Halloween parkrun at Havant

I make no secret about the fact that I love fancy dress. I especially like fancy dress when it comes to running. I don’t know why but I think it feels more fun and random.

So Halloween is obviously a good time for this. Quite a few local parkruns were doing a fancy dress themed event and originally Kyle and I were going to go to Lee-On-Solent parkrun on Saturday but as I was at Kyle’s Friday night and we were both quite tired from a long week we decided to just stick to the very local Havant parkrun. Happily they were doing a Halloween themed event so that worked out perfectly.

Kyle’s sister, Laura, is a super talented make-up and hair stylist extraordinaire (she’s actually going to be on the Bodyguard stage show tour soon – how cool) and amazingly was happy enough to do my make-up Saturday morning for me. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to go as but I had a sparkly black tutu. I’m creatively challenged so I left it in her capable hands to decide what my face should be like. She had so much make-up – like the proper stuff, not what you find in Boots (I don’t wear make-up other than the occasionally eye liner or mascara so to me it’s all very much Greek). And had a bag of different blood make-up – I mean whaaaat.She even had a pot for pus and a pot for blister make-up. This is serious stuff. Anyway, she went with a Joker-esque theme and it looked AMAZING. So we headed down to parkrun and turned up to find about four other people had dressed up. Ahh well! But I honestly didn’t mind because I was having good fun. The marshals had dressed up as well so that was cool. I didn’t look completely out of the ordinary at least.
Kyle wasn’t running parkrun as we did 8.6 miles the day before with the Wiggle monthly run but he was a solid support crew for me – even if he did freeze standing watching me, bless him.I’ve only done the Havant parkrun once before and, granted it was after a 13 mile run, but I found it very tough. It’s a lot of uphill and a break-neck downhill you do twice. The ground underfoot is solid and rocky so quite uneven. But this run they were running the parkrun backwards, which meant a terrible short uphill but a mostly downhill course – far better sounding to me!It was very cold. I immediately regretted not bringing my gloves. I also regretted wearing my mesh sleeveless top. I found myself trying to run fast just to get warmer quicker. The marshals were lovely, shouting support. One of them shouted “well done you! And not for your running – your make-up is great!” which made me laugh. And another marshal complimented my sparkly skirt.The course is mostly trail but it is really uneven underfoot which means you have to concentrate hard where you’re putting your feet. What was great though was how downhill the course was and it did feel far easier than my previous time there.

Then the giant steep hill… jeeze it is hard-work. But I’d much rather a short sharp hill than long stretches of incline. It just meant a short period of time of burning legs before reaching the flat again. The course is two and a bit loops (the bit being at the start) which was nice because it meant I saw Kyle a good few times. He’s great at cheering (and taking photos!) but it was tough to see where he actually was because the low sunshine was pointing directly at us as we came round the corner.The second loop felt better as my body got a lot warmer, but my hands were freezing. It felt really uncomfortable. But finally we got up the horrific hill again and headed to the finish.
My time was 22:20 which I was pleased about – much better than 24:03 of last time.I wasn’t cold when I finished but my hands were like blocks of ice. Bless Kyle, he was freezing stood waiting for me. He’s a very god egg indeed!After a few silly photos (got to be done when you have such cool make-up and a sparkly tutu!) we headed home where I had a wonderfully hot bath. Ahhhh so nice.

Then we headed to Morrison’s cafe for one of their amazing breakfasts with Kyle’s mum and sister. Unfortunately Kyle and my meals were seriously delayed (like a good 20 minutes after Sarah and Laura’s meals) but when it came it was a good spread!Despite the bean contamination, it was delicious 😉 I swapped my hashbrown for extra bacon (the correct decision in my eyes) and felt warm and full.

And then Kyle and I drove to Bristol.My friends Kate and Jay had invited us up for early dinner so to make it worthwhile the 2 hours of driving up there we went to the amazing Cabot Circus to mosey about the shops. I was really chuffed to be able to use a Hotel Chocolat voucher and get a free white chocolate skull lolly, which was delicious, and then, because I had the app, a free Krispy Kreme glazed doughnut (mainly for Kyle but I did have a few bites of course). I do so love freebies!

