Digested read: Went to Doncaster parkrun for some parkrun tourism
Ask not ‘Why Doncaster parkrun?’ ask ‘Why not Doncaster parkrun?!‘
Also, did you know the lyrics for the Batman theme tune are actually copyrighted? Here they are in full in case you’ve forgotten them:
Batman, Batman, Batman, Batman!
Batman, Batman, Batman!
Batman, Batman, Batman, Batman!
Batman, Batman, Batman!
Batman, Batman, Batman!
Batman, Batman, Batman!
Batman, Batman, Batman!
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na
Copyright: Lyrics © Original Writer and Publisher
I still think it’s da na da na da na da na myself, but that’s OK, it get’s me out of an awkward breach of copyright scenario, so I’m happy. I’m hoping you were concentrating and noticed the headline for this blog, or you will be really struggling to make sense of the relevance of that information right now. Oh well, it’s good to have a few mysteries to grapple with now and again, keeps life interesting.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, recently, a yomping friend from months ago got in touch a bit out of the blue and suggested a spot of parkrun tourism Doncaster bound. Oh, you don’t know who I mean? The ‘Where’s Wally?’ Yomping Friend (WWYF), hang on, I’ll find a picture. There you go, easy to spot.
We’ve not seen each other all year, and I’m not altogether sure we saw much of each other back in January when we trotted round Longshaw when it was so misty we could barely see our hands in front of our faces. Somewhat churlishly I concede, my immediate response to her approach ‘fancy joining me at Doncaster parkrun‘ was ‘er why?’ Apparently, it is to put a tick in a box. There are various parkrun tourism challenges evolving all the time. For her latest parkrun tourism challenge, Doncaster parkrun was apparently, the missing link.
I love a bit of parkrun tourism, but have slacked off doing the rounds somewhat this year because of focusing on other running challenges. I had intended to get my total to 20 by the end of this year, and I still could. … I have already personally experienced the frissance of pleasure to be gained by doing all six of the designated Sheffield area parkruns and getting your name on the hall of fame definitive list for so doing. I just need to get back at it.
For clarity, and because it’s not obvious, because one at least is not in Sheffield, the six Sheffield runs are listed below. The first links are to the official parkrun pages, the second are my subjective accounts of having visited them, so that should save you any unnecessary clicking exertion if you aren’t interested in either.
- Concord – I’ve only ever run Concord on Christmas Day so far, so have fond memories of the course, but it is confusing, lots of runners going in all directions
- Graves – shh, don’t tell, but this is my favourite of the Sheffield ones, perfect size, friendly, lumpy and animals, gotta love Graves parkrun. Plus, I got a prize for fancy dress there once. They have good judgement that run team.
- Hillsborough – I have been, but not my favourite, three laps, and tarmac. Love that they give the Hillsborough parkrun briefing from the top of a climbing frame though.
- Rother Valley – one lap, but it’s exposed and tough. Friendly parkrun but cafe does spectacularly bad coffee, shame
- Sheffield Castle – oh Sheffield Castle is a hidden treasure of a parkrun. Proper community one, with communal coffee after and lovely meadows. Hilly though. Seriously hilly. Also, no castle.
- Sheffield Hallam – my home parkrun, so Sheffield Hallam parkrun always have my heart, even though it is absolutely heaving these days, and they keep declining my offer to volunteer. Nevertheless, it provides instant catch up opportunities with just about everyone I know in Sheffield in one fell swoop. Hurrah!
Rother Valley isn’t strictly Sheffield, so it’s confusing. But fun.
Anyways, it seems there are loads of parkrun tourism challenges out there. The parkrun tourists aim might take on the ‘alphabet challenge’ all the letters in the alphabet, or the compass challenge (parkruns including north, south, east and west in their names) the staying alive challenge which requires three bees and three gees. I know, genius. I met someone at Graves doing that the other week, nice little touch their using Graves junior to stay alive. See what they did? Clever. Apparently there is a chrome extension app that will highlight running challenges for you. Unfortunately I am technologically remedial, so I have no idea what that means. People recommend it though. Twenty different locations, and you can join the unofficial tourist group and get your giraffe buff and join the giraffe cow-cowl club. This bit of apparel looks quite sinister in this shot, which is a shame, as most serious parkrun tourists are seriously lovely and cuddly and not mean looking, like this image suggests, at all!
