Tooting Common parkrun and the Harry Potter escape room

On Saturday I headed to the Tooting Common parkrun in London. This meant another early morning catching the 6.39am train.

Luckily it wasn’t ridiculously cold, but it was still fairly chilly. I was in my running gear plus a jumper (which I’d wear later after the run) and a big winter jacket with a fresh travel mug of coffee to take with me. I was going to meet my friends at 11 after parkrun for some escape room fun (more on that later) so I had a big bag with me as well full of a spare set of clothes, baby wipes, deodorant etc. The best you can do when you don’t have a shower!

On the train I chilled with my iPad watching Mudbound (really good film!) and my coffee. But in the back of my mind I was feeling a little stressed. The thing is, the parkrun I’d chosen wasn’t exactly the quickest one to get to. It was about 20 or so minutes on the tube and then a mile from the tube station. And as my train didn’t get in until 8.23am I was cutting it fine. Not only this but the tube I absolutely needed to get in order to get there in time was the 8.28 one. GAH.Ā I could have made life so much easier on myself by choosing a parkrun that was a little closer to Waterloo, but I wanted to get another letter done for my alphabet parkrun challenge. There are no easy ‘T’s around where I live so this was perfect (I say “perfect” loosely here).

As the train pulled into the station I was like a runner at the start of an Olympic race, I was ready to go go go. As soon as the doors opened I leapt out and stormed it down to the barrier and then out down to the tube. My big bag didn’t help but I had to just move quickly. I thankfully got on the right tube and then was just left catching my breath and standing around for the next sprint. It’s amazing how stressed you can get just standing around waiting and not being able to do anything. The train arrived at almost 10 to and I raced out. I had a map screenshotted on my phone and had memorised the roads I needed to know. I saw another runner running from the tube so assumed I was in good company as they headed in the same direction as me. Though it was slightly awkward as I was running just behind them like some stalker girl.I remember running past a really nice coffee/cake shop and thinking “ooh” and then “FOCUS ANNA”. I got to the Tooting Bec Commons where the parkrun would take place and saw a number of runners. I asked one girl who was running if she was heading to parkrun and she said no. This stumped me a little as I just assume anyone running near to a parkrun would do it! Luckily though I could see a crowd of people in the distance and the welcoming signs of high-vis.I arrived with a few minutes to spare, so quickly stripped off my jacket and jumper and dumped my bag on a big canvas sheet that had been laid out especially for this purpose. I’d done a little bit of research beforehand and knew the course was flat and three laps, but also that it was narrow at points so if you wanted a speedy run you needed to be near the front. This always makes me nervous as “speedy” is so subjective. But I DID want a good time (for me) so tried to position myself in a spot that was behind the clearly very speedy types (you can always recognise them) and in front of the more casual runners. It’s a hard judgement and I was sure I’d probably get overtaken but there we go, you just have to guess!

I got my music sorted (always a requirement for a fast run for me) and then we were off. Tooting Common parkrun is run mostly on tarmac and basically in a triangle. The first bit you run down a path to get onto the “triangle” that you do three laps of. This starts as a long tarmac path, which is great for getting the speed up and finding your place in the crowd. Then you make a fairly sharp turn onto a more mud/compacted trail path. This felt *very* slightly uphill but I might be imagining it. Then you turn left again and run down a nice flat straight of tarmac. The first lap felt quite comfortable (comfortably tough I hasten to add). The second lap begun and I felt the effort of maintaining the speed (around 6.40min/miles) start to become tough. I remember starting to notice more of the course on this lap as the first lap was a complete blur. Like, oh look there’s a nice pond, a children’s play area and nice trees. The marshals, as always, were really energetic and friendly in their support. I tried to thank them all verbally or give a thumbs up as I passed – even if you’re going for a time, they deserve it because they’re standing in the cold! I also feel like they gave me a lot of cheers and support as they could see my gurning face and pain train grimace.

