Posted by: zoecakes | 14 November 2013

Tonbridge parkrun

Last week I received a surprise card from some of the parkrun tourists that we have met on our travels in the last couple of months.

It was very touching and so we decided that if I was well enough it would be nice to surprise them by turning up at the inaugural Tonbridge parkrun on saturday, especially being as the lovely Louise was due to be running her 100th different event there, i.e. completing her full ‘Cowell’.

The plan was that we would just go along, watch the run and then enjoy the coffee, cakes and chat afterwards. However on arriving at the park we realised that it wasn’t a particularly spectator friendly course being an out and back route with a lap round a lake at the far point, plus it was rather cold to be sitting around for 30 minutes or so waiting for the runners to all finish. So as I was feeling pretty good on Saturday morning and there was another lady who said she’d be walking as she had a dodgy knee I decided that maybe I’d have a go at walking part of the course, which would also give Mr W an opportunity to run it. I thought that perhaps I could walk as far as the lake and then turn back…

It turns out that it’s about 2k to the lake so by the time I’d got that far that it seemed churlish to give up, plus with the two of us walking and two tail runners we were having such a nice chat that the time just seemed to be whizzing past and so I was happy to keep going. After more chatting and lots of appreciation for all the marshals waiting for us in the cold we made it back to the finish line in just over 51 minutes. My slowest ever parkrun time but after all the pain and traumas of the last few weeks it was just an amazing feeling to be able to complete another parkrun! πŸ™‚

It was lovely to be able to congratulate Louise in person and for us to be surprising her for once, plus great to be able to catch up with all the other regular parkrun tourists and thank them in person for the card. We also got to meet some more Twitter friends and joined in on a rendition of ‘up in a tree’ for the parkrun show. I would describe the course as flat, scenic round the lake and ΓΌber squelchy for the parts on the rugby pitch at the beginning and end, but a more accurate description can be found in parkrun tourist and blogger extraordinaire, copy7t’s blog post.

All in all a lovely morning which reminded me just how much I love parkrun and I hope that we will be able to find another flat course that I’ll be well enough to walk before too long!

Posted by: zoecakes | 8 November 2013

October parkruns

We had grand plans for parkrunning in October with inaugurals to attend at Southsea, Fulham Palace and Ashford on the 5th, 19th and 26th, respectively and a trip to Basingstoke to introduce some more friends to parkrun on the 12th.

Unfortunately however, my health had other ideas and we were only able to make it to Southsea and Basingstoke. The inaugural Southsea parkrun was a fantastic day and it was lovely to catch up with other parkrun tourists and meet friends old and new on a delightfully flat course. We made it to Basingstoke the following week but I wasn’t feeling particularly well and was only able to walk the course which seemed much longer than the usual 5k*. πŸ˜‰ I did enjoy it though and it was great to be able to introduce another two friends, Liz and James, to parkrun. Plus, we got to speak to the infamous Chris Cowell again and were yet again surprised on the morning by the lovely Louise popping up as a volunteer tourist while she waits for her foot to heel.

Things went downhill with my health the following week and after a brief sojourn in hospital, we realised on Saturday morning that a trip to Fulham Palace parkrun was not feasible. The disappointment I felt about missing parkrun was almost worse than the way I felt healthwise. Reading copy7t’s blog it sounds like it was a great event, especially as it was flat – my favourite type of run!

We hoped that things might improve with my health the following week such that we might be able to make it to the Ashford inaugural as planned but sadly come Saturday morning I was still feeling weak and tired, so it was another DNA** for us. 😦 Shame, as from copy7t’s blog pictures it looks like a beautiful venue and another flat course!

Unfortunately it’s looking like November is going to be much the same story, so I shall have to hope all our fellow parkrun tourists keep up with their blogging efforts so I can get my regular parkrun fix! πŸ˜‰

* I’m sure it wasn’t though.

** Did Not Attend

Posted by: zoecakes | 10 October 2013

Happy birthday parkrun

Last Saturday was International parkrun day and Bushy parkrun‘s ninth birthday. The founder of parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt had this to say about the occasion and to celebrate invited parkrunners around the world to create short videos about why they #loveparkrun.

This is my effort created while running the inaugural Southsea parkrunΒ on Saturday. Unfortunately, I was so excited by it all that I forget to say why I #loveparkrun – I explained it in great detail in this blog post a few weeks ago but basically it’s because it’s fun, friendly and inclusive!

