Digested read: parkrun tourism took me and my parkrun co-tourist to Bradford parkrun. There are lots of parkruns around Bradford, but this is the one with the ‘teeny tiny hill’. And a bandstand! Hurrah. It’s in Lister Park. They have classy benches there it seems.
Well this trip was particularly exciting! Not just the prospect of journeying from Sheffield to Bradford, which would be a cause for giddy excitement and anticipation on any day, but the prospect of doing so to rendezvous with a relatively new convert to parkrun. Inexplicably, it’s taken my friend a little while to discover parkrun, I’ve been drip-feeding her for years – but you have to let people make the transition from bemused outsider to enthusiastic convert in their own time. Better late than never, and they do say, the best time to join parkrun was 15 years ago, the second best time is next weekend. Anyway, this weekend she demonstrated just how far she’s come in embracing the parkrun concept, by contacting me to say she was going to be away in Bradford this weekend, and why don’t I come up and join her for a tourist run. This is hugely significant, because she has now officially recognised that there’s no point in being away anywhere for the weekend unless you check out the available parkrun options. She has also noted that of course I’ll get up at stupid o’clock to come and join her. Also, it’s ‘proper’ tourism, because instead of going together, or travelling from home, this involved an overnight trip. This is brilliant news, it opens up a whole new world of shared adventures, ‘nipping across’ to parkrun places – I’m hoping worldwide even one day – in the quest to complete a running challenge or discover a new parkrun community. So. Much. Fun. AND I’m so excited! I just can’t hide it. As I think may have been said before somewhere, sometime, but has never been more earnestly meant than here and now. Hurrah!
So we agreed to go to Bradford parkrun…
It was just a couple of days before, that it dawned on me, there are a fair few ‘Bradford’ parkruns, like Sheffield, it is blessed with a few that might reasonably be said to fall within the environs of the city:
What’s more, some have epicly brilliant names. How often do you get to hear of a place called Myrtle? That’s right, not nearly often enough. There’s a Harry Potter themed challenge potential if ever there was one, that, then The Pastures parkrun, loads more I’m sure. And didn’t Horton find a Who? That’s would merit a special trip.
Presumably Bramley is lined with fruitful apple trees, year round, albeit cooking ones. I mean the possibilities are nigh on endless. Well, maybe not actually endless, but at least reach double figures. This is indeed a parkrun hotspot. Oh well, no worries, I guess I’ll just have to keep coming back for me. The important thing was we did both rendezvous at the same parkrun. We did some research, poring over parkrun course descriptors – planning is part of the fun for such excursions after all. In the end, we went with the ‘obvious’ i.e. the titular Bradford parkrun – for now, though it is actually in Lister Park, so I suppose it’s theoretically possible it may yet be swept up in parkrun namechangegate. This phenomenon is sweeping the country and causing much consternation to some. Honestly, I find it hard to mind too much, as I use the running challenges just as tool for choosing somewhere new to go really, though I think if I woke up and round all my lovely virtual badges vapourised I would be devastated, if it’s just the odd one or two that need rethinking I can live with that. It does make sense though that some parkruns change their names as multiple new venues come on board, some with a greater claim to the name of their nearest centre of population. For now though, this is Bradford parkrun, and that’s where we’d head. I don’t know what Lister did to get a park named after them. Invented Listerine mouthwash perhaps? Patient Zero for Listeria? I was confident all would become clear. parkrun can be most educational like that.
