The one with the omen! Today's a big day of running, it's not just parkrunday but also the day of the Gravel Hill 5 and the midnight marathon, there's some special folk out there who seem to think it's a good idea to do all 3 events. It's certainly going to be a long day for some. I've chosen Guildford parkrun this week to kick off this challenge. It doesn't feel like I've been touring much of late so it's nice to visit both a new course and tick off a new letter in my quest to tick off all letters in the alphabet. With a G now done that leaves me with just 6 letters left to collect.
- D – Didcot/Dartford
- I – Ipswich/Inverness
- J – Jersey
- V – Valentines
- Y – Yeovil Montacute
- Z – Zary, Poland
Guildford is also my nearest event not yet done #nenyd and is only 35 miles away. It's my 43rd different parkrun course and my 85th parkrun, not long until I reach 50 different venues. Who would have thought I'd have got the bug this bad, I used to think parkrun wasn't for me and here we are a couple of years later a complete addict and parkrun tourist!
Back to business, Guildford parkrun is a pretty well established parkrun, this is their 268th event and they regularly draw in 500 people! It's an undulating course by all accounts, but nothing brutal on the hill front. It's got an overall elevation of 191ft, checking out the parkrun elevations site to see how it ranks it's the 370th flattest out of 458 that have profiles loaded. I should have really chosen a much flatter course given I've got a hilly marathon in the evening but I've never been known for wise decisions! It's really easy to get to, I'd programmed the Guildford Spectrum into the sat nav and took full advantage of the free parking there. It's only a short walk across the road from there to the start.
The start/finish area is over by Burchatt's Farm Barn, they have a small PA system and a few tables set up here for the run brief and post run scanning. There is also some hard standing where you can leave your coats/jackets, at your own risk obviously. I believe there are also toilets available here, I'd used the ones at the sports centre. This is where the first timers brief and the main run brief takes place. This was the first parkrun I've been to where they read out the volunteers names one by one for everybody to applaud, which was quite a nice touch.
It's a two lap course anti-clockwise around Stoke Park and is mainly run on grass. It's got a nice wide start before you filter down into a smaller procession. If you want a fast get away then get yourself over to one side and near the front or you will get caught up in weight of numbers. You head off across the gently undulating park in the direction of the Guildford Cathedral, which is quite nicely framed between the trees, much like Windsor Castle if you ever visit Upton Court parkrun, only difference here being that I actually noticed the cathedral! It's an imposing structure and one that many will recognise from The Omen. Fortunately for me there were no bad omens today and I had a very enjoyable run.
No less than 417 people completed Guildford parkrun, 57 of those were running there for the first time, 31 of them on their first ever parkrun. Out of the 26 tourists there were a couple there that I knew, Nikki and Dean, who were just on their way home from their overnight stint marshalling at Centurion Running's NDW100, a 100 mile race over the North Downs Way. We also got chatting with another tourist, Paul, who had driven down from Abingdon, the cow cowl once again a conversation starter.
The whole atmosphere at Guildford was fantastic from start to finish, which is impressive for a run this size. The volunteers were all so friendly and welcoming. I didn't get the chaos name but the volunteer pictured with us below was one of the loudest and most encouraging marshals I've encountered during my travels. He'd been positioned on the first uphill section and belted out support non-stop.
As we'd introduced ourselves as tourists to the team at the start we'd been warmly invited to join them after for that all important post run coffee. The team head off to the nearby bowls club and use the facilities there. One thing to note is that everyone takes their trainers off when they go in as they don't like muddy/grassy trainers being worn inside. I don't know why but this tickled me, it felt quite endearing. I had a lovely bacon and egg roll and coffee followed by a mint Cornetto. I managed to persuade a couple of others to join me in this essential post parkrun tradition #parkruncornetto
Thank you Guildford parkrun for such a lovely welcome and a nice run around the park. The park really is quite an impressive open space, it's huge with lots for the family to do including a tree top climbing zone. It's well worth a visit.