Happy Birthday parkrun! πŸ™‚


Posted by: zoecakes | 10 October 2013

Southsea parkrun

Mention a seaside parkrun and my common sense seems to go out the window, which is why when we heard that the inaugural Southsea parkrun was being held on 5 October I decided we needed to be there. Maintaining a modicum of sense we did organise to drive down the evening before and stay in a hotel close to the start rather than getting up at silly o’clock to drive down though.

As well as expecting to see some regular parkrun tourists, I’d also persuaded a work colleague, Rachel, who came to Eastleigh with us, and an old uni friend, Andy, who I hadn’t seen for several years,Β to come along. Unfortunately the latter wasn’t able to run as he had his five-year old daughter, Megan, with him but we met up with them before the start, they did lots of clapping as people came into the finish and then ran the last 100m or so with us.

The Southsea parkrun course is beautifully flat as it goes straight along the esplanade for 2.5k before you turn round and run back. There are a number of lampposts in the middle of the path just after the start which the run director warned us about but which still managed to catch a few people out and although the esplanade is basically concrete there is a wavy pattern of paving slabs running through it with a few raised edges waiting to trip up unsuspecting parkrunners. On the ‘out’ leg we passed one young boy who’d come a cropper and was nursing a badly grazed arm. His mum had great powers of persuasion though and on the ‘back’ leg he came flying past us on a reward system where he got a sticker for every person he passed – Mr W and I were numbers 11 and 12! I’m not sure how many he got in total! πŸ˜‰

Personally, I liked the lampposts as they were useful for setting run/walk goals and thanks to Mr W’s encouragement we finished in just over 37 minutes – my fastest time for a good few weeks! However, the highlight of my morning was realising that we were standing next to the infamous Chris Cowell – the first person to visit 100 different parkruns – in the scanning queue! I was very excited while he on the other hand seemed almost embarrassed by my geeky enthusiasm – sorry Chris! We’re off to his home parkrun of Basingstoke this weekend so I will try and be a bit more cool if we seem him again there! πŸ˜‰

There’s a good cafe close to the finish so we retired there with our friends for a second breakfast before heading back to our hotel and then off to the new Mary Rose exhibition at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – really impressive!

Posted by: zoecakes | 29 September 2013

Great Lines parkrun

Over the last few years I have been fortunate enough to met some genuinely nice people based all around the world through work and since being ill a number of them have been kind enough to keep in touch and regularly ask after my health. A few weeks ago one of them, a keen runner from America, emailed me to say he would be in London on 28 September and would we be parkrunning that day as he’d like to join us and see what it’s all about. Sure I said, although at the time we didn’t have a parkrun in mind and I was also a little worried that a 5k run may be a little short and dull for an ultra runner who’s more used to doing events like the Leadville 100.

Then we heard that the Great Lines parkrun would be starting in Gillingham that day and having been bitten by the parkrun tourism and inaugural bug we were keen to give it a go. Feeling guilty that it wasn’t exactly local for someone staying in London and required an hour or so’s train journey to get to, I contacted Gary with our plan and said I would quite understand if he didn’t want to get up at silly o’clock to run just 5k. However, he was undeterred and said it would be good to have a run away from central London. So, we swapped phone numbers and arranged to meet in the park around 8.30am. Unfortunately I missed his call when he arrived in the park but fortunately he spotted us as we milled around the start area chatting away to some other parkrun tourists who’d turned up for the run.

Just before 9am the Event Director gave his briefing and introduced the local Mayor who the started the run with an airhorn that much to everyone’s amusement produced more of puff than a toot! Gary kindly offered to run/walk with me, which meant Mr W could run with a friend he’d met while he was a London 2012 Gamesmaker last year who had also come along, and we had a lovely chat as we went round. The course consisted of a lap of the football pitches on grass, before heading up a path towards a Naval Memorial at the far side of the park which we looped round before running back down to the start area and doing it all over again. The layout of the course gave lots of opportunities to see other runners and it was lovely to be able to wave ‘hello’ to other parkrun tourists that we knew on the way round, plus there were some great views over Chatham to be had as you looped round the Memorial. Regular parkrun tourist, Steven Stockwell describes the course in much more detail in his blog.

