As with most things parkrun, the idea behind the longest parkrun is simple. On the first Sunday after the longest day of the year to visit as many parkruns as possible.
Last year, I didn’t manage to run all seven parkruns on the schedule. It was a scorchingly hot day, I was relatively new to running, and I just didn’t have it in me. This year, I was determined to complete the set. But which set to attempt? For the first year, there was a choice. Should I go for the original South West London tour, retracing last year’s footsteps? Should I try out the new compact and very cycleable North East London circuit? Or should I invite myself up to my in-laws in Leeds and make my attempt in Yorkshire?
Being a parkrun tourist at heart, I really didn’t have to think about it for too long. Yorkshire offered the chance to run at new venues and would also offer me the chance to put a face to Steve Darby, sixth on the most events table, and now leading the field for inaugural parkruns. With the decision made, all that remained was the running.
Leeds Hyde Park – 31:49
A nice, flat, three lap course that is pretty much all on tarmac.
Roundhay – 31:34
Another three lap tarmac course. Beautiful venue. Winding route. Undulating. Uphill finish.
Harrogate – 31:00
Three identical rectangular laps, half on tarmac, half on marsh. Lap one: flat. Lap two: slight rise. Lap three: definite hill.
York – 33:18
Two and two thirds laps that traced out a wizard’s hat. All on grass. Choice of two routes. 5km running through the lake-sized puddles, or 5.2km running around the lake-sized puddles.
Dewsbury – 33:40
Four tarmac laps up and down Dewsbury mountain.
Huddersfield – 33:10
So welcoming, they threw a party in our honour (or was it for the Olympic torch?). Bands, dancing girls and sunshine to take our minds off our weary legs.
Leeds Hyde Park – 34:25
A testing three lap course set in the middle of a rift in the space-time continuum. My Garmin might have measured it as 5km on the flat, but my legs know the truth.
Of course, parkrun isn’t really about running. It’s about people. I didn’t catch too many names, but the friendliness and good humour of the group were almost palpable. In amongst everyone were a few who made my day particularly memorable, including:
Steven King and Richard Smart: parkrunners from Middlesbrough Albert and Pontefract parkruns respectively who helped me navigate between parkruns, providing chocolate, company and assurances that completing all seven parkruns in full was an attainable goal.
The Huddersfield Bunnies: a bury of parkrunners from Huddersfield whose enthusiasm and good humour was infectious.
Simon Newton: as if seven parkruns in a day wasn’t enough, Simon managed each one in sub-20 mins, despite taking a nasty tumble at the first one. The three lap courses meant that I was able to watch him make it all look easy – simply spellbinding.
The Yorkshire Family Newell: completed the day in relay, providing welcome directions as we arrived late at Roundhay, and valuable marshalling at the Dewsbury event. May also get the award for ‘best parkrun time whilst wearing wellies’.
The Hyde Park Harrier and other speedy peeps: for their encouraging words as they lapped me.
The Sweatshop Running Community: if these are typical, find your nearest and join up!
And Steve Darby: