parkrun tourism: Inverness

With the – tentative! – news that parkrun events may be starting up again in England by the end of October, I thought I’d better finish off my pre-hiatus tourism reviews!

Geth and I were in Inverness on the first weekend of March for the Inverness Half Marathon. It was our second year running the race, and last year the Saturday was a bit hectic (we got the train up on the Saturday and due to rail issues didn’t arrive in Inverness until very late at night). This year, I wanted a much more relaxed Saturday before the race, so we spent a couple of days driving up (staying in Edinburgh en route) and arrived in Inverness on the Friday night, in time to attend Inverness parkrun for a shakeout on the Saturday morning.

I’d been worriedly following the Inverness parkrun social media pages for the previous few weeks, as the bad winter weather had meant that they’d been cancelling every week. Inverness has two different courses – the primary course in Bught Park and the backup course in Whin Park – and thankfully the weather leading up to the half marathon weekend stayed dry enough that they were able to use the Whin Park course. We were on for Geth’s 100th parkrun!

Inverness parkrun
Post-run selfie with that poor collapsed pop-up sign! I think Inverness maybe need to order a new one from HQ…

The Whin Park course is three and a half laps of a pleasant park with a nice lake. There was a section that was a bit difficult and muddy due to recent flooding, but other than that it was fairly secure underfoot. Geth and I jogged round together at a fairly leisurely pace, saving our legs for the following day, and it was a really nice run.

Post-run and post-return-to-hotel-for-showers, we headed into town for cake. There’s got to be cake on a milestone parkrun day!

parkrun milestone cake
Milestone cake! Geth managed to squeeze in his 100th parkrun before lockdown started – he’s been on 100 ever since!

I don’t know when I’ll be back in Inverness, but I’d be happy to do this parkrun again!

parkrun tourism: South Shields

In February, I attended my twentieth different parkrun venue (a big deal in the parkrun world – you get various unofficial virtual badges and things like that). I’d been meaning to try out South Shields parkrun for ages, as I’d enjoyed lots of nice days out around the area, and it finishes along the same straight as the Great North Run does.

South Shields parkrun
Pop-up sign (love these) at South Shields parkrun.

It was a fairly cold winter’s day when I went – not really a day for enjoying the seaside! However, the route is an enjoyable meander through the sand dunes for the most part. This long section isn’t very flat or fast, but the tarmac downhill finishing straight makes up for it. Maybe it was just memories of multiple Great North Runs, but I found myself overtaking far more people than I usually do as I raced for the line!

Like a lot of the parkruns I attended this last winter, I would really, really like to do this course again in the summer. Of course, parkrun is very unlikely to return in the next few months, but hopefully we will be parkrunning again by summer 2021, and I can return to South Shields on a sunny day with Geth in tow 🙂

Flying Friday post

One hundred and fifty days running in a row!

Good and bad things about today, both meaning I’m a little too busy for a long (or even medium) blog post. Will update properly on Monday!

parkrun pandemic apricot
The label on the back of my special pandemic edition parkrun apricot, which arrived last week.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Michael Land – ‘Jazzy Voodoo In The Swamp’
Levellers – ‘Julie’
Queen – ‘One Vision’

parkrun tourism: Gibside

I continued my parkrun tourism around north-east England in February with Gibside parkrun, which takes place at Gibside National Trust in the northernmost area of County Durham. It wasn’t that far to drive, but the turnoff is easy to miss!

Gibside parkrun
Volunteers at the finish line of Gibside parkrun.

Gibside is a very pretty course, but it’s the opposite of flat. The hills are fairly brutal for most of the way round, and I think I was about seven or eight minutes slower than my PB. It does have a nice finishing straight though, and the paths are nice and wide all the way round, meaning that there’s no congestion – especially as it’s a fairly rural parkrun and thus doesn’t have a huge attendance.

