Stewart parkrun Review

Happy Monday! Can you believe its just two weeks until Christmas? Crazy! I’ve got those two weeks at work so in my head I’m counting down 10 days until I’m off. Pushing through!!

Today I have yet another parkrun review for you. Another one kindly sent in by my friend Michelle (the super speedy one). As she’s currently studying to be a doctor her home parkrun isn’t really Netley or Southampton as she spends more time “up North”, where she’s based for university. Anyway, I’ll leave her to it!

Since moving down to Teesside for the last year of my uni course Stewart parkrun has become my new ‘uni home parkrun’. I felt very welcomed the first time I attended and is popular with members of several of the local running clubs.

Location: As the name suggests Stewart parkrun takes place in Stewart Park which is located in Marton, a suburb approximately 3 miles south of Middlesbrough. The park itself is about 120 acres made up of mature woodland, an arboretum, open parkland and two lakes. There are facilities for the whole family with a play area, outdoor table tennis, mini golf, a trim trail and pets corner which is home to llamas, goats and deer.

Stewart Park is also home to the Captain Cook Museum; located on the site of the cottage where Captain James Cook was born and the start of the Captain Cook country tour. Northern Dales Farmers Markets have partnered the park to hold a monthly Farmers Market and Craft Fair on the fourth Sunday of each month – I thoroughly recommend a visit to treat yourself to some yummy handmade bread, pies and of course sweet treats!

Parking: The park is well signposted and easy to find! There is a free car park with approximately 180 spaces available but it can get pretty busy so overflow parking is close by within Middlesbrough Sports Village (an amazing sports complex with a gym, sports hall, athletics track, sports pitches, cycle track, outdoor velodrome and indoor children’s play area!).

Amenities: Within the park is Henry’s Café which is open before parkrun and perfect for grabbing a post parkrun ice cream in the summer or hot chocolate in the winter! The finish is conveniently located right outside the café so there are no excuses for not staying for a post parkrun drink and natter ;). Bike racks and the all-important toilets are located within the park’s visitors centre area.

Course: Starting on the hill and outside the Captain Cook Museum (making it easy to find!) the course is two anti-clockwise laps of the park taking in the open parkland, woodland and both lakes. It is run entirely on tarmac paths but these can be slippy at times when wet and due to the leaves. Also watch out for conkers the paths during the Autumn!

The start is very fast due to the first 100m being downhill! From here it goes across the world map and past the play area towards the car park. There are a few corners as you run around the edge of the car park and onto the open parkland at the north of the park. This area is quite exposed so can be tough on a windy day!! You turn 180 degrees just past the lower lake to head south towards the woodland area. Once you’ve run up the long incline to the woodland area the course becomes twisty with lots of turns, a few of which are quite tight! In this area it is important to also watch your footing as there are a few bumps in the tarmac path and just be careful of your ankles on the edges of the path. Towards the end of the part of the course in the woodland area you run around the edge of the upper lakes before heading downhill and turning 180 degrees to finish your first lap at the bottom of the hill which was shortly after the start.

After following the course around for your second lap you take a right just before the world map and play area to run along the northern edge of the Henry Bolckow visitor’s centre before a sharp right through an archway and across the quadrant to the finish line.

Once you have collected your finish token the funnel is well organised to snake around the outdoor table tennis tables to reduce funnel congestion and into the courtyard seating area of Henry’s Café.

The course has km markers, arrows at the corners with multiple paths and friendly marshals at key turns so there is little chance of going wrong 😛

Elevation: Stewart parkrun is defiantly undulating!!

The start is straight into a downhill followed by a fairly flat section across the bottom of the park and then what feels like a long incline into the woodland. Once in with woodland area there are a few short inclines and declines mixed in with the twists and turns. The finish is very slightly uphill as you pass through the arch into the visitor’s centre area but when you are trying to give it that last push and sprint finish feels more uphill than it actually is!!

Number of participants: The record number of participants is 330 but on average there are usually around 300 runners each week. The number of runners doesn’t usually cause a problem, even on a lapped course due to each lap being quite large. When nearing the end of their second lap (particularly in the woodland area) the faster runners do pass those completing their first lap but by this point the field is spread out and paths are more than wide enough for runners to pass each other. I’ve also found that those runners still completing their first lap are very considerate and tend to keep to one side.

As with all parkruns there is a wide variety of finish times, with the speediest varying from around 16 to 18 minutes and the final runners finish in about 50 to 55 minutes. There are often a number of children taking part with their parents (or playing in the park) making Stewart parkrun a truly family parkrun!

Check out their Facebook and Twitter page for more information!

Have you ever done this parkrun?

What’s your favourite parkrun terrain to run on?

All the puddings

This weekend was full of highs and lows. Let’s get the lows done quickly, shall we?

