Digested read: Early start and off to Delamere parkrun for my first of two parkruns for New Year’s Day. It was very nice thank you for asking, and a most excellent way to start a new decade.
You want more? Or maybe you just don’t want to face all those labours you’d been putting off doing until after the festive season had concluded, satisfactorily or otherwise. Well, if you want quantity rather than quality, to assist you in your procrastination feel free to settle down with a hot beverage of your choosing and relive the parkrun adventures offered up by Delamere parkrun, kicking off 2020 in style.
You probably already know all about the parkrun New Year’s Day Double offerings. In case inexplicably you do not, perhaps because very excitingly you are new to parkrun and have all those parkrunning related adventures still to unfold before you like a great red carpet of joy if you just choose to step on it, let me enlighten you. Basically, parkrun 5k takes place on a Saturday. However, each country that hosts parkrun is allowed one ‘special’ extra day – in the UK it’s Christmas Day, when they can put on an extra run because it’s a fabulously fun thing to do. Better still, on New Year’s Day only, parkruns can not only put on an extra run, but it is the one day in the whole year when parkrunners can – if they wish and local logistics allow – take part in two parkruns and have them both recorded. This creates the dizzying possibility of parkrunners galavanting around en masse in local parkrun migrations. I’ve done it a few times now, and it’s really good fun. Stay local and you’ll meet all your local parkrun buddies, go further afield and you get a snapshot of other parkrun communities.
To aid and abet in the planning for New Year’s Day are various fabulous gizmos. On a purely practical level, there is the official parkrun Christmas Compendium, listing all declared extra parkrun events with their timings, complete with explanatory text as follows:
This page shows events who have declared that they’re staging an extra event on Christmas Day and/or New Year’s Day. Please see the event’s own news page for more details. Note that some events choose to operate New Year events at a different times from usual. A red cross means that the team has declared that an event will not take place. A blank box means that the team has not yet decided whether an event will take place. On Christmas Day you can register one result. On New Year’s Day we allow the option to register up to two results.
And that’s great, as a starting point. However, the game changing gizmo I planned my 2020 exploits with is one which uses some technological wizardry to help you work out what’s possible for you, based on your estimated running time and location of origin on the morning. Check it out here – it even covers other parkrun countries. It’s a fun adventure, whether you do one or two, nice way to start off 2020. Initially, my plan was to stay local, and then it dawned on me that if I was game for an early start, there was nothing really stopping me from venturing further afield. Roads would be clear, and I am a nobby no-mates who wasn’t planning on seeing in the new year anyway. I pored over this tool for ages and ages. Far longer than anyone other than a fellow parkrunner would deem reasonable. I am a slow parkrunner so needed generous timings, and also parkrun number two needed to have good parking options in order that I avoided pre-parkrun panic. One lappers and scenic locations preferred. Not grass please, and not too much tarmac. And as I’d be setting off too early to see any ‘on the day’ notifications, parkruns that wouldn’t be too susceptible to last minute cancellations. I know, demanding aren’t I. Amazingly, I managed to whittle down options to Delectable Delamere parkrun, followed by Notable Northwich parkrun. They both looked lovely, and what’s more, were working together to facilitate doing both. Yep, also Delamere is in a wooded area, and that sounds lovely.
For those of you who like to know this sort of thing, according to the official Delamere parkrun website, the course is described thus:
The course starts from just past Old Pale car park, which is on the left a hundred yards past Linmere Visitor Centre. Coming out of the car park and turning left you will see the parkrun start just before a path branches off to the right. Heading down this path you will then turn right up a short hill at marker post 65. Crossing the train line and bearing left you will then turn right at marker post 66. At marker point 62 you will go straight ahead and then, upon reaching marker post 61, you will turn left onto the lakeside path. Keeping Blakemere on your right-hand side you will be treated to stunning views of the lake as you complete one full lap before re-tracing your steps back to the start.
Oh. Not really any the wiser. No worries, never stopped me from taking part in a parkrun before. There’ll be friendly marshals, there’ll be other people who have thought to do parkrun to start the year too. I can follow them. It’ll be fine, what’s the worst?
The worst that can happen apart from forgetting your barcode, is finding the toilets shut. Oh hang on, they will be according to the Delamere parkrun facebook page. All very informative and welcoming and encouraging of double doers, but nope, no loos. Hopefully there will be at least one tree in case of emergencies. Oops. Al fresco it may have to be… Or is it al dente? I get them confused. Anyway, the course looks like this:
Ok, just basically, try not to fall in the lake I’m guessing. Yep, it’ll be grand.
