Harrow parkrun

Not to be confused with Harlow parkrun or Harrow Lodge, Harrow parkrun is another of the north London ones that really isn’t that far from me. Dad was away and I only had work plans for the weekend so fancied some tourism.

Thankfully some people in my club also wanted to go there and so a little band of 5 of us set off in Saturday morning. We drove and one thing I would say is that the post code on the website does not take you to the car park. The car park is tiny and we ended up using street parking, but some of those streets had restrictions (including Saturdays) so it is best to research before you go. (I don’t want to put information here as that sort of thing can date very quickly).

The park looks fairly small and as soon as we got inside we could see signs, high viz and the flag- always good. Some of our group popped to the toilets and I was photographed while waiting! We missed the first timers welcome but we had seen it was 3 laps (plus an extra mini lap)- I’d rewatched the A Little Adventure Time video of when they visited to give me an idea of what to expect.

The start area in the park, running up the “secret hill” and the purple pop up photo.

Very soon after arriving we heard the main briefing- the RD told us that as it was the football clubs’ party later on, by the time we finished their might be a bouncy castle by the finish area and they might even put the scanners in there! A fair few people had milestones and they were all called to the front for photos. It had a really friendly vibe. Then we walked to the start and began. As we walked to the start another participant mentioned my socks (the orange parkrun ones)- she was very impressed by how coordinated I was with my orange top (it’s my I Love Ellenbrook Fields top). I would say that the secret hill was not that secret- it was a long drag up one side of the park and even on the first lap I found it tough. I had to remind myself that I was just over my cold and had not run that much in the past two weeks.

The map of the route- you can see the extra mini loop in the middle.

The park was really varied with some wildlife areas and some more manicured parts. It had a really busy feel, with loads of people out being active in so many different ways- tennis, cricket, football, outdoor exercise machines, walking… it reminded me a bit of Brighton in that there are great outdoor exercise facilities and people are always using them. I think it’s crazy that you can be in such a built up area and then suddenly be in a park, particularly one like this that was bigger than it initially looked. The volunteers were amazing too- I was thanking them on each lap and wondering if some people just thanked them on their final lap. They were all calling out “great running”/” have an amazing weekend”/ “looking strong”/ “one more lap to go” etc- and did not stop. Even though we arrived relatively late (close to the start time) we had so many interactions with the team and this was just so welcoming.

Three of us being photographed at the end/ our purple sign photo/ up the hill again/ finish token.

I actually felt a bit wobbly when I finished and had to sit down for a minute before I was OK. Then the same lady who had complimented by socks came over with a camera (she was wearing a volunteer vest too) and asked to take some photos of us, and then of my socks!

Always good to see the new map once the result has come through!

So that was location 114 for me. One that in paper would not appeal particularly, but actually the volunteers made it fantastic, and the park was really varied so it didn’t feel monotonous like laps can sometimes. Once again, thanks to parkrun I have experienced a new place which I would not have been to otherwise.

How do you choose which new events to visit? Have you ever been really surprised by an event compared to the description?

Dietenbach parkrun, finally a German flag!

Back in 2018 we had a December trip to Berlin, and as we were flying there on a Friday night, I’d planned to go to a parkrun on the Saturday morning. However, once we had checked in and dropped off our bag, our flight was cancelled (and you would not believe how many hours it takes to get back a bag that only 5 minutes ago was in your hand…)- anyway, the next flight was not until the Sunday, so although this meant I got to go to Ellenbrook Fields parkrun on the Saturday, it meant I had not managed a new parkrun country.

Fast forward to 2024 and the German flag was going to be mine! We were heading to Europa-Park, a theme park in Germany, and happily there was a parkrun about a 25 minute drive away.

A few pictures from Europa-Park

We had a good few days in the park, plus one day where we hopped back into France to visit Colmar. We’ve been there before for the Christmas markets, so it was wonderful to visit in the summer. There are loads of good markets in that region- Strasbourg, Mulhouse as well as Colmar (and all reachable by train which is what we did each time), and then Saturday morning came around.

Beautiful Colmar and a pretzel

Andy had agreed to drive which I was very relieved about. We had driven our car and the roads were all fairly empty, but I am just so bad at interpreting the satnav if I am driving somewhere new. As we drove I kept looking at the maps thinking that if I had been driving, I would have taken that section of the exit- I would have gone wrong twice and one of those would have been driving back up the motorway in the wrong direction. He drove because we had to check out and then were driving to Disneyland Paris on the way home, so it made sense to go from parkrun rather than wait for me to get back and then leave.

