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?

New York, New York

New York, where do I even start? I’ll be doing the marathon recap soon, but for now I’ll just recap the days before, because they were pretty cool too.

So this trip was organised by the lovely Charlie (aka @TheRunnerBeans of blog and Insta fame). I’d briefly met her before and she seemed lovely but I’d not met the other girls who were going to be on the trip too. We’d “met” through social media and chatted via there but I hadn’t actually met them. We created a WhatsApp group and chatted there a bit more, but there was still a little bit of nervousness… would they like me? Would I get on with them? Was I cool enough? I needn’t have worried about whether the girls would be nice or not – Charlie, Anna, Elaine, Cortney, Steph and Emma were all just so lovely.On Friday morning my lovely dad drove me to the airport where I met with Emma, the only one who was one the same flight as me. I was SO pleased to have someone on the same flight who also needed to get to the same place on the other side as me because, let’s be honest, I’m a complete numpty and would probably get very lost on my own. Especially as I was trying to save some money and not just get a taxi from the airport to the AirBnb. And Emma was the nicest person – I’m so glad we met! 😀The flight was long (ehhh 8 hours) but we managed to zip so quickly through security in JFK and grab our bags super fast. This is almost unheard of for flights into the States – it usually takes forever! We then rushed to get the right train to the subway so we could get to the marathon expo that evening before it shut. We were very much pushing it as it was now 6pm and the last entry into the expo was 7pm! By the time we got to Penn Station we literally had to run (with our suitcases!) down the streets (in the rain!) to get there. It was epic – the only way to describe it. We got to the expo minutes before 7pm, saw Charlie who was meeting us there and dropped our suitcases with her while we raced in.We picked up our bibs and then picked up our finisher’s t-shirt (women sizes hurrah!). We could do the expo on Saturday (the next day) but we really wanted to make sure we got our bibs and that bit sorted in case any plans changed the next day or it was a faff to get back to.The expo was very quiet though so it was super fast to do everything we needed. We wandered round the merch area and I bought myself a vest. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the selection. I’m not a huge New Balance fan and the stuff wasn’t really my sort of thing. I’m really pleased with the vest but nothing else appealed. The expo itself was pretty cool though in this giant glass building.There were lots of stalls but we decided to head back out to Charlie as she was waiting and we were going to head to dinner with the other girls. It was very late to us at this point (New York was four hours apart at this point – the daylight savings would happen Sunday morning) but we were running on adrenaline and excitement. We met the other girls at 5 Napkin Burger, which was very cool indeed.I ordered chicken wings (had to be done!) and sweet potato fries and enjoyed finally chatting to the other girls, who had arrived at different times. The chicken wings were delicious of course.And then we headed to the Airbnb and could finally CHILL. It had been a very long day! The Airbnb was INCREDIBLE. It was a proper townhouse affair, with three stories and four bedrooms. It was really quite big. The downstairs was an open plan living room, dining room and kitchen, so it felt very social.

Charlie had given us all a little goodie bag of treats as well, which was just so lovely. We had a t-shirt with New York and the skyline stitched onto it, a hairband with New York Marathon 2018 written on it, a Nuun water bottle and some Nuun, some peanut butter M&M’s and some trail mix (something we don’t really get in the UK).It was a lovely welcome! Then we headed to bed and I fell asleep very quickly! Though we’d planned to have a lovely lie-in in the morning, jet lag had other ideas and most of us woke up very early. We had a quick little walk to the very local Dunkin Donuts and got a coffee and some of the mini bite-size doughnuts (I want to say munchkins?). Then we all got ready for a shake-out run that would take us to brunch.Anna, Charlie’s friend, is an amazing photographer and does lots of Charlie’s photos for her and was planning on taking photos for us during our trip. It was really quite cool. We’d get some get photos of us running in New York that weren’t blurred or just selfies, it was fantastic!I did feel a little self-conscious, but Anna was great and how could the photos not be good with the scenery being as beautiful as it was with the autumnal colours!We ran to Central Park which was, as you can imagine, just so beautiful and so packed full of other runners! If you weren’t a runner you’d really want to be after being surrounded by so many of them!In the end I ran about 5.5 miles, which was more than I probably would have done on my own and the day before a marathon but it was a gentle pace and my legs enjoyed the stretching out after all the travel. And then we arrived at brunch at P.J Clarke’s. Charlie had previously sent out an invite to any runners who wanted to join and I think there were about 30 of us in total! It was mental. But everyone was so nice and super excited about the marathon the next day.