So, I set my alarm for stupid o’clock, and lo, it rang out, and despite having felt like I’d passed another night awake throughout with insomnia, it seems I was jolted awake as it from the slumber of the dead wondering where I was and what was going on! No matter, it was extra parkrun TWICE day, so I soon recovered. Coffee, dressed, and out the door, in darkness. The streets were pretty deserted, just a few party-goers heading home, from Sheffield to Cheshire involves going over the Snake Pass. I was a bit of a scaredy cat about this, as you get crazy drivers there and blind bits where you feel like you are going over the edge of the world up top. Fortunately, it was an incident free drive, and by the time I started seeing signs to Delamere Forest I was feeling VERY excited by the scenery. It had a tolkienesque feel to it, mysterious, misty woods, with early morning light creating shadows, and a strange expanse of other – worldly lake. I could feel my inner smugness quotient rising pleasingly. I had chosen well.
I headed for the postcode for the Old Pale Car Park – which is just past the Linmere Visitor Centre and used the postcode CW8 2JD on sat nav to get there. Which worked. Hurrah. Yes I did have to stop twice on the way for precautionary pee purposes. Once in a 24 hour garage, and once in a layby. Don’t judge.
The car park was due to be open at 8.00 a.m. but when I arrived a bit after that, alarmingly it was very much shut. The only reassurance was that there were already a couple of cars hovering around, each containing within one or more parkrun tourists looking similarly angsty. We emerged from our respective vehicles wondering what to do, and feeling thwarted, also unsure, because everything had looked so very shut the whole way in, and there didn’t look to be much in the way of other options anywhere near – plus where was the core team? Yep, we were early, but often event teams are earlier still, had we got it wrong somehow? One had come straight from a night shift and planned to go on to Crewe afterwards, we’d all come in search of a parkrun double. Good news was that we bonded over our shared uncertainty, and gleaned reassurance from each other, we were in the right place, and the Facebook page had declared the car parks would be open, so we just had to keep the faith. This we did, and were rewarded by the giddy sight of a ranger bearing keys. Not all heroes wear capes. Dear reader, we were IN!
The next challenge, was working out the most efficient way to park in a space with no marked parking bays. None of us were local, and none of us quite sure how to position ourselves. It’s hard being a parkrun tourist. I can’t help thinking that they’d fit quite a few more cars in if they had marked bays, it was all a bit random. Oh well. I got a spot near to the exit ready for a speedy (ahem) get away. I knew you had to pay for parking and it was listed as £2 but that’s just for an hour, if you are an early bird arrival and like me a slower participant, be prepared to pay £4 for 3 hours. I don’t begrudge it actually, fair enough if you are using the facilities, but good to know in advance. My new parkrun best friend, the one with whom I shared angst both over whether the car park would be open and then how to park in it once it was – then spoke for majority of us by saying out loud what many would be thinking ‘and now for the other great per-parkrun challenge – toilets.’ Yep, they were shut. However, whilst I’m not advocating wild peeing per se, lets just say there were a lot of trees in darkness, with soft forgiving pine needles deep littered around them. I think some may have chosen to avail themselves of such forest attributes. Top tip though, leave a biodegradable breadcrumb trail behind you if you are planning on going too deep within, pretty impenetrable in places that forest.
The parkrun start is literally, just by the carpark. Volunteers started parking up past the ‘no entry’ signs, and have little volunteer passes to put on their cars to allow them to do so. The pop up sign, duly popped up, and there were some lovely little local touches like. Ikea bags (other large reuseable bags from other stores are probably available, but the IKEA ones are fairly ubiquitous); a little sign for the first timers briefing, a sign for different finish times to assemble, and a ‘dog start’ sign too. Bit of feedback, there should maybe have been a ‘dog tired’ one too, but not visible on this occasion. My favourite thing though – which is a tough call to be fair – was the lovingly hung up selfie frame, with its own hook from which it could be carefully hung. No being flung carelessly in the mud for this reinforced frame.
Of course I took advantage of the selfie frame! Rude not too, when they’d gone to all that trouble. Shame my head obscures the name of the parkrun, but on the plus side, I’ll be able to reuse the snap when I go to other parkruns and don’t avail myself of the selfie frame ops. Every cloud eh, every cloud.
