Harrogate parkrun- lessons in how to get lost

Last week we were heading up north for a holiday, and as luck would have it staying in Harrogate on Friday night. Of course this means one thing- a new parkrun to add to my list!

I’d looked at the course on the map and seen it was not far from our hotel (less than a mile) and it seemed fairly straightforward. I left the hotel at around 8.15am, as I like to get to a new one early so I am not panicked about anything, and started walking instead of running so I could look at the directions on my phone more easily. Well, after about 10 minutes of walking I was helpfully told I had reached my destination. I most certainly hadn’t! I opened up maps and realised that I had put in directions to “The Stray”- where the parkrun started. But then in fact in Harrogate there are lots of parks with the same name, and the one I needed was in a different part of the town. Yes, I then started to panic a bit.

I was taken to the Stray which is the small triangle park on the bottom left of this photo. I didn’t realise that the parks joined up. I went to their parkrun course page, and noted that there was a bar or something called The Empress, that was on the roundabout near the start to parkrun, so I selected that and began running through the town centre. I was actually now further away than my hotel, having wandered in the wrong direction- argh! I started my watch just after this as I didn’t want to be fiddling with it if I was late, so I got part of my run recorded.

As I was crossing a road I noticed two guys in running gear (and one of them I had seen in the hotel lobby as I left)- I asked them if they were heading to parkrun and they said yes, and showed me a print out of a map- they were tourists from Preston. They were not sure whereabouts they were on their map, so we looked at my phone. The combination of my phone and their map eventually led us to parkrun (although they were walking and not running, and in no hurry, and I didn’t want to be rude and run ahead from them as they had helped me and I was sort of helping them with my phone)- as we neared we could see the comforting sights of many high viz clothes and people all heading to the middle of the park- phew. Although we arrived at 8.55am, and I just about heard the tail end of the new runners briefing- “three laps” were the magic words to remember.

We were all led  to the start area, but everyone stood about in a big circle and I ended up facing the back of the RD- I also couldn’t hear because people were chatting, but you know to clap each time (volunteers, local things, milestones…), you know to give way to other parkrunners, to say thanks etc.  They did point out pacers but I couldn’t see where they were.

Then we were moved again to the actual start- we would be running back the way we had just walked so it was a bit hard to position yourself- I wasn’t fussed about a time but I did start a bit far back in the end I think.

The parkrun was run around the outside of the park along this sort of path.

It was such a gorgeous day. The run was very flat- three laps of a park, surrounded by roads. The actual path was narrow, but usually you could just run on the grass to overtake- at a few points the path was a little higher so this was harder to do, but for the most part even though  it was super busy (507 parkrunners and a new record for them) it didn’t ever feel that busy. At the end of the  first lap I caught up with the 32 minute pacer- I was feeling very stressed about getting lost so I think that messed up my rhythm a bit.  I was overtaking people pretty much the whole way, catching up with the absolutely brilliant 30 minute pacer at the end of the second lap (and I was also being lapped for pretty much the entire second lap, but this was fine and everyone was very polite when passing). He was so good- I don’t know when he even took a breath as he was chatting and encouraging the whole time, and even yelling things up ahead to people who he had been running with.

I managed to overtake more people in my third lap (this helps me to speed up I think- pick a person up ahead and try to reel them in)- my Strava shows that my miles went 10.10, 9.11, 8.46 and 8.01 so a royal flush negative split by some margin! They clearly hadn’t expected this many people and when I reached the finish I had to stop just before the line as the queue to get a chip was so long- they were asking people to move over and snake sideways a bit. I was given token 351 (I tried to take a very blurry photo) but they did have a little trouble with the  results (I think they dropped some tokens, and initially instead of moving people up 11 places they deleted 11 results)- in the end I was given place 340 with a time of 28.55. I am not too bothered- I think maybe my time was a little quicker but as I had  left my watch running it is hard to tell, and people commenting on facebook (they asked people to let them know position and time if they recorded it) were saying that the second set of results was correct. The placing was correct as it matches with the 11 tokens missing.

Anyway, a fast course and not too much congestion at the start. I was enjoying the sunny weather when I had finished.

Then I started to run back to the hotel- I had stopped my watch and it had turned off so I left it, but I wish I had left it on as I am pretty sure I literally ran in circles for a bit of my journey back- the last bit of the way there was along some alleyways, so I headed to those, but once I got to the town centre I was so disoriented. I ran down a hill, around a corner, up a hill- I looked at a map on my phone, put in the Premier Inn address and for some reason I was not on the map (like Joey, I need to step into the map)- usually google maps shows you where you are, but whether it was getting confused with all the buildings I don’t know, but it kept showing a circle of streets around the outside of me, where my directions would then begin. I had plans of getting Andy a coffee (and myself a cold drink) on the way back to the hotel, as I typically do that, but I didn’t even pass a coffee shop (although I must have passed a Nero as we walked past it later )- I didn’t get back to the hotel until about 10.10 and according to my watch had run over 6 miles that morning. I found my way back in the end (and then realised that if I had looked up I could see the huge Majestic Hotel building that was next to the Premier Inn pretty much as soon as I came out of the alleyways- argh).

I had a quick shower and then we headed for breakfast- we’d normally share a cinnamon roll but after all of that I was having one to myself!

We then had a lovely walk around Harrogate, past the huge queue for Betty’s tearooms, down to a botanical garden, before driving to Fountain’s Abbey.

We’d signed up to the National Trust and I had also seen about this via parkrun as they have one there (but it’s a good 10 miles outside of Harrogate so I wouldn’t have gone there on my own).

It was stunning. We’d bought some salads in town so sat and had a picnic for a bit before walking around the grounds- my steps total was 35,000 for the day so we did walk a lot. There was a cafe at the far end and we could not resist sharing a slice of carrot cake and sitting in the sunshine enjoying the tea.

After walking back to the car our next stop was Durham, but I will save that for another post. (Although I will add that on Saturday morning I noticed on the parkrun UK page they were asking people where they were running and someone said “the pink panther parkrun- Dur-ham, Dur-ham” which made me laugh, and also for a second I thought “me too” before I realised that I was in Harrogate but going to Durham later).

So, another successful parkrun tourism. My 17th UK event (3 more to go…), and my 101st parkrun in total. Lesson learned- I will check and double check directions and look at the road names or crossings and not just a generic park name! A well organised event, friendly marshals and a very flat course too.

Are you good with directions? I am not 100% sure of my left and right (I have a patch of freckles on the back of my right hand which I check for when I am not sure) so this doesn’t help things either!

What do you like to do on a sunny afternoon? Having a walk and then sitting in the sunshine for tea and cake is pretty ideal in my opinion.

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