Letchworth Parkrun

The other weekend, me and my lovely wife, along with our pooch, headed south to Hitchin to stay with Helen’s eldest sone for the weekend. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t do a parkrun while I was there. As a bonus, Tom, Helen’s son, came with me. He also drove there and back, saving me from getting lost.

Letchworth was only a 20 minute drive and as expected, we were there in plenty of time. The course consisted of two laps, slightly undulating and mostly on footpaths and farm tracks. One section has been named Carnage Corner. Fortunately, it was dry when we were there.

The start is a few hundred metres from the finish, as there is a bottle neck to be negotiated. I found myself accidentally lining up at the front, and as we started I went off way too fast. The second lap was a lot slower than my first. However, I surprised myself to finish in 12th place overall with a time of 21:43. Tom was less than a minute behind me, which considering he hadn’t run for a couple of months was really good.

Letchworth parkrun is a fairly small event, with only 124 finishers. There are ten other parkruns within 15 miles.

Anyway, it was my 176th parkrun and 60th different event. If and when we’re in the area again, I would probably head to another parkrun, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but simply because I like to do new events.

Agnew Parkrun

Making the most of being on holiday by taking part in a tourist parkrun. The nearest event to Wigtown is Agnew parkrun in Stranraer, about 40 minutes drive away. And, because Scottish parkruns don’t start until 9.30, we didn’t need to set off too early.

Easy journey, found the free carpark, had a walk around and used the loos. Very pleasant little park with a miniature railway which was having new track being laid, a children’s play area and a small lake with a pirate ship on the island.

The course is three winding loops. Helen hadn’t run for a few weeks, so was taking it easy with old Nelly.

As we set off, four runners raced away from me. However, each lap I slowly reeled in two of them, managing to finish in 3rd place, over 4 minutes behind 1st and 2nd.

There was some confusion at the finish line as the volunteer handing out the barcodes didn’t seem to realise that he needed to hand out finishers barcodes. The barcode scanner was also confused about scanning both the finishing barcode and my barcode. I think it was sorted out a little later as the results were accurate.

Very pleasant and friendly event. Only 55 finishers, but they are hoping to attract 100 people for their 100th event in two weeks time.

Agnew parkrun was my 59th different event and my first one in Scotland. Well worth a visit if you’re in the area.

Lancaster Parkrun Via AI

It seems these days you can’t open a newspaper App with stumbling across something or other all about AI, or Artificial Intelligence. ChatGPT is the most well known, part owned by Microsoft, but all of the big tech firms are introducing them, including the mighty Google.

Anyway, I decided to have a play with ChatGPT and see what an article describing Lancaster parkrun and parkun in general, written by AI would look like. It was an interesting experiment, and on the whole the results weren’t too bad, although the AI article did suggest that Lancaster parkrun ascends Pepper Pot Tower, which it doesn’t. Pepper Pot is located in Silverdale a few miles north of Lancaster.

Below is most of the AI written article. I have edited it, corrected it and hopefully made it more readable, one of the oft written negatives about AI. On the whole, I was very impressed. More importantly, can I somehow convince AI to write my work reports?

AI Article

Parkrun is a global phenomenon that has taken the UK by storm in recent years. It’s a free, weekly 5km timed run that takes place in parks and open spaces across the country, bringing people of all ages and abilities together to enjoy exercise and community spirit. One of the most popular parkruns in the UK is Lancaster parkrun, located in the picturesque Williamson Park in the North West of England.

Williamson Park is a stunning 54-acre green space that boasts sweeping views of Lancaster and Morecambe Bay. It’s the perfect setting for a 5km run, with a mix of flat and hilly terrain that provides a challenging yet rewarding course for participants. Lancaster parkrun takes place every Saturday at 9 am, with runners and walkers of all abilities gathering at the start line to begin their weekly 5km journey.

The parkrun ethos is all about inclusivity and community, with participants encouraged to take part at their own pace and support one another along the way. This is reflected in the friendly and welcoming atmosphere at Lancaster parkrun, where volunteers and regular runners alike are always on hand to offer words of encouragement and support.

One of the things that sets Lancaster parkrun apart is the stunning scenery that surrounds the course. The route takes runners through the park’s beautiful gardens and woodland, past the Ashton Memorial and up the steep incline of Fenham Carr. From the top of the Memorial, runners can take in panoramic views of Lancaster and the surrounding countryside, making for a truly unforgettable parkrun experience.

Of course, parkrun isn’t just about the physical benefits of exercise – it’s also about the mental health benefits of being part of a community. The sense of camaraderie and support that comes with taking part in Lancaster parkrun is second to none, with participants of all ages and abilities coming together to celebrate their achievements and support one another through the ups and downs of life.

