It would be foolish to get up at four in the morning and drive 150 miles just to run a 5k run. So foolish in fact that I had discounted the possibility, and added Pontypool parkrun to my list of missed inaugurals.
But then I looked at my calendar and found I had Friday off work, looked at the map to see whether it might just be doable after all and realised that I have relatives within spitting distance (well, a couple of valleys over). Very accommodating relatives who had issued (very foolishly) an open invitation to me should I ever want to pick off any of the nearby parkruns.
So, Pontypool parkrun leapt off the list of undoables, and off I went to Wales.
The course is, quite simply, a work of genius. You know how the human body manages to fit over 6 metres of intestines into a small space by folding them all up? Pontypool parkrun is like that. A 2.5km lap has been folded into a space which looks as though it should struggle to accommodate a 1km lap.
The lap is on three levels. You start at the lowest level with a long straightish run along the full length of the park, before turning back on yourself and zig-zagging your way up to the top level. You then run along the top of the rugby pitch stands, before dropping back down to the lower level. A quick turnaround brings you up to the mid-level for a lap of the rugby pitch, at the end of which you drop back down to the lower level to head back to the start for a second, slightly shorter lap which ends in front of the grandstand.
It’s not a PB course – there are too many sharp turns, ups and downs to make it speedy, but it is huge fun to run. There are runners above you, below you, beside you, behind you, in front of you… basically absolutely everywhere, which means that you will be able to spot your friends (and nemeses) time and time and time again.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the café in the leisure centre serves everything up to and including a full cooked breakfast (with veggie version available too). So if you’ve been hard enough to cycle there from Cardiff in temperatures cold enough to freeze the water in your water bottles*, you can grab a warming drink while you wait for your hands to thaw out.
*No, not me! Howard Owen, a familiar face from the parkrun trip to Iceland.