Harcourt Hill

On one of the hottest Saturdays of the year it is great to be back touring with today’s event being held at Oxford Brookes University, Harcourt Hill campus.

First for me running a parkrun on university campus grounds with Harcourt Hill just 3 miles away from Oxford city centre and boasts excellent sports facilities that not only benefit university staff and students, but also for the local community as well that is great to hear!

Special mentions

I would like to wish Adam Clilverd and Rebecca Acton all the best for their upcoming wedding in 3 weeks’ time. Their plan is to run Oxford & University parks parkrun separately on the day and meet up for the wedding at 2pm. I love these parkrun stories 😊

Adam & Rebecca

Always a treat to meet up again with my very close running buddy Martin for another enjoyable fun packed morning!

Warm Weather Running

Even though parkrun starts at 9am in England & Wales, 9:30am in Scotland & Northern Ireland in heatwave conditions it is also good to take precautions!

  • Make sure you are well hydrated before the start of your parkrun event
  • Wear loose clothing and preferably a running hat to protect yourself from the sun
  • If you wish carry a small water bottle around with you to drink on the course
  • At the end of your run make there is water available to replenish what you have lost through sweating!
  • If you are feeling unwell on the course, if you can get to the nearest marshal who can help or if not the closest runner to you to get assistance!
  • Finally, you can always run a PB another week and be kind to yourself and run at a more conservative pace

Course

Harcourt Hill Course

This course is a simple 2 anti-clockwise laps of the perimeter of the campuses playing fields that is run entirely on grass and is almost flat in elevation!

With the amber heatwave warnings in place, I decided to run very conservatively in the baking morning sun time: 33:56

Points to Note

  • In the winter or after prolonged periods of rain I would recommend using trail shoes on this course
  • Just be weary of exposed tree roots in the short, wooded section

So finally on this course in the right temperature conditions this could be quite a fast grass event to run with overall a well kept surface even though it is very parched in this current drought!

Facilities

There is free parking available at their sports centre car park Sat nav OX2 9AT and we have been told by the centre staff it is free on Saturdays. As a precaution though I did leave my car registration details with their reception staff

There are toilet and changing/shower room facilities right next to the start of this event that is always a great bonus to any parkrun event!

Changing Facilities

For our post run coffee, we travelled just over 1 mile down the road to West Way Square complex Botley to Missing Bean coffee shop for a lovely beverage and quiche tarts for a perfect finish to our morning adventure.

There is free parking up to 2 hours at West Way Square multi storey car park sat Nav OX2 0LW

Conclusion

I would like to thank this week’s top run director Jenny Cooke and her team of hi-vi heroes for making us feel all extremely welcome!

Who knows Jenny we may bump into each other again on our tourist adventures πŸ™‚

So is you want to run a fast flat grass course with excellent facilities, then Harcourt Hill parkrun should be added to your parkrun tourist list πŸ™‚

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Stevenage

It’s great to be back at Stevenage, Hertfordshire for their 250th event with the last time I visited was over 6 years for their inaugural event on 28th May 2015

The reason for me repeating this parkrun event is a very simple one like five others I have toured in the past before I started writing parkrun blog reviews deserve a revisit to right this wrong!

Park History

Today’s parkrun is located at Fairlands Valley Park that is 120 acres in size and as they say has something for everyone to enjoy on their visit.

They parks name Fairlands comes they think from the “Fairlane which used to run almost due south linking Shephall with Pin Green.

In modern times in the 1966 master plan for Stevenage, Fairlands Valley was proposed to become the new towns principal park and the rest is history!

Special Mentions

I’ve met some inspirational people on my parkrun adventures and today I had the pleasure of meeting Roger Biggs marathon runner extraordinaire, and he informed me that he has currently run 913 marathons!

Roger, I doff my cap in your honour sir, a simply an outstanding achievement.

Roger Biggs

Big well done to Mylo the dog reaching their 100 parkrun today. I hope they gave you cake and a lovely bowl of water to celebrate this great achievement afterwards.

Finally Tony Randfield broke his all-time parkrun PB with an outstanding time of 20:24

Well done sir!!!

Course

Stevenage course map

The course is 2 clockwise laps of Fairlands Valley Park that is steadily undulating in elevation which starts by the main lake.

