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?

Daventry parkrun – another one off the Alphabet list!

These past few days have been a bit crazy busy. I had a work conference in Birmingham on Wednesday so headed down to the NEC stupidly early that morning.

The conference was great. Really interesting and genuinely insightful for my job. I got to see s lot of talks, take a lot of notes and just generally get my geek on. I was like a sponge. What was nice was that Wiggle were a VIP company so that meant free beverages all day, an area to chill in and free buffet lunch. Well, if you know me at all you know buffets are a nightmare…the fear of food running out means I over-compensate and just eat far too much. It was worth it though, very tasty!Handily James (fellow Marathon Talker) lives in Birmingham too so I took Thursday and Friday off and so we could hang out a bit. We planned to get some good running and eating in, which made the trek up norf so much more worthwhile.

On Thursday we had a solid eight mile run. James kindly slowed down for me as normally he’s rapid. It was an “easy” day for him – he trains properly, not like my randomness. The run was great, I felt strong and it was nice running with James as he obviously knew the area and I could leave the navigations to him (essential, I’m sure you agree).After the run we freshened up and then went to Birmingham city centre to play mini golf at a place called Ghetto Golf. Birmingham just seems to have so many cool places and just the walk there from the train station was cool with all the cool shops, restaurants and graffiti. So much more exciting than Southamptom ha!Ghetto Golf itself was so good. I mean, it was bat shit crazy but it was such a laugh.The different holes had crazy themes and were just a bit mental. Lots of old school themes like a Blockbuster video shop, a pool table and inside a bus to name just a few (as well as some rather risqué objects to navigate round!).I lost, though I’d like to stress, just but it was just such a laugh I didn’t care. I allowed my competitiveness to cool a bit 😉We even treated ourselves to a few beers. Neither of us are huge drinkers but the odd one or two now and again is quite nice. I’m quite liking beer as well…albeit only the lighter stuff.
Then we headed to the Meat Shack for some incredible burgers and sides. I had one with blue cheese and bacon with some cheesy fries and then shared halloumi fries and frickles. Oh my gawwwwd so good.It was a great restaurant – super friendly and great service and the food amazing. I’m never normally a burger person but when a restaurant just does burgers you know you’re in for a treat.I mean, ideal pre-parkrun food right? Easily burnt off after 5k…ha. James was kind enough to take me to Daventry parkrun to get my ‘D’ for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge.It was drizzly and cold but finally t-shirt temperature. Though annoyingly probably not warm enough to not wear gloves as I found out during the run and finding my fingers very chilly indeed.The parkrun is fairly small with under 200 people. It had a clever line-up area at the start with the paces lined up (35 mins, sub 30, 25 mins etc.) so people could position themselves nicely at the start without having to overtake a lot of get overtaken. The course is a mix of compacted trail and mud. It was good during the times on the compacted trails where I could stretch it out a bit (for me anyway) but in the mud and on corners it was a bit precarious. I could only imagine James finding it all too funny if I’d fallen over and was covered in mud…The course was a one lapper which is quite rare in the grand scheme of parkrun. Usually there are at least two laps as generally parks aren’t big enough to have 5k’s worth of running available. The course was pretty, running through lots of trees and scenic paths as well as a nice stretch alongside the lake. It was lucky that it wasn’t that windy but I can imagine that stretch being quite hellish in the wind. I was trying to push the pace as much as I could and managed to overtake all the females bar one in front of me, who was running with a dog. (Photos from Daventry parkrun Facebook)At mile three I felt myself flagging a bit and as I came round the corner to the finish it was a steep short incline that just killed my legs at the final push.I got 20:52 and 16th place (2nd female) and I am more than happy with that! I wanted to see a 20 and I’m glad I managed it, even if I did just squeak it. James smashed his PB with 18:17 which just makes me wince thinking about it. So fast.So I now only have J (which I’ll do in June in Jersey), Y, I, V and Z left! All the hard ones really! Yeovil will have to be a bit of a day-trip I think 

