Digested read: long story short, parkrun tourism took me to Queen Elizabeth parkrun in pursuit of my Q. Sub-optimum running conditions, but superb muddy fun and friendly too. Nearly didn’t happen, but then it did! Hurrah!
For the short story made long, read onwards, but it’s not compulsory – or you could just idly scroll down to have a look at the photos in between eating crisps on the sofa wearing a walrus onesie**. You choose…
I will say this though, had a filthy good time. Mud, mud, glorious mud, what’s not to like? Nothing quite like it indeed!
I’m half heartedly pursuing my alphabet challenge. For a long time it seemed pretty unattainable, but now I’m down to just the last few, and finding myself down south again this weekend, it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to add on another hours driving, oh, and an overnight stay in a Premier Inn and get my weary carcass round Queen Elizabeth parkrun. I was a bit nervous booking ahead, as the recent stormy weathers has led to many down south cancellations, but then when I looked at the Queen Elizabeth parkrun Facebook page I saw this event:
Leap Day Event – Fancy dress optional
Where they helpfully explain:
This year is a leap year and February 29, 2020 falls on a Saturday, parkrun day !! The next time this will happen will not be until the year 2043, so the QE core team thought we would make this February 29, a special occasion and have a fancy dress event
So you could dress up as a frog, wear only green clothing, run in your frog wellington boots or an outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament.
So two things, fancy dress – albeit they say it’s not compulsory, and if they are having a special event, then I’m guessing they’ll do everything they can to make sure it goes ahead. I mean, you can postpone a parkrun birthday run, or even an inaugural, heartbreaking as that would be, but you can’t arrange for another 29th February to come around again on a Saturday for way more years than I can count.
In case it’s escaped you’ve not done the number crunching yourself, just to be clear, leap years happen every four years. I’m actually going to credit you with already knowing that. However, did you know the last leap day (i.e. 29th February) fell on monday 29 February 2016? A monday! I ask you, what good is that to a parkrunner? We are only interested in dates that fall on a
Saturday parkrunday. This year (hurrah) it does. This means there is a total of 5 parkruns in February for the first time in parkrun history. (Wowsers). The last time 29th February fell on a Saturday was in 1992 – pre parkrun. I know, hard to imagine there was ever a world without it yet ’tis true! No-one in history has ever run a parkrun on leap day, so if you were part of the parkrun army that did so on the 29th February this year, you are a trailblazer in parkrun history. My doesn’t that feel good!
What’s more there won’t be another chance to run parkrun on leap year day until 2048! That’s ages and ages away, a literal lifetime for some, and if I’m still going then I’ll be hopping round in my frog outfit at the ripe old age of 83, and as I don’t really want to live that long because apart from anything else I’ll be in utter penury due to lack of adequate pension provision, that means for me, this is to be a once in a lifetime opportunity, because never before has the leap day falling on parkrun day. HOW EXCITING! My, I’d better make it a good one. Capturing a Q on a themed parkrun event would be just the job! That AND fancy dress all round, the intoxicating cocktail of excitement generated by these two opportunities appearing simultaneously was a seductive possibility. Indeed, together they were the clincher, I’d be hopping off down to there then. Hurrah!
Alas dear reader, when I came to check the forecasts a few days before it boded badly. Gusts of 47mph and I know that the Queen Elizabeth Country Park close if the winds pick up above about 35 mph. A Sheffield friend of mine – Smiley Selfie Queen – got caught out by just that when she was down there on 15th February. I naively thought it would be pretty unlucky/ unlikely to get such inclement weather again, hence had confidently booked and pre-paid for my hotel in advance. Thus, I’d be there anyway, Q parkrun or no Q parkrun. Undeterred, I went in search of a back up plan.