The third lap I managed to overtake a girl who’d been in front of me for a while but had to stop and stretch her calf, then I was on the heels of a guy who was running the same pace. He started looking behind him and then guiding me through other people and giving me the odd encouraging comment. I could barley respond. As the songs changed to the next one on my iPhone I could hear my gasping breath. Not a fun noise it must be said. I managed to drop the last lap to 6.30min/mile and was literally counting down the 0.1s to the end. I saw a girl just ahead of me ask which way to go as we finished out last lap of the triangle and saw we turned off to the right to head to the funnel. I was glad she asked as I hadn’t a clue! As I saw the funnel ahead and made my final sprint I genuinely thought I was about to hurl. That horrible, horrible feeling of almost being sick because you’re trying so hard is awful and one of the main reasons I hate short distance running. You don’t get that in a marathon (or at least the way I run a marathon!). I crossed the finishing funnel in 20:17 (but actually 20:18 officially and second female) with the contents of my stomach still thankfully inside.It took me about five solid minutes to get myself together though. I was absolutely rinsed. I was OVER THE MOON though. My third fastest parkrun (20:06 being my PB and 20:17 from Chelmsford parkrun so many years ago). I couldn’t have given anymore. But it does give me encouragement that a sub-20 minute parkrun might be achievable before the end of the year. As long as I remain uninjured and healthy!I caught my breath and then found my stuff and put my jacket back on as I started getting cold again. As I cheerfully walked back to the tube I noticed that cake shop again (called Crepes and Cakes by Nazish Omar – very nice indeed). Well, it would be rude not to! So I popped in and bought myself a very nice looking slice of rainbow cake. A little “well done me” present. I didn’t eat it then though as I wasn’t quite ready for solids yet šŸ˜‰ (Actually I haven’t eaten it yet at all because of later foods. It’s safe in my freezer though for a day in need. My parkrun rainbow cake).From there I headed to Liverpool Street on the tube (smiling like a Cheshire cat, looking a bit of a loon in my short shorts it must be said). I had a bit of time before I met my friends so I scoped around for a coffee shop where I could grab a warm drink and a loo to change in. After walking around for ages – so many places closed! – I finally found somewhere that looked ideal. I was cold and really hungry by this point and saw they did fresh porridge, I was sold! Unfortunately after I ordered a coffee and the porridge I found they didn’t have a toilet. Great. Oh well.Anyway I ate the lovely steaming porridge before meeting with the first friend who’d arrived. We found a Costa and I managed to get changed there.Ā Suitably attired for our Harry Potter themed escape room šŸ˜‰ (Terrible loo selfie there, apologies).

With two more of my friends we got to the Enigma Escape Rooms for what has to be described as the most awesome escape room we’ve done yet (this was our fourth). If you like Harry Potter and like this sort of clue-based puzzle room thing it is definitely for you! It was SO much fun. You’re not actually locked in in this one, it’s more about passing the different classes (e.g. Potions, History of Magic, etc.). God it was awesome. We had put ourselves into the different houses and were wearing our corresponding t-shirts (I’m in Griffindor).We also managed to do the escape room without any clues (these rooms can actually be quite tough and in the previous ones we’ve done we’ve had to ask for help) and finished with 11 minutes to spare. We got a special little wristband thing because we didn’t need any clues and an “Outstanding” level of achievement in our overall OWL (right, I know I sound like a loser right now but I DON’T CARE).After this we headed to the Strut and Cluck where we met the final friend for a lovely lunch. I had a pulled turkey shawarma which was just delicious. It was a little small in my usual portion sizes so I ordered some bread and pita to go with it. But for normal appetites it would be fine.
Obviously an occasion like this will always require pudding so we headed to Shoreditch, not too far away, where the Boxpark is. Apparently this is the world’s first ever pop-up mall. It was very quirky. In fact, it was full of people so hipster it made my teeth hurt. Like you know if you ever walk into Topshop and you see a lot of the clothing and think “who on earth would wear this?”, well pretty much everyone in Shoreditch. It was quite a fun place to look around. It was full of quirky vegan eateries, street-food and, yes, lots of dessert spots. We first went into the Dum Dum Donutterie.After seeing so many cool artisan doughnuts on Instagram and always being so sad they’re always in London I was chuffed to finally see some amazing looking donuts. It was tough to choose but I went for the salted caramel one – I mean, technically it was a “cronut”. It was very dense.
Then, as not everyone wanted a doughnut, we headed to Nosteagia, which is a Hong Kong themed dessert bar (not sure if this is the right term but whatever) which made “bubble waffles”. Basically waffles full of deliciousness. One friend went for a Nutella one and another friend went for a peanut butter themed one, whereas I went for a honeycomb one.Yes, I know. I just couldn’t decide between the doughnut and this. In my head I was sure I’d eat half of each. Hummm.I started with the waffle which was delicious. The waffle itself wasn’t that sweet, but the ice cream, cream, popcorn and salted caramel sauce made it the ultimate pudding. After having about half I decided to try the doughnut. I’m actually not a huge doughnut fan (I really don’t like the jam-filled ones that are predominately popular in the UK) but this was no simple doughnut. It was dense and delicious, a bit like a very dense cake. SO good. (Un)fortunately though, both puddings were far too good to not eat the entirety of. I’m just far too greedy for my own good and finished them both. I’m not even mad. Life is too short to not eat the good stuff. Memories not calories šŸ˜‰

And then I headed home. It was a lovely, lovely Saturday full of my favourite things šŸ™‚

What did you get up to at the weekend?

