Two parkruns and some big news

Firstly, the parkruns.
Both at Northampton, both with the buggy.

Last week I headed over to run with Laura and Steph, who has been out with an injury for almost a year now.  Every runner’s worst nightmare.  Steph was hoping to run the whole parkrun and then intended on rewarding herself with a new pair of trainers if she succeeded in doing so.  Spoiler alert: a new pair of trainers were purchased!

We started at the back and kept things super slow so that we could catch up on the gossip.  I can’t remember the last time I ran properly without chatting at parkrun to be honest.  I’m due a proper hard run soon I’m sure!
Northampton parkrun with the running buggy

We used to regularly have a photographer at Northampton parkrun but it’s been a bit hit and miss for the last year or so and it was nice to see one out and about last weekend.  He was literally everywhere as well.  Popped up so many times out on the course!  According to a post he shared on the parkrun Facebook page, he took more than 2000 images during the run!

Garmin time: 35:37
Official time: 35:42
Position: 449/539
Gender position: 173/234
Age category position: 22/27

We obviously headed to The Good Loaf for cake afterwards, although for some reason I forgot to take any pictures.  Very unlike me!

As I was loading up the buggy back at my car again, a tiny little mouse came running out from underneath my car and just pottered around on the pavement.  He kept stopping and looking at me, but really wasn’t scared at all.

Mouse in Northampton

This past weekend, Oscar and I headed to Northampton parkrun again with Laura and this time Dan joined us too, although ran his own ‘race’.  Now that Dan has decided to give up football on a Saturday morning he thought it would be a good idea to get back out to parkrun for as many events as he can make, starting with the one at the weekend.

Dan, Me and Oscar on the way to parkrun

On the drive over Dan asked if I would like him to head back and collect Oscar from me once he had crossed the finish line.  I said that he could do if he wanted, although we may not be too far behind, depending on how busy it was that day.

Laura, Oscar and I at Northampton parkrunIt was pretty busy.

We got very stuck behind other runners at the beginning.  I’ve naturally got a very long stride and it’s very hard to keep clipping it continuously.  The paths are very narrow at Northampton and so I kept whizzing Oscar out on the grassy verges and over the bumpy bits where I was able, so that I could overtake runners who stopped or slowed as we went along.  Oscar didn’t seem to care though.  I get the impression (from all the fab smiling he does as everyone runs by) that he adores being in the buggy!

Garmin time: 31:40
Official time: 31:43
Position: 361/523
Gender position: 105/217
Age category position: 17/31

I was really surprised to see 31m 40s on my Garmin as I crossed the line, as once again I’d chatted the whole way round and we really had been going so very slowly (for us) at the beginning of the run.  Dan finished in just under 31 minutes and didn’t make it back to relieve me of the buggy!

We had a busy weekend actually as Dan, Oscar and I met friends, along with their 11-month-old baby at Beckworth Emporium for lunch.  Well, we met them at 2pm, and were seated a little after 3.  The queuing was insane!  Luckily, the babies behaved.

Beckworth Emporium queueI definitely deserved burger and cake for my lunch/tea by the time we were seated!

Burger from Beckworth EmporiumThat fudge cake was a killer though…I wolfed it down as Oscar needed feeding by that point, but by the time I got up I could barely move I was so full!

Chocolate fudge cake from Beckworth Emporium

On Sunday morning Dan managed a lay in, and then I got him breakfast in bed.  (I thought it was supposed to be Mother’s Day?!  Haha!)  We had planned to go swimming so that Dan could see Oscar in the pool, as, other than his first swimming lesson back at the start of January, Dan hasn’t seen Oscar in the water.

Oscar absolutely adores swimming.  Over the past three months his confidence has grown so much in the pool and he is now perfectly happy to dive in from the side of the pool, go underwater, and he kicks his legs and doggy-paddles with his arms.  He’s pretty easy to spot in the pool as he’s the one that will be shrieking with excitement each lesson!

We stopped in at Asda to pick up some coloured plastic balls and a plastic watering can for him to play with in the pool and although he was quite distracted by all of the other children in the public swimming pool, Dan still got to see him enjoying the water which was nice.

We followed our swim up with a picnic at Irchester Country Park, where we were going to give Oscar his first experience of the swings, but it was so incredibly busy as it was such a lovely, sunny weekend that we decided to give it a miss and headed out on a little walk instead.

