The great thing about being a parkrun tourist is that you run at some fantastic venues and you meet some amazing people.
A chance encounter with Andy Bailey at Kings Lynn parkrun led to being crewed round a 100 mile race by one of the world’s troopers. An “are you trying to find the parkrun too?” conversation with a lycra-clad lady at Alexandra Palace station blossomed into a great friendship with Vanessa Rayner. An idle tweet asking for recommendations of parkruns that could be extended into long runs yielded a lift, a route and a home from home at QE parkrun, courtesy of Kiernan Easton and James Leighton.
The downside of being a parkrun tourist is that each time you turn up at a parkrun, you are potentially walking into the midst of strangers. As it happens, once you have clocked up a reasonable number of different events, you bump into familiar faces surprisingly often. Pop down to Weymouth, meet a fellow tourist from Wimbledon in the car park and the parents of a Bromley parkrunner at the start. Turn up at St Helen’s, cross paths with both a tourist from Temple Newsam who you chatted to in the snow at Harrogate the day the Temple Newsam inaugural was cancelled and a runner that you met through Janathon.
When there isn’t a familiar face, there will usually be a little small-talk: a SDW50 t-shirt “The hills out of Alfriston and Jevington…”; a Ful On Tri club shirt in Oxford “You’re a little far from home…”; a 100 club t-shirt at a young event “Where’s your home parkrun…”; a “Thank you for inadvertently pacing me around.”; or a “First parkrun?”
But sometimes, on a day when you’re feeling a little shy and you arrive at a parkrun to find everyone in clusters, you can turn up, run and leave with barely a nod. Cannon Hill, Kingsbury Water and Bognor Regis were three such occasions.
So when I say “Bognor Regis – never again”, it is not because it’s a nasty parkrun (do such things even exist?). The park is pretty, the loos are open before the start, there was cake, the laps are intricate enough to be interesting and there is obviously a very strong local community. It’s because I went on a day when a simple introduction was beyond me and it’s too big to notice strangers. It’s because they have an unusual finishing funnel arrangement which evoked memories of being kettled by police after a Pride march.
And ultimately, it’s because I drive past QE parkrun on my way there.