Parkrun #8 and #9 – Peckham Rye and Finsbury Park, London

July, much like August, but let’s stick with July for now, was another smug month of running. I book-ended the month with parkruns in opposite ends of London; temporarily found myself getting up to run at 6.30am, pre-work, in order to allow myself uninterrupted post-work Wimbledon watching (this, of course, has now ended); and, after several weeks of running regularly, achieved the sub-30 PB time I’d been working towards – but then forgot to take a photo. Fail.

Fortunately, I’ve become that person who records every run they do on Strava. If it’s not on Strava, it definitely didn’t happen.

Now Strava told me 5km. It also told me 29:22. If it had just been me running that day, I would have taken great satisfaction in this PB. However, that day in Peckham Rye – a delightful, varied, relatively flat 3-laps of a route featuring Japanese garden – I was running with uni friends Gribben and Crowther and Crowther’s girlfriend Eleanor. As we walked towards brunch, sweaty but satisfied after the run, we were browsing through our respective Strava stats like the trendy, runners-in-their-early-30s that we are. Gribben then made the shocking announcement that his Fitbit equivalent, renowned for being the more accurate device, had actually only recorded a 4.8km distance. Every Parkrun route is supposed to be 5km. Whether or not Gribben’s stats meant that I’d run the same distance as him, my new PB was now tainted. Sure, I still bragged about it on Instagram, my pace was certainly a PB, but this wasn’t the PB that, for me, meant that I’d achieved my goal. Now, I’d have to do it again.

The problem is, life gets in the way. Especially in Wimbledon season. Following this Peckham “PB” I then didn’t run for the next three weeks, for one reason or the other, and it was only because I’d made a social running date with Dani to do the parkrun at Finsbury Park, that I forced myself to start running again. I mean, sure, I’d have started running again in August, but this was late July, I’d already done a parkrun in July (just), and I was about to go on holiday to Scotland. Did I really need to do another parkrun?

I almost didn’t make it. The morning of, I arrived at Brixton station, thinking I’d just zip up on the Victoria line to Finsbury Park. However, that weekend, to my horror, work was being done on the Victoria line between Brixton and Victoria, and Brixton underground station was closed. After a few text exchanges with Dani – “I don’t think I’m going to make it”/”We can just go for brunch instead” – I remembered there was an overground train that went from Brixton to Victoria, and embarked on a faff of a journey that I would end up doing more times than I’d care to remember that day. The good news is, as you may have already guessed, I made it. Not without a frantic panic run from Finsbury Park station though!

The Finsbury Park parkrun route is two laps, roughly around the circumference of the park. There are two very contrasting inclines – one that lasts for at least 1km but is very gradual, and another which is very short but very steep. As I approached the steep gradient for the second time, one of the volunteers, a lovely grey-haired woman, called out “That’s a great, steady speed you’re doing there, keep it going up the hill!”. I remember being very short of breath, wondering how much longer I could keep going for and the words of that volunteer motivating me to grit my teeth and carry on, as slow as it may require. And once again, thanks to that extra push at the end, I completed another 5km without stopping. Sure, my final time was 33:46 – a far cry from my Peckham “PB” – but it’s still 5km without a break; my fitness levels must be doing alright!

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A Postcard from London

Hello from London! The least exotic location of the four grand slams, but by far the most convenient. Interestingly, despite Wimbledon taking place on my doorstep, this is probably the most belated tennis postcard of them all. Still, who doesn’t want to remember Wimbledon one month later?

In my head, I was going to be at the Strawberries and Screen big screen at King’s Cross every day after work, cramming as much tennis action into two weeks as possible, whilst maintaining a full-time job. It was a wonderful vision. However, despite my location, and moving my weekly runs to be pre-work, rather than post-work (yes, before work!) I didn’t watch as much tennis as I had hoped; normal life seemed to get in the way. Maybe in future, I should just take the entire 2 weeks off work, temporarily move to a holiday home in Wimbledon, do all of my life admin pre-12pm and then set myself up in front of a TV/large screen/court on a daily basis as appropriate? Roll on retirement and this actually being my life!

However, despite not being able to watch all of the matches I wanted to watch, I found that I generally knew what was going on thanks to my good friends, the BBC. I wish they’d do ‘Today at Wimbledon’-esque nightly summaries for all of the grand slams. I’m sure Sue Barker would like the extra cash!

So, Wimbledon 2017, eh? Would you like a helpful recap?

