Previously on “My journey to the Cowell Club”
I visited lots and lots of parkruns, met oodles and oodles of lovely people, finished last at Old Deer Park and finished first (female) at Highbury Fields.
Part 3: Venues 51 to 75
Venue 51 – St Albans (UK, East of England)
Another inaugural, with Carla (@fortnightflo) and Andy (@jovialgnome) for company. The course is a triple lollipop – you run to the lake, run round it three times (being lapped repeatedly by Danny Norman or his ilk) and then head back to the start. It’s flat, fast and PB friendly and has a very nice café.
Venue 52 – Eastbourne (UK, South East England)
Run round a field, run round a tarmac loop, DO NOT SPRINT FOR THE FINISH, run round the field again, sprint for the finish. If you’re a mad triathlete (@n0rm, I’m looking at you) you can cycle there from London first and still put in a stonkingly good time. And if you listen to the parkrun show (Robert, I’m looking at you) you can make a tourist’s day by saying “Oh, are you Abradypus?”.
Venue 53 – Mile End (UK, Greater London)
Another inaugural, and another run in the company of Carla (though alas Alma (@plustenner) was stuck on a train, so she only made it there in time to cheer us over the line). The course is best described as flat with a bridge, though as you go over the bridge four times, you may prefer undulating as a description. It also sits right next to Regent’s Canal, so is easily extendable into a long run (which we did).
Venue 54 – Newbury (UK, South East England)
Snow! Lots and lots of snow. And lots and lots of familiar faces, as it was an inaugural with a record breaking attendance. The highlights for me were running into Rich Kennington again (there as a photographer not a runner) and meeting Chris and Linda Cowell, leading lord and lady of the most events table.
Venue 55 – Crystal Palace (UK, Greater London)
It has a hill, it’s two laps and everyone goes off ridiculously fast. I was running it as the first 5k of a long run, so started at the back and stuck to a 10:30 min/mile pace. By the time we’d made it to the bottom of the hill, the rest of the field had vanished into the distance, and I was getting slightly twitchy that I’d get lost. By the time I’d reached the top of the hill, I’d overtaken enough panting walkers to calm my nerves and up my smug quotient. I never did see any dinosaurs though.
Venue 56 – Gdynia (Poland)
“Darling, do you fancy a romantic weekend in Poland? I hear it’s just lovely at this time of year.” If you have the chance to go on a parkrun trip to Poland, grab it with both hands. The country manager is fantastic, and you will learn more about Polish history in two days than you did in umpteen years at school. Icing on the cake? A massive PB on the pancake-flat course and the chance to catch up with a bunch of tourists from the Iceland trip.
Venue 57 – Netley Abbey (UK, South East England)
An inaugural with a difference – 11 days before it took place, it wasn’t even on the cards. But then Eastleigh parkrun lost its venue and its Event Director had to pull off a miracle. So an inaugural event, but one at which pretty much every runner was an experienced parkrunner (either tourist or Eastleigh regular). Three laps, nice out and back section for added cheering potential, oodles of familiar faces and I *think* the venue where I first met Ian Giggs.
Venue 58 – Colwick (UK, East Midlands)
You know Colwick – it’s the parkrun with the gorgeous views! Or so I’m told. The day I ran it, in the company of Andy, the fog was so thick that seeing the hand in front of your face was an achievement. I gather there is a lake and some trees and lots of wildlife to spot. Maybe one day I’ll get back to find out.
Venue 59 – Guildford (UK, South East England)
What is it about parkruns beginning with Gu? I missed Gunnersbury because of the Iceland trip and Guildford because of the Poland trip. But there’s a certain charm in going to event number 4. The tourists have cleared off, the community is beginning to form and you can really get a feel for what the parkrun is going to turn into. I remember it as flattish, with leg-sapping rises rather than genuine hills.
Venue 60 – Inverness (UK, Scotland)
“Darling, do you fancy a romantic getaway to Scotland? Just the two of us? You do? Excellent. I’ll book the tickets, enter a marathon in Fort William and check out the Scottish parkruns.” Another of the “laps of a playing field” variety of parkrun but it has extremely friendly runners, is in a stunning part of the world, and starts at 9:30am giving you an extra 30mins lie in. And it also gave me the chance to meet other runners doing the marathon, which took the edge off my pre-race nerves.
Venue 61 – Dulwich (UK, Greater London)
Two* flat, tarmac laps with no bottlenecks. A parkrun with PB written all over it. Unless, that is, you ran your first marathon the week before, in which case it has pain written all over it. Not helped by the fact that I was squeezing it in before an OU tutorial, so cycled there, ran it, cycled into Central London, sat around for the day and then cycled home. Ouch!
*Three. Ooops. I promise I ran the full 5k.
Venue 62 – Northampton (UK, East Midlands)
I am drawing a complete blank. I’ll have to think about this one for a while and come back to it. Ah! Light dawns! Another meet up with Carla, followed by coffee in a lovely little café with a friend of hers. The course itself is on the race course or near the race course or… no, still stumped. I am a bad tourist.