The handy ‘nearby parkruns’ information on the Queen Elizabeth parkrun home page gave me an idea of which were in reach, and then I used their historic results listings to see if they’d had to cancel a fortnight ago as I figured that would be a reasonable indication of whether or not they’d be vulnerable to inclement weather again. It was with a bit of a heavy heart I scrolled through the options, until dear reader, I lighted on Lee on the Solent parkrun. Not only was it looking like a goer, with a running club takeover but they were have a 250th number event; they have a super hero fancy dress theme. I sort of assumed in the circumstances if I should find myself a refugee from QE’s frog-themed event then Lee on the Solent parkrun would most likely be both accommodating and understanding. Besides, I could probably blag it that there is a frog superhero out there somewhere. There must be, or am I thinking of ninja turtles? Anyway, sounded good.
STOP PRESS – O.M.G. there is a frog superhero apparently! Admittedly one I’d never heard of, though I suppose it is just conceivable I am not that particular superheroes target audience. Anyways, googlesearch told me that:
Frog-Man is a well-meaning but often bungling superhero in the Marvel Universe and is the son of the villain Leap-Frog***.
Eugene Patilio was the son of the supervillain Leap-Frog, who had since reformed and retired. Eugene, deciding to clean up the family name decided to use his father’s old superhero suit to fight crime as Frog-Man
ok, maybe not a superhero to set hearts a-beating, but that’s 100% close enough for me. Things are looking up! I can totally blag this and will be a natural with my somewhat rotund form being an asset in the role! This was meant to be! I knew my frog costume would turn out to be endlessly versatile and become a wardrobe classic. Result!
Even better, when I posted sheepishly on the Lee on the Solent parkrun Facebook page asking if they expected to be on, I got an almost telepathically instantaneous reply. Yep, weather was even worse last week according to forecast and they cracked on. Plus, there might even be cake! Maybe the quest for a Q is over-rated, this wasn’t going to be second best at all. What’s more, judging by the very fine profile picture (thanks to Paul Thompson) it looks like the sun always shines there anyway, or your money back, guaranteed. Excellent.
There’s even a cool aerial video of the parkrun back in 2016 – sun was shining then too. Brilliant! Super excited now. Might even make this the A- plan!
Wouldn’t be a Q though…. oh the tyranny of too much choice eh?
I decided to throw my parkrun destination into the hands of fate. I mean in an uncharacteristic burst of forward planning I had booked the hotel nearest to the Queen Elizabeth parkrun on a non-transferable basis (aargh), so that would remain my first choice, but if it were to be cancelled Lee on the Solent parkrun was sounded like a fab option too. Maybe one to come back for…
Oh, I was staying at the Premier Inn Horndean if you are interested. Actually, that’s not strictly true, there is a farm that looks fab if you are camping or camper vanning Upper Parsonage Farm might be worth checking out. I liked the look of the shepherds hut – Linda Snell would be impressed I’m sure – but you needed to bring your own linen, and that’s too much faff for me as I’m heading on elsewhere afterwards. Still, you might like it. Have a looksie.
So, the night before the parkrun after, I had two options to weigh up in between paranoically refreshing the weather forecast. Lover-Lee-on-the-Solent parkrun or Queen Elizabeth. No wrong decision, but I was twitchy. This was the forecast dear reader:
I was fully prepared to activate my back up plan, but then again, all this way to get a Q, would be a shame if it didn’t come to pass.
I filled my idle, angsty hours with a bit of research about the Q course. And according to the official website blah de blah the Queen Elizabeth parkrun course is described thus:
The course is in Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Horndean. …
The course is undulating and is run on a mix of compacted gravel paths, grass and forest trails. The course consists of two loops. From the start (green pin), head up a short incline on the gravel path. After approximately 200m take a right turn onto a grassy downhill section. This is quite steep at the bottom so caution is advised. At the bottom of the hill take a right turn and follow the perimeter trail back to the start at approximately 2km. This completes the first loop.
The second loop ascends the initial incline up the gravel path. This time instead of taking the right turn from loop one. Continue on the gravel path for approximately 1km. At the crossroad adjacent to Holt Pond take a right turn onto a downhill trail. At the bottom of the hill turn right on to the perimeter path. This will join the end section of loop one and take you back to the finish funnel (red pin).