I love in the above photo how I’m not even caring about the photo, I’m more interested in the menu

For brunch I had toast, ham, poached eggs, tomato and Emma’s unwanted sausages (always surround yourself with people who are willing to share of give up their food ;-)).Charlie and Zoe (@MilesFitter) had done a fantastic job of arranging the brunch and we even got hats to commemorate the occasion.Emma, Elaine and I headed off after brunch to go and do some sight-seeing and to go back to the Expo for another longer mosey about. We didn’t go back to get changed first as we couldn’t be bothered and it wasn’t that cold – well, in the sun it was lovely! So first stop was Levain Bakery for some of the best cookies in New York (or so we had been told…).They sold lots of cakes but the cookie flavours were choc chip and walnut, peanut butter, double choc chip and oat and rasin. Well I was in a quandary of what to order as I wasn’t sure about the addition of walnuts into a cookie… and none of the others really took my fancy. I asked the guy behind the counter and he fully recommended the choc chip and walnut as that’s what they’re famous for apparently. I decided to also order the oat and raisin because that’s always a good one, if a little boring sometimes.I ate the choc chip one then and there – WARM. Oh my god I actually cannot explain just how fantastic this cookie was. It was so melty and gooey in the middle with a firm and crispy outer shell. So soft, so warm, so tasty. It was huge, but that’s the only way I like baked goods so that worked out nicely 😉 It took all the power in the world not to run back to the counter and order 15 more. I decided to save my oat and raisin for later…the will power I showed honestly astounds me.

We had a quick little mosey around Trader Joe’s (bought myself some of their incredible Everything But the Bagel seasoning). I do love looking round foreign super markets! And then we headed off to Time Square.I mean, obviously we just had to be a little touristy and because I’d suddenly, in the last few months, become quite the M&M fan and they have the huge M&M World there. Strangely I’m not a fan of the original M&M’s but the peanut ones, the crispy ones, the caramel ones… basically all the non-original ones I love. And it’s something a bit weird and special between Kyle and me so I thought I’d treat us to some to share (I must share, I must share, I must share…).Well, I got so excited in the M&M pick ‘n’ mix bit (OMG ALL THE FLAVOURS!!) I ended up spending $26.10! Though I have to say, I was only disappointed that it hadn’t come to $26.20… Needless to say I had quite a bag of M&M’s to take away with me (let’s pretend I didn’t go to Target later and buy some Halloween themed M&M’s as well…). ANYWAY.Then we headed to the Expo again where we could spend a bit more time looking around the different stalls (all the tasters… mmmm). I got a cool waterproof cover for my phone at the Strava stand and bought myself a GU gel. I love the GU gels – so thick and tasty. The flavours are incredible. My favourites are the maple bacon (yes yes I know, weird) and the salted caramel. Literally heavenly. This time I went for the birthday cake flavour (we just don’t have birthday cake flavours in the UK so it had to be done!). I was really intrigued to see that you could buy big containers full of GU as well that you could partition into re-usable plastic pouches. What a great idea! Though it did sound a little messy to me..I checked out the AMAZING Six Star Medal as well. Oh I can’t wait to get mine next year (if all goes well!) after Chicago. It’s just so exciting to me. I then added my words of wisdom to the wall of post-it notes (Steve Way’s classic “Don’t be shit”).Then we headed back to finally shower and think about dinner. We all decided to just chill and get dinner in rather than venture out again. I tried to use UberEats but failed so found myself a nearby Mexican and decided to go for that (God I love Mexican food) while everyone else either got something taken away from a local pizza place (Patsy’s Pizzeria) or were making their own dinner (the luxury of an AirBnb!).I enjoyed a salad topped with chicken, pork, avocado, sour cream, rice, tortilla chips and guacamole. It was delicious! I followed that with the oat and raisin cookie (which I microwaved to get warm again). Omg so good. Not quite as good as the one I’d had earlier but still delicious.I actually wasn’t feeling that nervous about the marathon the next day which was WEIRD. I was excited and looking forward to it. I really had no plans how I’d run. If I wanted to go fast, I would, If I wanted to plod along and enjoy everything, I would. It felt very eerie being as calm as I was. But it felt good. At the end of the day, I’d done this before (15 times!) and all I could do was my best. Whatever that might be.I hadn’t had a niggle in ages, I felt in good shape, I’d had a solid amount of decent food and I’d be running round somewhere new, beautiful and amazing. I’d say I was pretty nicely set-up to have a good run.