(1) Eight singles players withdrew mid-match in the first round but still received the £35,000 losers prize for starting the match. Incroyable. This needs to be addressed – I would have been very angry had I been a fan who had paid to be there on those early days of the tournament.
(2) Stan the Man, the guy who beat Andy Murray in the semi-finals of Roland-Garros with yours truly as a witness went out in the first round. What on earth? Grass is clearly not his surface.
(3) Nadal and Muller played a fourth-round, 5-hour thriller on Court Number 1, with Muller eventually winning the tiebreak whilst I watched a Roger Federer masterclass on Centre Court and then toddled off home. I do kind of feel like I missed the match of the tournament. Fail.
(4) I saw Andy play (and win) not once, but twice in the space of four days. Amazing but a little bit stressful.
(5) After losing to Sam Querrey in the quarter-finals, Andy famously corrected that idiot American journalist in the press conference that followed. No, Sam Querrey is not the first American to get to the semi-finals of a major since 2009. Have you heard of Venus and Serena Williams? Call yourself a journalist?
(5) SOW Venus Williams knocked out our girl Konta in the women’s semi-finals, after Jo’s impressive run on the grass. Boo. Refreshingly though, Venus did not go on to win Wimbledon, and was beaten in straight sets in the final by Spaniard Muguruza. Yay.
(6) Djokovic retired in his quarter-final, an injury which we now know will prevent him from playing for the rest of the year. This means that there’s no chance of me watching him in this year of grand slams though I did watch him jog past the practice courts at Wimbledon. I must admit, I was quite excited. Anna, less so.
(7) Federer won Wimbledon for an incredible 8th time, defeating a determined, yet sadly injured Martin Cilic in straight sets. It wasn’t the best final because of Cilic’s injury but hats off to him for completing the match.
(8) Wimbledon ended on a high with a cracker of a mixed doubles final between defending champions Heather Watson and Henri Kontinen, and thee Martina Hingis and former number 1 doubles player in the world, Jamie Murray. A very entertaining match and  Martina and Jamie prevailed much to my delight. I’m forever a Murray-for-the-win kind of girl!

So yes, that’s my summary – I’m sure you are thrilled to have read my post-Wimbledon analysis! When I looked back at my other ‘postcard’ posts, I realised I had written more about the cities I’d visited, rather than the ins and outs of the tennis. I guess this post is a reflection of what Wimbledon is all about for me: the tennis. Having said that though, I obviously did make a point of seeking out Wimbledon big-screenage when I was able to: after work with my colleagues near Kings Cross (I made it once!); with my flatmates at the top of One New Change beside St Paul’s; and then in Millennium Square in Bristol, as part of a reunion weekend with Megan and Viv. The UK knows how to cater for the avid tennis fan!

Remember in my last postcard post, I said that this year was unintentionally turning into a Nadal slam? Well don’t worry, Andy has swiftly overtaken in the rankings. Thanks to my double-whammy of Andy at Wimbledon, I have now seen him play in three matches this year, whilst I have watched both Nadal and Federer two times each over the three grand slams. Not bad considering they are three of ‘the big four’/some of the greatest tennis players of all time!

So we haven’t bought our tickets for the US Open yet as they are still pretty expensive and we’re convinced they will go down in price. Yes, Dad would be proud, I will be forever a bargain hunter! We’re also not sure if Andy is going to be playing? However, we’re definitely going to New York so here’s hoping Andy’s hip recovers, we miraculously choose tickets for a day that he’s playing, and then he wins a grand slam! Not much to ask for, right?

Roll on Flushing Meadows!

CatMac X

How To Wim at Wimbledon: The Ballot

When it comes to the ballot, “wimming at Wimbledon” is not quite so straight-forward. Whilst you can almost guarantee your success in the queue by simply getting up early, entering the ballot doesn’t necessarily yield tickets for Wimbledon. However, it’s the first and most crucial step; as they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it.

I recognise that my queue post wasn’t very helpful given Wimbledon is an early-July distant memory. However, this ballot post should hopefully be a lot more useful as the tournament organisers will now be preparing for Wimbledon 2018 which means we, the punter, can also start preparing for Wimbledon 2018! No jokes, the link says it all.

Let me talk you through my ballot success for the 2017 Championships.

(1) At some point in September, I applied to the ballot directly, following the bureaucratic process that Wimbledon seems to hold dear. Scroll down to Wimbledon on my tickets guide to learn more about what is involved.

(2) Not fancying my chances, in November I did my classic shout-out to Facebook in hope I could persuade a few more people to apply to the ballot, so they could take me with them when they won.