Perhaps one of the most inspiring things about Lancaster parkrun is the way in which it brings people together from all walks of life. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a complete beginner, there’s a place for you at parkrun. It’s not about being the fastest or fittest – it’s about showing up, taking part and enjoying the sense of community that comes with being part of something bigger than yourself.

In conclusion, Lancaster parkrun is a shining example of the positive impact that community exercise initiatives can have on people’s lives. From the stunning scenery to the supportive atmosphere, there are so many reasons to take part in this weekly event. Whether you’re looking to improve your fitness, meet new people or simply enjoy a beautiful run in the great outdoors, Lancaster parkrun has something for everyone. So why not lace up your trainers, head down to Williamson Park on a Saturday morning and discover the joys of parkrun for yourself?

Heaton Park parkrun

Last week I ticked off my NENDY of Myrtle parkrun, which gave me a new NENDY of Heaton Park in Manchester. We needed some new garden furniture and the only sort we’d seen that we liked was only available at IKEA. Not my ideal day out, but it did mean that I could run at Heaton Park before battling IKEA hell.

I arrived at the very large car park nice and early, which allowed me time to take a few photos beforehand.

Apparently, Heaton Park is the largest park in the north west, covering an area of over 600 acres. The park includes Heaton Hall and a golf course. The whole park was sold to Manchester City Council in 1902.

It also has a disused tram line, as seen below.

I walked around and familiarised myself with where the start/finish was, as well as café corner and a large adventure play area.

I have no idea what this huge edifice is. For all I know it could be a disguised water tower.

Back at the start and I attended to tourist and new comers briefing. The course involved a small lap to begin with and then a larger lap. Not too difficult. The paths were nice and wide, and even though it was busy, there was plenty of room. The Manchester marathon was taking part the next day, hence why it was busier than usual.

I set off with the 22 minute pacer, but soon left him behind as I chased a man pushing a baby jogger, complete with small child, probably his.

There was one climb on each lap, nicknamed Angina Hill. It wasn’t as bad as the hill at Myrtle or at Lancaster. The route went past the front of the Hall before winding around on end of the golf course. It was then downhill all the way back to the lake.

I was incredibly pleased with my finishing time of 21:09, especially as I didn’t feel as if I was pushing it as hard as the previous week. I finished in 37th position overall, 25th male and 3rd in my age-group, out of a field of 768 finishers. I’m fairly sure that the only larger parkrun that I’ve done would be a trip to Bushy Park. It turned out that it was the fifth largest UK parkrun that week. My new 5k App (read about it here) also told me that I progressed three different challenges, Cowell Club, Freyne Club and Date Bingo.

My new NENDY is now Croxteth Hall parkrun on the outskirts of Liverpool.

As a bonus, the new garden furniture looks amazing. We now need a matching table!

5K App

I’ve written about the Chrome Extension Running Challenges a few times. The extension adds loads of interesting statistics for all of your parkrun fun (read about it here). Yesterday I stumbled upon an App which has most of the same stats as Running Challenges, but also has a load more as well. The App is simply named 5K.

Once downloaded it will ask for your unique parkrun barcode number, and then a whole new load of stats are opened up for you. I won’t go into them all in detail, however, the App is very easy to navigate.

The main screen lists most of the stats available from Running Challenges, although the Wilson Index includes a Floating value as well. There is a map with all of the different parkruns you’ve done ticked off, however, this isn’t anything like as good as the one in Running Challenges. It does include a link to your closest 50 NENDY’s. My nearest five events that I’ve not done yet are, Heaton Park, Croxteth Hall, Roberts Park, Chadderton Hall and Whitehaven.

The App includes a short summary of each parkrun that you’ve done, with the most recent first, along with how many achievements or challenges you progressed that week. For example, Philips Park, which I did two weeks ago, gave me 5 achievements, Cowell Club, Freyne Club, Date Bingo, Fibonacci and Primes.

To tick off the Cowell Club you need to complete 100 different parkruns. The Freyne Club is more 250 different events. Date Bingo is every day of the year. I’m currently at 42%. I have 43% of the Fibonacci challenge and 18% of the Prime numbers. There is also a position bingo (70%) where you need the finishing position from 00 to 99. This isn’t weighted towards the faster runners, as finishing in position 101st or 201st gains the 01 position.

Anyway, I’m having a lot of fun with the 5K App. If you are a fan of parkrun and like a few extra stats, then I would whole heartedly recommend it. I’ll probably discuss it many times in the future.

Myrtle Parkrun

Myrtle parkrun has been my Nearest Event Not Done Yet (NENDY) for a few months. The reason I’ve not ticked it off is mostly because it is located in an area that isn’t particularly easy to reach from Lancaster. Myrtle Park is in Bingley, close to Bradford, which despite being less than 40 miles as the crow flies, takes almost 90 minutes to drive.