Have you ever been to New York?

Are you an M&M fan? What’s your favourite flavour?

Do you prefer an AirBnb or a hotel?

Upton House parkrun and so much food

This weekend I managed to tick yet another parkrun letter off my parkrun Alphabet Challenge. I went to Upton House parkrun to get my U. It’s down in Poole, which is just over hour away from me. I few of us from my club decided to make a pilgrimage down there for some parkrun tourism and a spot of brunch.

On Saturday morning I got up at 6.20am to walk Alfie (a good test of seeing what the weather is like and how my leg felt). It was beautiful outside. Cold, but clear and still. Perfect running conditions. It was getting light as well which just makes me so happy. Spring is definitely on its way! Then I got myself together and drove to my friend’s Mike house so he could then drive the rest of the way.More chance of us actually arriving at the correct place that way, let’s be honest.
We did actually arrive a little too early at 8.15am. The others who we were meeting had arrived too so we sat, car side by side, in the car park (which is huge FYI and only a £1) keeping warm.Upton House parkrun is located in the Upton Country Park, a National Trust spot.It was such a lovely location and the sun was shining which made things very pleasant. There were toilets there as well so that was handy for a pre-parkrun wee.After the briefing, we headed to the start which was really narrow. Mike, Jim and I decided to move a bit closer to the front as it was so packed (not with the numbers of runners really, as there were only just under 300 people) but because the path was fairly narrow.We still had to wend our way around people when we started but after a few hundred metres it spaced out and we had enough room to pick up the pace a bit. Happily my leg felt fine and I just felt so happy to be running again.The course is one big loop, one smaller loop and then the first big loop again. I love this style of parkrun because it means you don’t get bored and having the break between the same two loops means it’s not as repetitive. It’s run on trails – a compacted stony trail which is great to run on.The route is very pretty and scenic. It starts within a woodland area then stretches out onto some grassland area where you run past some cows (within an enclosure) and then past a beautiful lake.It was lovely, really lovely. It’s mostly flat but there were a couple of undulations but really nothing crazy. In fact the start is very much downhill so you can gain some good speed.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

Mike, Jim and I kept together as we ran and kept up the odd bit of conversation but I could feel that I’ve lost a lot of fitness. But to be honest, I don’t care because running without issue is my main goal right now. I could feel my hamstring crop up a little but I didn’t mind that as I’d rather it be my hamstring than calf as I know how to help my hamstring, whereas my calf has been a bit of a puzzle.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

I slightly pulled ahead of the two fellas and stretched my legs a bit, everything still feeling reasonable. But as we hit the final hill to then head to the finish Jim stormed past me. Apparently he’d realised I wasn’t as strong on the hills and decided to use it to his advantage at the end. Crafty but fair play! I couldn’t have caught him if I’d have wanted to.

Photo Credit: Isabelle Somers

In the end I finished with 23:13 feeling very happy. All my bits and pieces felt fine and I’d gotten my U! The others all said the same thing: Upton House parkrun is a beautiful and friendly course. I really wish it was closer as honestly I’d do this one all the time if I could. I loved it. OK perhaps the good weather helped but it just seemed like such a great set-up with how the loops worked. I signed the guest book (another nice touch at a parkrun) and chatted to some of the local runners. I mentioned about the parkrun Alphabet Challenge and they were quite bemused. Clearly not a very well known thing perhaps!Then we headed to the tearoom literally a stone throw’s away and had a nice cup of coffee and a natter.Sadly the tea room didn’t do anything more elaborate than toast or cake for breakfast so Mike and me decided to hunt out something more substantial on the way back home. Brunch was definitely in order!

