It’s no secret that Virtual Runner’s founder Susan is a huge fan of parkrun, and is a familiar face at many in the Nottingham area – and beyond!
This week, she will embark on a tour of 10 parkruns across the UK and Ireland to mark Virtual Runner’s 10th anniversary, including many she has never visited before (full list at the bottom of this page).
In the meantime, she shares her top 10 parkruns and the reasons why she loves them – although it’s been a tricky feat to narrow it down.
She said: “Every parkrun I’ve attended has been special for different reasons. For some, it is the course, sometimes it’s the people I’ve run with, other time the volunteers have been outstanding or done something unique. Occasionally it’s the post-run experience or café that stands out, or at others I may have just really enjoyed the run on that day.”
The following are Susan’s top picks, in no particular order…
1) Sewerby, East Yorkshire: “I loved this course because the view is so varied all the way round. I went during the summer and got to see the sea whilst running, which was a rare treat as I live in the mid-point of the country pretty much as far away from the coast as you can get!”
“Beeston is where I started my parkrun journey back in 2014. I have run almost 100 of my 300+ parkruns there. It’s the home parkrun of my running club, Beeston AC and quite a few fellow Virtual Runners go here on a regular basis so I am never far away from a friendly face.
“The Wollaton Hall run is another of my happy places and is now officially my home parkrun. I was on the team who helped set this parkrun up and it’s super close to my front door.”
3) Watermead Country Park, Leicestershire: “Because I got a very unexpected PB of a little over 20 minutes back in February 2022. I had the pleasure of chasing GB long distance runner Gemma Steel and chatting to her afterwards. Gemma is a fairly regular Watermead parkrunner.”
4) Eden Project, Cornwall: “Entering the attraction ahead of everyone else (free of charge too for parkrunners!), seeing the iconic domes and running in between beautiful plants was an experience not to forget!”
5) Babbs Mill, Solihull: “A cracking small parkrun near Birmingham, a super volunteer team and post-run pancakes/waffles at a local church cementing the parkrun community vibe.”
6) Sherwood Pines, Nottinghamshire: “This remains one of my favourite places within an hour’s drive. “The parkrun core team here are always in very high spirits and I had some of my best parkrun fun running with friends and Bailey, my dog. Their Facebook page is one to follow as often makes me smile!”
7) Billdalsparken, Sweden: “This was the final of my three parkruns in three countries in four days. You can see the blog I wrote about this here. It takes the top spot as was my favourite course to complete what was a very memorable trip.”
8) East Park, Wolverhampton: “This parkrun really took me by surprise. I went with no plans to meet anyone in particular and I had the best experience. A couple of members of their volunteer team recognised me as the lady behind Virtual Runner and they gave me (and of course VR!) the biggest shout out at the welcome briefing. I also spoke to fellow runners around the course and bumped into someone I know from home too. The endorphins were particularly high after this!”
9) Trentham Gardens, Stoke-on-Trent: “This course is another one that took me by surprise. It’s a stunner and I can really understand why it now draws in big numbers each week. Like Sherwood Pines, the team who do their Facebook page really need extra volunteer credits!”
10) Curly Wurly, aka Somerdale Pavilion, Bristol: “This was absolutely nuts and so much fun. You pretty much run round in circles and are never far away from the start/finish line.”
Susan’s 10th anniversary parkrun tour will take in the following places over the next ten weeks (subject to minor changes):
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.”
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!”
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!”
7th October – Sutton Manor: “The home of the Dream statue/sculpture. This parkrun has been on my list since watching ‘Stay Close’ on Netflix.”
14th October – Ballincollig, Cork: “I have always fancied a visit to Cork and found cheap flights, so what better reason than that?!”
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!”
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!”
4th November – Milton Country Park, Cambridgeshire: “I have never been to Cambridge so decided this was a perfect excuse to head to this area!
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.”
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!”
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 cake/treats to celebrate Virtual Runner’s birthday.”