Queen Elizabeth parkrun and cold running

Yet another spot of parkrun tourism this weekend… Saturday morning saw me heading out to Queen Elizabeth parkrun. It’s about a 30 minute drive away (quite substantial round these parts due to the plethora of parkruns available along the South Coast) so I was up and out by 8am.The weather, as I was expecting, was pretty rubbish. It was raining and dark. But this barcode won’t scan by itself so off I toddled in my car to the very beautiful Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Amazingly I didn’t get lost and remembered money to take with me (though the car park ticket machine does accept card as payment as well). I think these tourisms are helping evolve me into a more rounded and able human being… getting from one place to another without issue. These are my goals in life really.Anyway, I parked up and met up with my friend Joe (the lovely guy I ran Bournemouth Marathon with a good few weeks ago who was also celebrating his 200th parkrun) and his friend Matt. Happily another running friend, Karila, (whom I’d met on the Austria Run Camp earlier in the year) was also going to be there so there were friendly faces all round.Queen Elizabeth parkrun is known to be quite a tricky one. There’s a lot of undulations and it’s on compacted trail so it’s not easy underfoot. I wasn’t expecting to do any great time, and now with the weather being utterly pants I was just happy to finish. I’ve run round QECP a few times. One of those was fairly recently when I went out on my first ever Wiggle Run Out in October – a very sociable and fantastic run, but yes very hilly!We decided to do a mini-warm-up (and I do mean mini) because we were just stood in the rain getting colder and colder. At 8.55am the running brief happened (God bless those kind-hearted volunteers – not a particularly great day for them I imagine!). Then we headed up the hill to the start-line. There weren’t many people at all, but there were a lot of dogs who were getting very excited. You could barely hear for the dog’s barking! And then one little dog managed to escape off from his owner before they could put a lead on him and we all watched as the dog ran between our legs, dashing all over the place, away from his owner. It just needed some Benny Hill music really. Eventually the little guy was caught and we could get outside ready to begin.The good thing about this parkrun is that the first 100m really does separate the group out. It’s a tough uphill beginning and within 30 seconds my legs were like “oh hey this isn’t fun!”. But it was fantastic at getting you warm quickly! And for that I was grateful. Kindly Joe had also let me borrow his gloves as I knew my hands would struggle to get warm (though the rest of me was fine, even in shorts and a t-shirt – albeit soaked through).

After the first brutal uphill we were then flying downhill. This was rather precarious. It was so slippy – grass, mud and, the worst bit, clay. Wet clay is like glass, you just cannot get a grip on it even with trail shoes (of which I was of course wearing!). But I let myself go a bit and flew downhill. I managed to catch up to Matt, who’s usually faster than me, as he was taking things a bit more sensibly due to the fact that he wasn’t wearing trail shoes and had taken his glasses off due to the rain. But I grabbed those weaknesses and took no prisoners 😉

QE parkrun is two laps: one smaller one and then one bigger one. As we finished the first one (I dared not even look at my watch as I was so concerned with where my feet were going) we then headed back up the hill we started on (such a grind) for the second loop. It was tough going and Matt overtook me, being the stronger runner (by the way Joe was far ahead). After what seemed to be forever we then reached the top and there was another crazy downhill. In effort to get past Matt I let myself go once again and got past him. Every downhill I went for it to gain some distance from him (I’m pretty sure he was entirely unaware that I was racing him…).

While trying to be speedy I was also trying not to fall over or get injured. I have ONE week until the Gosport Half Marathon and I am desperate to do it. Not because I want a good time or anything like that but because this is the fifth time I’ve entered and I’ve never run it due to injury! It would be rather fitting to get injured one week before…but no I remained on my feet and clocked a speedy last mile before grinding the final incline to the finish… ahead of Matt! (I will stress though, I was racing him and he was taking the downhills sensibly so really the victory is entirely fake).My time was 23:05 (with a 6.30min/mile for the last mile due to the insane downhills!). I was happy with that. I managed to get 12th place overall (third female) which is one of my top positions I think. There were only around 60 people. Apparently they usually get around 70, and it peaks to 100 in the summer. So a very quiet one. And what’s nice is that the start, because it’s so uphill, does separate everyone out nicely.