Venue 63 – Bexley (UK, Greater London)
Beautiful. Undulating laps of a very pretty park on a glorious day. Made better by a chance encounter with uber-tourist Roy Reeder. And it completed my set of London parkruns (though not for long).
Venue 64 – Forest of Dean (UK, South West London)
Paul Freyne gave me a very sound bit of advice about Forest of Dean. “Find a local, and stick to them like glue.” The course is beautiful, but the laps are not quite the same, all the trees look alike, and the twists and turns will test your sense of direction to breaking point. Find a local, and stick to them like glue.
Venue 65 – Beckton (UK, Greater London)
Bling! A commemorative “the Olympics are coming, hurrah, hurrah” medal and pretty much every uber-tourist you can name. Danny Norman, Paul Freyne, the Cowells, the Cassells, Vanessa Rayner, Norm Driskell, the list goes on. I don’t remember much about the course except that it felt like hard work – I’d cycled there (it’s at the very edge of my cycleable range) and oh did my legs complain.
Venue 66 – Graves (UK, Yorkshire and Humberside)
Undulating laps through a petting zoo. Worth a visit in and of themselves, but when you couple that with a frankly superb café, you really are onto a winner. If you’re in Sheffield, check it out!
Venue 67 – Swindon (UK, South West England)
A ludicrous but enjoyable weekend which ended with the Longest parkrun (Yorkshire) and started with an ‘athoner meet up at Swindon parkrun, this time with Heidi (@henniemavis) who was over from the United States. The course is lovely (as was the weather) and the café afterwards is the perfect place to natter over a leisurely cup of tea.
Venue 68 – Gladstone (UK, Greater London)
An undulating version of the St Albans style of course – run out to a loop, loop round it a number of times (just please don’t ask me how many) and then run back to the start. Ran around the course with Norm (@n0rm) and then chatted a while with John Matthews (another uber-tourist) before dashing off for a day of OU fun and games.
Venue 69 – Tilgate (UK, South East England)
The mountain range. A flat loop of a lake followed by a trek across the Tilgate mountains with a final loop of the lake to finish. From memory, the parkrun weather fairies were working to rule – they turned up at 9:00am and left again at 9:40am, but good company (Alma, John Matthews, Becky Hall and Rob Curtis) more than made up for the drizzle.
Venue 70 – Riverside (UK, North East England)
Inspired by the fun I’d had at the longest parkrun (Yorkshire circuit), I decided to join Steve Darby for a Northern inaugural. Normally, on a three lap course, I finish my second lap just as the fast runners are finishing their third. At Riverside, the front runner overtook me at the start of the second lap and disappeared from view to finish in a time of 14:43. My head is still spinning.
Venue 71 – Conkers (UK, East Midlands)
Thunder Run 2012 started at 12pm on Saturday, a mere hop, skip and a jump from Conkers parkrun. What was a parkrun tourist to do, but strong arm two other runners (Rachel (@fairweatherrun) and Alma) into joining her for a leisurely 5k jaunt. Leisurely by Rachel’s standards, lung-burstingly swift by mine, which perhaps explains why I remember so little about the course. It’s trail, undulating and beautiful, but whether it’s out and back, laps or a lollipop I have no idea. I just hung onto Rachel’s shoulder and tried not to stop.
Venue 72 – Crane Park (UK, Greater London)
Simply lovely. Another local(ish) park which I only discovered through parkrun tourism, and to my surprise and delight, the Burnham Joggers (Dave Thomas and Bob Hardman), familiar faces from various West(ish) London parkruns were there too, as was Peter Fordham, the organiser of the Iceland and Poland parkrun trips.
Venue 73 – Wycombe Rye (UK, South East London)
It looks like it’s going to be laps of a playing field (which you may have gathered is not my favourite style of course) but it has a lovely section through some trees which features a short, and extremely steep, set of steps. Not, I venture to suggest, the venue to choose if you’re after a PB. Which I was. Oh well, there’s always next week, or the week after that.
Venue 74 – Orpington (UK, Greater London)
Another inaugural, but this time one at which I knew a couple of the core volunteer team, namely Zoe and Stephen Wright (@zoecakes75 and @badwabbittails), so as well as chatting to a few new faces (rough translation: salivating over the parkrun Australia t-shirt of Adrian Sell) and catching up with some familiar ones (Ian Giggs and Vanessa Rayner to name but two), I also had the rare tourist treat of personalised encouragement on the way round. The course itself is a variation on laps of a playing field, with enough wiggles thrown in to keep it interesting.
Venue 75 – Burgess (UK, Greater London)
Flat (other than the down and up under the subway), tarmac, and along the same lines at St Albans. Out to a loop, round the loop a number of times (two, I think) and then back to the start. A nice enough course, but what sticks in my mind most is that is was one of the very rare occasions when I managed to stick with Vanessa for the whole course. Mostly my attempts to keep up fail within the first mile. (PS Thank you, Danny, for rescuing the results).