Digested read: parkrun tourism took me to York parkrun, that’s York, UK not York USA. Made new besties and wanna be record breaker for three dimensional plant. I know! parkrun is indeed the phenomenon that just keeps on giving!
Careful now, this could be a long one, might at least want to have a pee first, if not actually settle down with a cuppa. That observation is advisory only though, you need to use your own skill and judgement to carry out your own health and safety risk assessment. I’m sure you’re up to it. Just believe in yourself, and all will be well with the world.
So, as every parkrunner knows, parkrun tourism starts with wondering where to head next. I’m conscious the nights are drawing in, and my enthusiasm for early morning jaunts to far away parkrun destinations may wane as the season ends. Even so, late summer sunshine was forecast, and I’m vaguely working on my alphabet challenge, I mean it is actually impossible on account of there not being an x anywhere in the world – I mean cross flats and Exeter and similar are all well and good, and marvelous as creative solutions go, but they are not the same. Then there’s the little matter of the Zeds all being in Poland or Russia or wherever which would be fab, but not going to happen any time soon. There is a Zeds wholefood shop just down the road from me in fact, they are very nice there, but the shop is fairly cluttered, and I don’t know that they’d welcome having a parkrun within, which is a huge shame as that would be very handy, plus I could get my coconut yoghurt and decent bread afterwards. Oh well. I’ve not got that many letters to go on this particular running challenge, but as I’ve already picked off all the low-hanging fruit so to speak, those I have still to get are increasingly elusive. I’m holding out for an E and a J coming my way soon if the new parkrun rumour mill is anything to go by, Queen Elizabeth is going to be an overnighter somewhere, as is the U, so that’s really leaves just the Y not accounted for. York then, not even that far from Sheffield, I’m not sure quite why I’ve not been there before. I’ll go there then.
First some research.
Ooh, well, I very much like their York parkrun Facebook page profile image – very classy and always a boon.
Let’s just make sure it’s the correct York. There is a York in Pennsylvania which may or may not be quite delightful, but does not have it’s own parkrun – well not yet anyway. These details matter, did you hear about the woman who entered the ‘wrong’ Worcester Half Marathon? It was on the BBC website so it must be true.
Sheila Pereira booked a place at the Worcester City Half Marathon, thinking it was in her hometown of Worcester, Massachusetts.
But the event was 3,200 miles away in the English city of the same name.
Undeterred, Ms Pereira ran 13.1 miles on her own in the US on the same day as the Worcestershire event.
She has been praised by UK organisers, who are sending her a race finisher’s pack including a participation medal and T-shirt
Here she is after her run, all smiles, post run endorphins and fresh faced, athletic loveliness:
Why don’t I look like that after a run? I am more inclined to rock the leaden, lumpy, purple-faced sweaty, ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’ look. In fact I may well have cornered the market for it. I’d settle for looking like that before a run to be fair. Sadly, I think that aspiration is also destined to remain unfulfilled. Sigh. Maybe I just need to get myself a nice running visor, and it will transform me? Probably not though.
That’s lovely – the organisers giving her a medal and all, but I don’t think it would work in quite the same way for a parkrun. Not sure they’d add you to the results even if you had your barcode and a Strava record. Mind you, I’ve not tried, and to be honest, if there was even a fleeting chance they might, I’d consider travelling the other side of the world to do that if it also meant I might be able to secure my outstanding parkrun bingo number at the same time. Well you’d have more control over variables would you not? I’m on 223 runs now, and have had .20 outstanding for months and months now. The frustration! Mind you, I read a post somewhere that said 300 is around the norm. Seriously? Ever wish you’d never embarked on something… although weirdly, one of the things I like about this challenge is that it’s so arbitrary, it’s just a waiting game, there is no advantage in being able to get yourself to some exotic location or other in order to bagsy it. Level playing field and all that. I’m not alone with my running challenges bingo despair though it seems. Just seen a thread somewhere on the same theme. Mighty parkrunners have been driven mad by less! This is bad though – no idea where the original post comes from, but I’m sure it’s true:
Anyway, you are distracting me with all these questions about running challenges, back to the decision in hand. I would go to York parkrun in England, I would bagsy my ‘Y’ and probably not my solitary last outstanding bingo number (which is 20 by the way). It would be fine.
