Earlier on in the year, I was brainstorming ideas to celebrate Virtual Runner’s 10th year and one of the things on the list was to run 10 different parkruns in 10 weeks in the run up to the big milestone! I am not exactly quiet in my love for parkrun, but I was perhaps a little naive on what an undertaking this would be, but I do like a challenge!
I have been posting my adventures on the Virtual Runner social media pages, but I also felt it was worthy of it’s own blog. So here goes! I have included the dates and the reasons I picked these parkruns in the first place.
16th September – Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire: “An absolute stunner of a backdrop and home to Equinox24 where I will be over this weekend as sponsor of the kids fun run and all round fan of the Equinox event.”
This trip was my fourth trip to Belvoir Castle, having now done both the Summer and Winter course twice each. The Winter course is by far my favourite of the two (the castle grounds are stunning and well worth a visit!), however the community as always makes for a fun event. The weather was not the greatest on this day, the picture shows the castle of course (can you see it?!). However my spirit wasn’t dampened and I had a good steady 5k run before completing a further 30k at the Equinox 24 event!
23rd September – Queen’s, Belfast: “I had a great running break starting in Belfast earlier this year, but I didn’t make it to parkrun so I felt it right to return to Northern Ireland and to also get a Q for the alphabet challenge!”
This visit to Belfast was a flying one, but I absolutely loved the city and the time I spent there with my running buddy Carrie (you won’t be surprised to hear that we walked miles to see lots of sites!). The standout for me at this parkrun was the welcome we received from the volunteers and runners alike. The downhill finish was also very gladly received followed by a coffee whilst Carrie and I gave a little back and run the run report (you’ll find it on Queen’s Belfast parkrun page linked above) plus sorted the parkrun finish tokens. I am very glad to have added Queen’s Belfast (number 2 of 10) to my list! You won’t be disappointed to give this one a go. If you’re local, lucky you
30th September – Severn Bridge: “I am a fan of bridges and this one is pretty magnificent. I am also drawn to the fact the run starts in Wales, so you run to England and back!”
Now this parkrun did not disappoint (parkrun on Saturday mornings has yet to disappoint me, but this was a special one!). I travelled down with my family on the Friday night and we found a local pub that was happy to let us stay in our van overnight in return for dinner – which was excellent! We did a little exploring after dinner in Chepstow; walking around the castle and local area to let our lovely meal settle. Saturday morning was of course parkrun time. This event is pretty heavy on tourists and the RD made the brief super fun. Soon we were on our way to run up to and over the bridge which I was super lucky (in one respect) that it was closed to traffic for maintenance so it was only the parkrunners and workers on the route that morning! This parkrun was my fastest in a while, running under 23 minutes and taking in 2 countries, 3 counties, 2 rivers and 1 pretty spectacular bridge.
7th October – Sutton Manor: “The home of the Dream statue/sculpture. This parkrun has been on my list since watching ‘Stay Close’ on Netflix.”
Wow, this parkrun is a hidden gem! The course description is challenging but rewarding and this is one of the fairest ones I have read to date! I travelled with 2 friends from my running club and also bumped into another two (unplanned but pleasant addition). This parkrun is small in terms of parkrunners but perfectly formed and the core team did a cracking job.
14th October – Ballincollig, Cork: “I have always fancied a visit to Cork and found cheap flights, so what better reason than that?!”
I have never been to Cork before and enjoyed this short break so much. I travelled with my friend and fellow parkrun fan Carrie and we were so lucky to see so many things and places – all in the sunshine! I have included a picture of the highlights of this trip which included Kinsale, Mizen Head bridge, Blarney Castle, Cobh and of course Cork itself. I will never forget seeing dolphins in the River Lee on our way home either.
In terms of parkrun, I picked Balligcollig which was held in a beautiful park slightly on the outskirts of Cork. The Irish were so accommodating (even getting away with calling us eejits and making it sound pleasant for our crazy parkrun touring!). I really enjoyed the two lap course and chatted to some parkrunners on my way round. Definitely a parkrun to visit if you head to Cork.
21st October – Perry Hall, Birmingham: “I have done a few events around the Birmingham area, but not this one. so it’s made my list. Plus, as a bonus, it is (fairly) close to one of my favourite brunch locations, The Pear Tree in Lichfield, so I might well do a detour on the way home!”