The parkrun sign to direct you from the car park, the briefing and more of the signs.

The directions on the website were excellent- the car park was pretty empty as I think lots of people walk or cycle from the town centre (Freiberg), and there were instructions to leave the car park in the direction of the park (rather than walk towards the road), walk right and then next left, but as soon as I left the car park I could see the parkrun sign, and some little signs with arrows showing which way to go. As I took a photo of the purple pop up someone offered to take my photo. She commented on all the green, and I thought she meant all the greenery behind me, but she meant my top and hat!

Purple pop up photo and the foreign parkrun signs never get old! I love trying to guess which one means finish, which one means start etc.

I wasn’t there really early, probably around 8:40, but at that point there were only volunteers setting up the finish funnel. One volunteer came over to me straight away and began talking to me in English, saying he knew I was a visitor because of my 250 shirt! He talked me through the course, pointing out the part where we share a cycle lane so to watch out for bikes, and showing where the one marshal would be on the two lap course. He asked about how many people my local parkrun had, and when I said a couple of hundred he was almost apologetic that they didn’t have so many, and said that the weather would keep some of the sunny day runners away (the fair weather runners or the sugar people of Bushy Park…)- I said that some in the UK were much smaller but that I liked visiting them all. The RD then spoke to me, asking if I could give him some feedback after as they like to welcome visitors, and then checked if I was OK if they did the main briefing in German (which of course I was!). I always feel a bit sad that I can’t speak German. My paternal grandmother was Austrian (but she died before I was born) so my dad speaks pretty good German, but in school we learned French, and then we moved house mid year and the school I joined had German lessons, but as I’d missed the first half year I just never got the hang of it. I feel like I know a few nouns (Kartoffeln), but even words like ‘thanks’ I have to think consciously of because I automatically go to French when abroad.

Anyway, the run briefing was very baffling, even though I know what they will say, the only part I worked out was when they thanked the volunteers as the RD read out the names of every one. He also mentioned “UK” and pointed to me. Before the briefing a few more tourists had turned up, and another volunteer had shown them the course map and then shown everyone their visitors book. I recognised one of the people as J├╝rgen┬áKrauss from Bake Off. At the briefing once they mentioned I was from the UK, he walked over to me and asked whereabouts, so we began chatting. I asked him and he said he goes to one in Brighton, and as I’ve done all 5 there, we could chat a bit about them. I was so sure it was him, but by that point it felt too late to actually say anything, plus if you know me at all you know I feel super awkward around anyone remotely famous (and even get starstruck meeting Disney characters) so I just kept the chat to parkrun. He ran with me for a bit but thankfully soon sped off. I felt like I was struggling a bit- I’d not run all week as I’d had a cold, and although my cold had cleared up my legs felt so heavy. (Look below to see my spectacular positive split with each mile being slower than the previous one!) But this wasn’t about a time, it was about enjoying the run which I certainly did.

The route was fab- two flat laps of a really varied park. You took in some open grassland, ran around a lake and then had an out and back section under trees and amongst long grass.

The well-signed course (and Jurgen heading off in the distance), and me being very happy to be running after a week off!

The parkrun route was very well signposted, with lots of arrows and cones marking off corners. They seem to have a spread of participants, not just loads of speedy runners, with a few people walking as well. It wasn’t busy, with 48 finishers on that day (and around double that the week later when I checked), but I could always see people up ahead, and on the out and back part I could see people behind me too.

After I finished a few of the volunteers asked me how I had enjoyed it, and then I ended up chatting to another tourist from the UK who had been in France but had persuaded her husband to detour over the border to take in a parkrun- sounds familiar! I made sure I signed the visitors book and then briefly spoke to the RD before heading back to the car because we had to hit the road! I’d packed a jumper to wear straight away, and made a tea to have in the car, and then later on we stopped at services and I changed properly. We didn’t get to our hotel at Disney until the afternoon so I didn’t have a shower until then- that’s the longest I’ve been parkrun fresh for!

Tea for the journey, finish area, finish token and change of clothes.

You don’t get a text result with an overseas parkrun, and the email didn’t come through until around 7:30pm, so I was a little relieved when it came through and I could finally claim my German flag! But of course it isn’t just about ticking off a country, it was a really enjoyable place to visit and the team were so friendly, I’m so glad I got to go there.

