Well on the way to becoming a recognised parkrun tourist

There is a special page on the parkrun website which lists all parkrunners who have run 20 or more different parkrun events.  One of my aims for this year was to get onto this table, and I’ve been busy slogging away working out which new parkruns I can visit just lately.

I’m currently up to 92 parkruns at 17 different events, and I’ve loved seeing all the differences in the parkrun events I’ve been to.  I really must write a post at some point with all of my favourite elements of each parkrun as I’ve seen some great ideas this year which might come in handy for anyone setting up a new event.

I thought I only had my last three parkruns to write up, but it actually turns out I’m five behind now.

Annoyingly, I visited Wimpole Estate and Blickling when my phone was still broken so don’t have any pictures to share from those events.

Here goes…

parkrun #88 – Kettering
29th July

This was the first time I had been able to ‘run hard’ at a parkrun in a while.  Dan offered to come along and push Oscar round in the buggy so that I might test my legs out.

I misjudged my starting position though, realising as the chap stood next to me during the briefing raised his hand to indicate that he would be pacing 33 minutes!

I tried to shimmy myself further forward in the pack, but pacers were one of the last announcements made, and before I knew it, I was weaving in and out of other runners with a choppy stride trying to squeeze past others on the narrow path.  There went my potential good time!  Kettering parkrun has a long pontoon at the far end of the course that you run along twice, and I was very held up behind other runners during my first crossing as many of them slowed right down to feel less wobbly as the bridge came up to meet their pounding feet.  It is a very bizarre feeling as you run across with the bridge wobbling everywhere!

Kettering parkrun as a family of three

I think Dan realised just how difficult it could be running with the buggy and avoiding other runners during this run!  Still, I jogged back to see him finish in a respectable 34:07.  Oscar was busy chewing on his giraffe, which he then shared with his swimming buddy, whose Dad was marshaling at one of the corners towards the end of the run.

Official time: 27:30
Position: 94/315
Gender position: 22/145
Age category position: 3/12

parkrun #89 – Wolverhampton
5th August

One of Dan’s best friends got married at the start of August.  Dan was one of the ushers so headed back for last minute wedding details (and drinking) on the Friday evening, leaving Oscar and I to drive across the following morning.  As the wedding was held near to Dan’s parents’ house in the West Midlands and the wedding service wasn’t to be until the early afternoon I jumped on the chance to get some more parkrun tourism in, planning on showering and changing at Dan’s parents’ house after the run.

The Wolverhampton course is three laps around the outside of West park.  I’ve been to the park many times as Dan has often parked there when he goes to watch the football at Molineux on a weekend.

Another runner helpfully pointed me in the direction of the start when I arrived.  The first thing to note about the Wolverhampton parkrun is that everybody had really strong Wolverhampton accents!  I’m glad I’ve spent lots of time around Dan’s family and friends lately because otherwise I’m not sure I would have understood too much of the briefing! 😉

I had been asked to start at the back, as I had Oscar.  I understand why parkrun events ask buggy runners to start at the back, but I do think some of the responsibility of placing yourself and buggy should lay with the runner, especially on a course with laps, as you are much more likely to end up clipping somebody if you are frequently overtaking others with the buggy than if you were to settle in to the correct starting position to begin with.

The first lap was tough with so much overtaking, but by the second lap I could easily move around the narrow path without problem.  I was really shocked how few runners there were actually.  Wolverhampton is a massive city, but with just 266 runners, this parkrun is actually one of the smaller parkruns I’ve visited, especially when it comes to relative size to location.

The nice thing about a lapped course is that you see the same marshals several times.  One marshal kept updating me on how awake Oscar looked, and they loved that he just propped both feet up on his front bar and chilled out for the entirety of the run!Wolverhampton parkrun with Oscar in the buggyAt one point, Oscar caught a falling leaf, and found it the best thing ever!  He was so excited and kept squealing away in his buggy! Wolverhampton parkrun with Oscar in the buggyI ended up with my fastest buggy parkrun time despite the slow start, which was a nice surprise!