 

We found a Haskins Garden Centre not too far down the road with a fantastic restaurant serving a good selection of hot and cold breakfast material. We went for the “8 piece” breakfast (you could pick the items you wanted).I loved that they had black pudding (a weakness of mine) but the scrambled egg was rather rubbery and tasteless. But otherwise it was a very yummy and sustaining breakfast.A very lovely morning indeed. I spent the rest of the day doing some deep cleaning in the house. I was just in one of those moods where I needed to busy myself and expel a load of energy. I do quite enjoy cleaning so it was nice to just put some music on and do some cleaning that doesn’t get done that often (like cupboards and hard to reach places…with dogs it’s hard to keep everything pristine!)

That evening my parents and I went to the Chilworth Arms for dinner to celebrate my dad’s birthday which had been on the Wednesday. I always feel sorry for my dad because sharing his birthday with Valentine’s Day always makes going out for a nice meal a bit tricky as everyone else seems to be doing that too and you usually get some generic set menus themed around it, which I always find a bit lame. And plus, because my parents are so disgustingly in love, my dad likes to treat my mum so really he doesn’t get the sole attention he deserves.
I hadn’t eaten since the earlier brunch (though it had been a large brunch of course) I was now really ready for food. Though my parents are still on the Slimming World wagon they decided to just enjoy a nice meal out without worrying too much about Syns and things like that. So we ordered a baked Camembert and a “grazing” sharing platter, which had lots of different meaty bits and pieces like chicken, lamb koftas, chorizo and pulled pork croquettes.

It was all so tasty. And happily the grazing platter had more than two of most things (food anxiety of sharing swerved…ha). I probably ate about 3/4 of the Camembert though. My stomach knows no bounds clearly as I was then very much ready for the main. Although I was initially tempted by the spit-roasted chicken I decided to step out of my standard food choice box and order something different. I went for the pan-friend venison and it was delicious. The gravy (jus? sauce?) was SO good.

A nice change! I should do this more often… Though saying that, I chose a different pudding than I’d have normally gone for too. Instead of being tempted by the brownie (always a safe tho delicious choice for me) I decided on having the apple and berry crumble (with ice cream not custard tho). It was fantastic!

My dad went for something a bit more extravagant with the chocolate orange bomb. Even though this sounded delicious, I really can’t stand chocolate orange together. It came out and the waitress poured molten chocolate sauce over the chocolate sphere thing. It eventually collapsed and melted. It was rather impressive. It left a few big chocolate chunks in a bowl of what looked like chocolate soup. My dad loved it for all of about three spoonful until it started to get sickly and too much. I was so impressed with him. In another life it seems this was the man who was able to eat entire packets of chocolate biscuits. He said he didn’t want to carry on eating it in fear that it would put him off chocolate forever ha.

The next morning I was supposed to run a few miles with Mike. We had both said we’d confirm for definite before 9am if we both fancied it as he had a slightly niggling hamstring and I wasn’t sure how everything for me would feel post-parkrun. Sadly Mike bailed as his hamstring wasn’t good. I’d slept badly that night – you know when you wake up mid-sleep and stare at the ceiling for an hour? Yeah that’s fun. So I was quite glad to roll back over and have a more lazy morning, rather than being on a timescale to get somewhere to meet someone.

In the end I headed out around 9.30am. I didn’t know how far I’d go as I didn’t want to stress my leg out. In the end I decided around 4 miles was good. My hamstring didn’t feel amazing, but it didn’t get worse. My calf felt fine. I’m happy with that outcome because I know how to help my hamstring whereas for my calf I’m literally in the dark. The hamstring is something I’ve had to deal with for a while and know what stretches and exercises to do and trigger points to work on. I just need to not aggravate it too much to mean I need to take a lot of time off to let it calm down, if that makes sense. Trying to keep it manageable for the moment.I went to the gym afterwards to do a bit of what I call “topping up” cardio as I want to maintain a level of fitness for any long runs. It also helps my sanity a bit – it’s standard ‘Anna Behaviour’ to over-worry about things like upcoming marathons, so doing this sort of thing calms those inner demons. Especially when I compare myself to other people doing the same marathon or marathons around the same time. Plus as I only let myself watch Peaky Blinders on the cross-trainer at the gym (to keep me from despising that machine and have positive connotations towards it) it was a fun 50 minutes.

