Sunday Long Runs

Last weekend I was in Suffolk. I stayed in my sister in law’s static caravan which she very generously shares with the family, for a couple of nights so that I could do a trail run nearby which was then postponed until November! Oh well I thought, I will just do a half marathon by myself on routes that I know well around Aldeburgh. A plan. Then I remembered another run postponed from last year happening today (May 2nd), and not relishing the thought of two half marathons on consecutive weekends I decided to shorten the Suffolk run to around 12km.

Last September I ran a half marathon in this area which I wrote about here. It is an area I know quite well by now, and a lovely place to walk or run.

Pathways:

And the sea!

What a beautiful run it was. So peaceful.

And then today I ran the first half marathon I’ve done since last September, and that weather dominated half in Suffolk when I ended up soaked through and frozen!

The run today was organised by Phoenix Running and was a repeat of the route I did last year in August (blog post here). Four laps out and back along the towpath at Walton-on-Thames equals a half marathon. I did wonder about doing another lap as it’s an event where you can do as much as you like in 7 hours. However after 21.1 km my legs said No! It was a another beautiful spring morning and there’s always lots to see along the river. People on paddle boards, rowing boats, motor boats and narrow boats. And of course lots of people cycling and walking.

I didn’t take a lot photos today but it was a really beautiful day as you can see.

Double the Force! Or two medals for the price of one!

Running Tales from Ealing: Queen of the Suburbs, the final parks

Thirteen parks and 70.6km (43.8 miles) later I have completed the challenge set by Ealing Half Marathon to run to every corner of the borough!

Today the last two parks were right over in Acton. I thought it would be a lot of running on streets, and I did end up on more pavement than last week running to Northolt. However I still managed to run through several green spaces including Ealing Common and Acton Park.

Acton Park was looking particularly beautiful yesterday.

Trinity Way Open Space is a nice little park with lots of trees and a playground. On my way out I met two runners on their way in. We had a little chat and went on our way. Taking a selfie by the park sign is a dead giveaway that someone else is doing the Challenge!

The next bit was quite slow as I worked out a way along back streets to Acton Green Common. If I had been organised I could have worked out a route and downloaded it to my phone/watch. That would have involved forethought, foresight and a technical skill that I’m not sure I have at my fingertips. It was actually straightforward and went through an area called Bedford Park.

Bedford Park was the first Garden Suburb, housing planned deliberately to maintain a semi rural feel, with green spaces and trees along the residential roads. It is based around the straight Roman road that ran from London to Bath, and was developed after 1875, when the railways increasingly provided fast transport into the city.

The District Line train going towards town

Acton Green Common is all that’s left of a much bigger area of open space. It is the site of the Battle of Turnham Green in 1642, which followed the Battle of Brentford, a major conflict of the English Civil War. The Parliamentarians managed to get together an army of 24,000 to face only 13,000 Royalists. (Guess who won.)

The run back home was a bit more straightforward as I knew where I was going!

Isn’t this topiary hedge wonderful?! I just had stop and take a photo.

While at Acton Green I met the same couple I’d seen earlier in Trinity Way! And I was to meet them yet again back in Ealing, at Haven Green. It turned out they were driving to all the parks on the same day, and running a mile in each one. Great idea! I love the way the challenge inspires people to complete it in many different ways. Some people walk, some run, some bike. Some do it solo, others in groups. Some do all the parks in one go, others take their time and do one or two at a time. One woman went to every park in a day, and walked and skipped in each!

One of my favourite oak trees in Ealing, on the common

And today my week was made when I won a prize from Ealing Half Marathon from posting my Instagram photos from the challenge! I am absolutely thrilled to bits to have won such an amazing prize – or prizes I should say, as there’s a Camelbak (hydration thingy), voucher for Sunday carvery at one my favourite Ealing pubs The Forester, an Ealing half marathon sweatshirt AND a mug! Thank you so much Sandra and Christina at Ealing Half Marathon.

