The one with just one lap! This morning was a fairly early start for me, I got up and drove 72 miles through mist and fog to partake in this weeks Black Park parkrun. This may seem a bit excessive to some, a 140 mile or so round trip, to run in a free 5k event, when there is one just 4 miles away.
However, this time it wasn’t just a matter of parkrun tourism, it also included meeting up with my sister. She only lives just down the road from Black Park, it’s her local run, she’s done nearly 70 there. My nephew was also joint us this morning too, he’s done 50 there himself.
We rock up in good time which allows me to take a few snaps and have a little wander before the start. Black Park car park is pretty big, but with circa 600 runners attending weekly it soon fills up so get there early, it’ll set you back £2.50 to park there. There is a Go Ape there, Segway hire and a cafe where people congregate after for food and drink. You could easily take the family to this one for a full day out.
Black Park parkrun is pretty established, this mornings run being the 365th event that’s been held there. Today had the added bonus of pacers, which I later found out is something they do on the first Saturday of every month, which is good to know if you’re chasing a PB. The course is one lap on firm, flat and wide tracks of compacted earth and gravel. Fast times can be expected as it is pretty flat and you’re sheltered from any wind due to being in a forest. The scenery is spectacular, you can tell why Pinewood studios do a lot of filming there, films such as Harry Potter, Captain America and Casino Royale, to name just a few, have all had scenes shot here.
I totally missed the new runners brief, but was stood right near the Run Director with his megaphone, the briefing was pretty quick and to the point, there was a 250th run announcement and a 100, a bit of time spent talking about runners with dogs due to an accident last week and some details on the course and the pacers. Given the number of people I’d made my way fairly close to the front for a change and positioned myself near the 23 minute pacer. My nephew hadn’t run for a while so went further back as was expecting to run around 26 minutes and my sister further back as she was expecting to be over the half hour mark.
A little after 9am and we were off, everyone taking off at great pace down to the first turn, this can get a bit congested, hence why I started closer to the front than I normally do. It’s well marshalled at this point as there are a few potential hazards, the start/finish are the only areas on this run that are marshalled, but the course is well sign posted so you can’t go wrong, and if you’re chasing a pacer then you’ve got no excuse for getting lost!
After the first turn I pushed on a bit and found that I caught up with the 22 minute pacer, I managed to keep pace with him for a while, running the first mile in 7:10, but this was to be my undoing. About a mile and a half in I began to drop off the pace and started to drop back, but still managing to keep him in sight. There are some very gentle inclines, but as I was starting to blow up from going out too fast these had more of an impact than they usually would. The second mile came in 7:35, so not too much slower but I was definitely feeling it. I’d again made the mistake of wearing a base layer and whilst the woods are beautiful and picturesque, they are also very sheltered, no breeze at all. At about 4k in there is another small incline, at this point the 23 minute pacer came past me and I felt like I was going backwards, my nephew also came past me shortly afterwards. I gave him a cheer and set about trying to keep up with him, this third mile came in in 8:14. Last little push to the finish line.
The finish funnel is a long thin affair on the right and looked pretty organised, sadly I experienced my first ever encounter with a funnel jumper. I ran in the finish hot on the heels of a headphoned runner in front who, a chap in a 100 shirt also came sprinting into the finish and crossed the line just behind me but his momentum took him past me and the guy in front of me. The funnel then thinned down to one person and the chap in front of me was oblivious to the fact the 100 shirt guy had skipped past both him and me. There were no marshals here at this point to sort this out and I couldn’t catch up with the 100 shirt guy as I couldn’t get past the headphones guy I finished behind who was going up the now single file funnel very slowly. Never mind, I don’t particularly care as it only made a 1 second difference to my time and bumped me down one place. Life to short to worry about things like that.
My nephew, who came past me with under 1k to go, came in 90th running a 23:14, his fastest in ages. My sister came in 367th running 29:45, also her fastest time in ages too. Result all round with all of us having good runs.
To sum up my Black Park experience, it’s a great run, very much a different experience running a single lap, it’s the first parkrun I’ve done like that. It does make it hard to pace yourself, but the pacers helped out there. I went out way harder than I should have and suffered a bit for it. I really enjoyed it even with the finish line shenanigans. It really is a beautiful location.