Back in 2015 I ran at Crissy Fields parkrun in San Francisco (my first parkrun tourism as I’d only run at St Albans and Panshanger before then), but sadly it has since closed, and this meant that on the fab parkrun challenges chrome extension I lost my USA flag, as only current events show there.
I’ve wanted to run at Clermont Waterfront for years, but have never managed to sort the logistics (our last 2 Florida holidays were for one week and so the only Saturday was the Saturday that we were leaving, and one of those was spent with us taking part in a Run Disney event). But this time, it all worked out! We flew into Tampa on the Tuesday morning, and had a hire car for the first week, and Andy had agreed to drive me.
So, logistics first. There’s not public transport available, and it was around a 35/40 minute drive from where we were staying (just to the west of the WDW gates). WDW covers a huge area so depending on where you are staying it could take much longer. I had looked at ubers before, but I don’t have roaming so would not be able to get one for the way back. Car seems to be the only real way of getting there. It starts at 7:30am due to the heat, so something else to remember!
Sunrise on arrival and the flags at the finish funnel
The directions on the website were excellent. I had read that they had two different routes, and was slightly worried after reading a post on the UK parkrun tourist facebook page where the people ended up on the wrong side of the lake, but I needn’t have worried. They use the same car park for both routes, and the Lake Hiawatha Preserve car park was easy to find via google maps. We double checked that the route matched up with their directions (West on HWY 50/ Turn right onto 12th Street) and all was good. I wanted to get there in plenty of time, so we left at around 6.30am and arrived just after 7am, as the sun was rising over the lake. Beautiful.
With regards to facilities, there was a big car park opposite the start, and just down from the start was a block containing toilets, as well as drinking water fountains. These blocks were repeated along the lake shore too.
There were no worries about finding the start- I could see the parkrun flag from the turning into the car park and the finish funnel had already been set up, decorated with flags from all over the world.
Run briefing, sign on the path and a few views from the start
So, onto the morning! As the sun was just coming up, we walked to the lake to watch it (and look for alligators), and then I wandered over to the start area. I chatted to a few people who turned out to be locals, and then listened to the new runners welcome. It was a simple out and back route, with a downward slope before the turnaround point to help you work out where it would be.
I decided to have a quick dash to the toilets before it started, as I had more water than usual before we left (because it was just so hot and humid there)- at around 7:23 am I was deciding if I had enough time, but the blocks were so close and no queues so it was all fine and I was back before the main briefing started.
It was lovely to have lots of tourists as it felt like a holiday event, but equally there were lots of locals there too- a nice balance. There were lots of runners from the Clermont triathlon club and from Clermont runners listed on the results. Fun fact- someone in my running club did a triathlon there. I asked her about alligators and she said that they had put food on the bank on the other side to tempt them over, and also there were trained marksmen in boats while they swam (a few km- not just a dash in the water either)- I do not think that would convince me!
Leading up to this, we’d been in Florida for a few days but I am not sure how well I ever adjust to the heat. It was mid to high 30’s with such high humidity (average is 80% but it had been much higher that week) that I knew I just had to run gently to finish it. This was a run to enjoy the scenery and not a run to go for a specific time. One of the regular runners asked me if I had run in Florida before- I think they were worried about Brits abroad struggling and underestimating the heat/ humidity combo.
Anyway, we were soon off and I was just loving the scenery. Running by water is always fantastic, and this was no different. The path was wide, with 4 lanes marked on it- the outside two for walkers/runners and the inside two for cyclists. It was busy with other people as well as parkrunners, but it soon thinned out.
Look how beautiful!
I kept the steady pace, and took a few photos while I was running. The path started off being shady, but then the trees disappeared and I was thankful of my sunglasses (and wishing I’d remembered my visor). I didn’t see any marshals on the way, and at one point felt slightly lost as there were a few paths to choose from, with runners and walkers on all of them. I chose to keep closest to the lake, which turned out to be correct, and I soon saw the 2 mile sign pointed in the opposite direction so I knew I was still in the correct place. There was a marshal at the turnaround point (a very enthusiastic one it must be said) and there were more signs on the way back. Near to the part where I nearly got lost was a sign with an arrow showing parkrunners to go straight one. I could have done with that on the way!
As it was an out and back, lots of the faster runners were heading back before I reached the turnaround point, and lots of them were waving and being very friendly – it had a good atmosphere. I was feeling the humidity by that point so made myself stop and take a few photos every now and then. I didn’t want to get to the point where I just wanted it to be over, because I’d looked forward to it for so long.
Coming towards the finish funnel was brilliant, as lots of people who had finished were hanging about and cheering the runners in. There was a board to hold (rather than a selfie frame) saying “I completed Clermont Waterfront parkrun”- I took the photo for someone else and then asked if the next person would take mine for me- it turned into a little queue!
So, that was my 87th different location, parkrun number 282, and as mentioned previously, I have reclaimed my USA flag!
I was absolutely drenched in sweat- I’ve never seen my top so wet through. I had worn a buff on my wrist which I used to frequently wipe my face, but I had to sit on it on the car journey back! My time was 33:58, which for a flat course is on the slow side for me, but I think I was sensible because I was not used to running in that heat. We had packed some rehydration tabs to take with us anyway, so I’d put one in a bottle of water and put that in the car so I could drink it on the way back to the hotel.
Do you have any parkruns on your bucket list?