(3) Distracted by the Australian Open, I forgot all about the ballot until 13 March when I came home after a boring day at work and found a letter addressed to me on the floor. I remember picking it up, casually opening it, thinking it was some fancy looking bill. And then I saw the Wimbledon branding. Gasp. Frantic opening. Ahhhh, I got tickets!!!! Cue texting my sister, the second biggest fan of Wimbledon that I know and waiting very impatiently for a response. Clearly Wimbledon knew it was my year of grand slams!

The notification letter that you receive from the tournament provides instructions on how to pay for the tickets online if you want them and so that night, I logged on and paid the balance. I think I was a bit scared that if I didn’t pay for the tickets there and then, somehow they’d be taken away from me. So happy!

(4) Having paid for my tickets, the only thing left to do was wait for them to arrive. In a similar context to when I received my original letter, I came home from work on 17 May to a fancy looking envelope and then got very excited when I realised what was inside. Wimbledon tickets!!

(5) Fast forward several months to the day itself. Anna and I went for brunch in Wimbledon village in the morning and then strolled into Wimbledon at around 12pm. Such a contrast to the previous Friday when I’d queued! Fortunately, I really enjoy the Wimbledon queue experience so never grudge it, but it was so nice to get into the grounds that Monday and not feel exhausted by the morning’s efforts. And the weather was again on form! Check out the blue skies and sweaty Catmac below as proof. Our line-up on centre court was also not too shabby: Venus Williams, Andy Murray and Roger Federer. You know, just some legends of the sport.

As if I need to say, it was another cracking day at Wimbledon. Venus strolled through her match. Andy stressed us out as he likes to do but fought through to win the match. Roger demonstrated the art of effortless tennis. I couldn’t have asked for more. For context, this was the same day that Nadal and Muller had their epic showdown on Court number 1. Looking back, I wish we’d stayed to watch the match on Henman Hill/Murray Mound. Instead, we left the grounds and kept stopping at pubs on our route back to the station, watching snippets on their tiny screens. Facepalm. Moral of the story: never leave the grounds when there is tennis still in play!

When Anna and I were at brunch, we got talking to some other lucky ticket holders at the table next to us. They told us that they had won ballot tickets for the mens final in the 2013 championships, i.e. they saw Andy Murray win Wimbledon for the first time, after Britain’s 77-year wait. What an epic event to have witnessed! This conversation, coupled with my own flukey success in my first ever entry to the ballot, has motivated me to apply for the ballot forevermore. And I think you should do the same (and take me, obviously!).

How To Wim at Wimbledon: The Q

Though it wasn’t Andy’s Wimbledon this year, it was probably my most successful Wimbledon yet. Not one visit, but two: one in the queue as a punter, the other as a member of the tennis elite, strolling in after brunch in Wimbledon village, smug with ticket in hand. Following on from my last blog post “So You Want To Go To Wimbledon?”, I thought it could be useful to illustrate my step-by-step guide to queuing at Wimbledon to demonstrate that anyone can”wim” at Wimbledon. I mean, at least in 2018 you can?!

Step 1. Wake up at 5am. Take obligatory sunrise photo and post it on Facebook so the world knows you’re going to Wimbledon.

Step 2. Meet friends at 6.30am outside Southfields station. Be thankful that you were only 5 minutes late, and not 30 minutes late like you were two years ago. Follow signs and crowds to the start of the queue. Join queue at approximately 7am, receive your queuing card (essential for getting into the grounds) and tweet ViewfromtheQ to let them know the status of the queue (please note, tweeting is not mandatory, it’s just helpful for your fellow Wimbledon fans).

Step 3. Enjoy the queue. Take natural photos like the one below. Go for multiple walks. Try a delicious iced coffee from one of the food outlets. Get told you won’t be allowed to take your Scottish flag inside the grounds so hide it in the depths of your backpack.

Step 4. But not before you take a group photo with your flags.

Step 5. Make slow progress in the queue. Make friends with the people next to you in the queue so they can take group photos for you.

Step 6. Pay £25 for a grounds-pass and enter the grounds around 13:05. Take a photo to remember how joyful you felt. Check out the order of play and if interested in the players on Court Number 3 (Oh hi, Nishikori) get yourself in another queue to get a seat.

Step 7. Having not been deterred by the length of the Court 3 unreserved seating queue, get on Court Number 3 court and feel extremely pleased with yourself. Watch Nishikori win a set but then ultimately lose. Mixed emotions.

Step 8. Get some bargainous strawberries and cream for £2.50 and then some less bargainous Pimms for £7.50, battle through the crowds to find a small space of grass on the hill and sit back and watch the tennis on Murray Mound (Henman Hill).