The surface is made up of 90% tarmac paths with a short 150 meter woodland trail section, then finally finishing off on lap two with a short trip on the grass to the finish funnel!

Points to note:

  • At the start of the parkrun the field splits into two, half runs by the lake and the other half run up a parallel grass bank before both groups joins back up. The core team have added a short dividing fence near the start for safety purposes that is an excellent idea!
  • Just be careful there are two sets of bollards on the course that you need to keep an eye on when running around
  • The 150-meter woodland trail section is a lovely addition but be wary of the exposed tree roots
  • Near the end you have a short sharp grass slope to test you before you run into the finish πŸ™‚

I was very happy with my time considering the undulating nature of the course as the previous few parkruns courses I have been too were very flat in nature!

Finally memo to myself concentrate at the start and make sure you have set your sports watch to record into outdoor running mode and not like me treadmill mode with it only said I had recorded 2.86 miles lol πŸ™‚

Facilities

This parkrun has excellent facilities with multiple free car parks dotted around the park. I chose the one very near to the start postcode SG2 0BL

There are toilet facilities available from 8:30am at Costello Cafe that is situated next to the main lake and I retired back there afterwards for a well-earned coffee and it had to be a strawberry ice cream as well πŸ™‚

Conclusion

I would like to thank this week’s run director Amy and her team of volunteers for an excellent job hosting your 250th parkrun milestone event, great work guys!!!

Stevenage Hi-Vis Heroes

Sorry did not have any green running top to help you celebrate your 250th event, but I hope that I have got away with wearing this turquoise work one πŸ™‚

So finally, if you like to test yourself on this gentle undulating course that has excellent facilities and a friendly community then Stevenage must be added to your tourist list to visit!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Millennium Country

Great to be finally back in my home county of Bedfordshire today at Millennium Country park, Forest of Marston Vale.

Forest of Marston Vale

I love to hear about sympathetic green projects returning once scared industrial landscapes in this case “Massive pits had been dug throughout the countryside to supply Stewartby Brickworks with clay” and converting the land with government approval into the Forest of Marston Vale that is 1 of 12 community forests in England.

The forest of Marston Vale aim is to cover 30% available area to them with trees that equates to planting 5 million extra saplings!

Planted tree sapling – copyright image from Forest of Marston Vale

As everyone knows who follows me that I now plant a tree in my dad’s memory for every new parkrun event that I travel too and will now moving forward make all future donations to The Forest of Marston Vale appeal.

Fun Fact

I was told by Millennium Country was their 98th event with 49 taking place before the pandemic and 49 afterwards, so an equal split πŸ™‚

It was great to bump into good friend John Tate from my home parkrun of Luton, Wardown and fellow tourist including Peter Brasted from High Wycombe picture below right wearing purple parkrun tee shirt!

Course

Millennium Country course

The course is a very simple out and back route around half of Stewartby Lake. There is very little elevation on this course and the surface is made up entirely of gravel trial path that are well maintained!

Points to note:

  • Dogs are not allowed at this event
  • The path is wide enough to allow for overtaking, but just take it easy if one of the runners is trying to overtake in the opposite direction on the way back!
  • This is a bridal path so be wary if horses on the course and walk if instructed by the course marshals. To be fair I think the riders knowingly decide to stay away for the duration of this event!
  • I have been told in wet weather the wooden footbridges could get a bit slippery so just take care around there

For me I feel like the parkrun weather gods were on my side with overcast conditions at the start, flat course to run and most of it was shaded with trees either side!

Facilities

There is paid car parking at this event that tariff is Β£2 for 3 hours and can be paid either by cash, card or phone app Sat Nav MK43 0PR

Always welcome before the start of any event there are toilets available outside the Forest Centre.

After the parkrun me and John retired to the Lakeside Cafe inside the Forest Centre for a well-earned cup of coffee and remember you get 10% off your bill on the production of your parkrun barcode, that is always a welcome bonus!

Lakeside CafΓ© at the Forest Centre

Conclusion

I would like to thank this week’s run director Verity and team of volunteers for making us all very welcome today and organising an excellent event!

