Why running in the autumn is brilliant, plus some cake baking


Or why walking in the autumn is brilliant.

I’ve been on a fair few runs over the past few weeks- I’ve only managed 3 per week instead of 4 because of various work things getting in the way.  (On a side note, I am quite relieved that I didn’t sign up for 100 miles this month, because for a couple of weeks I have come home on a Thursday totally exhausted, with work still to do, and so have had a gentle walk instead of a run- this is for overall balance of health). I’m also getting way behind with my podcasts because I have been running races or club runs on Sundays, and then I’ve missed my Thursday solo runs, and I don’t listen to podcasts at parkrun or on Tuesday club runs. Anyway, the runs I have managed have been fantastic.

Autumn seems to be coming much later at the moment- I remember years ago always going to see a fireworks show and being absolutely freezing, wrapped in so many layers with massive hats, gloves, scarves on. Now, yes it’s a bit chilly first thing, but it’s nowhere near as cold. So many trees are still green, and lots of them have only just started changing colour in the last few weeks.


I listened to a Marathon Talk interview on one of my runs, with Ian Corless (who hosts the Talk Ultra)- and I think I am an ultra runner in the disguise of a (mainly) half marathon runner. Why? Well, I just enjoy the process of running. Yes, sometimes I aim for a faster time (I had that sub 2 hour half on my radar since I started doing half marathons) but actually, I normally run because I actually like it. This may be no big revelation, but recently I am coming across more people who see running as a necessary evil- I’ve even been called the duracell bunny by some of my club members (in a nice way) because I keep on going and am “always” running. It’s hard to explain to people who don’t feel the same way, but I just really do love running, and so I think 3 or 4 runs per week is a reasonable amount of running to fit in.


Even on a grey day, the colours are just beautiful. I could have stopped every few metres on my run the other way as I just saw so many stunning trees, in so many shades of red, orange and gold.

I also find running in the heat of the summer very tough, so when it is a bit cooler (but not freezing- I don’t like slippery pavements and chillblains) running is even more of a pleasure. The air is fresher, and you can easily wear an extra layer to begin with, and tie it around your waist later on if you get too hot.


There is the dog poo danger though- who knows what’s lurking beneath the leaves???

Plus, coming home for a hot shower and hot cup of tea is a lovely reward.


(Or a hot chocolate.)

On Sunday morning I headed out to meet some of our club- the club were raising money for a local breast cancer care charity, and the fountain in Welwyn Garden City is always coloured pink during October for breast cancer awareness month. So the club had planned a pink run, and were donating money for each member who ran (and if you could not make the Sunday run, they asked for photos of people running at other times in the week, dressed in pink). As they were running from Hatfield I met them half way (and was given a tutu then)- as I was leaving the house I met my neighbour who was off to the gym, and had to explain why I was dressed head to toe in pink! In for a penny…

Anyway, we ran into the centre of Welwyn (lots of cars beeping at us on our way!) and were met by some club members who gave us a piece of pink cake to eat, before we posed for some photos in front of the fountain before running home. We posed as if we were checking for lumps, in the theme of breast cancer awareness. The club posted a message later saying they had donated £85, which isn’t bad for a little club.


Onto the cake baking! I tend to make cakes if we are going to Andy’s family for Sunday tea, and as we have been away for a few weekends it’s been less regular.

A few weeks ago I made a lemon cake (while singing along to Muppets Most Wanted soundtrack).


I filled it with some cream cheese icing- very delicious.


More recently I made some lemon cupcakes and hazelnut brownies. Andy’s brothers and wives were coming over, so I used my cake stands- I think it might actually be the first time I have ever used the three tiered cake stand (don’t worry, I washed it when I got it out of the cupboard).


We had to send them home with a bag of goodies too, as I did make rather a lot.

My favourite half term job (hooray for half term) is making Christmas cakes. Last year I think I had a bit of a problem fitting them in the mixing bowl (as I usually make a double batch as I make cakes for our families), but I have made them in two lots this year which has worked so much better.


They smell so good when they are baking- it makes the house feel all cosy.

Finally, I made a toffee apple gingerbread cake (for this Sunday’s tea)- it was amazing. It’s from the CCC book Year of Cake- basically you cooked slices of apple (from our apple tree) in some butter and sugar, and then put them in the bottom of the cake tin. You then made a gingerbread cake mixture, and poured that over the top. Leave it for a few days makes the flavours get even stronger, so I enjoyed a leftover slice this week. You might just see a bit of apple peeping out of the bottom of the cake.


