Newcastle parkrun Review

I have another parkrun review for you today. This time brought to you from one of my running friends, Michelle, who, by the way, is RIDICULOUSLY speedy. We’re talking 3:15 marathoner, sub 19 minute 5k’er, sub 40 min 10k’er… I could go on, but basically any distance she can smash. She’s also very modest about it as well 🙂 And she’s kindly done a review of the Newcastle parkrun. Though I’m all for some parkrun tourism, Newcastle is a little bit tricky for me to get to living on the South Coast. Happily she’s studying to be a doctor ‘up North’ (brainy and speedy). So, without further ado, onto Michelle’s review…

newcastle-parkrun-07-may-2016-1That’s Michelle in the green t-shirt storming along

Location: Newcastle parkrun is found on Town Moor, an area of common just outside of the city centre. Apparently it is larger than New York’s Central Park and also Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath combined! On the corner of Town Moor is Exhibition Park which has a small lake, children’s play area and café. Other than a few hills and lots of green space there isn’t much in the way of scenery but this means it is easy to spot the runners towards the front and towards the back. It’s easy to find and if you get lost once your near there are always plenty of people heading that way!

Parking: Town Moor itself doesn’t have a dedicated car park however there are plenty of pay & display places to park which are only a very short walk away! For on road parking I would suggest Claremont Road, Clayton Road and Brandling Park Road. There is also a large pay & display on Claremont Road which costs £1.30 for an hour. Be careful as a lot of the surrounding roads are permit parking!

The best and easiest way to get to Newcastle parkrun is on public transport! Jesmond metro station is probably the closest at about a 5-minute walk from the start but Haymarket and West Jesmond metro stations are also about a 10-minute walk from the start. There are plenty of buses stop along Great North Road, Claremont Road and Haymarket bus station.

Amenities: Unfortunately, there are no toilets at Newcastle parkrun unless you buy something in the café in Exhibition Park to get a code. The café itself though is great! It serves hot drinks, snacks, breakfasts, sandwiches, homemade food, cakes and Dalinos ice cream (some amazing flavours!). You also get 10% student and OAP discount 😉

Course: The course itself is one big loop along the paths which cross the moor and along the outside of it.


You start close to Exhibition Park and then head onto the main path which crosses the moor. The first turn is a right hander shortly after passing through the first (of 3) gates to run alongside the moor on the footpath of Grandstand Road. After 250m you turn right again through gate 2 and back onto the moor. The next section is on gravel paths (whereas the rest of the course is tarmac paths) and can be a bit muddy in the rain! You head back across the moor towards the top of exhibition park before a left turn towards the eastern edge of the moor. From here you run in a ‘u’ shape before turning left back onto tarmac paths and through the final gate. This is the only point on the course where you pass other runners who are about to head onto the ‘u’ shaped section. The final stretch takes you to a crossroads where you turn left onto the main path across the moor you joined shortly after starting and then left again back towards the start line. The finish line is 100m further on and after a slight right turn just past the start. All the gates are held open for you by marshals but running single file is required as they aren’t the widest of gates!newcastle-parkrun-6-december-2014

Oh there is one final thing…during the summer months you share the moor with cows! Yes, you read that correctly! There are cows that live on the are generally very friendly and will move out the way for runners but just watch where you’re putting your feet!

Elevation: Overall the course is pretty flat. As you head towards the first gate it is a slight incline but there are definitely no hills on the course.

newcastle-parkrun-elevationOver the whole course the elevation gain is just 19m. This means that it can be a very fast one…although with Town Moor being very exposed any amount of wind can be a battle!

Number of participants: Being a city parkrun it is a big, busy one! The record attendance is 701 with average attendance being over 600! Despite this number of participants there are never really any problems. The design of the course means you’re not going to collide with other runners and the parkrun volunteers have developed a multiple finish funnel system to ensure finishing and getting your token is a smooth process. With this number of participants it means there is a wide range of times, from the quickest finishing in around 16 minutes and the slowest just under 50 minutes, so everyone is more than welcome! The course is ideal for runners with buggies due to it being mostly tarmac and dogs are also welcome on short leads.