Despite the early start, and long drive I was really excited to be at Delamere. It had a really friendly feel. It was extremely well organised, and despite the huge turn out (though nothing like as huge as their Christmas Day field of 720) it felt relaxed, so whatever frantic paddling was going on was beneath the surface. The location is spectacular, and the attention to detail impressive. On a ‘normal’ parkrun day, there’d be good facilities too, with a whole visitors centre with I imagine toilets with actual toilet paper and a cafe too – I think it did open around 10 to be fair, but I wasn’t planning on lingering today at least.
I joined the milling and chilling, and oh look, someone in a 50 sash. What’s more this was my parkrun buddy from the carpark. Hurrah, what a great way to do your milestone run, even if you were wishing you’d got more than one safety pin to keep your sash in situ.
A colourful gathering congregated and grew…
In a bit, a megaphone gave a call out for first timers. I’ll be honest, I don’t think every single first timer present bothered attending, but a few of us did. It was a friendly and swift briefing for tourists. Basically, the route was described with the summary advice of ‘keep the water to your right, if it’s not on your right, you have a problem’. Fair does. Then, the solitary identified first time everer, was given a one to one on how it all worked. They had a route map to show people too. I’ve seen these at a few parkruns now, I think they are helpful. My takeaways from the briefing were follow everyone else, there are no marshals on the 3k (approx) loop round the lake so keep an eye out for each other, defibrillator is in the visitors centre and try not to fall in. I think that covers it. Oh, and the paths are pretty wide, so as long as you are realistic about how you place yourself in the starting line up, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about overtaking. It’s effectively a one-lap course. My favourite!
Dogs started assembling at the Dog Start, which was fun, not all did, so I’m not sure how much this is enforced, but basically dogs start at the back here. A few looked to have canicross type gear, and they seemed a well behaved lot, keeping their companion humans on appropriately lengthed leashes.
I love the colours as people assemble. The high-vis team formed a sort of guard of honour at the front. The Run Briefing covered the usual milestones, thanks to volunteers, and then we sort of walked forward a bit to get to the starting line.
Incidentally, did you know that some other parkruns have formed their own New Year’s Day traditions? Nope, me neither. Well, case in point, Colwick parkrun, which is a most excellent parkrun to visit by the way, not least because they always wear Hawaiian shirts – start their New Year’s Day Run with a parkrun communal handshake. How brilliant is that? Rhetorical question, very brilliant indeed! Click on the link above for a video clip of the whole parkrun field shaking hands with one another. Aw, would melt the hardest of hearts I’m sure…
Anyway, back to Delamere parkrun. The start here was a bit peculiar, or at least to me unfamiliar, we all started trundling forward, and then I heard a vague ‘go’ but nothing really happened, we just continued our onward shuffle. I don’t mind about times at all, that’s not what parkrun is about for me, and when I’m touristing I like to jump to one side and take pictures along the way, but I think if you were a speedy runner you’d do well to position yourself further forward, or even as an average runner, pay attention to where you are in the start funnel or you could be a bit boxed in. Those of us who were boxed in though, got to make new friends with others along the way, which is much more fun than sprinting off in glorious isolation in my parkrun world at least! Plus I got to find out which of the runners at my sort of speed were also hoping for a double. That was reassuring. I was determined not to take stupid risks getting to parkrun two, but wasn’t wholly convinced it would be doable at my speed, given the distance between the two, but others in the know seemed confident all would be well. Again hurrah!
Nice though isn’t it? The paths are good, despite the forest location. A bit muddy in places and I suppose it would class as off road, but a good firm surface and there were buggy runners taking park. In fact, as we headed off, to our side, I saw some canine assisted runners, and an intrepid off-road buggy pusher fair sprinting on an alternative track, overtaking most parkrunners with ease. Impressive. I’m not sure if that was an official dog and buggy route, or just an unofficial overtaking lane for those in the know. Good work though people. Almost too fast to be captured on camera! They almost look like they are absconding from the law here, maybe they were? Where better to hide than in the plain sight of a mass parkrun start, and then use the confusion of the off to disappear over the horizon and into the cover of the woods. Makes perfect sense when you come to think about it.
Those of us not absconding from the law, continued along the paths, it’s not a completely flat course, but the inclines were fairly forgiving. Cheery marshals pointed the way. And my, how photogenic and enthusiastic they all were. Voice activated too, if you greeted them with a ‘happy new year’ or whatever, they’d become extra animated. I’ve noticed that many marshals seem to have this interactive feature, and it’s great fun. They respond to positive stimuli like ‘thank you marshal’ or being offered chocolate, mince pies or a high five. It was nice to see them all thriving in their natural habitat here at Delamere, glossy coated, lively and smiling.