Do you like Harry Potter? Which house would you put yourself in?

What pudding would you have gone for?

Southwark parkrun – my fastest parkrun in AGES

On Saturday I got up at the ridiculousĀ 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 šŸ˜‰ 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 šŸ˜‰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 šŸ™‚ 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…Ā 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 Ā£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?

What I’m loving lately – October

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while… all the things I’m currently loving lately.

Harry Potter clothing:Ā During my meanderings around the delights of Amazingstoke’s Festival Place last weekend I popped into Primark. In general I don’t do much shopping in physical life. As in, non-online shopping. But occasionally I’ll pop into H&M as there’s one local to me. We don’t have a very accessible Primark nearby (it’s in the centre of Southampton and I don’t generally go there that often because theĀ Internet and Whiteley, a little but fantastic shopping village nearby, save me from such efforts).

Anyway, I’ve digressed. So I went into Primark to hunt down a really nice sports bra someone at work wore when running (she wore it as her running top outside, IĀ didn’t spy on her getting changed or anything weird). I didn’t find the sports bra but I DID find a Harry Potter jumper. And, weirdly, Harry Potter underwear.I bought the jumper but not the pants (and forgot to take a photo of said jumper…). The jumper will go nicely with my Harry PotterĀ t-shirt ready for my friends and my Harry Potter-themed escape room at the beginning of December. There are four of us and we’ve each got a house that fits our personality. I’m Gryffindor šŸ˜€New boots:Ā And as a nice segue… a few weeks ago when I was in Chichester my friends and IĀ popped into a charity shop because the Harry Potter-themed window lured us in. Most of the window items had been sold (including an amazing looking Harry Potter chess set!). However I then spotted a very cool pair of boots in almost perfect condition. For Ā£8.50!
OK I rarely wear heels but I’m sure I can push the boat out one day… After all, I no longer have a standing desk at work (I mourn for it daily, believe me. It just means I have to get up and move about more frequently. But it does mean I can relax a bit more at work) so really I could wear heels.

Gin: And another great segue(!),Ā my lovely friend Charlotte and her husband, Paddy, gave me a prototype Christmas present when we were in Chichester. A sort of “make-you-own hipster gin” ingredients set.How cool is this? So each little jar contains different ingredients, like dried lemon peel, cinnamon, juniper berries etc. that you can add to a gin and tonic to spruce it up. Gin has become rather “in vogue” (though to be fair to Paddy and Charlotte, they were loving it waaaay before it became cool) and my dear mother has appointed herself some sort of gin connoisseur recently. She’s bought about five different kinds of gins! So when I showed her this little set she was VERY excited. That evening we made up a few glasses of lemon and juniper berry flavoured gin. Ooh er!So fancy! It tasted very nice. I’m not a big drinker but my drink of choice is a G&T. So crisp and delicate.

Protein powder: Speaking of tasty things. I am currently OBSESSED with the MyProtein marzipan-flavoured protein-powder. I adore it. I add about 20g (so maybe a scoop?) of it to my porridge and it rocks my world. It’s not overwhelmingly sweet or crazy strong, but subtly almondy. I was using the Chocolate Smooth flavour but this is SO much better. I got a small pack as I wasn’t sure what I would think (450g I think) but I’ve since gone back and bought a 1kg. I also bought the Cinnamon Danish flavour and the Speculoos. I had to Google what Speculoos was though. It’s a limited edition flavour (as is Marzipan) so I thought what the hell, why not.As a side note, as I’m living at home I obviously get these things delivered there. My dad also buys lots online as well (usually some random cables or part for his latest robot craze or yet another Alexa – I swear Alexa is becoming an omnipresence in the house. You can’t move for her) and he mentioned the other day that it can be quite disappointing when something is delivered but it’s for me not him. He grumbled that it’s usuallyĀ “running gear or some powder of some sort”, which did make me laugh. He’s not wrong.