Oooh, it’s in a country park! Queen Elizabeth Country Park to be precise. That sounds grand, not only worth visiting for an elusive Q then. Also, and I’m hoping that unlike at Bradford parkrun this won’t be delivering false hope, the information on facilities declares that ‘Toilets are open from 8am‘. I’m properly excited now. You have to pay for parking though, which I don’t begrudge at all, but can’t see how much it is or how you pay. I’ll worry about that when I get there. Actually, no I won’t I’ll look now. … ok, bit of googling later, looks like you pay on exit, and you can use a card or cash, but if you use cash you won’t get change. Fair dos. Good to know. Venue looks amazing. This is going to be grand.
The course looks like this:
Ooh, lap two looks a lot bigger than lap one. Nice though, not too much repetition. This is going to be fab – if it happens. Oh no, it might not happen, weather forecast is properly shite! Oh well. Que sera…
and then parkrun day finally dawned…
I woke early, and stared out of the window. It didn’t look too windy. I’m the last person in the world with no smartphone and I was a bit twitchy about what to do, as at some point I’d have to tear myself away from the weak but just about detectable wi-fi of the hotel, and from thereon-in I’d be on my own. No updates. Like those disaster movies where the central characters have to establish early on why they don’t just get their mobile phones out for help, information or a google map to guide them on their way. I’d have to survive on nothing but my wits and my parkrun locating instincts. My only hope was that I’d have left a paper bag in the car somewhere so I’d have something to breathe into in case of emergencies…
Lee on the Solent parkrun was much further away, so I’d need to get a wiggle on to get there, but Queen Elizabeth parkrun had promised to post either way as early as possible. In the end, I decided to go straight there, but early, as it would be obvious if the park was closed and I could just turn around and head back to Lee on the Solent. OK, a plan.
I checked out of the hotel, where the receptionist took my key pass off me without passing comment about my green tutu. She’s probably learned from years of experience that sometimes it’s best just not to enquire. In the car I peered through the windscreen to establish current weather conditions. My windscreen is almost as good at identifying current weather conditions as the met office or seaweed hung in a porch, I was thinking it was going to be wet…
Fortunately I had windscreen wipers, albeit slightly squeaky ones.
I got to the park after an angsty satnav journey which appeared to take me to a random stretch of dual carriageway. Eventually, big brown signs headed me towards the country park. You arrive and go through barriers, which make you wait like a conscientious but slightly bored dog humouring his or her deluded owner. You know, the ones who will insist on doing random and pointless obedience training drills with a less than enthusiastic hound, as some sort mindless power game, in this case ‘sit’ and ‘wait’. I didn’t even get a treat for doing so. Not so much as a veggie jelly bean, or even an actual bean, I’d have settled for that, breakfastless as I was. I learned later, that this is because big brother photographs your number plate as you go in, but takes a little while to do so. Presumably because he is lining up the perfect composition, or getting your number plates best side, i.e. the one which has the numbers on – so when you exit the car park paying and entering your number plate in the magic machine, it knows who you are and how long you’ve been a-lingering. Clever, but ever so slightly unnerving too.
Now I’ve been, it was fairly obvious where to go – past the visitors centre, and to the next car park along, the gravel one. But I am of an easily confused disposition, so therefore got confused. I sort of assumed the barriers wouldn’t have let me in if the country park was shut, but it was very, very quiet. Well, I suppose I was extra early too. I finally spotted some people walking and asked them hopefully if they knew anything about parkrun. They had no idea. Seemingly, they were there to lay tracks for a film crew. Oooh, how exciting, maybe I’d get to be an extra, I expect they are in need of a super-sized frog wearing a tutu in at least one of the background shots! No? Oh well, worth a try, anyway I’d rather do parkrun…
Then a bit further along, I espied a familiar assortment of parkrun related paraphernalia and signs being heave hoed along by a high vis hero. I paused to check with the person in charge of this bounty and learned, yes, parkrun was indeed on! Better yet, I was in the right place! Hurrah! There was the little matter of being about an hour early but I hate being late, this way I’d be able to fit in a precautionary pee for sure, probably several, shame I’d not had any breakfast. Premier Inn is fine, but super basic. I did have a coffee in my room, but hadn’t thought to bring so much as a banana with me for pre-parkrun sustenance. Fortunately, I had coincidentally brought along with me a quite extensive layer of subcutaneous fat, so that was both my carb reserves and my heat generation systems sorted. Excellent!