On we went, over a bridge with I think a 28 ton limit, which seems huge for a forest path – maybe it’s so logging vehicles can get through. It was a fairly steady pace at the back, and nice for me not to be running out of sight of everyone else for a change. Prior to my recent re-education, I’d go so far as to say that often it’s just me and the tumbleweed plodding round at the back – meaning to reference a place deserted, like in westerns. I think of it as the filmic shorthand for silence or stillness, e.g. as the hero rides into an apparently deserted frontier town. However, I learn from The Guardian that actually, tumbleweed can be almost smothering by way of company, not indicative of glorious isolation at all. Check out these truckers overwhelmed by tumbleweed in Washington State. I know, who knew? Not me, until now. This is a catastrophe, I’ll either have to speed up so I can parkrun as part of the pack, find parkruns with a bigger field so there are more at my pace or, worst of all, come up with another analogy. Oh the pressure!
My regular reader will know I can’t talk and run, so I don’t really like officially running with others as it’s too stressful, but I like the companionable element of running in the company of kindly disposed and friendly others, albeit we lope alongside one another in silence. Delamere parkrun delivered in bucket loads, it was a companionable and friendly yomping ground indeed. Thank you fellow parkrunners all.
Along the way there were a couple of other forest users, who were seemingly enjoying the spectacle of lots of runners. One quipped at me that he had assumed I’d be wanting to take his photo when I whipped out my camera to get a shot of a hidden gruffalo – presumably also on a parkrun tour from Sherwood Pines – so I took that as an invitation to do so. Hello cheery fellow forest goers. They were doing a walk in reverse, and pleasingly, I saw them again on the way back. It’s good when there are positive interactions with non parkrunners at a venue, it feels more of a sustainable community event that way. The gruffalo picture didn’t come out very well unfortunately, but maybe it just didn’t want to be photographed today.
Onwards we went, more marshals. A lot of marshals here had a companion canine. This is Lola, she’s not very old and she was absolutely desperate to join the parkrunners, and completely bemused as to what she and her companion human were doing standing still. She was very sweet though, as was the marshal too of course, but only Lola gave an affection lick to my hand and a look of longing to join me as I departed onwards…
After running through the woods, you eventually find yourself peeling off to run round the lake, or more accurately ‘mere’ I suppose, though I’m not entirely sure what the difference is. Hang on, let me google that for you. Ok so according to bald hiker:
Technically a mere is a lake that is really shallow in relation to its size (breadth). … The word mere comes from Old English ‘mere‘ which meant lake or ‘sea’ in Old Saxon, a broad term for a body of water. Time and many many generations and language differences can make it all more confusing
Ok, that’ll do. Anyway, soon found myself jogging alongside the lake. The early morning sunshine was hitting the water and it looked really spectacular. Sometimes sun broke through and hitting the bracken under the trees turned it almost copper in colour. Simply stunning. The mere has really unusual ecology. By which I mean I hadn’t seen anything like it before. It has a strange mystical look, all moss and submerged trees, you can imagine elves and goblins and trolls and shrek and hobbits and allsorts going about their business here. It is like a setting for a film, and a very special place indeed. My internet research subsequently tells me that Cheshire Wildlife Trust are working at conserving the area and protecting its fragile and very specialised ecology. Good for them.
It was a real privilege to be in the space and yet another example of how parkrun tourism gets you to see areas of the country you might not otherwise think to visit. My photos won’t do it justice, but you may be sufficiently frustrated by how rubbish they are that you are spurned to go and visit for yourself. Don’t worry, the loos will more than likely be open when you go and the location just as lovely. Taking part in a parkrun as part of your visit is not even mandatory, although it is of course highly recommended.
Somewhere along this section I made a new parkrun friend, just as we were going under the Go Ape rope works, which are alarmingly high up. She was explaining about the origins of the flooded forests, which made a bit more sense of the mysterious habitat. Always good to have a well informed local parkrunner on hand to give you the local low down. Thank you new best friend parkrunner! Hope you like the photo! Looking fabulous.
There were one or two spent runners limping homewards in the opposite direction. Not sure if they’d fallen, or just thought the better or running. I did ask if they needed help, but they were walking wounded, calling it a day. That’s got to have been disappointing. Still, there is always another parkrun but a few sleeps away, not worth getting injured for.