Cake: Cake has been very much in my life in a big way recently. The guys at Wiggle are fantastic at bringing in snacks and baking. It seems like every week we have something new to munch on. I’m not mad. On Monday last week it was one of the guy’s birthday and he brought in a chocolate cake he made. Someone else from another team had also baked him a cake too! A chocolate melt-in-the-middle cake. Obviously I had a bit of both. I was glad to have tried both as well because at the end of the day as he picked up the cake he’d baked to put in the fridge he dropped it on the floor! How devastating! I mean, it was hilarious but equally heart-breakingĀ at the same time. RIP cake.And I’ll try not to think of just how many bits of cake I had the other week when someone left. There wasĀ literally an idea table covered in delicious home-baked goodies. I’m an absolute sucker for anything home-baked. After eating 80% of what was in the bowl I decided not to have any more (it was only 10am…). I put it in my drawer and tried to forget about it. Well, the afternoon came and the cake was promptly eaten. *Sighs* I had the best intentions at least.

Christmas snacks: And on the note of delicious snacking, I popped into Lidl before work one morning (handily located on the road from my gym to work. I love Lidl and am really glad I can frequent it more often). I love browsing supermarkets (I’m a strange breed I know) and Lidl’s Christmas selection is always worth a gander. As a side note though, their bakery is at the front of their shop and it gave off the most intoxicating, delicious scents of freshly baked pastries, bread and cakes. I almost passed out (this was post-workout after all). Once I came to my senses though I found one of myĀ favourite Christmas snacks:Ā lebkuchen gingerbread. I first had them when I was in Berlin visiting my friend and they were amazing. I mean the big fat ones you can get at the Christmas markets are the best (I don’t know if they’re the same things but they’re very similar). They’re gingerbread but very soft and almost cake like. I’m not a huge fan of hard gingerbread (the British creations) but these are DIVINE.Running: And finally something to do with running! I’ve “officially” started marathon training. I mean, nothing much has really changed to be honest. My long runs will be getting longer and I hope to do a speed session once a week. The speed session is a new addition to the rota because I never normally do it (other than a speedy parkrun occasionally).

Yesterday I went out at lunch with the intention to do some sort of speed workout. Originally I was going to do two minutes of hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy as many times as I could be bothered but during my (almost) mile warm-up I decided to do mile repeats. The lake next to the office has aĀ gravel path around it and it’s about a mile long so I decided to just blast it round, have a jogging break, then repeat. My intention was to go sub-seven minutes for the mile as this is what I’ve been able to do on some miles at parkrun. Well, I definitely surprised myself. I managed THREE mile repeats (with 0.4 mile jogging recovery) at sub 6.45 pace. I mean it was TOUGH, both mentally and physically. But I did it!Ā I definitely needed those recoveries between but I felt strong maintaining the pace (though it did feel like death. God I hate speed work). Afterwards though the feeling was AMAZING. In the end I didĀ 10k total and I was around a minute off my PB! Not too shabby.Ā SplitsUnfortunately though after showering and getting back to the office, I had the most ridiculous red face which quite a few people commented on. Wonderful.

What kind of speed work do you do?

What Christmas treats do you like?

Are you a Harry Potter fan?

The Great South Run 2017

I hadn’t planned on running the Great South Run (GSR) as I hadn’t entered. It’s another race I had bad feelings about.

I ran it in 2013 and aimed for a really ridiculous target time which set me up for high pressure and ultimately inevitable failure. I also became injured afterwards and subsequently didn’t run the first marathon I’d set my sights on (Portsmouth Coastal, which to do this day I’ve still not done). So, bad joujou.

The GSR is an expensive race (over Ā£40) and it’s always very busy and very windy, being right along the coastal front of Portsmouth. So I didn’t sign upā€¦ but the week before I saw how many of my club and people I knew who were and I started to get that classic ‘fear of missing out’ feeling. The thought of running 10 miles on my own on Sunday sounded really unappealing. Since the marathon I’ve been a bit “meh” about long running because I don’t have any set training plan yet. Not an issue in itself but I kind of wanted to keep my long runs around 8-10 miles so I didn’t have to build back up in November (and I have a half mid-November).

So when a place became available by a lady in my running club who’d double-booked herself, I was there like a shot. I fancied a pressure-free, good atmosphere run with thousands of people to get the mojo going again – and nicely hit 10 miles again (and maybe get rid of the bad joujou). The GSR doesn’t allow bib transfers or deferrals (which, for the cost of the race, I think is very cheeky) so I would need to run as “Sarah”. It didn’t bother me as it wasn’t a goal race.