Other: On the 2nd Saturday of every month Newcastle parkrun hosts a paced run with volunteers pacing times from around 19 minutes up to about 40 minutes.

Pretty much every week there are volunteers there taking photos at different points on the course which are available on their Facebook page!

Due to the moor being very exposed and well it being in the north east the course does get very icy (and sometimes snowy) in the winter. This does mean it can get cancelled at short notice but this is always well publicised on Facebook and Twitter so I recommend checking before you head out!

Town Moor is also home to a Junior parkrun on a Sunday morning!

Have you ever been to Newcastle parkrun?

Would you prefer hilly and no wind, or flat and windy?

Wildlife and livestock on your runs, are you fan?

Shrewsbury parkrun – number 20 parkrun tourism

I finished work on Thursday night and was on holiday for a week and a day, woohoo! On Friday I was driving up to Bishop’s Castle with my parents (it’s just under an hour from Shrewsbury). One of the reasons Chester Marathon worked so well for me was because my parents were going to see my grandparents for the week and stay in a holiday cottage (they had the upstairs apartment and my parents had the downstairs one) and they’d invited me to join. The locations and timings worked perfectly.

What also worked perfectly was the fact that I could do another new-to-me parkrun as well on the Saturday. Though there wasn’t one in very close proximity to Bishop’s Castle, Shrewsbury wasn’t too far away. My dad was happy to drive and support me (as always, bless him). It wasn’t too early a morning either which was nice. Up at 7am and on the road by 7.30am. We got to Shrewsbury in enough time to find a car park just across the road from Quarry Park where the parkrun was located.

In my head I assumed it would look like an actual quarry but it was actually a really beautiful park with lots of trees, grass, lovely winding paths and right next to River Severn.

shrewsbury-parkrun-1The top left picture is where we parked the car just outside the church hall

It was raining and cold. Distinctly autumnal morning. I reminded myself to warm-up and did a few loops round the park. This was mainly because I was so cold and wanted to feel human again.shrewsbury-parkrun-2The parkrun crew were setting everything up and I was getting slowly more wet. I had no time goals but I wasn’t going to hold myself back. A faster paced parkrun has helped previously the day before races so I’m happy to stretch my legs, knowing I won’t be going anywhere near those paces the next day!img_0811

The course sounded a little confusing but better than a five lapper! It was one lap of the top of the park and then an out and back along the river before doing the first lap again and then back along the river to the finishing funnel. Nice and varied I thought.

The first part of the course went down a fairly steep decline which with the wet ground was a little precarious… I was slightly worried I’d slip.shrewsbury-parkrun

Photo credit: Colin Williamson

Then it was off along the flat. I felt quite comfortable with the pace I was going though annoyingly my calf was a bit tight. It seems a recurring thing for me when it gets to high mileage that my left calf starts to grumble. But it was just a mild discomfort rather than pain so I wasn’t panicking (OK that’s a lie, I will always panic when some part of my body feels anything but perfect when I near a big race but I was confident it wasn’t serious).

Then we curved back up to go past the start again. There was a fairly nasty incline (to match the previous decline I suppose) but it wasn’t too bad. It was still raining but I was feeling warmer, though my hands weren’t.img_5517My dad cheered me on and it was back down the decline and off along the river. This was lovely and flat and I gained some speed. It was a nice pace actually. Surprisingly I didn’t feel the “Omg how much longer?” pain but rather a comfortable tolerance of the pain.

