My trip to Berlin and Poland

So the time had come to finally make my journey to collect my final letter for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I wanted to get this done before the end of the year for arbitrary reasons and because it’s getting cold.Kyle humoured me in joining me – he’s good like that 😉 And we flew to Berlin Tegel from Gatwick on a Thursday evening. Now I had only just got back from New York Tuesday morning so this was quite the turnaround for me!

It has been a while since any Anna-Related Incidents have occurred so it was only right for one to crop up. Everything had been going all fine and dandy until we reached the car hire place in the airport. I was down to drive the car (Kyle doesn’t have a car licence – he rides a motorbike instead). So when the man behind the counter says, “Can I see your driving licence?” I had a sudden feeling that someone had poured cold water over me. Driving licence… ah yes. That thing I did not pack.

I turned round to Kyle and said “I’ve forgotten my driving licence”. Kyle, bless his heart, has the patience of a saint and just sighed a little. When I asked the man what would happen if I didn’t have my licence he looked at Kyle and asked if he could drive instead. Kyle showed him his licence, technically not lying by saying nothing, and the man nodded and said “OK, he drives then. You just need to pay the extra fee for changing the driver”. Riiiight. Seems legit. I tentatively asked if I could still drive the car (remember, Kyle can’t actually drive) and the man said “Sure, but I didn’t say it”. OK then. We paid the added fee of being able to take the car out of Germany and £100 later we were out of there (I paid £61 for my mistake – ouch).

We arrived at our hotel, nicely located less than three miles from the Brandenburg Gate, and got very lucky with finding the last parking space where we wouldn’t have to pay. Thank god. The hotel was called, wait for it… Apple City. I mean, how perfect right? They did indeed have apples in the lobby.

So the next morning we woke up early and headed out for a gentle plod round the sights of Berlin. Genuinely I was so chuffed with where the hotel was located. It was a lovely run along the Spree River to get to the Tiergarten.The autumnal colours were beautiful and we stopped several times to take photos and enjoy our surroundings. I love runs like this.We ran to the Brandenburg Gate and then to the Reichstag building and it brought back all the memories of running the Berlin Marathon.It was nice to get some photos without hoards of people milling about.It was also nice to finally get to showcase my new New York Marathon vest that I got at the expo (love the colour!). Kyle and I took the run nice and gently and ran just over 5 miles in the end. A lovely start to the day – and a great way to tick off some “must-sees”.We then got showered and ready and headed out to walk the way we ran to get back to the centre. After numerous recommendations from people, we decided on the Steel Vintage Bikes cafe for brunch.It was such a unique and cool place. There were bikes hanging from the walls, the artwork was really cool and even in the bathroom the tiles had little bikes on them. The service was super friendly and the menu looked great. I went for a tea and it came out in this very cute little teapot and cup affair. For food I had scrambled egg and we shared some maple bacon pancakes (which also came with scrambled egg).Brunch was really tasty and helped fuel us on our Berlin wanderings. We went to Checkpoint Charlie, the Jewish Memorial and the big cinema area where they have all the premiers.

I was so chuffed as there was a small Christmas market around that area and I was able to grab myself a chocolate covered apple (something I adore – can you quite believe, eh?).We then walked to the Berlin Mall where I was amazed to see that there was a slide that you could take from the third floor to the ground floor!I mean, how cool is that? Of course I had to give it a whirl. After that we walked back to the hotel.We passed a small bakery and we couldn’t help but buy a delicious looking iced thing (I have no idea what it was but it looked amazing) and a pretzel.It was delicious! And so lovely to sit outside this very small German bakery and enjoy the chilly but lovely weather.

We then packed up and got going to Zary. Driving through Berlin was a little bit stressful (not to mention being on the “wrong” side of the road and using the wrong hand to change gear) but we made it onto the autobahn. The road to Zary from Berlin is basically all motorway and one long road. It was very dull driving but with good company and good music (and a pretzel) it flew by.

When we arrived in Zary (blink-and-you’ll-miss-it size of town) it was dark and very misty. I’m not going to lie, it was quite eerie. Almost like we’d wandered into a horror movie.Big pine trees towering over long dark roads, not many people about with oldie-worldie feels.That said, we checked in to our very lovely ApartHotel and everyone was met was very friendly (that we could tell, to be honest most people couldn’t speak English and we ca’t speak Polish).

We checked in and then headed out to walk to the local town (a 5 minute walk) to find some dinner. We happened upon a pizzeria. I mean, there wasn’t a huge choice of restaurants because Zary is a small town but this place was fantastic. The menu was great (they had an English version, hurrah!) and the pizzas we had were very tasty and not to mention ridiculously cheap.We both had large pizzas and a beer each and it came to £8, which is insanely good for a restaurant meal! It was very tasty as well (even if we weren’t hugely hungry due to all the snacks and food we’d had earlier…).

Then we headed back to the hotel ready for a good night’s sleep before Zary parkrun…

Have you ever been to Berlin or Poland?

What is your brunch option of choice?

Have you ever driven abroad?

New York, New York

New York, where do I even start? I’ll be doing the marathon recap soon, but for now I’ll just recap the days before, because they were pretty cool too.

So this trip was organised by the lovely Charlie (aka @TheRunnerBeans of blog and Insta fame). I’d briefly met her before and she seemed lovely but I’d not met the other girls who were going to be on the trip too. We’d “met” through social media and chatted via there but I hadn’t actually met them. We created a WhatsApp group and chatted there a bit more, but there was still a little bit of nervousness… would they like me? Would I get on with them? Was I cool enough? I needn’t have worried about whether the girls would be nice or not – Charlie, Anna, Elaine, Cortney, Steph and Emma were all just so lovely.On Friday morning my lovely dad drove me to the airport where I met with Emma, the only one who was one the same flight as me. I was SO pleased to have someone on the same flight who also needed to get to the same place on the other side as me because, let’s be honest, I’m a complete numpty and would probably get very lost on my own. Especially as I was trying to save some money and not just get a taxi from the airport to the AirBnb. And Emma was the nicest person – I’m so glad we met! 😀The flight was long (ehhh 8 hours) but we managed to zip so quickly through security in JFK and grab our bags super fast. This is almost unheard of for flights into the States – it usually takes forever! We then rushed to get the right train to the subway so we could get to the marathon expo that evening before it shut. We were very much pushing it as it was now 6pm and the last entry into the expo was 7pm! By the time we got to Penn Station we literally had to run (with our suitcases!) down the streets (in the rain!) to get there. It was epic – the only way to describe it. We got to the expo minutes before 7pm, saw Charlie who was meeting us there and dropped our suitcases with her while we raced in.We picked up our bibs and then picked up our finisher’s t-shirt (women sizes hurrah!). We could do the expo on Saturday (the next day) but we really wanted to make sure we got our bibs and that bit sorted in case any plans changed the next day or it was a faff to get back to.The expo was very quiet though so it was super fast to do everything we needed. We wandered round the merch area and I bought myself a vest. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the selection. I’m not a huge New Balance fan and the stuff wasn’t really my sort of thing. I’m really pleased with the vest but nothing else appealed. The expo itself was pretty cool though in this giant glass building.There were lots of stalls but we decided to head back out to Charlie as she was waiting and we were going to head to dinner with the other girls. It was very late to us at this point (New York was four hours apart at this point – the daylight savings would happen Sunday morning) but we were running on adrenaline and excitement. We met the other girls at 5 Napkin Burger, which was very cool indeed.I ordered chicken wings (had to be done!) and sweet potato fries and enjoyed finally chatting to the other girls, who had arrived at different times. The chicken wings were delicious of course.And then we headed to the Airbnb and could finally CHILL. It had been a very long day! The Airbnb was INCREDIBLE. It was a proper townhouse affair, with three stories and four bedrooms. It was really quite big. The downstairs was an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen, so it felt very social.