Let’s check out the course info from their official website, erm, the York parkrun website blah de blah describes the course thus:
1.5 laps (approximately) of the tarmac service road around the inside of the racecourse. Very flat, with few turns, making it a very fast course. On course map, start at green pin and head anti-clockwise round service road. Complete 1 full lap, then continue on round approximately another 1/2 lap to red Finish pin
and it looks like this:
Cool. What else. Whoooooooooooooa! Wait, what cruel trick is this. ALERT DEAR READER, ALERT!
Please note that there are no toilets or changing facilities at York parkrun.
What!? What about my compulsory pre parkrun precautionary pee? How is this going to work, particularly after a long drive. Uh oh? This critical detail I remembered, is why I haven’t made it to York parkrun before.
I decided there must be something, there is a holiday inn near the start and I’d pass a garage en route. As the only other alternative is Yeovil in Somerset, which is so far away it might as well be on the moon, I’d have to improvise if necessary. You are supposed to do something that scares you every day anyway aren’t you? The thought of no loos pre parkrun does terrify me, but hey ho, I’ll embrace the challenge. Helps us to grow if we move out of our comfort zone. Where there’s a will there’s a way as the saying goes.
I’d do this dear reader, even if I had to wet my knickers to claim my Y! It’d be OK, but just in case ‘having a will’ wasn’t enough to find a way, then plan b ensured that as I wasn’t using public transport and I’d have a plastic bag to sit on in my car for the journey home if required, I’d got this covered! I may not have quite the ferocious tenacity of Lisa Nowak, but working towards it eh?
So that was decision made. Time to get excited about the prospect of a new destination. To add to my frenzy of anticipatory excitement, I also was the recipient of a much coveted apricot tee. It arrived on the Friday afternoon, all personalised with my home run and everything. I’ve wanted one for ages, but am on a budget so couldn’t really justify it, but then I decided I wanted something special to wear to grace the 15th birthday celebrations at Bushy parkrun in a couple of weeks time. What could be more perfect. It feels lovely to wear, though the fabric is erm, flimsy and a bit, shall we say ‘unforgiving’ any seam of clothing, any wobbly or undulating flesh, any erect – or even positively subdued – nipple will be highlighted once this garment is donned. Oh well. It’s a cheery hue, and makes me feel part of the club. So yay! When I finally rediscover my running mojo and sculpt my body into newly muscled contours I’ll be glad of the fabric I’m sure. Shame that by that time the world will be awash with water due to the ice caps melting and so a) no one will care about what I look like in my official parkrun tee, and b) that extra body fat would have been a real boon to enable me to stay afloat. It just goes to show one should always be most careful about what one wishes for.
That was Friday then, yesterday in fact, and then today’s the day! A quick check of the York parkrun Facebook page to make sure that no unexploded ordnance would stop play as at Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun for example. Not only is that a very dramatic cause for cancellation, it does sound like a made up place too, Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun, hmmm. Now it’s accelerating to the top of my parkrun to do list. Hippest parkrun in the UK I imagine (work it out). No ordnance, all good, off I go.
There was bright late summer sun trying to break through as I headed off through the streets of Sheffield.
Truly a gift of a day, one that rewards you for early rising, I was quite perky as I set off, then as I went through Sheffield centre, I remembered it was also arrival day for students, hmm, coming back would be interesting. Oh well, I’d worry about that later. It was a surprisingly straightforward drive to York, though the morning mist took on fog like density at times, I had my fog lights on as well as my headlights. I stopped off for petrol and pee (I didn’t ingest the petrol, it was for the car) at a service station just on the outskirts of York, and followed the postcode that took me past the Holiday Inn York racecourse, and to Cherry Lane (YO24 1QF) where there is mention of a small carpark near to the start. It was a battle of nerves the last bit, you go into seemingly a residential area, and I wasn’t following signs to the racecourse either – perhaps if you do, you end up parking on the Knavesmire Road where I think there is more space, and potentially – by negotiation – loos too.
For your information, hold your nerve. I thought I’d gone wrong when I saw the drive down to Cherry Lane car park, it was so narrow, it looked like it might just be pedestrian access and lead to a dead end. I threw caution to the wind and hesitatingly crawled down there – not literally, but figuratively, I mean I drove down extra slowly. You emerge from the dense tree lined path to the open expanse of York racecourse bathed in bright early morning sunshine. It looked spectacular, and vast. There was parking, not much but I was early as always, so parked fine. I was also sufficiently early I went to retrace my steps to take a pic of the entrance to Cherry Lane so you won’t be scared away, and also inspected the Holiday Inn. It has to be the nearest accommodation to a parkrun start line ever! I’m surprised it wasn’t heaving with parkrun tourists, maybe it was. They had loos on the ground floor, but obviously it would not be appropriate for me to encourage anyone to use them without making a purchase. Yeah, obviously not.