So other than some more cleaning/sorting and usual jobs I needed to do, my Sunday was pretty chilled and relaxing.

Do you have any standard food orders you make at a restaurant?

Have you ever done a parkrun that you wish was closer to where you live?

Do you watch anything when you use a cardio machine at the gym?

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?

Southwark parkrun – my fastest parkrun in AGES

On Saturday I got up at the ridiculous time of 5.55am to get the 6.39am train to Waterloo. Normally I tend to get up earlier in the week if I go to the gym (*cough* an hour earlier than this) but at the weekend getting up super early just feels SO much worse. I do like my sleep!

But anyway I was off for a fun day in London so once the initial “oh my God it’s so early” feeling had passed and I was up and ready to go, coffee in hand, I was fine. I was going to meet up with my friend James (a fellow Marathon Talk lover whom I’d met at the Skidrow Marathon film showing in London a few months ago).I’d downloaded Hunt for the Wilderpeople on my iPad and once I was set up on the train I just eased into a nice relaxing journey (after loving Thor so much I was keen to see other films by Taika Waititi – by the way, Hunt for the Wilderpeople was BRILLIANT).

I got to Waterloo and met with James (he’d come from Birmingham) and we headed to the tube to get to Southwark parkrun. My train had arrived at 8.25am so we were needing to be fairly speedy about getting there, bu the tube journey wasn’t supposed to take long at all thankfully. Though we would have been fine had we not have randomly gotten out at the Southwark station and then realised we were still three miles from Southwark park. Oops. So we had to quickly dash back down to the tube and then get off at the RIGHT stop (Canada Wharf). I’m so glad I’m not the only person who does these sort of silly things – or maybe it’s my presence that causes it?We arrived at the park with literally less than 10 minutes to spare. We both lamented the fact that we needed a wee but just had no time. We found an ideal tree to dump our bags (I tried not to worry that I had my iPad in there and we were in London…but it was amongst loads of other bags so I just hoped for the best!)James and I had talked tactics beforehand, discussing what kind of times we were aiming for. He’s super fast (we’re talking a sub 19 minute 5k’er) so was aiming for sub-19. I was thinking I wanted to see how fast I could do after some really consistent running and speedwork lately. I haven’t done a flat parkrun in ages and I knew Southwark was supposed to be a good one. I said to James I hoped for a 21:30 as I was recently doing 21:40ish for fairly flat parkruns. He told me I couldn’t have brunch if my time had 22 at the start. He was joking 😉 but I knew I’d be disappointed if I wasn’t close to 21 minutes… maybe sub 21:20.Very soon after we’d arrived we were lining up and off we went. The course at Southwark is lovely. It’s all on concrete (which I don’t mind at all – no tricky areas underfoot) and it is indeed very flat. It goes around a lovely pond and it’s beautiful with lots of trees and foliage. It’s three laps, which I was slightly disheartened by as I find them mentally tough, but actually it was quite nice. Though it was somewhat amusing to see a guy in front of me try and finish on his second lap and the marshals explaining to him that he had another to go. Maybe he regretted his sprint (fake) finish…

What’s also nice about the course is that you can see other parts of the course while you’re running so James and I could shout over to each other at different parts as we ran. I saw my Garmin was hovering around 6.45min/miles and I decided to cling on to that for as long as I could. I didn’t feel terrible and I wasn’t dying so I felt like I could maintain that speed (at least for 5k anyway!). My only main worry was the fact I still needed a pee…it was dangerous territory to push the pace any more! I’m not sure I could have gone much faster though.I felt very much in control of the run though which was amazing. I remember thinking, “this is the best feeling in the world; to be running the fastest I’ve run in AGES and feeling everything working as it should and feeling strong”. I might have cursed myself with such thinking, who knows.I sprinted to the end, stopped my watch and promptly bent over next to a tree thinking “this is the WORST feeling in the world”. That horrible sprinting, lactic acid, everything hurts kind of fast running induced feeling. But it disappears quickly and I glanced at my Garmin.
IT STARTED WITH A 20. WHAT! And not just sub-21 minutes… actually well into the 20s. SUB 20:30! I was OVER THE MOON. 20:27, third female and 40th overall. I will damn straight take that!I saw James who’d finished already of course (thanks, James, for the pics!) and he told me he’d PB’ed! 18:47 – amazing time!! So fast. So we were both very pleased.
Randomly a lovely chap came over to us and gave us a leaflet about a running event and then offered us some banana bread. I will take any cake that is offered to me, regardless of who it is. You might be a full-on stranger, but I will take your free cake, thank you very much.Sadly it was a little dry though! But hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Especially when your friend also brought cake 😉Very tasty white chocolate chip brownies! Well, you absolutely can’t beat a bit of homemade cake after a very successful parkrun. My smile couldn’t have been wider.

