For someone who hadn’t run more than 3k before, the idea of a 5k run can be a somewhat scary prospect. Then imagine being chased by over 480 zombies, witches and ghosts. This was my first parkrun.
2015 George took me to Tilgate Park and over four years later this wonderful community has taken us not only all over the country but across the world – and little did I know that this journey would start right on our doorstep.
When living at my parent’s house, I realised that there were six parkruns around (Maidenhead, Bracknell, Upton Court, Woking, Frimley Lodge and Bedfont Lakes) and all only a 25-minute drive (which, as you will discover by reading this, we consider ‘local’). Soon we were visiting even more without thinking about it – Netley Abbey next to George’s old house, Parke and Torbay Velopark next to George’s parents house and Homewood as soon as it newly opened near my parent’s house. Having checked all these off very easily we soon became parkrun ‘tourists’ and started seeking out more.
After exploring all our local spots we decided to combine our runs with sightseeing. We have always loved visiting National Trust properties and when we learned that many locations offer parkruns, we now had the opportunity to run in a scenic obstacle course – the ‘scenic’ being the beautiful grounds and the ‘obstacles’ being the many sheep and cows that we sometimes narrowly avoided. Also, not forgetting that they usually have an excellent grand mansion to explore and (more importantly) pick up a delicious and well-earned breakfast.
National Trust sites visited: Osterley ~ Parke ~ Wimpole Estate ~ Yeovil Montacute ~ Bath Skyline
Short daytrips to National Trust properties quickly turned into seeking out parkruns on our weekend breaks. There are some of the most beautiful sceneries in the UK and this is a perfect way to discover these gems you otherwise may have driven passed.
Across the country sites visited: Poolsbrook ~ Victoria Dock ~ East Grinstead ~ Medina IOW ~ Pontefract ~ Salisbury ~ Harcourt Hill ~ Henstridge Airfield ~ Rushmere ~ Milton Keynes
With parkrun locations in 22 countries we have even been fortunate enough to run overseas, starting with a parkrun in my homeland of Sydney, Australia. Besides the slightly earlier start (7am), and the slightly hotter weather (30C), it was the same great experience you get in the UK! Our first was at St Peter’s parkrun and whilst I can’t recommend the huge hill that you have to run up, I can recommend the gorgeous view across the entire city of Sydney as the reward! We even managed to squeeze in a parkrun on the day of our flight home – and when we mentioned we were from the UK, a man joked, “just here for the day and flying out later” to which our response was, “Yes, our flight’s at lunchtime”.
Our next overseas venture was to Poland where we were visiting for a friend’s wedding. A new one just opened up and much to our surprise and delight it was located at the largest castle in the world. The castle tour after was incredible and this certainly was a place we’d never of heard of without parkrun. I also manged to walk (sprint) away with first women finisher, which I was immensely proud of.
Across the globe sites visited: Rhodes, Australia ~ St Peters, Australia ~ GreenWay, Australia ~ Zamek w Malborku, Poland
Last (but certainly not least) – of course we had to pilgrimage to the first ever parkrun location, Bushy Park. A beautiful site where you should be prepared to run with over 1000 other people. It truly is like nowhere else!
If you know me, then you will know how obsessed I am with stats – and if you don’t know me then add me on Strava and you will soon see that I document all my runs! So, once we heard about the virtual parkrun challenges, we HAD to start earning some virtual badges. It was because of this that we went to Jersey Farm parkrun to get our letter ‘J’ to complete our A-Z badge, and it was here that we met the founder of parkrun Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE. This was certainly a highlight of our touring, and we got a chance to chat and thank him for building an event that has changed so many people’s lives.
We have also met some very interesting people along the way. I have met two Olympic medallist who brought along their 2016 Gold Medals (they are heavy) and a woman who tours parkruns pulling along a tractor tire (really heavy!) no matter which course she goes to. We have also picked up a touring buddy who I’m sure you will all know – Bill Fordham – and we have toured around a dozen different parkruns together. I’ve also said goodbye to a couple of running friends who have moved country and, fittingly, they each had a leaving party at a parkrun.
So, what next for me? I am looking to get my Pirates challenge badge (Seven Cs and an R (say it out loud)) with two C’s left to collect; finish off my Compass challenge with a parkrun that contains ‘West’ in the name; complete a New Year’s Day double parkrun (I’m always out partying too late for it, and unsurprisingly this year was no different) and finally enter the Cowell club which involves completing 100 different parkrun locations (I’m currently on 80). I’d also like to reach my volunteering 25 times milestone, I’ve got 10 left to go, and I always try to volunteer when I go back to an event I’ve done before.
However, what would be the best achievement of 2020, would be to start up a parkrun here in Godalming and bring this amazing community to Broadwater Park. I look forward to that day that I run those two laps around the park, or stand up in front of everyone with a Run Director jacket on.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our parkrun travels, and I hope it has inspired you to have an adventure of your own!