Official time: 30:39
Position: 166/266
Gender position: 39/102
Age category position: 7/11

parkrun #90 – Wimpole Estate
19th August

I had a free Saturday morning and had hoped to get in another new parkrun.  A pregnant friend contacted me the day before to see if I fancied running a parkrun the next morning.  I said yes, on the condition that it was a new-to-me one, and so we made the hour-long journey to Wimpole Estate.

Somebody I work with regularly runs at Wimpole Estate, and I knew of a few runners from Twitter who occasionally made it over for this event too.  All had warned me of the hill out on the course!

I had Oscar in the buggy for this run, and bumped into Katie with her little one, Flo, who I have only spoken to via Twitter previously.  Katie’s husband would be the one with the buggy that week, and she filled me in on buggy tips for the course, and at what point the hill would appear!

I vowed to run the entire course with the buggy, and thinking I had already gone up ‘the hill’ decided that it was actually a fairly easy route, despite the long, thick grass underfoot.  I soon realised that the hill was yet to come though, and my vow to run the whole course was almost thwarted here, as it seemed everybody around stopped to walk the hill.  I took Oscar off-track, onto one wheel briefly, head down and continued to push him up the steep climb.

We made it to the top and enjoyed a lovely view before rocketing back down the other side.  Very glad I took Katie’s advice to tuck my hand in the handlebar loop and keep a tight grip here!

I don’t have any pictures of the hill, but Maria has one on her blog.

Oscar and I at Wimpole Estate parkrun{Picture taken from the Wimpole Estate parkrun Facebook page}

At the bottom the other side there were several cattle, but marshals among them to make sure they didn’t wander on course.  One was stood right behind a parkrun sign and from a distance it genuinely looked as though the sign had been pinned to the cow!

Katie and husband were there to cheer me through the finish which was nice, and I then waited for my friend to finish her run, before we headed to the café for cheese scones and hot chocolate.  It was the first time I’ve run parkrun with a friend in a long while and I’ve missed my post parkrun cake shop visits!

Official time: 34:57
Position: 316/396
Gender position: 115/166
Age category position: 10/16

parkrun #91 – Blickling
2nd September

My fastest parkrun since having Oscar!

My Dad volunteered to come along and push Oscar around the course in his buggy and act as support for my run this week.  The course is ideal for support, as there is just short of two full laps of the section of the park we ran.  This meant I passed Dad and Oscar twice, although Dad nearly missed me the first time, despite my mad waving!

There were quite a few other tourists stood alongside me at the new runners’ briefing, as shown by their apricot tops.  I think I’m going to ask for an apricot top for Christmas.  I’d like to have it printed up with my home parkrun, although I’m not really sure I can count Northampton as my home event any more.  I hardly ever seem to run there now!

The course at Blickling starts on a slight uphill.  I had been unsure how to approach the run, but after a strong start, with a low 8:xx constantly showing on my watch despite the uphill, I decided to just go for it and run hard the whole way round.

It’s a very lovely out-in-the-open course run along tracks with vast areas of grass all around.  There is a small section where you run through the trees towards the end of the lap, but this was really pretty.  I guiltily passed a chap pushing a double buggy containing older children who were demanding snacks at this point on my second lap!

It felt so nice to run at a harder pace again.  I’ve had to take Oscar along with me for the majority of parkruns since he was born.  Although, as Dan now has a season ticket for the football again this year, I think he might want to start spending a bit of time with Oscar on Saturday mornings before heading back for the football each week so I might see some more harder runs before the end of the year.  I’m sure I can’t be too far off that 26:xx parkrun time again!

Official time: 27:10
Position: 96/197
Gender position: 22/88
Age category position: 2/8

parkrun #92 – March
14th October

I’ve been traveling back four times a week to see my family since mid-September.  My days tend to be Monday, Tuesday (with a stay-over in between), Thursday and then Saturday.  Evenings only whilst I was still at work last month.  It took me until now though to realise that I was missing out on some serious parkrun tourism opportunities on my drive back on a Saturday!

Last weekend I was torn between Kings Lynn and March for the location of my parkrun.  Either could tie in with my journey back to Norfolk.  In the end though, Oscar dictated the March event, as he took too long to eat his breakfast in the morning, and March is closer to us than Kings Lynn so at least I knew we would arrive in time!

