once you complete the second of the large laps you head back onto the grass after the tight left turn and straight into the finish funnel with just enough distance to get a sprint finish in.

Elevation

The graph below shows the overall elevation of the course.As I mentioned above there is only really one uphill and that last for approximately 200m but isn’t steep. Only thing is you do it twice. Otherwise I’d say the only thing slowing the course slightly is that it’s mostly grass underfoot and there are a few tight turns!

Number of participants

The largest turnout is 405 but on average there are 165 runners so it is a small parkrun for being located in a big city.There are often families, runners with buggies and runners with dogs taking part and the other facilities in the park make it an ideal family morning out!

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Thank you Michelle, a fabulous review 🙂

If you’d like to do a parkrun review, please email me (annatheappleblog@gmail.com) and I’ll post it up!

Have you ever been to the Oxford parkrun?

Have you ever been to Oxford? I love it there. So British and lovely.