My next proper challenge is an actual real life race down at Walton on Thames in a couple of weeks. I am aiming to run at least a half marathon, but maybe, just maybe, I might run a bit more. I’ll let you know!

Running Tales from Ealing: Queen of the Suburbs Take 2

Last September I took part in a virtual running challenge organised by Ealing Half Marathon, to run in or to 13 of the lovely parks we have here in the borough of Ealing. It was a lot of fun, visiting new parks as well as those I know well.

It was so popular that it’s being run again in April, with 13 different parks to visit. And this time there’s an option to do 13 parks in your local area if you don’t live in Ealing!

RUN ONE

Perivale Park

I started off on 1st April after work, with one of the nearest parks to me – Perivale Park, which I have run in many many times, and have written about here.

RUN TWO

Beautiful blossom in Hanger Hill Park

Run 2 happened on a bank holiday so I had more time in hand. I worked out a little route that took in four parks/ green spaces. First was Drayton Green, which was purchased by the council in 1866 when the area started to be developed. For centuries it had been farmland. There has been a running track on the green since 1932, and a children’s playground since the 1950’s (hopefully not the same one, haha! Remember the infamous witch’s hat roundabout thing? So dangerous but so fun!).

Next stop Haven Green, right outside Ealing Broadway station which is having a huge makeover for the Elizabeth Line – Crossrail. Haven Green has its roots far back in Anglo Saxon times. It was at the crossroads of some major routes east to west, and north to south. Farmers would drive their cattle and sheep to market in London along the Uxbridge road, resting them on the green, while they went for refreshments at The Feathers Inn. This later became the Townhouse, and is now a bank and apartments.

Then off along the Uxbridge Road just a short way up to Ealing Common, a big open space that is used for all sorts. Nowadays football and dog walking are major activities. In the past cricket was popular, and the pub that is now called the Grange was originally called The Cricketer. It’s used for funfairs and circuses too (in ‘normal times’).

Then I made my way up to Hanger Hill Park, up the infamous Park View Road, which is the first proper hill on the Ealing half marathon route. There are lots of trees here and natural springs that run across some of the paths. There are views from the top across to Wembley and the stadium.

Altogether this run was shorter than I had anticipated – under 10km. Apart from some busy roads in some places it was a nice route.

RUN THREE

More blossom in Elthorne Park

I did run 3 on Easter Day – just a quick local run to Elthorne Park, which I’ve written about here. I saw a few people also running or cycling through the parks and along the canal for the Queen of the Suburbs Challenge! It’s nice to say hi!

RUN FOUR

In Southall Recreation Ground

On Easter Monday I did a longer run along the canal towards Southall to tick off two parks there. Wolf Fields was a bit uninspiring, although I am sure it’s lovely to have that space if you live locally. And maybe I was a bit underwhelmed because it was a very grey and chilly day. Southall Recreation Ground is nice, with a big children’s playground and some beautiful mature trees. And it’s right next to the canal.

RUN FIVE

This beautiful oak is in a field just near Horsenden Hill.

And this weekend I did run 5, which took in three parks in the north/northwest of the borough. I actually went through Perivale Park again, and Northala Fields (which I’ve written about here!) to get to Lime Tree Park. Apparently this was originally a featureless flat space, which lent itself to antisocial behaviour such as joy riding and traveller encampments. But the council, in conjunction with residents and an environmental company, developed the landscape to discourage such activities. It now has undulating grounds, with trees and pond area. There is also a children’s centre at one side. This whole area was developed from farmland in the 1950’s, and I have met many residents who have lived here from that time, moving from crowded and dilapidated housing in places like Notting Hill, Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith after the 2nd world war. It really was the countryside then, with farms and stables.

After this it was a short run to Belvue Park and the lovely ancient St. Mary’s church. This area has a connections to the Iron Age and the Romans, and there are informative signs around the park. (This is why some of my runs take so long – reading the info and taking photos!).

