…is a very long way from London and has no loos.
But I didn’t know that on Thursday. All I knew on Thursday was that I had the fidgets. I had Friday off work, no plans for Saturday and a yen to do a ridiculously outrageous bit of parkrun tourism.
I’d started looking for a suitable parkrun on Tuesday, after my foot had survived its second walk in four days. My first thought was Westport inaugural over in Ireland, but it is run entirely on bitmac paths* and I’ve been advised to stick to softer trails until my foot is back to its normal self.
My next thought was Zary inaugural in Poland** but the course details are in Polish, and I didn’t want to get there only to find that it was also run on a hard surface. So I set my sights on something a little more local.
A twitter enquiry yielded a number of suggestions, including the rather fabulous sounding Wythenshawe and Worsley Woods parkruns in the general vicinity of Manchester, and I also toyed with the idea of joining Great North Runner Jovial Gnome at South Shields. However, despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t work out the logistics of these, so on Thursday, I started looking closer to home. A trawl of South East and South West parkrun courses threw up Plymvalley parkrun. It was perfect! Flattish, traily, and being in Plymouth, relatively local. Because Plymouth is local. It’s with all the other south-coast mouths, just along a little from Portsmouth and Bournemouth. Isn’t it?
Um. No. It’s the last in the string of mouths, further than Weymouth, further than Exmouth. Really quite far away indeed. Shucks. Maybe I’d have to stick to Kent and try out Pegwell Bay.
Resigned to a rather pathetic piece of parkrun tourism, I sent a text message to Shazruns bemoaning the far-awayness of Plymouth and took myself off to bed.
Friday morning dawned, bright and clear*** and brought with it an enquiring text from Sharon asking if I was muttering about the location of Plymouth because I was eyeing up Plymvalley. I admitted that the thought had crossed my mind but been dismissed because of the baffling question of how to get there, and before I knew it, I had an offer of a bed, a lift to Plymvalley and company.
An offer not to be missed! I packed my bags, grabbed the last packet of maple biscuits to survive from Canada, picked up my car keys and left before Sharon had the chance to come to her senses.
So. Plymvalley parkrun. It’s a long way from London and it has no loos. But don’t let that put you off because it’s lovely. You start off with a clockwise loop of a wildflower meadow before heading off through a gate, under a bridge, through another gate, under another bridge and out along a canal path. To your right is the canal, to your left a steep slope that leads down to the Plym river. As I was walking a minute, running a minute, I was off the main pack and it felt like I was the only person in the world, pootling along through my own private woodland paradise.
On the straighter sections, I could see the couple in front of me and I gradually reeled them in. Just after I passed them, I reached The Slope, a short, sharp uphill section which marks the far end of the course and takes you up to a tarmac path (which has a wide trail verge if you prefer something softer underfoot). Fortunately, the uphill started just as I dropped back into a minute of walking, and that minute took me pretty much to the top. The way back is also beautiful – through the trees with the river down the slope to your right, and when you get to the end, you run down a short slope back under the bridges and through the gates into the field for a slightly shorter anti-clockwise loop.
The marshals were wonderful. I worried the field-marshal slightly by dropping down into a walk just as I approached him, and he looked ready to rush to my aid and help me back to the start. When I walked past him again at the beginning of the second lap of the field, he was suitably complimentary about my walking speed and by the time I ran past him for the final time it felt like we were old friends.
Despite being towards the back, sometimes in the rare position of having no other runners in sight, I was in absolutely no danger of getting lost as every decision point had either a marshal or a very clear sign. And at the end I was cheered across the finishing line by Sharon and Madam.
So, my first attempt at anything approaching a run in over two months, and it was fabulous. Thank you, Sharon, for your impromptu hospitality, and thank you Plymvalley for your parkrun. As a diehard tourist, I may not be back again any time ever, but I couldn’t have asked for a nicer venue for my test run.
*Seriously. This was the reason that I talked myself out of the trip. Not the palaver of booking flights, hotels and train tickets for tomorrow.
**I see from the results that Paul Freyne was not so chicken-hearted and has added yet another inaugural to his collection.
***Bleak and dank and wet.