Charlie had given us all a little goodie bag of treats as well, which was just so lovely. We had a t-shirt with New York and the skyline stitched onto it, a hairband with New York Marathon 2018 written on it, a Nuun water bottle and some Nuun, some peanut butter M&M’s and some trail mix (something we don’t really get in the UK).It was a lovely welcome! Then we headed to bed and I fell asleep very quickly! Though we’d planned to have a lovely lie-in in the morning, jet lag had other ideas and most of us woke up very early. We had a quick little walk to the very local Dunkin Donuts and got a coffee and some of the mini bite-size doughnuts (I want to say munchkins?). Then we all got ready for a shake-out run that would take us to brunch.Anna, Charlie’s friend, is an amazing photographer and does lots of Charlie’s photos for her and was planning on taking photos for us during our trip. It was really quite cool. We’d get some get photos of us running in New York that weren’t blurred or just selfies, it was fantastic!I did feel a little self-conscious, but Anna was great and how could the photos not be good with the scenery being as beautiful as it was with the autumnal colours!We ran to Central Park which was, as you can imagine, just so beautiful and so packed full of other runners! If you weren’t a runner you’d really want to be after being surrounded by so many of them!In the end I ran about 5.5 miles, which was more than I probably would have done on my own and the day before a marathon but it was a gentle pace and my legs enjoyed the stretching out after all the travel. And then we arrived at brunch at P.J Clarke’s. Charlie had previously sent out an invite to any runners who wanted to join and I think there were about 30 of us in total! It was mental. But everyone was so nice and super excited about the marathon the next day.

I love in the above photo how I’m not even caring about the photo, I’m more interested in the menu

For brunch I had toast, ham, poached eggs, tomato and Emma’s unwanted sausages (always surround yourself with people who are willing to share of give up their food ;-)).Charlie and Zoe (@MilesFitter) had done a fantastic job of arranging the brunch and we even got hats to commemorate the occasion.Emma, Elaine and I headed off after brunch to go and do some sight-seeing and to go back to the Expo for another longer mosey about. We didn’t go back to get changed first as we couldn’t be bothered and it wasn’t that cold – well, in the sun it was lovely! So first stop was Levain Bakery for some of the best cookies in New York (or so we had been told…).They sold lots of cakes but the cookie flavours were choc chip and walnut, peanut butter, double choc chip and oat and rasin. Well I was in a quandary of what to order as I wasn’t sure about the addition of walnuts into a cookie… and none of the others really took my fancy. I asked the guy behind the counter and he fully recommended the choc chip and walnut as that’s what they’re famous for apparently. I decided to also order the oat and raisin because that’s always a good one, if a little boring sometimes.I ate the choc chip one then and there – WARM. Oh my god I actually cannot explain just how fantastic this cookie was. It was so melty and gooey in the middle with a firm and crispy outer shell. So soft, so warm, so tasty. It was huge, but that’s the only way I like baked goods so that worked out nicely 😉 It took all the power in the world not to run back to the counter and order 15 more. I decided to save my oat and raisin for later…the will power I showed honestly astounds me.

