The one with the mysterious case of the missing castle. Saturday morning is upon us once again which can only mean one thing, another parkrun. This morning is parkrun location number 10 of my self imposed, just for fun, 15 different parkrun locations in a specific order by name challenge. So far, as part of this challenge, I’ve visited the following parkruns; Osterley, Tring, Tilgate, Ellenbrook Fields, Newbury, Reigate Priory, Old Deer Park, Clair and of course Northala Fields. Furthest distance travelled so far has been 87 miles on two occasions to Tring and Ellenbrook Fields. It’s Upton Court today, which is a 65 mile trip from base camp.
Upton Court parkrun is held at, unsurprisingly, Upton Court park in Slough. Getting there is really simple by car as it’s just off the motorway and there is plenty of parking, which is always a bonus. You can use the large public car park at SL3 7LU, it’s free and a short distance from the smaller car park at the Slough RFC rugby club, which quickly fills up. Upton Court parkrun use the facilities at Slough rugby club, it’s where the barcode scanning is done after and the apres-parkrun refreshments are enjoyed. £1 for a coffee and £2 for a bacon roll so remember to take some cash. There are also toilets there and you can use the building as a bag/coat drop area, at your own risk obviously. It’s always nice to have easy access to facilities, especially when touring.
The course is a relatively flat two lapper, which is predominantly run on grass. I’d guesstimate that it’s something like two-thirds grass and a third tarmac. I decided to pull out my light trail shoes from the boot of the car, but in hindsight I would have been better off in my road shoes, especially now that the sun is shining a bit more and things are firming up underfoot. It’s one of those rare courses that has permanent km markers around the course, one marking each kilometre. Apparently there’s also a wonderful view of Windsor Castle as you head down the tarmac path and even though I’d been told about it I completely missed it, on both laps! Personally I think it was just an elaborate April Fools Day hoax. During the run brief there was talk of HQ measuring the course, finding it short and adding a second pass at the extra loop which was met with laughter and some oh no’s!
There were a few tourists visiting today from all over the place, Ashton Court, South Manchester and as far afield as Australia! I chatted with uber tourist Dave Thomas, he was there volunteering as it’s local to him, Dave’s got an impressive 187 different parkruns under his belt! The course was described to us over the noise of passing aircraft from the nearby airport. The RD made sure that people were aware he was only joking about the extra loop, the volunteers were thanked, visitors and first timers welcomed, a birthday announced and then we were off!
Even though the start sets you off up a very minor incline it’s a fast course. In fact I somehow managed to run my fastest parkrun this year, my first sub 24 time of 2017 and only 17 seconds off my overall PB! I finished in 28th place out of a field of 122 so I’m really happy with that. It’s a nice size parkrun, not too large a field that thins out nice and quickly, no bottlenecks anywhere and certainly capable of handling a much larger number of attendees. I had a really good run and whilst I didn’t feel that I was particularly pushing hard I managed a great time for me. First lap you do an extra little loop around a second field that takes you past a little motocross track or something before heading towards the finish to start the second loop, the second loop is then shorter and probably where I made up my time. I liked this a lot.
Once over the finish line, token collected it’s a short walk across the carpark to the rugby club for scanning. This for me was the only downside to the event. I don’t think it worked particularly well and with greater numbers would be swamped. You have to queue up through the door into the rugby club where there was a table set up with a scanner sat at it. You get scanned and then the token was sorted there and then by the person doing the scanning. This does not work. As a tourist I’d looked in advance to see if here was anything I could do on the roster to help out before making the trip up. If token sorting had been on there I’d have offered my services in a heartbeat, in fact another tourist offered the same whilst I was handing over my token. Personally I’d scan and stick the tokens into a container, someone else could then sort the tokens over a coffee and a bacon roll. I’ve done this at Bushy and other places. It would get rid of that bottleneck and is a pleasant thing to do over a coffee. It also gives people a chance to get involved, like juniors, who may not be able to marshal or people who aren’t comfortable with timekeeping and the like, something to ease them into it. Food for thought.
Anyway, I really enjoyed my trip to Upton Court to tick off a U and continue on my little challenge. Thanks to all the volunteers and people involved in putting on this parkrun. Next week I’ll probably be off to nearby Rickmansworth, but we’ll see, nothing is set in stone!
ps. This weeks #parkruncornetto was a cheeky little strawberry number which went down a treat now the sun is shining!