We then headed to Kate and Jay’s to have a WHOLE LOTTA Mexican food with our other friends Shell and Rob and their little one, Eloise.You know you never go hungry when Jay is cooking. We had fajitas, tacos, nachos and all the trimmings. Kate introduced us to the “Double D” tacos where you make a taco and then wrap the taco in a tortilla. Genius! No mess 😉Followed by chocolates, a Bakewell tart and a cheesecake. Needless to say we headed home stuffed!

The next day I had my final long run before the New York Marathon next week. I like to do between 13-16 miles depending on how my training cycle. If I haven’t had a great lead-up then I’ll probably run 16 miles, whereas if I think I’ve got enough long running in I’ll do 10-13 miles. So Sunday I decided 13 sounded good to me and went with that.

It was ridiculously windy and cold, but sunny. I remembered to wear my gloves and decided a long sleeve top would be in order. As I got going inthe sunshine I did wonder if the long sleeves were unnecessary but as I got onto the seafront I was happy with my choice. The wind was quite brisk.

As my route goes past a lot of farms, I saw a lot of “pick your own pumpkins” going on which was cool. So many orange blobs in the distance and kids and families running round. It’s definitely become a bigger thing to do this over the years.My legs felt strong and I was happy to clip along to a podcast and chill out. It didn’t feel a slog thankfully. However at about 8.5 miles the heavens opened up on me and I got soaked with cold biting rain. I was even more glad for my long sleeves and gloves then!As I got towards  home it backed off and bright sunshine started again which was a nice way to end the run.

So a solid weekend and now less than a week to the Big Apple!

What distance do you do as your final long run?

Have you done any pumpkin carving?

Do you dress up for Halloween?

Running to Havant parkrun and double breakfast

This weekend gone was a busy but good one! Through work I’d gotten a place at the New Forest 10k for the Sunday, but as I’m currently marathon training I still needed to get a long run in so I decided to run to parkrun on the Saturday to make up to 16 miles.

I haven’t done Havant before and after checking how far away it was from my house it was an almost perfect 13.5 miles away. So I could run there and do the parkrun and get the 16 miles I was after. Kyle very helpfully offered to cheer me on and then drive me back afterwards. He’s sadly not running at the moment as he’s being super sensible and giving his leg some time to get over its annoying niggle. But it was nice to know he’d be there and as he’d done that parkrun before he was able to give me some pointers and inside knowledge on what the course was like.

My alarm was set for the delightful time of 6.20am and at about 6.50am I headed out into the rather chilly morning to begin my journey. Though I’d sensibly put the route on my Garmin the day before I forgot to start my run using the route…and only realised about a mile in. I didn’t want to stop and restart my watch so I decided to wing it. The majority of the route I knew but it was the last bit when I’d get into Havant that I was a bit hazy about but I could work that out later (the confidence I have in my ability to find my way is probably unwise I know).

My legs felt tired and heavy as I set off…having been asleep not that long ago! But it was nice to be out in the cool fresh air and see the sun rising. It was very peaceful. I listened to a podcast which embarrassingly actually made me laugh a lot out-loud as I was running (a review of the new Nun film… “quiet, quiet, NUN” is basically how the film goes apparently).The temperature was perfect for a long run. Started chilly and then I felt fine.The nice thing about these sorts of runs is that because you have a destination to get to it doesn’t feel like too much of a slog. You’re running with a purpose to get somewhere, rather than just a loop.I did have the dreaded Portsdown Hill to go up though, which I knew would be a bit of a grind. It lasted for a delightful two miles but the views at the top were worth it. You can see straight over to Portsmouth (some might say that’s not a great view but ehhh).I did have to take a lot of care though (selfie taking aside…) as there wasn’t a consistent pavement along the road and the cars do come quite quickly down. But thankfully they all gave me a lot of space and didn’t make me throw myself into the ditch.When I got to the top of Portsdown Hill it then became more of a gentle decline which was nice for the legs! As I ran down the other side to Havant I then had to start whipping my phone out for directions. There weren’t too many roads to turn down so it wasn’t a stretch on my ability to follow directions. I passed a little girl riding her bike in full princess regalia and her dad and her both clapped me on as I ran passed which was quite nice.