We had a quick little mosey around Trader Joe’s (bought myself some of their incredible Everything But the Bagel seasoning). I do love looking round foreign super markets! And then we headed off to Time Square.I mean, obviously we just had to be a little touristy and because I’d suddenly, in the last few months, become quite the M&M fan and they have the huge M&M World there. Strangely I’m not a fan of the original M&M’s but the peanut ones, the crispy ones, the caramel ones… basically all the non-original ones I love. And it’s something a bit weird and special between Kyle and me so I thought I’d treat us to some to share (I must share, I must share, I must share…).Well, I got so excited in the M&M pick ‘n’ mix bit (OMG ALL THE FLAVOURS!!) I ended up spending $26.10! Though I have to say, I was only disappointed that it hadn’t come to $26.20… Needless to say I had quite a bag of M&M’s to take away with me (let’s pretend I didn’t go to Target later and buy some Halloween themed M&M’s as well…). ANYWAY.Then we headed to the Expo again where we could spend a bit more time looking around the different stalls (all the tasters… mmmm). I got a cool waterproof cover for my phone at the Strava stand and bought myself a GU gel. I love the GU gels – so thick and tasty. The flavours are incredible. My favourites are the maple bacon (yes yes I know, weird) and the salted caramel. Literally heavenly. This time I went for the birthday cake flavour (we just don’t have birthday cake flavours in the UK so it had to be done!). I was really intrigued to see that you could buy big containers full of GU as well that you could partition into re-usable plastic pouches. What a great idea! Though it did sound a little messy to me..I checked out the AMAZING Six Star Medal as well. Oh I can’t wait to get mine next year (if all goes well!) after Chicago. It’s just so exciting to me. I then added my words of wisdom to the wall of post-it notes (Steve Way’s classic “Don’t be shit”).Then we headed back to finally shower and think about dinner. We all decided to just chill and get dinner in rather than venture out again. I tried to use UberEats but failed so found myself a nearby Mexican and decided to go for that (God I love Mexican food) while everyone else either got something taken away from a local pizza place (Patsy’s Pizzeria) or were making their own dinner (the luxury of an AirBnb!).I enjoyed a salad topped with chicken, pork, avocado, sour cream, rice, tortilla chips and guacamole. It was delicious! I followed that with the oat and raisin cookie (which I microwaved to get warm again). Omg so good. Not quite as good as the one I’d had earlier but still delicious.I actually wasn’t feeling that nervous about the marathon the next day which was WEIRD. I was excited and looking forward to it. I really had no plans how I’d run. If I wanted to go fast, I would, If I wanted to plod along and enjoy everything, I would. It felt very eerie being as calm as I was. But it felt good. At the end of the day, I’d done this before (15 times!) and all I could do was my best. Whatever that might be.I hadn’t had a niggle in ages, I felt in good shape, I’d had a solid amount of decent food and I’d be running round somewhere new, beautiful and amazing. I’d say I was pretty nicely set-up to have a good run.

Have you ever been to New York?

Are you an M&M fan? What’s your favourite flavour?

Do you prefer an AirBnb or a hotel?

Running to Havant parkrun and double breakfast

This weekend gone was a busy but good one! Through work I’d gotten a place at the New Forest 10k for the Sunday, but as I’m currently marathon training I still needed to get a long run in so I decided to run to parkrun on the Saturday to make up to 16 miles.

I haven’t done Havant before and after checking how far away it was from my house it was an almost perfect 13.5 miles away. So I could run there and do the parkrun and get the 16 miles I was after. Kyle very helpfully offered to cheer me on and then drive me back afterwards. He’s sadly not running at the moment as he’s being super sensible and giving his leg some time to get over its annoying niggle. But it was nice to know he’d be there and as he’d done that parkrun before he was able to give me some pointers and inside knowledge on what the course was like.

My alarm was set for the delightful time of 6.20am and at about 6.50am I headed out into the rather chilly morning to begin my journey. Though I’d sensibly put the route on my Garmin the day before I forgot to start my run using the route…and only realised about a mile in. I didn’t want to stop and restart my watch so I decided to wing it. The majority of the route I knew but it was the last bit when I’d get into Havant that I was a bit hazy about but I could work that out later (the confidence I have in my ability to find my way is probably unwise I know).

My legs felt tired and heavy as I set off…having been asleep not that long ago! But it was nice to be out in the cool fresh air and see the sun rising. It was very peaceful. I listened to a podcast which embarrassingly actually made me laugh a lot out-loud as I was running (a review of the new Nun film… “quiet, quiet, NUN” is basically how the film goes apparently).The temperature was perfect for a long run. Started chilly and then I felt fine.The nice thing about these sorts of runs is that because you have a destination to get to it doesn’t feel like too much of a slog. You’re running with a purpose to get somewhere, rather than just a loop.I did have the dreaded Portsdown Hill to go up though, which I knew would be a bit of a grind. It lasted for a delightful two miles but the views at the top were worth it. You can see straight over to Portsmouth (some might say that’s not a great view but ehhh).I did have to take a lot of care though (selfie taking aside…) as there wasn’t a consistent pavement along the road and the cars do come quite quickly down. But thankfully they all gave me a lot of space and didn’t make me throw myself into the ditch.When I got to the top of Portsdown Hill it then became more of a gentle decline which was nice for the legs! As I ran down the other side to Havant I then had to start whipping my phone out for directions. There weren’t too many roads to turn down so it wasn’t a stretch on my ability to follow directions. I passed a little girl riding her bike in full princess regalia and her dad and her both clapped me on as I ran passed which was quite nice.

