Marathon Talk Run Camp 2019 – part 1

This weekend gone was my 5th Marathon Talk Run Camp.

Now usually it’s set in the New Forest in the Sandy Balls camp, which handily for me is just down the road. However, this year it was in the beautiful, but distant, Peak District.

At first I wasn’t going to go. It was just so far for me to travel – by train or car. However, I was persuaded when one of my fellow Austria Run Camp buddies (and fellow Southampton AC runner), Dave, offered to give me a lift up. This meant making it a lot more cost effective and less boring of a trip up and down.

I took a half day on Friday, Dave picked me up and off we went. It was a rather lengthy 4.5 hour journey, but chatting away to Dave the time flew by. We arrived in Matlock, checked in to the Mount Cook Adventure Centre (our home for the weekend) and headed to a local pub to meet the rest of the Run Campers that we were familiar with.

Though the food took forever to come out and there was a worrying moment of “cash only” until a card machine was found, we enjoyed good company and a solid meal. I had the steak and chips with a blue cheese sauce.

It was so lovely to see all the familiar faces (though we’d been keeping in touch through social media and WhatsApp of course). Then we headed back to the centre to sort ourselves out.

There was a large area where we could sit and get drinks in the same building as our rooms

The rooms ehhh… were rather basic. I mean, Sandy Balls was never luxury but these were truly dorm-like standards, with bunk beds and basic amenities. However you’re hardly going for the Ritz and I can sleep anywhere so really it was fine. My two roommates were lovely and friendly and I had a solid night’s sleep.

The next morning we got up fairly early to head down to Bakewell parkrun, which was about 30 minutes away. We’d been warned beforehand to pre-order anything we’d want from the Hassop Station Café so the staff could be prepared, so there was a giant queue building up already before the run.

Despite it all looking very nice, I was glad when a few others decided to avoid the queue and just go into Bakewell proper afterwards to find a cafe there. I knew I’d be hungry for breakfast post-run and it would be lovely to have a mosey about Bakewell while we were there.

I wore some arm warmers as it was slightly chilly

Bakewell parkrun was located on the Monsal Trail and runs along a former railway line. As all the local area was, it was beautiful. It was a straight out and back, pretty much flat (though we were told it was slightly inclined on the way out).

I think usual attendance numbers for Bakewell parkrun was around 200, but with the Marathon Talkers descending it pushed the numbers to 400 (they had been pre-warned).

I wasn’t sure what I was fancying but with the surge at the start and the thoughts of “hmmm it would be nice to make the most of the flat-ish course” I decided to see what my legs could do.

I started running around 7 minute miles and it felt comfortably difficult. It was literally just straight out running, a few bridges going over a road but no major change in elevation at all. However in the back of my mind was the “gentle incline out” that the run director had warned us about. I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed it had she not said anything!

Liz Yelling (Martin Yelling’s wife and Olympic athlete extraordinaire) overtook me just after a mile and disappeared into the distance (I think she had started with her kids, and then they’d given up). And as we got closer to the turnaround we started seeing the faster runners zooming back towards us. So fast. My friend, Dave, was also amongst the front runners and I cheered him on as he flew past. He always looks very happy when he runs.

My friend John caught up to me before the turnaround which was nice, though it suddenly added on a pressure to remain at that speed. I quite like an out and back as you get to focus on other runners going the other way and because I knew quite a few people from the camp I was constantly cheering people on and smiling away, which took my mind off the pain of running fast.

Photo Credit: Steve Morgan

Eventually we got to the finish and I was pooped! I’d hung on to John just about and finished behind him. My time was 20:54 – back in the 20s, whoop!

Dave managed the eye watering time of 17:24 which is INSANE – and he’s a 50-54 category! And the 1st three runners were 15:xx. SERIOUSLY.

After finishing up and cheering others on, a group of us headed into Bakewell. The town was beautiful. I was so pleased that we made the decision to not go to the parkrun cafe as we heard it was packed. Instead we found the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop which had a restaurant above the bakery.

I subsequently spent £15 on two Bakewell tarts (one iced, one not), a Bakewell pudding and a white chocolate rocky road! I didn’t eat them all there and then though – I wanted to take them home to share with my family and Kyle.