Millennium Country volunteers

So, if you like a fast flat parkrun to run with excellent facilities, then Millennium Country must be high on your list of events to visit!

Finally, I would like to wish them all the best on their 100th parkrun event in a couple of weeks’ time and I’m sure you will all have a great time πŸ˜ŠπŸ‘πŸ»

For me next week I’m back at Luton, Wardown for my running club Stopsley Striders beginners course graduation parkrun and I’m really looking forward to it πŸ™‚

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

John Bunyan Trail

After nearly 2 years of completing virtual run/walk challenges like Land’s End to John O’ Groats during this pandemic I needed a change, so I finally got around to joining a local walking group and I am so pleased that I did.

Bedfordshire Walking Club

After a quick web search most walking groups seem to be on a platform called Meetup and this is where I joined a group called Bedfordshire Walking Club.

They clearly state on their what we’re about profile they recommend you should have a good level of walking fitness to be able sustain a good pace of over 3 miles per hours for a long period of time (on the day we were averaging 3.4 mile per hour) with most of their guided walks are 10 miles or longer before you sign up and join them!

So wisely chose the correct walking group for you in terms walking pace, distance you want to walk etc!

For me I have been doing a lot of walking during the pandemic and recently seriously upped the miles walked on weekend routes to 10+ miles, so this was the ideal group for me to join!

The Walk – From Sharpenhoe Clappers on the Trail of John Bunyan 11 Mile Walk

Route Map

The route follows a small part of the 86 miles of The John Bunyan Trail that starts on the top of Sharpenhoe Clappers, which is a stunningly beautiful point to start any walk πŸ™‚

With our host Nick we walked a 11 miles approx clockwise loop that incorporated woodlands, rolling chalk hills, public footpath trails. We even went close by to Bunyan’s Oak.

Verdict

This walk reinforced my view that I am so lucky to live in South Bedfordshire with an area of natural beauty on my doorstep in the form of the Chiltern Hills.

Very well organised, attractive planed route and I felt safe in the knowledge I was in the very capable hands of Nick guiding the way!

I have as well personally learnt one very important lesson on the day about pacing yourself while ascending the steep steps of Sharpenhoe Clappers near the end, I really struggled halfway up as I when off to fast for me, then had to stop for a few minutes to catch my breath before finishing the climb, lesson learned!

Facilities

There is a free car park at Sharpenhoe Clappers post code MK45 4SH but be aware there are no on-site toilet facilities.

Conclusion

For me I thoroughly enjoyed the company of Bedfordshire Walking club members, chatting to them and feeling that I have always been part of this group, thanks guys!

I will be back walking with them again on 24th July for the Olney 13 Mile circular walk and I am very much looking forward to it πŸ™‚

So finally happy walking everyone,

Best Mark

Points to note for newbies

  • I strongly recommend investing in a good pair of hiking boots & socks to protect your feet during these trail walks
  • Carry a rucksack containing water and a small amount of food to sustain your energy for 3+ hours of walking
  • Obvious one make sure your mobile phone is fully charged and I have an ICE tag tied on my boot lace in case something goes seriously wrong
  • Always survey the ground ahead of you for any trip hazards
  • Finally, to cover the Meetup site group admin costs Bedfordshire Walking Club charge Β£3 fee per members payable on the day of the event

March

Wow what a difference a day makes, yesterday we’re in the middle of a heat wave with temperatures over 30Β° C and this morning it was a much more desirable running conditions that was cooler & drizzling at March, Cambridgeshire.

History

March is a Fenland market town that once was once based on an island surrounded by marshes, but once they were drained it has grown into the lovely town we see today.

Today’s parkrun is based at West Park and allays a pleasure to have a beautiful meandering river to run beside on one side of the park in the form today of the river Nene old course πŸ™‚

Special Mentions

First to a lovely gentlemen called Peter (picture below right) who I chatted with afterwards and he told me back in the day he used to race against my local running club Stopsley Striders founder Tony Simmons, it was all my pleasure to meet you sir!

Also, Lenny who I first met at Whittlesey parkrun last week doing some local touring and I hope to bump into you again in the near future at another parkrun event πŸ™‚

Course

March course map

The course is 4 flat clockwise laps of the parameter West Park and terrain is a mixture grass, wood chip, gravel and tarmac paths with very little elevation to talk about anywhere on this course!

