My core parkrun territory has just expanded.
Let me explain.
As a fairly hard-nosed tourist, I have been to many really, really nice parkruns that I will almost certainly never go back to because if I’m ever in that neck of the woods again, I’ll run a new-to-me parkrun rather than repeat.
For example, Wakefield Thornes was great, but I’m in the area so rarely that I’ll probably never get there again, as I’ve yet to run Temple Newsam or Pontefract or Cross Flatts or Nostell Priory or Dewsbury. And Killerton was stunning, but with Exeter Riverside, Parke and Longrun Meadow in the vicinity (ish), I can’t see a return visit happening any time soon.
Closer to home, though, I have a short-list of parkruns which I turn to when my training plan calls for a parkrun-in-a-long-run, or when I just fancy a lie in. At 9am this morning, it was a short-list of four: Wimbledon, Kingston, Banstead Woods and Queen Elizabeth. By 10am, it had a fifth name: Cranleigh.
At first glance, it may seem like an odd addition. The course features a hill, rabbit holes, tight turns and lots of grass, so it isn’t fast and in winter is likely to be a bit of a goo-fest. But give it a second glance, and you’ll start to appreciate its charm.
For a start, the course designer has ignored a very obvious rectangular option and instead found a way to weave around the available space. Not only does this make for a more interesting run, it adds in some chances to see faster and slower runners on the way round, and results in two laps rather than three or four.
Then there’s the fact that the local leisure centre has been persuaded to open its doors to parkrunners, so anyone travelling any distance can take advantage of the loos beforehand, anyone going on somewhere afterwards can freshen up in the changing rooms, and anyone just wanting a coffee and a chat can make use of the café.
If you’re looking for something more than just a parkrun, Cranleigh is right on the edge of the Surrey Hills, and sits on The Downs Link. With an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on its doorstep and a way marked cycle path to the North Downs and South Downs Ways, this is a parkrun which falls into the “easily extendable” category.
Of course, that’s all well and good, but what clinched it for me was the company. I went with Vanessa, bumped into two other tourists, Gemma and Martin, but also knew one of the volunteers from adventures in blogging and the run director from twitter.
Cranleigh parkrun, I will be back.