You can be a regionnaire by dragging yourself around all the parkruns within a particular district. Doncaster parkrun, is one of the nine required to join the SoYo9 group. I had a little peek using the www.strideandtested.com search tool, and discover, I’m actually only two short of this achievement myself. My regular reader knows I’m quite shallow, so this is a pretty cool discovery. I too have the SoYo9 within reach. With Doncaster done, only Barnsley to tackle and I’m in. Yay! The SoYo9 is basically the Sheffield six, plus Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham. Ooh, I’m liking this. Barnsley is in my sights now.
Sooo, having agreed to go to Donny, first thing is to check out the course blah de blah which tells us that the Doncaster parkrun course:
begins with a 500m run along the footpath around the lake before passing to the left of the finish. From this point it is 3 laps of the park, going onto grass and following the perimeter of the park
fairly minimalist description then. Though there is a picture:
and elsewhere, I learn the parkrun is in an actual park – Sandall Park, Doncaster, with a postcode of DN2 5DW according to the Doncaster gov website or DN2 5DY, according to the parkrun website so that’s confusing. (Hint, go with the latter). Still, on the plus side, it is a park in possession of not only a parkrun, but two cafes and toilets too. Result. Precautionary pee parkrun planning is a priority for parkrun tourism jaunts. Anticipatory excitement officially building – despite the need for a paranoically early start. Doncaster is further away from Sheffield than you might think. I know, I found this out when I was at the inaugural Round Donny Run earlier in the year, but that’s another story…
So the day dawned. I, like Lady Macbeth, seem to have entirely lost the ability to sleep, so was awake from before 5.00 anyway. No matter, I had a very productive couple of hours doing domestic goddess like duties such as changing toilet rolls and putting out the rubbish. I know, Aggie and Kim have nothing on me. My where’s wally yomping friend was also my ride and appeared as if by magic on my doorstep bang on 7.30 a.m. Yes, paranoically early, but we both hate being late.
The drive was pretty straightforward, particularly as I was the passenger and didn’t have to do anything beyond sitting passively observing the rain beating more and more heavily on the windscreen as we neared our destination. Definitely autumnal now. The satnav seemed pretty efficient, and took us alongside our destination park, where we turned right into a path and found ourselves… well, I’m not sure exactly where. Behind a service building of some sort. It was very strange. Cue much rummaging around for maps and directions, and eventually, by dint of the smoke and mirror magic which comes from being in possession of a smart phone (her, not me) worked out we were just parallel to the actual car park. Some nifty reversing and exiting the side road and we were parked up outside the cafe. Well, I think it was the cafe:
It wasn’t looking massively appealing outside, no matter, we were full of good cheer inside, all tucked up in the roasty toasty car interior:
When we pulled up, there was only one other car in the car park, so loads of space, and there was actually another, slightly bigger car park the other side of the cafe. We just stayed in the dry for a bit, catching up on life and then ventured out for the loos. There was one ‘staff only’ loo in the cafe, which we were able to use. The cafe was lively, friendly and colourful. Think greasy spoon menu rather than squished avocado on toast.
Then we had to debate whether or not it was to be a coats on or coats off run. I went with coat on, because it was actually raining at this point. Turned out to be a bad call, but we all know how wonderful hindsight is I think.
We headed in what we hoped was the direction of the start, past a whole toilet block. Hurrah! Parkrun tourists never fear, plenty of provision here for powdering of noses.
The park was full of surprises. Despite the approach being pretty unpromising, you drive through endless miles of utilitarian retail parks to get there, it was a lovely little oasis. A lake in the middle, and some mature trees and a well maintained play area. Even a handy boat, didn’t look like it had been used for any recent rescues, but maybe that’s because the lake was temporarily cordoned off due to blue-green algae. There were some geese. I’m not that keen on geese, and kept a respectful distance, these seemed fine though. Loads of signage and no litter. Very impressive.