Then I finally arrived at Staunton Country Park, which is where Havant parkrun is located. As you get closer to a parkrun around Saturday morning more and more runners start appearing, which is always comforting when you’re trying to find your way! Just follow the Lycra.Kyle was already there which was nice. He’d also packed me a water which I fully appreciated! Lots of brownie points 😉
I had about ten minutes to stand and chat before making my way to the start. I really wasn’t looking forward to this. I was feeling quite tired and I knew this parkrun was a tough one. One mini loop, then two big loops with a steep decline and a fair amount of undulation all on rocky trail. Okaaaay.We got going and my legs loosened up again after the standing around and I instantly felt a wave of tiredness. Ahh three miles really wasn’t that long…but then actually, it was in reality to my now very tired legs.

Photo credit: Martyn Garvey

I got to the very steep decline (it even had a sign beforehand warning runners) and tried to just let myself go but it was a tough ask. Bit of crazy pounding on the legs and feet… eesh. Just have to relax into it and not try to brake too much.

The first big loop really was a grind. It was nice seeing Kyle as I finished the first loop but it felt like such a slog to think I had to do that loop again – including the decline. I felt very much on the struggle train in terms of my legs. The ground was quite uneven as well which wasn’t comfortably underfoot. The marshals were lovely though, cheering everyone on and smiling away.

Photo credit: Martyn Garvey

As we ran round the final bit I turned my foot over which gave a sharp pain in my ankle and made me yelp out-loud. I tentatively  continued running and it felt fine after a few steps. I’ve actually done this a few times in races and it’s never amounted to anything. I must have strong ankles. The only part of me not injury-prone clearly!I found my footing and managed to sprint to the finish. Ooooof that was tough. My time was 24:04 and I felt every single second of it!I finished and sat down, glad to finally stop and chill.
It was nice to get another parkrun ticked off, even if it was a challenging one. There aren’t many nearby anymore that I haven’t done… except the Medina one on the Isle of Wight but that’ll take a bit of organising in order to get a ferry across. I foresee a day-trip in the future…

Anyway, after finishing parkrun I quickly put on some jeans and two layers of jackets ready for my journey home… on the back of Kyle’s motorbike!I mean, the epitome of cool right there yes? I’ve actually never properly been on the back of a motorbike so this was quite the adventure. I was a teeeeeny bit scared when we hit the motorway I have to admit. It was such a crazy experience being in the “open” going so fast (well, not silly fast but fast enough!). Kyle’s a safe driver though and I relaxed as the journey carried on.

After showering and getting sorted it was then on for some much needed refuelling. We went to Josie’s in Bishops Waltham. Now I’d heard great things about this place (there’s actually one in Winchester and Petersfield as well). I probably got a little bit too excited (and my grumbling tummy got the better of me as usual) when I ordered a fry-up……And also persuaded Kyle to share some fried chicken maple pancakes with me.The chicken pancakes were in the ‘savoury’ section of the menu but they were far from it! They were very sweet. The chicken was delicious and crunchy and the thick pancakes were fluffy and dense. SO good but very very sweet.The fry-up, of course, was delicious too. A very happy Anna!

Thankfully we went on a lovely long walk afterwards to help digestion. We went along the Meon Valley Trail in Wickham which was really pretty (and a popular running and cycling route).It was a lovely afternoon and definitely needed after all the food! We actually did quite a bit of walking that day as we headed down the beach to walk the dogs as well.Gotta get out while the weather is still nice!

That evening we went out for more food (I know, I know). My parents had invited us to our favourite local pub, The Osborne View, so we headed for dinner there.I had the chicken wings to start (let’s ignore they were a sharing starter)But balanced this with a lovely chicken and feta salad. All in the name of balance, eh?A solid day’s running, walking and eating! I was feeling good for the New Forest 10k the next day. On to that in another post!

