Category Archives: Running parkrun

Event 77 Reading

On a beautiful bright crisp winter morning at the picturesque Dinton Pastures, Reading it was great to have a few hours of happiness in what has been a very tough sad personal week for me and my mum!

Parkrun community

One thing I love about parkrun is so many positive things can happen at 9am every Saturday morning and Reading kept giving and giving with celebrating parkrun milestones, meeting tourist friends, an inspirational volunteer and a exceptional running fundraiser, wow!

Reading’s Finest

First of all two inspirational members of Reading parkrun community, first up is Ray Jones who has reached the hallowed milestone of completing 250 events, who was very welcoming to us all and my I say that your celebration cakes were delicious, a running achievement to be proud of sir!

Next up is Chris Smith with over 250 volunteers to his name is a hi vis hero for Reading parkrun who Marshall’s the vital position on this winter course, directing runners in which route to take around the lake depending on what lap they are on!

Chris the outstanding commitment you have shown to your community should be applauded by everyone who loves parkrun!

Tourist community

One thing is always a delight is meeting old and making new parkrun friends at different locations, so today I welcomed back Martin Ball, Kevin Brown, Terry Garner and met for the first time the lovely Luscombe family that consists of Adrian, Sarah and Daisy, great to meet you guy’s!

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Inspirational runner

for the record I have met some great characters on my amazing tours, so to my delight and amazement at run briefing who would turn up none other than Matthew Melling aka The Wigan Runner orchestrating a selfie with the whole of Reading parkrun community, I cannot keep writing this material as no one will believe me 🙂

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For the record this selfless runner is fundraising for different very worthy causes for his local community by continually running daily 5k with today at Reading he was on day 413 of his adventure!

I feel that I have met a kindred spirit in Matthew as in 2016-17 I completed a year of fundraising for my local hospice through my capital parkrun adventures!

Matthew I salute you for all the hard work you put in for your worthy causes, outstanding body of work mate!

Course

Reading winter course map

This was their winter course that takes place at Dinton Pastures that consists of 3 anti-clockwise laps that incorporates both Black and White Swan lakes.

The first two shorter laps are run around the strip of land that buffers both lakes, but the final longer lap is run around the entire parameter of White Swan lake!

This is a very flat course as you would expect running around lakes and the surface is a mixture of compact earth/gravel paths!

Points to Note

  • There was a few pools of mud and water on the path but overall was in good order
  • The surface overall still only warranted normal trainers as trail shoes would have been overkill!
  • As with most parkruns you run onto grass to the finish funnel that was short but quite tricky on this course
  • Please remember that when course conditions are favourable Reading preferred course is Thames Valley Park

My time today was 35:48 that under the circumstances of not running this week I was happy with this level of fitness!

Finally loved the little touches that make each parkrun unique in the case it was the fun rubber chicken squeaky toy that you squeeze when your run a PB as modelled by my good friend Martin 🙂

Reading PB chicken martin

Facilities

There is paid parking available at Dinton Pastures Sat Nav location RG10 0TH, toilets are available from 8.30am at the Dragonfly cafe and you can buy your parking from the cafe as well!

For that post run coffee we could have not asked for a more lovely cafe than The Dragonfly

Dragonfly café

Final Verdict

I would like to thank today’s run director Peter Reilly and his team of volunteers for making us all feel extremely welcome and part of your community!

Reading volunteer group shot

So finally with a great flat 3 lap winter course around the lakes of Dinton Pastures is a must destination for any parkrun tourist, you have been told!

Best Mark aka The Silent Runner

Event 78 Homewood 24-02-2018

Extra News

Just like to say I am very proud to receive a Special Award from Stopsley Striders my hometown club for my parkrun adventures where I am honoured to be a coach of you all 🙂

Special Award 2017

Event 76 Billericay

In the depths of winter my love affair with Essex and East London parkruns grows even stronger as on this bitterly cold day the depth of welcome I received from Billericay community was heartwarmingly welcoming!

