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.

Stretford Parkrun

One of my Christmas presents from my lovely wife was tickets to see a play in Manchester at the Lowry. The play was based on a Neil Gaiman book, which Helen knows I’m a big fan of. The book in question was The ocean at the end of the lane, one of his books which I haven’t read. With there being a train strike we decided to stay the night in Manchester.

We arrived at Salford Quays in the afternoon and immediately walked over to the Lowry to see the paintings by the man of the same name. It is a really good exhibition and we both enjoyed it. It is also free to enter, so if you’re ever in the area you should pop in.

We were staying in an apartment rather than a hotel, which was a bit of a faff with security and sending proof of who we were. They’d obviously had issues in the past. The apartment was not much large than our bedroom, but it had a kitchen area so we didn’t have the added expense of eating out.

The whole area was quite busy as Manchester United were playing at home to Everton, with the stadium just across the ship canal. The red team beat the blue team 3 goals to 1. The play, on the other hand, was simply stunning. Inventive, scary and spell binding. Once again, if you have chance to see it you should.

We then returned to the apartment and had a cup of tea. We know how to live it up. We’re also both doing dry January.

The next morning we drove south from the Quays to Longford Park where Stretford parkrun is located. The webpage warns visitors that the car park isn’t very big and that you’re not allowed to park on the adjacent roads. Fortunately, due to my proclivity for arriving everywhere far too early, there were still a few parking spaces available. Obligatory car selfie below.

The start and finish are located on a running track with two full laps of the park. The area around the park looked very posh and the park itself was also very nice, with a couple of large playgrounds for children.

There was a lot of people as we lined up at the start. Helen headed towards the back while I looked for a spot towards the middle. I didn’t want to go too fast in case my niggly injury flared up again. The rain also started just as we were about to set off, and not a light drizzle, this was a proper Manchester down pour. As such, there were a couple of places on the course where it was almost impossible for your feet not to be fully submerged.

The start involved one full lap of the track and then a short out and back section, where I could see how fast and determined the front runners were. It wasn’t until I’d ran a mile that I could run at the pace I wanted to as it was so busy. As I said, this was planned.

Two laps later the route returned to the track for half a lap. A number of runners sprinted past me as I neared the finish line. Again I wasn’t too worried. In the rain the barcode scanners were having some issues, but as soon as I handed over my finishers token I went off in search of Helen to cheer her on. She was in the zone and didn’t see me. I should have shouted louder.

We were both happy with our finishing times and positions as we grabbed a coffee from a mobile van, which wasn’t very good, and headed home to pick up Nelly from the kennels where she’d spent the night.

There must have been something on in the area, as there were almost 600 finishers, 150 more than the average. Anyway, we had a brilliant night away, watched an amazing play and completed another tourist parkrun.

49 Parkruns

My final tally of parkruns for 2022 was an amazing 49. One shy of the magical 50, but I’m happy. I ran my home parkrun of Lancaster 20 times, including three times over Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I also ran 23 parkruns that were new to me, along with Morecambe five times and Fleetwood once.

I missed one parkrun in August due to a small niggle, and then missed the following week as I was competing at the Triathlon Team Relays with the City of Lancaster Triathlon Club. In December I missed one parkrun again because of an injury, and then Lancaster and Morecambe parkruns were cancelled on the two following Saturdays due to snow and ice.

I’m not sure what 2023 will bring. I’m not going to set a target, either time or number of runs. Instead, I’m simply going to try and run when I can, preferably with my lovely wife.

The Hammer and the Nail

That old saying, some days you’re the hammer, and other days you’re the nail. That sums up the last few days. I was definitely the hammer on Saturday at Morecambe Prom parkrun. I’ve been training hard the last few weeks with one of Garmin’s virtual coaches with the aim of breaking under 20 minutes for a 5km. I smashed this at the weekend, finishing in 19:23, my second fastest parkrun ever, and my best ever age-graded result.

I then decided to end my 5km coached plan and start a half marathon one. I had to repeat a five-minute base run on the Sunday, which went ok, and then me and my lovely wife Helen, along with our silly old pointer Nelly went for a good long walk.

Monday morning and my new training plan had me doing an easy three-mile run. I took Nelly with me, and just after halfway I felt a pop in my Achilles. I hobbled on home.

Injuries are always frustrating, especially if you’ve been running really well. I had really enjoyed the speed work I had been doing, as well as seeing a real improvement. Hopefully my injury isn’t too bad, and I’ll be back running again before too long.

Watergrove Parkrun

Another week and another tourist parkrun, and once again I was ticking off my NENDY (Nearest Event Not Done Yet). Watergrove is a fairly well-established parkrun, with today’s event being number 354. However, it isn’t a particular popular one as the average number of finishers is only 59.