Step 9. From your perch on the hill, watch a third-round battle on Centre Court between Murray and Fognini, realise the match isn’t going to be over in a hurry so join the ticket resale queue and get yourself a cracking seat on Centre Court for £10.

Step 10. Scream your way to an Andy victory!

this one's for the instagram feed @andymurray rest up and i'll see you at the @usopen #twoscots #catmacbirthdayslam

A post shared by Catriona MacArthur (@catriona_mac) on

So You Want To Go To Wimbledon?

A few people have asked me for advice on going to Wimbledon so before the greatest grand slam of the year descends upon us, I wanted to write a quick post explaining all there is to know. Sit down, make yourself a cup of tea, and wish that you had one of my amazing Wimbledon cupcakes.


Going to Wimbledon
One of the reasons that Wimbledon is so great is the fact that you can get tickets last-minute, either by queuing on the day, or by purchasing online the day before.

The Queue

  • Show-courts (Reserved seats on Centre Court and courts 1, 2 or 3):
    The majority of the show-court tickets have been allocated through the ballot but a healthy number are kept behind for on-the-day purchasing. If you want a chance of getting these, I suggest you become one of these mad people in tents who camp overnight.
  • Ground-passes (Grounds and unreserved seats on courts 3-19): The majority of people joining the early morning queue will be there to get a ground-pass ticket. These tickets are only sold on the day of play. In past years, I’ve arrived at the grounds between 6.30am and 7am in order to guarantee entry. Follow @ViewFromTheQ on Twitter to get the daily update on what time is advised to arrive. If you rock up at 10am, you’re not getting in. Tickets on the first week of play will be £25.
  • After work: I can’t find anything to confirm this on the Wimbledon website but I think if you go to Wimbledon after 5pm, you can buy a Ground pass for even cheaper than £25. However, I’d only recommend doing this on the first week or the first half of the second week when there are still lots of matches going on.
  • Re-sale tickets. Another reason Wimbledon is so wonderful is because you can buy show-court re-sale tickets which have been handed in by attendees who decide to go home before the action is over. Tickets cost either £5 or £10, and are available from 5pm at the re-sale kiosk.

Online
It is also possible to buy show-court tickets on the day before play on ticketmaster – my friends did this last year and saw some epic matches on Centre Court. I’ve never done it but imagine this might cost a small fortune!

Watching Wimbledon
If you’re in the UK, as ever, Sue Barker and the BBC have you covered so you can bask in the wonders of Wimbledon for the next 2 weeks. If you’re in London, I’d recommend watching some of the matches on one of the big screens dotted around the city for the next best thing to a Henman Hill/Murray Mound Wimbledon atmosphere.

Myself? Queuing on Friday. Centre court tickets on the following Monday. And lots and lots of quality time with the BBC on either end!

One more sleep until Wimbledon!

A Postcard from Paris

Bonjour mes parents! C’est votre plus jeune fille préférée qui vous appelle, finally here to tell you all about her recent grand slam adventure à Paris! If this was a real postcard, it would have a British stamp on it, rather than a French stamp, because as per usual, I’ve been quite delayed in actually getting around to writing this and sending it to you. Terribly sorry. Anyway, I don’t want you getting your grand slams confused so before Wimbledon hits our screens, shall we reminisce about Paris?


My long weekend in Paris was such a delight. London had been hot that general-election Thursday when I departed, but I arrived to even warmer temperatures in Paris. Can you believe I hadn’t been in Europe proper since 2015? Somehow I’d forgotten that last year I was too busy walking 500 miles. The temperatures, combined with this realisation and the view in front of me, made for a very ecstatic Catmac as I walked out of Gare du Nord into the blinding sunshine. Paris architecture is incredible. ‘Shall I move to Paris?’, I wondered to myself as I slowly wandered south to our Air BnB in Le Marais, an excellent choice might I add. Don’t worry parents, as with Australia, I think it’s unlikely that I’m about to change countries any time soon.

Do you remember my old Brussels flatmates Marine and Jo? On my first night in Paris, whilst I was waiting for Viv to arrive, I met up with Marine and as per tradition (well, we’ve done it twice!) we face-timed Jo who is now back in Brussels post-studies. It was so cool to see and laugh with them again! I love that I still have these connections from different stages of my life. My Brussels life is a distant memory to me now, but meeting up with the people I shared the experience with helped me relate to it again. The blog also helps. Rue le Titien pour toujours!

Weirdly, Paris didn’t seem that fussed about Roland-Garros, At least, not to the extent that I saw in Melbourne and have witnessed multiple times in London. There was barely any advertising for it anywhere in the city and even when we arrived at one of the designated Roland-Garros metro stops, we literally had no idea which direction we needed to walk in because there was nothing to instruct us. (Shout-out to the man who took one look at the Scottish flag draped round my neck and concluded that we should follow him.)