Billericay, Essex is a town with a population 28,000 and in the Borough ofBasildon with this event taking place at the lovely named park in Lake Meadows

This park covers 40 acres and was originally owned by the Spitty family, who had the lake dug out by unemployed labourers, but the local council had the foresight in 1935 to buy this land and transform it into the lovely park you see today, well done!

Community Spirit

This parkrun journey of discovery never ceases to amaze me with Billericay parkrun just 7 months old but has the core nucleus of a great community feel is there for any tourist to see soon as you walk through the park gates!

So how do measure this could it be the friendly chat with the local patrons before the start of the run, young Sofie’s corner where she welcomely cheers you up the hill or chatting away with Judith Campbell as we come towards the finish, even the very friendly post run coffee chat (thank you to the kind couple was bought me a unexpected coffee) was a lovely finishing touch to this morning event!

Me with Judith Campbell

So in summary Billericay has all of these qualities in spades and it is great to see the local town wholeheartedly get behind their event!

Wizard & the Dragon

It’s great to see how the Friend of Lake Meadows come up with this excellent project to turn the sad loss of one of the parks oak trees, then get the necessary funding and with the aid of a talented sculptor in Neil Bruce come up with this excellent depiction of The Wizard and the Dragon that is a striking visual talking point when you enter the park, brilliant stuff!

Course

Billericay course map

This winter course was a modified 3.8 anticlockwise laps of Lake Meadows that was a mixture of tarmac paths and grass, undulating in nature that tested your stamina, but the inclines were far from being to excessive! On the final lap you turn off towards the finish just after the edge of the lake!

As with most courses this time of year ice is a continual worry for event organisers with this event not being immune with two short tarmac sections being iced over with standing water so effecting this weeks route that took couple of diversions onto the grass!

icy tarmac path

My time was 34.21 that is a little bit misleading as with the changes to the route I just run  just under 5k distance but is very understandable under the circumstances and 1000% more preferable than cancelling this event!

Facilites

There is free weekend parking available at Radford Crescent council car park Sat Nav CM12 0DR, For some reason the parks toilets were closed before the event but I have been told by the core team that is is not a usual occurrence!

For the obligatory post run coffee we retired to Cafe in the Park that was very welcoming in that very inclement weather!

Cafe in the Park Billericay

Other facilities included

  • Playing fields,
  • Fishing
  • Bowling green
  • tennis courts and
  • Children’s play area
  • Swimming pool,
  • Cricket pitch and skate park.

Final Verdict

I would like to give a resounding thank you to the run director Samuel Hill and his team of volunteers that done a excellent job in dealing with very tricky course conditions in a very happy positive way!

Billericay volunteer shot

Finally so Billericay you may be new in parkrun events terms, but have a brilliant exuberance and kind supportive manor about your event that if I did not know any better I had always been a member of your community, top marks Billericay!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Event 77 Reading 17-02-2018

Event 75 Woodley

On a very cold wet winters day it was all about a significant personal milestone and a fond farewell for one local park runner at Woodley, Berkshire!

So Woodley is the largest suburb of Reading and it’s name is derived from old English term meaning “a clearing in the woods” with today’s parkrun situated at Woodford park that is the largest park in Woodley!

 

It is great to see how many different elements of Woodford park just worked from a beautifully kept War Memorial for the brave soldiers who lost their lives to a lake to walk around and leisure centre including playing fields at the other side of the park. A true great use of available space for the local community, top stuff!!!

parkrun Milestone

I have now completed 75 different parkrun events over a period just over year and a half in taking parkrun tourism seriously, so now well on my way of reaching my 100th target at Houghton Hall parkrun on the 8th September!

Woodley 75 parkrun celebration

For the record I am aiming to join the unofficial parkrun group of Cowell club members that is named after Chris Cowell who was the first person to complete this impressive 100 parkrun total.

I was lucky to meet the great man himself at Heartwood Forest parkrun and what gentlemen he was to talk with about his adventures!!!!

