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Nine is a magic number! East Park parkrun encompassing all the parkrun magic in one perfect park

Digested read:

parkrun tourism took me to Wolverhampton and East Park parkrun.  Bagsied my final compass point and got to run round their lovely park three times in order to do so.  It has a bandstand!  Job done.

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Undigested read:

First off, see what I did there with the title ….  ‘encompassing’ because it’s the last compass point I needed to get my Running Challenges virtual badge in order to join the compass club and get a little green icon to go on my running profile that no-one else will ever see!  Genius.  Look, well worth touristing for:

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Finally, it’s been a project.  There aren’t all that many compass point named parkruns, and those that are may lose their names in the great renaming of parkruns tide that is passing through parkrun, so the acquisition of the badge might yet be temporary.  Even so, I love the Running Challenges, as it helps choose which parkruns to visit, and because of it I’ve rocked up at far distant (to me from Sheffield) parkruns across the country that I might otherwise never have had cause to visit.  Had I not done so, my parkrun life would have been the poorer for such omissions.

Getting to compass point parkruns has been a bit of a challenge (well, clue is in the name Running Challenges perhaps) but despite that, it turns out that this has been a great more achievable than blooming parkrun bingo.  Honestly I’m on 241 runs and counting for that one, which is Stopwatch Bingo – all you need to do is ‘simply’ Collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finishing times, I’ve been trying to get my last outstanding number – 20 for almost a year I think.  I am becoming embittered in between episodes of zen like calm where I try to pretend to myself I don’t really care, and it will happen when I least expect it. Which is NOT TRUE as it feels as if it will never, ever happen to me.  I should be so lucky eh…  Oh you shouldn’t have got  me started on topic, it doesn’t bring out the best in me.

Back to cheerier news, and happier thoughts, like my experience at East Park parkrun today.  Which was lovely.  Also, it calms me to acknowledge that really, achieving membership of  the compass club is by contrast to the pathetic and fickle idiosyncrasies element of chance which haunts and hinders acquisition of the stopwatch bingo badge, a mere formality.  The Compass Point badge requires attendance at just four parkruns, albeit ones scattered across the known parkrun universe.

I’d already done Southwark parkrun, Northallerton parkrun and Beverley Westwood parkrun, so just the Easterlies that had evaded me until today…  All had been great in their own ways, with both Southward and Northallerton involving props and fancy dress, and Beverley Westwood having the most fun mud course and cows.  What would East Park parkrun bring I wondered.  Up until recently – nine weeks ago to be precise, the nearest Easts were miles away, basically down on the East coast and not realistically doable in a day.  I was really pleased when East Park parkrun came on board, much more achievable as a tourist travelling from Sheffield.  I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but until today, it just never quite fell in to place. However, best things as they say, are worth waiting for, and so today was at last, the day.

Ironically, to get my East, travelling from Sheffield, I headed South West.  Didn’t mind, whatever it takes to get that elusive compass badge eh?  East Park parkrun here I come!  I was joining them for their ninth event. By the way, did you know nine is a magic number of cosmic wonder?  For example:

When you multiply nine by any number and add up the digits of the answer, you get 9.
Examples:
2 × 9 = 18  (1 + 8 = 9)
3 × 9 = 27  (2 + 7 = 9)
9 × 9 = 81  (8 + 1 = 9)
234 × 9 = 2106 (2 + 1 + 0 + 6 = 9)

See, most educational, and fun, there’s other stuff too, but you’ll have to read up about that for yourself as I want to get to the topic in hand, which is my adventures in East Park, not to be confused with South Park, which would have been truly surreal as a parkrun venue I’m guessing, not sure how much running goes on there.  The characters aren’t really built for it are they, I’m not sure their limbs have actual joints, mind you, I’d probably fit in just fine, I’d totally go there if it was an option to do so.

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The event takes place at East Park, Hickman Avenue, Wolverhampton ,WV1 2BS. See Course page for more details.  Oh all right then.  So the course, well, according to the official East Park parkrun website blah de blah it is described as:

Three laps around the perimeter of the park, starting near the Sutherland Road entry to the park near the bandstand and football pitch, and finishing by the bandstand at the centre of the park … Toilets available in the same building as the on-site cafe, free to use, and a children’s play area is close to the finish.t

Not overly complicated, and I like the idea of a bandstand too, that will be nice, not done a parkrun with a bandstand in ages.  Not over keen on three laps bit, but then again, more opportunity to wave at marshals on the way round I suppose.