After parkrun we headed to the nearby American diner-themed restaurant, Buddy’s, for brunch. The restaurant was really retro and had lots of crazy decor, like retro signs and posters. It was really quirky.We both ordered the Seattle breakfast (they had lots of American themes). I swapped the hashbrowns for toast and added black pudding. It came with grilled gammon, beans, eggs and mushrooms. I was going to share the pancakes with James but in the end I didn’t fancy them. I’m not a huge pancake fan unless they’re covered in ice cream and chocolate… 
Anyway it was delicious and served with unlimited tea. Perfect post a soggy run! I was covered in mud and felt a bit gross but to be honest the need for food won out of social etiquette. It always does for me 😉

That evening James had worked his magic and found a local half marathon race for us to do the next day. We’re both training or the Brighton Marathon so we’re in the market for a long run. Having a half would be a great way of getting in some solid miles – we could run before and after to make up the distance we needed.

However the half he’d found, the Ironbridge Half Marathon, was sold out. But James emailed the race organiser to ask if anyone was dropping out and if there were two places available by any chance. Amazingly there were! After some back and forthing he secured us two places. We’re super grateful to the organisers for letting us slip in last minute! I was super chuffed because I’d been gutted about Reading being cancelled last weekend and I’d been to the Ironbridge quite a few times as child with my grandparents and parents as my grandparents live in Stoke, not too far from there. It was going to be a blast from the past! And having s race to do is always a nice way to mix up the drudgery of long run training.

So an early night of solid sleep and up early bright eyed and bushy tailed for the half the next day!

Have you been to Birmingham before?

Have you ever entered a race last minute?

What’s your essential item in a fry-up/breakfast?

Oxford parkrun – parkrun Alphabet Challenge progress

Saturday I headed up to the Oxford parkrun to get my ‘O’ for the parkrun Alphabet Challenge (there were multiple amusing titles I could have used but I’m keeping it a family show ;-)). For those who don’t know, the parkrun Alphabet Challenge is going to different parkruns beginning with different letters to hit all the alphabet – us runners love to collect things and tick things off.

But before that, I’ll roll back to Friday night. I went out for dinner with my good friend and running buddy, Mike (from New Forest Marathon fame). I hadn’t seen him since before Dubai and we had lots to catch up on. Our chats always feel like a warm hug in a mug – we must get back to our Thursday night runs again soon! We went to Coast to Coast as we both love that restaurant and Mike handily had a Taste card (50% off!).

I went for the chicken wings to start and the chicken fajitas for my main. This is such a boring meal selection for me as I’ve had it quite a few times, but I just really enjoy it. I’m *such* a creature of habit – as I’m sure you probably already know.And it was usual very tasty. I like an assembly meal – it slows me down! For pudding I had the cookie dough sundae which was good though a little small (how I managed to not order the chocolate fudge cake I don’t know). But handily it left enough space for pick ‘n’ mix at the cinema so you win some, you lose some.Hilariously Mike got a child’s snack box at the cinema because it was cheaper than a small popcorn and you got more popcorn, a drink and chocolate with it (no wonder child obesity is becoming an issue…). It was amusing to see him carrying it in with its little handles.We saw was Downsizing which was really good. It surprised me by going in a direction I didn’t expect. It was a totally different film to what I thought it was going to be, which was quite nice. Definitely worth a watch. All the characters were brilliant and I laughed out loud several times.

The next morning was a struggle with the alarm going off at 6.45am to leave for Oxford by 7.15am. I actually woke up briefly at 5.40am in a panic that I’d missed my alarm and was going to miss going to the gym before work – I was convinced it wasn’t the weekend! How bizarre. The journey was easy and I parked up in the car park of the actual park. Funnily enough before Saturday I’d done a bit of research in order to work out how to get there and parking. When I googled it I was surprised to see my own blog post pop up in Google haha. Completely forgotten Michelle had written this for me!