I asked my parents if they fancied supporting but my dad sadly was busy with work but my mum was up for it. My dad likes to pull my mum’s leg by saying he’s the better parent because he supports most of my races whereas she stays behind (her excuse always being to look after the dogsā€¦ sure, sure) so she was quite chuffed to have one over my dad on this occasion. I was just chuffed to have an adult supervise me.

As the GSR is over in Portsmouth, which is just up the road from us (but far enough away for us to be safeā€¦ ;-)), I didn’t think we needed to leave crazy early and I was rather relaxed about the whole race morning. My mum suggested that our 9am leaving time for my 10.38am start might be somewhat pushing it but I hand-waved her away saying as long as we got to Gunwharf Quays (where we’d be parking) by 9.30am we’d have loads of time to walk the 3 miles to the start. I’m sure long-term readers and anyone who knows me can see the problem already. Logistics and timings left in my incapable hands would only lead to disaster.My alarm was set for 8.20amā€¦ kit on (sadly not my usual HERC running vest due to my vest having “Anna” on the front which would look strange next to the bib with “Sarah” printed on), no breakfast, just a coffee and I was good to go. Well it didn’t take long at all to get into Portsmouth. Unfortunately that’s where we stoppedā€¦ the traffic was horrendous. We crawled along and 9.30am came and went. I tried not to panic, because really there was nothing that could be done. It’s not like I could have jumped out of the car as we were still on the motorway. We saw the park and ride was completely chocka block and continued with our Gunwharf Quays plans. Only to find that road closed. In the end we parked in the Cascades car park – which, despite still being a good 3 miles away, was actually perfect. They opened the shopping mall just as we arrived and I dashed inside to use a PROPER loo. How fabulous.Then it was a quick march to the start. It was cold and windy and my mum, bless her, struggled to keep the pace. We spotted the lovely Rebecca ready to marshal and she gasped when I told her my wave. TRYING NOT TO PANIC. As we got about a mile away my mum said she just couldn’t continue at that pace and I should go on. What my mum really needed was a hot drink (she was, as she describes, “feeling woo”). I 100% didn’t want to de-layer at this point but felt terrible to force her on so reluctantly handed her my coat and bag that she was kindly going to look after. She knew my wave and vague timings. I told her to go and sit in a coffee shop and I’d see her around 12.Actually it was probably a good thing I headed off on my own because I was able to run to the start (I would have been far too cold to have walked). I got there at 10.35am and looked around for my wave. I had a little peep at the elite wave (tried to spot my super speedy blondie-making friend Michelle) and then walked down to my wave. I couldn’t see it but could see the orange wave who looked like they were about to get going. Well I was all warmed up and the thought of standing around and getting cold again sounded awful, plus this would mean I’d finish a bit earlier for my mum.

So within five minutes I was starting! This was somewhat stressful as I tried to get my headphones working, only to realise I hadn’t paired them with my old phone that I was using. So I now had a pair of useless headphones I had to wear for the entire raceā€¦wonderful. That said though I actually didn’t need them. The atmosphere of the race was enough and I found whenever I passed by any supporters playing music it boosted me up and really motivated me.The first few miles were crowded with people, as is always the case. The wind was gusty and blustering around us but generally OK. At this point you’re feeling fresh anyway so the wind isn’t an issue. My pace for the first mile was just under 8  minutes as I was weaving in and out of people. The crowds were fantastic, cheering us along, and I felt very relaxed.

As you head into Old Portsmouth you hit mile two and run through the Historic Dockyard. This is always a fun bit (a brief bit of cobbles, but over very quickly) as you get to see the HMS Victory and the Mary Rose museum (so many trips their as a childā€¦). I chuckled at some of the Navy statues that were dressed up for Halloween.My pace increased and I continued to overtake people. There’s an out and back section mile 4-5 and I enjoyed spotted people I knew and shouting to them. As I wasnā€™t wearing my traditional HERC vest I wasn’t easy to spot so was able to creep up (well, run up) next to fellow Hedgies and say hi.

There were lots of water stations around the course and they had small bottles, which I always prefer as you can take them along with you for a bit, but one blew across the road and I turned my ankle on it which was quite painful and concerning. Luckily though after the initial turn it was fine, whew!! Apparently my ankles aren’t injury prone like the rest of me.

The GSR is very flat – barely any elevation changes – but it does change direction a few times and this can mean you’re suddenly battling the wind, or the wind is nicely pushing you along. There are so many crowds cheering you all along the course which helps buoy you along too. I spent a lot of time looking out for my mum wondering if she found a spot to stand, but I didn’t see her. I spotted a few people from work which was cool though.