I ran on Monday night and my shin/calf was really niggly. It had niggled slightly at parkrun a week ago but I put it down to it being really cold and my muscles not being warm enough. But Monday clarified things. It didn’t feel right and afterwards it felt pretty crappy. I’ll go into this in another post but basically this is rubbish.

Anyway, I didn’t run again until deciding to try a few miles before parkrun this weekend (because I was panicking I hadn’t hit the 8 mile long run I needed to for Tokyo). Though I knew I was lying to myself. I knew the run wouldn’t go well really and this was just to avoid me going to parkrun believing I could run and having to DNF. So on my pre-parkrun walk with Alfie I ran up the road with him and decided it was a no-go. I got back home, wrapped up in warmer clothes and headed to parkrun to set-up and volunteer.img_6900It was very cold and despite having several layers on and a hat I was cold. I was grumpy as I was overthinking about my leg, running and marathon training…but I was eventually cheered up by the lovely parkrun crew. You can’t be too sad at parkrun!

After parkrun and a hot bowl of porridge, I headed to the gym to take out some of my frustrations. I did 30 minutes on the elliptical machine which made me feel a little better about not running and then did a fantastic glute workout which I’m still feeling today. This included:

• Squats
• Landmine squats (these are great for really working on your depth)
• Monster walks with a resistance band
• Cable pull-throughs
• Leg press burnout
• Single leg deadlifts

I left the gym feeling accomplished and far more happy. Sometimes you just need to sweat it out!

I was also feeling good because I was going out for a Christmas meal with my friends. It’s always so nice to dress up. I wore a very sparkly dress with sparkly shoes and felt really happy 🙂img_6924

We went to the Cams Mill pub (where the Fareham parkrun starts at). It was very nice!img_6935We’d made our menu selections a while ago and I was disappointed with myself for choosing trout as my main rather than turkey (who does that!??!). I think my rationale was that I didn’t want to over-do turkey before the big day. I was very jealous when the mains came out though. However, my trout was delicious (and I got some leftover turkey from one of my friends so it was a win-win!)cams-mill-pubAnd again I was annoyed that I’d selected a pear tart for pudding… but then realised I’d chosen it because the cheesecake was chocolate orange which I don’t really like. I’m not a Terry’s Chocolate Orange fan at all! And Christmas pudding is a bit too rich and alcoholly for me.

The pear tart, however, was really really good. The ice cream was lovely and creamy and the tart was lovely and (dare I say) moist. No big nasty chunks of pear in which I was fearing. As nice as it was, I got serious food envy when I saw the cheesecakes. They looked so good! My friends laughed at me for ordering the inferior pear tart and I grudgingly watched them enjoy their cheesecakes (the far more popular pudding choice). Isn’t it the way when even though the meal you’re eating is nice but you see something that looks more appealing suddenly your meal isn’t as good…just me?

However, I was very lucky that two of my friends didn’t finish their cheesecakes and passed them down to me! Now, on reflection, I can say the pear tart was the better pudding. I’m still not a chocolate orange fan and who serves cheesecake with orange sorbet?? But I can’t say I complained too much 😉 Though I felt very full afterwards!!  Just call me the human dustbin…

I did have a few gin and tonics as well, because it’s Christmas 😉 Though amusingly my first G&T didn’t actually contain any gin and I was sipping away thinking “this is lovely!” until the barman ran over to me and said he needed to put the gin in as it got taken before it was ready! Oops. Shows how much I drink!img_6940Anyway the evening was good. Nothing like good friends and good food to make you feel 100 times better.

Christmas meal number two this week 😀

Are you going to any Christmas parties or meals this year?

Will you be dressing up?

What would you normally order on a Christmas menu?

Edinburgh parkrun Review

Morning, morning. I have another parkrun review, this time from my running club buddy Andy Cockrell. He’s a super speedy and super smart. He has kindly offered up a review for the Edinburgh parkrun. Hope you enjoy!

Location: The Edinburgh parkrun takes place on the shorefront of the Firth of Forth between Cramond and Silverknowes in the north west of the city.  Once you’re on the shorefront, follow the stream of runners and you’ll find the start.

Parking: There are two options for parking.  The first is the car park in Cramond village at the foot of Cramond Glebe Road to the east of the start line.  The car park at Cramond does fill up quickly, but further on-street parking is available along Cramond Glebe Road.  The second option is to park on Marine Drive on the Silverknowes side of the course to the west of the start line.  Both options are free and equidistant from the start line.edinburgh-parkrun-photo-wg12-1

Photo credit: WG12 from the Flickr group

Alternatively, there are regular busses to Cramond.  It’s then a 5-10 minute walk down Cramond Glebe Road to the shorefront.

Amenities: There are public toilets at the Cramond end of the Promenade which are open from 0830 each day.