Anyway I was meeting my friend James, who was driving down from Birmingham. Handily Oxford is a half-way point for us. It’s always nice to see James, we can talk a lot abut nothing for a good amount of time. I feel like you need friends like that in your life! Our first stop were the loos. I accidentally walked in on a man having a wee which was fairly embarrassing. I guess the lock didn’t work and he didn’t seem to notice (I did back out SUPER quickly).Then we headed to the start which was located in the middle of a field. It was quite cold and a little drizzly, but thankfully not full-on raining. We realised our error of footwear fairly quickly. It was rather wet and muddy. Ah well, neither of us were aiming for a particular time anyway. James is a lot faster than me but he was aiming for a harder effort the next day so decided to take it easy and run with me. I was just aiming to run and see what happened (no change there then really eh…).We didn’t both with the briefing because we’re far too cool for that…ha! So when it came to lining up we had no idea where we were going, which direction to face or anything really. Our arrogance was not rewarded and we realised we probably should have listened to the briefing. The one thing about parkrun is, it doesn’t matter how many you’ve done, you still need to listen to a newbie briefing when you’ve not been there before. Lesson learnt.We lined ourselves up and realised we were awfully close to the front line and we shuffled back quickly (well I’m sure James would have fitted in nicely at the front but I was certainly not up for that!). The first part was a bit random as you run across the field. I always feel like running across a field feels a bit mental. But eventually we got onto the path and headed for our first lap of three. From reading the blog review of the parkrun, I believe we did a different route. But it was good fun though fairly muddy!

We chatted as we ran and it became obviously to me that I was quite out of shape for the speeds we were doing to chat easily. James was fine but I was struggling a little and wondered if I should tell James to just go ahead and leave me. But luckily there were moments when we had to slow down because the path got narrow due to the mud so I could catch my breath. The course was super flat though.The laps did seem to fly by and we were getting faster so this was good. Though I felt a little out of shape I did feel strong which was nice. At the end I passed two girls as I trailed after James. On the final stretch back across the grass I could hear one of the girls try to catch me back up but I pushed the pace and held my position. As I went through the funnel I said well done to her and thanked her for pushing me to finish strong. She seemed chuffed with her finish too so that was good. My time was just under 23 minutes (22:53). Very pleased with that! And most importantly, my calf felt OK. I’m monitoring it very closely at the moment as I don’t want to trigger it again. More on this in another post I think.We were covered in mud. We’d brought spare clothes and I had a towel in my car so we headed to the loos to sort ourselves out. Though I love running in shorts rather than leggings I regretted it as I now had to de-mudify my legs before putting my jeans on.This was somewhat of a tough challenge considering the sink wasn’t a traditional tap but one of those automatic soap-water-dryer affairs and didn’t like to be made to work too often. I also had made the mistake of wearing my holey jeans and was paranoid I still had muddy knees and would look like an unwashed lout walking round Oxford. And in true Anna style, I’d also forgotten a coat. What an idiot. Luckily it wasn’t too cold or rainy to be a big issues (I had a lovely warm jumper on) but it was still stupid.

James led the way in his car and I followed in mine to a car park in Oxford where we then went on a hunt for a nice hot drink to warm-up. We had a nice coffee in Costa before moving on to one of two possible brunch spots. We had considered the Handlebar Cafe but on closer menu inspection it didn’t look like what we wanted. So we carried on to the Organic Deli cafe which was very small and simple, but lovely. We both ordered fry-ups – very tasty but annoyingly the beans were left to contaminate the rest of my plate… fry-up fail. We chatted about running while munching. James knows so much about running and is very good at training properly (whereas I just float along at the same pace and do my marathons all around the same times). He’s very focused and goal-orientated, which is completely different to me but nice to get some of his enthusiasm and think about things a bit differently.

After refueling, we then went to the Story Museum. It seemed like a fun and interesting thing to do. It’s basically a building full of different rooms celebrating different authors and themes of children’s books.I mean, it’s mainly for kids but we had a whale of a time. There was one room where you could dress up, which obviously I got involved with.