After collecting ourselves and putting some clothes back on (hilariously James threw on a “I hate running” t-shirt) we headed towards the river to eventually get to some brunch. The walk was lovely to stretch our legs after a speedy run and we took some photos and chatted away.The views were beautiful. It really was a fantastic walk. It was chilly but I was OK in my shirt, jacket and coat while my legs were fine weirdly enough.James did laugh a little at just how many photos I take… I know I’m ridiculous sometimes but I just love having the photos to keep as memories later on (and of course for my blog). Now that I have so much memory on my phone (I used to have 16GB, I now have 128GB) I can keep them on my phone without having to delete any. I like to look back at them 🙂 We also found Paddington!Ahh how cool is that! I want to see Paddington 2 at some point as I so much enjoyed the first one.

Finally we got to The Breakfast Club, where we were going to get some brunch, but I was so dismayed to see such a giant line outside it!James made the executive decision that we’d wait – and I was grateful he did that because I have no patience and would have just wandered off elsewhere to somewhere not as good. I mean, all it meant was standing and chatting for a bit which, considering we’d met up to catch-up, seemed like a fairly decent way to spend some time! It wasn’t raining and it wasn’t too cold. And the nice hostess from the restaurant brought out hot chocolates for everyone in the queue!
I mean, how good is that? They even had marshmallows in them. Delicious. Around 40 minutes passed very quickly and we were inside picking from some delicious options. I decided to forgo my usual fry-up and decided instead for Beer Cheese Benedict (with a side of bacon). It was INCREDIBLE. To save on calories I went for roasted butternut squash instead of the breakfast muffin though (ha I’m fully joking here, I genuinely liked the sound of the butternut squash better). James got the chorizo burrito (I had a little bit of food envy it must be said). We also ordered a serving of banoffee pancakes to share (without the banana as we’re both not big banana fans). Basically big fluffy pancakes with salted caramel and chocolate sauce with vanilla cream.My god it was good. The Benedict was rather rich but it was fantastic. We we were both full to the brim by the end. So obviously the next thing to do in that sort of situation is to head to the Borough Market and walk round food stalls… There was so much good food on offer… stalls selling fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, SO much cheese, mushrooms, condiments, Prosecco, bread. But I couldn’t see any sweet stalls or cakes. We hunted around for ages until we eventually asked one of the cheese stall guys (I reasoned that he wouldn’t be offended as it wasn’t like we were asking about other cheese stalls). He pointed us in the right direction. The cake stalls were indeed very good but there still weren’t that many which I was surprised about (though there were a few tasters!). We both really fancied buying some cake but nothing looked that good (and at £3 a doughnut, quite expensive!).

I’d previously done a bit of research before this trip to find decent food spots (one of my favourite things to do before a trip) and I remembered seeing a bakery that looked amazing called Konditor & Cook. The cakes looked AMAZING and were reasonably priced. There were also samples so I was very happy.I went for a Fudgepacker brownie (as named because 20p goes towards a gay right’s charity), which was salted caramel…omgawwd and a slice of the red velvet cake. I could have bought so much more though.I was so stuffed though that I packaged them away into my bag to go promptly into the freezer at home for another time. I CANNOT WAIT. And then James and me headed back to Waterloo to say our goodbyes. Such a fantastic day. I mean, good company, parkrun, brunch and cake. Can you really do better?

I was adequately fuelled for the next day’s 17 miles (which would include the infamous Gosport Half Marathon, which I’ve entered four times and never run).

Would you wait in a queue for a restaurant?

What London parkruns have you done?

Do you lie-in at the weekend?