Do you prefer savoury or sweet breakfasts?

Do you run to parkrun?

Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?

Never grow up

I honestly think I’m most happy when I’m training for a marathon. There’s just something about being in good enough shape to run a long way that makes me very happy. Pre-fuelling and refuelling is obviously a great part of the equation too…

Friday was another Wiggle Run day which is always good fun. I’d signed up for the 8.5 mile run with a few other guys and it flew by. It was nice to run with some new people and people who I don’t get to chat too much to during work-time. It was also nice to run with a guy who had done the same gym class as me that morning – so we were both feeling the jump squats and burpees!We ran down Hillsea Lines and then onto Farlington Marshes, which is always quite a scenic run, before heading back again. We followed part of the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon route which felt nice and familiar. I’ve signed up for that race again this year because I enjoyed it so much last year.The brand Lab Series were in as well so we got to try lots of their products (and sweets).I got myself a facial after the run! I did apologise profusely to the guy doing it about how sweaty my face was but he politely said it was fine.
And to end Friday nicely we went for a nice meal to the Meat and Barrel in Southsea for a work friend’s leaving do.I had half a chicken and stupid amounts of frickles and halloumi fries for my main.
Halloumi fries are honestly the business. The person who invented them need some sort of award. And frickles…god I love frickles.I followed this with a doughnut burger. It was good but a little disappointing. It was basically just a glazed doughnut split in two with a blob of ice cream and some strawberries, raspberry sauce, cream and sprinkling of chocolate flakes. It was just okay.I guess I have quite high (greedy) standards for puddings.The next day Kyle and I headed to Netley parkrun again. We were SO close to being late. It’s not like I haven’t been to Netley parkrun over 100 times to know how long it takes to get there. Jeeze I was stressed. But we managed to arrive literally within minutes of the start.

I ran with Kyle again (to be honest, I wouldn’t have run any faster on my own as my legs were feeling fairly heavy) and we tried to keep the pace slower but ehhh we really didn’t do well. We both got carried away and pushed the pace a bit more than we probably should have.I continually prove to myself that I’m rubbish at trying to run an easy pace – well, especially during shorter runs. It’s something I need to work at. I finished 21:37. I peeled off a little from Kyle towards the end but he sprinted back to finish just behind me at the end.We then helped clear up and went for a coffee with the gang. It had been one of our friend’s birthday the week before so the lovely Carol made a deliciously tasty Dorset apple cake. I had two slices. No one was surprised.Then Kyle and I headed back for a quick shower and then we headed to the Hamble Food Festival for a mosey round. I love a food festival.I rarely ever go to Hamble. It’s a lovely quaint part of Southampton. I’ve run around it a few times but never spent that long there. It was a lovely place and very scenic next to the water. We wandered around the different stalls in the sunshine loving life. There were food stalls cooking local sausages, a Jerk chicken stand, cheeses, quiches, bread, meat, Prosecco, gin…and of course cake.I won’t lie. I was most excited about the face painting. Yes the cakes looked amazing but we were planning on going elsewhere for lunch and I had had two slices of cake for breakfast… I tried to hold myself back a bit!

I’m basically a big child at heart and love face painting and I will unashamedly say that we waited for a solid 15 minutes so I could get my face done. It did give me good thinking time though because I was umm’ing and arr’ing between getting a dinosaur or a glitter design. Glitter won out as I thought that might look better at lunch later…I told the lady I didn’t want pink though. I have some standards 😉It was quite a cool design next to one eye of basically lots of glitter and sparkles. It was hard though trying to remember it was on my face and not keep knocking it and dropping glitter all over myself!

We also spotted the gold post box commemorating Dani King for wining the cycling track women’s team pursuit in the 2012 Olympics.Very cool indeed.