Dan, Oscar and I out for a walk on Mother's Day

On Sunday I also handed in my notice at work.  I’ve been at the same school for the last two and a half years, although it feels like much longer.  Despite having been on maternity leave since the end of September, I still find myself logging in to the system every couple of days to work on resources for Year 11 (my subject responsibility), and I check my email daily.  I just can’t switch off as a teacher, despite not being in the classroom!

It was a huge decision for Dan and I to make, but ultimately I know that we have made the best decision for our little family.  I will still be returning to school at the end of May to work my notice until the end of the school year, during which time Oscar will attend nursery, but after that I will become a full-time stay-at-home/work-odd-jobs-from-home Mum.

I was so worried about sending the email with my resignation that it took me more than two hours to write the message, and then nearly another 30 minutes before I felt able to hit the send button!  The response from my Head of Department summed up how I was feeling though, and I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing this paragraph…
“I know that you won’t have made this decision lightly.  I also know that you couldn’t possibly be just an ‘OK’ teacher and just an ‘OK’ Mum, so it’s about priorities.  It’s so important to be happy in life Mary.”

I want to be the very best Mum that I can be to Oscar, and I don’t feel like I would be able to do that with 60+ hour working weeks and without any down-time to run or write.  I don’t know quite how things will work out come-September, but I do know that we will adjust just fine and our new way of life will become the new normal.  I’m looking forward to the next chapter!

Just recently there have been several things that I have wanted to write about that I feel don’t really ‘fit’ this blog.  AHM has always been a) very run-focused and b) written more like a diary.  I feel like at the moment there are quite a few ‘topics’ I want to write about.  Some of them baby, some of them just life-things, and they don’t really fit here.  I hurriedly set up a new baby blog back when I first announced my pregnancy online, although decided to continue writing on AHM as my pregnancy journey often had a running-focus.  I think I’m now ready to start running the two blogs alongside each other though, so if you would like to read about a slightly different side of my life, then please visit me over at From Teacher to Mum.  It’s very new, I haven’t played with the design yet and I’m not sure how often I’ll post at the moment.  Getting long blocks of time in front of the computer with a six month old is pretty tough!  I still intend on writing about Oscar-things here when it is running related though.

How did you spend Mother’s Day at the weekend?
Did you learn to swim as a child?
When did you last hand your notice in at a job?

All my spare time has been spent sleeping

It has been nineteen days since I last posted, and probably about the same amount of time since I last properly sat down and read a blog.  Life has really been rushing by at 100mph lately and although I’ve really missed checking in and capturing moments of my life each week, I have so appreciated the extra time that not blogging and not reading blogs has given me to enable me to do nothing mark a million ten sets of coursework each for one hundred and seventy students over the past nineteen days.

Friday was coursework deadline day for my year 11 students, and it marks the end of a long period of 3:45-4:15am get ups for me.  It takes on average somewhere between 15-30 minutes to mark each student’s folder and as I joined the school halfway through last academic year I was gifted six sets of lovely year 10s, of varying ability.  Fine as year 10s, but when the pressure mounts and coursework deadline looms it turns out agreeing to take on those 170 students through to year 11 is the same as signing your life away, and almost every waking moment is spent marking, remarking, updating marks for parents and creating individual ticklists for students to ensure they know what is missing from their folder.

My life for the past three weeks has been a constant cycle of:

  • Set a ridiculously early alarm (usually about 4am)
  • Drag myself downstairs to try and wake up a little with some hot porridge
  • Let Bella have a drink from the bathroom tap (awful habit!) before allowing her to curl up on my lap in the office (and dry off a little!)
  • Bella in the sinkMark until 6am
  • Shower and rush around like a crazy person to make sure I have everything I need for the day
  • Get chauffeured to school (thanks Dan!) whilst catching up a little with emails and social media
  • Mark until kids start arriving (approx 8:15am)
  • Teach until breaktime
  • Have kids in for detention
  • Teach until lunchtime
  • Have coursework catch up kids in
  • Teach until 3pm
  • Mark until Dan picks me up at 5, or help any students that have stayed behind to work on their coursework.
  • Get chauffeured home from school (thanks Dan!) Too tired to do anything on the journey home though!
  • Cook and eat tea
  • Mark until bedtime (often quite late)

Dan’s 89 year old Nan was also rushed into hospital three weeks back, following a series of severe angina attacks.  It has meant that some evenings Dan and I have also slotted in the two hour journey over to Wolverhampton hospital where she is staying, visited her for an hour, before heading home again.  Luckily, Dan has done the driving so I have been able to catch up on a little sleep during this time.