I did the usual Facebook page stalking and was hugely impressed to see that only the week before our visit, the tailwalker completed their duties whilst knitting. Excellent multi-tasking there, and taking inclusion to a new level. Crafty indeed. I don’t know what she was knitting, but I like to think it might have been a knitted scanner holder. I saw them at Barnsley parkrun on their 400th event and the concept blew my mind! Inspired. I’d be equally happy though if she was knitting parkrun protective headgear/ fancy dress as disported at Great Notley parkrun a while back. I may never know, but that’s a boon, I can let my imagination run riot! Look! See how talented and creative parkrunners can be nationwide:
Anyway, enough of knitting although perhaps it’s good to know you can knit en route if you wish. This doesn’t apply to me though, I’m not a knitter, I can barely sew a button back on, to tell the truth, well, not without being grumpy, still, perhaps for you dear reader, it’s a clincher for you in picking your parkrun destinations. So, back to practicalities, according to the official Bradford parkrun website course description blah de blah, the course is described thus:
We are lucky that the paths in Lister park are so wide, smooth and well kept making an excellent course for running. The course starts by the fossilized tree along past the bandstand and the beautiful Cartwright Hall, through the formal gardens and past the mughal water gardens before turning left down a long gentle downhill path towards the entrance to the park on Manningham Lane, you then turn left again on a beautiful long meandering slightly downhill path, past the large playground – great for kids to play and cheer you on as you fly by! then up the teeny tiny hill to the fossilized tree again. It’s 3 laps then past the bandstand and to the right to a glorious finish on the elevated section just above the bandstand.
I do like the sound of a parkrun with a bandstand AND a fossilized tree, don’t see too many of them out and about. I wonder how tall it is? I’m hoping for something the size of a giant redwood, that would be cool. And as for a teeny tiny hill – well, it’s teeny tiny, so probably hardly registers even as a speed bump for those of us used to trotting round Sheffield parkruns.
It looks like this:
Three laps though. Not over-keen on three lappers, but, then again it’s situated in the lovely looking Lister Park which even mentions Park Run (sic) on their website amongst activities available. They may not be able to spell parkrun (aowalc) correctly, but at least they understand it’s dizzying allure. However, the absolute clincher, was checking out the Refreshment Room in the Cartwright Hall Museum which, their website states authoritatively, is open from 8.00 a.m. on Saturday. This means loos, and even potentially pre-parkrun coffee which I don’t normally do, but if arriving as a tourist paranoiacly early is definitely good to know. You dear reader may feel likewise. That’s settled then.
So the morning dawned, and it was the calm before the storm. Bracing, but – for now at least – still. I left Sheffield around 7.15. It wasn’t the nicest drive, I got mightily confused with the road layouts as I neared Bradford, multiple lanes of traffic and ‘just-in-time. guidance from my satnav that would be more accurately described as ‘easy to be wise after the event’ guidance. I was glad I’d allowed lots of extra time, as I did a few unintended diversions en route.
The approach to the park was, erm, without wishing to be rude, unpromising. Apart from driving past the Alhambra theatre building which is A.Maz.Ing. though I wasn’t sure if it was still operational as it had a rather shut up look – not unreasonable at 8.20 on a Saturday morning I suppose… However, ‘suddenly’ I found myself turning into North Park Road, and discovered I was alongside a glorious, mature park, a green oasis amongst the urban surrounds. Very soon you pass some exceedingly magnificent gates, and get a sneak preview of Cartwright Hall, which you get to run past later on. It’s very impressive. Ooh, I’m going to like this.
Now admittedly it doesn’t take much to confuse me, as I’m not over-confident driving to new places. You need to hold your nerve to find the carpark, I didn’t find the signage particularly intuitive. Also, there is a massive NO ENTRY sign on the left hand lane of the carpark entrance, with those metal spikey things that basically impale your vehicle if you attempt to drive over them. I don’t really get why they were there, because you just drive through the unbarricaded lane on the right hand side, but it was a weird layout, and made me feel as if I was going the wrong way down a one-way system. Fortuitously, as I pulled in, I espied my parkrunning friend from Victoria Dock, who’d come by bus from her hotel in Bradford. She’d already checked out the car parking area, which is just above the bowling greens, right adjacent to the start. Parking was free, which was a surprise, and although not by any means a huge parking space, there seemed to be ample. I think the majority of attendees were genuine locals who’d walked in. Always a relief to park up.
