Chichester parkrun, brunch and long running

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you know different birds?

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

Have you ever been to Chichester?

Birthday celebrations – friends, running and ALL the food

This weekend was a scorcher! I was so pleased the weather was good as I was off to London on Friday afternoon to see my friends to celebrate my birthday (which is today…booo! On a Monday!).

I headed up to London on the train and met my lovely friend, Charlotte, for dinner. We decided to go for a Mexican meal and it fully hit the spot! Charlotte’s just changed from being a veggie to eating meat, and this still blows my mind. She ordered a chicken skewer and chicken tacos, while I ordered chicken wings and chicken fajitas.It was SO good. It fully hit the spot of what I wanted that evening. I even got to finish off Charlotte’s skewer as it was just a bit “too meaty” for her (she’s still adjusting to being non-veggie) and she’s also a normal person who doesn’t eat stupid amounts like I do! And of course, a cheeky frozen margarita was in order.

And what finishes dinner perfectly? Some pudding of course! I was on the hunt for something tasty…and found a lovely little waffle and dessert cafe to satisfy my cravings.From there we headed to some bars for drinks and then met our other friend Laura, who lives in London, and headed to Camden for some dancing. It was such a fun evening. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed and a bit frustrated with a few things so this was EXACTLY what I needed. We got to Laura’s, where we were to be staying overnight, at 2.30am. Pooped!

Now being the running-obsessed person I am, I had my alarm set for 7.30am to head to Wormwood Scrubs to meet our other friend, Kate, for some parkrun tourism. She’d driven down from Bristol and had found Wormwood Scrubs parkrun was the easiest for her to get to and a good spot for her to leave her car without paying a fortune. Also, she spec’ed out the place and found that the local running clubhouse had showers! So she brought me a towel and some shower gel to use, bless her.

When my alarm went off at 7.30am I was a little worse for wear but got myself together to leave by 7.45am and onto the tube. I was a bit of a walking zombie but got there on time and with no issues. Have I finally become a real adult!?Wormwood Scrubs is next to a huge prison (you can see it in the bottom left photo above). I had no idea but it was literally right next to the park. Interesting!Wormwood Scrubs parkrun is all run on grass and is 2.5 laps. It’s a bit uneven underfoot and though it appears flat, does actually have some deceptively sneaky inclines. I was having some serious hay fever issues that morning (damn Stingy Anna for buying Tesco’s own hay fever tablet) so this was giving me problems. Lots of sneezing and my eyes were SO itchy. Being in the middle of a field didn’t help.Nothing huge or could be called a hill, but it does increase the effort level. Considering I was feeling a bit, er, tender and the temperature was already at 23 degrees I made the sensible decision to go easy. Actually, that’s a lie; I couldn’t have gone faster even if I tried!!

I finished drenched in sweat and glad to stop. That was a tough one! I got 23:07 and was happy with that!

Sadly my friend Kate lost her footing a bit and hurt her calf. She had to walk a fair bit of it. But she powered through. Hopefully it’ll heal up quickly – we have another obstacle race soon!Wormwood is a really small parkrun. They regularly get less than 100 people there each week (it was actually a course attendance record on Saturday with 107 people). It was very friendly and felt very welcoming. It was nice to go to such a small one. It gives it a nice community spirit feel.

Thankfully we were able to find and use the showers in the nearby sports area. They were very basic but they did the job! Very grateful for Kate bringing her shower stuff as otherwise we’d have had to have been sweaty all day because we weren’t going back to Laura’s. Instead, after showering, we headed to Covent Garden to meet Laura and Charlotte again. They had had a lie-in (very jealous) and were feeling a bit more refreshed than I did when I woke!

We then headed away from the main Covent Garden area to look for somewhere for brunch. It was now past 11 and we were all hungry. I spotted a nice looking place but it was heaving and had no seats so we headed to a pub across the road. It was empty. I was dubious. But with no other nearby options we decided to go for it. I am SO pleased we did. And, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly peak pub time so you can’t really blame it for not being busy!

I ordered a Full English (of course) and honestly it ranks as one of my top three Full Englishes, EVER.It came with home-made hash browns. Normally I’m not a hash brown fan but home-made? I thought I’d give them a go. And I’m so glad I did!

The whole meal was incredible. Te beans were homemade and had a slightly spicy kick. Everything tasted amazing. I was definitely well refuelled!

We then walked to Green Park (with iced Starbucks, it was SO hot) and relaxed. We passed through Leicester Square and saw them setting up the premier for the new Transformers film. Very cool (though I don’t actually like the films. Urgh Michael Bay).It was such a beautiful day and so nice to catch up and chat with my friends. We weren’t a full group as one of our friends has just recently had a baby (this blows my mind) but it was nice to see the other girls.

Then we headed back to Covent Garden to indulge in a very tasty treat. This was my only request for our time in London, having seen these bad boys on Instagram and heard about how tasty they are. Freakshakes from Maxwell’s. Oh. My. God.A salted caramel milkshake with a salted caramel donut on top. My gawwwwwwd it was So good.I mean, I was covered in stickiness trying to eat this but it was phenomenal. And yes, I finished it! A perfect end to what was a really lovely, lovely birthday celebration. Even without all the amazing food, it was just so nice to have a beautifully sunny weekend chilling (and dancing!) with my friends. I went home very happy (and possibly in a deep sugar coma).

Have you ever had a freakshake?

If you had good weather, how did you enjoy it?

Have you ever seen a film premier?

London fun and Gladstone parkrun

Friday night I headed to the Big Smoke (aka London) once again. This time for pleasure not business and to see two good friends of mine from university.