It was nice knowing exactly what I had left as I came back down the path from the out-and-back. I really enjoyed the variety of the course.img_5522I’m really pleased with how I felt during this run. Albeit a slightly niggling calf, I enjoyed the burst of speed and didn’t feel like I was dying. Always a plus!img_5425

My time was 21:41 which blew my mind as I haven’t broken 22 minutes since March. The course was good it must be said but I can’t believe how comfortable it felt. A photographer was standing at the end of the finisher’s funnel so the photo he got of me was literally just after I’d

Photo credit: Colin Williamson

The finishing area next to the River Severn was so picturesque, even in the rain.img_5501Then we made quick haste to get back to the car and then to find somewhere for brunch to warm-up.img_5503We found a lovely little cafe/restaurant called The Loopy Shrew (love that name) and we both ordered a English breakfast (subbing the hasbrowns for extra tomatoes because we’re so healthy ;-)).img_5526It was honestly one of the best fry-ups I’ve ever had. I love that they separated the baked beans in a little bowl as I hate beans touching my eggs. The black pudding was to die for. And the service was fantastic. The bacon was super crispy and it wasn’t swimming in a pool of grease. Lovely.

The rest of the day was fairly relaxed. We wandered around Bishop’s Castle, despite it being rather drizzly and cold. I couldn’t believe it was forecasted to be lovely and sunny the next day!img_5529And in the evening we had a nice meal in another pub (I didn’t need lunch after my mammoth breakfast!). I had a very taste starter of sardines (random I know but nice) and a goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomato salad with a side of sweet potato fries because #carbs 😉pre-marathon-mealAnd because I needed more carbs I had a brownie with ice cream for pudding. SO good.

And then it was off to bed for an early-ish night before the marathon the next day!

What’s your favourite restaurant starter?

Do you like running in the rain?

Favourite brunch foods?

Netley Abbey parkrun Review

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

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

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

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

img_5532The start area on the stones

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

img_9264In the woods

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

netley-abbeyThe cricket pitch on a misty morning

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

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

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

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

Have you ever been to Netley Abbey before?

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

Do you like to go to a cafe after parkrun?

London fun and Gladstone parkrun

Friday night I headed to the Big Smoke (aka London) once again. This time for pleasure not business and to see two good friends of mine from university.

The train and tube journey were easy peasy (i.e. I didn’t get lost – who even am I??). My friend, Laura, lives in the very cool St. John’s Wood location which was home to that famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road near the Abbey Road Studios (where the Beatles, amongst others, recorded a lot of their albums).

To be honest, I would never have known had my friend, Charlotte, not pointed this out to me. I obviously had to get a photo, though sadly I was walking the wrong way to recreate the iconic Beatles crossing! But with cars waiting, I did the best I could!

That evening we went to a fantastic Lebanese restaurant, called Yalla Yalla (self-described as a “hip West End restaurant”). It felt very hip. In fact, the entire time I was in London (and this is always the case) I feel so uncool. Londoners seem to exude this effortless coolness that I can only admire from a distance.

It was a great pick of a restaurant because Charlotte is veggie and they had such a range of vegetarian and meat-based dishes that everyone was happy. The two others went for three small plates each which looked delicious.

Halloumi, falafels, salad and chicken and feta in filo pastries. Whereas I went for pomegranate and honey roasted chicken wings followed by a mixed grill.

It was all divine. And I even got to help out Charlotte and Laura when their normal-sized stomachs became too full. I’m literally the dustbin of my group of friends.

From there we meandered around Soho, China Town and other very cool parts of London.

It was incredible busy (as you can imagine, it being Friday night) and every pub was spilling out people.

We were hunting for a bar where we could have a nice drink and chat. After walking a fair way I got the rumbles for something sweet… and lo! and behold a crêpe cafe appeared. I mean, what a find! It’s called Scoop and honestly I was in heaven.

My only predicament was whether to have just scoops of gelato in a funky cone, a brownie and gelato, a slice of red velvet or a crêpe (pancakes and waffles were also available but not really my cup of tea).

Not normally a crêpe person I quickly changed my mind having seen someone order one. I went for a white chocolate filled crêpe with a scoop of salted caramel gelato. I could have gone with multiple toppings and more than one scoop, but I decided to reign in the beast within and be sensible seen as how it was 10pm and I did have parkrun in the morning.

Dear God, what have I been missing all these years of believing crêpes weren’t my thing? (I’m not a Nutella fan so this is probably why as you can’t move for Nutella crêpes). The gooey, oozy, sweet and moist (yes, moist) deliciousness sent me to heaven and back. And I cleaned up that bad boy easily.