Oscar at March parkrun

I ended up actually arriving quite early and set Oscar up in his buggy, pushing him around what looked like a rather small park as my warm up.  It felt really chilly as I got out of the car, but the temperature soon started to rise and I was glad I had decided to just wear a short sleeved t-shirt rather than any extra layers.

I had hurriedly checked both the Kings Lynn and March parkrun websites the previous evening to see that they were buggy suitable.  I had failed to spot the mention of the four laps at the March event though, each including a set of ten steps!

The steps at March parkrunThey don’t look very steep here, but…TEN STEPS!

March parkrunAfter a walked lap of the park (where we saw a rat run out in front of us and do a little dance, much to Oscar’s amusement!) I hung around the meeting point waiting for things to get underway.  I did spot somebody else with a running buggy, although they had a much older child inside.  There was a new runner briefing, which I took Oscar over to.  After this, the guy who had the other buggy came over to say ‘hi’ and to share his tips for the best way of getting up the bank alongside the steps with the buggy.  He suggested starting climbing the bank a little way before the steps, as it was less steep and less likely I would tip my child out of the buggy!  I hoped that people didn’t think I was taking a short cut each time, but nobody seemed to shout me back at least.  I still ran all the way over to the top of where the steps were before turning back on myself.

The picture below is taken from a video clip of the first lap which was posted on the March parkrun Facebook page.  You can see me to the left of the shot making a getaway with Oscar!

Oscar and I at March parkrun

Mainly people shouted out well dones for getting round with the buggy which was nice.  The marshals were all lovely and so helpful when I spoke to them.  It was a really friendly parkrun.

About half of the route was run along the grass, which was quite rutted in places.  The marshals had used mini cones to place on any rabbit holes which runners might trip or fall from, which I thought was quite a good idea.  The other half of each lap was run along the tarmacked pavement you can see in the above screenshot.

I started from the very back this week again, although quickly overtook several runners near to the start.

Although only a small parkrun, as well as running pacers, there was a run 1min, walk 1min pacer and a run 2min, walk 1min pacer, which I thought was a fantastic way to give non-runners or beginners the confidence to start visiting parkrun.Oscar at March parkrunOnce completed and scanned in, we took a quick visit to the nearby swimming pool to change Oscar before completing our trip to Norfolk.Oscar and I at March parkrunOfficial time: 33:49
Position: 97/132
Gender position: 43/66
Age category position: 5/7

Do you tie parkrun visits in with trips at the weekend?
Have any of the parkruns you have run contained steps?
Do you have an apricot top?
How many different parkrun events have you visited?

September – what a month

I always knew that September would be a tough month.  That basically I would have to just put my head down, keep fighting until the very end and then hopefully emerge from the other side still kicking.

Having given my notice to finish teaching at the end of the Summer, I was offered a further month of work with a bonus to help ease the transition for new members of staff within the department.  With a finish date of four weeks, after having just had the six weeks of Summer off, I decided to go ahead and accept the proposal.  The extra money I was being offered would be nice in the build up to Christmas if nothing else!

I knew it would be tougher than when I had originally returned to work back in May.  A May timetable with no year 11 or 13 and countless trips across other year groups is very different to a September timetable, when new courses are starting up and resources need creating or adapting to suit different classes.  My September timetable contained six year 11 classes and a year 10 class, amongst others, so I would also spend lunchtimes holding coursework catchup sessions for those GCSE students.

Not only would my workload be higher, but my personal life at the weekends was also looking rather full during September.  For each of the weekends my calendar was pretty jam-packed full of activities.

Week 1: Marshaling at Go Beyond Northampton Half Marathon
Week 2: At a friend’s wedding
Week 3: Round Norfolk Relay
Week 4: Ealing half marathon
Week 5: Oscar’s birthday party/christening

There wouldn’t be a lot of time for sleep, running or baby cuddles.  With my Mum very poorly I also wanted to try and fit in as many visits back to Norfolk as was practical.
As a new ambassador for Decathlon I was also really looking forward to the Decathlon blogger meet up at the end of the month, although was concerned that I would be burnt out by that point and unable to fully enjoy the activities that had been planned for us all.