Watergrove is located to the north of Rochdale, so to reach there from Lancaster it is a bit of a dog leg, heading south towards Manchester and then along the M62. Warning, the last section of road is cobbled, so I would suggest leaving your Ferrari at home. There is also limited parking, not a problem for me as I arrived with plenty of time to spare. Finally, there are no toilets.

The parkrun is named because the route is adjacent to the Watergrove Reservoir, which wasn’t very full.

Turning around 180 degrees and there was a fabulous view across the fells and all the way to Manchester, although my photo is mostly of the carpark.

At the first timers briefing the volunteer told us that the route was hilly, and with plenty of cobbles and had been judged to be in the top ten hardest parkruns in the country. I can attest that it is one of the toughest that I’d done.

The route is a wobbly V, with two out and back sections, both of them up hill. I set off at a good pace along the track with follows the reservoir, before turning sharply up a cobbled hill. The leader was soon completely out of sight, and when he passed me in the other direction after the first out and back, he was a long way ahead.

I tried to stay with the following group, but they soon pulled away from me, leaving me chasing the man directly in front of me. I caught up with him on the final flat section, but he had a quick sprint finish and pipped me by a second.

I managed to finish in 5th place but was 3rd in my age group. The man directly in front of me was in the 65-69 category. Wow! Overall, there were only 51 finishers.

I have to say that while this was one of the toughest parkruns that I’ve done, it was also great fun with the cobbled hills making it very different. I ran in road shoes, and I think I only just managed it. If it had been a little wetter, then trail shoes would be a must.

A final word of thanks to the volunteers who keep a small parkrun going, and have been keeping it going since July 2014, especially as there are another ten parkruns within a 13-mile radius.

My new NENDY is all the way towards Liverpool in Crosby, which will take less time to drive to than Watergrove.

Worsley Woods Parkrun

After last week’s speedy run at Morecambe parkrun, it was time for another tourist run. Slowly, as I tick off different parkruns, they get further and further away. My NENDY is well over an hour’s drive. However, there are parkruns quicker to get to than Watergrove, which was one of the reasons for picking Worsley Woods.

I arrived nice and early so that I could do a run beforehand. I hadn’t yet completely the monthly Strava 10km challenge, and there was a Garmin 10km challenge on this weekend as well. My route would also tick off three Veloviewer tiles, increasing my cluster by five tiles, as well as completing three streets on City Strides.

Anyway, after almost 5km I lined up near to the start. There was a simple briefing for those of us who hadn’t done the parkrun before, and then we all headed to the start. The start was fairly narrow and even though I was near to the front I still had to weave in and out of runners in the first half a mile. The route was fairly simple, one mile out along an old railway line, followed by one mile through the woods and one mile back. The woods included two short flights of steps, which always take it out of me. The weather had been dry most of this week, but I expect that the wood section can become very wet and muddy in the winter. Out of the woods and I overtook a few people on the long straight back to the start/finish.

The last few weeks I had been feeling quite strong, which I put down to the better training I’ve been doing, curtesy of Garmin’s virtual coach Amy, so I was surprised to see that my finishing time was 20:43 in 26th place overall and 2nd in my age group with almost 350 finishers. One of the busier parkruns that I’ve done. The first woman finished in an incredibly fast 18 minutes. I expect that to be in the top ten fastest parkruns of the week.

One of the most pleasant parkrun routes that I’ve done, which got me thinking. Do all of the good parks already have a parkrun?

On top of all this, at the start I bumped into a man with a Pointer. Slightly different look to our Pointer and from a different breeder, but still very friendly and wanting to know if I had any snacks.

A pb at Parkrun

I very rarely manage a pb at parkrun, mostly because I’m slowing down, but today I did. My lovely wife, Helen, is at a wedding today and was using the car. This meant that my options were either Lancaster or Morecambe parkruns. I fixed the puncture on my touring bike yesterday, so I was all set to ride to Morecambe. I took Nelly, our old Pointer, out for an early walk before heading off on my own. Nelly doesn’t really enjoy parkruns anymore.

The weather has been fairly grim, but the rain held off long enough for me to cycle to Morecambe, run the parkrun and then cycle home without getting wet. Very impressive.

Anyway, my virtual Garmin coach had me running an out and back session today, where I was to warm up for two minutes, run 8 minutes at 5min/km pace, then 7 minutes at 4:45/km, with two minutes cool down. I completely ignored that and went for it, managing to average 4:01/km pace, almost finishing in under 20 minutes.

However, my finishing time of 20:05 was good enough for me to finish 12th overall and first in my age group. It was also my quickest finishing time at Morecambe. Very pleased with that result.

As I have only been using a Garmin coach for two weeks, I’m fairly confident that it won’t be too long before I complete a flat parkrun in under the illusive 20-minute barrier.