I then ordered myself a large English breakfast with all the trimmings… eggs, sausages, bacon, black pudding, beans (contamination!!), mushrooms, hashbrowns, toast and a Derbyshire oatcake underneath.

Now I’ve had Staffordshire oatcakes so I was very excited about this addition. It was delicious (they’re basically savoury crepe-like pancakes).

Then we moseyed about Bakewell for a little bit in the beautiful sunshine. It got very busy quite quickly though – it seemed like it was a very hot tourist spot. We eventually headed back to the centre for a freshen up and lunch (though I would not be needing food for a bit!).

After lunch, we had a really interesting talk from Liz Yelling and Holly Rush, both exceptional athletes in their own right (from Olympic medals to UTMB and Comrades amazingness). They were very inspiring but also quite funny. For example, Liz mentioned that her peak maranoia before a big race extended so far to take her daughter out of playschool and quarantine her in the house. And friends were asked beforehand if they had colds before hugs were exchanged. I mean wow.

Tom Williams explaining the session

We then headed out for the session. We ran up a GIANT hill and separated into groups (self-selected by our parkrun times). Perhaps foolishly I selected the 23 minute group and I don’t think this was possibly the best idea as it wasn’t challenging at all.

I was in a group led by Holly Rush. The session was 3 x 4 minute tempo efforts, following by 1 minute hill sprint. I felt a little frustrated because the 4 minute efforts weren’t really a tempo speed for me (7.30min/mile) so I was struggling not to run ahead. Holly was very vocal and strong in her views that we should stick as a group so I just gave up on thinking it was a session and enjoyed it as a leg stretcher. Hey ho!

Photo Credit: Tanya Raab

We then ran back. I showered (luckily I got hot water – there was a limited supply and a lot of people had cold showers) then it was time for dinner. The food isn’t always that great at these things. Bulk catering and making things cost-effective means it leaves a lot to be desired. However I had a solid meal of a jacket potato with chicken curry and salad (I also added cheese because…).

Then we had a REALLY inspiring and interesting talk from the legend that is Dave Moorcroft, the previous 5k record holder (13 minutes!!) amongst many other accolades. He was such a lovely guy with so many fascinating stories. Really one of the highlights.

Dave Moorcroft being interviewed by Tom

And then it was time for the annual MarathonTalk Run Camp Quiz, hosted by none other than the amazing Tony Audenshaw.

I managed to grab a selfie with him earlier in the day

Honestly, he is one of the nicest people. He’s also hilarious.

The quiz was good fun, though my team (“Anna’s Apples” – yes really) didn’t win. We did however know the winning team so I was able to snag myself a slice of the chocolate cake prize 😉

Group shot outside

I’ll leave it there for my recap… the next day includes more fun and games and the Carsington Water Half Marathon.

Have you ever been to a run camp?

Do you enjoy hearing talks from other runners?

Have you been to the Peak District before?

Southsea parkrun, my kinda salad and back to long running

This weekend, though not entirely as I had planned, was a good one!

Friday night I stayed at Kyle’s and we decided to give Southsea parkrun a spin as Kyle had never done it before and there was a tearoom nearby we had been meaning to go to for ages.

It was, as I’m sure the rest of the UK was aware, very cold Saturday morning. But happily very sunny and not that windy – not bad conditions for a coastal parkrun. We decided to park about a mile away so we could have a gentle warm-up beforehand. Not that it warmed us up much at all! By the time we arrived at the start we were still cold.

We stood at the start and listening to the pre-run briefing and heard what we already were aware of, having just run down the promenade. There were large patches of ice, both visible and black, around the start section (and consequentially the finish area as it’s a 1.5 mile out and back straight route). The event director implored everyone to do a “Michael Jackson Thriller style walk” at the start to avoid any slips and the marshals were stood on the main ice puddles to help.

My leg had felt good all week and I decided to see where I was at fitness-wise. I wasn’t going for a full on “ruin myself” style of run but I did want to push the pace a bit. Kyle was less keen to do a fast run so we decided to run separately. I had my Aftershokz ready and was feeling good.