Then, as the two cakes wore off (and Kyle’s fudge brownie that he’d had at one of the stalls), hunger started calling, we headed into Southampton a bit further to go to Baffi Pizzeria for lunch (though it was past 2pm now…).I’ve been following Baffi Pizza on Instagram for a bit now (thank you @AnnaTheCake88) and Saturday seemed the perfect day to test it out. The pizzas are exactly how I prefer them: thin and crispy. I’m not a huge deep pan fan (though to be fair, I’d still eat it if it was there). These were Neapolitan-style and cooked in a fire wood oven.It was really hard to choose a flavour of the menu! The waitress was lovely and gave us some good recommendations and in the end we decided we’d each order one and half it so we could both try both flavours. Handily the waitress told the chef this and he halved it for us, which lessened my anxiety about sharing food A LOT 😉
We went for No. 3 (prosciutto crudo, ricotta, rocket, mozarella and parmesan) and No. 5 (prosciutto cotto, mushrooms, artichokes, olives and Parmesan). They were both SO good. We were both really happy with the choices.

And because it was so close by… we went to Sprinkles for pudding.Now I never used to be a big waffle fan but Kyle has turned me around on this. Damn him. It also helps that I’ve had the dessert in the jar from Sprinkles FAR too many times. This was delicious. It was a waffle with brownie chunks and melted chocolate with vanilla gelato. It was also supposed to come with banana and nuts but I subbed that for M&M’s. Can’t have it looking vaguely healthy after all… Afterwards we both felt the wrong side of full. Too much… I think I pretty much ate a sharing bag of M&M’s with that pudding!

Eating copious amounts of sugar and getting my face painted… well I’d say that was a good couple of days! I’ll recap my long run in another post…

Do you like getting your face painted?

Are you a sweet or savoury person?

Have you ever had a facial?

Ipswich parkrun – one letter left!

Another recap from a couple of weeks ago…Continuing my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. The letter ‘I’ was always going to be a tricky one for me.

Inverness parkrun would have been a nice option and my initial idea was that I could do the Loch Ness Marathon in September and do the parkrun the day before. However, that weekend my parents need me to dog sit as they’re on holiday. So that scuppered that plan.

Happily though I have friends in Ipswich and I reached out to Ade and Bex (who I’d met on a Marathon Talk run camp and have been friends with since) and asked if they’d be about so I could catch-up and have some brunch after with them. Bex was super lovely and offered to have me stay on Friday night. This was so helpful considering it’s around 4 hours from Southampton to Ipswich. I didn’t really fancy a 4am leave time on Saturday morning.

I took Friday off as I thought driving to Ipswich straight from work Friday evening would probably be pretty gnarly with traffic. So it meant a nice little lie-in Friday morning, a quick gym visit (always nice before you sit in a car for hours), lunch and then I was on the road by 12.

Ideally I wanted to have left by 11am but I’m always late so 12 wasn’t too bad. What was bad was the then 5.5 hour journey that I endured to get to Ipswich. Oh the M25 is just a joy isn’t it? I also managed to plan a very badly timed service stop at South Mimms which proved to be a nightmare leaving the motorway for and then joining the motorway after. But it was an absolute necessity considering that I was absolutely bursting for a wee. My water bottle was getting dangerously tempting let’s put it that way!

I’d planned to meet Ade and Bex at Pizza Express in the middle of Ipswich as Bex had the Twilight 10k that evening and it seemed like an ideal early dinner location to meet-up. I could also then support her at her race. Unfortunately, being the idiot that I am, when I got back onto the motorway from the services I had unknowingly put Bex’s address into my SatNav rather than the car park near Pizza Express. So instead of arriving there I ended up outside her house… I therefore missed dinner at Pizza Express (I urged them to carry on as I was now going to be later and I didn’t want her eating too late to her race). I managed to get into Ipswich, buy myself a Subway and then meet them just before her race. Ah well! As Anna’isms go, it wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.I enjoyed watching Bex’s race. She did really well, though missed her PB that she was aiming for as it was quite humid. It was a two lapped flat course going through the centre of Ipswich. Ade and I stood and cheered outside a bar enjoying the fact that we weren’t running (I hate 10ks). The lead guy was miles ahead of everyone else and finished in an impressive 30:xx time. I mean whaaaat.The next morning we headed out to Ipswich parkrun. It was a very warm morning and I knew that the course wasn’t a flat one so I decided to just see how it went. To be honest, I’m not in my best shape having let the speedwork decline a bit for a while to give myself some time off intense training before my New York marathon training ramps up. My calves have intermittently been a bit tight as well so I’m trying not to aggravate them into a full-blown niggle.Ade was timekeeping as he had suffered a probable calf strain earlier in the week, so it was just Bex and I. As we got started from the cricket pitch I felt my legs responding and finding myself sitting nicely at 7min/mile pace. It was mostly on grass but easy underfoot.It was an undulating course but not hilly, and a one lapper which is always novel, with lots of windy turns. We also ran past Chantry mansion which was a very beautiful and old-style building.