The train and tube journey were easy peasy (i.e. I didn’t get lost – who even am I??). My friend, Laura, lives in the very cool St. John’s Wood location which was home to that famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road near the Abbey Road Studios (where the Beatles, amongst others, recorded a lot of their albums).

To be honest, I would never have known had my friend, Charlotte, not pointed this out to me. I obviously had to get a photo, though sadly I was walking the wrong way to recreate the iconic Beatles crossing! But with cars waiting, I did the best I could!

That evening we went to a fantastic Lebanese restaurant, called Yalla Yalla (self-described as a “hip West End restaurant”). It felt very hip. In fact, the entire time I was in London (and this is always the case) I feel so uncool. Londoners seem to exude this effortless coolness that I can only admire from a distance.

It was a great pick of a restaurant because Charlotte is veggie and they had such a range of vegetarian and meat-based dishes that everyone was happy. The two others went for three small plates each which looked delicious.

Halloumi, falafels, salad and chicken and feta in filo pastries. Whereas I went for pomegranate and honey roasted chicken wings followed by a mixed grill.

It was all divine. And I even got to help out Charlotte and Laura when their normal-sized stomachs became too full. I’m literally the dustbin of my group of friends.

From there we meandered around Soho, China Town and other very cool parts of London.

It was incredible busy (as you can imagine, it being Friday night) and every pub was spilling out people.

We were hunting for a bar where we could have a nice drink and chat. After walking a fair way I got the rumbles for something sweet… and lo! and behold a crêpe cafe appeared. I mean, what a find! It’s called Scoop and honestly I was in heaven.

My only predicament was whether to have just scoops of gelato in a funky cone, a brownie and gelato, a slice of red velvet or a crêpe (pancakes and waffles were also available but not really my cup of tea).

Not normally a crêpe person I quickly changed my mind having seen someone order one. I went for a white chocolate filled crêpe with a scoop of salted caramel gelato. I could have gone with multiple toppings and more than one scoop, but I decided to reign in the beast within and be sensible seen as how it was 10pm and I did have parkrun in the morning.

Dear God, what have I been missing all these years of believing crêpes weren’t my thing? (I’m not a Nutella fan so this is probably why as you can’t move for Nutella crêpes). The gooey, oozy, sweet and moist (yes, moist) deliciousness sent me to heaven and back. And I cleaned up that bad boy easily.

We then headed to a bar across the road for more normal adult endeavours (me now floating along on a sugar high). It was a lovely evening and made me realise a) how very uncool I am by London standards (who am I kidding, by any standards!) and b) how much more ‘happening’ London is than Southampton. OK I knew this already but it just blew my mind how easy it was and just how much stuff there was to see (and eat). But, still, I would never like to live near or in London…as good as that all is, I’m a hermit by nature and think I’d be overwhelmed (and broke) if it was long-term. Plus I love the friendliness and greenness of the more country-based suburbs.

parkrun the next morning was going to be at Hampstead Heath but after (luckily) checking Twitter on Friday I realised they’d cancelled for some reason. The next best location was Gladstone parkrun which was really easy to get to via the tube.

From the tube station (Dollis Hill) it’s literally about 0.5 miles down one road (Anna-proof!) to get to the park. The park is actually quite big though (and hilly) so I did have to hike around for a fair while to find the start (mainly because I hadn’t actually researched further than “it’s in Gladstone Park”).

Having arrived fairly early (8.20am) and the fact that it was cold and overcast meant me walking around a park for a fair while was actually quite good!

The views were lovely and the park was very peaceful. There was a small pond with ducks and lots of interesting carvings of animals in tree logs about the place. It really was a very good location for a parkrun – besides the hills

When I got to the start area I happily chatted away to the few runners there. It amazes me how in this sort of situation I can easily walk up to people I don’t know and just start talking and be at ease. But in any other scenario? That would terrify me and I’d stand to one side awkwardly. I met some lovely people. I also heard from some people who usually do the Hampstead Heath parkrun that Hampstead Heath is very hilly so I was quite glad not to have gone (that’s where Parliament Hill is sooo…bullet dodged!)

The course was a two lapped course (which, by the way, is now my favourite type of course. Not quite as repetitive as a three lap course and seems to go a lot quicker!). There were some nasty short inclines and some long gradual inclines but also some declines. It was actually a very enjoyable course as it was so varied.

How’s that for a negative split?? I got a new lease of life half-way through and felt far more at ease. The temperature was perfect (very chilly to start!) and I really got into it by the end. I really should do more of a warm-up…starting straight from nothing is not a great idea *sighs*. One day.

I asked the event director to take a photo of me and he was more than happy to. He then turned it to selfie mode and said “but of course you also need one with the event director in it!”

He was so friendly and funny – really made me feel welcome and he demanded I come back at some point: “you don’t get a PB unless you come back!”.

I got back to Laura’s flat, showered and we headed off for brunch (Charlotte had gone home last night). It actually worked out really well me going to parkrun as Laura likes a lie-in whereas I’m not great with sleeping in too late! She took me to the Maida Vale area which was also very cool (and where they did all the BBC music stuff!). We went to The Elgin which was the epitome of hipster.

Anywhere that uses a teapot to hold cutlery is far too cool I had Bavette steak and eggs for my brunch and it was DELICIOUS.

And then it was time for home! I had a fantastic time in London (guided carefully around by friends to make sure I didn’t wander off and get lost). And ticked off number 19 on my parkrun tourism list!

How many laps do you prefer for parkrun?

What would you choose: Crêpes, waffles, pancakes, cake or just gelato?

Do you like visiting London much?