Cliffe Castle parkrun

Cliffe Castle parkrun has been my NENDY parkrun for a number of months, so today I made the 90-minute drive from Lancaster to Keighly to run Cliffe Castle.

First problem of the morning was getting the Sat Nav to accept the postcode. Next problem was that the Sat Nav wanted me to take the M6 south and then use the A59. The time difference between this route and the back roads was negligible, however there were lane closures on the M6.

Anyway, I found the carpark without any issues and because this week I had brought my phone with me, I had a little walk around the park taking a few photos.

The park isn’t very large, but there was a magnificent greenhouse/conservatory, and a very nice pond and a fountain, although the fountain isn’t turned on until 9.30. I could also near plenty of birds from an aviary.

The main house, possibly not quite a castle, was still very impressive, although the 70’s style concrete bunker that had been built adjacent looked out of place (to the far right in the photo below, partly hidden by the tree).

As it was windy and wet, I huddled inside the car until it was nearly time for the start. I made it in time for the tourist briefing, where the volunteer mentioned that it was a three and a half lap course, with 90% of it downhill, with one very large tough climb, which is as high at the Ribbleshead Viaduct. After the usual announcements it was time for the off.

My new coach, Amy from Garmin, had today down as an easy run, consisting of a 2-minute warm up, 4km run at an easy pace, finished off with a 2-minute warm down. Almost immediately my Garmin was beeping and buzzing, letting me know that I was going too fast. I then came upon “The Hill” for the first time. It was steep and it went on for far too long. My Garmin then started telling me that I was going too slow.

The nature of a three-lap course means that inevitably I will be overtaking a number of people on my final lap, although as there wasn’t too many people running today, this wasn’t a problem. At the end of the third full lap the course does a small loop past the pond and fountain, with another sharp little climb, thankfully not as long as “The Hill”.

My finishing time was 22:21, which I am more than happy with, and 6th overall. I was 2nd in my age-group, almost a minute behind the other man in my group. There were 86 hardy parkrunners along with a dozen volunteers. Overall, a very pleasant and friendly parkrun, and despite “The Hill” one that I would recommend if you’re in the area.

This was also my 50th different parkrun and I completed the Pirates challenge on the running challenges Chrome extension. The Pirates challenge involves running seven different parkruns beginning with the letter C, and one beginning with an R.

My parkruns were; Cheltenham, Clitheroe Castle, Cuerdon Valley (no longer a parkrun), Centre Vale, Conkers, Coventry, Cliffe Castle and Rothay Park. My next NENDY is Watergrove parkrun near Rochdale. See you there soon.

Coventry Parkrun

Another weekend away. Me and my lovely wife headed down south to stay with Helen’s eldest son and his partner in Hitchin. We broke the journey up by staying at her brother’s house in Kenilworth, even though he was up in Fleetwood.

Anyway, the closest parkrun was Coventry, only four miles away, and Helen was also running along with our silly old pooch Nelly.

As expected, we arrived with plenty of time. However, neither of us had brought our phones, so the only photos are one that I “borrowed” off Google and another from an official photographer, although he managed not to take any photos of Nelly or Helen. The parkrun is within the War Memorial Park, with Parking at the Park and Ride (free for the first three hours). We had a walk around the park, which was really pleasant, with toilets that we free and well looked after.

We missed all of the run briefing, although Helen spotted that there was a person translating it into sign language, which we’ve never seen before. Lining up at the start there were a whole load of pens, depending on what time you expected to finish in. I lined up just behind the sub 20 minute area, not wanting to encroach upon the speedy people.

After my performance at Fleetwood last week, I ended up giving it some again. However, without the wind it felt much easier. The two lap route passes the War Memorial towards the end of the lap, and while the run was quite quick, it wasn’t pan flat.

I ran most of the run alongside a younger lad, who raced off from me with 100m to go, but he thanked me afterwards saying that he’d just managed a pb because I’d pushed him.

Amazingly my time was exactly the same as the previous week, 20:32. The big difference was that this week I finished 31st and was 2nd in my age group. More than happy with my result, and I think I can possibly manage a sub 20 minute parkrun before the end of the year.

I then waited for Helen and Nelly. I hadn’t realised how many people were taking part, and Nelly gets a bit stressed in crowds, so Helen had had no option but to take it easy for the first lap. Nelly is also 12 years old, and maybe parkrun isn’t for her anymore. They were both smiling though.

At the finish, Brooks were had a display and were giving away free running bottles, which we filled with water so that Nelly could have a drink.

Coventry was one of the best parkruns that I’ve done, and one of the busiest with 585 finishers, putting it in the top ten largest parkruns of the weekend. It was also my 150th parkrun, although there’s no t-shirt for 150. Only another 100 to go until I can claim a new shirt.