Finally, (not to do with running or baking) Snow Fairy is back! I went into Lush to get some shampoo and was so excited to see the pink display! I love how this shower gel smells, so that (here we go, it can link) can mean I look forward to my post-run shower even more (yes, I linked it!).


Are you a fan of autumn running? What is your favourite soundtrack? Are there certain things that you associate with this time of year? Snow Fairy and Strictly being on the TV signal that soon we can mention the C word…

Tring parkrun in the mist

This weekend was another one where my dad and I decided to be parkrun tourists. At some point we are hoping to run one of the Milton Keynes ones with my dad’s cousin, and this was one of the weekends where we were both free. As Brian (his cousin) could not make the date we decided to be tourists closer to home (Tring parkrun is in Hertfordshire) as neither of us were in a hurry to be home after. We had a bit of a to and fro via email (I had parents evening this week, plus a long training day, so no time for phone calls!) and in his final email I was invited for pancakes afterwards- yes please!

Google said it would be about 40 minutes past my parents, so I picked up Dad at 8am and we drove there. It was very foggy in places, especially as we neared Tring. The traffic was clear and the (free) car park was very easy to find. We arrived at 8.30 and it was very cold, so we sat in the car for 15 minutes before deciding we should leave and find the start.


It was so foggy! The car park is a very short walk from the start, over a footbridge- very easy to find. The parkrun was very well organised (aren’t they all?) with lots of little added touches. For example, there was a sign on a stake with the parkrun logo and words to the effect of “First time here? Please speak to one of the volunteers in the high viz vests”- we ended up chatting to two first time parkrunners (a man and his son) before they did the new runners briefing. For the briefing two people did it- one held up a large (A1?) laminated map of the course, and this was pointed at to describe the various parts of their “flat” course…. I knew they were joking about that!


They also had these lovely wooden posts with the parkrun logo- they had one at each km too, saying the distance, although they also had the traditional laminated sign in the ground as I suppose those colours stand out more.

At the briefing they had a few names to mention, including one guy who was getting married later that day- apparently on Friday night in the pub his friends decided it would be a good idea to run his first ever parkrun on the morning of his wedding!

After the run briefing  (where they said they didn’t know where the cows were because of the fog..) we were off into the fog- they had mentioned a hill in the first km, and we thought the first bit was it at first. We ran up a hill through a field, and then into some woods, and then the hill properly started! It was very steep and I was glad we could not see how long it was!

The first kilometre marker was at the top and I had lead legs already!  The ground was covered in tree roots so you had to focus on that too. We then ran through the woods (past a gorgeous wooden owl carving sign for a natural play area) and at times the trees parted for what we assumed would be spectacular views across the countryside- it was still so foggy!

After an enjoyable section on slightly easier ground, the course went steeply down a hill (towards a big monument or something) before going back into the open again. It then took us through fields back towards the start/finish area. They had mentioned that they had a pb bell (something else I think is brilliant) and as we were running we heard some people ringing it- this was great as you could send some telepathic congratulations to whoever was ringing it. It’s a bit tough being near the finish and knowing you still have 1k to run, but then there were lots of the faster runners out cheering people along.

From their facebook page- there was a marshal with about 0.5 km to go I would guess, taking loads of photos. 

Although we thought the hill was out of the way, just before the finish straight there was a short but very steep section- I did run up it but it felt more like comedy running as I am sure I was going slower than walking pace! Anyway, the final section was slightly downhill so we picked up the pace, both crossing the line with official matching times of 30.30 (I like the repetition in the numbers here).


You can see from my Strava the steep uphill at the start of the course.

When we were getting our barcodes scanned, my dad asked one of the volunteers about the pb bell. She said seeing as it was our first visit to Tring, it would be our pb, so dad told me to ring the bell while he took my picture.


Yes, I was very excited about ringing the bell!

The two new people who were talking to us at the start saw us at the finish, so we asked how they got on- his son had managed to finish 21st! How impressive!


I thought that the fog had lifted a bit, but this was taken at the end and it doesn’t seem that different. We both had really wet hair along our hairline -covered in big drips from the fog.