One day I even somehow managed to sleep through my alarm going off every 5 minutes from 4:30am right through until nearly 6:20am!  I knew that I had been pretty tired the evening before so had allowed myself a later alarm time, but still managed to sleep through the alarm going off for nearly two hours!Missed phone alarm

As you can see, I haven’t had a lot of spare time just lately!

This weekend, I am not marking.  I am having the weekend off.  Other than a baby shower yesterday afternoon, I have no plans apart from catching up with some TV series, seeing a bit of Dan (we’re heading out for a nice meal this afternoon), probably catch up on a bit of very neglected housework, have a serious blog-reading-binge, write a few posts myself and get a couple of runs in.

Even the last few weekends have been fairly busy for Dan and I.  I’ve headed back to Norfolk to meet a friend’s new baby for the first time, I also ran at both the Thames Trot 50 and the Charnwood Hills fell race.  All posts to follow this week hopefully.

Thames Trot 50

Despite this coming week showing as a half term holiday in my calendar I have resigned myself to heading in to school from 7-5 each day as per my usual working week in order to mark all coursework on the official qualification submission sheets and catch up a little with the classes that I have neglected in the build up to the deadline on Friday.  On the plus side though, my alarm will be set for no earlier than 5:45am and I will not be bringing work home with me this week.

…Roll on the Easter holidays!

So tell me, what have I missed in the last three weeks?
What is the first thing to ‘go’ when things get a little busy for you?

A parkrun photographer

…but not a very good one I’m afraid!

I had a look at the parkrun volunteering rota for Northampton on Friday morning.  I’d established by that point that I would leave parkrun alone last week to help my toe fully recover ready for my upcoming 50 mile race!  On the way into work I realised just how much better my toe felt than it had done though.  I had whacked on some large boots on Thursday evening and headed out for a walk around town before tea and this must have loosened things up a little.
When I was looking on the volunteering rota I was actually really checking to see if the tail runner position had already been filled.  At Northampton, the last runners often take more than 50 minutes, a speed that I felt I would be able to comfortably walk the distance in, perhaps jogging occasionally along at the back.  I still want my 50 parkrun t-shirt!

The tail runner position had already been filled, but they were after a timekeeper for the morning.  I headed to the Northampton parkrun Facebook page to volunteer my services, but somebody had beaten me to it.  :(  The photographer role was still up for grabs though, so I decided to stick my name down for that instead.

The rain poured down throughout the whole drive over to Northampton.  I left early – around 8am, hoping to find a parking spot at the Racecourse easily, but the car infront of me took the last one.  It was OK, I know where all of the parking spots on surrounding roads are.  Many a mad dash from car to start has taken place on a Saturday morning before!

I stood talking to other runners in the rain a little longer than I perhaps should have done before legging it over to my chosen spot on the other side of the park – halfway up the only hill on the course.  I managed to run okay in my boots, despite my broken toe!

I made it just in time before the lead runners came bombing past.  I had been really worried about the lack of light, as the sky was still very dark.  I was worried about missing anyone, cutting vital body parts out of the shots or producing sub standard photos.  I love heading to local races I’m not running in and taking photos of the runners on their way to the finish, but there is no pressure there as I never tell anyone I am going to show up beforehand.  Nobody expects me to be out taking photos or looks for the photos online after finishing the race, as most of the time they dodn’t even realise I’m there on the side of the road.

I checked on the camera screen as best I could inbetween runners and the images appeared to be coming out OK thankfully, so I carried on snapping away from my vantage point near the top of the hill.  The rain came in stages, but I had my camera lens tucked inside a plastic bag, with a hole for the end of it to stick out.  Real professional, me! 😉

These guys were wearing a fabulous set of t-shirts!  Front and back!

We love parkrun, oh yes we do! t-shirtsThe Northampton parkrun course is run over one and a half laps of the Racecourse so I saw each of the runners twice.  There were a few sparser moments where runners were running with nobody else or very few people around them, and it gave me a chance to play with my shot setups a little, taking a few closeups.

Andy at Northampton parkrunBob at Northampton parkrunThese didn’t come out too badly.  Whenever I head to a race to take photos I tend to take shots of individuals, – runners from my running club.  I’m used to hunting out one person from within a group and focusing on taking many shots of that person as they run past.  At parkrun on Saturday I was desperately trying to ensure I got shots of everybody and unfortunately the quality of my photos paid the price for this.  See below as an example.

