parkrun, Running, Travel

Parkrun Tourism x2

So, as you probably already know, my family and I are parkrun addicts. Yes, addict is the only suitable word to describe us. My dad and I especially tend to dedicate a lot of time towards parkrun – whether that be running, volunteering or just analysing the week’s results (a big hobby of ours). This, of course, means that we do not let the holidays stand in the way of our parkrunning. For us, holidays are the prime time for another of our favourite hobbies: parkrun tourism! There are little things more exciting for us than to pop-up in different parks around the country and experience an interesting variety of courses. In fact, one of the first things we do when finding out our next holiday destination is double check if there are any runs nearby (slightly embarrassing, I know). Luckily for us, this past two weeks we were able to visit two new parkruns – almost too much excitement for us to hold! I decided to review both of these courses as they were definitely both memorable and enjoyable.

Side note: I know that I said on my last post (The “Less Is More” Dilemma) that I would be doing less parkruns and avoiding running hard two days in a row but, fortunately, the first parkrun is a junior parkrun and I didn’t run the day before and the second is a normal parkrun with no run the next day so I’m sure we can let it slide 😉

Number One: Telford Junior Parkrun

Ok, so there is a bit of a story behind this one. Usually, when we go up to my Grandparents house, we attend Wolverhampton Parkun. However, I wasn’t really feeling up to it – that and I wasn’t really supposed to be doing a 5k anyway! This gave us a perfect opportunity to try out Telford Junior Parkrun. Being the parkrun analysers that we are, my dad and I had looked into Junior Parkruns around the area before. We stumbled across Telford and decided to look at the results. We were stunned. The times were all insanely fast! They regularly had multiple people under 7 minutes – usually with one or two people below 6:30, most of the top twenty were at least sub 8 mins and there were 100+ runners! At my regular junior parkrun, the best ever time is just under seven minutes and we rarely get many below eight! I was deeply intrigued about the super speedy times – having never seen a course with so many fast times like that ever before! I knew that I just had to experience it for myself (and hopefully get a good time)!

With all the build-up and expectations, on the day of the run, I decided to treat it like a race. I got up early, had breakfast and began a long warm-up before we even began to drive to the park! However, when we did get there, I was even more shocked. Though we were early, the start area was already busy. And, even more startling, every single person (even the tiny ones) looked super professional i.e. they were all in proper kit and nearly all doing proper warm-ups themselves! Now, I generally go on alert if I see one person who looks like they are going to be fast so my alarm bells were ringing! I convinced myself to stay as calm as I could as I generally run a lot better when I am relaxed – but it was very tricky to do so! Soon, even more people turned up (pretty much all looking darn speedy) and the run directors gave the briefing. They were very sweet and gave us a good idea for the course. They assured us that the course was relatively easy and that there were marshals ever few metres so we weren’t going to get lost (at least that took away one worry).

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The briefing!

After the briefing, they told everyone to go and line up. To my surprise, everyone literally sprinted to the start line – I almost wondered if the run had already began! I just managed to get a space at the very edge of the front row. All my competition looked so intimidating and I spotted plenty of girls my age who certainly looked ready to race! My mind made an immediate flip: maybe this wasn’t a fast course, maybe all the people were just super fast! However, before I could even comprehend this new theory, we were off! Everyone went at full pelt down a steep hill and, as it was so steep, I had no choice but to do the same! After the descent, it carried on gradually sloping downwards. I was in around sixth place but I was apprehensive: surely with this much of a down hill…there had to be an impressive uphill! Soon after, a hill did come into view but it really wasn’t much at all. I scaled it with ease and gradually started moving up the field. Surely this wasn’t it? Surely, there had to be another hill?

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A crazy fast start! I’m in the far away corner by the way!

Unexpectedly, I was able to fight off a girl of my age behind me and made it level into third place with a boy (the boys in first and second were already too far ahead). To my delight, every time I thought there would be an ascent, it just seemed to carry on flat – or even another down-hill! The run seemed to fly by and I made it comfortably into third place, pulling away from the boy behind me. I was feeling really good as we turned into a wooded area. This, however, lead me to believe that I had only ran half the distance! In fact, when the crowd of people came into view, I believed that it was only the end of the first lap! It came as quite a shock when I looked down at my watch and it read 7:00! I immediately put on a bit of steam but was still holding back as I was almost certain that we had more to do. To my annoyance, the finish line came into view too late for me to realise that the it was actually the end of the course and I didn’t even get a chance to sprint!