Chatting certainly makes the time go faster and before I knew it, it was time to sprint for the finish where I was escorted over the finish line by the lovely Event Director, Tony, who had also given me a big cheer on our first lap. Despite all the chatting and walk breaks, my time was four minutes quicker than last week in Orpington and more importantly Gary seemed to have enjoyed his first parkrun experience, although of course it wasn’t over until we’d been to the cafe for coffee, cake and more chatting.

All in all, another fab morning of parkrunning! πŸ™‚

Posted by: zoecakes | 22 September 2013

A day of celebrations

Yesterday morning Mr W brought me my tea in this mug…


And boy, was he right!

The day started with Orpington parkrun‘s first birthday celebrationsΒ and Mr W’s 50th parkrun before we headed off to Sussex to the wedding of one of Stephen’s primary school friends.

As part of the core volunteer team for Orpington parkrun we got together a couple of weeks ago with the other core volunteers to decide what to do for our first birthday celebrations. Running the course in reverse was a popular suggestion from some of the regular runners so we decided to do that as well as encouraging people to wear fancy dress, handing out spot prizes, holding a volunteer raffle, giving out certificates to recognise those who came top in the points table and of course ensuring that there was lots of cake to munch on after the run. As it was also going to be Mr W’s 50th parkrun I spent Friday afternoon driving round Orpington trying to find him a suitable balloon to run with and then the evening making a special celebratory cake for him.

Saturday morning thankfully dawned dry if not particularly sunny and we headed off to parkrun in our finest fancy dress – me, a simple tutu and fairy wings, Mr W, a full blown fluffy white rabbit costume! We arrived there fairly early and rather worryingly as we walked across the field there didn’t seem to be many people in fancy dress – had there been a change of plans and we’d missed it?! Fortunately our fears were allayed as 9am approached and more people turned up in an array of costumes ranging from silly hats and wigs, to superheroes, a gingerbread man, a sumo wrestler and a lobster! We were also joined by our twitter/blogging/parkrun friends Alma and Adele, together with the latter’s family.

Running the course in reverse was interesting – it turns out that some parts I thought were flat when running the normal way are in fact downhill (or uphill in reverse!) and other parts that I thought were downhill were basically flat, most strange! As it was his 50th I left Mr W to run at his own ‘wabbit’ pace, whilst Alma ran/walked the course with me and we enjoyed a good chat on the way round. We finally finished in around 43 minutes and were very relieved to see that there were still plenty of cakes left to enjoy! It was a fabulous morning! πŸ™‚

However, we didn’t have time to bask in its glory as it was quickly home to get scrubbed up into our best bib and tucker and head off to Sussex for the wedding. The happy couple were Emma, who Mr W has known since he was about 5, and Owen, who we had only actually met once, but it was very clear to all present that they were indeed perfectly suited – Emma’s beaming smile as she walked into the quaint minty green Tin Tabernacle in Barcombe for the ceremony said it all.

After a beautiful ceremony we headed off for the reception at Cobbe Place in Beddingham, where we dined and partied the night away in an amazing double tipi. Emma and Owen met at a festival and they wanted to recreate that feel for their wedding, so the main tipi was surrounded by a chill out tent, an art trail with creations from her junior bridesmaids, an art tree with empty frames hanging from the branches, a ‘dell’ complete with a fire pit and a rum bar. Then when darkness fell the paths to and from the different areas were lit with paper lanterns. It was truly magical and it was wonderful to be part of their special day – I hope they will have a very long and happy marriage together!

The Happy Couple!

The Happy Couple!

Posted by: zoecakes | 18 September 2013

Shorne Woods parkrun

Last Saturday we had planned to go to Highbury Fields parkrun so that Mr W could do the run then hot-foot it to his massage course in Regent’s Park. But then I had to have a small operation on Thursday and so he decide to postpone his course to look after me over the weekend. I didn’t however want to delay letting Louise’s 50 tee-shirt do a 51st parkrun and so having confirmed with the doctors that it was ok for me to exercise (I didn’t go into details of what sort of exercise!) we decided to go to the more local Shorne Woods parkrun instead.