It wasn’t immediately obvious where the start was, so I asked some trainer wearing lurkers, which is what most parkrunners look like whilst waiting to join the throng. They were friendly and one said ‘oh, have you come to watch?’ that wasn’t great for my ego, but then again, maybe he was unable to clock my athletic frame covered up as it was with my coat! He explained the course and waved me in the right direction.
Everyone assembles by a big tree, where there is a handy parkrun banner. This not only locates the start, but provides selfie and wider general photographing opportunities. We made the most of it, churlish not to.
Another friendly local offered to take our picture for us, then my Where’s Wally Yomping friend went off to do a warm up, whilst I stood around a bit more and chatted to the hi-viz hero. It’s such a mystery why my parkrun times never improve? She was asking where we were from and what brought us to Doncaster parkrun. I felt my voice trailing off a bit as I explained about wanting to get our name on a random list in cyberspace somewhere. It did sound a somewhat weak justification to the uninitiated. Reader, I should have had more faith. She soooooooooo got it. ‘Oh my god‘ she said ‘that’s brilliant, I had no idea!‘ Love parkrunners. She filled me in on a forthcoming Doncaster parkrun plan to take a 6.03 a.m. train ride to London to do a tourism run at Finsbury parkrun. Genius, why wouldn’t you? It’s £40 all in, including the cost of parkrun 😉 some have been perplexed at the appeal of this in the absence of a medal, but I say bring it on. I’d take an anecdote opportunity over a medal any day, and often you can have both. Point is, of course a fellow parkrunners, particularly a hi-viz wearing hero one, would understand all about the appeal of being a parkrun tourist.
My WWYF returned from her warm up, and we joined the small, but perfectly formed huddle around the RD who was also giving the first timers briefing.
There were a few other tourists from Dunstable or Dundee, or Huddersfield or some parkrun with a ‘u’ in it and one completely new to parkrun person. How exciting! I hope for him it was but just the beginning of the adventure. It’s a pleasing mystery how addictive parkrun can become from the most tentative of beginnings. Well, that was my experience anyway, and I’m not of the view that was unique.
Usual briefing, a course description – it’s one little lap round the lake and then three big laps basically, so you need to count to three. There is apparently a hill you have to run up three times, only it’s not really a hill by Sheffield standards, more an undulation, but in the Donny context a hill it shall be. I was discussing the ‘what constitutes a hill?’ with another cheery volunteer – possibly time-keeper, can’t remember. He conceded those of us that are familiar with Graves parkrun wouldn’t really rank Doncaster parkrun as hilly, but warned that Barnsley parkrun has unexpectedly mean bumpiness too. Good to know, I’m thinking of heading there for their 400th event celebrations and up until this point had been pretty complacent about the terrain. Forewarned is forearmed! That’s another story… maybe.
Back at Donny parkrun, there was more milling and mingling as runners assembled in the rain – which was definitely easing, but I wasn’t yet ready to abandon my waterproof, I’m risk averse on the getting wet front, and as Cheetah buddy wasn’t around to wrestle my top off me on this occasion, there was no-one to save me from myself and my reluctance to disrobe pre run.
Then there was the mass run briefing, this included a warning about hidden holes and a request to pass on the right of the VI runner, so you overtook her guide not her, to avoid spooking her on the way past. Good point actually, I’d not thought of that. We then had a little walk to the start, which was a little away from the finish funnel. There was a mass trek over, it was all very companionable. There was a high road and a low road to reach our destination, I took the high road. Just about the time this was happening my WWYF had another friend rock up. Her local parkrun was Wakefield, but she too was on the tourist trail. Yay! Love parkrun. It’s amazing how long distant friendships flourish through the dual wonders of social media and parkrun. Which reminds me, shout out to Tralee parkrun, not too many sleeps left before I join you all for some international parkrun tourism. Soooooooooooooooooooooooo excited! Point of information, Tralee parkrun have taken parkrun tourism to a whole new level. International flight and coach trip to take a pilgrimage to Bushy parkrun anyone?