So there I was. Parked up and all ready to go. The sun was coming out, and burning away the mist. People seemed to be mustering just a few metres away from where I’d parked. Back lit by the sunshine.
I couldn’t see any obvious parkrun hi-vis heroes, but there were obvious parkrunners, and a mighty pilgrimage of people moving in a stream from the grandstand area of the race course. This was going to be a busy one. They really did look like wildebeest on migration, resolutely moving in a seemingly unbroken ribbon across the landscape, only with fewer being picked off by hungry crocodiles en route – well, as far as I could tell anyway.
Perhaps a few were lost, but not so many as would make all that much difference to the numbers. parkrun would go on without them, it’s what they would have wanted I’m sure. I’d want parkrun to continue without me if I fell en route. There is at least one parkrun where it went ahead despite one of the volunteers being locked in the loo throughout. I know this, I referenced it in one of my blog posts, can I find it now though? Rhetorical question, no I can’t. Let me know if you unearth it somehow. Did happen though. These things do, no point in ruining everyone’s parkrunday. Maybe not being eaten by crocodiles en route, but sort of similar-ish barriers to participation can crop up unbidden. I think Cairns parkrun routinely warns runners about crocodiles, but that could be a wind up for tourists – you aren’t going to risk ignoring it though are you? They also have a Holiday Inn on their course route, so York and Cairns parkrun courses are therefore pretty much indistinguishable. Did you know two Londoner’s a day call 999 because they are locked in a loo. Strange but (possibly) true.
*EDIT* good news dear reader, I’ve remembered. It was Maureen, she got locked in the loo (by accident) at Whangarei parkrun, but was liberated by an international rescue team afterwards, so all’s well that end’s well eh! Here they are trying to rescue her, takes a lot of parkrunners apparently…
One run had a lion on their course. A stuffed one admittedly (poor thing, but at least it’s usually used for educational pointers not stuck on some trophy hunter’s wall), but no-one told the runners that. Hilarious! Good on you iMfolzi Trail Run race organisers, what larks eh, what larks? Not a parkrun though, sadly… bet there were a load of pbs anyway though!
There were a fair few tourists, you could tell, by the large number of us posing next to suitable landmarks for photos. This was good though, as it meant I quickly identified my new BFFs for the morning, it’s grand to identify parkrun besties early on. This was a fabulous fivesome from the brilliantly named Sole Mates (see what they’ve done there), they vacated a placard for me to photograph, after first querying if I’d like a shot of them there too. Which set up a companionable photo fest for the run round later when we found we were at a similar pace. They were a hoot actually (cheery wave if you are reading) and I always love seeing proper running club buddies enjoying each others company as much as the run out. They also took a pic of me, looking pleased in my apricot tee and directionally pointing at the sign so you can tell where I am. You can see others doing the same from the opposite side. It’s a well photographed landmark it seems. You know you’ll do the same if you make it there, has to be done… Some things we do at parkrun are almost reflex actions, instinctive.
More milling and chilling…
and then after a bit, someone in a hi-vis appeared and identified themselves as the first timer briefing person. A little gaggle of us gathered around her for the briefing.
Key points was that there are some loos, but you have to ask to access them and they are over the grandstand side. The course is one and a half laps basically, and can get congested at the start so stand clear unless you are going for a time. Also, and I’ve not seen this before at a parkrun, they had some pacers who were specifically run/walk, one three minute run, one minute walk and one alternating walk one minute, run one minute, plus the compulsory tail walker too. It seemed to be very genuinely welcoming of couch to 5k people, run/walkers everyone really. The first timers’ briefing was still finishing off when the official RD briefing started, so we jogged down to join in that. I noticed some high vis wearers had those flexi/ trug buckets you use for gardening and mucking out stables, that kind of things – well I do anyway. I think it was to gather together runners’ belongings so they could be carted from the start to the finish area by a willing volunteer, as they are at opposite sides of the racecourse. I was actually warm enough to leave my fleece in the car, which is pretty much unprecedented, but it was heating up nicely. Good to know for future reference.