The gorgeous drawing on the cover of their guest book, my new flag and my message- It was raining so I was trying to write quickly so I could put the book back in the box!

And the updated Vonoroi map! I love looking at this so much.

So, that was parkrun country number 8 for me. I’ve sort of got them in pairs- UK and Ireland, USA and Canada, Denmark and Norway, and now Netherlands and Germany. My next parkrun country is going to be even more challenging with the language barrier than Germany was, so we shall wait and see if I end up getting there.

Do you like visiting different countries for parkrun?

PS a few Disney pics! One by the castle, the castle rainbow coloured at night, the main mice and then the vegan burrito which was the best dinner after no lunch as we were travelling all day.

Panshanger for Mel’s 200th… with Mel being elsewhere

A while ago Mel in my club had mentioned her 200th parkrun was coming up, and had arranged for everyone to head to Panshanger to celebrate. I’d mentioned this to Dad, and he was happy to come over this way, and on the day my brother also came along too.

Sunglasses on as it was a gorgeous day! Check out the start and views from the run.

I never know what time I need to leave- if I was running there it’s a couple of miles so I’d leave around 8:15 to give me plenty of time to walk, not panic about missing the start etc. If we drive, it’s a 5 minute drive but the parking does fill up, so Dad picked me up at 8:30 and we were parked by 8:35, right at the front of the row of cars. We sat inside for a bit chatting, and then saw our two friends Donna and Lee, so we got out to chat. I mentioned that it was a bit late for Mel and everyone else to be arriving, and Donna told me that they were all at St Albans! I had somehow missed the change of venue-oops! Our running club group has migrated from using a closed facebook group to a whatsapp channel with lots of different sub groups, so it was in the parkrun chat group but I’d just missed it. I don’t often get the chance to check my phone during the day at work, so sometimes (particularly on a Friday) I get home and there will be 40 notifications in one group, so I tend to scroll down and not necessarily read them all. Clearly I’d missed it.

Anyway, back to Panshanger. Dad’s birthday is coming up and he said he wants to try and get first in his age category before moving to a new one, so he went up closer to the front and I stayed with Tony. We had a lovely run chatting together. It was a sunny day and the park just looked so beautiful. That was my 95th run there and it never gets old. We saw the cows and calves at a distance (they have longhorn cattle there are they are good for controlling aggressive grasses which then helps with biodiversity) and I also read that they are going to be introducing some iron age pigs which are good for turning over the land and helping tree saplings. Something exciting to look out for in the future.

We took a few photos by the sign, a few more scenes from the run, and the token photo

At one point we passed a marshal (Jacqueline) who I knew, and as we ran past and thanked her she mentioned that our dad was up ahead looking strong. Good news!

Once finished we took the obligatory photos (Dad has learnt that I need a photo by the parkrun sign each time I go!) and then he dropped me off home, I had a quick shower and then headed over to theirs for breakfast. When the email came through he was so frustrated as he had finished second in his age cat (23:48- a time I could only dream of!), with the guy who was first only a few places ahead. Ah well, you never know who else will be there with you! He still has a few more weeks to give this a go.

My parkrun whatsapp was filled with photos from St Albans, where Mel had actually gone to, so it was nice to see the celebration and hear about it after even if I did manage to end up in the wrong place!

Snacks in front of the football and CWW tea

After feeling fine in the morning, once I got home I could not stop sneezing, my throat was sore and I ended up with the typical half term cold (Andy reminded me that this time last year almost the same thing happened in Norway, as I was fine for parkrun in the morning and then ended up with a really bad cold the next day). Cold weather warrior tea is always good for this. I was glad I hadn’t volunteered at junior parkrun, and just chilled at home and then packed, as after Andy got back from the football (seeing Saints at Wembley) we were off to Germany via France and the Eurotunnel.

So a good start to half term even if it wasn’t quite what I had imagined. parkrun 360 and 95th at Panshanger. That single-ton is still within sight before the end of the year.

Have you managed a mix up like that before?

A revisit to Canons Park parkrun for Dad’s NENDY, and tea and parkrun chat

We were all set to head to Jersey Farm together, and then on Friday night Dad messaged to say that his NENDY was Canons Park, which he knew I’d been to last summer. I was very happy to go back as I really liked the route (laps around a park and through a lovely wooded area), and the community feel (including bring your own reusable cups and donate via a QR code to have tea and coffee at the end). I checked with a friend in my club (Mel, who had driven us last time) to see where to park (Canon’s Drive), and after I drove to Dad’s he drove the rest of the way. It only took around 25 minutes- lots of these north London parkruns are really not that far away at all.

