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?

Currently – July

Goodbye July, hello August. WHAT. How is this even possible? We’re hurtling our way to Christmas! OK that’s dramatic. But seriously, I can tell that winter is coming because I get up so damn early and it’s a lot cooler and darker in the morning. Sad times indeed.

So anyway, July has been a weird month. So much running, then not so much. A very weird month. I’ve only got one whole month before the marathon and the Dorney Half I’ve signed up to mid-August (so the need to run is getting stronger. But anyway, I thought I’d do a “currently” post to mark the transition between months.

TV: Game of Thrones. Geek time here commences… I am both extremely happy about the current situation but also sad. Things are happening at breakneck speed due to the limited number of episodes. And the fact that we’re “off book” now is also concerning. George R. R. Martin is an unbelievably talented author, similar to Tolkien, in creating vast and complex worlds. I worry that the show won’t live up to his storytelling and they’ll try and get the most dramatic ending rather than staying faithful to the book’s groundwork. We shall see. Though I will be very excited when the final books are finally finished. Sorry geeking over.

Books: I’ve just recently finished reading The Circle by Dave Eggers.I really enjoyed it but it felt a little close to home. All about the rise of technology and knowing everything about everything and nothing is private anymore. The all encompassing nature of social media. Creepy stuff.

I actually started reading the book because I saw a trailer for the film and it looked interesting. Then read the book and started the film (a Netflix Original) and Emma Watson just annoyed me too much. I think I’m in the minority here when I say I don’t like her acting. I tolerated her in Harry Potter and to be honest she seems the same in all other films. I find her very wooden. I like her as a person though (not that I know her obviously) and how she’s quite forthright in her opinion on feminism.

Food: Since I’ve come back from Austria I’ve been really craving whole baked fish. We had it as one of the evening meals and since then I just want it all the time. It’s weird because, though I do like seafood, it’s not usually something I’ll go out of my way for. In a restaurant I never order it. But popped it in the oven, wrapped in foil with lemon and spices, it is DIVINE. I like that it takes me ages to eat as well because of all the bones. I’m such a fast eater that anything that slows down the process is a win for me. I was going to have a photo but it’s really not that pretty a meal!

Treats: God, where do I start? Cake. All the cake. As a farewell to work I bought a dozen Krispy Kremes (original glazed, god I love them) and an Emoji cake because…well, do I need a reason??I was also bought a very delicious slice of bannoffe cake on Sunday… happy girl.

Fitness Clothes: I’m now the proud owner of a Strava vest. I don’t think they make clothing to sell but I managed to get my hands on one because it was originally sent to Martin Yelling (of Austrian Marathon Talk Run camp – I promise I will stop going on about this soon) but it was clearly too small for him so I got it instead! (I was the quickest to claim it).And hilariously as a late birthday present from my lovely friend she bought me an Under Armour top. I love it, it’s got long-sleeves and wicking material. The only thing is, when I went to pick Alfie up from my parents on Saturday (they kindly looked after him for me) I saw what my dad was wearing.

We met half-way, my parents don’t live in a car park

So I got my mum to hold up my top in comparison. Hilarious. Just means my dad and I can never wear them at the same time. Still a good top nonetheless!

Beauty: Yeah I don’t really “do” beauty I guess… all about the low maintenance over here! That said, I do love moisturisers and lip balm. Keeping the skin all nice and soft. I always carry lip balm around with me because I hate my lips getting dry (also, dry lips and buffalo chicken wings – the WORST). I never wear lip gloss or lipstick (#longhairproblems… have you ever got hair stuck in lip gloss? It is GROSS) but lip balm is my thing.

So I was recently sent Liquorice Balm, which, as you can imagine, is a liquorice lip balm. Now I’m not a fan of liquorice at all so I was a little dubious about trailing this product. But actually I thought it’s probably handy as I know there are many people who are similar.This balm is aimed at reducing cold sores, which actually affect almost 30 million people in the UK! Incidentally this occurs most often when travelling as there’s a lot of air changes from when you’re flying, being in air con and being out in the sun. Lots of stress to the lips.

The Liquorice Balm can help because is contains a key cold sore fighting ingredient from the liquorice called glycyrrhizic acid, which targets the genes that are required to maintain the virus in its latent state by interfering with the production of special proteins that feed the infected cells. It’s also free from parabens, perfumes, MI and SLS and is under the 100ml limit so you can take it with you in hand luggage.It’s quite oily but once on the lips it sticks nicely and I find it does help soften my lips when they’re feeling a bit flaky and dry (niiiiice). It does smell of liquorice but actually doesn’t really taste of it at all. Definitely not after being on your lips a while. As someone who HATES liquorice this was fine! It’s available to buy from www.skinshop.co.uk.

Have you bought any new fitness gear lately?

Do you wear lip balm?

Game of Thrones fan? Any crazy theories?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the lip balm for free in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**

Unpopular opinions and things I’m loving lately

Well this is really a random post! It’s a mix of things I’m loving at the moment and some unpopular opinions.