I managed to find my way easily to the canal and ran back towards Perivale and Horsenden Hill. I have often run along this way, but funnily enough I almost always run east to west, not the other way round. Everything looks different going the other way! Even though I was pretty tired by now I just had to go and find the Gruffalo before I headed back home for a second breakfast/brunch!

A selfie with the Gruffalo is compulsory!

I just have two more parks to tick off the list now, and that will most likely happen next weekend. I did make a cake today – but that will wait for a separate post.

New shoes and chocolate magic cake!

So – first. The chocolate magic cake. It seems I was definitely not the only person to have the idea that magic cake would be pretty good in chocolate, because when I searched the internet there were loads of versions! I found a lovely one at this website, with the amazing name of Unicorns in the Kitchen. And let me tell you – it is GOOD! If you haven’t tried a magic cake yet you really must soon. Like this week. Actually I’m really glad I found that website because it turns out that: “Unicorns in the Kitchen is your one-stop source for all of the best Persian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean recipes.” Which is brilliant because I absolutely love this type of food. And now I’ve found another source of great recipes! Like this one for green lentil soup. Did you know that lentils and pulses are great at regulating blood glucose, keeping it balanced and level. Those glucose highs (and subsequent lows and crashes) are kept at bay by eating these complex carbs, which are also really good sources of protein.

Just look at those chocolatey layers. Yum.

Second subject – new shoes! Not too long ago I posted about my many running shoes. Well, I have had a major clear out since then, and got rid of several pairs of old shoes, and a couple of pairs that were actually not that worn out, but just didn’t fit or feel right. They all got recycled so it’s ok. Then I realised that I didn’t buy a single pair of new running shoes in 2020. And then I found out that I could get 30% off Adidas shoes with a code. Nothing to stop me. A few days later: I’m running in the lovely new bouncy shoes that are Adidas Solar Glide, and trying to avoid the muddy puddles because I don’t want to get them dirty! And I have another pair of Adidas Supernovas, but these are more summer shoes because they have mesh uppers which will keep my feet cool in hot weather.

Lovely new shoes!

Although I’ve worn other makes of shoes in the past, and do still have a great pair from Decathlon, I find that generally Adidas seem to fit my feet well. The best advice I ever heard, and what I advise people who ask, is that your shoes (any, not just running) should feel comfortable right from the start. There shouldn’t be any need to ‘wear’ or ‘break’ them in. If they don’t feel good when you first put them on then I would suggest think very carefully whether they’re the right ones before handing over your money.

Here are the Supernovas, ready for some warmer weather.

My new shoes took me on a 14km (8.6 miles) run this morning down to the River Thames and back. I have been trying to increase the distance on my long runs, because in a couple of months I have an actual real life run in Suffolk that was postponed last year. It looks as though it may be able to happen (fingers crossed) at the end of April. I entered for the long route which is 24km – yikes! It is possible however to change your mind before the day, or even on the day, so I may end up doing a shorter distance.

Half way at the river. It was quite cold today and a bit grey, as you can see.

I have also entered the Queen of the Suburbs challenge again! You may remember that this was a definite highlight of 2020, and I wrote about it here. This time there are 13 different parks to visit, in April. I can’t wait, and have already printed off the map and begun to think about how I’ll get to them all.

The days are getting noticeably longer now which is great. It’s nice to be able to run after work before it gets dark. Just a little warmer would be nice too! Although we’re not quite out of the woods yet it feels like a positive step having a real race in the diary.

Have a great week, and let me know if you try the magic cake!

Running Tales from Ealing – Perivale Park

Perivale Park is not far from where I live now, but it used to be practically my back garden for ten years until the mid 1990’s. At that time it was quite boring – a big, flat expanse of mainly playing fields, bordered by a golf course and a bowling green where nobody seemed to play anymore. There was a children’s playground however, so we went there a lot as it was so close.

Feb 2021: This oak tree was the view from my bedroom for ten years!