We started and ran carefully through the icy bits – as everyone did – and then as we got to the clearer sections started to push the pace. I felt very much in control and happy at 7.15min/miles. I remember thinking how much I was enjoying the run. My legs felt strong, my breathing relaxed and the sun was shining. Asides from my hands being cold (I had to wear my thinner Nike gloves rather than my thick eGloves, which someone had recently nicked – story for another day), I was feeling good.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get my headphones to play my music but actually I really didn’t mind. I was happy to just listen to my breathing and the noises around me more clearly. We got to the turn around (1.5 miles) and this felt very quick to me. I was feeling goooood. It was nice to acknowledge that fact mid-run – rather than feel like “omg this is fast I want to die” kind of feelings I usually get during 5ks or 10ks.

At the turnaround I knew I could then look out for Kyle, who I assumed was taking it a bit easier so would be coming the other way. However as I continued to run the opposite way I couldn’t see him. As I got further down the line of people coming the other way and he still didn’t appear I realised he must be very close behind me. I tried to look behind me but couldn’t see him. It did help spur me on as I didn’t want him to overtake me (though in reality I wouldn’t have minded and this is a highly likely thing to happen in the future as he’s getting stronger and stronger).

I ran with another guy for a bit until, as I felt my speed increase, I managed to push on ahead. I also passed two females. I thought there was another one ahead so I tried not to get too excited and lose my focus (and controlled breathing). I haven’t been a first female in a while. I finished strong with 21:29, my fastest parkrun since October! Turns out I was first female as well, which was a nice bonus. And a royal flush negative split!

Kyle finished 21:34, very close behind me. A solid run for the two of us. We then jogged gently back to the car. And though there was a huge temptation to go to the Tenth Hole for brunch (as we were parked just outside) we drove the two miles or so down the road to the Parade Tearooms. Though the Tenth Hole is brilliant (those cakes!), I’ve been there quite a few times and we really wanted to try this other tearoom.

I pride myself in doing my research before I go somewhere for food and I’m so glad I did. Though I was tempted by the usual full English breakfast (which Kyle went for – with extra toast) I instead went for the Jayne Salad. Yes, a salad. Yes, a salad on a cold morning. But hear me out. This was no ordinary salad. I joked to Kyle saying this shouldn’t be called the Jayne Salad it should be called the ANNA Salad. The portion size was right up my street!

Piled high (to the point it was actually tricky to eat) with salad, roasted baby potatoes, coleslaw, chicken, bacon, cheese, beetroot… it was GINORMOUS. And exactly the kind of salad I would make if I was making it myself.

It took me ages to eat and I can happily say I was stuffed by the end (yes I ate it all – I read a review on Trip Advisor that someone took half home. Wow, way to go Anna you pig).

Kyle thoroughly enjoyed his fry up – quality over quantity (whereas the Harvester breakfast is very much quantity over quality). And of course we had to take two slices of cake (well, traybake) home with us.

I genuinely stood in the queue having a mare of a time trying to decide what to order. The tiffin? The salted caramel shortbread? The “junk yard” cheesecake? The Crunchie cheesecake? The fudge cake? The Bakewell slice? I almost had a breakdown.

In the end I went for the tiffin. A giant triangle slab. Kyle went for an equally large slice of the salted caramel pretzel shortbread. We took them home to give our stomachs time.

I won’t lie. All I needed was the time it took to bathe and get dressed for me to be ready to eat the tiffin in one with a cup of tea. Hollow legs… human dustbin… greedy. All of the above. It was DELICIOUS. Caramelly, chocolaty, full of raisins and biscuit… so flipping good.

That evening I was supposed to go to my friend’s hen party and see Dreamboyz (like Chippendales I believe…) but my mum needed me to stay in and help her as her left hand is basically useless after her accident (she’s left handed) and my dad wasn’t going to be in. It was a shame to miss the hen do but I appreciated a quiet evening in with my mum instead.

At least it meant I got a solid night’s sleep and could crack on with my long run in the morning without feeling hung over. A silver lining at least! I headed out with the intention to run 10 miles but as I got going I realised I felt good and if it continued that way I’d do 12. I’m lucky to have good routes around me that I can shortern or lengthen my route as I go.