I was feeling fantastic, despite my pace seeming ridiculous to me. I’m sure the wind definitely helped at points! I ran past Rebecca at her marshaling point around mile 5 but she didn’t notice me. I ended up hollering to her and her friend nudged her to spot me which made me laugh.

As I got to mile 6 the wind was really on our backs now and it felt fantastic, albeit annoying with my pony tail and flyaway hair bits getting in my face (I was happy to accept this tho with the benefits of the wind pushing us). Amazingly I saw my friend Sarah (not the Sarah I was running as) from my club around the same mile where I saw her the last time I ran. I was having a very bad time then and ran with her the rest of the way. This time I said a quick hello and carried on. She was listening to music and seemed very focused.

By mile 7 I felt my first “dig deep” moment where I would have quite liked to have had some music to keep me motivated. Instead I had a mash-up of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic and Daft Punk Harder better Faster Stronger spinning round my head randomly. Miles 7-8 are away from the seafront and are a bit of a lull moment. I was also well aware that at mile 8 we’d be turning onto the seafront and heading straight at the wind with no shelter. It would be tough. Someone from the crowd shouted it was almost time for the final sprint and a few people chuckled wryly; two miles is not time to sprint! A lady next to me muttered that it was the worst two miles as well. Yep!

As we turned the corner the wind did indeed push against us, but surprisingly not as bad as I remembered. It was hard, yes, but not horrific. I played the game of chasing bibs ahead of me and slowly reeled people in. I saw my pace was sub seven minute miles and had no idea how I was doing it, or if I could maintain it. But I kept going.

A novelty about a 10 mile race is you are running to the mile, not the 0.2 or the 0.1 like in most other races. There was no great ambiguity of how far you’d have left to run like there sometimes is in the other distances. Just get to that beep on the Garmin! I knew I’d added a bit more mileage due to all my weaving but not a huge amount. I could see the finish ahead and I sprinted to it, giving it my all.I checked my time, 1:13:23! I couldn’t remember exactly what my PB was as I hadn’t checked beforehand (I didn’t think I was aiming for it as I’d had a rough goal of sub 1:18). I was pretty sure it was 1:15 something though so was fairly certain I had it in the bag. Either way I was OVER THE MOON. Such a comfortable race (not easy, but not a lung-busting omg I’m going to be sick feeling – comfortably in control of a good effort feeling), with no music and just a general sense of happiness all the way round. No niggles. No issues. Just a fantastic race. On a quick check of my blog (so handy to have my PBs stored there) I found I had indeed got a PB of 1min 50 seconds. Not too shabby! And FINALLY a decent 10 mile race. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good one before.
I saw some of my club volunteering and had a quick natter and a hug before heading over to pick up my medal and goodie bag. I was really pleased to see that there was a technical t-shirt in the bag as well – it always used to be a cotton t-shirt! Though it’s still rather large despite being a small.I saw some of my club who’d run and we chatted away – all seeming to have had a good run. A few selfies and I rang my mum to find out where she was. Apparently she’d seen me around mile 5 which was nice.After meeting up we started the long 3 mile walk back to the car. I was glad to put my jacket back on, but with my medal prominently out of course.We stopped in Starbucks on our meanders back, now that my hunger was kicking in (I did’t fancy the giant protein bar in the goodie bag. Almost 300 calories! That’s a meal). A hot coffee though would tide me over. I would be back-loading my calories in a big way, so don’t worry I wasn’t going to go hungry all day!

We made it home substantially quicker than it took to get there and I wolfed down a solid lunch before showering and getting ready for my friend Sarah’s (ANOTHER Sarah would you believe!) baby shower. It took place in the very lovely Tea Room in Lee-On-Solent (of which I’ve been to many, many times).Sarah had no idea so when she walked in with her husband, Ant (who, by the way has recently stepped over from a non-running friend to a running friend), and she was so surprised. We’d hired out the entire place so it was a really lovely afternoon. I’m not really one for baby-related stuff but it was great. Lots of fun games and laughter.

The waitresses then brought round afternoon teas for everyone. I immediately bagged myself a fruit scone and a slice of red velvet (you gotta be in it to win it when it comes to food…). I humoured myself by having a couple of token chicken sandwiches before slathering the delicious scone with jam (first of course) and then clotted cream. OH SO DIVINE.There were boxes provided to take cake home but this was highly unnecessary for me. In for a penny, in for a pound and all that. I was apparently the only person to do the full afternoon hog of sandwiches, scone and full slice of cake. I’m not even sorry. I even had a little bit of the chocolate cake that someone had sliced in half (sliced in half? I don’t understand this). I know, I know. I’m far too greedy for my own good. The sugar coma I fell promptly into was fully deserved. But I tell you what, it was worth it.Can you manage a whole afternoon tea?