The unpopular opinions idea came from a post from Hungry Runner Girl and I thought it would be a fun post to do as well. I’ll throw my hands up and say it’s mainly food related but that should hardly surprise you 😉

  • I really don’t get Nutella. Yep starting with a big one. I mean, I like chocolate and I like hazelnuts. But together? As a weird thick paste you put on bread and crepes? Nope. Doesn’t do anything for me.
  • I also don’t get the craze for peanut butter (or any nut butters really). It could be because I don’t often have bread or toast. But I don’t see the appeal even on it’s own. It’s alright but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find any or eat it. I quite like a peanut butter chocolate flavour combo with cookies and ice cream but as a fun change rather than something I’d crave.
  • Toppings on porridge. In fact, I could say a whole lot about porridge and what people do to it. Cold overnight oats? Nope, no, nooo. The most exciting I do is putting protein powder in it.

  • Not one for the veggies… I really like eating my chicken with the skin on, and in general I’m a big fan of meat on the bone. I think it’s because I’m a mini T-Rex.

  • And one non-food related one. I’d rather get up at 5am to workout in the gym than do it in the evening. I can be motivated to run whenever, but going to the gym? Nope.

And onto things I’m loving lately…

This is fairly random but it made me laugh. Have you ever wondered what animal you’d be if you were to be one? On my two holidays I was called two different animals. The first was a hyena. This goes back to the eating meat from the bone (see above).I’m pretty good at getting as much meat as I can off it. It’s a well-honed skill. I like to think that back in the day (you know, a few million years ago) I’d have survived for a good amount of time as a neanderthal with that kind of ability.

In Tokyo I then got called a squirrel. This is because I have a fear of food running out and so to combat this I constantly carry snacks round with me. On the flight I had three different packets of crisps, two apples, a mini bag of pretzels and some turkey jerky. I didn’t eat them all but I felt happier knowing they were there.

This doughnut. Now I’m not a huge doughnut fan. I’m more of a cake-lover. However when I was in Southampton West Quay shopping centre I saw a “make your own doughnut” stand. Basically you could choose your own toppings…as many as you liked! For £1.50! I walked over to have a look – just a LOOK – and found myself with my purse in my hands perusing the menu before I knew what I was doing.I got a white chocolate covered doughnut with caramel sauce and caramel shrapnel.Caramel shrapnel? What a wonderful way to describe little droplets of sugary heaven. I won’t lie. I got it all over me in the middle of the busy shopping centre and I did not care.

Odd but tasty gels. My lovely friend, Mat (AKA triathlon legend) sent me some gels a while ago and I was FINALLY able to try them out during the marathon. Well, one of them anyway! Maple Bacon flavoured GU. Yes really.I have quite a strong stomach and have never had an issue with gels before so I was confident to just try it for the first time during the race (I live life on the edge…). It was really good. I love the flavour of maple bacon anyway (Kettlebites I’m looking at you) so this wasn’t too weird for me. Sweet and salty yumminess! (FYI: I believe he bought them from Amazon).

Tokyo goodies: When I finished the Tokyo Marathon (I’ll stop talking about this one day), we were first given a towel as we walked from the finish line. I was like “oh cool…but we still get a medal, right??” Thankfully we did, but getting a towel as well was pretty cool.I’ve only ever received a mini gym towel (and that was in place of a medal) but this is pretty damn good. Get me to a swimming pool/beach/plumbing disaster immediately!

I also got a technical t-shirt which (hallelujah!) actually fits.As I’m a fairly micro person I always opt for extra-small if it’s available as an option and this fits like a glove. I suppose it helps that Japanese women in general are quite small.

ASICS running gear from Millet Sports: Millet Sports kindly sent me a pair of ASICS leggings and ASICS running jacket to review.Firstly, apologies for the most ridiculously cheesy pose in this picture. Catalogue pose eat your heart out.

The jacket is brilliant. It’s quite thick, so perfect for when it’s really cold outside (like those ridiculously cold mornings or evenings we’ve been having). It has the fabulous thumb holes as well as a couple of nice pockets. It’s waterproof, breathable and has reflective dots over it so great for visibility when running in the dark. I just love the colour as well.It matches my new trainers!

The leggings are full length made from a breatheable stretch material, with a short zip at the ankles to give a bit of ventilation (I personally wouldn’t when running as it would flap, but I imagine after a run it’s lovely to have a bit of air). There’s a drawstring around the waist so there’s no worries about them slipping down mid-run as well. Though they’re not baggy they are less tight than other leggings I have, like ones from Fabletics or Lululemon which literally suck you all in. This makes running in them a lot more comfortable.

There’s also a back pocket slightly to the side which I like as sometimes a back pocket can annoy me with the zip, whereas slightly to one side is a bit more comfortable.

A great winter running outfit. Check out Millet Sports for more running gear!

What would be your ideal doughnut topping?

What animal would you be and why?

What’s your unpopular opinion?

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and jacket for free in return for a review. All opinions are my own honest ones.**