In the past few years however a transformation has slowly taken place and Perivale Park is much more interesting visually and ecologically. It is also far more accessible, with new footpaths that take you all round the field area. There are wild flower meadows, newly planted tree areas (including an orchard), and ponds. These ponds are man made scrapes designed to hold rainwater, and dry out in the summer. They are shallow, and are ideal in Perivale Park because the area is a flood plain for the River Brent. The ponds help stop the grass fields becoming totally sodden.

April 2019

The unused bowling green has become a lovely mini community allotment area with benches to sit and rest, or admire the industry of others. Next to this area is a newly planted area of trees, a mix of all kinds of specimens including acers, rowan (mountain ash), oak, linden (lime), and tulip trees. I’m not sure, because I can’t find any information about this, but it seems to me that the trees are possibly not in their final positions. They are planted in rows and quite close together. Perhaps they will be moved at some point somewhere else in the park?

Feb 2021: Here are the young trees in what I suspect is a sort of tree nursery.

There is an unusual bench in the park dedicated to the memory of Nicky Hopkins, famous pop/rock pianist , who was born and brought up in Perivale. He played with practically every rock band you can think of including The Who, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks.

Annoyingly I forgot to take a photo today and thought I already had one. But couldn’t find it. So this photo is from the very informative blog of The Friends of Perivale Park.

Sport and fitness is definitely a strong theme of the park. There are pitches for football, rugby and cricket, and tennis courts. There are also new fitness equipment stations at different places in the park, some of which are still not quite ready for use, as work was stopped on the surfaces due to the lockdown. When it’s all open they will be a great addition. At the east aspect of the park, next to the golf clubhouse, is the athletics track, home to the Ealing, Southall and Middlesex Athletics Club. It’s a proper eight lane running track, with throwing facilities, indoor gym and spectator seating. All closed at the moment of course.

Feb 2021: the athletics track – sadly empty at the moment.
March 2020: one of the ‘scrape’ ponds

The park is well used by local people for walking, running, playing sport, cycling and just playing. I have several regular routes I run that take me through Perivale Park. I used to just run straight through it as there really wasn’t much to see. However now I am much more likely to run round it a couple of times – at any time of year the views and wildlife are interesting and always different.

October 2020: another of the ponds; it’s hard to believe this is in London.

Running every day in January – NOT!

My January challenge was to run every day, even if it was a just a short run. I started off really well, and managed a run for the first 8 days. And then I got Covid. And then my husband got Covid. So I was in self isolation for a large part of January. That means that I could not go out at all for more than half the days of January. Luckily we are both fully recovered and back at work. And in spite of sitting on the sofa for a lot of that time, and eating a lot of chocolate biscuits, I seem to still fit in most of my clothes! Amazing! I am so thankful that I seem to have got away with relatively minor symptoms. And I am also very thankful that I will get my vaccine this week.

Snowdrops at Kew Gardens.

I did try and run as much as I could in the month, although I have been very careful not to overdo it, and take some walk breaks. I am definitely slower, but that could just be because I’m out of practice. I ran for 14 days and 84.5 km ( 52.5 miles) which isn’t bad I think, all things considering.

It rained a lot in January.

As February is a short month I am going to try and run every day for the 28 days. I think some runs will be very short, but that’s ok. I am just so grateful to be going out of the front door and down the road again!

Perivale Park

It is getting noticeably lighter in the evenings and mornings now, and spring flowers are just beginning to poke their heads above ground. My next door neighbour even has daffodils in flower! And snowdrops are blooming in my garden.

Osterley Park – one of the few days out I was allowed in January!

I hope everyone out there is well, and able to find joy and lightness of heart in the little things: a good gin and tonic, a squidgy brownie, a jay flying though the trees, or sploshing through an icy puddle(!).

Running every day in January 2021

I’ve done 9 runs so far in 2021, a total of 27.9 miles (45km) and nearly 5 hours. It was going well, and although slightly tough getting up every morning to run before work it was actually very doable.