As it turned out though, things didn’t really go quite to plan for September.  I had severe back pain from the second week of the month, managing to run the Round Norfolk Relay only having dosed myself up with double-strength Ibuprofen first, and then unable to run any further miles in September.  The day after the Round Norfolk Relay, my Mum was once again admitted into hospital with a serious infection and so many trips were made over to Norwich hospital for visits during the week, as well as twice-daily phone calls to help support my Dad.  Following one weekend visit and eating in the questionable hospital canteen I ended up throwing up over and over.  My Dad was also left feeling poorly that evening.  I made the difficult decision to pull from Ealing Half Marathon – I hadn’t been able to walk with a straight back for ten days by that point and also I felt it was more important to be with my family in Norfolk.

By the time I began the final week of my contract, I was really struggling.  By Wednesday lunch time my face was hot to touch – burning up, whilst my coat-clad body shivered uncontrollably from the cold.  At 3pm that day I made the decision to head for home, leaving my half-finished marking laid out on the shared office desk with a post-it note stuck to the top reading “Really sorry, – feeling totally pants this afternoon.  Will clear in the morning.”

Oscar's first birthday

That Wednesday was Oscar’s birthday, only I never saw him that day as I rang to cancel my physio appointment on the way home, before curling up into a little ball in my bed, texting Dan to ask if he would be able to pick Oscar up from nursery on his way home from work later that night instead.

The following day I couldn’t even get out of bed, and napped on and off all day, feeling very sorry for myself.  I left emailing Decathlon until the very last minute to say that I wouldn’t be able to make it that evening, just in case I perked up a little and was able to still attend.  I so wanted to attend.  I knew deep down that I would be too poorly to go though, and even if I did manage to sit through the train journey down, I would not be well enough to enjoy the activities they had planned for us once down there.

Friday, my last day at school and I was still too poorly to attend.  What a funny end to my time at the school.  I’ve been in this week to clear my desk and tidy up a few loose ends, but the end of my time there wasn’t how I imagined it to be at all.Oscar's first birthdayThe Saturday was spent opening up Oscar’s birthday presents and last minute cleaning and tidying ready for Oscar’s guests the following day.  I managed to get through the weekend somehow, although I still don’t feel 100%.

…But we did make it through the other side.

Our life will be better now.  That hard work was worthwhile, as it has put a nice pot of money into our bank which we can fall back on if necessary and I’ve been told any future reference requests will be glowing following the work I put into my role.  I’m very glad that my time in school is over now though.  Despite working full pelt, I never felt like I was totally doing my best job of being a Mum or my best job of being a teacher or a daughter or wife.  I always just felt like I was getting by – existing and doing my best to not sink in the madness that was going on around me.  The last fortnight of the month contained several days where I managed only to grab something from the petrol station for lunch, and skipped tea altogether as I knew Oscar was being looked after at nursery for food and I really needed to get on with work.

This is the start of our new chapter now.  One hopefully filled with healthy living, three meals a day, a tidy house, family fun, lots of running, a return to blogging, and a better work-life balance for us all.  I struggle with that work-life balance, as I know many do.  But at the end of the day, life is short.  {How is Oscar one year old already?!}  I don’t want to look back and feel like I missed out because I was too busy working or wishing Oscar would go to sleep so that I could get some marking done.

Now to see how the next chapter of our life turns out…

All over the UK

When I first fell pregnant last year Dan and I agreed that it was time we stopped travelling around the country to see friends and family.  Instead we decided that it was time they came to see us, or that we met in a mutual location, we saw them less often or all of the above.

We do feel really settled in our little town in Northamptonshire, but when Dan and I took the leap of moving in together we made the unwise decision to move halfway between both Dan’s family and mine so that one of us would never be a four hour journey from their friends and family.  All it actually means though is that we end up traveling ALL THE TIME!  Every time one of our nieces or nephew has a birthday, it requires four hours of driving.  Each time we fancy going out for coffee or a beer (or in my case a hot chocolate or wine) with our best friends it becomes a proper long trek, normally tied in with an overnight stay at parents’ houses, fitting in visits to as many people as practically possible during the time that we are back.  The task is made much more difficult now that Oscar is on the scene too.