By the time I’d parked, some helpful signs were already up. The venue is gorgeous too. Mature trees, huge ones, everywhere. And lots of mud. I like mud! I’m a slow runner anyway so I’m not going for speed, I’m just in search of a micro-adventure, mud ticks that box gloriously, and the fact it provides an excuse for a slow and steady romp round is but a welcome bonus. Weirdly, others don’t feel quite the same, this I don’t understand, if you want predictable terrain, there are always treadmills, but where’s the fun in that?
Off for my precautionary pee. It was a shortish 5 minute stroll back to the visitors centre. There was a single, unisex disabled toilet open, so I nipped in there. It was deserted as I approached, but as I emerged, there was a little orderly queue of other parkrunners all standing directly outside like a pop-up guard of honour. I felt they ought to have applauded me as I exited really. It was slightly alarming though, as I hadn’t realised they were there. On reflection though, this was just as well, since I have a bashful bladder, and the thought of a trio of parkrun tourists – however empathetic and friendly – outside potentially listening would have entirely negated the positive provision of precautionary pee facilities. I left them to it, hoping I didn’t have toilet paper stuck to the sole of my shoe or anything similar…
Back to the carpark. There weren’t many people around, I was in two minds about my fancy dress, I’d not seen anyone else wearing anything green, let along amphibian themed – yet. Then again, they did say it was fancy dress, and to be honest, I’m not really expecting my frog outfit to become a wardrobe classic, so really I just needed to brazen it out. Not very likely to be passing this way again, and anyway, the advantage of the head attire was that I’d not be recognisable in any other context, it’ll be fine… what’s the worst…
I headed up the hill, following the signs to the start. A little assembly of core volunteers had already gathered. Couldn’t help noticing a distinct absence of green as I approached.
What was lacking in amphibian costumery, was compensated for by the friendliness of the welcome, as the small, but perfectly formed team greeted me. I outed myself as being a bit thrown by the lack of others in fancy dress, but was doubly comforted. Firstly, because the Run Director, had in fact come along with a frog companion, which was most apt, and secondly by the cheery reassurance of two self-identifying ‘grumpy old gits’ (their words, not mine, I’d have said something like ‘convivial silver foxes’, if only to be polite… one of whom said well ‘of course we wouldn’t but that’s because we are grumpy old men, I’m sure others will, well there’s always someone anyway‘. Ah, I was wondering if by extension of that logic, that ‘always one’ might possibly be me. No worries, ice was broken, and it was all friendly, and I was here now, and the frog outfit was staying, too late to squash it back in the jiffy bag and despatch back to the ebay seller from whence it came now. Anyway, grumpy or otherwise, I couldn’t help noticing one had a green beanie hat and the other green shoes, so they were practically embracing the theme really, just with a slightly more subtle and tastefully understated nod, that’d do! They were probably wearing frog themed speedos underneath. I didn’t ask, so can truthfully report they passed no comment on the matter, which we all know means they definitely were!
Time to pose for some pre-parkrun photos. I was too embarrassed to ask the RD if the ‘Queen Elizabeth’ on her high vis was because this was our monarch doing her bit incognito but with her name discretely embroidered on the tabard to assist her personal protection officers (the cunningly disguised grumpy old men for sure) in identifying her from afar. Or whether it was bespoke for the parkrun venue. I think we all know though. I wasn’t too embarrassed to ask to pose for a photo though. Have to document those memories somehow!
Nice frog companion she had with her. I like to think it’s an emotional support animal she has with her at all times, and her claim this was just a children’s bath mitt she’d retrieved from the bathroom in a pre-parkrun panic in an effort to show willing re the leap-day theme was just a quick thinking tale intended to put us off the scent.