That’s the start/finish area taken from the footbridge on our way back to the car park.

We both said straightaway that we would love to re-visit Tring, when there is no fog so we can properly enjoy the views, and when my brother is free so he could visit there too. another successful new parkrun! I do love the one lap courses and the park seemed to pretty. The volunteers were a very friendly team, and although 176 people ran it, even the start didn’t feel congested as it started on wide fields.

Then Mum made us pancakes- the start to the weekend doesn’t get much better than that!

Has your winter kit started to come out? I thought I would run in my t-shirt but it was so cold I kept my long sleeved top on the whole run.

A blustery weekend in Brighton (for the Bright10 2016)

ON Friday night, after dinner, we got the train down to Brighton. Normally fairly easy, but we ended up sitting at City Thameslink station for 35 minutes because apparently the GPS didn’t match up to where the train was… so we then had to get off at Gatwick and get another train. Anyway- we arrived somewhat later than we had planned but at least only had a short walk down from the station to our hotel.


I was looking at the different Brighton parkruns and tempted to try a different one, but in the end I opted to go to Hove Prom again, thinking it was the closest option to my hotel. I went there last November, and it’s right along the seafront so I had no chance of getting lost on the way! It was windy, but at least not raining, and I enjoyed seeing some of the Snowdogs on my way (from the film- decorated by different artists to raise money for a local hospice).


I arrived at around 8.45, and it was pretty empty- I thought perhaps the weather had put a lot of people off, but after the new runners briefing (I went to it as I could not 100% remember how many of each section to do) and then the main briefing, there were suddenly loads of people! There was a guy with an apricot top with “A-Z of parkruns” on the back- that’s a challenge!


Not many people about at about 8.50am.

I noticed that Joe Wilkinson was hanging around (although I could not remember his surname- I texted Andy saying that the guy with the beard from Countdown and Him and Her was running)- I didn’t want to seem weird by asking for a photo or anything! It turned out he was running at a similar speed to me so I tried to keep him in sight- at one turn around point there were 11 people between us, but by the end there were only 3. I was hoping for under 30 minutes (I knew I should not be going too fast  as I had to run back to the hotel, walk around Brighton all day and of course, run 10 miles the next morning). My parkrun time was 28.11 (last year I did the same course in 27.39)so I was pleased with that. The marshals were brilliant, and the same as last year, as you run past the start/finish bit half way, they were calling out the times- I think they said to me 14.30, so I knew I was under 30 minutes at that point- I must have sped up slightly.

I didn’t hang about after getting my chip scanned as it was fairly cold- I ran back to the hotel (via a Pret to get us both a hot drink), before a quick shower and then heading out for breakfast. By the time I got back I had run 6 miles- the run to and from parkrun was further than I thought!


Mmmm, pancakes from Cafe Coho- very delicious indeed.


We spent the day walking around Brighton- back along the seafront to the beach huts in the morning, and then around the shops in the afternoon,  spotting more of the Snowdogs.


It poured with rain later in the afternoon, which mad me slightly dread the morning as the weather forecast was worse. We had a lovely dinner in Food for Friends, and then shared some lemon cake while watching The Fall (anyone else getting fed up with that now?).


So, Sunday morning arrived. I had no idea of the weather as our hotel window looked out into an atrium. I had seen some messages from my club about people backing out of the Sunday morning run as the rain was so heavy, so I put on my tennis visor and left it as late as possible- to be precise I was out of the hotel at 8.38am, and it started at 9, just over a mile away. It was a speedy warm up run to get there on time! Thankfully it wasn’t raining, but the wind was gusting about in huge swirls, and the waves were crashing a long way up the beach.