Of course we have both made fantastic friends in our new area, having lived here for nearly seven years, but that has added to our growing list of commitments!

Over the past two weeks we have attended a wedding in Birmingham, been to celebrate a friend’s son’s first birthday party in Norwich and then headed to Huddersfield for another friend’s son’s first birthday party…

Sarah and Treble's wedding - Oscar in braces(The Pearsons looking all smart for our first wedding of 2017)

Dinosaur cake for Charles' birthday at the Dinosaur Park

(Check out that cake for a first birthday bash held at the Dinosaur Park in Norwich!)

…In our house we’ve managed to touch up final coats of paint on ceilings, doors, architrave and walls, and move furniture to have the carpet laid upstairs.  (Finally.  No more floorboards!)… Oscar's nursery bedroom(Oscar’s nursery when we first moved in)Oscar's nursery bedroom(And Oscar’s nursery now!)

…We’ve bought a new sofa and armchair set for our lounge and we’re about to take up the carpet in our lounge/diner to reveal the parquet floor underneath.  (Please let there be nothing wrong with it.  I want this house to be DONE!)… Angelic sofa from Dfs(Angelic sofa from Dfs)

…Dan and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary on the 9th August.  I bought Dan a new leather wallet and he gave me a gorgeous leather-bound notebook for my writing.  We stayed at Rutland Water for a night the following week with Oscar, who we took on a walk to Bugtopia the following day.Leather bound notebook for our third anniversary(It’s so lovely I’m not sure I want to spoil it with my handwriting!)

…Oscar also managed to knock my phone off the bed a fortnight ago and I have been phoneless ever since.  It has been sent off for repair, but I’m not sure how much longer I will be without, especially as it has been away during the Bank Holiday weekend.

The first time my phone failed to turn on I shrugged it off and was like ‘Meh.  I’m due an upgrade in November.  I can last until then.’  But actually there’s been several times I’ve wanted to take pictures and not been able to, I’ve fallen madly behind with my emails again and I haven’t read any blogs for days.  I could really have done with my phone over the weekend when Dan and I spent eleven hours in a car over three days attending childrens’ birthday parties!
I hope I get it back soon.

Our home computer is all in pieces at the moment as well, as we moved everything out of our office so that the carpet could go down and I’m waiting for Dan to put up our new desk before constructing the computer again.  I’ve still been out running, but the computer isn’t there for me to sync the runs from my Garmin to Strava at the moment.  I’ll have to do a big batch of them all next week.  Then I can add stats to a post about my snail-killer run, my all-the-paths-with-streetlights run and the run where I ran the same one mile loop on repeat for an hour.

Can you tell I’m about done of lonesome night-time running?!

How long could you survive for without a phone?!
Have you had a busy Summer?
When was the last time you bought new furniture for your house?

A slight change of marathon plan

So my goal marathon for 2017 has always been Mablethorpe.  I’ve run the race three times now (2013, 2014, 2015), the route is pancake flat, the race always seems to attract other runners from our club and I know where to buy the best milkshake from after the race(!)

But, there were a few snags with my target marathon being Mablethorpe this year.

  • It falls just one week after the half marathon I won a place at (Ealing half).
  • I will be returning to work full time in September for one month – finishing two days before Mablethorpe marathon.  I have been working full time since May whilst juggling raising Oscar, training, blogging and keeping on top of housework and family life, but a teaching workload in September will be much greater than one in July.
  • It will be just a few days after Oscar’s first birthday (27th September – added purely so Dan remembers when it is!) and we had wanted to hold a get-together on the Saturday for close family and friends.

Recently, after a long discussion with Dan we made the decision to have Oscar Christened.  Because both of our families are a two hour drive from where we live it made sense for us to combine Oscar’s Christening with his first birthday celebrations and the date suggested to us by the Vicar was October 1st – conveniently a date all three Godparents could make too.  Something we thought might be an issue, knowing how busy the weekends in all three calendars get!