There’s really nobody about at 6.30am. It’s peaceful and somewhat meditative running pretty much the same route most mornings in the dark. The first 3 days were lovely, and I was really looking forward to this weekend, and running in the daylight.

New Years Day
2nd January
Back to work and running in the dark. Tuesday 5th – I didn’t take many photos this week, because it was basically dark.. and looked like this!

However that’s all changed because yesterday I received the news that I tested positive for the coronavirus – OH NO!! That means I have to isolate for 10 days – right up to next weekend. Although I felt unwell on Thursday evening and Friday morning, by Friday afternoon I was feeling a lot better. So today I though I would try a run in my garden.

Garden run.. It’s about 15m to the end. I had to go up and down quite a lot of times.

During the major lockdown last spring I read lots of reports of people doing marathons in their back gardens, and even on their balconies. Well, hats off to them! It is not easy – unless you live on a country estate I suppose. In the average town garden (and I think our garden is probably fairly average, or perhaps a bit bigger than average) there’s a lot of turning round. That really slowed me down. I managed about a mile in 22 minutes!

It was such a lovely bright day, it was so nice to be out in the sunshine. But by the end I was quite wheezy, and tired. So maybe I will give the running a miss tomorrow… Maybe!

I don’t think I will get a lot of mileage in this week however. Maybe some baking will get done instead..

Look back – look forward – here comes 2021!

It’s come around again – the end of the year, and a time to reflect.

This time last year I was celebrating having achieved 12 half marathons (or the equivalent averaged out..) one per month. This year I am amazed that I have in fact done 2 actual real life, real time races! The first was in January, and I was hoping to do it again in 2021 to start the new year as I mean to go on, but it ain’t happening.

I have done quite a lot of running in 2020 even though I haven’t been able to take part in events with other runners as planned. I’m especially disappointed that two trail runs were cancelled, but hey, we all know why that was don’t we?

According to my Garmin stats I’ve run 1,171 km (727.6 miles). I think it’s a bit more than that as there were a few times when either I couldn’t locate my watch or it wasn’t charged! On Strava it’s 1,228 km but that includes a couple of bike rides. Whatever it is it’s quite a lot and I’m happy!

These 2 medals were the only ones for actual races. Both half marathons, one in January and one in August.
Two virtual runs. The first completed in January – 26.2 miles (42km) in January in aid of refugees. And another in June – running 50km in 7 days. That was tough.
Two more virtual runs, organised by the fabulous Phoenix Running. I did a half marathon on the day that would have been the London Marathon in April. And the other one was running every day for 7 days in July, which is not something I would usually do!
Three virtual runs with the truly wonderful Ealing Half marathon crew. I really loved all of these runs especially the parks one (Queen of the Suburbs) when I got to visit new places and wave at fellow participants!
And finally – a virtual Christmas Day run.

So what next for 2021? The two cancelled trail runs with Maverick have been postponed until spring, and we’ll see what happens. But next on the horizon – in fact starting tomorrow – is a whole month of Running Every Day (RED)!! Yes I decided that a week of running every day in the height of summer was not enough, and I must do it for 31 days straight. And for extra punishment 😉 I must do it in the coldest, darkest month. Hahaha, I hear you laughing!

I will be documenting this as an incentive to actually do it. I may not (almost certainly won’t) write a post every day but I will of course take lots of photos and let you know how it’s all going.

In the meantime – Happy New Year to all my lovely readers around the world. May 2021 bring us all peace and health. I shall continue to run and bake, and maybe occasionally post about some of the other things I like doing in my spare time.

Buttered popcorn cookies – and Sunday run day

WordPress is the blog platform I use, and while it’s only one of many of course, the variety of blogs on it is vast. Sometimes I like to browse around them, and occasionally I find one that seems interesting, and then I follow it! Just like many of my lovely readers have done with my little blog – thank you!

This recipe came from one such blog, GreatEightFriends. As the name suggests it’s a blog written by a group of friends who entertain amongst themselves and share their recipes. This recipe sounded so straightforward I thought I had to try it. I’ve never thought of popcorn as a cookie ingredient before, but it really works! You can find the recipe by clicking here.