I digress. I know, never happened before… where was I? Oh yes, friends meeting up as parkrun tourists. A vision of parkrun loveliness no doubt replicated at parkruns the world over.
We were all assembled, I was faffing, and slightly taken by surprise when the little start stampede indicated the shout had gone up for ‘awf!’ I was in bimbling-along-at-the-back mode though, happy to pootle about taking in the views and photos along the way. I tell myself it’s because I’m still easing myself back into things post my first ever ultra of just a couple of weeks ago (have I mentioned that enough recently) but really it’s because I’m a minimalist when it comes to exerting myself running. Reluctantly, I must concede that having a goal motivates me to try more, without one, my default setting is inert. I need to re-frame my running goals and try a bit harder, but that can wait for another day. Today was just about enjoying the moment. Sorry the pictures are all blurred, but I haven’t quite got the hang of sliding to a full halt before pressing the button on the camera. Ah well, it is what it is. Still memories eh, and let’s be honest, many of the best memories get a bit blurred around the edges over time. I’m just accelerating the process, which is ironic really, as it was the only noticeable acceleration I did en route all day. Oh apart from… no, wait, that’s a spoiler.
Of everyone went, in the rain, and a quick circuit of the lake, and back round to the start where the posse of volunteers were to be seen huddled together for bodily warmth and solidarity. Aren’t they lovely, like meerkats, snuggled up close, but checking out their surroundings alert, and ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice.
I loped along pretty much at the back. It’s a nice course, because it’s three laps, you get to see other runners ahead at various points, which could be demoralising for some, but was photogenic. You might think with it being three laps it might be a bit ‘samey’ but the route was surprisingly varied. There was some on tarmac, some on the grassy edges of a football pitch, a more lumpy bit through, what seemed to be a mini orchard of some sort. There was no opportunity to get lost as there were lots of wet but still smiling marshals, and an abundance of tape marking the course too.
Here are some marshals outwardly damp, but spirits within not dampened at all – the umbrella must have been a boon though, great forward planning there hi-viz hero:
and here are some parkrunners doing their thing:
and here is the orchardy bit. What do you reckon, fruit trees?
The park is pleasing, but weirdly, whatever direction you look out of it from you espy some sort of megastore. Lidl, or KFC or MacDonalds all loom over the green space. Best keep your eyes inwards.
Despite being a nesh southerner, even I started to get a bit warm after the first lap, and increasingly steamy thereafter. If I’d had my wits about me I’d have ripped off my jacket and flung it on the bench by the finish tunnel (which you pass three times anyway) as I came by. I was however on this occasion, witless, so this didn’t happen. For future reference, I reckon this would have been a very fine unofficial bag-drop if you wanted to leave stuff in sight of the volunteers whilst you were off running. Maybe I’m getting a bit lackadaisical about leaving my gear unattended at parkrun, but I’m fairly relaxed about dumping a bag at a parkrun start/finish these days. At your own risk obviously, but I think bad experiences are rare.
I think it was second time round, an ice cream van appeared. These northerners are tough! Ice cream in the rain anyone? Form a queue.
One disadvantage of a three-lap course, apart from the requirement to count and potential sameyness of it all, is that I got lapped even more quickly than usual on my home two-lap course at Hallam parkrun. This can be demoralising sometimes, but here there was plenty of room for overtaking and also plenty of friendly shouts of encouragement from passing runners. Thank you lovely parkrun people. A lot of evidence of adherence to the parkrun code, and respecting everybody’s right to participate in their own way.
This is a small but perfectly formed parkrun. It was easy to strike up conversations with people, and everyone seemed friendly and approachable, I reckon if it was your regular home parkrun you’d soon get to know everyone whether you wanted to or not! Thanks lovely Doncaster parkrunners, you were awesome!
