So my dad has been quite keen on doing a bit of parkrun tourism (visiting other parkruns). We have our two local ones (St Albans and Panshanger, although we favour Panshanger now and rarely do St Albans) which we visit together, and have all been to Gadebridge in Hemel separately. He has been to a few different ones to me; Wimbledon Common, Cannon Hill in Birmingham- both when he was at the tennis tournaments, and Lloyd parkrun in Croydon, which he and my brother visited before a football match a few weeks ago, whereas I have been to Hove Promenade and Crissy Field (San Fran). For the last few weeks they have either had to head off soon after, or I have been volunteering so we have been tied to Panshanger. This week we realised that as I was not volunteering and they had no plans we could go somewhere new.
We spent a while looking at the local ones, but Dad was not keen on the idea of 3 lap courses- so many of them are, and we were losing hope. Then we came across Aldenham County Park parkrun, which is only 2 laps, so decided to give it a go.
I picked them up at 8.15 to give us plenty of time to get there- we arrived at about 8.45 so plenty of time. I am awful at directions so had spent a while on their course page, and on google maps, trying to work out where it was (it didn’t help that I went to uni at the Aldenham Herts campus, which it turns out is not the same place as the country park!), but the postcode on their course page took us right there so there was no need for me to worry. As we drove up the little road to the car park, some sheep wandered across the road (no lambs though). You do have to pay to park (well, you pay on exit) and it’s normally £4.50 (most people would visit for the day, there’s a little farm, nice walks, a Winnie the Pooh trail…) but now if you show your parkrun barcode it’s only £2, which isn’t so bad. It turned out that I parked right by the finish straight, so I think next time I would park a bit further back. When we got there, we were the first runners to arrive!
(The view of the final turn from the boot of my car- after we had finished).
It was a bit chilly at the start- I had worn a long sleeved top under my t-shirt and had thought I might be warm, but that was fine for me in the end.
The lady that did the new runners briefing was so lovely and welcoming- she asked where the tourists were from and wrote our home parkruns down, and there was one first timer so she made him feel very welcome too.
From their facebook page- I think we are cheering the new parkrunner here!
Almost as soon as that was finished, she then gave the main briefing (again giving everyone a reminder about the car park token system), mentioned that there was a pacer who could run between 25 and 30 minutes (one man took him up on his offer), welcomed the new runner and tourists (and mentioned each of our home parkruns which was a lovely touch), thanked the volunteers and then we were off! There were only 25 runners so I was conscious of not going off too fast. I ended up chatting to a lady who had come from Milton Keynes, and that was perfect as the chatting speed meant I was keeping a steady pace.
The route itself is lovely- it was two laps, the first lap being slightly longer, going around the lake and then through some woods. They had warned that it was muddy (and I had worn my newer trainers, not my trail shoes) but the first section of each lap was fine- mainly concrete type paths with a thin covering of mud and a few puddles to skirt around. But then the second section of each lap through the woods was far muddier- I took plenty of detours to avoid the biggest muddy sections. I really enjoyed it though- as there were so few runners at times I had the woods to myself. I saw bluebells, plenty of ducks and coots, a few dog walkers and just generally enjoyed the change of scenery. At one point I noticed an amazing carving of some acorns in a fallen tree trunk- it would be a lovely place for a walk too. The marshals were lovely- one was indicating which way you went towards the end of each lap (right for the first lap left for the second). I was just behind the first timer, and she told him “remember, you don’t have to run the whole way, walk if you want”. On my second lap she congratulated me on my 50 parkruns (I was wearing my 50 t-shirt)- really friendly.
From their facebook page- the half way point (ish)
The finish was back into the car park, and I could see everyone standing by the finish line which is always motivating. I did get told off for being so clean! I think I had one splat of mud on one leg, whereas my dad had mud all the way up his trousers! I really was avoiding the mud because of my newish trainers!
I ended up as number 16, 4th lady and second in my age category, with a time of 30.41. It’s a good flat course though so once I am feeling more confident I am sure I will be back to try and get myself a nice pb. One thing I loved was looking through the photos on their facebook page- pretty much every runner was smiling.
Then we headed home and Mum made us all pancakes- a pretty good start to the weekend!
I had to be careful not to run any ducks over on my way out of the car park!
It did get me thinking though, why some parkruns have such low attendance. This parkrun is 12 miles from where I live, so not at all far. Our two closest, St Albans and Panshanger are regularly getting 200- 300 + runners each week, and St Albans particularly is so congested now which puts me off, whereas close by there is Barclay (in Hoddeston) which seems to have 40ish. Gadebridge in Hemel seems to get around 100. Does the car park charge put people off? But then in St Albans the parking charges start at 9.30 so unless you are very speedy now you are unlikely to get your chip scanned in time. Do people just tend to go to their local one and not explore other options? Do people prefer ones based in towns as opposed to out in the country somewhere? It would be hard to get to Aldenham by public transport I think, and it does seem a bit far from the nearby towns to be able to run there and back. Do ones linked to local running clubs do better? On the results the only clubs were from tourists (this week), and I wonder if having that base of runners helps with word of mouth, volunteers and generally upping runner numbers.
On a side note, a while back (using some EarthMiles points as a discount) I bought myself a Stnky bag for my sports kit- I have used it a couple of times- it unzips on both sides, one side has a net (I use that for my trainers) and the other side is for clothes- it keeps all the smelly kit confined, plus the bag can go in the wash after. (I got the normal sized one and it is fine for my trainers plus running kit, but they do a bigger size too). Worth a look if you travel to races or training (and worth a look on Earthmiles as the discount code will save you a bit too).
The bag filled with my kit today before I put it all into the wash.
How many parkrunners do you tend to get at your local one? Do you prefer the smaller or larger events? How many ones have you visited?