Shorne Woods parkrun is located in Shorne Woods Country Park near Gravesend just off the A2 – it’s very easy to find although I confess we did end up going the wrong way down the A2 on the way home! πŸ˜‰

The course is fairly flat and consists of two 2k laps and one 1k lap on the trail paths around the wooded park. There are a lot of twists and turns and although you are basically just following the trail supported by lots of arrows, cones and smiley marshals at key points, I was still very glad that I had the company of the lovely chatty tailrunner, Gary, as I walked round to stop me getting lost! The weather was a bit drizzly but the volunteers were all lovely and friendly and still smiling when I eventually crossed the finish line nearly half-an-hour after the first finisher – thanks guys! Mr W and I even got a mention in their run report. πŸ™‚

The only sad thing was we didn’t have time to stay for coffee and more chats afterwards as we were off to Bluewater to meet my parents for coffee.


With Gary the tailrunner at the end

Posted by: zoecakes | 8 September 2013

My 50th parkrun (aka the inaugural Southwark parkrun)

Yesterday I did my 50th parkrun and thanks to my family, friends and the parkrun community it was a truly special experience.


After some consideration Mr W and I chose to go to the inaugural Southwark parkrun for my 50th parkrun rather than our home parkrun of Orpington. There’s nothing wrong with Orpington but we have got rather hooked on parkrun tourism in recent months and the temptation of an inaugural event so close to home was too much! Plus, we thought it might be easier for some of our friends that we’ve been encouraging to try out parkrun to get to.

Somewhat confusingly, Southwark parkrun takes place in Southwark Park which is in Bermondsey as opposed to Southwark. The course is essentially flat, on tarmac and consists of three loops around the southern half of the park to avoid crossing a road. There is lots to see in the park but I was concentrating so hard on getting round with my run/walk strategy that I missed most of them other than the pond which was hard to miss. For more details on the course I’d recommend checking out the posts by blog7t and Go Feet – blog7t has some great pictures and Go Feet provides some interesting history about the park.

During the week, Mr W had been encouraging everyone we know to come along and join us, so by the time the Event Director gave her run briefing just before 9am we realised that we knew around a fifth of the assembled runners. There was a contingent of around 10 runners from our local running club, Orpington Road Runners, including Rob who we found out later was also doing his 50th parkrun – well done Rob! We were also joined by Mr W’s parents, some old school friends of Mr W, some work friends and some twitter friends, a couple of whom we were meeting for the first time. Of these runners that we knew, eight of them had been persuade to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning to do their very first parkruns – well done Claire, Colette, Jo, Dan, Susan, Rob, Nimia and Becca*! In addition to the runners, my aunt, a uni friend and some more ORRs turned up to cheer us on as Mr W escorted me on my slow run/walk around the course – special mention must go to Jan from our running club who must have run further than we did as every time we turned a corner on the course she seemed to be there cheering away! πŸ™‚

Being slow normally means that by the time I finish most of the runners have gone home or already de-camped to the coffee shop, but this time as I rounded the final corner there was a huge crowd to cheer me into the finish funnel. Mr W had made me a cool banner to celebrate completing 50 parkruns and I got to run underneath that as I finished – I felt very honoured! πŸ™‚

Afterwards the excitement continued – the Southwark event director presented me with a red 50 shirt kindly loaned by Louise until I get my own one; I got to chat to the host of the parkrun show podcast, the super-fast Danny Norman who was having his own special day completing a Full Cowell (that is running at 100 different parkrun events!) – congratulations Danny; and we all went and had tea with lots of cakes and chat at the local cafe.

I spent the rest of the day on a big high from the experience – thank you so much to the Southwark parkrun volunteers for putting on a great event (sorry for gate-crashing your inaugural with my 50th!) and to all our friends and family for coming along and helping to make it such a celebration! Finally, a huge thanks to Mr W for supporting my crazy parkrun obsession!!!!

* If I’ve missed anyone out I apologise, the same goes for thanking everyone who turned up!


Posted by: zoecakes | 5 September 2013

parkrun reflections

As I sit on the cusp of joining the parkrun ‘50 club‘, it seems appropriate to reflect on what parkrun means to me.

I was a slow starter with parkrun – it took me about nine months from registering to actually running my first parkrun and even then for my first year of so of parkrunning my attendance was somewhat sporadic. But being involved with the start-up of Orpington parkrun and discovering ‘the parkrun show’ podcast got me hooked and I’ve been encouraging people to get involved ever since.