As I got on to the seafront promenade at Hill Head, away with the fairies listening to a podcast, I didn’t see the four very familiar dogs and my parents suddenly appear in front of me. Alfie went a bit mental suddenly seeing me, bless him. I stopped and chatted briefly before heading on – Alfie tried to join but my parents managed to wrestle him away.

So the 12 miles went really well. My leg felt fine. Only my endurance struggled I think, but that’ll come back in time. The weather was perfect. Cold but still. I felt very happy and (god I hate this word) blessed to be running again.

How was your weekend?

Do you ever order a salad?

What’s your favourite tray bake?

Not the weekend I had planned

My plan for this weekend was to go to Liverpool on Friday night.

One of my close friends has just moved from Brighton to Liverpool, which makes visiting a little trickier. Happily though I live very close to Southampton Airport and I found that flying to Manchester and then getting a train from there to Liverpool was the quickest way. Driving would take over 5 hours and the train was £150+.

So on Friday after work I headed to the airport (handily my parents dropped me off as they were off to do some late night shopping in West Quay nearby). I was looking forward to catching up with my friends and also squeezing in the Princes parkrun that is very close to her house.

However, after being delayed the airline then announced that the flight was cancelled. Oh. And the next flight wasn’t until 8.50pm, which I’d be lucky to get on considering the great stampede of disgruntled customers to the customer services and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get a train from Manchester at the other side later that night. So in the end I cancelled the trip. It was really disappointing but we’re going to try again to catch up at some point. My parents were able to swing by and pick me up after their shopping, which was so handy! And I’ll apparently be refunded AND compensated for my cancelled flight, so there’s a silver lining at least.

On Saturday morning I met Kyle, his brother, his sister and his mum (who would be supporting, not running) to do parkrun at Portsmouth Lakeside instead. Because I wanted to still be cautious of my calf post-niggle, I decided to take it easier. I wasn’t in the right mindset to push the pace too much anyway so I was happy for a slightly faster than gentle amble round.

Kyle shot off and I was content to run on my own and concentrate on how my leg was feeling. Hmmm, not 100%. I tried not to let it bother me – i.e. not go into full Anna Panic Mode. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t feeling as good as it had during the week. Maybe because I was going faster than I’d run then? I don’t know.

Our friend Connor was also running so there were a good few people to smile and wave at as we went round. There are a few out and backs so you can see where people are through the run. Kyle was far ahead and I wondered how fast he’d do it in. He’s very much going for the shorter distances and I’m almost certain he’ll be hitting a sub-20 parkrun soon.

I finished in 22:53 which was good for an easier run. I didn’t feel like it was too much of an effort. Kyle finished first out of us, then Connor, then Zack, Kyle’s brother, then Lucy, his sister, followed by Connor’s girlfriend. Everyone but me managed a PB. I was made up for Kyle who got an incredible time of 20:31! Though I did say he looked far too comfortable and happy when I first saw him just after the first mile… 😉 He has more to give!

Kyle, his family and I then headed to Harvester for one of their epic breakfasts – the “All In”. This is basically all you can eat. You can have up to FIVE of each item – including unlimited toast and cold and hot drinks. I forwent the chips (!!) and hash browns and stuck with the modest portion (ha!) of four sausages, three bits of bacon, three eggs, two black puddings, beans, two tomatoes, two mushrooms, a slice of toast and a breakfast muffin.

The toast was done by one of those self-service conveyor oven things. I got it wrong by putting in my slice of bread twice as I wanted it a bit more toasted. Proper charred bread – which Kyle’s mum said she’d eat as she loved burnt toast. WHAT?! This blew my mind.

Afterwards I headed home and got loads of little annoying, niggling little jobs done and felt very productive. Kyle popped over later and we enjoyed a cheeky takeaway and an evening watching You, which we’re really enjoying. It’s creepy but absorbing.

The next morning Kyle and I were going to do eight miles together but after my calf felt a little niggly during parkrun I reverted back to my paranoid runner state. Instead we headed out for four miles. Kyle had just bought himself a Garmin 235. He had previously relied on his Apple Watch and using Strava and after Strava had cut off his run for some reason the day before he decided to push the boat out and treat himself. I’m still amazed by the fact that he ordered it in the afternoon and by 8pm he had it. The wonders of Amazon Prime eh!

It was so windy! Though it was lovely and sunny, that wind was both strong and very cold. I kept the route as much away from the seafront as possible to avoid too much blowing about. Though we did stop to take a photo on the small section we went along. Such a beautiful day.

My leg was feeling good so we decided to make it up to five miles. Nice and easy. I was sad not to have done eight but I’m happy that I was sensible (OK this did not come that naturally to me. It took a bit of Kyle talking to me to make me see sense…).

So not quite the weekend I had planned in any way but still a lovely one.

Have you ever had a delayed flight?

What watch do you use for running?

Does anyone else like eating burnt toast??

Reading parkrun and the Stubbington 10k

When I did the New York Marathon in November I stayed with a bunch of girls who were just lovely. It was all arranged by Charlie, from The Runner Beans, and we had a fantastic time. Happily we’ve since kept in touch.

One of the girls, Cortney, was coming over from her home in Canada to visit so I headed up to Reading to do a little meet-up with a few of the girls. parkrun, brunch and friends – Saturday goals right there! I drove up straight from work on the Friday evening.

That evening we had a lovely girlie night at Charlie’s. Emma (from Nanny on the Run) made a delicious shepherd’s pie with a sweet potato topping. Daaamn it was good.

And we followed that with the less healthy but equally tasty Ben & Jerry’s ice cream (three different kinds! Be still my beating heart. I was a fan of the B&J’s Salted Caramel topped tub but not so huge a fan of the vegan Brownie one).

We chatted, we chilled, we ate and we watched the ever good When Harry Met Sally. It was lovely to see the girls again and properly catch-up.

The next morning we headed to the Reading parkrun. I had been tempted to run when I thought we were going to a different parkrun that I hadn’t done before (Woodley parkrun)…. but as I’d done Reading before (it was my ‘R’) and my calf was still not brilliant, I thought it best to play it safe and volunteer. Charlie was also volunteering and not running due to an injury as well. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out too much.

I was also quite chuffed because I’d been assigned the role of barcode scanner. I’ve never done that job at parkrun and was keen to tick another role off my list! I was also very chuffed for Cortney because it would be her first ever parkrun. Exciting times!

We arrived and ‘signed in’ to our posts. Cortney and Emma headed off to the start and Charlie and I got into our positions.

I was a little sad to be missing out but the other parkrun volunteers were so friendly and chatty that the time flew by and suddenly I was needed to scan the barcodes. It was MANIC. There were three of us scanning and it almost felt never-ending. Lots of people were super friendly and thanked me for my time or chatted to me but some people silently handed me the barcodes or, in a couple of instances, just pointed to their shoe making zero effort. I thought that was a little rude if I’m honest.

Some people asked how they’d done… I’ve no idea! I politely told them they’d find out later in the email. And some people, despite standing in the barcode scanning queue for a lengthy period of time still arrived at me expectantly but without anything prepared. It was quite an interesting experience it must be said. Eventually the buzz died down and I was able to relax a bit. Whew!

A lovely blog reader came and introduced herself to me. It honestly made my morning to hear about her running achievements and goals and that I’d had a little influence on it. I felt very touched. Sometimes it can feel like you’re writing into a void and no one is really listening but to hear from someone I don’t know who does read my random ramblings is just the loveliest thing.

Cortney and Emma did really well and it sounded like they both enjoyed it. Then we headed off for the essential refuel. Volunteering is hard work too! We went to Cafe Yolk, which is a small but very cute little cafe in Reading.

Unsurprisingly I ordered the full English, while the other three girls ordered avocado and eggs on toast. Probably the far healthier option but I’m fairly stuck in my ways and adore a fry-up. It was a rather posh looking fry-up so at least there’s that…

Then we headed for breakfast pudding of course. We originally went to one spot but their cake selection was not up to our high standards and so we headed next door to The Flowering Teapot instead. Now let me tell you, they were fantastic!

All homemade cakes, homemade bread… the whole shabang. The guy behind the counter was so helpful and friendly. Emma asked if there were any vegan cakes and he said there was a carrot cake being finished in the back so we waited for that (the owner who was finishing it said she’d be super quick for us which was lovely). While we waited the guy cut us a bit of the millionaire shortbread to nibble on. I mean, how good is that?