I found it to be a bit of a theme over the winter that I ended up doing tough, traily, muddy parkruns that would probably have been more enjoyable during the summer months. Gibside wasn’t overly muddy, but it was scenic, and I think that scenery probably looks a bit nicer now that leaves exist again. Sadly, I likely won’t be able to test this theory until 2021, as I reckon parkrun won’t be back until then. Maybe by then I’ll have forgotten the hills and be willing to give Gibside parkrun another go!

parkrun tourism: Windy Nook

Before lockdown happened, I was trying to visit more of the parkruns local to me in the north-east of England, in the hope that I could one day tick them all off the list and achieve parkrun ‘regionnaire’ status! New parkruns spring up a lot in normal circumstances, so it would have taken some time, but it looked like an interesting adventure. I don’t know when that adventure will resume, as I expect that when parkrun does start back up again (2021?), I will be focusing on enjoying my home parkrun (Newcastle Town Moor) and nearest parkrun (Jesmond Dene) instead.

In January, however, I was very much in tourism mood, so one Saturday Geth and I got in the car and drove to Windy Nook parkrun, in Gateshead.

Windy Nook parkrun
Summiting one of the many hills on the Windy Nook parkrun course! Geth and I apparently had similar form on this occasion… (Photos from Windy Nook parkrun Facebook page.)

Windy Nook is a bit of a grim place on a cold winter’s day – iced-over puddles everywhere and scrubby-looking winter trees. The parkrun course is a very tough and traily three-lapper with lots of hills and a series of steps at one point (i.e. at three points due to the laps). As such, neither Geth nor I managed anywhere near our fastest times, although Geth did make it into the top five finishers due to the small field.

Post-parkrun coffee and cake was on offer at the nearby community centre, which was very welcome after a tough run! If I do this parkrun again, it will definitely be in the summer, as I imagine the area looks a bit nicer at the moment.

parkrun tourism: Vogrie

For part two of the New Year’s Day double, Geth and I got back in the car and headed out to Vogrie parkrun, which is south-east of Edinburgh.

Vogrie parkrun
One parkrun down, one to go!

It’s a really interesting experience running a second parkrun the same morning, making it up to 10k distance for the day! Obviously you get a break (typically spent frantically driving between parkrun locations), so it’s not quite the same as running an actual 10k, but I would imagine that most people take the second one easier. Geth and I certainly did – I came in more than three minutes slower than I had done at Portobello earlier that morning – although that was partly to do with the fact that Vogrie is very traily and hilly in places, and quite muddy on the day (requiring a lot of care on downhill sections!).

While I’m not ruling this one out for future New Year’s Day doubles, I think I would prefer to visit it in the summer, when there’s less chance of mud. It’s unlikely to happen this summer, of course, but maybe next year!

parkrun tourism: Portobello

Geth and I managed quite a few new parkruns during our Christmas trip to Edinburgh. We’d only ever previously done the main Edinburgh parkrun at Cramond while visiting Mum and Dad, but this time round we found ourselves with multiple reasons to go further afield. One of these was my desire to mark my first sober Hogmanay with my first ever New Year’s Day parkrun double the following morning – and the main Edinburgh parkrun doesn’t run on New Year’s Day, having done its special event on Christmas Day instead! As such, I had to select two alternative local parkruns for my Edinburgh-based double.

Portobello parkrun
Another pop-up sign. I’m collecting a lot of these photos!

The first of these was Portobello in north Edinburgh. I’d been meaning to do this one for a while but had never got round to it – the lure of Cramond and its lovely flat, scenic course is usually too strong. It turned out to be a nice fast three-lapper round the very pretty Figgate Park. The course isn’t as flat as Cramond, but it’s a lot more shielded from the wind! Geth fell in love with Portobello parkrun and immediately planned to do it regularly during the several weeks that he was (at the time) planning to spend in Edinburgh for work in May. For obvious reasons, that trip won’t be transpiring, but I still hope that we’ll both get to do Portobello parkrun again sooner rather than later.

parkrun tourism: Oriam

I’m a bit behind with my parkrun tourism blogs, but seeing as we won’t be parkrunning again any time soon due to the coronavirus lockdown, it’s a good time for me to catch up with them!

Oriam parkrun
I love those pop-up signs and am always really disappointed if I’m visiting a parkrun and they don’t have one out! Geth had to ask the volunteers to put this one out again specially for the photo as they’d already packed it away by the time I finished. Sorry, volunteers, but one’s 100th parkrun only happens once!