Missed most of the RD briefing, but it seemed brief and to the point.
and then it was awf! Quite a fierce start, I just waited and watched until enough runners had piled past I felt safe to enter the back of the throng. The path is wide, but there were a lot of participants, so it was congested at the front, the advice to hang back unless you were serious about going for a fast time was spot on.
Quite a stampede! It was a lovely sight ahead though, the ribbon of colour stretching round the rails of the racecourse and into the sun.
It is a picturesque course, but as it’s all sort of laid out in front of you from the outset, there isn’t all that much to say about it. There are landmarks along the way, the grandstand, the starters pens, poor gee gees, and an inordinate amount of seagulls, which was a bit surreal but made complete sense of the York parkrun Facebook profile pic, it really does say everything you need to know about the parkrun. In fact, you could save yourself the bother of reading on and just have a good old stare at that pic instead, captures it all perfectly. Then again, you’ve sort of committed now if you’ve got to this point, the running equivalent of being in blood stepped so far – maybe in bog stepped so deep on a trail run would be the nearest equivalent. You’re here now, shame to bail now when you’ve already invested so much.
I just joined the throng and loped on round. It’s a tarmac track, with grass to the side, but sufficiently busy that I found myself running on the grass for a fair old way before it thinned out enough for me to slot into the runners on the path again. After a bit you turn round and are running towards the grandstand. It was quite exciting being at a racecourse, even though I’m not a fan of racing per se, it was just such an unusual and striking venue. If you had a decent camera you’d get some amazing pics.
There was a cute dog jogging along
As I was running round, I suddenly spotted something weird ahead of me on the track. No not a lion, but was that maybe a leek? A fancy dress vegetable of some description away on the horizon for sure. I wanted to put on enough of a sprint to catch that up and check that out. And oh look, seagulls! When not flapping about overhead, they line up and watch. Loads of them, no idea why quite so many or why they are hanging out here, but it’s clearly a desirable location.
Plus there were my new best friends coming into view. Well, I was seeking to take some pictures anyway, might as well have my new besties in the frame – if you look carefully, you will see they are even acknowledging me in public with a cheery wave so clearly our friendship is reciprocated! Good to know. Is that a leek though? Hmmm.
After you pass the grandstand area and the starting pens and the York racecourse posh stand entrance you turn the corner past a temporary tented encampment and there is the finish all set up with an abundance of hi-vis heroes in situ to channel everyone in.
Belatedly, I noticed there seemed to be some permanent km markers on the route. They appeared to align to parkrun, though as I didn’t spot all of them I can’t be 100% sure, but I can’t imagine what else they’d be… except that somewhat cryptically, I noticed on the York parkrun Facebook page that there seem to be a number of variant courses – as many as four I think, so it does vary, I don’t know on what basis, you’ll have to rock up yourself and find out.
Round again, back to where you started from. It had thinned out quite a bit by now. This parkrun is either ‘relaxed’ or anarchic depending on how you feel about parkrun rules. I was very much at the back of the pack and the route isn’t really marshalled other than at the finish funnel, otherwise there are pacers and cones to stop you deviating from the fairly obvious route round. However, I noticed leads came off dogs, and short leads were lengthened on others and at least one child on a bicycle. It wasn’t so much that this caused any issues for me or other participants, but I did inwardly raise an eyebrow. Particularly as just when we got back to the start area an older gentleman walking his dog was knocked to the ground by a parkrunners dog. It was quite a tumble and I saw the aftermath rather than what happened. The runner concerned stopped and was massively apologetic, though the man that had fallen insisted he was OK and it was his dog coming over that had caused the boisterous doggy greetings that had sent him flying. It seems basically one or other jumped up and he got knocked over as a result. I stopped too to see if help was needed, but he said he was OK and didn’t need any. It made me feel very uncomfortable running on. I mean it was indeed just an accident, but falling over as an adult is no fun at all, and he wasn’t exactly in his first flush of youth, he’ll be stiff as anything tomorrow if not worse. It made me a bit nervous about other dogs not on leads and the lack of any marshals in sight. I admit I’m getting increasingly wary of dogs these days, I don’t care if ‘they are just being friendly’ they do damage if they knock you down. Still, it seemed a good natured mutually apologetic resolution, thankfully. Could have been very much worse. But it wasn’t, so back to happy thoughts and flowers and sunny days and sharing the parkrun love. I’d lost sight of the leek though, that was a shame.
All round again…
and then finally, back to the finish, and the virtual embrace of the timers and the scanners and all that finish funnel jazz. Thank you marshals.