(Photos from Facebook)

I kept pushing the pace and as I ran past a marshal they told me I was first female. I didn’t think I was but after a couple more said the same I decided to believe it. I wasn’t running full-out though so this was a nice surprise. There is a nasty hill towards the end which I pushed up and then it was back round the cricket pitch to the finish. I finished in 22:03 and in 18th position (1st female) which I was quite surprised about. I think there were a lot less runners though due to the 10k race the night before. Bex did well considered she ran the race!
The parkrun was lovely and friendly and offered teas, coffees and cake in the pavilion house for a small donation. I love this! They didn’t have a cafe nearby so this was perfect for keeping the community feel going. I also got to meet the lady behind the Twitter handle which was quite amusing as she’d commented on one of my Tweets not long before the start of the parkrun.

Afterwards we headed for a ‘parkrun fresh’ breakfast in the Suffolk Water Park, a proper greasy spoon affair. We sat on the benches outside overlooking the fishing lake and it was very peaceful. I went for a full English (of course) and swapped the fried potatoes for black pudding #winningIt was very tasty!

After showering I parted ways and began my next part of the weekend, driving to Hatfield to see more Marathon Talk friends, Chris and Kate, who were also lovely enough to let me stay at theirs that evening. Kate works for the National Trust and it was an event she was organising, single-handedly I hasten to add. What a superwoman, eh?

I got to Kate’s and then we headed out to Hatfield Forest to get cracking on setting up some last minute event bits, such as the goodie bags and the course signs.They got an assembly line of volunteers together to fill the bags with a banana, a KIND bar, leaflets, medal and water. It was cool to see the behind the scenes stuff.
Chris, the ranger Ben and I headed out to the course (the forest itself) to set the signs up for the race. We packed the Jurassic Park jeep (my name for the little off-roader car) with all the signs we’d need (“Keep left”, “mile X”, “Water ahead”, etc.). It was a hotAt first this was good fun. The off-road vehicle was so much fun to be driven around in. It just cruised along nicely over the uneven surface and the (albeit warm) breeze in our faces was nice as we got to the first point we needed to mark out with signs. It was nice as well for Ben to be with us as he gave us inside scoops of the area (where Roman roads used to be, where a plane crashed…).

We were using the course map with Kate’s annotations of where and what signs should be used. The course was a two lapper so at least that meant we didn’t need to travel 13.1 miles about the place but it still took a very long time. The fun soon wore off. We were all hot, tired and a bit frustrated.

Eventually Kate rang and suggested I come back with her and her kids while Ben and Chris continued. I was the only one running the race the next day and probably needed to come back and eat something for dinner. Ben and Chris were absolute troopers though finishing it off (it took until well after 8pm!).

Kate and I ordered some Domino’s Pizza for want of a better idea. We were all too exhausted to go out anywhere and that seemed the perfect option. I went for a medium Meteor pizza with mozzarella meatballs as a side and, as always, am ever surprised by my seemingly insatiable appetite. I rarely ever order takeaway pizzas (Indian being my takeaway of choice) buy I polished it off quite easily. But it was a solid (wellll, fairly solid) pre-half marathon meal choice and I went to bed feeling well fueled and with a very good idea of what the course would entail in the next day’s race!

I’ll recap the race in another post!

Have you ever set up a race course? I’ve done parkrun many times but this was another level!

Have you ever had a takeaway pizza as a pre-race meal?

How far would you drive for a parkrun?