Me with Chris Cowell
With Chris Cowell

Farewell

For Simon Goodall who run with is guide Andy Loring his last parkrun at Woodley this weekend as he is moving home to Hatfield, Hertfordshire. Must feel strange as parkrun is more than a 5k run every Saturday morning it’s where you meet your friends, share stories and feel part of a wonderful community of likeminded people!

Simon Goodall last woodley parkrun

Each week on my travels I get that little bit more homesick for Luton, Wardown with Pete’s corner, chatting with friends and having coffee at our lovely cricket club!

Rest assured though Simon Ellenbrook Fields parkrun community are a great bunch people as I can testify from a recent visit 🙂

Course

Woodley course map

Woodley consists of 3 clockwise laps of the perimeter of Woodford park that is mainly run on tarmac paths, but there are grass sections around the playing fields and the short turn onto the grass to run into the finish!

 

Points to note

  • There is no real elevation to this course, just minor undulations up to the war memorial and the playing fields sections respectfully!
  • With over 400 runners at this event it did become quite congested at the start, so I would recommend place yourself in the queue where you think you are going to finish the run in relation to time!
  • As shown the grass sections were very muddy but if you run at the sides of the path you could still find firm footing though!

Not sure what happened with this weeks time 37:02 two minutes slower than last event, can only think that taking it steadily on the grass sections in the rain!

Facilities

There is paid parking at Headley road opposite the park with charges upto ÂŁ2 for 4 hours Sat Nav RG5 4JA

I have been told that toilets are available inside the Oakwood centre from 8:30am that is always good to hear!

For the post run coffee we retired to the lovely Brown Bag cafe that is situated inside the Oakwood centre for a well deserve hot beverage on this coldest of days!

Oakwood centre

Facilities included

Final Verdict

I would like to thank run director Samantha Whalley and her team of volunteers for making us feel welcome on a bitterly cold day! Special mention to fellow uber parkrun tourist Jenny Mulhearn, it was great meeting you and sharing our tourist stories together!

Woodley volunteer group shot

So if you are looking for a interesting multi terrain 3 lapper and want to meet a friendly parkrun community then Woodley is a must on your travels!

Best

Mark aka Silent Runner

Event 76 Billericay 10-02-2018

Event 74 Chelmsford Central

So this week I came to Chelmsford the county town of Essex to witness the phenomenon  of one of the most well attended parkrun events in the UK and try to find out the secret behind it’s success!

So Chelmsford with a population of 168,000 and is the only city in the county of Essex, with the honour being bestowed on the town as it was then in 2012 as part of the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebration.

Apart from being England’s newest city there is so much to see and do on your visit from it’s heritage to sports venues, plus Chelmsford being so close to London is a great destination for a day trip!

Secret to Success

So location is always key for a successful attended parkrun with this one in the centre of the city, but there is so much more to this single lap event that normally boasts attendances of over 600 park runners every week with 697 for event 270 this week alone, wow!!!

Chelmsford Attendance

One reason reason could be the enjoyable essence of any parkrun is the adventure of exploring different unique aspects of a park with Chelmsford having this in great abundance that includes

  • 18th century railway viaduct towering over the park to run underneath
  • Beautiful River Can meandering alongside with bridges to run across
  • Multi terrain surfaces to run on
  • Even the urban art in the underpass connecting the parks together is a great touch to give you the feel you are running in a city!

 

So location and a very enjoyable course has a lot going for Chelmsford and I would like to congratulate Sarah Hawkes one of this parkrun regulars on reaching the 100 parkrun this weekend, excellent work and it was all pleasure to meet you may I add!

Sarah Hawkes 100th

 

Course

Chelmsford course map

Single lap course incorporating both Chelmsford central and Admirals Parks, mainly run on tarmac footpaths but there are a few grass sections especially around Admirals park area!