Yesterday I set off early and ignored the Sat Nav when it wanted me to drive south down the M6 and M65, instead opting for driving cross country through Gargrave and Skipton. I found the suggested car park without any problem, although the machine ate my pound coins. Annoyed, I drove out of the car park to look for alternatives. Adjacent to Myrtle Park was a Lidl, which allowed people to park for 90 minutes. I definitely wasn’t the only parkrunner to be using this car park.

As I was a little early I ran down Bradford Road to Cottingley Bridge over the River Aire, which obtained a new Veloviewer tile and added to my Explorer score and my Maximum Cluster score.

After my short warmup I took a quick photo of the bandstand where the finish was located. There are paths surrounding it, although they can’t been seen from the funny angle I took the photo.

I run director explained the course, which involved four laps of the small park, with a short and steep climb, along with a few tight turns. There were a few milestones and other runners from all over the place, including someone from Devon.

I lined up close to the front for the start as the paths were narrow and I didn’t want to be blocked in. The route immediately headed down the steep hill and onto a grass section. Note, if there has been a lot of rain, trail shoes might be a good option. Around the grass section and back onto the paved paths as the route climbed up, twisting and turning until we ran past the bandstand for the first time. The fourth time I would peel off to the finish line.

As with all multi-lap parkruns I was soon lapping people, although despite how small the park was, there always appeared to be plenty of space, almost the complete opposite of Fulham Palace parkrun a few weeks earlier.

By the fourth and final lap my legs had had enough of the short steep climb and I gratefully crossed the finish line. Amazingly, I finished in a time of 21:08, my fastest parkrun so far this year. I was 16th overall and 3rd in my age group out of a field of 162, almost 40 runners more than the average attendance.

Another friendly parkrun ticked off with my new NENDY being Heaton Park in north Manchester, which will be far quicker to drive to.

Finally, I downloaded a new App for my phone called 5k, which has loads of parkrun run stats, much like the Chrome extension Running Challenges. I will undoubtedly review it at some point in the future.

Parkrun Wilson Index

First off, what is the Wilson Index? Every parkrun has an event number. Yesterday was Lancaster parkrun’s 300th event. It was also Philips Park parkrun’s 3rd event. I’ve written about the excellent parkrun extension Running Challenges a few times, and one of the challenges is the Wilson-Index, which is:

The maximum contiguous series of parkrun event numbers you have attended (at any event), starting at 1.

Until you have ran at an inaugural parkrun, your Wilson Index will remain at zero. This is a slightly contentious issue, as parkrun have had a few problems with inaugural parkruns in the past. They used to be advertised well in advance until a new parkrun was starting up in Bristol. Over 600 people turned up, far more than were expected, and far more than the inexperienced volunteers could cope with. It nearly finished that particular parkrun off on it’s very first event. Since then, new parkruns have a soft start, where as few people as possible now about it. This gives the new team chance to sort out any teething problems. I completed Morecambe Prom inaugural parkrun, but as we live only a couple of miles from the event, I felt that it was ok. However, there are a couple of forums online where people actively look for inaugural parkruns, not just to run an inaugural parkrun once, but to run as many of them as possible. I don’t see the point. I’ve run an inaugural parkrun and I don’t intend to run another, even if a parkrun was started at the park five minutes away.

I mentioned in my blog yesterday that my Wilson Index is now up to six. Below is a list of the six events that make up my score.

Morecambe Prom event #1

Talkin Tarn Country Park event #2

Philips Park event #3

Fleetwood Promenade event #4

Morecambe Prom events #5 and #6

event #7 to do

The soft approach to new parkruns appears to be working, as Philips Park parkrun had 153 people taking part on the first event, with almost 400 for the 2nd and 3rd events. It does make me realise how amazing parkrun is, not just the sheer number of runners, but also the thousands of volunteers who give up their time every week so that we can run.

I am now on the look out for an event #7, hopefully not too far away.

Philips Park parkrun

The last couple of weeks I’d run at Lancaster, but today I drove all the way into Manchester to take part in the relatively new parkrun in Philips Park. I don’t particularly like driving into Manchester as there are too many motorways and main roads. Fortunately, the Sat Nav was behaving this morning and I arrived with 30 minutes to spare. I couldn’t spot the suggested car park, and the parking at the National Cycling Centre was confusing when it came to paying. I decided to see if I could park on the road next to the park. I could, although there were loads of signs saying resident’s parking only on match days, as the park is very close to Manchester City’s football stadium.

It was a fairly typical wet and grey Manchester morning. However, even with almost half an hour to go, there were plenty of other people milling around. I took the opportunity to run most of a lap as a warm up.

The first-timers race briefing was easily the largest one I had ever seen, with half of the field listening. Today was only the third event at Philips Park. The route involved two large laps and one small lap to finish. Like many parks, the route was completely on paved paths, although they were quiet narrow and had plenty of potholes.