Have you ever done one of the Great Run series before?

Do you like a 10 mile race? 

Abingdon parkrun – an expensive accident

A date in the diary that I was really looking forward to was going to the Abingdon parkrun to meet-up with my Marathon Talk Austria Run Camp friends.

These guys are such a lovely, lovely bunch of people and, like I said in my Austria recap, we all got on so well. In fact, two of them actually got together (of which I was blindly unaware of at the time – apparently it was fairly obvious!). What’s been lovely is that we’ve all kept in touch through our WhatsApp group/social media and kept up with what we’ve all been doing. But it’s always nice to meet-up properly, especially for a parkrun and cake afterwards.

We all come from different parts of the UK (and Vienna!) so Abingdon was chosen as the ‘easiest’ location and a few of them had the Abingdon Marathon the next day so it made sense. For me it was a 1.5 hour drive away which wasn’t too bad at all. Actually it was nice driving away from the coast on Saturday morning as Storm Brian was getting going. I set my alarm for 6.20am and was up and out by 7am with coffee for the road. It was an easy drive and I arrived in plenty of time. Amazing for me really.Abingdon parkrun has a handy car park just next to the finish funnel so you can find where it’s all going on very easily. It’s also free for the first two hours and there’s a rather posh public toilet nearby too (you pay 10p but the experience is fabulous). Abingdon itself, if you’ve never been, is a very lovely quaint English town, similar to Salisbury, Chichester or Winchester.By 8.30am we’d all arrived and were hugging and swapping stories. It was just lovely. I love it when you can slot back into place with people like you’ve never been away.Everyone was going to run the parkrun apart from John (John is the legend that ran from Winchester to Canterbury along the Pilgrims and North Downs Way long-distance trail to celebrate his 40th. Yep) as he was suffering from a back niggle.Everyone but one person made it (Zoe, we missed you!) so it was a nice gang of us and when we had our newbie briefing for the parkrun they wrote down all our home locations and when it came to the main briefing they read them all out and asked if anyone from actual Abingdon was there today! It was amusing. So yeah, we had the newbie briefing though we really didn’t need it as Sarah, who’s from Abingdon, had given us a good briefing (if you’re a Marathon Talk listening, Sarah does the designs for Xempo and had a bazillion shout outs in the last podcast episode! She’s amazing and does fantastic running-themed products and designs – check out her website). She gave us a good guide of the course – two loops. I love a two looper. Not as repetitive as a three (or more) looper and not as long as a one looper feels.The weather, as you can see, was glorious. Yes very windy but the sun was beautiful. It was cold in that autumnal British way, but not horrific. I’d already decided I wanted to chat and run rather than do any sort of hard effort so I ran besides Sarah and we caught up. It was a lovely run that honestly flew by. I had no idea of my pace at all. The course is a bit tricky underfoot at times, running along grassy, uneven bits but overall it’s a lovely parkrun. Beautiful next to the river and lots of open green spaces.There were a couple of moments at the start where we ground to a halt. I think there were more people there than usual so a bottleneck occurred along the narrower bit, but I wasn’t bothered as I was too busy chatting! John cheered us on as we passed him which was nice (thanks for the pic too!).My time was 26.13 which I was happy with. It wasn’t a run for a fast time after all. The finishing straight is nice and straight for anyone hunting for a sprint finish.

Photo credit: John Harvey

And we carried on catching up with everyone. As we’d planned on heading to a cafe for some coffee and cake we needed to go back and put some money into the car park machine for a ticket as two hours wouldn’t be enough now (from when we first got there). I was stupidly holding too much stuff, trying to fish out the right change or card from my purse and my iPhone (my brand new case-less iPhone 7, the case is in the post) slipped from my hands…onto the concrete floor. The sound of a naked iPhone hitting the floor will possibly haunt me forever. Those around me looked horrified – everyone understood the stakes here. It had landed face down and I jokingly said, “whoops, that’s an expensive accident!” and the people behind me laughed nervously. As I picked it up and turned it over I just stared in horror. The entire screen was cracked – like a thousand tiny cracks all over it. I just stared and suddenly wanted to cry. The screen was entirely broken and smashed – it wouldn’t even work.