At the start I lined up behind the 100 minute pacer, thinking that would be realistic. Last year I ran it in just under 1.34, but I knew I would not manage that this time. I took off my long sleeved top at the last possible minute, and dead on 9am the race started. It was so windy! The first few miles were OK, but sometimes as we ran past gaps between buildings, the gusts would be so fierce they would snatch your legs away from under you. It was really hard work, especially as the wind wasn’t constantly in one direction, it seemed to swirl about. I lost the pacer fairly quickly and on the hill at around 4 miles she overtook me. She was wearing a fluffy cow hat, and I spent a bit of time wondering if all the pacers had to wear those, and how sweaty they would be by the end. As there is a bit of out and back in the course, I also watched the speedier runners on the other side, and a few times saw some other pacers- they weren’t wearing fluffy cow hats, but maybe they were asked to and didn’t want to? Who knows. Anyway, going up the hill I started to notice a pain in my left buttock and left hamstring- it was a weird tense feeling. We turned around and ran back down the coast, and I tried to pick up some speed and keep the pacer in sight, but it was pretty uncomfortable. I think the bracing against the wind had made my muscles tense- it was a bit like cramp but not quite, but I did feel like I wasn’t running properly. After going down to sea level, we doubled back on ourselves again, towards the marina, and there was another little slope. Here I decided to walk and try to stretch out my leg a bit, which did help but it was still sore once I started running again.

When I saw the 7 mile sign I did think “less than a parkrun to go”, and I started to look out for Andy as he was going to meet me at the finish and bring me a cup of tea. I passed the 8 mile sign, and was occupying my mind looking at a lady in a bright orange top who kept running past me, getting about 100 yards up the road, then turning around and running backwards. She was clearly waiting for someone, but she kept on doing it over and over again- not sure why she wasn’t just running slower with her friend, as often I would not notice when I ran past her, I’d only realise when she overtook me for the umpteenth time! Anyway, at around 8.5 miles I saw Andy, who waved a cup and paper bag at me (containing a cinnamon roll I hoped)- I shouted that I only had a mile and a half left and I think the thought of the warm tea gave me a bit of a boost- plus I didn’t want it to get too cold! My final mile was 9.40, which was my second quickest (after the first mile at 9.37)- yes I really wanted the tea! I had lost sight of the 100 minute pacer at that point, so just tried to keep going, use my arms, and count up to 100 in my head to help the finish line get closer. The sea spray was blowing right across the finish line, so my glasses were suddenly all wet and as I was given my medal, water, a clif bar and some weird yoghurt drink, I had a hard time spotting Andy.


Luckily he had seen me (I didn’t have my phone with me so I  had just started to wonder about how we would meet up)- a quick photo by the sea and then I drank the tea while we walked back.


My chip time was 1:39:48 – just under the 1.40, and I don’t think I could have gone any faster with that wind and my sore leg.

Then it was time for a lovely hot shower and the cinnamon roll before we walked to the station. We were going to go out for lunch, but as I’d just eaten the cinnamon roll I wasn’t that hungry, and there were rail replacement buses for the first bit of the journey, so we bought a sandwich, to have later on the train as we didn’t want to start the journey too late.

All in all, I still enjoyed the race. I think it’s well priced (it cost me £19 as I bought it on the earlybird deal), the hotel for 2 nights totalled £79 as we booked early, and our train tickets in total came to £40 as we have a two together card. The marshals were very encouraging in what can’t have been nice weather for standing about in, and the route being mostly by the sea meant there was always some nice (dramatic) scenery to look at.  Plus we had a lovely Saturday in Brighton.


I also really love the medal, which helps!

Have you ever been a pacer runner? Do you like following the pacer runners? I quite like them, but often I find that they run more to gun than chip time, even if they start further back. Would you choose to run in wind or rain? It did occur to me that you can do hill training if you have a hilly race, but you can’t really do wind training! Have you been watching The Fall?

Herts 10K 2016

A few weeks ago my dad mentioned that he was going to run the Herts 10k, a local race organised by a hospice to raise funds. We had run it many years ago, and as he is trying to up his distance, and was around that weekend he’d decided to give it a go. As I was free, I signed up too, and so last Sunday morning I picked him up and we drove to Harpenden.

It was perfect weather for running- the most gorgeous autumnal day- blue skies with a chill in the air. We arrived with about half an hour to spare (we had allowed extra time as you have to park at the train station and then walk just under a mile to start), so we found a place to stand in the sun to warm up for a bit! Dad had worn tracksuit trousers over his shorts, and had brought a bag (I was just going to tie my top around my waist as I ran) so we used the bag drop (well, tent) and then headed to the start.

From their facebook page- gorgeous blue skies.