The Cramond Bistro opens at 1000 and offers hot drinks and homemade cakes (the scones are particularly good).  This is located on the River Almond Waterfront, just follow the promenade around to the left where the river meets the shore when returning from the finish line.  Alternatively, go down the steps opposite the entrance to the car park.

On the Silverknowes side there is Boardwalk Beach Club which opened earlier this year.  It is located between Marine Drive and promenade about halfway along the course.  If you have non-runners or spectators with you, this is a good place for them to base themselves as the patio area looks out onto the promenade.

Course: The course is effectively an out and return along the shorefront, with a small loop at the turn point to prevent the turnaround from being too tight.edinburgh-parkrunThe start line is about 500m east of Cramond Village, usually marked by banners and flags.  The route then heads east along the promenade towards Silverknowes.  With the number of runners, the start can seem a bit narrow, but the route widens up very quickly; the main promenade is 20m wide so there is plenty of room for everyone.

The route follows the promenade winding along the coast for 2km before heading left when you reach Gypsy Brae to hug the shoreline for another 100m, before turning right to run back to the main promenade.  Turning right onto the promenade, you then run 2.5km back along the shore towards the start line.  When running west you have a fantastic view of the Forth Bridges further along the coast.  With about 500m to go there’s a fork in the promenade.  Take the left-hand fork and you enter the finishing funnel.

The course is entirely on tarmac, so mud and slippery conditions under foot are not generally an issue unless it’s icy.

Elevation: The course epitomises the phrase “as flat as a pancake.”  There are no discernible elevation changes apart from where the promenade forks with 500m to go, but even that is a very gradual rise of around 1m!

edinburgh-parkrun-photoPhoto credit: from the Flickr group

Number of participants: On average there are around 350 runners each week, but average attendance is increasing.  There have been up to 500 runners at recent runs, with a record attendance of 642.  For a city the size of Edinburgh there are a disappointing number of local parkruns, the only other one in the city is in Portobello on the East side of the city which was set up last year.  Despite this, attendance at both runs is still increasing with Portobello seeing around 250 runners each week.

Other: The course record is 14:31 for men, set by Ross Toole and 16:35 for women, set by Sarah Inglis.edinburgh-parkrun-photo-wg12Photo credit: WG12 from the Flickr group

It’s a Scottish parkrun so remember it starts later at 0930.  As it’s on the coast, the wind can be an additional challenge at times, but at least the wind will be behind you for half the run.  In the winter, the wind can have quite a bite to it, so remember to dress appropriately!  On a calm day, however, it is a very fast course.

Check out their Facebook page and Twitter for more info!

Have you done any non-English parkruns?

Do you prefer a flat but potentially windy course or a hilly but less windy course?

Back to parkrun and training like a girl

Happy Monday everyone, didn’t the weekend just fly by?

Well, I’m back in the running game again after a bit of time off. I feel raring to go again after reigniting my running mojo and my shin/calf feeling a whole lot better. I ran three miles on Monday evening and then six on Thursday. Both of those runs felt really good. I’ve obviously lost a lot of speed and endurance, as is natural with taking time off, but it didn’t feel like I was really struggling or that it was such a shock to the system, which was pleasantly surprisingly.

This is probably due to the fact that I retained some level of cardiovascular fitness through using the (very dull) elliptical machine. I find this machine soo dull but I’d watch YouTube while I was on it and it definitely helped pass the time!

Anyway, so Saturday morning saw me at Netley parkrun for the first time in ages.   Ordinarily I’d have probably kept going but volunteering even if I wasn’t running but I’ve been really busy recently. I felt very bad when I saw the core team set-up guys and they jokingly saifd, “who’s this stranger, then?”. But they welcomed me back, thankfully.

Though it was very cold that morning! I do prefer it cold and dry then wet and warmer but it’s still tough to be outside walking around for an hour before you start running. I forget how easy parkrun is when it’s beautifully sunny and warm… the winter months are definitely a trying time.img_6765We’re now on the winter course, which is slightly different to last year’s winter course due to the construction work happening on the chapel. This means we run part way on the grass round the chapel. Huge piles of leaves cover the route though so we had to do a bit of improvising to clear the way…img_6764We used the signs as brooms to sweep away the leaves. Oh the things we do for the love of running!

I had sensibly worn long trousers and different shoes to set the course up, then headed back to my car to take them off and switch to my trainers. I wore shorts, which was very nippy! But I knew once I got going I’d be alright. I’d stayed over my parent’s house the night before and annoyingly had forgotten my socks so had to borrow my mum’s. She lent me some lovely sparkly ones (the photo doesn’t really show)…img_6767The start area is a bit more cramped and as I hadn’t done this course before and I wasn’t aiming for a fast time, I just wedged myself somewhere in the middle. This proved a little bit of a mistake as I was then hemmed in amongst a a lot of people not really my speed. But really it didn’t matter as I managed to get round them as we broke out into a bigger space.

