Previously on “My journey to the Cowell Club”
I visited lots of parkruns, met oodles of lovely people and finished last at Old Deer Park.
Part 2: Venues 26 to 50
Venue 26 – Valentines (UK, Greater London)
A gently undulating, tarmac course through a landscaped park and my fourth ‘athoner meetup in five weeks. This time it was with Kieron (Insert Clever Running Pun Here), who was, like my Riddlesdown companion, sporting an injury and thus happy to pootle round at my sedate 10 min/mile pace.
Venue 27 – Eastleigh (UK, South East England)
Eastleigh has had more courses that most parkruns, and I was lucky enough to run the old Summer course which came complete with Thomas the Tank Engine. The parkrun weather fairies were having a bit of a rest, and mizzle was the order of the day. Didn’t know anyone there, though I did meet Barbara and Ian Boshier, both running their first parkruns, and both now members of the 50 club and stalwart volunteers.
Venue 28 – Banstead Woods (UK, South East England)
Running and community service all before 11 o’clock generated enough smug for the rest of the weekend. The course is lovely – one and a half uphills and two long runnable downs, and afterwards all the runners were invited to help clear some Himalayan Balsam to slow its invasion into the woods. And if that wasn’t enough, who should be there but Sandhya, the very first person I ever spoke to at parkrun.
Venue 29 – Hackney Marshes (UK, Greater London)
Memo to self: If you’re going to add the starting point of a parkrun into Google Maps months in advance of turning up, then it’s worth checking to see whether the course has changed in the meantime! Cue mad dash across the marshes to the new starting point by the Leisure Centre. Ooops.
Venue 30 – Bromley (UK, Greater London)
Another ‘athoner meetup, this time with the lovely Zoe (@zoecakes75), running her first ever parkrun. Laps of a playing field have never been so enjoyable!
Venue 31 – Bushy Park (UK, Greater London)
The home of parkrun. It’s flat, single lap, exquisitely organised and has a long and wide start which prevents go-slows. It’s also large and anonymous, and had I run it first, I wouldn’t have been bitten with the parkrun bug.
Venue 32 – Oak Hill (UK, Greater London)
I confess, I struggle with Oak Hill. It has a big lap and a small lap, but you could well run one of them twice. It’s in the style of a lot of the parkruns in that area – winding tarmac paths though a landscaped park. It’s undulating, but not hilly. I know that Ron Hill was there, I know that it was an inaugural and I know that I got a PB. But I struggle to visualise any of it. Unless this was the venue (and looking at the list, I think it must have been) which was tourist central. The venue where I first met Paul Freyne, saw Mark Jennings, became aware of Danny Norman and chatted to Timothy Williams. Now I remember!
Venue 33 – Southwick Country Park (UK, South West England)
My first parkrun in the South West, and my first inaugural outside Greater London. It kicked off with the unveiling of a statue (“It’s been a long time since I undressed a man”), featured laps of a rather beautiful park and ended in one of the best post-parkrun cafés I have been to. Icing on the cake? Meeting fellow tourists Diane Mawer and Rich Kennington (The Race Photographer), and picking their brains about the parkruns that they’d run.
Venue 34 – King’s Lynn (UK, East of England)
Run in “The Walks”, this is another picturesque parkrun, with a little out and back section within each lap. But what I remember it for is not the course, but the hospitality of a friend (“Are you at home to callers on Friday? There’s a new parkrun starting up near you and I’m after a bed”) and meeting fellow tourist, Andy Bailey (@jovialgnome).
Venue 35 – Abingdon (UK, South East England)
My first parkrun by invitation, courtesy of Rich (whom I’d met at the Southwick inaugural). He wasn’t running, but taking photos, so I also had my first taste of personalised “Looking good, Louise” cheering from a volunteer and my first experience of the post-parkrun coffee with the locals. Well worth missing the Nonsuch inaugural for.
Venue 36 – Nonsuch (UK, Greater London)
Having missed the inaugural, I went to event number 2… where I met Richard McChesney (@rpmcchesney), an ultra runner and parkrun tourist who has since set up the first New Zealand parkrun, become the first (and possibly only) parkrunner to have run all the parkruns in two different countries and who recently *walked* 100 miles in 24 hours. The run was also memorable for some more personalised cheering, this time from Derek, who I’d met at Banstead Woods a few weeks earlier.
Venue 37 – Bolton (UK, North West England)
It has a hill. A very big hill. Which you run up three times. If you’re unlucky enough to run the parkrun on a day when they’re running their ‘B’ course. Which I was. It’s not all bad though, because I was lucky enough to be running with ‘athoner Cassie (@knittingpenguin) whose company made the hill worthwhile.