And it looks like this:

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So it was, I was woken up at stupid o’clock by my alarm, blinking into the darkness.  What was I thinking?  Oh yes, parkrun day.  Up and off.  It was dark, and blustery but compared to wind speeds causing cancellation chaos elsewhere it was relatively benign.  It is a looooooooooong way to Wolverhampton though. Did you know Wolverhampton is a City by the way? I did, but it seems it’s news to some if the launch of the Town of the year’ competition in Wolverhampton is anything to go by… Technically, apparently Wolverhampton is eligible for towns funding if you want to be pedantic about the story, but even so…

Anyway, the cheapskate in me avoided toll roads going – not a bad move as the roads were clear, but it’s a convoluted drive, and I went wrong a couple of times along the way so was glad I’d allowed extra time.  At one point, the road I was planning on taking (A5) I think, was inexplicably closed, completely, with no indication why or any diversion signs.  Oh crappity crap crap.  I noticed the car ahead of me brake and hesitate on seeing this too, before moving on confidently.  I made a split second decision to follow them as they seemed to have a plan.  It turned out to be a good call, i have no idea where I went, and my satnav was furious with me in a passive aggressive way constantly telling me to u-turn when possible, but I ended up seeing signs to Wolverhampton and my Sat Nav came round to thinking East Park was in fact navigable from where we’d ended up.  It was nerve wracking though.  I don’t have a smart phone, so it wouldn’t have been easy to come up with a back-up plan. I was mightily relieved not to be in a hurry.  I did have a moment of insight though that such tourism trips are a kind of madness, it is too far to travel in a morning ‘just’ for a parkrun really.  … Except then afterwards, I feel that was totally worth it, and tortuous drives and early morning starts are long forgotten.  It is the parkrun tourist way!

It also looked like it would be a bit of a nightmare congestion wise on the return journey… As is often the case, just as I was losing confidence that I was in the right place, the satnav took me to the perimeter of East Park.  There were exceedingly magnificent gates which are the access point.  This is one impressive Victorian park, the gates were just the start.  Sorry the photos are all dark again, it was quite a dark morning to be fair, but also, my camera can’t seem to cope with those lighting conditions, nor indeed high vis or if it’s too sunny, so a bit rubbish really, but you’ll get the general idea, and maybe that will tempt you to go and find out for yourself.

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There was indeed loads of parking, including within the park, which is what I opted for after talking to a friendly marshal.  The only issue in parking inside, is that the park gates are locked for the duration of parkrun, i.e. until the tail walker has come through, for the safety of participants.  So you won’t make a quick getaway if you are a speedy runner.  However, that’s never an issue for me as the post parkrun faffery is part of the whole parkrun package as far as I’m concerned.

Parked up, I went for an explore.  I can report dear reader they have a community cafe building complete with lavatories and it’s open before parkrun.  Also, that parkrunner tourist in pink, she’s a hero.  Just saying.  The photo may be blurred, but her ethical code is crystal sharp.   Thank you for saving my parkrun day 🙂

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I availed myself of the facilities, but it nearly ended badly.  The person coming into the cubicle after me called out because I’d dropped my barcode wristband!  Oh the horror, I have spares, but even so, that could have gone horribly wrong, especially as it was apparently balanced precariously near the rim of the loo.  How she would have handled the situation if it had toppled in I’m not so sure, nor am I completely confident of what I would have done had the situation been reversed, you like to think you’ll do the right thing, but we mustn’t judge, if we haven’t experienced the full horror of that scenario for ourselves how can we ever really know?  If you’d seen a fellow parkrunners barcode wristband within, would you have plunged your arm in in a selfless retrieval manoeuvre, or turn a blind eye, do your ‘necessaries’ and flush, hoping desperately if wouldn’t be a floater (and for the record I think it probably would be) and so you’d be passing the problem down the line for the next cubicle user, who might think said wristband was yours!  Oh the horror!  Is it possible I over think things I wonder, I’m genuinely traumatised at the very thought…