talking of relief, we strode out in search of the cafe and loos with high hopes and high spirits. HOnestly, my worst nightmare is arriving as a tourist after a long dry to find no pee points are available. We headed towards the hall past a very fine stag statue. and took time out to pose by the helpful poster that was clearly put up in anticipation of our visit as we are both precious and rare indeed. That selfie just had to be done…
We circled round the hall, debating the relative merits of stretching as we did so, and whether or not it’s helpful for running. She’s a disciplined stretcher, does yoga and everything, where as I am about as committed to stretching as I am to foam rollering. I have a foam roller I bought about 6 years ago still in its cellophane… As I understand it the evidence base isn’t that strong in favour of stretching, and in fact stretching before a run can increase risk of injury – though a warm-up is a different thing and generally thought to be a good idea. However, for those who find it beneficial, feel free to crack on, and to show my sincerity in support of stretching, I’ve even managed to source this excellent video of an innovative stretch routine in case of interest. You’re welcome.
So, we circled the building in search of the refreshment rooms and with it access to their posh loos. I was imagining pre-warmed toilet seats and fluffy white towels. Well dear reader. CATASTROPHE. We found the entrance to the cafe, but it was very much not open, and it was almost 8.40 by now. Other tourists likewise appeared, wearing their cow cowls, and we all stood in a line together, blinking at the extremely closed doors. There was a light on within, but no-one at home. Uh oh. This was not a good start. A local materialised, and informed us that ‘unfortunately, it can be a bit hit and miss with the cafe and its opening hours’. Aaaaargh! There are some alternative toilets the other side of the park, but these are currently shut due to vandalism. I’m shamed to report that desperate times called for desperate measures, and I may have resorted to nipping behind a tree and anointing the grounds with some shame. I mean, it’s no worse, indeed very much better than what most dogs do, but it was such a well maintained park if did feel disrespectful. I didn’t really pass any alternative stopping places en route either, so if you are coming a fair distance, arrive prepared!
A panicky al-fresco precautionary pee isn’t the best preparation for parkrun, so I feared i was in for an uncomfortable run. Oh well, here now, an I was hoping a lot of my need for facilities is psychological. One way to find out. We also clung to the hope that maybe the loos would open shortly, and as we’d pass the cafe three times, if absolutely desperate you could nip in mid-parkrun. They didn’t, you couldn’t.
We made our way back to the start, passing marshals heading out to their spots. How exciting, the parkrun party is most definitely building. This park is truly spectacular, with impressive features like the fabulously substantial bandstand, and a boating lake, with more statues of the great and good and various beasts (lions as well as the stag) than you could shake a stick at.
Volunteers and runners were starting to assemble, and there was an upmarket coffee van serving up superior coffee and various snacks. I’m not sure if it’s there every week, but it was doing an ok trade pre run and a positively roaring one afterwards. One fun thing about this particular parkrun, was the number of bespoke signs, early warning of the teeny tiny hill, but also various spots on the course have their own names. There is Tony’s Turn and Arthur’s finish and a helpful one to remind parkrun participants that they are ‘awesome’ just when it is most needed on the teeny tiny hill. This is the parkrun that thinks of everything. Care and creativity have gone into course signage. Loving your work Bradford parkrun core team, good job, well done!
Loving the personalised high-vis too. Epic.
There was a bespoke sign for first timers too, but honestly, I’m not sure if there was an actual first timers briefing, as by the time we’d implemented emergency precautionary pee protocols we were a little late to the party, and people were starting to gravitate towards the start, which was a shortish stroll away, towards the fossilised tree. Which, spoiler alert, is not a tall giant red wood, but a stump. Still impressive, but my expectations hadn’t been managed all that well in this instance. Less traumatic than no loos, but worth a mention all the same.
So we were gently shepherded down a gentle slope to the start. There was a pretty good turn out, I overheard volunteers guesstimating the numbers ‘350, it’s always 350′ one said with considerable confidence. In fact, I can report that it was 508. Wow, that’s quite a lot actually. You’d think it would feel crowded, but the paths are wide and tarmaced and participants courteous, so it didn’t feel congested beyond a bit of slow get away. Then again, I always put myself towards the back, I’m sure further forward it would have been a speedier start if that’s your thing.
