The one with the moves like Jagger. My latest parkrun adventure sees me again back on the alphabet hunt. For those that don't know alphabeteering is a thing that some parkrun tourists do to help them decide on where to go next. The idea is to complete a parkrun for every letter of the alphabet, apart from X as there currently isn't one. I've got a few left to go to complete the collection, I, J, V, X, Y and Z. Inverness is the only one booked in so far as I'm entered into the Loch Ness marathon, two birds and all that.
- I – Inverness
- J – Jersey
- V – Valentines
- X – N/A
- Y – Yeovil Montacute
- Z – Zary, Poland
This week it was time to collect a D, there were a couple of options available, Didcot was one, as was Dulwich, but these were put to one side in favour of Dartford.
Dartford parkrun is held in Central Park (DA1 1JP for the satnav) which is located just behind the leisure centre. There is plenty of free parking available at the park, which also houses the athletics track and clubhouse, which conveniently sells hot and cold drinks, snacks and ice creams! There are also toilets in the park that are open to the public. So Central Park ticks all the boxes for facilities, parking, toilets, cafe, running track, leisure centre, everything you need for a parkrun and more, but what's it like?
The course consists of a little loop, followed by two big loops and takes you on a little journey around the park. This gives you a bit of everything, a bit of flat tarmac path to run along, some undulating grass to navigate, a wooden bridge to cross, a muddy hill to power up, a flat playing field to traverse, sculptured gardens with a bandstand and a troll bridge to run through and more besides. You could say it's a bit of a varied course. During the summer months road shoes are fine though I'm guessing when the winter sets in and things start getting a bit damper, light or intermediate trail shoes would be a must, especially for the off road hill section.
There is a first timers brief that explains the course in more detail so nothing to worry about on that front. The course is easy enough to follow and the key turns are well marshalled. It's not a flat course with 108ft of elevation over the entirity of the 5k route, but it's not what I'd class as hilly either. As a first timer it was one of those courses where you just didn't know what was going to be next. There were buggy runners and CaniX runners too. The start is quite wide but soon squishes in but it's not overly congested, the 200 or so runners soon thin out and it's pretty easy to open up and settle in to your own pace. The off road hill is mostly single file but not really the best place on the course for overtaking, but there are plenty of other opportunities to do so.
The finish funnel is well supported and the two scanners process the finishers in short shrift. It's a nice social affair with plenty of people hanging around afterwards for coffee and a chat next to the athletics track. This is obviously recommended as it's an essential part of the parkrun experience. As is, in my humble opinion, having an ice cream, the cafe had quite possibly the smallest Cornettos I've had to date, Smarties ones. They may have been small but quite delicious and it was lovely to sit by the athletics track watching athletes warming up and training whilst eating them.
I'd also highly recommend having a wander round the park after you're done socialising as there's quite a bit more to it that the run doesn't touch on. We went for a wander afterwards and found a life size sculpture of Mick Jagger, who was born and went to school in Dartford. There was a competition at Dartford Grammar School to design the bench and statue, this is the end result. Mick striking a pose, complete with Vox amplifier.
There is also a lovely tunnel to walk through that pipes out classical music 24/7, the Princes Tunnel. This takes you through to the lake. If you have the time it is well worth exploring further, it appears to be quite popular with walkers and runners alike. In fact check out the website for more information.
I'm genuinely quite surprised about Dartford parkrun, it has a bit of everything for everyone and surpassed my expectations. After we were done wandering around we popped into the leisure centre and had a shower as well before heading off to the nearby Chislehurst Caves. It was nice not having to explore the caves 'parkrun fresh'.
Thank you to everyone at Dartford parkrun for being so welcoming, with a special thanks to local Ian Childs for being a gracious host and guide, much appreciated, thank you Ian. I had hoped to bump into fellow parkrun tourist and blogger Stephen Stockwell of blog7t, I love his blogs and they are a bit of a go to resource for parkruns I'm visiting to get the lowdown before the journey is made. Well worth checking out his site and bookmarking it for future reference.
Next week I think it might be a trip to Henley On Thames having spoken to friends who have recently visited it, sounds like a lot of fun.