Still, I was very relieved to be reunited with it.  Mysteriously though, I also lost a glove.  Only a cheap one with holes in the fingertips from where I’ve worn them gardening, but a blow all the same.  I have a horrible feeling I dropped it at same time as my wristband barcode as that must have come off when I took my gloves off.  I can’t help wondering if that did make its way down the toilet cistern and is even now the tipping point in creating a hooking up point for a fatberg to gestate in the sewers beneath Wolverhampton.  I really hope not, that would be a terrible legacy.  I shudder at the very thought…  Not felt similar levels of guilt since i lost a helium balloon on a milestone run.  Littering the countryside still.  I do litter pick, but I’ll never take a balloon outside again, the damage they do

Phew, have wristband barcode, will be parkrunning.  I saw little figures in hi-vis darting around the park with signs and cones and other parkrun paraphernalia, setting out the course, possibly via a quick go on the swings in the playground.

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It’s never a given whether you can find the start at a new parkrun destination, but here the bandstand provides an obvious focal point for gathering, and gather parkrunners a-plenty did.  176 to be precise, though it felt like more with lots of volunteers and supporters too.  It’s a newish parkrun obviously, but it all went extremely smoothly, and it seemed friendly, though a lot of people I spoke to were newbies too, either to East Park or to parkrun altogether – the latter of which is always really exciting I think!  Oh the joys that will now open up ahead of them, their Saturdays will never be the same again.

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There’s not an official bag drop, well there never is to be fair, but it seemed accepted practise to leave things alongside the bandstand area, but you could leave them near the finish funnel I suppose, or do as I saw others doing, and lob your worldly goods and successive outer layers of clothing at one of the marshals as you run by.  You get three goes at throwing things at any given marshal point, so that’s up to three extra layers you could potential rid yourself off on the way round.  I can’t promise they’ll all welcome it, or indeed that any of them necessarily have a good catch, but I noticed a couple of clothes horse marshals who seemed to have acquire whole jumble sale tables worth of stock by the end of the parkrun!  Probably more polite to avail yourself of this informal service if you are a known regular.

I don’t think there was a separate first timer’s briefing, if there was I missed it, but the Run Briefing was fairly thorough, and pleasingly easy to hear as it was delivered from on high.  It’s a brilliant venue for a parkrun, and definitely a boon for briefings to have that view from on high.  I must be getting old, well I am, but one manifestation of this is I’m getting so worn out by people who insist on talking or even shouting through run briefings I just don’t get it.  All attentive here though,  so that was good.  I was inspired to take a selfie, which I don’t normally, because they are so soul destroying when you see them later, but this one came out ok!

Usual thanks and shout outs during the briefing.  There was though a potentially awkward silence in response to the call out for ‘any milestoners here today?’  Fortunately, the silence was filled by a parkrunner who actually did her 50th last week, but forgot, so she got a massive cheer for being at her 51st.  I liked that, it was fun!a

After the briefing, there is a group migration to the start.  The start sign was definitely in motion, I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that some parkruns are in the habit of shifting the end points of their parkrun (taking it further away just as it comes into view if you don’t keep an eye on things) but was surprised to see how brazen they were at the start here!  I quite like group walks to starts, it’s somehow companionable.  And it’s fun seeing everyone in all their colourful tops streaming out ahead.

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It really wasn’t very far, and we were soon all lined up next to the start banner, I noticed that they seem to be using the volunteer app at this parkrun, as the timers had their mobile phones all primed and ready to go.  I tried to get a photo of the start, but it was rubbish, so I’ve stolen one from their facebook page which reflects the set up way better, look:

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Here are mine by way of comparison, pitiful I know.

I rest my case.

I slotted in somewhere towards the back.  The paths are wide, and although it’s a three lapper, it didn’t feel crowded, and as long as you basically kept leftish there was plenty of room for faster runners to overtake.   It’s all tarmac paths, and pretty much flat I’d say, well certainly by Sheffield standards, a few bumps maybe.   A good cross section of runners, but a fair few who I think were new to running or first timers, so it felt like an inclusive event.  A scattering of tourists identifiable by the cow cowls, and local running clubs and national informal groups like Run Mummy Run.  Lots of parkrun apricot and milestone tees too, so plenty of people who’ve been running elsewhere before East Park parkrun came into being.

