This time last week we were writing our post about our successful race in Phoenix Arizona. It’s hard to believe that it was only a week ago that we were running through the desert landscape. This weekend was going to be very different. We had a number of running engagements over the two days.

These are the top 10 highlights of a very enjoyable weekend.

1. Richmond parkrun – It can be tough arriving back from such a brilliant trip as Phoenix having been living in a marathon bubble – spending all our time running, thinking about running, and talking to other runners about running and not really having to consider much else – then back down to earth with a bump and real life to contend with.  But there is always Richmond parkrun on Saturday morning to pick us up. Although we enjoy our adventures away we consider ourselves very lucky to have our parkrun crew to come back to. They listen patiently to our stories, act suitably impressed or amazed or tell us we are mad but are always supportive.

2. Richmond Park Perimeter – Post parkrun, I ran a steady run as part of a Runners World pace-team catch up. My legs felt ok and it was good to hit some miles again, although I wasn’t sure if was too soon. This is something I find difficult to work out – how long to spend in recovery mode after a race. I was sure to fit in a foam roller session afterwards to address a few niggles. I love running in Richmond Park and attribute a lot of my recent success to the longer runs I’ve done there over the last 8 weeks. The perimeter is a great trail with inclines and beautiful scenery, and it is traffic free.  Talking about pacers: I am pleased to announce that mum and I are both pacing the Virgin Money London Marathon this year; if you have any questions about how the pacing works please contact us.

3. The love of a local race – Travelling abroad to race is always exciting but there are also benefits to running in local events, and this weekend we were reminded of this when we took part in the Quicksilver Hampton Court Half Marathon. We only entered the race a couple of weeks ago and as it was so soon after Phoenix we did so mainly to provide a longish run with company rather than to race.  But it also meant no packing, no travelling, no jet-lag, own bed at night and time with friends.

4. Hampton Court Palace – We recently wrote a post about landmark sights on marathon routes. The course for Sunday’s race was varied and attractive, but certainly one of the best parts of the route was running along Barge Walk on the banks of the River Thames and passing Hampton Court Palace complete with Henry VIII (and a couple of wives) standing outside giving high-fives. The Palace, which dates back to the early 1500’s, has been extended and rebuilt over the years so that it is now a mixture of styles, Tudor and Baroque. It often features in films including the recent popular film The Favourite. One of the most astounding facts is that it has kitchens that can cater for 1000 people.

5. The Race organisation – The race organisation was excellent from start to finish. Great announcements, good motivational music, sufficient toilets, refreshment stands, an efficient bag drop, pacers accurate and visible, wave starts which worked well, a great finish funnel, an interesting goody bag, t-shirt and medal, and quickly-posted finish times.The race was popular with local club runners and produced some fast times. Everything a race should be.

6. Catching up with people – As well as the friends we had arranged to meet, this being a local race meant that there were other people who we knew Race Directing, timing, marshalling and running – especially members of our old running club The Stragglers. It was so nice to hear that they had kept up with our running exploits and to spend some time catching up with them.

7. Run in the sun (with friends) –  Not wanting to race again too soon I had offered to keep fellow Pembroke Athletica member Kate company during the race. I very much enjoyed running with her. The sun was shining and we chatted as we ran the scenic course, and the time passed quickly. I was proud of Kate to finish her half marathon off very little training.

8. Bob’s PB – In training for London Marathon, PA member Bob ran his second PB in 2 weeks at the race. Training looks like it is going to plan and we can’t wait to see what happens when he runs in April. When we asked him what he attributed his recent success to, he said that he had been running Yasso 800’s – a marathon training workout that links your 800m time to your target marathon time. Seems to be working! Keep running strong.

9. The support team at mile 10 – we posted a Top Five a couple of weeks ago with information about our favourite supporter signs and mentioned how much supporters help when times get tough. We were all very excited to see PA mascots Rowen and Ellis at 10 miles giving high-fives and cheers to all the team. Well, most of the team – Jacquie managed to pass unseen and not seeing despite looking – sound familiar?

10. Sunday lunch on the river – We were so lucky with the weather on Sunday. It was a sunny and surprisingly warm for the time of year – so much so that we were able to sit outside in our race t-shirts with our medals (and down jackets) to have lunch at East Molesey Cricket Club and to celebrate (of course) the weekend’s achievements.