We then headed to a bar across the road for more normal adult endeavours (me now floating along on a sugar high). It was a lovely evening and made me realise a) how very uncool I am by London standards (who am I kidding, by any standards!) and b) how much more ‘happening’ London is than Southampton. OK I knew this already but it just blew my mind how easy it was and just how much stuff there was to see (and eat). But, still, I would never like to live near or in London…as good as that all is, I’m a hermit by nature and think I’d be overwhelmed (and broke) if it was long-term. Plus I love the friendliness and greenness of the more country-based suburbs.

parkrun the next morning was going to be at Hampstead Heath but after (luckily) checking Twitter on Friday I realised they’d cancelled for some reason. The next best location was Gladstone parkrun which was really easy to get to via the tube.

From the tube station (Dollis Hill) it’s literally about 0.5 miles down one road (Anna-proof!) to get to the park. The park is actually quite big though (and hilly) so I did have to hike around for a fair while to find the start (mainly because I hadn’t actually researched further than “it’s in Gladstone Park”).

Having arrived fairly early (8.20am) and the fact that it was cold and overcast meant me walking around a park for a fair while was actually quite good!

The views were lovely and the park was very peaceful. There was a small pond with ducks and lots of interesting carvings of animals in tree logs about the place. It really was a very good location for a parkrun – besides the hills

When I got to the start area I happily chatted away to the few runners there. It amazes me how in this sort of situation I can easily walk up to people I don’t know and just start talking and be at ease. But in any other scenario? That would terrify me and I’d stand to one side awkwardly. I met some lovely people. I also heard from some people who usually do the Hampstead Heath parkrun that Hampstead Heath is very hilly so I was quite glad not to have gone (that’s where Parliament Hill is sooo…bullet dodged!)

The course was a two lapped course (which, by the way, is now my favourite type of course. Not quite as repetitive as a three lap course and seems to go a lot quicker!). There were some nasty short inclines and some long gradual inclines but also some declines. It was actually a very enjoyable course as it was so varied.

How’s that for a negative split?? I got a new lease of life half-way through and felt far more at ease. The temperature was perfect (very chilly to start!) and I really got into it by the end. I really should do more of a warm-up…starting straight from nothing is not a great idea *sighs*. One day.

I asked the event director to take a photo of me and he was more than happy to. He then turned it to selfie mode and said “but of course you also need one with the event director in it!”

He was so friendly and funny – really made me feel welcome and he demanded I come back at some point: “you don’t get a PB unless you come back!”.

I got back to Laura’s flat, showered and we headed off for brunch (Charlotte had gone home last night). It actually worked out really well me going to parkrun as Laura likes a lie-in whereas I’m not great with sleeping in too late! She took me to the Maida Vale area which was also very cool (and where they did all the BBC music stuff!). We went to The Elgin which was the epitome of hipster.

Anywhere that uses a teapot to hold cutlery is far too cool I had Bavette steak and eggs for my brunch and it was DELICIOUS.

And then it was time for home! I had a fantastic time in London (guided carefully around by friends to make sure I didn’t wander off and get lost). And ticked off number 19 on my parkrun tourism list!

How many laps do you prefer for parkrun?

What would you choose: Crêpes, waffles, pancakes, cake or just gelato?

Do you like visiting London much?

21 miles and late for parkrun

For my last long run I’d planned to do between 18-20 miles on Saturday. This was my third BIG mileage run. I’ve previously done an 18.5 miler and a 19 miler.

I’ve been feeling completely different to a few weeks ago when I felt fed up, anxious and just not feeling the marathon training. Now having got two big runs under my belt and nothing bad happening, I was ready to conquer the final one.

I wanted to tick Eastleigh parkrun off my parkrun list as it’s such a close parkrun to me and yet I’ve never done it. It’s literally ten minutes drive from where I live! As usual I got up at 5.45am on Saturday to be ready to run by 6.30am. I’d had a pretty crappy night sleep as the wind and rain hammered against my window and when I woke up it was still raining. I had memories of winter long runs…

I exchanged a few social media messages with fellow runners who were up and about to do their long runs too and we exchanged some good lucks and “God look at the weather” moans. It was nice as it didn’t make me feel so alone and crazy!