I liked the route.  There’s lots to look at. This is a mature and well managed space.  Some of the trees are huge and must be pretty old.  The gateway I’ve already mentioned, but there are other features too like exercise equipment, and different views of the bandstand.  It’s not dull at all.  Best of all, there are fab marshals to cheer you round.  I try not to have favourites obviously, but I have a soft spot for the two next to the zebra crossing at the gates.  The gates were safely locked now, no escaping from this route.  I like to think they don’t unlock them until they know every finish token has been accounted for at the conclusion of the run.  These marshals were pleasingly interactive, and seemingly having a good time too.  Also, I just love the idea of runners responsibly running over the zebra crossing, no jaywalking here.  Although I was slightly disappointed not to be able to capture a foursome doing a better recreation of the iconic Beatles Abbey Road crossing.  This is the best I could do.  Remember dear reader, sometimes it’s the thought that counts.

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Because you go round in a complete circle, you get to see how the light changes everything in the park.  There were some lovely moments, when I turned a corner and suddenly from being all overcast and gloomy, the sun was pouring through a gap in the trees and it looked genuinely gorgeous, and felt quite erm, countrysidey even, which is weird as it is most definitely within a very urban setting, surrounded by roads and adjacent to an industrial park.

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See, lovely!

And I liked it when you head up the mini hill and into the trees – taking up the high five option if you wish on the way through.  Personally, I never pass up the opportunity for such a power boost, always appreciated, thank you marshal!

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At the end of the first circuit, you go past a guard of honour, as the RD and his entourage, who would be moving up to the finish funnel area in due course, are cheering runners round. This was excellent.  I do like a squad of cheerleaders en route. Just a bit of what I hope will be recognised as constructive feedback, they maybe could have done with a couple of those enormous pom poms to shake at us, and possibly co-ordinated leotards and legwarmers might be an idea further down the line.  Basically the workshop dance outfits worn by the original cast of the FAME TV series would be about right in my opinion, but on the whole, great effort!  Seriously, loved that, it gave a welcoming and enthusiastic vibe, and I got a sense of a team that worked together well and was sharing the parkrun love.  Thank you team!

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before you know it, you are romping round the back of the bandstand again.  And past where it all began and there is a handy ‘caution runners’ side, to alert other park users to the shenanigans unfolding in the vicinity, not because runners are especially dangerous or unpredictable as far as I’m aware.

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Round again, this time noting the formidable looking exercise equipment at intervals if you fancied doing some cross training at any point.  Maybe at the end of the run rather than in the middle of it, but your call, as long as you make the tail walkers aware I suppose – high fives still available for lap two…

and then I took what I think was among my favourite shots of the day:

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I think because that’s very much how the park was.  Good tarmac path, lots of parkrunners doing what parkrunners do and flanked by amazing tall trees in a green oasis amidst houses and industry.  A proper parkrun.

As a more, erm, sedate runner, I got to pass the finish area again when it was very much in full working order.  It was fun watching the speedier finishers being cheered on through, and I was impressed at the patient queueing and good order in evidence in the finish funnel.  No funnel ducking here!

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Ding ding, round three.  It had thinned out by now, just me and a few others romping round, that meant we got the undivided attention of marshals as we passed them. It’s great for your self esteem to be cheered as you go about your parkrunning business.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we whooped and cheered each other in all contexts, just for being there and giving it a go?  Such a shame that to routinely big up your colleagues with enthusiastic shout outs every time they contributed to a planning meeting say, would have you sidelined and marked down as eccentric at the very least.  Unsolicited praise and celebration of just being part of something should be welcome anywhere.  Maybe this feelgood influence gave me the confidence to take a mid-run selfie.  Not something I generally do, but it came out ok, I’d even go so far as to say I’m quite pleased with it!  No wonder I look so surprised…

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This was a noticeably supportive parkrun I’d say.  I don’t know if that’s because its new and enthusiastic, or a reflection on the ethos they’ve set or just that as a smallish parkrun they know one another but I got lots of support.  Departing runners who’d finished clapped others still on their way round, overtaking runners called out supportive comments, and it’s the only parkrun I’ve been too in a very, very long time, where I could actually hear the whoops of encouragement being generated in the finish funnel area from the other side of the park!  No really, I’m not even exaggerating for comedic effect!  Very impressive, and from my perspective at least, very much appreciated too.  Thank you lovely marshals all.  Here are some, being lovely.