Despite that slight mis-hap, I did manage to get a 10 second PB at 7:23 even though I wasn’t worn-out! I am super enthusiastic to return to Telford and see what I could get if I were to push myself as hard as I could but, until them, I am mighty pleased with my time. It has also given me a boost in confidence as I now know that I am able to over-take fast people and successfully hold them off without panicking! A win-win situation!

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Happy runners all round at Telford!

Number Two: Holkham Parkrun

Norfolk is a family favourite destination that we have visited three holidays in a row: it is simply perfect for all of us (including Ember – in fact, I have never seen such a dog-friendly place)! Our arrival on the Friday afternoon of course meant that a parkrun was in store. Last year, we completed the mighty Sheringham Parkrun. It was an absolutely stunning yet ruthlessly hilly course and we were prepared to go back again…until a friend told us about a new parkrun in Norfolk: Holkham. We had visited Holkham Hall countless times during our multiple holidays and it is a beautiful park complete with a manor house and fallow deer prancing around the grounds. Conveniently, it was only ten minutes away from the house we were staying in so we decided it was the best option (as oppose to Sheringham which was 40 minutes away). As always, I did my research. The times seemed relatively speedy but nothing special and the course description appeared to say that the first half was uphill until you reach an obelisk and the rest was pleasantly downhill. That sounded easy enough to follow – plus it was only one lap (usually a good thing). I later learnt that I have a tendency to misinterpret course descriptions.

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A very scenic course!

By 8:40 we were making our way towards the start line. There were a lot of people there – including an abundance of fast looking juniors and women. I did a brief warm-up whilst admiring the pretty landscape. Apparently, it was “I am Team GB” day and we were supposed to be decorated in GB colours. Rather disappointingly, we got the message too late to arrive in patriotic style but there were some pretty impressive outfits! As per usual, I positioned my self at the far end of the start line towards the front. When they let us go, I was surprised to see two juniors taking the lead and – due to my competitiveness- I decided to join them. For the first 50 metres, I was in the top three (yes, I was aware that it was a stupid mistake but I couldn’t help it)! Soon, however, we were gradually over-taken by more people and began a steady and seeming un-ending upwards climb. .The hill was no where near as steep as my usual hills but it was certainly long! After what seemed like a very long time, it seemed to flatten out a little bit but we still hadn’t reached the obelisk/ “what I thought was the half-way marker”. I checked my watch at it read 10:40. Well, that certainly didn’t help my confidence. I kept willing the obelisk to appear and it refused to do so…

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The illusive obelisk (not my picture)

Finally, the big monument came into view but my relief was dashed by another incredibly steep hill. I ran along the flat, dreading the ascend and not even daring to look at my watch -convinced I still hadn’t done half-way. Thank fully, the hill wasn’t as hard as I had imagined and I soon found that I was on a steady descent. I picked up the pace a little but did so gingerly as I was completely oblivious to how far there was left to run. Turns out that the obelisk actually marked one kilometre to go (as I discovered too late) and the finish was insight much earlier than I expected (sound familiar?). I crossed the line in 21:45. I was initially a little bit disappointed with the time but then I realised that I would have been a lot quicker and pushed a lot hard if I had known the course and it was a pretty darn tricky run! As always, I enjoyed cheering on the finishers (particularity the ones adorned in patriotic attire). I must also give a special mention to my eleven year old brother who has been struggling with an on and off injury for the past month or so and has been unable to complete a full parkrun for a while now due to the pains in his leg. Despite being in constant pain today also, he was rigidly determined to finish. With the help of my mum, he half-ran half-walk the whole course getting around 10 minutes out of his PB but with the most admirable spirit to secure 70 parkruns. Good on you Sam!

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Even Ember ran!

I think that from this blog-post we have learnt that I am incredibly awful at judging distance whilst running (twice in a row is pretty impressive) but, despite my mistakes, I did really enjoy my two new parkruns and would love to return to both again – this time knowing the course. I am currently writing this whilst in Norfolk, barricaded inside due to a relentless hail storm. We have some brilliant training sessions planned (including some beach-running) and, as soon as we get back, I have my first proper club track race so I am definitely going to focus on speed endurance to insure my final 1500m PB of the season. In the meanwhile, it’s off for lovely strolls along the beach with the family (plus the much loved addition of a certain four legged friend) and a lot of nature reserves including our annual boat trip to see seals – as soon as this storm subsides. I hope everyone enjoyed reading and is making the most of what little is left of the holidays (scary how fast it’s gone, right?)

Thanks for reading,

Ellie xx

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