‘Suddenly’ I was back round to Lola. Completed disorientated. I have learned I have a terrible sense of direction. I had no idea we’d finished the circuit.
Around this point though, I started to notice a mysterious phenomenon at work. parkrunners coming in the opposite direction. What strange sorcery was this? I was pretty confident I was going the right way. Then it dawned on me, these were parkrunners already finished, who were now embarking on running to their second parkrun. Respect. They were going at a fair old lick, and probably needed to, it was a fair distance to Northwich and I think Crewe was the other possible, though I have no idea where that was in relation to where we were. My bad.
You retrace the path you headed out on, though it looks completely different coming back the other way for some reason. The finish seemed to come ‘suddenly’ I think it might be because it’s ever so slightly further up the track than the start and also you go over a little hump in the path just before it so you there is an optical illusion whereby the lovely finish funnel team materialise as if by magic. Aren’t they lovely!
Through the funnel, quick glance behind to see who’s there:
Not bad eh?
I was a bit distracted by the view, and almost forgot to pick up a token! Can you imagine. The horror. I shudder at the very thought. Fortunately, the event team have apparently run a parkrun before, so I was issued with my finish token, and went on down the funnel to the security gang of four who were ready to corral wannabee funnel duckers and scan you on exit. There would be no messing with this lot, and they were super friendly too, just calm authority oozing outward so you know what you are dealing with. This seems fair!
And that was that. Just the little matter of thanking the RD and the marshals, and then onward bound for event number two.
By the way, Delamere parkrun produced their own run report for the day if you like to triangulate your parkrun info by checking more than one data source. You can access it here Delamere parkrun #342, Jan 1st 2020
It was hard to tear myself away in some ways. This was honestly one of my favourite parkruns to date. And no, I don’t feel too disloyal saying that, as all parkruns are practically perfect in their own way, and although some do spark particular affection, it doesn’t mean I love any of the others any the less, it’s just your capacity for parkrun love keeps on growing. The more you discover the greater it is. It would be fab if it was your local, very nice indeed… Then again, even though the cafe at the visitors’ centre was now open I think – or near as dammit – the lure of another parkrun was stronger. I was soon on my way. Carefully. Max speed of 15 mph in the park, and there were plenty of people around, you don’t want to end a lovely parkrun morning by squishing anyone. No need. I could see others trekking to retrieve their cars and was wondering who I might meet at venue two.
So where next? Oh yes, I remember, Northwich. Bring. It. On! There was even a handy route planner provided on their Facebook page to facilitate movement. In fact, although I did use satnav, pretty much the entire parkrun population seemed to be travelling in convoy between the events, so I knew I was in good company. Hurrah!
And, for your information, some people actually ran between the two. No really, I passed them en route and nearly stopped to offer a lift before I realised by their cheery wave to the car in front that they were doing this evidently on purpose! Blimey. Respect. Even if there is a bit of a short cut, and you are faster through the first parkrun than me, that’s still quite a lot of running to kick off the year. Well done super parkrunners. Awesome. I would say inspirational, but I’m not sure that’s quite true, not planning on emulating that for next year, though seriously impressed.
So that was 50% of my parkrun adventures concluded. Exciting eh?
Thank you lovely parkrunners of Delamere for the warm welcome and fine facilitation at your spectacular venue. Special thanks to the volunteers who made it so. It seemed to run like clockwork from my point of view, and super friendly. I really hope to make it back some day. Til then, happy parkrunning adventures for 2020 and beyond!
Oh, and if you want to know how I got on at Northwich parkrun, you can read all about it here.
I was one of 203 who made that particular double, according to this fab stats New Year’s Day Double tracker. Go on, treat yourself, have a browse.
I don’t know too much about where this originated from but found this credit:
A map showing the parkrun ‘doubles’ that people managed on New Year’s Day 2020. The map is based on parkrun results, so may include errors where e.g. names have been manually entered. Unticking the Events layer makes the doubles more easy to see. Huge thanks to Ian Rutson for providing the base data. Please share freely!
And ‘with me now‘ say ‘Thanks to Charlie Pearce for creating the visualisation and Ian Rutson for supplying the data’ which is good enough for me!
– whatever wizardry created it though, respect! There’s even an international one from Australia to Canada! Hope some carbon offsetting went on…
By the way, 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, and you might be needing to get on with the next decade of your life now, it’s amazing how quickly time flies, it’ll be another decade done in the blinking of an eye!