You could also create your own plaque (choosing the different adjectives and nouns) and then sitting on the throne. Amazingly a voice reads out your plaque – we had no idea how it did this! (Mine said “The Might Wizard of the Stars”).It was strange but thoroughly enjoyable. There were so many book and film references everywhere, from Lord of the Rings to Alice in Wonderland.Upstairs was more for really young kids but we had a look around anyway – in for a penny, in for a pound! There was a giant bed where kids could lie and listen to someone reading a story. And then a row of increasing in size dressing gowns on the wall – from the very tiny to full adult sized. It was just very clever the way the rooms had been set up. As a child I would have LOVED this place. I loved reading (still do) as a child. I had a very active imagination so I reckon I could have been there for hours in heaven.After that we headed for some much needed cake and hot drink. We chose Croissant Beurre where we both had a yum yum doughnut (I mean, all doughnuts should be upgraded to yum yums, it was incredible).And then headed back to the car park where we parted ways. I’ll be seeing James again at the Marathon Talk Run Camp in a few weeks which will be cool.

So I got my O. Seven letters left. The ones I currently have planned are D (Didcot), J (Jersey), U (Upton House) and then it’s I, V, Y and Z which will be trickier. So it’s going well!

Have you been to Oxford before?

Did you read a lot as a child?

What films have you seen recently?

Queen Elizabeth parkrun and cold running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever done Queen Elizabeth parkrun?

What does your ideal fry-up contain?

Are you layering up for winter yet?

Chichester parkrun, brunch and long running

Saturday morning was another morning of parkrun tourism, followed by a catch-up brunch and cake with my lovely university friend Charlotte and her husband Paddy.

They live in Brighton and I live in Fareham (between Portsmouth and Southampton) so Chichester is sort of half-way point. I had a TV I no longer needed and they were in need of one so I offered to sell it to them. But then I felt mean selling it to them as they’re my friends, so I suggested they just buy me brunch instead (food is always a winner in my book). As we were meeting in Chichester on the Saturday I figured it would be a great time to do Chichester parkrun, which I’ve never done. No it doesn’t count towards my Alphabet Challenge as I’ve already done so many “C”‘s (Cardiff, Conwy and Chelmsford) but it was one sort of within the area that I needed to tick-off.