On the 28th of December, while visiting Edinburgh for the Christmas period, Geth and I got in the car and drove to the new local parkrun at the Heriot-Watt University campus in Riccarton. The parkrun takes place in the woodland trail behind the Oriam sports facility (hence the name), which is a much nicer setting than I’d originally assumed – I’d thought we’d be doing laps of a football pitch or something!

Oriam parkrun was only a few weeks old when we attended, and the Scottish winter weather had resulted in a lot of mud. Like, a LOT of mud. More mud than I had ever seen on a parkrun course, by quite a considerable margin. The trail is not at all flat, either, so you’re basically staggering uphill through a quagmire at various points. Not one for your PB. (Apparently the mud was more manageable by the end of the winter – whether this was due to weather or land management I’m not sure – but I still don’t see this ever being a fast course!)

It also happened to be my 100th parkrun. I had hoped to do my 100th at home, either at Newcastle or Jesmond Dene, but a really nasty cold took me out of the game for most of December and so the date for my 100th ended up coinciding with my Christmas visit to my hometown. (I could have done it on Christmas Day… but I’ve never yet made a Christmas Day parkrun, as Christmas morning with the family is fairly sacrosanct, and 2019 was no exception!)

As such, while it was too busy and disorganised a time of year to organise any real celebration, I did wear my red 50 shirt for the very last time, and after the parkrun, Geth and I drove back to Mum and Dad’s and ate lots of the cake that we already had in due to it being Christmas. You can’t have a parkrun milestone without cake!

I will return to Oriam at some point… but it will almost certainly be in the summer!

Two metres, please

I managed a slightly longer run this morning…

…and felt so much better for it! My shoulder pain seems to have subsided for now, although I will be putting it to the test with a bit more yoga later today. I’m hoping to get out for some longer runs over the weekend as well.

It’s a bit busy inside my head at the moment, and I feel like my creative ideas are not keeping their two metres of social distance apart from each other (or, you know, two centimetres, or whatever the correct scale is for inside your brain). I’m not working on as many creative projects as I usually am – I’m having a few months’ break from prose fiction writing in order to refresh (and it’s probably working because I miss my characters BADLY); I’m not writing as much poetry as usual due to poetry night having gone virtual like everything else (although I did enjoy writing my short verse today for the group poem we’re doing this month!); my adventure game creation process is currently in a drawing-bad-graphics phase rather than a writing-interactive-fiction phase; and I’m not actively seeking out writing competitions and submission requests and the like because it was starting to stress me out by the end of last year.

It’s good to take a semi-break, especially in the current circumstances (many writers have blogged more eloquently than me about the fact that a pandemic does not actually make for an efficient writing period, despite all the additional free time, because the ever-present sense of dread is something of a distraction). However, I’ve always found that if I don’t get my ideas out, they rattle around in my brain, and at the moment there are a lot of them in there.

I think I just need a couple of days to write freeform and see what happens. Maybe next week, if work is still quiet.

I’m looking forward to the weekend (such as it is) now. Geth and I will be doing the parkrun quiz tomorrow morning and taking a trip to the now-reopened B&Q on Sunday in order to get more gravel for the garden and stretch the car’s wheels (I’ve not turned on the engine since we returned from Inverness last month, and I know it needs to be done every now and then). I’ll be doing a couple of scenic runs and not thinking about the parallel universe and my parallel self’s trip to London. And, of course, I’ll be playing a lot of videogames.

As I mentioned last weekend, I won’t be doing diary posts tomorrow or Sunday – I’ll be sharing my running vlogs, though, and I’ve got a couple of review posts that will be going up. I’ll be back on Monday to update you all on my continued lockdown adventures 🙂

Cherry blossom
Today’s run was another sunny adventure with bright blue skies and beautiful blossom everywhere. This spring has been so good to us weather-wise.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Toto – ‘Africa’
Pulp – ‘Common People’
Survivor – ‘Eye Of The Tiger’
Timecop1983 and Primo – ‘My DeLorean’
Yasunori Mitsuda – ‘Elysium, In The Blue Sky’
Chaka Khan – ‘Ain’t Nobody’

Filling the space

I did another 10k this morning…

…and managed a similar pace to Saturday, which I was very pleased about! I feel as though my daily training since the start of the year has sped me up in what seems to be a permanent way. I’ll just keep plugging away and see what happens.