We were all rather muddy after the race so we did a fun photo of the backs of our legs (and bums!). It was quite an awkward photo as I had to ask someone, who I didn’t know, to take the photo. I said it was going to be of the backs of us to show our muddiness and he laughed. Runners are a little crazy I guess!We’d all had a fun run – Joe came third in the end!We decided to head to the cafe and wait for Karila there as it was still tipping it down and we were getting cold. Bless Karila, she managed to fall over on one of the downhills but she was OK and enjoyed herself. In the cafe I clocked the cakes but ultimately decided to have a Full English Breakfast instead as I was a) hungry and b) really cold. Warm food would serve me far better! And you got a free hot drink with it – for £5.95! When Karila arrived we all ordered the same and then tucked in to a delicious big plate of goodness (OK “goodness” is probably a lie).Annoyingly though as Karila had been one person behind us in the queue her breakfast took AGES to come. Like literally 20 minutes after ours. It was a bit ridiculous. But it was nice to all chat about running, parkrun challenges (Karila and I are both doing the alphabet challenge and had both just gotten our ‘Q’).Karila is wearing the new Marathon Talk buff made by our lovely and very talented friend, Sarah – love the design! I also met the famous Wonky Bear who travels all over the UK doing different parkruns. He’s made from the old sponsor high-vis kit, which is such a cool idea!And then we said our goodbyes and I headed home to have the longest, hottest shower known to man. Ahh so good.

That evening I went and saw Thor Ragnarok with a rather large bag of pick ‘n’ mix sweets. I do love eating ridiculous amounts of sweets sometimes. I know there are people in the world who aren’t nearly as greedy as me that are content to eat a few sweets and then save them for later. Well, I’m just not that person. I’m an “all or nothing” kinda girl and those sweets didn’t stand a chance.The film was really good. Really funny. I’m not a die-hard Marvel fan if I’m honest, or superhero film person in general, but I do like the Thor films (as well Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men series). I really like how lighthearted the film was and that the final third, which is usually the “smashy crashy” section of action-films, was still just as good as the other bits.

Sunday morning I had a lovely lie-in (until just after 8am) and then I met with my friend Mike for a long run. Mike isn’t training for anything in particular (and the jammy sod is off to South Africa in a few weeks on holiday!) so was content to run “just” 10 miles, whereas I was looking more for 15. But running the 10 miles with him was far more preferable than running the entire 15 miles on my own. It was a cold run, with cold wind blowing at us and I was glad to have remembered my gloves. Especially as I tripped over during the run and as I landed I put my hands out in front of me and they scraped along the tarmac. I would have lost of a layer of skin had I not been wearing my gloves! Luckily I only grazed my knee slightly and bumped my elbow so there was no real damage (THANK GOD). I don’t usually fall over on runs (surprisingly considering how clumsy I usually am in life) so this was quite a shock.15 milesAfter the 10 miles Mike headed back to his car whereas I put my headphones on and headed for another 5 miles. I listened to a podcast and just zoned out. Thankfully it didn’t feel like a slog and I found the miles flew by quickly. I got back to my car and just as I got inside it started pelting it down with rain. So lucky! I was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts and I’m sure I would have been really cold if I’d have gotten wet.The rest of Sunday was an easy-day of doing chores, walking Alfie and visiting Westlands Farm Shop with my dad. My dad and me love cooking and all things food so it was a fun thing to do in the afternoon. I love buying meat from places where you know the animals are treated well and it’s sustainable. Yes it’s more expensive but considering this is what you’re putting into your body it’s worth it!I got myself some beef meatballs that were “infused” with lemon and garlic, rolled in paprika and stuff with cheddar. I mean, yum! I also got some black pudding, which is literally one of my favourite things (and I was sad that my fry-up the day before didn’t come with any).

And so that was my weekend. Marathon training is looking good so far – touch wood!

Have you ever done Queen Elizabeth parkrun?

What does your ideal fry-up contain?

Are you layering up for winter yet?

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.