Personally, I love parkrun because:

1) It’s inclusive – old or young, fast or slow, anyone can turn up at a parkrun and take part. It doesn’t matter whether you come first or last, everyone is supported just the same.

2) It’s only 5k – lots of proper running races are 10k or over, which generally requires training. 5k is a manageable distance that anyone with some level of fitness should easily be able to tackle even if they have to walk for some parts.

3) It’s free – all those proper running races I mentioned before cost money to entry, but because of the wonderful sponsors and volunteers parkrun is totally free. πŸ™‚

4) It’s over by 10am on a Saturday morning, meaning you can go home smug in the knowledge that you’ve already done your exercise for the day. Of course your arrival home does depend somewhat on how fast you run and how long you stay around chatting afterwards, but you get my drift!

5) The concept is simple – no matter which parkrun you go to, there will be a briefing just before the start, you’ll run 5k, be timed across the finish line, given a position token, have your personal barcode scanned together with your finish token and then a few hours later you’ll receive a text and email telling you how well you did.

6) The variety – in the UK we have over 200 different parkrun events to choose from. The courses may all be 5k long but that is where the similarities end – some are flat, some are hilly, some are on trail paths through the woods, others are on grass around playing fields, some are out and back routes, others are multiple laps, some are on nicely tarmacked paths, whereas others get some muddy in the winter that you risk losing your shoes! The possibilities are endless and it would take you at least four years to visit all the UK parkruns, not to mention the new events that are starting all the time and the events in other countries such as Ireland, Poland, Denmark and Australia.

7) You get to have coffee and cake afterwards – parkrun isn’t just about running. Ok, for some people it is but for most it’s also about the post-run socialising over a coffee and cake. Some events go to a local cafe while others organise their own refreshments but the key element of chatting to like-minded people is always there.

8) The parkrun show podcast – for an hour or so a week you can be distracted on your daily commute by hearing all about things that happened at parkruns around the country the previous weekend. It’s both entertaining and informative, as the hosts, Danny and Nicola, review parkruns they’ve visited plus keep you updated on cancellations and new events for the following weekend. Listening to the parkrun show and hearing tales of people getting their 100 and 250 t-shirts or travelling to different events is one of the things that got me totally hooked on parkrun.

9) Volunteering – each parkrun is organised entirely by volunteers and volunteering provides a great opportunity to chat with your fellow parkrunners, avoid running when the weather is bad and still feel involved when injured.

10) The parkrun community – whether on a local or global scale, parkrun is friendly. We’ve been travelling around to a few different events recently but it is lovely to go back to our home event, Orpington, every now and then to catch up with all our parkrun buddies. The amazing community at Orpington is the other thing that helped fuel my parkrun obsession. Plus, we have always been warmly welcomed when visiting other events – at Graves parkrun they even made some cakes for us…


Long live parkrun! πŸ™‚

Posted by: zoecakes | 4 September 2013

Weymouth parkrun

For several months I have been wishing that there was a Weymouth parkrun so that when visiting my parents in Weymouth we would be able to parkrun on a Saturday morning without having to get up at silly o’clock to visit one on the drive down or make the hour or so trip over to Poole parkrun. So imagine my excitement a few weeks ago when I discovered that a parkrun would be starting in Weymouth on 31 August 2013!

A weekend with my parents was swiftly arranged and at 9am last Saturday morning we were ready and waiting with 120 or so other runners on the start line for the inaugural Weymouth parkrun.

The course is fairly flat and starts off by looping round part of Lodmoor Country Park before an out and back section to the ‘Welcome to Weymouth’ pineapples near the Park and Ride. There is then another loop around the park before the finish. It was so much easier than Ashton Court parkrun that we did last week!! πŸ™‚

Mr W ran on his own this week as I ran/walked with my Mum and one of her sailing friends, knocking 10 minutes off my Ashton Court time and finishing in 37:36. My Dad did his very first parkrun and having said he was going to walk it, surprised us all by doing a bit of running and catching up with mum and I half way round! My godmother also walked her very first parkrun together with her black labrador, Molly, who had definitely had enough by the end – she lay down and refused to go any further! πŸ˜‰ Plus we were cheered on by some friends who live locally.

There was a great friendly atmosphere and it looks like it will be a well supported parkrun – we will definitely be back next time we are in Weymouth!

weymouth parkrun

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