The run felt a lot harder than my previous two runs and I guess that’s because it is a hilly course (two hills you do three times) and I was very cold going into it and din’t warm up until mile two. But mainly because I’m unfit in terms of running.img_6766

One of my friends said afterwards to me that he noticed I wasn’t in my usual area of the field – I was a fair way back from where he’d thought I was going to be. I’m not that bothered because, as long as my training goes OK, I can look back at this and see how far I’ve come. It’s always fun seeing the progression and working hard to get better.capture




My time was 23:59, so just squeaked a sub-24 which I’m happy with. I definitely hope to do some speed work this marathon cycle but I’m going to allow a few weeks of getting gently back into things to avoid re-niggling!img_6782So a successful parkrun! It was so nice to be back and see friendly faces again. Though it’s invariably cold and miserable in the winter, parkrun is definitely still worth going to!

The next day I went to the gym in the morning and got in a good workout. I did 45 minutes on the elliptical machine and then did a chest and shoulder workout. I imagine my strength workouts will have to take a backseat very soon but I was really chuffed to get a personal best for my bench press.img_6811Chest is not an area I used to train at all (“I’m a girl” was my excuse). But I soon realised that in order to be a more balanced athlete in terms of strength and muscle I need to train my entire body. I train my back so why not my chest? And I’ve felt it hugely help with my other lifts too.

After my workout I showered and got ready to meet my parents for a Nando’s and a cinema trip. We saw Allied which was alright…very, very cheesy but not a bad way to spend an afternoon after you’ve eaten a lot of chicken!

How was your weekend?

Are there parts of your body you either don’t train or hate to train?

Do you run during the winter?

Burgess parkrun Review

Another week, another parkrun review. I hope you’re enjoying these and/or find them helpful! I love parkrun so for me I love hearing about other ones around and I hope people find the information helpful – especially as they’re written from runners who have a good knowledge of that particular parkrun.

Anyway, this one, Burgess parkrun, is written by the lovely Gemma (@peeriegemgem), an avid runner and Twitter friend.m
Location: Burgess Park is in Camberwell, South East London and is the Southwark boroughs largest park. Along with Southwark parkrun it can claim to be the most central of London parkruns.  The easiest way to get there on public transport is to head to Elephant & Castle tube station (on Bakerloo and Northern lines) and walk about fifteen minutes down the Walworth Road or get a bus.  On bus, locate Citymapper to stop on Camberwell/Albany Road as this is the nearest entrance to start/finish of the run.  (pic shows entrance)

Parking: Being in Central London, parking is on the limited side although the website does note there is some spots available in Addington Square and on Albany Road and this is free for up to four hours.

Amenities: There are toilets available in the tennis court centre which should be open just before the run begins.  These are just as you head into the park on the right hand side.img_8078After getting an absolutely drenching visiting a friend for their 50th parkrun (see Wally – dressed for the occasion!) we headed over for warm mugs of tea and avocado on toast where the results are processed at Fowlds Café, Addington Square.  It is very small on the space front so head over promptly once you’ve finished your run to get a seat!img_8083Course/Elevation: The course is an out and back with two laps of a lake in the middle.  (See pic)  Note the start and finish are not at exactly the same point as the start was moved further back to ease congestion. Most participants wander up, leave their belongings at the finish on a waterproof sheet and head to the start. img_8072The course starts with a long straight of about a kilometre before turning back on itself, out towards the lake, twice around, and then heading back to the finish (but cutting short the full kilometre straight!).  It is well marshalled at each turn so the only thinking required is remembering two laps of the lake!  There is a slight dip where you go through the underpass on the final straight and this is about the point where you want to consider kicking in for that final sprint.

I may be slightly bias as this is my first parkrun and where I have done the most runs, but it remains one of my favourite runs.  It is a very friendly parkrun and I have made many friends after running Burgess over fifty times.

It is a fast flat course (see elevation!) that doesn’t get too congested once you are out of the start.burgess-elevationIt is ideal for pram/buggy runners – one flew past me as I headed onto my second lap of the lake. The volunteer team are very enthusiastic and there are usually post run goodies on offer.  I tucked into fruit and homemade brownies as post run fuel – yum!

Number of participants: This parkrun has really grown in size since my first days of attending two years ago.  Back then a hundred was average but the record attendance has now hit nearly 300.  As the Saturday I picked to return was the worst monsoon rain I’d ever done a parkrun in, there were 149 brave souls facing the rain.

Other: Check out the Burgess Park Facebook/Twitter as they post updates fairly regularly.  Sometimes people take photographs which will appear on social media and there tends to be socials organised a couple of times a year.

Do you enjoy doing parkrun in fancy dress?

What’s the funniest fancy dress you’ve seen for a runner?

Are you a fair-weather parkrunner?