So Mablethorpe is off the cards.  If I did rock up to the start line for 9:30am on September 1st, I doubt very much that I would be able to run 26.2 miles, shower, change and drive the 90 miles back for the ceremony at 10:30am.

No, the easiest thing to do would be change my target marathon so I’ve decided to run Chelmsford marathon again.  Which to be honest (don’t tell Dan) I’d already decided to do anyway.  Partly as a backup in case I fell short of my target at Mablethorpe, and partly to tick off another marathon from the list, getting ever closer to that magic 100 marathon number.  I used Chelmsford as my backup marathon in 2015 after my Mablethorpe sub 5 attempt didn’t go to plan.  (That year I literally returned home from Mablethorpe, searched for nearby marathons that were taking place a fortnight later and had booked Chelmsford within minutes of waking the following morning.)  In that scenario the plan worked, and I ducked under the sub 5 bracket by 6 minutes.

This time I want more.

Chelmsford marathon falls three weeks later than Mablethorpe did.  On the 22nd October.  Swapping my target race will allow me to run hard at Ealing half marathon towards the end of September and still recover enough in time to race hard at the marathon.  (That’s the plan anyway!)

I am kind of sad that I won’t be running Mablethorpe again this year (and also missing the opportunity to add another marathon to my tally), but I will be back.  It’s a lovely race with great marshals and a super flat course.  You run right alongside the beach twice on the route and last time I ran, there was somebody there handing out little bags of seaside pic ‘n’ mix.  Winner!

The last couple of weeks of marathon training have been a bit sporadic so having those extra three weeks now is reassuring.  The final week of term was a fairly busy one for me and I was working late or attending leaving dos most evenings.  The Saturday of that week I headed to Rushmere parkrun (new course for me!) before a friend’s hen do, and the following week saw Dan, Oscar and I all end up with food poisoning following some dodgy chicken during a meal out.  Rubbish!

Quick recap of the Rushmere parkrun, as I’ll kick myself if I don’t write about it and there were some pretty nice pictures on their Facebook page too.

Rushmere parkrunRushmere was my 86th parkrun and 13th different course.  I ran with Laura and as per most parkruns we just chatted our way round.

Rushmere parkrunDan has promised to take Oscar on a Saturday morning soon though so that I may run a parkrun hard once more!

Rushmere parkrunLaura and I had an afternoon at Go Ape planned as part of a friend’s hen do, and I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to heights so I needed to save a bit of energy to get round the high ropes course at Woburn!

Rushmere parkrunRushmere is a lovely off-road two-lap course, with friendly marshals providing banter rightthe beginning at the event briefing.  The absolute best thing about the Rushmere parkrun though is that it has a PB gong!

{Official time: 35:05   Position: 143/187   Gender position: 53/74   Age grade position: 11/13}

Technically it wasn’t a parkrun PB for me, but it was a course PB (having never run the course before, so I leapt at the chance to ring the gong!  I think the gong should be part of the mandatory kit when a new parkrun course starts up.  I’d want to run faster just to have the opportunity to ring it at the end  I wouldn’t have a clue where to start looking when it came to buying one of these though!

After parkrun, it was Go Ape.

Go Ape for Steph's hen do(I survived!)

And After Go Ape it was time for a quick flick with the wet wipes and a dress thrown on before getting glammed up for Afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea for Steph's hen do

I’m a jam then cream kinda person.

Afternoon tea for Steph's hen do

This week I’m back on target with my training again.  I even made it out to a club training session on Thursday night which I haven’t been able to do in ages!  (Baby logistics as Dan doesn’t return home from work until 6:20pm and club starts at 6:30.)

I’ll sit down with my training plan on Sunday and tweak it slightly to reflect the extra weeks I have now gained before race day, and also the week of training I missed when I was ill.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to stick 100% to the Hanson’s Method when I started training, but the elements I’ve incorporated have definitely been doing me some good.  Not only have I PBd over three different distances just lately but I generally feel stronger and healthier.  I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can achieve during this training cycle!

Have you visited Go Ape?
Jam then cream or cream then jam?!