I had the sense to go and put my car park ticket in my car and then walked back over to the Austria gang. I didn’t really know what to do. They all expressed the same sentiments as me: “oh shit”. Yep. I also suddenly realised that the one person I’d normally ask for help in this situation was uncontactable due to the fact that my phone was broken.

Sarah helped me adult and told me to come to the cafe where we could sort out what to do there. She let me borrow her phone and I rang my parent’s house phone (the only number I could remember – reminding me I probably should have a few more numbers written down in my purse for such situations). As my mum answered I immediately burst into tears on the phone as I explained what happened. Bless my mum, she replied “I’ll get your father”. My dad calmed me down and told me he’d meet me in Southampton where we could go to the Apple shop and see what could be done. We arranged a time and I said I’d ring when I got close to Southampton… then realised I couldn’t. Idiot that I am. Instead I wrote down his mobile number on my hand (old skool) and would text him on Sarah’s phone when I was leaving, knowing it would take me 1.5 hours to get there.

I then got in the queue with John to order a peppermint tea and a cake. John asked for cake recommendations and I scanned the options and said that I thought the toffee pecan looked amazing and that’s what I was going to order. As I’d sort of pushed in with John (very naughty of me I know, but I was all stressed out, no excuse I know) I let him order first. He took my recommendation. Unfortunately he also took the last slice. How rude!! He wasn’t even sorry, the cheeky bugger. So instead I went for aĀ freshly bakedĀ warm Smartie cookie withĀ Nutella drizzled on it. I mean, I thought I didn’t like Nutella but actually I think I might be converted… I think I had a bad toast and Nutella experience once that put me off, but let me tell you, on a cookie it’s something else. And I think it was probably better than |John’s slice of cake. Just saying.Of course I didn’t have a phone anymore to take a photo of it so borrowed Sarah’s again (thank you, thank you). I felt a bit at a loss without my phone… no way to upload my run to Strava (did it even happen…?). But it was lovely to sit and chat with the guys and eat copious amounts of cake. As it was Michelle’s 50th parkrun Sarah had amazingly baked a cake (how nice is that??) so I had a couple of slices of that as well. Consolation cake, you see.Ā Michelle, by the way, ran in the ELITE wave of the Great South Run the next day. SHE IS SO FAST. I’ll do a separate post on the Great South Run soon!How beautiful is this square where we had coffee? It was a bit blustery but the autumnal colours were just gorgeous. And because it was quite chilly I got another hot drink, this time a turmeric latte. So fancy, eh!It was…interesting. I quite enjoyed it, as I do like turmeric, but it wasn’t the nicest drink on the planet. A bit bitty at the end. Glad I gave it a bash!

And then sadly I had to head off to sort my phone out. What slightly annoyed me was a man, whom I didn’t know, commented on the fact that I was getting my dad to help me. He was being very friendly and nice and he himself had tried to help me with where I could go to get my iPhone sorted but I said no thank you and explained that my dad was helping. He then said, “ah yes, and I imagine he’ll be footing the bill too” – he said it quite fondly but it really rubbed me up the wrong way. I was quite affronted and, as politely as I could, explained that actually wasn’t the case. Yes I made not be a fully functioning adult but I DO NOT get my dad to pay for things for me. I am perfectly capable of paying for my own mistakes, thank you very much. What an assumption!

Anyway, I said my goodbyes and headed off home. I made great time and met my dad outside the Apple shop. We did try a non-Apple screen fixer guy but he said he couldn’t guarantee the fingerprint technology would work when he was done… it would also ruin my Apple warranty and mean in the future I wouldn’t be able to sell the phone.So in the end I decided to go for the more expensive, but guaranteed fix, with Apple (which would also be covered partially by my phone insurance). Annoyingly it would need to wait until Wednesday until they had a free appointment. Apparently I’m not the only idiot who drops and ruins their phone…

So that was my Saturday! Rather hectic but still rather lovely. I was running the Great South Run the next day (a late decision for me as someone in my running club was giving their place away as they could no longer run) so I had a nice easy evening. Michelle, the lovely Michelle, had baked me some blondies as a thank you for a favour I did for her a few weeks ago so I made a rather good start on munching my way through that as well! Honestly, I don’t dare to think about my cake consumption this weekend because it didn’t stop there…! More on that on my Great South Run recap šŸ˜‰

Have you ever been to Abingdon before?

Have you ever dropped your phone?

What kind of expensive mistakes have you made? Please make me feel better…