Points to note

  • Could see after a prolonged period of rain some sections of this course getting waterlogged, but I would struggle to make a case for in certain conditions trail shoes would be advisable to run in!
  • As said this course is very flat in nature so you could run if you wish to in a very fast time
  • Loved going up the steps at the end of each lap that is very unusual addition to any parkrun course

First for me today I have never had a run director running beside me for a lap and Andrew, you helped me keep my pace honest πŸ™‚

Facilities

There is free parking at City Road car park sat nav PE15 9LT that is right next to the start of the parkrun!

For toilets I used the George Campbell Leisure Centre and please follow the staff’s instructions that park runners either use the shoe overriders they provide or leave your shoes at reception before to go into use these toilets!

I have also been told you can use the leisure centre changing facilities and as a goodwill gesture please donate to the charity stick shaker they have on the reception desk.

I personally had no cash on me at the time, but when I got home made a small donation online to Macmillan cancer support their current chosen charity!

Finally, I did not stay afterwards but I have been told that a few of the regulars go for their post run coffee to The Griffin Hotel

Conclusion

I would like to thank Andrew and his team of volunteers for making us all feel extremely welcome today with the likes of marshals Thomas & Gary and their ghetto blaster playing a positive playlist of music to keep us going, well done lads!!!

So, if you want to run a fast lovely flat course then March parkrun has to be high on your tourist list to visit!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Manor Field parkrun, Whittlesey

Great to be back in Cambridgeshire after being over 4 years away with today’s parkrun in the lovely market town of Whittlesey that is located 6 miles from Peterborough and is on the edge of the Fenlands

Natural Solution

Wildflowers

Speaking to one of the volunteers Andy I asked about this stunning section of Manor Field that was planted with beautiful wildflowers?

He said that this specific part of Manor field suffered a lot a great deal with being waterlogged and it was decided to plant these flowers as a natural way to soak up the water!

What a brilliant simple natural solution to solve a problem that helps the wildlife and looked stunning running past in the summer sun today πŸ™‚

Course

Manor Field Course Map

The course at Manor Field is made up of 2 recreational fields with a small stripe of land that adjoins them that is flat, and course is entirely run-on grass.

You start in the small field and complete one clockwise lap, then go on to complete 3 more bigger laps of the entire parameter of both Manor Fields.

The end of the 3rd big lap you peel off onto the field where the finish funnel awaits!

Points to Note

  • Being by the river this course could get very muddy after prolonged periods of rain, but to be fair the council has placed wood chippings on the run section by the river Briggate.
  • So, if you are not sure course conditions, I would take along an addition pair of trail running shoes in the boot of your car!
  • Finally, the course is very well marshalled and marked out, so it is impossible to get lost.

For me it was a struggle running in the summer morning heat, but the flat nature of the course and the lovely scenery kept me going πŸ™‚

Facilities

There is free parking Manor Leisure Centre that is near to the start of this parkrun, but there is limited number of spaces available so I would recommend getting there no later than 8:30am postcode PE7 1UA

There are other free car park alternatives in the town they say is only five-minute walk from the start!

Toilet facilities are available at Manor Field pavilion from 8:30am that is always welcome to us parkrun tourists who have travelled a long way.

Currently post covid there is no post run coffee available Manor Field pavilion, but I have been told they are thinking of starting it up again!

There are a great number of current post run coffee alternatives at the moment that are available in the town centre that is only a stone’s throw away from this parkrun including The George Hotel that has Wetherspoons restaurant.

Conclusion

I would like to thank this week’s run director Erica and her excellent supportive team of volunteers that included Marcel is has fetching for the weather Hawaiian shirt πŸ™‚

Erica you are definitely in my top 10 list of favourite run directors, and I now know the secret of fast park running is corn on the cob just a shame I was not there when you sing to your parkrun community πŸ™‚

So, if you want a flat course that includes a river and beautiful wild flowers to run beside then Manor Field parkrun is a must to visit πŸ™‚

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Westminster Mile

When I saw this email inviting me to run the Vitality Westminster mile on the year of the Queen’s 70th Jubilee around Royal St James Park, London finishing outside Buckingham Palace. I just had to sign up there and then!