The RD was able to give a run briefing from sort of on high, flanked by hi-vis heroes. There was a description of the course, and usual shout outs. I think it’s a generic intro rather than having a separate first timers’ briefing. However, lots of people approached us and chatted to us so it felt like a friendly place if you turned up on your own. People did talk through the briefing though, that so infuriates me, and I never know whether it’s ok to ‘shush’ people not at your home run. It feels a bit rude to do so, but honestly, what chatterboxes there were.
In the start funnel you get a great view of the bandstand ahead, and the gentle incline that you will get to run up not once, not twice, but a glorious three times! Hurrah. This is the parkrun with slopes that keep on giving!
So after the RD pep-talk it was go! And awf we went.
this is an ace parkrun. Don’t be put off by the inclines or the three lap thing – or indeed the precarious loo presence. It was a cheery, inclusive group. A lot of walkers, buggies, dogs, a good cross section of participants. Although it is a three – lapper, there’s loads to see, and plenty of cheery marshals at strategic intervals to encourage you round. Some showed very considerable stamina keeping up the clapping continuously til the last participant came home. Much enthusiasm was in evidence. Plus, as you get to pass the point where people break away to the finish, you get to see faster runners sprinting up hill to their climactic ends, as well as being lapped by some on the way round. Unless you are the one doing the lapping of course, in which case you get to pass slower ones.
So it’s up the hill, past the token men at the end of the carefully choreographed finish funnel. Round the side of the house where a super-smiley and clappy volunteer shooed you round past the still-closed refreshment cafe. Quick dog leg round the corner, past some quite formal planting and grand statues towards the other side of the enormous iron gates I’d passed on the way in.
Then you get to whizz down hill for a bit, with Mr Lister gazing down on you – a little sternly I felt – and corner past another clapping hi-vis hero, who, if my memory serves me correctly, was very wisely cradling a cup of coffee in between whooping encouragement. Thank you marshal!
Mr Lister was carrying some sort of cloak, but dragging it on the ground rather. I’m not sure if he was poised to use it to cover any muddy puddles en route to protect the dainty feet of timid parkrunners. I rather think not. It turns out, Mr Lister is not in fact the Mr Man who embodies people who write ‘to do’ lists, nor even the one that has a tendency to lean to one side. Rather he was very big in wool apparently. The chimneyof his wool mill towers over the park if you but bother to look for it – I got this insight from the Talented Tony later on. He invented the Lister Nip Comb. That’s Mr Lister who invented it, not Tony – talented as he is. Oh, and not nit comb either but nip comb, completely different thing – you need to concentrate more when you are reading. Nope, me neither, had to look it up, and I learn that the Lister Nip Comb separated and straightened raw wool, revolutionising the industry apparently. He – that’s Mr Lister again, not Tony, donated the land for Lister Park which was philanthropic I suppose, but the size of his fortune must have been absolutely immense for him to be able to do that, and you can’t help but assume he accrued such fortune on the backs of a great many workers in his mill. He was a Baron as well. Barons always make me think of Baron and Baroness Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – which for too many years I honestly thought was Shitty Shitty Bang Bang, which was unfortunate – I daresay other barons are available, but the Bombursts had better costumes if the photos are anything to go by. The facial hair is equally spectacular for both though. It could well be that is a prerequisite for such honours, I wouldn’t really know…
I didn’t have all these insights as I was pootling round though, but you can have the benefit of them in advance if you like. It’s fun learning these things.
The route carried on past a quite impressive play area, and a boating lake with it’s own circular cafe building. I found out too late that this opens at 10.00 and I think it’s where the core team adjourn to for results processing. Might have been a better option than the cafe where we two ended up.
As I was taking my time, I think the first of the speedy runners came through when I was on this stretch. The paths are wide though, so no hairy moments overtaking.
At the end of this stretch, is a marshal very much owning his spot. Dear Reader I give you Tony’s Corner. He was a very vocal supporting, giving extra loud encouragement to known regulars who he cheered by name, but enthusiastically cheering everyone by,. it was great. I reckon he would have made each and every one of us feel like a sporting superstar, or at least a pretty goddarned amazing humanbeing just for being there. I think life would be so much nicer if we all had cheerleaders to encourage us as we go about our daily business. Still, in the inexplicable absence of that, you can at least get an little inoculation of feel good adulation to get you through the week as on each of the three laps, multiple marshals applaud you for your efforts. Excellent!