Sadly due to storm Babet, my parkrun plans had to change as Perry Hall parkrun along with many others had to make a very sensible decision to cancel. I have rarely seen this many cancellations so opted for the cautious approach and stayed locally (and safe) for my run. I went to Forest Rec parkrun which is only a couple of miles from my door, it was fab to catch up with so many familiar and friendly faces. Despite the weather, I managed a solid run including a decent warm up and cool down. Storm Babet didn’t beat me entirely. A big thanks for the team for braving the elements and all the pre-parkrun prep to bring over 450 happy runners one run closer to their next milestone!
28th October – Whinlatter Forest, Lake District: “Badged as one of the hardest parkruns in the UK and one my friend talks about a lot. Therefore, a trip to the Lakes is on the cards!”
Another parkrun that did not disappoint, it certainly lived up to it’s reputation as being one of (if not arguably) the hilliest courses in the UK. However, the views certainly made it worthwhile.
As a family, we drove to the Lakes the evening before parkrun and stayed locally to Whinlatter in our van making it an affordable getaway. After enjoying a gorgeous (and slightly piggy) pub dinner, we settled for an early night. Soon, it was time to rise and shine in order to head to the 5k start. As always, I was greeted by a fab bunch of runners and volunteers. It was a dry morning and unseasonably warm for late October – and such a contrast from last week’s weather! Very soon, we were off and despite all the rumours of the course all being uphill, we started on a down! That didn’t last long before the climbing began. I had a leisurely run to enjoy the views and to take a few photos along the way. Whinlatter Forest was one of my slowest parkrun times in a while, but one of the most breathtaking. It’s an absolute stunner and will not disappoint any tourist (or local).
4th November – Milton Country Park, Cambridgeshire: “I have never been to Cambridge so decided this was a perfect excuse to head to this area!
Milton Country Park was super wet which is pretty clear from my gear! The rain didn’t stop play or the fun. As always the core team and volunteers did a sterling job and I really enjoyed running the trails of Milton Country Park which is just on the outskirts of Cambridge.
I love the fact that parkrun tourism takes you to places you would otherwise miss (hidden gems if you like) and this was no exception!
11th November – University of Northampton: “This is a fairly recent addition to the parkrun map and is one of the only events in the East Midlands I haven’t done (I have been a regionnaire a few times now, but then parkrun keep starting new events). I will become a regionnaire once again before the year is out – hopefully and a visit here will certainly help! Northampton is also home to the fabulous team who do the podcast Running Tales so I will get to say hi to them during my visit.”
I haven’t perhaps been overly lucky with my initial plans as this parkrun was also cancelled, so I worked on a back up plan to meet Michelle and Craig from Running Tales and we headed to Tamworth Castle Grounds parkrun as the alternative. This is a very new parkrun event and they did a tremendous job as they are currently attracting quite the numbers! I had a great morning, the highlight was bumping into so many familiar faces from the running world. This photo summaries my visit well – including the guy who took the photo who I’d never met.
The course is pretty much all of tarmac paths through a scenic park so made for an overall cracking parkrun experience!
18th November – Bowling Park, Bradford: “As a teenager my main competitive sport was ten pin bowling (I got pretty good too!) so when I found this aptly named parkrun, I decided it needed to be on my list!”
Now this is another parkrun that didn’t go to plan. I set off super early on Saturday morning to make the 90 minute drive to Bradford. Sadly it was not meant to be as there was a nasty accident on the M1 which caused me to sit in standstill traffic for around an hour. So I took a detour and headed to Frickley Country parkrun. On 18th November, I was informed I was super lucky as they were using a one off alternative course which was pretty flat (still Yorkshire flat). I enjoyed a warm up with a stranger, had an enjoyable 5k run and then chatted a cool down away with another pair of parkrunners. The highlights for me at Frickley were bumping into this pair of wonderful Virtual Runners and also one of the volunteers who went out of her way to welcome me!
25th November – Beeston, Nottingham: “Taking me back to the location of my very first parkrun. This date will be my 97th time of running Beeston parkrun (my highest at a single location) and I have many fond memories of the 5ks done around the Weir. I will be bringing treats to celebrate Virtual Runner’s birthday.”
The plans particularly for the treats are in full swing and I hope that lots of you can join in the celebrations (even if virtually at a parkrun or 5k route of your choice). I am encouraging people to wear red, white and blue, the VR colours so we can standout and share the virtual running love.