Venue 38 – Andover (UK, South East England)
It had a wolf pack. Three of the biggest, hairiest, toothiest wolves I have ever seen. Oh, all right, they were wolf-style dog-products, possibly huskies, but the rest of the description is valid. As for the course, it’s falls loosely under the ‘laps of a playing field’ category, but with enough little tweaks to keep it interesting. And I think it was the first outing for my VLM rejection fleece too.
Venue 39 – Cannon Hill (UK, West Midlands)
Very nearly the end of my tourism. Not because there’s anything wrong with the course – which features ponds and out and back sections and goose poo by the ton, but because I was tired and antisocial and managed to go all that way and speak to no-one at all and when I got home I thought maybe I should throw in my travelling towel and become a home bod.
Venue 40 – Gunpowder (UK, Greater London)
Fortunately, the next week was another London inaugural, so I deferred my retirement from tourism for another week and headed north. Gunpowder is a nicely appointed park with very nice loos (always a bonus if you’ve travelled a fair way) and came complete with fellow tourists Ron Hill, Timothy Williams and Rick Oliver, who have been familiar faces at more than a few parkruns since.
Venue 41 – Elliðaárdalur (Iceland)
“Darling, do you mind very much if I desert you for the weekend? There’s an inaugural in Iceland and a whole load of parkrunners going. Oh, wait, partners are welcome. Darling, do you fancy a romantic weekend in Iceland?” What can I say? We went. The parkrun (which is currently mothballed) was gorgeous. A lollipop by a river, downhill for the first half and uphill for the second. It was also very near to some thermal springs, so afterwards we all piled into the outdoor pools and toasted nicely as we chatted.
Venue 42 – Gunnersbury (UK, Greater London)
I got a PB. And enticed Rachel (@fairweatherrun) along for another parkrun. And I finally introduced myself to Becky Hall, several places above me on the Most Events Table, who had also had a nail-biting moment after Wormwood Scrubs waiting for the results to come out. And I think (though strangely I can’t be sure) that this was when I was first introduced to King Danny.
Venue 43 – Cardiff (UK, Wales)
Road Trip! A fabulous weekend in Wales with Carla (@fortnightflo) and Alma (@plustenner), hosted by the lovely Susan (@suejonze). I also caught up with Howard Owen, one of the Iceland contingent, who was waiting for me at the finish looking as fresh as a daisy despite having run sub-20 on the fast and flat lollipop course.
Venue 44 – Heaton Park (UK, North West England)
Yet another ‘athoner meet up, this time with Maggie (@the_magathon), and I also bumped into Sheila Jones, another of the Iceland contingent, and ran in the presence of The Ron Hill! The course (which I believe now starts at the top not the bottom) was an undulating affair with gorgeous views, a stately home and rather picturesque lake.
Venue 45 – Grovelands (UK, Greater London)
With no meet ups and no inaugurals to be had, I headed for North London to bag Grovelands, … only to find that Timothy Williams and Rick Oliver were there to collect Rick’s 50 t-shirt. Apparently, even if you never visit the same event twice, you’ll still manage to run into people that you know.
Venue 46 – Ally Pally (UK, Greater London)
Lots of uphill, some of it at an extremely odd camber, squandered on a short and unrunnable down. But, it was also the parkrun at which I met Vanessa Rayner and at which I first spoke to Paul Sinton-Hewitt, so on balance, it counts as a win. And it was, from memory, the first parkrun which I extended into a long run, courtesy of one of the locals who showed me a lovely cut through back to Finsbury Park.
Venue 47 – Highbury Fields (UK, Greater London)
My first (and certainly only) first female finish (eight runners, two women, I beat her) in the stunningly fast time (ahem) of 27:38. The hardest thing about the course is counting to 5 – I have heard tell of runners who have accidently stopped after 4 laps and of others who have accidentally run 6.
Venue 48 – Poole (UK, South West England)
It’s fast and flat… or at least it is when it isn’t icy. Not icy enough to be dangerous, you understand, just icy enough to make a finishing sprint around the cricket pitch inadvisable.
Venue 49 – Ashton Court (UK, South West England)
“O, the Grand Old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men, he marched them up to the top of a hill and he marched them down again.” Great views, wonderful second half, killer first half. But, my goodness, you’d get fit if this were your local.
Venue 50 – Bedford (UK, East of England)
Two and half undulating laps in the company of Carla (@fortnightflo). I’m sure I should have more memories of it, but that’s pretty much everything that’s stuck.