This was going to be great. Sorry Lee on the Solent, I’m sure you had an ace morning too, and I will come back to see you one day, but for now I was really excited by the route to come.
The location is absolutely gorgeous. Weirdly, despite the appalling forecast, the air was still, and although it was distinctly wet underfoot, it wasn’t actually raining either. Huge trees lined the route, and someone explained the course to me. It was going to involve running up a hill and a section that was a bit muddy because of forestry vehicles doing track work. That’s ok, I’m used to mud.
I mentioned about not being sure if the event was on, and having spoken to the film crew support earlier. I learned two things. Firstly, the the park authorities are pretty good about trying to facilitate parkrun and have on occasion said ‘do it, but don’t hang around afterwards’ so they can close afterwards if necessary. I also learned from the RD, that on at least one previous occasion, another film was being made that featured zombie roman centurions! The parkrun was potentially in the back of shot, and so negotiations took place to ensure lycra clad puffing parkrunners, or hi-vis wearing marshals didn’t mess with their continuity. Shame, that would have been a sight worth seeing. A bit of gentle googling has led me to learn this was a Canadian company ‘perfect storms productions‘ back in 2012, but they are committed to historical accuracy, and were recreating the Battle of Teutoburg Forest which took place in Germany in AD9. Not gonna lie, this does rather make me question the ‘zombie centurions’ angle, but then again, I wasn’t there, either for the 2012 filming or the Teutoburg Forest original battle, so might be true? Also, the country park has been used for other film locations, including at least one Dr Who episode, so maybe it’s constantly populated with zombie roman centurions, and they occur more commonly in film than I had previously appreciated… Maybe it’s like pokemons, they are everywhere, but not everyone can see them… How else can you explain how I omitted to notice this:
I rest my case.
I went for a little bit of an explore, up towards the start, yep, that would be an upward flat section, and to check out some of the lovely trees.
I kept the assembly area under surveillance, in the hop that others in fancy dress might yet still appear. It was a colourful gathering. One person did come sporting an American footballer outfit without explanation, but I didn’t get a chance to talk to him or take his picture so we’ll never know if he was dressed in homage to the Louisiana Leapers say, or if he just always dresses like that. Still, man of mystery, whosoever you were, your efforts were noted, and appreciated too.
Actually, **STOP PRESS** mystery solved. I only got as far as ‘frog fancy dress’ on the official event announcement, but now I’ve read it in full I see there is a catch all or ‘outfit that represents one of the many sporting events also happening this year the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Euro 2020 Football tournament, or the ICC World T20 Cricket tournament‘, so it seems not only was I not the only one to read the memo, there was another who actually read it in its entirety. Whoever you are, I salute you! Sorry we didn’t get to team up! You are part of QE history too now. A legend in your own time. Though secretly, I was rather hoping it is your regular parkrun outfit of choice…
Amongst those gathering were fellow tourists here for the Q, but giving the cue for more photo opps.
I struck up conversation with a few people asking if they were local or visitors. Most had come a-touristing. One commented ‘oh god no!’ in response to my innocently posed question ‘so is this your local parkrun then? Adding… ‘If this was my local parkrun I’d have to move house!’ I think this was a reflection on the terrain not the welcome by the way. I guess some love the tarmac, whilst others like the call of the wild and the giddying possibility of seeing a zombie centurion on the way round, or at least a gruffalo… Here are some of us milling and chilling and pre-parkrun faffing:
So after pre parkrun parkfaffing, there was a call to order and the first timers’ briefing. There were a fair few of us. ‘Before I start, I have to ask, why the frog?’ Oh, guess no-one else got the memo then. ‘Erm, because it’s a leap day, and you are having a fancy dress green-themed/ frog parkrun‘ I croaked awkwardly. ‘Oh yes, that makes total sense‘. On to other business. ‘Who’s here for the Q?’ Pretty much every touristing hand went up. In fact, I don’t think there were any others present for any other reason.