Then I finally arrived at Staunton Country Park, which is where Havant parkrun is located. As you get closer to a parkrun around Saturday morning more and more runners start appearing, which is always comforting when you’re trying to find your way! Just follow the Lycra.Kyle was already there which was nice. He’d also packed me a water which I fully appreciated! Lots of brownie points 😉
I had about ten minutes to stand and chat before making my way to the start. I really wasn’t looking forward to this. I was feeling quite tired and I knew this parkrun was a tough one. One mini loop, then two big loops with a steep decline and a fair amount of undulation all on rocky trail. Okaaaay.We got going and my legs loosened up again after the standing around and I instantly felt a wave of tiredness. Ahh three miles really wasn’t that long…but then actually, it was in reality to my now very tired legs.

Photo credit: Martyn Garvey

I got to the very steep decline (it even had a sign beforehand warning runners) and tried to just let myself go but it was a tough ask. Bit of crazy pounding on the legs and feet… eesh. Just have to relax into it and not try to brake too much.

The first big loop really was a grind. It was nice seeing Kyle as I finished the first loop but it felt like such a slog to think I had to do that loop again – including the decline. I felt very much on the struggle train in terms of my legs. The ground was quite uneven as well which wasn’t comfortably underfoot. The marshals were lovely though, cheering everyone on and smiling away.

Photo credit: Martyn Garvey

As we ran round the final bit I turned my foot over which gave a sharp pain in my ankle and made me yelp out-loud. I tentatively  continued running and it felt fine after a few steps. I’ve actually done this a few times in races and it’s never amounted to anything. I must have strong ankles. The only part of me not injury-prone clearly!I found my footing and managed to sprint to the finish. Ooooof that was tough. My time was 24:04 and I felt every single second of it!I finished and sat down, glad to finally stop and chill.
It was nice to get another parkrun ticked off, even if it was a challenging one. There aren’t many nearby anymore that I haven’t done… except the Medina one on the Isle of Wight but that’ll take a bit of organising in order to get a ferry across. I foresee a day-trip in the future…

Anyway, after finishing parkrun I quickly put on some jeans and two layers of jackets ready for my journey home… on the back of Kyle’s motorbike!I mean, the epitome of cool right there yes? I’ve actually never properly been on the back of a motorbike so this was quite the adventure. I was a teeeeeny bit scared when we hit the motorway I have to admit. It was such a crazy experience being in the “open” going so fast (well, not silly fast but fast enough!). Kyle’s a safe driver though and I relaxed as the journey carried on.

After showering and getting sorted it was then on for some much needed refuelling. We went to Josie’s in Bishops Waltham. Now I’d heard great things about this place (there’s actually one in Winchester and Petersfield as well). I probably got a little bit too excited (and my grumbling tummy got the better of me as usual) when I ordered a fry-up……And also persuaded Kyle to share some fried chicken maple pancakes with me.The chicken pancakes were in the ‘savoury’ section of the menu but they were far from it! They were very sweet. The chicken was delicious and crunchy and the thick pancakes were fluffy and dense. SO good but very very sweet.The fry-up, of course, was delicious too. A very happy Anna!

Thankfully we went on a lovely long walk afterwards to help digestion. We went along the Meon Valley Trail in Wickham which was really pretty (and a popular running and cycling route).It was a lovely afternoon and definitely needed after all the food! We actually did quite a bit of walking that day as we headed down the beach to walk the dogs as well.Gotta get out while the weather is still nice!

That evening we went out for more food (I know, I know). My parents had invited us to our favourite local pub, The Osborne View, so we headed for dinner there.I had the chicken wings to start (let’s ignore they were a sharing starter)But balanced this with a lovely chicken and feta salad. All in the name of balance, eh?A solid day’s running, walking and eating! I was feeling good for the New Forest 10k the next day. On to that in another post!

Do you prefer savoury or sweet breakfasts?

Do you run to parkrun?

Have you ever ridden on a motorbike?

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?