Even in central Paris, there seemed to be a lack of activity. We’d been told there was a big screen by the Eiffel Tower so we ventured there for the final. Naturally, this led us to vision our arty Instagram shots-to-be but when we arrived at the screen, we were a bit disappointed.

Sure, the Eiffel Tower is in the vicinity but how am I supposed to see it from within this hidden enclosure?! Alas, our instas were not to be, but to be fair, when we did get inside this rather random and exclusive RG watchpoint, we quickly embraced our new lives.

Asides from the tennis, and the obligatory parkrun (when in Paris), we still had lots of time to enjoy the city. Shout-out to Viv who got up at 7.30am to go to Versailles whilst I went to parkrun so we would then be able to hang out again in the afternoon after our respective activities! This trip was the first time that I felt like I really understood the geography of Paris. Now I understand that the Eiffel Tower is west, Roland-Garros even more west, etc, etc! It was also the first time that I’d walked extensively in the city and fully appreciated its beauty.

Paris, there’s so much I love about you.

It’s a good sign that, even only three weeks on, I keep forgetting that I had possibly the worst cold of my year on this trip to Paris.  Let’s just block out those negative memories! I remember thinking I’d have to rein in my cheering for Andy because my voice wasn’t strong enough to shout, and then, of course, I threw that plan out the window as soon as Andy came on court. “ALLEZ ANDY!” To be fair, it felt like there were only 10 other Andy fans in the whole stadium – he needed my voice! Ice cream was then, of course, essential to aid my recovery. 

Amusingly, my grand slam tour has turned into a bit of a Nadal slam tour. I watched him in the final in Australia, and then again in the semi-final in Paris. Is he going to feature in my Wimbledon experience? This wasn’t the plan. But I can’t complain. Even though Andy lost in his semi-final at Roland-Garros, that match was a huge treat for me and made the grand-slam risk of 2017 seem all worth it. Now I hope you’ve both fine-tuned your voices because Andy needs us for the next 2 weeks. Watch out for me/him/two scots at Wimbledon!

CatMac X

Parkrun #7 – Parc Montsouris, Paris

Back in January, I’d never run a 5k and I’d never done a parkrun. I chose to do both for the first time whilst on holiday in Melbourne, Australia. I mean, you have to start your professional running career in style, no? 6 months later, I found myself with the chance to embark on another international landmark: parkrun number 10, à Paris!

I’d discovered there were two parkruns in Paris: one in Bois de Boulogne, which is located beside my friends at Roland-Garros in the west of Paris, and one in the picturesque Parc Montsouris, in the south of the city. I half-heartedly asked around about which park route was flatter but in the end, I settled purely on someone saying Montsouris was ‘one of their favourite parks in Paris’. I mean, if it’s beautiful, then I can deal with any hills there might be, right?

So Montsouris is deceivingly all about the hills. The parkrun route is three laps of the perimeter of the park, 50% of which is running up a hill. Oh lovely, just what I like on a 25-degree heat morning! I’m not going to lie, I definitely stopped on this route. Who wants to run uphill? However, just as 50% was uphill, there was a glorious 50%-per-lap of downhill running. And I am aaaaall about downhill running. No effort whatsoever! This wasn’t my fastest time – 32:07 – but not bad considering the heat, the hills, and me being full of the cold!

This was the smallest parkrun route I’d been to yet, with only 28 runners participating, a reflection, perhaps, of how new parkrun is to France: the first route was only set up in 2015. The majority of people there seemed to be ex-pats of sorts, either on holiday like me, or inhabitants in the city, who knew about parkrun from their home country initially and had then sought it out whilst abroad. There were loads of people running in the park though so it’s not a lack of fitness that’s preventing the locals from getting involved. Maybe it just takes a while for the word to get out? I do wonder though if the language plays a role in any way. Parkrun is not a difficult string-of-words, but it is still English. Parc courir, anyone?

Regardless of the numbers, it’s very cool to travel to other countries and see the concept of parkrun working in exactly the same format as it does in your local park down the road. Admittedly, it is a pretty simple concept so it’s easy to see why it’s replicated so well across the globe. My next and final international parkrun of the year is hopefully going to be in Washington DC. No, you’re right, there isn’t a grand slam there! Unfortunately, there isn’t a parkrun in New York, would you believe, so sister Mac and I are going purposely out of our way to live the international parkrun dream. Come on NYC, get involved!