Eventually, I was on my final lap and the finish funnel was in my sights! There was a crack team of volunteers to cheer you in, and my WWYF was also in situ having come in a good 10 minutes before me. Emboldened by their encouragement, I did the unthinkable dear reader, I accelerated for my sprint finish! Yay, go me!
Through the funnel, and I found I was only just behind the true parkrun first-timer (first time ever at parkrun I mean). He was discussing the length of the course with one of the scanners. Turns out he somehow ran 7.5 km instead of 5km. I’m thinking he must have done an extra lap, but on the plus side, he’ll totally smash his pb next time out! Hope he comes back.
The volunteer finish team of timers and funnel managers and scanners were sheltering under the trees. It was like they had established a little colony of marshals. Maybe they do live there all the time, I didn’t ask, and just venture out on a Saturday morning – maybe a Sunday too if there’s a junior parkrun, and foray further out to forage from the little orchard nearby only after dusk, when the park has emptied. Who knows. They did look very much at home in there though.
I lingered to watch a couple of other runners come storming through, most managed to muster the energy for a final burst in response to the supportive cheers of the finish funnelers and timers.
Then there was more milling and chilling as parkrunners swapped running tales and caught up with friends old and new.
Our Wakefield buddy was having to take it easy due to a persistent running injury, but on the plus side, that meant we could both cheer her in when she appeared out of the mist a few minutes later. Check out her sprint finish! Also her leggings. I might have legging envy, though they’d most likely look a bit ridiculous on me.
Reunited, there was just time for me to photograph the climbing frogs, which might not be frogs actually, but ought to be. They look more like mutant lobsters close up, which I think is a missed opportunity for climbing hold designs personally:
We said some farewells, and then it was mission on for post parkrun coffee.
Now, I can’t lie, this parkrun has many merits, but the coffee connoisseurs amongst you should look away now. We adjourned to the cafe, and bumped into other friendly parkrunners – including the guy I’d met at the start, who was now in disguise having removed his coat, but asked me how we’d got on, so that was good. I’d promised to get coffee for my WWYF in lieu of petrol money. Reader, it was ugly. I think if you were after a massive breakfast fry up the cafe would not disappoint, but for coffee, well, I’m just saying it knocked Rother Valley coffee into second place for the recognition of ‘worst post-parkrun coffee offering yet encountered’, securing for itself the hard-fought for top spot. Yep, truly it did.
On the plus side, it made immaterial my erroneous inclusion of chocolate sprinkles on my companion’s cappuccino, that was the least of her worries quite frankly.
We actually abandoned ship, and went in search of other options. Not knowing the area, there wasn’t an abundance of obvious alternatives. Somewhat in desperation we crossed the road to KFC, which felt weird, as a vegetarian, I can’t think when I’ve ever set foot in one of those. In the event, we achieved the, not unremarkable, feat of accidentally getting caught up in the drive in service road as we were unable to find the entrance. Honestly, it’s no wonder I worry about navigation on the hills. Then we found the place didn’t open until 10.30 anyway, and then a helpful member of staff came out to tell us they might not be opening at all, due to a leak or something. Oh.
Given my navigational skills, and the fact I was but a passenger on this occasion, I outsourced the decision-making for where to go instead to my more insightful companions. They made a good team – see how well they are plotting together here:
The upshot was, we ended up heading towards a Costa, which ended up being hidden within a massive NEXT outlet in another sprawling retail park. It wasn’t the most spectacular of surroundings, but at least I was able to uphold my end of the bargain with respect to coffee procurement. Phew.
So we concluded our exploits by swapping running tales and bonding over our mutual coffee snobbery.
It was the first time for all three of us at Doncaster parkrun today. The conclusion was unexpectedly nice park, friendly people, let down by coffee. Yes, yes, we are shallow. Sorry.
Thank you though, for your hospitality and the warmth of your welcome. It was grand to spend a morning with you fine Doncaster people and get to see your hill. Hope to see you out and about on the tourist trail again somewhere sometime (but probably 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday) someplace in future. Those parkrun tourist ticks are just itching to be made…
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