I did make a little adjustment- as usual! I added about half a cup of chopped toasted pecans. I think it was definitely an enhancement, but I’m sure the cookies are also delicious without them.

When I added the four cups of popcorn to the cookie mixture, plus the chopped nuts, I did wonder whether I’d overdone it and the mixture would actually hold together. But a determined bit of spatula work and it did all stick together. Using a scoop (like an ice cream scoop) made it easy to get the cookies the same size, and also helped to keep them in a round shape.

Dough mixture – crammed with popcorn and nuts!

The salty sweet flavour traditionally associated with popcorn is really yummy, and the soft cookie with the crunchy texture of the popcorn and nuts is a fab combination. They look attractive too with the bits of popcorn poking through the tops.

Altogether a very easy recipe with great results.

As today is Sunday I went out for a longer run this morning as I usually do. My run today was a virtual 10k for the Osterley 10k (organised by Ealing Half marathon) which would normally have been yesterday at Osterley Park. Of course that was cancelled for 2020 which is sad, but we seem to be getting used to all that now. For me the Osterley 10k has been the real start to the Christmas season in the last few years. I’ve done the run with friends from Quit the Gym in the morning – and then rushed home to get changed for a Questors choir dress rehearsal for our Christmas concert in the evening. Both events cancelled for this year. Let’s hope that things are back closer to normal in 2021.

This year the virtual run is raising money for the Ealing Food Bank. More and more families and individuals in the UK are living with food insecurity, or food poverty. I am thankful that my family have enough to eat, and I don’t have to worry about whether I can afford the heating and the food bills. Especially at this time of year, when everyone is thinking about spending money on special food and gifts, it is very hard for those families on the brink. If you can maybe try and support your local food bank if you don’t already?

Running in the woods at Burnham Beeches

Just lately I’ve got a bit bored with running the same local routes, much as I love them. Today I decided to go a little further afield and run in the woods at Burnham Beeches in Buckinghamshire. Last year I ran a half marathon here which you can read about in this post. It was one of the loveliest runs of 2019.

Glowing beech leaves – I promise this photo is not edited in any way!

It’s a different time of year now but running in the woods is special in all seasons. The weather was perfect for running today, with blue skies and almost no wind. Although beech trees are very dominant there are in fact many species, including oaks and ash, and silver birch, as well as evergreens such as holly and firs.

The hollowed out trunk of an ancient pollarded tree

The woods are a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) due to the range of habitats and numbers of different species, both animal and plant. One of the more noticeable habitats is the pollarded trees, mainly beech and oak. Pollarding took place every 10-15 years until the beginning of the 20th century; the branches were cut back at head height for firewood (and possibly furniture making?) which allowed trees to live longer than they would otherwise, and animals could not reach the new shoots. Some of the trees are now hundreds of years old. Many of them are hollow and semi rotten, and it is this habitat that supports a range of wild life, including fungi, mosses and invertebrates.

It was good to run on the soft surfaces of the woodland – fallen leaves and leaf mould, mud and grass. At this time of year when it’s dark in the mornings and evenings I end up running on the unforgiving pavements locally. I have already noticed the effect that impact is having on my feet, even in my most cushioned shoes. So today was a treat, to be running in the sunshine, in amongst the beautiful trees, and on a squishy soft surface. Even if I did almost twist my ankle on a tree root hidden under the leaves.

But it’s not just all the above that makes running in the woods a fab thing to do. Many studies have shown that being outside in green spaces, and especially among trees is good for mental as well as physical health. And of course you don’t have to run, walking in the woods works too! This is an interesting article with lots of links to research on the health benefits of being outside in nature.

I didn’t do a very long run today – just 8km (5 miles), although it took me a while as I kept stopping to take photos and just ‘be’ in the woods. And I came home feeling great!

This week I’m going to make a massive effort to get into a green space every single day during daylight!