The start was fairly narrow, and it looked like there were hundreds of people taking park. I managed to find a spot not too far from the front. I was hemmed in for the first few minutes, but by about half way through the first lap I had plenty of space. Towards the end of the lap there was a nasty little climb, quickly followed by a short out and back section, which was also on a hill.

I soon found myself running at a fast pace, which I hadn’t intended to do, as I completed my second lap and turned off for the shorter third lap. The final lap also missed out the short out and back hill. However, the short lap joined the main lap on the right hand side, and the finish funnel was on the left, which meant I had to cross over the stream of slower runners. Not ideal and maybe the finish funnel should be set up on the other side of the path.

I finished in a time of 21:41, 37th overall and 6th in my age category with almost 400 hundred finishers. The run also moved my Wilson-Index from 2, up to 6. The Wilson Index is a Running Challenge add-on for parkrun stats, where the index is the continuous series of parkrun event numbers starting at 1.

Overall a very well organised parkrun, and from the numbers there, a welcome addition to parkruns in Manchester.

Fulham Palace Parkrun

Last weekend me and my lovely wife went to London for the weekend. It was Helen’s birthday so we went to the Royal Albert Hall to see the Cirque Du Soleil. Brilliant it was too. As we were in London for a weekend, it seemed a shame not to do a tourist parkrun.

Therein lies a problem. We were staying near to the Royal Albert Hall, and there are no parkruns in the centre of London. There are plenty of parks large enough for a parkrun, but they are all owned and run by The Royal Parks charity, who for some reason don’t like parkruns. Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, St James’s Park and Regent’s Park could all easily accommodate a parkrun, but they don’t. Maybe it would take an edict from King Charles. I should write to him.

Anyway, the closest parkrun to where we were staying was Fulham Palace, just over three miles away. Sensibly, Helen opted not to come with me, seeing as were going to walking around the V & A museum later. I created a route on my Garmin and found the park without any trouble. Fulham Palace park is a narrow park sandwiched between the River Thames and a large allotment site. The run consists of three and a bit laps on fairly narrow paths.

I lined up in the appropriate box and we were off. As expected, I spent most of the first lap overtaking people who had started way too close to the front for the speed they were running at. Also, I had to dodge a number of runners who were not doing parkrun but had decided to run the route in the opposite direction. I’ve never come across that before.

Anyway, three and a bit laps later I crossed the finish line in a time of 22:13. I was 78th overall and 2nd in my age group. There were also 443 finishers, which for a small park is quite amazing. Another reason why it would be great if the Royal Parks allowed parkrun. After barcode scanning I ran the same route back for a total of ten miles and my longest run so far this year. It was good training as I’ve entered a half marathon in May. I had a quick shower and we headed out to forage for breakfast and to spend a very enjoyable couple of hours in the V & A.

This was my second parkrun in the big smoke, and it was fun, friendly and very well organised. A big thank you to all of the volunteers. Sorry about the lack of photos, I didn’t have a pocket large enough to take my phone with me to parkrun, and I can’t see anything online from last weekend. Instead, there is a photo from the entrance hall inside the V & A.

Crosby Parkrun

The last two months have been a bit hit and miss with parkrun. Me and my lovely wife did Stretford parkrun in early January and then I missed three weeks. One of those weeks was due to icy conditions at both Morecambe and Lancaster, and then we both came down with Covid. As a result, once I was feeling up to running again, I’ve stayed local.

However, yesterday I feeling in the mood for a tourist parkrun, and as my Nearest Event Not Done Yet (NENDY) was Crosby, that was where I went.

As always, I set off far too early, but it did mean that I managed to nab a parking spot in the busy little car park. I also went for a short run along the prom. I should have taken more photos as Crosby is the location of the Anthony Gormley sculpture piece entitled “Another Place”. The installation consists of 100 life size cast iron figures, based on the artists own body. Each sculpture weighs 650 kg. They are dotted across the whole beach and draw tourists to see them from all over the country/world.

Back to the parkrun, and with ten minutes before the start there still didn’t appear to be anyone around. I then spotted a man walking onto the beach carrying a “start” sign. I followed him. Within a few more minutes dozens more people arrived.

The course started on the beach, with a couple of the iron figures donning hi-vis vests. The beach section of the run was a little slower, even though the sand was firm, there were still ripples from the tides and a short section in deep sand as the route climbed onto the prom. Roughly, the run was one mile on the beach, one mile on the prom and one mile along the grassy bank which divides the sea from the town.

I tried not to push too hard, but surprised myself to finish in 13th place overall and 2nd in my age group.

I hadn’t known that the iron figures were located on the beach at Crosby, and if I had known, I would have insisted that Helen came with me, as well as our silly pooch, who even at the grand old age of 12, still loves to run up and down a beach.

Definitely a parkrun I would recommend.