9th January at Northampton parkrunBlurry and unfocused.  I don’t know if it was the light, the 300ml lens I had chosen to shoot with, not picking clear subjects, an unsteady, cold hand?  But I was so disappointed to look through the pictures when I returned home again.  I approved 93 out of over 300 photos for uploading.  Good job I took plenty to choose from to begin with!

If you have been reading my blog for any length of time at all you will have come to realise how much of a perfectionist I am and how I like everything I deliver to be absolutely perfect.  I felt rather embarrassed not to be delivering a complete set of photos to the parkrun RD later that day.  Completely irrational as it was something I had volunteered to do.  No-one made me take the photographs, and had I not volunteered to head over with my camera, they wouldn’t have had any photos at all!

Northampton parkrun – Hi. I’ve got 93 photos so far. Shall I expect more to come?
Mary P – I took a couple of hundred photos but to be honest the light was pretty rubbish this morning and along with the rain they didn’t make the best shots. I’ll try editing some of the others now to see if I can improve them any and then add them to those in the dropbox. I’m rather annoyed at how they came out. :( Sorry.
Northampton parkrun – Sorry? For what exactly? :) Thanks for taking the photos in the first place!
Just let me know when you think you are finished and I will upload them. No rush, and don’t overdo it. Remember, you won’t get a bonus or anything. lol. :)
I know, the light can be pretty rubbish, I tend to struggle with it myself when I do it.
Mary P – Thanks. Just didn’t want to let anyone down as lots of people seemed to play up for camera today!
Northampton parkrun – I know what you mean, I felt so guilty for every bad photo I had to throw away, but now I think they understand we are not professional photographers – I am certainly not, I assume you aren’t either – and they are happy with whatever they get. Also, if you do it a few more times you will get better and better. I did anyway, learned a lot, yet it won’t stop me messing it up every now and then. haha. :) Come and do it again next week, I’m sure you will be more pleased with the results! (especially if there is more light. ;))
We struggle to find a photographer more often than not, and the runners love the photos, but I can’t do it next week as I am RD.
Mary Pearson – I’ve added another 39 images to the folder now, although I’m not very happy with the quality. :(
I can’t make next week I’m afraid as I am marshaling at the Country 2 Capital race, but if I could come along to take some photos the week after I would be grateful. I have unfinished business now! I think I might be better off trying the start/finish line rather than trying to get everyone in at once from under the trees where there is no light.
Thank you for your kind words.
Northampton parkrun – That’s the spirit! :) (Just how I felt after the first time haha)
Thanks for the photos, I’ve got a total of 132 now. I’ll start uploading them in a few minutes.
Yep, finding the right location is important. I like it near the finish. Runners putting in that last bit of effort tend to make really good photos! I think I’m RD on that week too, so I’ll probably see you on the 23rd!
And please, feel free to come any other week, it seems if I’m not doing it (and I can’t always, even when I’m not RD) no one does, and the runners love the photos!
Thanks again.

Sometimes all it takes for me to relax and not stress over silly little things is a few kind words from somebody else.  I felt much better after a Facebook chat with the Race Director.

I happened to be on the Northampton parkrun Facebook page this evening and caught sight of all of the comments and likes my photos received…

Northampton parkrun photos…and I relaxed even more.

The running community is a fabulous one.  The photos weren’t my best, but I shall do better next time.  Reading the appreciative messages about the photos (from people who didn’t know how much I had stressed!) on the parkrun page was very rewarding. In fact, it made me want to put myself through it all over again next weekend! 😉
I shall be back Northampton, and I will have worked on those photography skills!

Do you take many photos?
Any top photography tips you want to share with me?
Have you ever volunteered to take photos at an event before?
If you have volunteered at parkrun before, what is your favourite role?

A soggy tourist!