Round the corner, there was another statue, no idea who that was – and another group were doing some sort of outdoor work out session, with their own loud speakers pumping out motivational music. A sign pronounced that you were now embarking on Teeny Tiny Hill. I do like visual aids at a parkrun. OK then, let’s see what that’s like then:
Ok, as a Sheffield parkrunning regular, I can report the hill is steep, but short and sharp, and not too bad if you are used to say Sheffield Castle parkrun or Graves parkrun in Sheffield. However, it is definitely an upward flat section, and the field was mixed between those that embraced the challenge, taking a run up at it, and those that threw in the towel early on, power walking in preference. At the top, of the steep bit, just where you corner, was another marshal flourishing a ‘you are awesome’ sign! Like I said, this was a feelgood parkrun good for building your self-esteem if ever there was one. From being acknowledged as ‘rare and precious’ on arrival, to ‘awesome’ on every lap, there was much positive reinforcement going on!
You pass by the fossilised tree root, and the start sign, and then it’s round all over again. Past the token men, the bandstand, the hall, the amazing gates, Mr Lister, the boating pond, Tony’s Corner, up the Teeny Tiny Hill to complete lap two.
This time, as I rocked up the hill, the finish area was pretty busy with returning runners. Because the whole park is basically on a slope, if you look to the right running past you can see the finishers swept off to the side, but equally as you finish, you can see the parkrunners still enroute sweeping round like lycra-clad wildebeest on migration. All very picturesque in my view. It really is a lovely parkrun venue. A hidden treasure indeed.
I paused on the way round to stand on a bench to try to get a shot looking back at the bandstand and the finish, and ended up mutually photographing a fellow tourist. Well, I say fellow tourist, turns out this is actually her home parkrun, but she was wearing a cow cowl, and astonishingly, had deduced I must be a tourist on account of me constantly stopping to take photos en route, though I think even she was a tad taken aback I took it to the lengths of clambering onto park furnishings. I don’t really worry about times these days, I’m not sure I ever did, but I like to document parkruns the first time I attend them. It’s so easy to forget stuff in the sensory overload of a new venue. I didn’t get your name, but here’s a virtual wave to my 250 tee sporting parkrun friend!
and then it was just one more lap to go. Obviously, the field had thinned out now, but I ended up taking it in turns to sort of leapfrog each other with another runner. Her nearest parkrun is apparently Bramley, but that’s a four lapper – don’t fancy that, mind you, I’ve not tried a four lapper yet, maybe it’s less brutal than I imagine, though I panic about not being competent enough to confidently count to four…. anyway, she’s been to this one a fair few times too. It was nice to make a new friend on the final lap.
Incidently, if you like me, balk at the very idea of a four lap course, spare a thought for this runner, quarantined because of the coronavirus, who has been doing laps IN HIS APARTMENT totalling 31 miles. I can’t begin to imagine how tedious that must have been. Respect. Well, I think respect, it’s certainly impressive, but maybe a tad obsessive. There’s a time to run round in teeny tiny circles, and there’s a time to lie on a sofa watching box sets. He may not have got the balance entirely right in my view…. According to the Daily Mail (sorry – but they did have the Co-runner virus pun, which might well be in poor taste, but did make me snort a little bit) he ran 6,250 circuits of his apartment. Imagine how annoying it would have been for him if he’d lost count and had to start again from one!
Last chance to be reminded you are awesome, and drink up the cheers from supporting marshals, and a final romp up the teeny tiny hill. Returning parkrunners smiled or whispered words of encouragement as I lolloped up the incline to the bandstand and the finish.
Round the corner, and the finish funnel was in sight. Again, these marshals were so enthusiastic and friendly. I totally get parkrun is a run not a race, and there are no winners as such, but I felt like I was definitely their fastest ever first finisher as I crashed over the line and the timers clicked me in!