I headed out and it wasn’t actually very cold at all, quite humid but very wet. I was thankful that I was wearing a t-shirt and my running skort (and compression socks!). I felt a bit tired but otherwise I felt quite good. In fact, I felt really good!

The miles ticked by so quickly and before I knew it I was at five miles and heading towards Hedge End. I was soaked through and rain was dripping down my face but it was lovely and refreshing. I got to Hedge End after 10 miles and still felt good.

I hadn’t really planned my route past getting to Eastleigh but I knew vaguely where the parkrun started so that would work, right? [Honestly, how I survive daily life amazes me with this supremely optimistic and naive view of the world I have]. I got through the tough hilly section of my route (there really is no way of avoiding these hills if I want to run from Stubbington to Hedge End).

I started to feel a slight bit of worry in my stomach as the time ticked past 8.30am and I wasn’t in Eastleigh yet… but it wasn’t much further. And that’s true. But where the parkrun was was. At 8.45am I decided to stop and check my phone. I knew the road names I needed to find and I knew it was located in Fleming Park. Basically, I knew where it was in a theoretical sense, but when you’re actually on the roads it’s very different. I found I was a fair bit away still.

Thankfully there were loads of signs for Fleming Park and I quickened my pace – my watch beeped past 17 miles. I finally found a park-like place and saw the wondrous sight of the parkrun flag… at 9:08am. I saw some marshals  and gasped, “Can I please start late?”. And they kindly said that was fine and showed me the start. I reset my watch and got going.

Eastleigh parkrun is three laps, pretty much all on a grassy track around a park. I was running on my own as I was so far behind but soon the front runners were lapping me. I said well done to them as they past me, gazelle-like. I eventually caught up to the tail runner and made slow process overtaking the runners at the back. It was quite nice to be running past people and using them as markers to get through the run, which by now was feeling quite tiring.

There’s a horrible gentle incline that seems to go on for ages that you have to do three times and it was a killer. My friend, Aaron, caught up with me (him on his last lap and me on my second – he’s very speedy!) and we had a nice little chat before I told him to push on as he’s a lot faster and I didn’t want to hold him back (he was even running at a slower than normal pace for him as he was doing 16 miles in total!).

My parkrun time was 31:31 (ooh the number symmetry!) as I had started late though my watch said 25:36. I’m really happy with that as I felt like I was crawling by the end. I was completely soaked through and it was still raining. I felt more sorry for the marshals though who looked very cold and wet!

How cool does this map look of where I ran? It really shows how far 18 miles is!

I bumped into my old work colleague, Ian, which was nice. He was actually the person who told me about Hedge End Running Club back in the day. He’s not part of the club but he’s a regular runner and Eastleigh is his usual parkrun. Then I caught up with my friend, Aaron.

He graciously bought me a Fruit Shoot drink (love those things) and we sat in the warm and dry of the café to have a natter. He’s planning on entering the Boston marathon so wanted some advice. He’s a very talented runner and is planning on doing the double – Boston and London (they’re five days apart). Crazy!

When we got up to leave I realised I’d left a little puddle of water in my chair from where I’d dripped…nice. We walked outside and Aaron ran home and my dad picked me up. I was now really cold so when I got home the first thing I wanted was a hot shower before anything else. My hair, though… God what a nightmare.

So knotted and tangled! My hairband was on so tightly I feared I’d rip out half my hair if I tried to pull it out. So I risked it for a biscuit…and used scissors.

Thankfully I avoided cutting any of my actual hair, whew!

When I drove back to my house after showering and breakfast (well, brunch!) I basically drove similar roads to what I’d run and found it ever so depressing how quickly I was zooming along those same streets. It was like Tom Hanks in Cast Away when he spends hours painfully trying to build fire and then at the end of the film picks up a lighter and flicks it on in a second…

Have you ever missed the start of a race or parkrun?

How do you deal with crazy knotted hair?

Do you mind running in the rain?