It’s been a little while.  Sorry for my absence from the blog.  I have a lot to write about and a lot to catch up on, and I’m hoping to do just that this weekend.  I’ll start by telling you about my most recent parkrun tourism trip…
Not last Saturday, but the one before that (7th November), Laura and I headed off to Daventry for a bit of parkrun tourism. Daventry was the sixth parkrun course I’ve run, and was parkrun number 36 in total.
My usual parkrun courses are all a good thirty minutes away and Daventry showed as being 50 minutes away when I punched the postcode into the satnav.
After a week of 5am get ups, I had decided to set my alarm for 7:20am on Saturday morning so it ended up being quite a rush getting round, ready for leaving by 7:45am. I did it though…Only to discover that there were just 60 miles of petrol left in the tank of my car. I always do this…Leave buying petrol until the last minute and then not factoring in the time to purchase any on the way! Luckily I arrived with 10 miles to spare and there was a petrol station within sight of where I parked.
10 miles left
It was absolutely tipping it down when I arrived. I’d had my windscreen wipers going on full blast and after getting out of the car to change my trainers, I was soaked through within seconds. I’d arrived wearing road shoes, unsure of the terrain we would be running on.  I knew trail shoes would be a better option when I glanced up to see the muddy field in front of the car park where the finish funnel was being constructed though.
The reason we had decided to head to Daventry on Saturday was due to the first birthday celebrations that were taking place. Fancy dress and slotting in some parkrun tourism is high on the agenda this year and we both really enjoyed the Corby’s first birthday parkrun back in September.  The Daventry event was a black tie do and so there were plenty of runners in dresses and suits, slipping around in the rain. This included Laura, who arrived fully dressed up, including wearing accessories of a necklace and also clutching tightly onto a handbag, which she used to carry her parkrun barcode around in!
Laura at Daventry parkrun(Laura in her get-up post-race!)
There were some fab outfits, and despite the rain, loads of people were wearing dresses, full on suits, or like one guy who zoomed by me early into the race, wearing a suit jacket and dickie bow with running shorts on his bottom half!
Daventry parkrun in the paper
I bailed out of the fancy dress at the last minute, despite Dan intending on pulling out his tux tie for me the evening before. Waking up late, not feeling great, the horrific weather and the mad rush as I realised that the parkrun was actually 50 minutes away and I had limited petrol were all contributing factors to this decision. I felt a bit bad texting Laura to say I was just in regular running kit, but I think she let me off in the end!
When I arrived I was desperate for the toilet. I don’t think the noisy rain had helped. The rain, along with downing a pint of water just before leaving the house an hour earlier, meant that by the time I had changed my trainers, found Laura and asked where the toilets were,  it was 8:55, I was desperate for the loo and with no time to make it to the toilets and back before the start. Damn!
Not knowing the course, we lined up at the back and chatted to the other runners around us. I decided to keep my hoodie on as it was still really raining. It wasn’t cold though and I instantly regretted it when we started running.
Daventry parkrun
Although Laura had done her research and declared the route off-road, we weren’t sure if the course consisted of multiple laps or just the one lap.  We began on a pathway, gradually picking off other runners in front of us.  It was a proper Autumn day out there, with leaves on the ground everywhere you looked.  The heavy rain meant lots of mud to either side of the path, and there was a brief bottleneck near the beginning as runners slowed down to head through a water-logged gate one-by-one.
Daventry parkrunI really didn’t have a great run and realised early on that if you need the toilet before a run, it’s probably better to go, rather than to try and run with a short stride and ignore the sound of rushing water under the bridges you run across!
I hadn’t planned on a quick one, which was good, as it definitely wasn’t!  Laura and I chatted away for the first couple of miles, but I was even struggling with that towards the end.  I just wasn’t having a good day!  The course was just one lap in the end, and I really enjoyed the route.  One to go back for again for sure.
Mile 1: 10:46
Mile 2:
Mile 3: 10:22
Nubbin: 8:51mm pace
I removed my jacket and carried it after about a mile.  It was too warm and faffy to be wearing it AND run.
Daventry parkrunI told Laura to push ahead near to the end so she went off and left me for the last little bit.  I did the best sprint finish I could muster whilst needing a wee, and as soon as I crossed the finish line I thrust my barcode into Laura’s hand for her to scan so that I could nip off and find the loo!
Official time: 30:54
Gender position: 21/67
Category position: 4/7
A few minutes later, and with an empty bladder once more, Laura and I made our way to the post-parkrun cafe for cake and hot chocolate.
I did point out to Laura that it was looking like we were becoming the parkrun crashers – going from birthday parkrun to birthday parkrun and enjoying the birthday cake!  And it was good cake…
Guinness cake at Daventry parkrunAlthough not normally a Guinness fan, there was something about the density of the Guinness cake that appealed to me and I did not leave disappointed following a slice of this!
Laura and I stuck around for a long gossip after the run, and one of the main organisers came to chat to us about where we were from and ask if we had enjoyed our first experience of Daventry parkrun, which was really nice.  I do love the smaller events like this.  Parkrun is such a friendly community!

Do you chat to parkrun tourists at your event?  Our local event, Northampton, is so large I wouldn’t know who was a regular and who wasn’t.