Tag Archives: CenterParcs

200 for 50

This is a red letter year for me. By the time February starts, I will have celebrated my 50th birthday. This seems odd on a number of levels. First, because I distinctly remember thinking as a 12 year old that 50 was incredibly old and a long, long way into the future. And that only seems like yesterday. And second, because I honestly don’t feel any ‘older’now than I did when I was 25, 30 or 40. True, I can’t shake off the weight in the way that I used to be able to; and I ache a bit longer after running, refereeing, or getting up out of the chair too quickly, but for the most part, I still think of myself in pretty much the same way I did when I was half my current age. For now, I’ll take solace in the apparent fact that 50 is the new 40 and leave it at that.

However, I can’t let my 50th year pass without some acknowledgement. I’ve therefore decided to set myself a personal challenge of completing 200 officially measured and verified running race miles through a series of events throughout 2016. The challenge (catchily titled 200 for 50) began with the First Mile of 2016 at Centerparcs, Longleat, and on Saturday, I completed my first Cardiff parkrun of the year. So I’m already up to 4.2 miles and we’re barely out of double figures in the year!

The first big step towards the challenge comes on 31st January in Marrakech when I will be aiming to complete the Half Marathon on my first visit to the city. In truth, this one is likely to be a sedate affair, more like a speeded up sight-seeing tour than a serious run, but it will at least set down some benchmarks against which I can measure progress (and hopefully improvement) at other half marathons later in the year.

I’ll record my progress towards the target here and on my Just Giving page here :¬†https://www.justgiving.com/200-4-50

I’m raising money for the British Heart Foundation through the challenge, and if you feel moved to do, you can sponsor me through the Just Giving page. I’m also asking friends and family who might otherwise have thought about buying a present for my birthday to make a donation to the BHF instead.

I’ve chosen the British Heart Foundation because I am privileged to work at the University of Bristol which receives excellent financial support from the Foundation for its research into all aspects of heart disease and improvements in treatment for those diagnosed with heart problems. Again, I’ll write more about the research and the support that the BHF provides as the year goes along.

Right – back to the training!

In praise of…. CenterParcs

We count our visits to CenterParcs’ Longleat Village with reference to our son’s age. He was nine months’ old when we stayed there for the first time (and the village itself had been open for less than two years). He will be twenty years’ old in August, and we have spent at least a weekend in Longleat on probably fifteen or sixteen occasions during his life. We’ve just got back from a four night stay which included¬†a first for us – it didn’t rain once during the whole time we were there! And it was fantastic!

Coy ducks avoiding the camera on the pond outside our villa!

Coy ducks avoiding the camera on the pond outside our villa!

Both our son and daughter measure some of the key moments in their development with reference to CenterParcs activities : playing in the now-defunct sand and ball pits that used to occupy space at the end of the Sports Cafe in the Jardin des Sports (yes – it is called that; and yes, it is a large, indoor sports hall!); being towed around the village in one of those caravan-like trailers that attaches to the back of a standard bike; learning to ride their bikes without stabilisers; their first time down the Wild Water Rapids, the big green slides, or the bumpy, white slide; their first meal at Rajinda Pradesh (the on-site Indian restaurant); and their first time fending for themselves while mum and dad spent time in the Spa (for the record, ‘fending for themselves’ amounted to swimming in the Sub-Tropical Swimming Plaza and feasting on burger and chips from the poolside bar!)

Dan's first solo family BBQ as Head Chef

Dan’s first solo family BBQ as Head Chef

CenterParcs can be an easy target for those who haven’t been, and who might look upon it as a kind of Butlins for people who also shop at farmers’ markets. You can see an excellent example of the arguments for and against from this Telegraph piece from 2011 (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/8711425/Center-Parcs-Did-David-Miliband-get-it-right.html). All I know is that, as a family, we have had loads of unforgettable experiences together at Longleat Village – from learning to sail, to highly competitive family badminton, table tennis and air hockey encounters; from tense crazy golf and putting competitions, to chilled out patio breakfasts and barbecue dinners. Yes – it can be expensive (especially if you are restricted to school holiday times), and the costs can mount up if you pack lots of extra activities into your day (only access to the swimming complex is included in the cost of a typical 3 or 4 night stay). But our experience has always been that the cost has been more than justified by the value of the time that we have spent there. There really is nothing quite like laying back in the outside pool as the steam from the water gently drifts drifts away and looking up at the stars in an inky black sky (winter time only of course; it wasn’t dark until after 10.30pm on this most recent visit!)

Taking time to stop and stare

Taking time to stop and stare


(Photos courtesy of Dan “Call me David Bailey” Pearce)