I have most definitely filled up the routine extra time afforded by the lockdown now, to the extent that I’m not sure how I’m going to go back to regular life when this is all over. I’ve written before about how it’s going to be a slow process out of lockdown for me – I won’t just be jumping back into a routine of multiple classes and groups and meetups per week, because I think I would find that overwhelming. But the thing is that I’m not sure I ever want to go back to that busy routine. All of the individual things were meant to be fun, but taken together, they made life a bit stressful. As such, I think there are things to which I won’t be returning – things I’m going to have to learn to let go of. I don’t know which things yet. The only thing I know I will definitely be going back to post-lockdown is parkrun – it’s free of charge, it’s helpful for my running improvement, and I love it to death.

In short, my big takeaway from this year is that there’s no point spending time and money on things that cause me stress, just because I feel that it’s something I SHOULD do. As such, I’ve stopped buying all the magazines I’m not getting round to reading, including breaking my decade-plus streak of buying Doctor Who Magazine (that was a wrench… but I’ve just not had time for Who fandom for a good two or three years. I haven’t even watched the most recent series yet, which would have been unthinkable when I was in my twenties). I no longer attend every vintage fair in Newcastle just because it’s on (this is something I discussed in my personal style post the other day). I stopped going to Pilates and dance classes last year – I enjoy those things, but they’re just not a priority for me any more.

Learning to let go is something I’ve always found difficult, and something I discussed a lot in my counselling sessions earlier this year. I am a consummate hoarder, not just of physical possessions but also of memories and identities and personal connections.

(If somebody de-friends me on Facebook, I hold a grudge like you would not believe – because why would we want to lose each other from our collection of contacts? Collections are to be grown, not ‘culled’! We may not have anything in common now, but we did once, and why would you want to move on from that? Why would you want to let go?)

My identity as a Doctor Who fan is one of those things I’m struggling to let go of, hence why I am trying not to think about having broken my magazine-buying streak. My identity as a goth is another. I became goth in my teens, made all my university friends and met my future husband in the goth and rock society, spent my twenties in various states of consciousness at goth clubs and gigs and festivals, and then… I last went to a scene event in August 2018. I only still wear my old goth band t-shirts and hoodies because they’re comfortable. It’s been years since I last listened to the music – I prefer ’80s pop and soundtracks and synthwave now. I got sober, and so I don’t really like spending time in pubs and clubs anymore, and I think it’ll be some time before I can brave a festival again.

‘You do still wear a lot of black, though,’ my counsellor said when I mentioned this to her. I suppose I do – some habits are hard to break, and it’s a practical colour. It’s just… I just don’t feel drawn to that particular aesthetic anymore, and while I’ve still got a lot of friends in the scene, I don’t see myself wanting to go back to the events, and I don’t think I can really call myself ‘goth’ these days, and I’m not sure I want to.

Accepting that fact requires a big shift in thinking, though. Just like accepting that these days I’m a casual Doctor Who viewer at best, and accepting that there are some old acquaintances I’m never going to see or speak to again (and that I probably won’t miss them), and accepting that I really need to chuck out those manky old Ikea cushions I’ve been hanging onto since 2002.

I’ve never yet been capable of making that big shift in thinking. But it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that it’s a necessary process.

I’m videogaming again tonight. In recent months I’ve occasionally felt a bit sheepish about mentioning that every day – like it’s a bit sad to be spending all my time videogaming, even if lockdown does provide me with the perfect excuse. But it’s what makes me happy at the moment, and that’s all that matters.

Newcastle Town Moor
I ran on the Town Moor today for the first time since the final pre-lockdown parkrun. It felt strange, even though I’ve often done solo runs there before. While I was enjoying parkrun touristing in the months before coronavirus happened, I think that I will be back at my home parkrun on the Moor when it’s time for the great parkrun return.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Yasunori Mitsuda – ‘Where It All Began’
Nina Nesbitt – ‘Stay Out’