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Eventually, following the noise of wildly cheering parkrun supporters I was in sight of the finish funnel, and off I went.  Is that a familiar face I see alongside?  Still can’t stop now

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Except I can, because I’ve now started stopping to capture a shot of finish funnels just before I go through. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t put the brakes on if I was in front of other parkrunners, I do check first.  However,  it’s quite fun getting that picture and then sprinting on through.  I mean look how encouraging they all are:

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and through I went.  The only problem was, that my stop before the funnel did create some confusion as I then went through ‘oh are you actually running then?’ queried the timer, it’s doesn’t reflect well on my levels of running effort that this wasn’t immediately evident, but no worries, timer was clicked and situation quickly rectified.  Time to snap the volunteers as I passed through though:

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I got confused (doesn’t take much) about where the scanners were, because I was looking for people with lanyards and the (now) old fashioned scanners, but it’s all mobile phones here, and the Run Director was multi-tasking as a scanner, so he did the honours.

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and then that was that.  All over,  lovely!

There were still parkrunners coming through so I lingered and loitered a while soaking up the scene, it’s a very picturesque parkrun, love the trees that frame shots and the bandstand.  You can see them sorting and counting the finish tokens back in as well.  Team work again, loving the team work.

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And whilst loitering, good news, here was indeed a familiar face!  My new best friend from Delamere parkrun on New Year’s Day. She’d been wearing a sash to mark running her 50th parkrun, and now here she was, sporting the actual milestone tee!  How fabulous is that, and what were the chances.  Her regular parkrun is Isabel Trail parkrun, which has been cancelled for flooding for what seems like weeks now. I was quite lucky I chose to run it when I did.  I was really impressed how quickly she got her t-shirt.  Result, and worthy of a photograph methinks, you can compare and contrast.  She’s the one in the red milestone 50 tee, in case you are suffering from any confusion.  Well done – grand to cross parkrun tourism paths once again!

and that was that.  Nothing left but the post event clean up.

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I investigated the cafe for post run options.  I bought a coffee to take away, which was only a pound, and to which they added milk to my exact requirements from a rather elegant metal milk jug.  However, there was nothing vegetarian so I didn’t stay.  Quite a few did though, and it looked good value if somewhat restricted, think generous sausage and egg sandwiches on sliced bread and instant coffee.  Friendly though, and seemed cosy.  I noticed signs to other cafes on the adjacent industrial estate too, so I think there are lots of choices.

Then time to go home.  Always sad to say goodbye.  It’s too far for me to realistically come back up, but it is one that I’d happily return to.  This parkrun definitely scores above average points for its welcoming vibes and vocal en route support.  Honestly, I’ve never experienced such sustained cheering at a finish, I think they made every participant feel like a champion!  Quite right too on one level, all parkrunners are awesome, but even so, a brilliant experience. Thank you 🙂 .  From a tourist perspective it is also particularly brilliant that it has pre parkrun car parking and peeing equally well catered for.  Phew.  Oh the relief, in every sense.

Home, and I didn’t fancy battling the route I came so opted for the M6 toll route, fondly imagining it would be £1 or so.  In fact it was £4.20!  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!  However, it was fun as a new experience for me, empty well maintained roads with no litter, and when you go through the toll booth thingy, you get to feel like you are in the starting blocks for whacky races, so I enjoyed the novelty of that. That’s a lot though, way more than I expected.  I’d rather have spent the money supporting the cafe in East Park, but then again I couldn’t so I only spent what would otherwise have gone on breakfast I suppose…

Verdict then?

Totally worth it.  What do you mean what about the stupidly long drive and getting up in the middle of the night?  The event delivered in it’s own right, and getting East was but the icing on the cake!

So yes, it’s shallow, but now my badges look like this.  Check out that Compass Point top middle(ish).  Totally yay!

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So thank you East Park parkrun for your warm and vocal welcome, your excellent nomenclature which lured me over to you in the first place, and to everyone who was there today contributing to making the parkrun magic happen.  You are all superstars.

🙂

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.  Your choice.

#loveparkrun

 

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