I stopped my watch and it looked like I’d finished with a .21 bingo time, a tantalising one second off my single outstanding bingo number. I’d have to wait for the results, but it was within touching distance.
As if that wasn’t exciting enough, I then saw my leek man up ahead, striding off into the distance clutching his veg (not a euphemism). Aaargh, I sprinted harder than I had all morning to go find them. I wanted to see what that was all about and thought they might want my few pics forwarding onto them too. After all, we all love a running photo, however poorly framed…
Turns out, it isn’t a leek, it’s quite obviously a white rose. Silly me, a leek looks like this, entirely different. I can’t help wondering if it was disadvantaged by being a leek in an onion class, therefore robbed of first place.
They filled me in on their project which is fund raising for York against cancer as fastest marathon as a three dimensional plant. And why not? What could possibly go wrong? Exactly. You can chip in here to Steve Gaughan’s just giving page if you are a white rose fan, and get excited about Guiness World Records, and why wouldn’t you.
Of course I took some more pictures:
Totally epic. You’d have thought things couldn’t get any better, but dear reader they did! Because along came my new besties and there followed lots of group shot taking in all possible configurations of
leek white rose and new best friends and me and anyone else in the vicinity. You can have a lot of fun doing this apparently. Running in this costume requires a guide and an ability to withstand significant dehydration, it had to be super hot in there, and probably quite stinky over time too, like the wombles costumes, they got ever ranker over the years so the story goes, not sure any of them ever ran a marathon though. Jimmy Saville used to hide in them to ogle young girls apparently, and he ran marathons, I don’t know if that counts but it creeps me out and puts me off the wombles quite a bit which is sad in a way… Is nothing sacred?
Never mind, back to kittens and flowers, or parkrunners and a collective appreciation of a perfect white rose at least. It involved a fair few of us, documenting this auspicious occasion.
Just think, that means I may have been in the presence of a nearly world record holder. Proud moment, proud day! Sigh, I’m quite giddy at the very thought. Meeting them AND a quintet of new besties all at the same parkrun, that’s quite a morning’s haul. Go me! Slow and steady naturally, but going all the same!
I know his official photo in the york press article is marginally better than mine by the way, but you have to concede mine has more atmosphere do you not? (Rhetorical question). I think capturing my silhouette pirouetting in the foreground was a stroke of compositional genius, and I don’t care who says that proves only that I’m guilty of either delusional thinking or cognitive dissonance.
So we tore apart from one another and waved each other on our respective ways. Bye bye lovely parkrun people, I hope our paths cross again on the parkrun tourist circuit, I’m sure they will.
I really hope he walked all the way home in that…
There is supposed to be a coffee van somewhere, but I presume it must have been the opposite side to where I was parked and honestly I couldn’t be bothered to go and look, although a cup of coffee would have been great. Instead I wandered back to say goodbye and thanks to the volunteers and soak up the venue one last time.
I did seek out the RD to mention about the dog incident. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do or if I was just interfering, but then I figured if I was RD I’d want to know, and it was a bad fall. Older people do break things and accidental or otherwise best that such incidents are recorded surely.
I left the volunteers packing up in the autumn sunshine. Thank you hi-vis heroes!
That was that, parkrun done and dusted for another week. Oh, apart from junior parkrun tomorrow of course, but you know what I mean. Bye bye parkrun, bye bye York racecourse.
Oh, and my time came in. Ending in an .18 seconds. I was pleased in a way it was two seconds out, just one second would have finished me off. Also, it just shows how you have to surrender to fate with this one, the chances of getting your watch exactly synched with the time keepers and avoiding the hiccups of funnel duckers or whatever are pretty minuscule. Maybe I should start to change my mindset, and see if I can be the slowest ever to attain that elusive running bingo challenge! Now there’s a thought.
For now that’s all though, thank you lovely York parkrun people for putting a fab show on the road, and especially thanks for being my new best friends Sole Mates of Matlock, you are epic. Fine parkrun York, coming up roses indeed, or at the very least one fine white Yorkshire rose, I do hope that’s to be a permanent fixture… speaking of which, good luck Yorkshire Rose, I’ll be on tenterhooks awaiting the outcome of your record attempt. Exciting times! I say I’ll be on tenterhooks, but actually I believe in you, it will happen, you’ve got this!
If you want to prolong your parkrun fix, you can read all my parkrun related posts here. Or not. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.
Same time next week then? A venue of your choice for parkrunday.