Inverness parkrun

The one at the alternative location. The latest parkrun tourism adventure saw us visiting a parkrun at the opposite end of the British Isles, Inverness. It is roughly 610 miles from my home parkrun, Havant, and is the most northerly parkrun I’ve visited so far. It is also one of two parkruns in the UK that begins with an I, the other being Ipswich. This leaves me with just four letters to collect to complete all the available letters in the alphabet. So what was the purpose of such a long trip? Well, the main purpose of the journey was to run the Loch Ness marathon, but I’d be lying if the chance of bagging an I didn’t seal the deal when choosing a marathon for September.

Inverness parkrun is usually held at Bught park but due to the marathon race village being set up there the location had shifted slightly down the road to nearby Whin Park. Scottish parkruns start slightly later than the rest of the UK kicking off at 9:30 rather than the usual 9:00, however this morning the start was even later as they were thoughtfully ensuring that anyone arriving at the usual location had time to get to the alternative start. There were a lot of tourists visiting and the first timers brief reflected that, there were Apricot shirts from all over and a few cow cowls dotted around here and there.

The alternative route is a 5 lap route around a pond and down along the riverbank, past some hippos and a pink elephant, around the miniature railway and back around the play park. It had a real mixture of terrain with muddy puddles to splash through, grass, tarmac and a bit of trail, so very varied and a lovely little leg stretcher the day before the marathon.

There was a very jovial atmosphere and the RD and volunteer team were very welcoming and patient with lots of lost looking tourists. It looked like they also had a very full roster too with volunteers everywhere, something that’s fairly common the day before a large local event. There were in fact 258 runners this time around, a course record!

5 laps sounds a bit onerous, but the reality of it was that it went by in no time at all. I saw something new on every lap and particularly enjoyed a section where the trees were overhanging into the rushing water of the river, what a lovely sound that made.

I think most people were taking it pretty steady, soaking it up and having a bit of a laugh. Once the five laps had been completed there was some lovely cake by the scanners for global consumption.

It was a bright and sunny start to the day, slightly chilly but it’s the end of September in Scotland so not a great surprise!

Once the parkrun was done we skipped the usual post race coffee and chat as had to hear back to Bught park to collect race numbers for the following days Loch Ness marathon. It was great to tick off an I and visit Inverness parkrun. I had a lot of fun at this one, definitely want to tick off a few more Scottish parkruns as the scenery is superb in the highlands and the atmosphere jovial.

Thanks to all the volunteers and core team for dealing with us lost tourists, it was a fun morning.

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Maidenhead parkrun

The one with the PB bell. Roughly two years ago I started my parkrun journey. In that time I have run 91 times spread over 46 different parkruns and volunteered in some capacity 55 times. You could say that parkrun has become a big part of my life. This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Maidenhead parkrun with a couple of friends, two of us from Havant, one from Reading.

Maidenhead parkrun is a lovely two lap course around the nature reserve set in Braywick Park. The start and finish area are on the playing fields by a little wooden shelter but you soon head out into the rather picturesque nature reserve. There is a large amount of free parking both near the start and also at the handily located Toby Carvery. The events team have also worked out a handy little discount at the Toby, if you show your barcode whilst buying breakfast you get free tea/coffee. Result! Ideal for that apres parkrun socialising.

There is a first timers brief held a stones throw from the little wooden shelter so no need to worry about not knowing the course or how parkrun works, it is all explained and made clear. Today there were 38 first timers in attendance with an even split of 19 brand new parkrunners and 19 visitors from all over the country.

Today’s run director, StJohn, addressed the 274 runners shortly after the first timers brief and ran through the announcements and milestones. Gordon Sherratt earned his aubergine shirt today (that’s purple to clarify to any menfolk reading this) for volunteering 25 times, well done Gordon, wear your shirt with pride. For those that don’t know, if you volunteer on 25 occasions you earn a free volunteers milestone shirt. Volunteering is easy and I can’t recommend it enough, it opens up a whole different side to parkrun. Get involved, anyone can do it, even visiting tourists! Check out the volunteer roster to see where help is needed and drop the team an email offering your services, it’s as simple as that. There were some other milestones reached today too, with Annie Pearce and Laura Halton joining the junior 10 club and Gillian Scolari, Matthew Cullum and Matthew Shaw all joining the 50 club. Congratulations to everyone of them.

With the run brief compete it’s time to get down to business and run. The start is a massive sprawled line up which filters down onto the path and into the reserve, there’s a slight pinch point but nothing major. The course itself is a varied little course through a stunning backdrop, it’s predominantly flat but has a couple of lumpy bits. The surface underfoot is a mix of surfaces but you’d get away with road shoes most of the year round. It’s a well marshalled course and there is a lot of support out there too, it’s a very friendly vibe throughout with some fantastically supportive volunteers.

The two laps of the reserve seemed to disappear really quickly and before you know it you are back out onto the playing fields for a last hard push to the finish funnel. Today’s lead runner polished off the course in a speedy 18:16, well done Sarah Chapman, a new PB too. Maidenhead has a PB bell which was taken advantage of and rung many times, in fact there were 55 PB’s attained today, brilliant.

The Maidenhead volunteer team were fantastic, such a warm and welcome parkrun to visit, we were made to feel right at home from start to finish. It was well worth setting the time aside and making the trip and leaving a bit extra to go socialise in the “Toby Carbery” afterwards to replenish and refuel.