It’s a little weird, because the finish line – which obvs you have to do a sprint finish through, is at the apex of the hill, and then you have built up so much momentum you are in danger of crashing into the backs of other runners as it’s a down hill queue to the finish tokens. Serious crowd control here, no danger of funnel ducking with that barrier, and I heartily approve! Fortunately, I had the benefit of all this space in glorious isolation on account of being first finisher, clearly, so no domino affect of my carcass toppling other runners on the way through. Phew.
My Victoria Dock parkrun buddy, was ready with a camera, which was a mixed blessing, but always good to be immortalised with flying feet, even if I’m inclined to feel the apricot does me no favours. I’ve been trying to think what I remind myself of, and i think it might be an oompa loompa. This isn’t a good look. Oh well.
Just a matter of being scanned, and then posing for obligatory photos. Oh and notice the coffee van. If it hadn’t been cold, I think that would have been best option, looked like quality coffee.
We’d had a lovely time. How could we not. But decided we wanted to get a proper shot of the Teeny Tiny Hill sign, well, it is Bradford parkrun’s ‘thing’ if you know what I mean. We wandered back that way, passing returning volunteers, still holding ‘awesome’ signs aloft. We spotted ‘our Tony’ who seemed to be dismantling the course on the way back. We weren’t sure whether to offer to help or not. It is a surprisingly little known fact that it isn’t helpful unless you are actually helping. Sometimes if people have their own systems you can mess them up by charging in. I have before been caught out dismantling a finish funnel by removing tape from the poles only to find that at that particular parkrun they store the funnel with the tape left on. Oops. They were very gracious about it, noting that it was their fault for not having sat me down with the appropriate online interactive training video, but aaaaaaaaaaaawkward all the same! Anyway, we used our initiative to ask, and actually, turns out, there was a limit to how many signs and stuff he could carry, so we did help minimally, and thereby also gained exclusive access to the Teeny Tiny Hill sign too. Job done 🙂 !
and that was that. Bradford parkrun done and dusted.
We were cold, and so rejected coffee outside option, heading instead for the refreshment room cafe. It’s just occurred to me what a spectacularly unimaginative name for a cafe that is. Oh well.
The good news was that it was open. The walls had tasteful William Morris wallpaper, and it was spotless, with a good value range of cakes and coffees. However, it was a bit, erm, well weird. Despite the plush surroundings, it was fairly bijoux, and the offerings were very much cake rather than breakfast. Though there was a (not very nice) vegan roll, and cheese toastie options. The coffee was distinctly mediocre, from a machine rather than proper ground with foamy milk. The service was friendly, but to be honest, if going again in summer I’d have gone with the van, or checked out the boating cafe if open. However, it was unhurried, and we could have a good old catch up. Also, we could now access the toilets. They didn’t have fluffy white towels or heated seats, but they did have an air lock entry system with an extraordinary amount of doors to pass through to get to them, so that was novel. Also, everyone was welcome to use them, though only one at a time in my experience. I didn’t see any giraffes or elephants during my visit, but perhaps they were in the adjacent cubicle?
We exited through the museum, which was freezing. Maybe post parkrun chill had kicked in. This had an excellent photography exhibition on, and some fine statues. If I hadn’t been a lightweight (novel concept for me) worrying about getting cold and driving back to Sheffield as storm Ciara kicked in I might have lingered longer. Again, staff were friendly, and the interior immaculate and grandiose on an extraordinary scale. Reet nice in fact.
I think the woman in the statue was emphasising a point about how annoying mansplaining is, but I guess all art speaks to the viewer in unique ways, so you can interpret as you wish.
But, all good things come to an end. This morning was no exception. So we went back to the car, which still had loads of spaces by the way, and headed homewards, pausing only to take a snapshot of the chimney towering over the park as we exited. It’s mahoosive indeed.
So thank you lovely Bradford parkrun people for your warm welcome and sharing your unexpectedly wonderful park. This is definitely one I’d happily return to do again … were it not for the lure of all those other parkruns in the vicinity I have yet to run. But thank you, hope our parkrun paths cross again soon. Have fun til next time.
and remember how awesome you are, just for being part of the parkrun parkfun. I’ve seen a sign just for you that proves it!
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