It was quite a useful and comprehensive briefing. We warned there would be ‘MUD’ lots of mud, not a pb course I think is the generic euphemism. Yeah, whatever. Forestry vehicles had also contributed to path erosion so take care out there. I didn’t really concentrate too much on the route description as I just follow everyone else, and as for the mud – well, I was just so relieved and delighted parkrun was ON, that wasn’t a cause for concern beyond vague registering of its existence. All good. Here we are, attentively listening to our hi-vis hero explaining the idiosyncrasies of the route ahead…
Next stop, run directors briefing, she found a useful bank from which to address us. Usual thanks and milestones and mudfest warnings. Also, the usual chit chat from the assembled company. It does my head in when people talk through run briefings, but it seems it’s a problem everywhere. I’m never sure of etiquette as a visitor, is it ok to ‘shush’ others when you are only passing through. Equally, at my home parkrun I wonder if ‘shushing’ seems officious, but really, it’s soooooooooooooo rude. I couldn’t even give paddington stares, because my eyes were on the top of my head due to my choice of attire, just had to accept couldn’t really hear what was going on. Got the gist, clapped when everyone else did, and hoped it wasn’t to endorse anything incompatible with my moral compass. Always a concern… Still, at least one person knelt in reverential homage to the RD at the front of the pack, so it wasn’t everyone being disrespectful.
and then run briefing over, it was a mass troop up the hill to the start.
then timers’ ready? Yep? Go!
And awf we went. Or more accurately, off went everyone else, I lingered a bit to take some pictures of the start, and then just slotted in behind.
I’m not sure what the red thing is, some sort of fungus, but it just caught my eye near the start and deserved to be immortalised, and why not. I’ll look it up later and let you know what it is, it will be most educational! DONE! It’s a scarlet elf cap apparently, so that means some poor elf has been out in all that stormy weather capless. Oh well.
I was at the back, and I was going up a hill, and I suddenly twigged that I was still wearing my coat, and my frog head gear – which would have been an asset in torrential rain – was less advantageous today, and was rather acting as somewhat OTT thermal insulation. It was like I was running with my head in a pressure cooker. Well, like I imagine that would be, not actually tried that, and not sure if it would be possible even with a gas operated one, you’d have to find a way of carrying a canister round with you I suppose. Look just take the analogy with a bit of suspension of disbelief, the details aren’t important, the point I was trying to make, before you so rudely interrupted me with all these tedious questioning of the details, is simply that I was absolutely boiling, should have jettisoned the coat before. The ground underfoot was pretty solid, but I was way too hot, and it was more uphill than expected. A cheery marshal was on hand a bit further up, and waved us to our right,
and down a hilariously slippery mud slide. Brilliant. No really it was, completely hilarious. It was properly muddy. Many parkrunners ahead of me ground to an almost halt, definitely walking, trying to pick their way through. I think some may not even have had trail shoes. I had mid-shoes inov-8 parkclaws which I love, but could have done with something much grippier. Some tried to stick to the sides a bit. I tried to do a bit of a zig zag to stay upright, but I’m not sure it helped. Ahead of me was a woman who acted as a sort of early warning system, giving out little involuntary shrieks each time her feet threatened to disappear beneath her. I didn’t witness any full on face plants or mud slides, but feel sure there must have been some. It wasn’t just the stickiness and slippery of the mud you had to contend with, but the downward gradient, it was quite a slope! It was great, my favourite sort of thing. I’m very slow at parkrun, so for me mud just offers enrichment rather than any further delay. Having said that, most parkrunners around me anyway, seemed to abandon any attempt at going for a time in favour of picking a route through and so it was bonding, friendly and mutually supportive.
One fellow parkrunner even stopped to take my photo for me mid course. That’s a first, I thought it was just me that actually stopped to take pictures on the way round, so, this new development especially pleased me. Thank you parkrunner David Bailey much appreciated.
and on we went, each of us negotiating the terrain in our own individual way!
At the bottom of the hill, you turn right again, and go along quite a firm chalk path – sploshing through a few standing puddles, on a long straight haul back in the direction you started from.