We really enjoyed our visit to Maidenhead parkrun, thank you to everyone involved.

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parkrun tourism – planning your next adventure!

Planning a spot parkrun tourism starts off as a relatively straight forward affair. When I started touring I initially used the main parkrun site, in particular my home event page, to work out where I was going to try next. On each parkrun event page the website details the nearest 10 parkruns, which is a very useful starting point.

So that’s your nearest parkruns taken care of, but what happens when you’ve completed all the events detailed and you’re wanting to go further? You can look at another events page to see what’s nearby to it, you can also look on the events page on the main parkrun site to get more of an idea of what is about in your region.

What happens if you’re going away for the weekend to somewhere new? Visiting relatives or having a weekend break somewhere but still want to get your weekly parkrun fix. Using the maps provided on the main parkrun site is pretty good, but there is a much better option in my opinion, the unofficial parkrun tourist tool. You can enter your chosen destination and see what events are available nearby, if you add in your barcode ID you can exclude ones you’ve visited before if you like to try out new things.

Example below shows planning an upcoming trip to Great Yarmouth

So that’s great for covering your local area and coping with holidays. However there comes a point where visiting new parkruns can become a logistics nightmare for an “on the day” trip. You reach a tipping point where it becomes too difficult or time consuming for on the day travel to your destination of choice, for me that’s around the 100 mile mark. So making a weekend of it could become something of interest to many. I’ve recently started looking at some properties on Airbnb and turned up some quirky locations for overnight stays. It’s a great way to explore our glorious country.

If you sign up for Airbnb using the link, I’ve provided below you’ll get £25 off your first trip. Give it a try! Just click the link or paste the address in your browser. When you book a trip of £55 or more, I’ll also get £15 in travel credit, too, brucey bonus.

Make sure you read all the reviews and check the small print before making any bookings. You don’t want any nasty surprises.

Happy travels!

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Relive those parkrun routes

Relive is a rather nifty little bit of software that hooks into the gps track of your run and visualises it for you.

It allows you to relive your last 3 runs when all set up, it also allows you to share your activity it to your social media outlet of choice as well as download the small video files to keep and relive again and again.

In true Blue Peter fashion here’s some I made earlier…

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Henley-on-Thames parkrun

The one with the Rewind. One of the things I love about parkrun tourism is working out where to visit next. It’s nice having a look around and seeing what options are available and what the courses are like. Today the relatively new on the scene Henley-on-Thames parkrun was chosen. This decision was made using the parkrun tourist tool and the fact that some friends had visited in the weeks prior and having heard them talk about it a visit was inevitable, it sounded right up my street. A twisty turny technical hilly off road run, trail shoes a must, fab! Looking it up on one my favorite parkrun resources, the parkrun elevations site, I found that it’s currently the 420th flattest course out of 458 courses, so the 38th hilliest parkrun as things stand. Sounds like a nice challenging little number. Choice made, postcode of RG9 1US was plugged into the SatNav and off we went.

Henley-on-Thames parkrun has not been going all that long, it started on the 1st July so today was only it’s 8th event. It’s a relatively intimate parkrun with numbers hovering just under 100, with the exception of the innaugral which attracted 175 people. Today there were 90 people in attendance with a lot of visitors making their way over from the Rewind Festival, many with rather sore heads. There were tourists from all over from Swansea to Singapore. The welcome was warm just like the weather this morning. The crowd start amassing at the finish line and spirits were high (possibly down to some peoples hangovers not yet kicking in!) There was a lot of laughing and joking and the odd mention here and there of some hills! At about ten to nine we all trooped up a hill to receive the new runners brief.

So the course then, as mentioned earlier it’s a hilly off road course with lots of twists and turns, tree roots and stumps, branches, stinging nettles and all sorts of fun like that. It’s a two lap course with a little bit of out and back, the paths are pretty narrow so if you’re after a fast time get yourself towards the front. It is NOT suitable for buggies or dogs. There aren’t too many places where you can overtake, but don’t let that bother you too much, I was more than happy to just keep up with the person in front. If you like a bit of trail running then Henley-on-Thames parkrun is right up your street, if you like pancake flat road courses then you will definitely be outside of your comfort zone. Make no mistake, this is a challenging course, but oh so much fun and so friendly. Whilst it’s dry you’ll get away with road shoes, but it’ll be a mud fest come winter, I can’t wait to return and run it then!

Let’s break down the numbers, out of the 90 participants there were 12 brand spanking new parkrunners, 43 first time visitors and sadly 4 unknowns, don’t forget your barcode #dfyb. Remember folks “no barcode, no time”, it’s one of the golden rules of parkrun. There were 17 shiny new PB’s too this morning, which is great on this course. I reckon this course adds about two minutes onto your regular flat time.

Parking is on street by the finish area however there are no facilities available on site. After the run the core team head down to Athlete Services, a gym/shop/workshop with a cafe inside which is a short walk/drive away for a coffee and a chat (there are toilets and showers there too). You should pop along and socialise as it’s an important part of parkrun, you could also help out with token sorting which is quite therapeutic, or just go along for a natter and some cake!

I loved Henley this morning and can’t wait to return and have another pop at the hills. Thanks to the core team and all the volunteers for being so friendly and welcoming, we will be back in the winter for sure.

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