I headed down at about 8am and as it would take about 30-40 minutes I made up a nice hot coffee to take with me, as I knew there would be toilets there. The parkrun begins very close to the Northgate car park that I was very familiar with, having been to Chichester a number of times. My mum always says that those public toilets are the nicest public toilets she’s ever been too. So I wasn’t concerned.I arrived in more than enough time and paid for parking and headed to the loos. On the sign it said they’d be open from 7am…but they weren’t. I jogged over to the starting area of parkrun and asked one of the volunteers if they knew of another toilet. They said it was odd the other ones weren’t open. I jogged back to check again as I really did need to go. It was very cold so it was a nice warm-up anyway. But no they were still locked.Hmmm. I jogged around and tried to find somewhere else but to no avail. Eventually I jogged off round the corner and found a secluded, albeit not entirely hidden-away bush. A man was jogging towards me and I mentioned I was about to have a cheeky wee and he kindly headed the other way. So I quickly crouched down, as you do as a female, and in my panic to wee as quickly as possible without being spotted didn’t realise (until too late) that I put half my bum straight into stinging nettles. GAH. Luckily it was only one cheeky (I daren’t even imagine other possibilities, *shudders*) but damn it was uncomfortable.
Anyway, I was glad to have gone anyway. Then I listened to the newbie briefing. It was VERY cold but I’d done a bit of a warm-up so it wasn’t so bad…until I had to de-layer. Then we lined-up and we were off. It had a very odd start running across a field and then after about 200-300m turning completely around on ourselves to go round a post and back the other way. Bizarre. Then we did a sort of zigzag course up this field before heading down a tarmac path to do it all again. It was an odd course in this respect, and mostly on grass so it was quite slippy. Especially as there were so many points to turn and go a different direction. I’m not sure I’d like this to be my home one it must be said. There were only 220 people so it felt quite small and un-busy which was nice. The leader of the pack was a young female who really was right out front. I think she did it in just over 19 minutes so not crazy fast but still way ahead of anyone else.My legs felt very tired as I’d run nine miles the day before so I wasn’t going for any great speed. I also don’t think it would have been a great one for speed due to the zigzags and the slippiness, but the downhill bit along the tarmac was great to stretch the legs. And to head to the finish on! On lap two though there were a bunch of runners who were running and they headed straight on instead of turning left to do another lap and this confused me a lot as I wondered if I was going the wrong way, but turns out they weren’t doing parkrun at all (which always baffles me as surely you’d just join in if you were in the area running at that time?).
I finished in 23.08 which I was happy with as it felt fairly easy and I wasn’t out of breath at all at the end. As soon as I’d finished I got a message from my friend saying they were five minutes away. What perfect timing! I jogged back to my car and saw them arrive. I quickly put some trousers on as it was so cold and we walked into Chichester proper to find some brunch. I’d done a bit of research beforehand to find the perfect spot. Though Bill’s is always a good shout and they do do nice breakfasts I’d found a place called The Fat Fig, which looked really different and tasty.We all ordered the Turkish fry-up which was delicious! Feta, halloumi, eggs, Turkish sausage, a filo pastry thing full of feta, olives and toast. So good.It was nice to have something a little different. The Fat Fig was a lovely place – lots of pastries and cakes as well.After food we headed for a little mosey about round Chichester (such a lovely place to wander round). Obviously we went into Hotel Chocolat of course, my favourite chocolate place. And then we decided breakfast pudding was in order. We evaluated all the cake options and decided on a cafe which used to be The Swallow Bakery but now is something else, though it didn’t have a name over the door (or maybe it;s the same but just getting a re-vamped sign? I don’t know…). I had a raspberry cake which was delicious and looked amazing in the middle.I also shared a Halloween cake pop with Charlotte (because I’m greedy remember). They each had a cupcake – I can’t remember what but they said it was like a fruit crumble inside! Delicious.

And then we eventually parted ways. My brunch very much lasted me until dinner that evening – I was stuffed!

The next morning (after a gloriously long sleep due to the extra hour) I headed to Hedge End (where I used to live) to meet my friend, Mike, to do part of a long run with him. He’s not training for anything in particular anymore so really didn’t want to do a long run so I was going to run with him and the continue on my own for the rest of my long run. I definitely needed someone to run part the way with though as I’ve been feeling so demotivated in my long runs lately. I much prefer to be running with others right now, weirdly enough.

The run was tough though. I could really feel the miles from the previous two days so I was glad we kept the pace to a conversational one (around 9 minute miles). Mike wasn’t feeling it much either. It’s tough when you don’t have a marathon within the next month to get really motivated!I did seven miles with Mike and then headed off to do three on my own. Let me tell you, those three miles really felt like a slog. I listened to a podcast and just felt exhausted. I was glad to get back to my car and head home. There was no way I could have run a mile more! I’ve definitely run too much this week (five times! I normally only run four times). I felt so drained.After re-fuelling on breakfast and a hot coffee my parents and I headed out for a lovely hour long walk along the Farlington Marshes in Portsmouth (which is near where the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon goes). It was cold but lovely and sunny.

At the start of the walk they have a board where people can write in chalk what birds have been spotted that day. I mean, I know nothing about birds so hadn’t a clue but it was interesting nonetheless (I jokingly said to my parents that I should have written “duck” on there…probably wouldn’t have gone down well! Bird watching is serious business).We did see a lot of birds (bird watchers) but nothing that I could have identified.Then we headed to Emsworth for a lovely coffee and a cake. It was a fabulous way to end a walk! I still felt very drained and wondered if I was coming down with something – or at least fighting something off. My mum has been ill for a week now with a cold so I wonder if it’s that… but anyway, a good weekend regardless!

Do you know different birds?

How do you stay motivated with long runs when you don’t have a race close on the horizon?

Have you ever been to Chichester?