Pretty flat, maybe a little down hill with a slight upward hump – you actually run past what will be the finish funnel, only they don’t put it out until after everyone has finished the first lap. The first lap is shorter, so presumably even the speediest of runners are not likely to be lapping anyone other than in pretty exceptional circumstances. This meant you got a few extra whoops and cheers as you speed on by, or drag yourself past, depending on your average pace. The whoops and cheers are equally loud for everyone by the way, it is only your speed that varies. Slower participants get more time being cheered at as it takes them longer to pass by, which is a boon.
and then down to the V-turn at the end, which is basically a U-turn, only more V-shaped if you haven’t worked it out for yourself. There is a marshal here to stop people careering off past the turning point and down the slope, and/ or to encourage people to stay upright as they turn back on themselves for the longer lap two. Well, I think that’s why the marshal was there. It could also be that this was the best possible vantage point for people face planting in the mud, which would be completely understandable. There should be some extra perks for marshals who are willing to give up their time to stand in the freezing cold, knee deep in mud to facilitate the parkrun for everyone else! I did notice there were rather a lot of spectators around here, I hesitate to use the term ambulance chasers but…
So ding dong, round two! Back up the hill, cheery marshal this time sending you straight on rather than back down the mud slide. The field had very much thinned out by now, speedier runners well ahead, and quite a few walkers behind for whatever reason. I was distracted by some of the scenery and signage along the way. Replica roman villa anyone? Add your own zombies.
Realistically, I don’t know if I’ll make it back to this country park, I live in Sheffield, so it’s hardly on my doorstep, but I get the impression, there was loads to explore, with lots of bike trails and wildlife routes, it gave the sense of a well managed and interesting place. Yet another thing I love about parkrun tourism, is that it has taken me to all sorts of places I’d otherwise probably never have thought to visit.
As I was heaving myself round, contemplating how hot I was, and generally gazing about, a late arrival at the parkrun ball appeared! Well met my new friend! He had cycled over, and was late to the start, but had put a fair old sprint on to overtake the tailwalker. He was happy to pause and have a chit chat for a bit, which was really companionable, and another unusual occurrence. Generally speaking I cant talk and run so I normally don’t chat to other parkrunners, but as I was actually walking at this point, and he was happy to do likewise, it was grand. Plus, looks like we are following each other around future parkruns, I have Zamek w Malborku all booked up for the end of the month, and he is there the week before. He’d done loads of overseas and other parkruns, starting his parkrun journey as an accidental tourist, so it was cool to hear parkrun tales from afar. We carried on up the hill, until another marshal, at least I presume they were a marshal and not a decoy to send as astray, there was no obvious hi-vis but a familiar helpful disposition inspired confidence instead. Anyway, we were sent back down a muddy path to our right once again. Yay! My new best friend was happy to pose for obligatory mud shots before we parted way as he picked up some speed again, and I trotted and hopped along behind in my own elegant trajectory. ‘Elegant’ is a subjective concept I know, but where is the harm in a little bit of personal self-delusion? No constructive criticism or feedback required or welcomed on this occasion.
So yep, it continued muddy, but honestly this was a joyful route. For them as hate mud, well, they are not going to love it, but I had a great time. It was yomping territory, and as I was wet up to not just my ankles, but practically my knickers, there was no advantage in picking your way round puddles, you just had to splosh through. Unusually, I was running alone, i.e. not being pursued by tailwalkers and not in sight of any runners ahead, and in no danger of being lapped as faster runners would have been way ahead of me at this point. For the first time in months I could have an unselfconscious scamper, in gorgeous surrounds, still air and inexplicably rain free. It really gave me my running mojo back. I’ve ground to a halt with running really, and as I’ve taken on more run reporting and photographing volunteering it’s ages since I’ve just done a parkrun for the joy of it. This reminded me of how I need to proactively carve out time for new running adventures. I live in the peak district for goodness sake, the possibilities are endless, and although the weather has been absolutely horrendous of late, this trot out reminded me that actually, running in mud and rain and yomping on trails is absolutely part of the whole glorious adventure. It just makes us more hardcore and makes us more likely to have the landscape to ourselves. Note to self, lace up, head out, take to the trails!