I had thought that he would run ahead, but when we were chatting about times, we both wanted to finish in under an hour. My last time running this course I managed around 62 minutes, and my dad and brother were just a few seconds over the hour, so we both fancied that target. We did arrange a place to meet up just in case one of us was running slightly faster, but in the end we ran together. It was so enjoyable- the course is really lovely, just through fields, along country tracks, with a small section through residential streets- here people had come out of their houses and were cheering everyone on. I had my Garmin on so I was keeping an eye on the time- we reached half way in just under 30 minutes- and we were both feeling good (my dad has to keep an eye on his knee). Although I had run the course before, it was a few years ago (5 or 6) and all I could remember was a hill by a golf course. The hill came, and although it was steep, it wasn’t too bad, and we both ran up it- in fact at the top we both wondered if that was it! Dad said it was a bit of proof that we were fitter than last time- I agreed and thought that the hill at the end of Panshanger parkrun was also good training for this!

At times you had to watch your step to avoid twisting an ankle, as some of the ground was rutted or covered in long grass, but it was just such a pretty route to run around. We got a bit stuck as there was one long thin path, with just over a mile to go I think, where you had to run single file and we slowed a little here. I did think we would need to push on a bit in the final mile. We got to the 9km marker and my dad remarked “9 miles? What?” before realising it was a kilometre marker! It’s not just me that gets confused at races! At this point I think we were on 53 minutes, and we compared it to a 30 minute parkrun being 6 minute km’s, thought we would have enough time. The final section was on the same path that we started on, and I thought it was going to finish sooner than it did, so we sped up a bit too soon! Anyway, we crossed the line together, with our official chip time being 58.40! Nicely under the hour mark!

Dad collected the bag, and then of course we had to have a photo- I was clearly very excited here! (This took many attempts as neither of us are good at A- looking at the camera, and B- keeping our eyes open for photos!).

We then had a cool-down walk back to the car, before heading home for a shower (our boiler still wasn’t working so I’d packed all my shower things, towels and clothes). Mum then made us a brunch of pancakes, fruit and tea. All was good in the world!

What sort of activities do you do with your family? My brother and dad go cycling together, and sometimes we will have a long walk somewhere.

Two milestones in one day!

This time last year, it was Panshanger parkrun’s first birthday, and my 50th parkrun. Last weekend was their second birthday, and my 80th parkrun! I am quite impressed that I managed 30 last year, as I also did quite a few weeks of marshalling where I could not run.


They were having a beach party theme, so I had ordered a grass shirt and flower lei to wear over my running kit. At first there were not many people dressed up, but thankfully as time got on, there were a few people dressed up. I got talking to one couple and asked them why they weren’t dressed up- it turned out it was their first ever parkrun so I let them off! I did explain that it wasn’t like this every week! They ended up asking a lot of questions so I basically gave them their own new run briefing before the official one! Hopefully they will be back.

It started to rain a bit as they were giving out the prizes and things, but luckily not too hard as it does take a while. Someone had ordered a giant beach ball and people were bouncing it around, although they were worried it would knock the cake over!

From their facebook page- that’s me in the blue skirt and apricot top.

While I was running I met another club friend, and we ended up running the last 2 miles together. The finish has been different for a while (no longer a steep straight hill, but a zig zag)- she had not been for so long that she hadn’t done the new endig yet- I think we both prefer the old one. As we ran up the timers were shouting “keep going for sub 30” and we both managed to come in at 29.53/54- a new pb for my friend! I really enjoyed that run too- yes Ellenbrook is easier as it’s flat, but Panshanger is just so pretty.

I collected my jumper from the fence and then remembered the cake! I went back for a piece and it was very tasty as well as being a fantastic design.


I also had a look at the amazing bike rack that Tarmac (who look after the park) had given the parkrun for their birthday.


It’s a large log with slots for the wheels, and metal buckles for chains or padlocks to be attached to. Brilliant.

I ended up chatting to a few people for a while, and had a hot chocolate as we had no heating or hot water at home and I needed to warm up for a bit! (We went around to Andy’s parents after breakfast to use their shower).

This year I suppose the official milestone that I reached was the 25 volunteering sessions- I think next it will be 100 parkruns, and then after that 20 different venues. This weekend I am down in Brighton and I was looking at trying a different parkrun (as there are 3 there and I went to Hove Prom last time) but Hove Prom is a lot closer to the hotel, and I am running 10 miles on Sunday. Next time we go down it’s for a 10K, so I could run further on the Saturday to get to a different one- possibly Preston Park.

Which milestones have you achieved, and which ones are you working towards next?