The event was held on Sunday 1st May as a prelude to the 10KM race that was planned for the following days Bank holiday Monday!

parkrun wave

For the record I was in wave 10 group that was reserved for park runners and it was great to see to people from different parkrun decked out in their apricot event tops πŸ™‚

Also, as always it was a pleasure to bump into fellow tourist friends again and catch up πŸ™‚

Course

The mile course starts on The Mall, and you run in a clockwise direction around the closed roads outside St James park that includes Birdcage Walk. Finally, you sprint or jog up to right outside Buckingham Palace.

Points to note

  • The course is very flat in nature and if you wish you can run a very fast time on the road
  • Love the marker boards displaying how far to go from 800 metres out
  • Marshalls controlling tourists points

For me I got a bit carried away with the occasion and started off way too fast for my current pace, but with the distance markers informing me how far to go I rallied with a OK mile time of 9:56

Facilities

As you would expect from the London Marathon organisers everything was perfect from the village set up in Green Park, to plenty of toilet facilities and a large well organise baggage drop off area!

For me the most convenient way too get to it for me was by Thameslink train, then London underground getting off at the conveniently located Green Park station.

Final Verdict

I would 100% recommend this event to everyone from fun runners to people who want to test how fast they can run a timed event mile in around an iconic venue!

You all have been told πŸ™‚

Best Mark aka Silent Runner

Witney

Today was a first for me at Witney, West Oxfordshire as on all my travels I have never been to a parkrun that I first saw their core team over 4 years at their test takeover event at Oxford parkrun back on the 13th January 2018 with their inaugural event held just a couple of months afterwards on 10th March 2018.

Oxford takeover event with Punam Owens run director

Now it is great visit for their 130th event and seeing the fruits of their labours come to fruition πŸ™‚

Course

This course consists of one small clockwise around the football/cricket field, then followed by two larger out and back laps that incorporates Deer Park Wood

Points to Note

  • To make up the 5km distance near the start we go in the opposite direction for about 40 metres then make a u turn around a tree
  • The course terrain is almost entirely made up of grass or trail paths around the wooded section. The only tarmac is a short cycle path just at the start of each out lap.
  • I have been told after prolonged periods of rain it would be advisable to run in trail shoes on this course
  • I do recommend if you are looking to post good time, place yourself at the point where you think you are going to finish in the event at the start as there are a few pinch points that is hard to overtake on
  • Loved running up the slight uphill woodland path through the woods that has been beautifully kept by Witney Woodland Volunteers

My overall verdict the course with its woodland feature, very well signposted and love the enthusiasm of the marshals with special mention to my Fulham FC friend and the family with pom poms and a cowbells to cheer us along.

With Fulham friend

Facilities

There is free parking right near the parkrun at Windrush Industrial Estate post code OX29 0NB that is excellently sign posted and has it’s our Whitney event car park marshals.

Before the start of the parkrun there are two portaloos available behind West Witney Sports & Social Club that is always welcome for us tourists!!

Now for post run refreshments you have a choice of venues, I went for a mobile cafe behind West Witney Sports & Social Club called the Snack Shack for a lovely bacon roll & coffee before my long journey home!

Another place they recommend for a sit down and chat is Ue Coffee Roasters that is barely half a mile away from their designated car park.

Conclusion

I would like thank todays run director James Field and his excellent team of volunteers for making this a very enjoyable event to visit, you should be all very proud of what you have achieved over the last 4 years at Witney ever since I bumped into you all at Oxford parkrun takeover event!

So, my tourist friends if you are looking for very friendly well organised event with a great woodland trail feature to run then Witney parkrun is a must to visit!

Best Mark aka Silent Runner

Extra News

From now on my parkrun tourist adventures I will donate a tree in my dad’s memory for every parkrun I visit.

Bicester

There are times when you are just privileged to run at such a lovely park in Langford Fields that is located in the beautiful quintessential English town of Bicester, Oxfordshire.

Langford Fields

The best thing about this park is its design that beautifully incorporates streams, ponds and meadow land, but at the same time it a functional park for people just relax and enjoy it was a sheer joy just to be there let alone run their parkrun!