The final straight line back to the finish seemed to go very quickly. In next to no time I was in sight of the funnel, and the beaming smiles of high-vis heroes welcoming us home.
I lingered to cheer a few final finishers home – and check out a particularly cute canine who’d had a great lope round.
My new best friend was waiting too, see, new parkruns are just full of parkrun friends you haven’t made yet!
Just time for a few final photos, thanks to the core team, and a quick lust over their all-terrain trolley for their parkrun kit:
And that was that, parkrun wise it was a wrap!
I asked the RD if it was OK to share the photos and not only did she say yes it was, but I got a volunteering credit for doing so, result! I did warn her they were quantity rather than quality, but it’s the thought that counts yes?
I headed back to the car to pick up some cash and then made my way to the visitors centre for breakfast with my new parkrun buddy. We used the outside tap to wash our shoes of the worst of the mud, but that just had the effect of filling my trail shoes with slurry really. Oh well. Water is supposed to come out through the mesh fabric, but I suppose there are limits. The visitors centre had good selection of cakes and cooked breakfast. It was reasonable value, but coffee was a bit mediocre, I had a veggie breakfast which was generous in size but a bit on the hey-ho spectrum. Friendly service though, and impressive tolerance of muddy shoes. To be fair, their entire clientele would be there because they were yomping muddy trails so they are prepared for it.
There was a big pond outside the visitors centre, which I peered into at length in search of frogspawn, I couldn’t see any. Oh well.
We said our farewells and I made my way back to the carpark, waving a farewell at other departing parkrunners who’d come on their bikes.
I remembered to take a photo of the carpark this time, which might sound weird, but it’s actually a public service, so others coming in my wake know they have reached their final destination whatever their satnav may be saying to them to the contrary. The sun came out, and the weather was glorious. Aw, that was a lovely morning!
Finally, I went to the little wendy hut to pay for parking. You put in your number plate and it calculates it automatically. It was five quid! I thought that was steep, but I guess they must charge from 8.00 a.m then, and staying for breakfast would have pushed me into an all day rate. You pay with a card, well I did, maybe you can use cash, I’m not sure. The car parking was steeper than anticipated, and although I didn’t quite begrudge it, it made it one of the more expensive ones I’ve been to. Clearly better to bike it or walk it if you can, or forgo breakfast for a speedy exit … but where’s the fun in parkrun touristing if you do that.
So I got my Q, but that was the least important part of the fabulously, fun morning, albeit that is what took me there in the first place. Come for the Q, stay for the crack!
In conclusion, I really enjoyed this parkrun, it was small but perfectly formed, friendly, fabulous location, great facilities, and my you’d get fit if it was your local. So, thank you lovely QE parkrunners, core team, visitors and all, for the warm welcome to your wonderful venue. It’s a shame that it was only me that got the fancy dress memo, but I wouldn’t change anything all the same! I hope our parkrun paths cross again in the future, but in the meantime, many thanks for giving me a royally good run!
So date for the diary for 2048 people? All that fun all over again, and only 28 years to wait until we do…
or you could always rock up to a parkrun near you next parkrunday/saturday in the meantime. You choose!
Oh, and for my reader who likes to triangulate my accounts of parkrun for accuracy, there are not one, but TWO run reports from other participants at this weekend’s mudfest. This means for their 360th parkrun there is 360 degree coverage of the event. (See what I’ve done there? Genius!) One is from Katie Reynolds a runner from Fareham and the second from Nickie Sale a visitor from South Africa – and they both mention the mud, so you can be confident that was indeed an actual thing! Oh, and QE parkrun are a whizz with technology too, so they’ve uploaded my photos of the event here.
Thank you lovely Queen Elizabeth parkrun people! I had a royally good time.
oh, and 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. Your choice
*ok, leaping – ish
**other onesies are available, but I’m not sure why you’d need to bother with them…
***O.M.G! What could be more apt! A descendent of leap-frog for leap year!