I went for the millionaire shortbread in the end because it was so good. We took our cakes and had a cup of tea at Charlie’s with them. A lovely way to end a lovely meet up!

The next day was the Stubbington 10k. This race literally runs past my house. It starts about a 5 minute walk up the road, and finishes about 15 minutes walk away so it’s super local and convenient. Sadly though I continued to be sensible and decided not to run. However, Kyle was.

He’s never run an official 10k race so I was quite excited for him. I detest 10ks so realistically I wasn’t too sad to miss the race but I was sad not to be running with Kyle and experiencing it with him. Instead, I would be walking to the 9k marker with my dad and Alfie in order to help cheer him. It would also be a nice walk for the three of us.

For whatever reason (probably entirely down to me being me) we thought the race started at 9.30am. I told Kyle he could easily leave the house at 9.15am and get to the start in enough time. My dad and I would need to leave just before 9am to walk the 2+ miles to the 9k marker, meaning we’d be there in time (9.35ish for Kyle to run past). Perfectly under control, nicely planned, we are amazing.

Except as my dad and me were 20 minutes up the road my mum rung to say the race actually started at 10am so Kyle and her were going to sit in a coffee shop for a bit to waste some time. Ah. Classic Anna.

This meant my dad and I were quite early and decided to go find our own coffee shop for a quick drink before heading to the spot. Not too bad considering – I mean, it’s not like we were late! That would have been a lot worse.

Around 10.20am the first runners started passing through and we cheered them on. I saw lots of friends, people I knew and people from my running club so it was good fun. However I do have silly panic moments where despite fully knowing these people I never seem to remember names!! Something about seeing people running just makes my mind go blank. Bit embarrassing but there we go.

Then Kyle ran past (I managed to remember his name ;-)). Then my dad and me quick marched to the finish to catch him afterwards. He’d done a fantastic time of 42:59 – just scraping under the 43 minute mark! Very jammy. And so fast! I remember for my first 10k I did 43:34. Clearly Kyle is going to be super fast in the future considering he hasn’t been running for long! He definitely has a lot more to give.

He mentioned he much prefers the shorter distances to the marathons. I can understand that (though I personally don’t have that preference, obviously). I think Kyle will do well in all distances but I think he’ll probably focus more on the shorter stuff.

Though I’m sad he doesn’t share the same marathon love I do, it does make it a little more interesting for us! I can happily support those shorter distances (I think I get the easier deal here hehe).

What distance do you prefer to race?

What parkrun volunteering role haven’t you done yet but would like to?

Do like to volunteer when you’re injured/not running?

Zary parkrun

When I first decided to fully embrace the parkrun Alphabet Challenge I quickly realised it would not be an easy thing to accomplish. Well, easy in terms of it’s just a series of 5k runs you complete over a period of time, no closer together than a week. But logistically it’s a lot more tricky.

The only letter I had left was the infamous Z. I mean technically I still have X left, but so does everyone else. A parkrun beginning with the letter X does not exist… YET. So for the moment, I just had Z. And the easiest and most cost-effective location to achieve this was Poland (otherwise it’s New Zealand or South Africa). So hence why I found myself in Zary, Poland.Saturday morning Kyle and I woke up at the not too early time of 8am. Happily our hotel (ApartHotel) was located just ten minutes away from the parkrun. We decided to give ourselves a decent window though in case something happened (likely another Anna-related incident of some sort). But I’d Google Earthed the location, I knew exactly how to get there and I was feeling confident.So at 8.30am we headed out and 8.40am we had arrived in the correct car park staring at the parkrun flag. WE HAD MADE IT.It was quite chilly, though thankfully not raining, so we decided to stay in the warm car for a little longer as there weren’t that many people there yet.By absolute amazing chance we happened to be there the weekend Poland was celebrating their 100th anniversary of independence, and to celebrate (we had to translate their Facebook page to find this out) they had encouraged people to come dressed in white and red.As we only found this out the evening before we were a bit stuck with what we had packed and neither of us had anything white or red so sadly we could only observe the celebrations rather than fully join in. We saw people arrived, and pretty much all of them wearing something red and/or white and with hats and flags. It was fantastic!They had music going (basically a loop of the Star Wars bar scene) and a very festive and friendly atmosphere. It quickly became apparently though that we were the least dressed in our t-shirts and shorts. Everyone else was wearing leggings. A girl looked at me, sort of laughed (in a nice way), pointing to my legs and said something in Polish. I assume she said something like, “why on earth are you wearing shorts? Aren’t you cold, you weirdo!”.We had a big group photo which was nice to be involved in (photo above from their Facebook page). It felt a little bit awkward being there and not being able to speak Polish – a bit like outsiders coming in to a community! But we didn’t feel unwelcome, just a bit bewildered.