Special Mentions

Always great to bump into fellow tourists with special mention to Dan Warner from Bognor Regis and Dave Warner RD at Oaklands parkrun πŸ™‚

Big well done to Shelly Everett who selflessly volunteered as a tail walker on her 50th parkrun, you are what makes parkrun so special to me. I hope though you celebrated with cake afterwards πŸ™‚

Shelly 50th parkrun

Course

Bicester summer course map

This was the first time this year they started using the summer course that consisted of two clockwise laps of Langford fields. The terrain was a mixture of grass, gravel and tarmac paths.

On the final lap you peel off and run onto the meadow field where the finish funnel awaits.

Points to note

  • After prolonged rain I can see a few grass sections getting very boggy
  • Position yourself where you think where you think you are going to finish in the event as there is little bit of bunching at the start, but to be fair soon dissipates
  • Always great to run a 2 lap course with in my case not having to worry about faster runners overtaking me multiple times.

Facilities

There is free parking facilities available at Langford Village Comunity primary school between 8:15am to 10:15am post code OX26 6SX

There are no toilet facilities availbe at the school or inside the park, the closest one available is at Claremont car park that is paid parking and is located 12 minutes away from the start of the parkrun post code OX26 6PB

I went with Dave and Dan to FLTR Coffee for our post run refreshments that is only stones though away from the school with free onsite parking available and they make a lovely cup of coffee to finish of a perfect morning!

FLTR Coffee

Final Verdict

A big thank you to today’s run director Kathryn Andrews and her team of volunteers for making us all feel extremely welcome, top stuff!

So, if you want to run on a beautiful parkrun course that is flat as it comes then Bicester is definitely the place to add onto your bucket list!

Finally, I have already picked the next event from my luck dip list and who knows it could be your event πŸ˜‰

Best Mark aka Silent Runner

Corby

Well after over two years away it’s great to be finally back parkrun touring again and today, I am at West Glebe Park, Corby, Northamptonshire.

History

West Glebe Park has a very interest past was originally a vast quarry mining for iron stone and had a blast furnace on site to process the iron ore until 1916, then when the quarry flooded the local children used to swim in, finally it was used as a landfill site, grassed over and left to become derelict! Link here

I love to hear though about once disused pieces of land can be resurrected for the benefit of its local community in the shape of a new park with West Glebe Park being a fine example of this kind of transformation!

Kindred Spirits

One of my pleasures is always meeting new people and fellow avid parkrun tourists so today I met we met Alex Brown and as always, it’s great to run with my good buddy Martin Ball on my parkrun adventures πŸ™‚

Course

Corby course map

This multi-terrain course comprises of at the start one tarmac footpath smaller lap and then follows two larger laps of the park that includes running across grass playing fields, woodland and tarmac sections.

Finally you almost finish the course where you started from just outside of the pavillion!

Points to note

  • The course is undulating in nature, but love the down run towards the finish, even though there is a very small incline at the end up to the finish line.
  • Even though I have been told that this course is quick drying there are a couple of places that they say can be tricky to navigate after a lot of rain!

Facilities

There is free parking at West Glebe park Sat Nav NN17 1SX this is slightly different postcode than the one stated their official parkrun course web page.

There are toilets available before the start at the pavilion and afterwards you can have a post run coffee from there as well πŸ™‚

Pavilion

We asked one of the local patrons if there was a cafe nearby though where we could have a cooked breakfast and we were sent to the one called Boating Lake Cafe that was only half a mile away from the parkrun. A lovely breakfast and a very friendly service finished off a perfect tourist morning in Corby:)

Final Verdict

I would like to thank run director Matt Robey and his team of hi vis hero’s for doing a great job and being very encouraging to us all on the course, top stuff!

Corby Hi Vis Hero’s

So, if you are ever in area I can highly recommend this parkrun and its community to you all to visit, you have been told!

So finally, what is next for me I will carry on completing the 50th closest parkrun events not completed from my lucky dips list and be very happy in doing so πŸ™‚

Best Mark aka Silent Runner

Other News

I would like to congratulate Kettering parkrun local neighbour of Corby on their 200th event run on Saturday and my good friend Vax Nix who has run every one of them, top stuff and happy anniversary!

running blog for everyone