 

Not much elevation on this course except for a short sharp slope running up to Rainsford Road from the playground section!

slope section

Points to note

  • The start is on grass and you run a short loopback before you head towards Admirals park, this is a bit of a bottleneck for runners for a short period of time
  • As with most grass sections or courses can get a bit boggy in places during winter with this happening mainly along the straight grass section of Admirals park
  • Final 30 metres are again run on grass and the advice you are given is take it steady when you come over the finish line!

My time 35:51 is now the time to beat in my fight to regain my fitness and pace!

Facilities

There are two car parks serving this event with Waterhouse Lane on Meteor Way free at weekends, Sat Nav CM1 2RL that is slightly different postcode listed on Chelmsford parkrun website course page.

For our post run coffee we retired to the lovely establishment of Cake at the Lake cafe located very close to the finish in Central park. Another welcome feature the toilets behind the cafe were available before the start of this event!

Also if you like your cricket next to Central Park is Essex County ground where you can enjoy a first class cricket match in the summer, heaven even though I am a Middlesex supporter 🙂

Other facilities included

  • multi use sports area
  • riverside walks
  • children’s play areas
  • plentiful picnic areas throughout the parks

Final Verdict

I would like to thank the Run Director Paul Brookes and his team of volunteers for making us all feel welcome, a special mention goes to how very well organised this parkrun was from the start to the finish processing of the results especially in having to  deal with such a large field of runners, top work guys!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So did I find the answer to my question why Chelmsford is so well attended possibly not but with a central location, people and a top single lap course you can see some of the ingredients at work!

So my parkrun tourist friends if you have not run Chelmsford Central I ask you the question, why not you have been told!!!

Best

Mark

Event 75 Woodley 03-02-2018

Event 73 Oxford

This week at Oxford there were a couple of parkrun firsts for me from running in a new county of Oxfordshire and seeing first hand a small piece of the hard work that goes into the development of a new parkrun event!

New County

So Oxford the county town of Oxfordshire with a population of 170,350 and home for the world renowned oldest university in the english speaking world. The city name originally came from Saxon times calling the original settlement Oxenaforda meaning, “Ford of the Ox”, with the resulting name derived from a river crossing used by the settlements oxen back in AD900

Today’s event was Oxford parkrun one of two parkrun in the city and with this one based in the northern part at Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park, which is the largest park in Oxford at 42 hectares

Parkrun Evolution

It was great to see that event no 320 that Oxford invited members of Witney core team to run this event for the day giving them vital training before the launch of their new event in the near future!

I can only imagine the hard work that goes in from a local running community starting from the initial idea to the birth of a new parkrun event!

Under the excellent supervision of local parkrun ambassador Dominic Guinness, the Vi-Vis hero’s from Witney done a brilliant job expertly lead by their very own run director Punam Owens, you were all naturals and run the event seamlessly!

Oxford volunteers group shot

Course

Oxford Winter course map

Run on the winter course that comprises of 3 anticlockwise laps of Cutteslowe and Sunnymead park that running surface is a mixture of tarmac, gravel and grass!

Not much elevation on this course apart from a minor incline starting at the backend section near the lower pavilion to the finish!

Points to note

  • Near the start there is a small bottleneck at the southern corner where the grass meets a track alongside the A40 that soon clears though!
  • As with most courses this time of year there was lying water in a couple of small sections particularly muddy was a short grass stretch just before the lower pavilion

Time today was 36:02 now I know where my current fitness level is on this flat 5k course!

Facilities

There is paid parking at this event, but interesting fact is that charges do not come into effect until after 10am, so for most park runners that makes it free to park, even if you stay for an extra hour it is only 60p. So very friendly for tourists having to come by car to this event!

For easy access for the start of the parkrun the northern car park is best, but I suggest using the post code OX2 8LH for Harbord Road that leads straight onto the car park. The other post code OX2 8NP sends you into Park Close that unless you know their is a small private road off this close that double backs into the park, quite confusing for none locals!

Odd thing there are large amount of toilets available at this park but for some reason were closed before the start of the parkrun, a kind member of staff did though let me use the inside toilet at Cutteslowe pavilion though!

For the post run coffee we retired to the lovely The San Remo cafĂ© that is very close to the parkrun finish line and a miniature railway is available between April to October on Sunday’s, bank holiday and Wednesday throughout August 🙂

Other facilities Include

  • Football/cricket pitches
  • Children’s play area
  • Tennis/Basketball courts
  • Mini golf course
  • Sri Chimnoy Peace Mile

Final verdict

I would like to thank Oxford parkrun community for making us all feel extremely welcome on the day, top stuff guy’s!

Also good luck to the volunteers from Witney, I am positive when your event goes live it will be a great addition to parkrun UK community and I promise to visit you one day!

So finally if you are looking for a fast flat multi-terrain course then Oxford is definitely the parkrun for you!!

Extra news

Special mention to Evelyn Lutterodt who celebrated her 100th parkrun at Luton, Wardown, but this is no ordinary lady as she has run every distance from 5K to Marathon and as I am writing this is on day 410 of her running streak, wow!!!

Evelyn 100th parkrun

She also writes a successful blog called This Runner Loves Purple and we are very lucky to have this lady at our running club and is an inspiration to everyone who knows her, outstanding achievements Evelyn!!!!

Event 72 Great Notley

On a bitterly cold January morning the warmth of the Great Notley parkrun community was outstanding that I have only witnessed a few times on my tourist travels! It is great to run in an environment where you feel you instantly belong even though I was 70 miles away from my beloved home parkrun of Luton, Wardown, wow!

History

With a population of 5,500 Great Notley was developed as a self-sustaining garden village back in 1993 by Countryside Developments and part of this village was the building of a new Country Park the home of today’s parkrun!

Hill View Great Notleyimg_0779

Lovely touch

One tradition for tourists to Great Notley is to sign their guest book that is a great way of you showing your appreciation of the event and it’s volunteers, so if you have the time add a message of thanks!

Guest book

Course

Great Notley course

Today we run the winter course that is two anticlockwise laps of Great Notley Country Park, which is run mainly on gravel paths but has a few grass sections and very unusually a children’s sand play area to run through, I kid you not!!!

 

Great feature on this course is at the end of lap 1 only you run up the park’s man-made hill to the bird of freedom sculpture and probably for good luck the locals invite you to touch the birds plinth when you get to the top!

 

Points to Note

  • Apart from the hill this course is quite flat in nature
  • Wide mass start line of runners jockeying for position for the first 50 metres
  • Like a lot of courses this time of year you had to be weary of the mud and ice especially running down their grass hill section!

My time was 39:13 not great but under the circumstances not feeling well the previous evening I cannot complain!

Facilities

There is a pay and display car park at this event Sat Nav CM77 7FS with up on 2 hours costing £3. There are also available both toilet and changing facilities before and after the parkrun at the parks Discovery Centre building, always welcome for us tourists traveling a distance to a parkrun!

For the post run coffee we retired to the warmth of Lily’s Cafe that is located inside the centre, nice gesture they open up at 8am every Saturday (especially for this event patrons) and give a 10% discount for park runners on production of your barcode:)

Other facilities include

  • Children’s play areas including sky ropes
  • Horse riding
  • Free fishing
  • Cycling
  • Walking
  • Football pitches and games area

Final verdict

I would like to thank the run director John Stoneman and his team of volunteers for making everybody feel extremely welcome and for the record John you would make a great after dinner speaker!

My favour line of information to the masses at the run briefing was after already telling everyone that the Essex Cross country championships were using the park later on was, “if  you are following someone with a race number then you not doing the parkrun“, classic and he got us all to repeat the message back to him 🙂

So would I recommend Great Notley to you all, most definitely with a top parkrun course with a hill test and a real lovely parkrun community, they are a credit to parkrun UK!

Finally don’t forget to touch that bird, you have been told!!!!!!!

Best

Mark

Event 73 Oxford 13-01-2018

Event 69 Nonsuch

Where to start on this blog post, the beautiful Nonsuch park and mansion steeped in history, my milestone of completing all 58 parkruns inside the M25 area, no quite simple on this occasion the lost of a friend and a parkrun tourist brethern!

Mark Sherwood – A tourist friend

Mark Sherwood RIP

I have been so lucky to meet so many lovely people on my parkrun adventures and Mark was up their with the best of them, what I knew of him was a kind unassuming man that let his running do the talking!!!

My happiest memory of Mark was at Vicky’s 100th event celebration at Cassiobury parkrun, where Mark was running his 99th parkrun and with great fun he went and gave us all a Cadburys 99 ice cream to celebrate his feat, top gesture from a top man!

99 ice cream celebration

He has only just completed his 100th different UK parkrun event that is my current goal and I will be now dedicating this challenge under Mark’s name!

RIP Mark

Nonsuch history

It is great to come to Nonsuch park with such a rich history that started in 1538 when then King Henry VIII built the splendid Nonsuch palace with the name came from the boast this palace was, “none such place like it” in Europe!

It survived until 1682 where it was demolished by Charles II then mistress Barbara, Countess of Castlemaine who decided to raise the palace to the ground and use the building material to pay off gambling debts!

Today their are markers in the park to show where the palace once stood and the Friends of Nonsuch have commissioned a beautiful recreated model of what the palace once looked like in all it’s splendour and is available to view by the general public at the Nonsuch mansion house!

Initiative

First for me on my parkrun travels Nonsuch parkrun have introduced at their event the Nonsuch 5K+ that is all about how to improve as a runner, it starts at 8:30am before the parkrun. This week we had a lecture expertly delivered by Tim Jones on nutrition. I love these initiatives especially as in being a running coach!!!

nonsuch 5k+

Course

Nonsuch course map

The course is just under 2 clockwise flat laps of Nonsuch park that is made up of a mixture of surfaces from tarmac to grass surfaces!

Course Grass Nonsuch

Points to note

  • The grass surface in wet or icy conditions should be run with a degree of care
  • There is little or no elevation making it again in the right conditions when the ground is firm for a very fast course!

I decided to run the course steady and gather my thoughts, I would like to thank Angela Sandy Ambrose for allowing me to join her excellent one minute walk/run group! I had to finish my final parkrun inside the M25 by crossing the finish line with my very good parkrun friend Robert Kidd, time 47:40

Robert have a great christmas and enjoy your 250 parkrun celebrations in the new year mate!!!

Me and Robert Nonsuch

Facilities

There is free car parking area’s dotted around the park and toilet facilities are available at Nonsuch mansion before the start of the parkrun that is always great news!

For the obligatory post run coffee we retired to the Nonsuch Pantry café that was very welcome sight on the coldest of morning runs!

Also I would throughly recommend walking around the gardens at Nonsuch mansion especially in summer and take a look around Service Wing Museum and Nonsuch Palace Gallery if you have time!

Final verdict

I would like to thank the run director Jane Bransgrove and her team for making everyone feel at home, I love the way the event was organised given the size of the field with over 400 runners, top marks guys!!!

Nonsuch volunteers

So if you want to run a fast parkrun time in a beautiful park steeped in history then Nonsuch park is the event for you and in my case a great location to finish running all the parkruns inside the M25!

Thank you Nonsuch

Best

Mark

Extra News

Back at my home parkrun of Luton, Wardown it is my great pleasure to announce two very good friends reached their respective 100 parkrun club this weekend, Geoffrey White and Philip Davies!

Geoffery & Philip Davies

For the record Geoffrey in orange is one of the parkrun legends at Luton and has the honour of being fastest man with a walking stick reaching speeds/times some runners would envy!

Now in Philip case is a fellow Stopsley Strider club member with a bright future, just last month he broke the magical parkrun barrier of sub 20 mins, brilliant effort sir!!!!
See you all over the festive holiday Luton!

Event 70-71 MK double new year header