I was a bit chilly but it wasn’t nearly *that* bad. I was actually fine in my shorts! What was cool was on the map for the park area we were going to be running through the parkrun course was written up and (I assume) explained in more detail on a proper board that remained there all the time.After more people had arrived a woman led a warm-up. There were lots of squats, lunges and things like that. Everyone got involved – including us of course.I spotted a little Westie running around the place and I tried to make friends but it was too busy dashing around. It was very cute (he/she who knows!).And then we made our way to the start. I’d already got an idea of what the course would be like from my parkrun friend Paul Jeffrey’s blog so I knew it would be completely off-road, slightly undulating and tricky underfoot. No PB attempts today 😉We headed off to the start. There weren’t a huge number of people (80 in total) so I shuffled near the front. And then we were off!The course was beautiful. As you can see in the pictures it was very misty and eerie looking which made it even more pretty as it contrasted with the colours of the trees and the leaves on the ground.I found myself quite near the front as we spread out. I was about fourth and hanging on nicely to the chaps in front of me. The lead runner was miles ahead though never to be seen again (he did 17:24!). There were no marshals on the route but the route was marked clearly with the long tape and signs on the trees.I just followed the guys in front. I wanted to push myself that morning and try and go for a faster time but it was tough work on the uneven ground and the slightly undulating course. I was enjoying myself though. The course was basically all through the wooded area on a rough trail. It was lovely.I managed to overtake one guy just ahead before the finish and snag myself into 3rd place (never been so high in positioning before!). There was a final little hill and then a nice decline back the way we’d come (the whole course was one loop which is always a nice change) and then went past the timekeeper who handed me my token – no finish funnel as such. My time was 21:40 – not too shabby! Kyle came in in 9th in 23:16. He took it a bit more leisurely and stopped to take some photos (he’s still being very cautious about his previous shin injury – though it does seem to be fine now thankfully).At the end we were given a bag of those really yummy soft gingerbread biscuits, Polish flags and mugs. It was lovely! I tried to tell the Run Director that we’d come from England and we had really enjoyed it and while she didn’t seem to fully understand (likewise me to her Polish!) she smiled and nodded.The man I’d overtaken at the end came up to me and shook my hand. We managed to bumble through swapping names and ages (using our hands!). He was 65 and looked very happy that he was just behind a 30 year old, bless him.

Then we headed off back to the hotel. I was so chuffed to have done the parkrun. SO chuffed. Finally complete, woohoo! We showered, checked-out and then headed to a nearby little restaurant for breakfast (basically I Googled restaurants that would do Polish breakfast and handily there was a quaint one a short walk away). It was a lovely restaurant, buy very quiet.We ordered a set breakfast and then you could add on an item to it from a list. Kyle chose pancakes whereas I chose sausages.We got bread, jam, honey, butter, pate, cheese and salad bits. It was delicious. My sausages were so good as well (they had a bit of a smokey taste to them).Kyle said his pancakes, which were very much more European style pancakes than American ones, were overly sweet but nice. Just a bit too sweet for first thing!Then we headed outside to wander around Zary a bit more before we needed to drive back to Berlin to catch our flight.There wasn’t a great amount to see, as Zary was a small quiet town but there were flags everywhere celebrating the 100 years of independence.We had a lovely coffee in a little cafe and then headed back on the road. Zary was lovely and I am beyond pleased to have compelted the parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I had so much fun going to different parkruns all over the place, exploring new areas, seeing friends and just having a great time. I will definitely be continuing my tourism, but I need to think of a new challenge!

Are you doing the Alphabet Challenge?

Do you like to do challenges like this?