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?