The start by the folly/temple, finish token, mid run photo and of course purple pop up photo.

We missed the first timers welcome due to queuing for the toilets, but we knew it was laps (I remembered two but it turned out to be 3)- never mind- we knew we would just run until my watch said 3 miles, only after one lap I checked my watch and it turned out I had started it and then it had paused straight away. I started it as we began the second lap, and as there are no variations to each lap, just the final turn to the finish, you can get the idea. It’s mainly flat but a bit of an uphill section in the woods, which felt much steeper on the third lap! I’d packed my new parkrun hat (thanks Vinted, and thanks Branka for sending me the link- it’s from New Zealand and lovely and thin fabric so good for a rainy summer day) and it was drizzling a bit at the start so I kept it on and was glad of it.

As always we enjoyed running together, and as we got close to the finish I told Dad to sprint off so I could try and catch him- he shot off and I managed to finish in 28:41 which was a course pb- hooray! They had a photographer at the start area so we even got a few photos of us running together which is always a bonus. They seem to have lots of walkers there which I really like. In the wooded section it is fairly narrow and we had to keep left, but in the end only got lapped by one person, which was another indicator that we were going pretty fast.

After finishing we headed back to the sign to get the obligatory photos, and then walked back to the car as Mum was making us breakfast at home. So there we go, Dad’s NENDY ticked off! Next week we knew we’d be at Panshanger as it was Mel’s 200th (the same Mel) so it was good to get in some touring while we could.

Then onto more parkrun and tea related chat! On the Sunday I was volunteering at Birchwood and when I checked the rota I saw that Branka was also going to be volunteering. As mentioned last week, she had gone to Oxford and bought some of the store special for me (Oxford Comma) so she brought it along. One way to make junior parkrun even better is with Bird and Blend tea!

Happy when marshalling- even happier with tea!

While taking the photo of the tea, a person walked through the gap in the hedge (by my marshal point) and gave me a very funny look!

Do you keep an eye on your NENDY (nearest event not done yet)? I think mine is now Walthamstow, but Harrow which is close to Canons Park is also on the list, so could be visited soon.

parkwalking at Letchworth and enjoying the sunshine

After my weekend in Brighton, I was home for the following week, and had arranged to head up to Letchworth to parkwalk with Branka. It turned out that the High Sheriff was there too (after seeing her at St Albans a few weeks before)- she really is doing the rounds.

It was the most beautiful day, although it started off quite overcast and I only made the decision to wear my sunglasses at the last moment as I left the car.

After the briefing a lady sidled up to me and said rather apologetically that she might be walking too. We chatted for a bit and it turned out that she had not been to a parkrun since before the pandemic, so was feeling quite nervous. I reassured her that there was always a tail walker as well as the parkwalkers, and hopefully me telling her to take her time and just enjoy it made her feel a bit better. We didn’t see her as we walked but of course if we had have done then that would have been fine. I just hope she enjoyed it.

The Sheriff, scenes from the parkrun and my token

It is such a pretty route with views across the fields- it’s two laps which can feel harder if you are walking, but with the scenery and company it was enjoyable from start to finish. We had one incident with one of the front runners. We were walking on a narrower part of the course, and suddenly we heard this guy shouting “ladies, ladies”, he then basically ran into me and grabbed my shoulders, trying to get past, and then once he’d passed us shouted “I said ladies but none of you moved”- I was taken by surprise and couldn’t react quick enough to reply- had he said something helpful like “coming up on your left” then we would have moved over. We did try to be considerate, going single file through the field opening (but then why should a faster runner get priority over a walker? Maybe we were on for a walking pb?) and everyone else was very nice.

Standard purple sign photo (although we should have got one with the three of us) and a mid parkrun pic

The bottom photo above is one of my favourite parkrun photos- we were keeping over to the side as the runners finished their second lap, everyone looks so happy, the sunshine is filtering through the trees, it’s fab.

I absolutely love chatting about parkrun, and it was exciting to hear about Branka and Holly’s alphabet plans, how they try to wangle parkruns into other trips (eg wedding weekends) and chatting about places we have already visited because of parkrun. An hour well-spent for sure.

I’d given Branka some Brighton Rock Bird and Blend Tea (we’re now doing tea exchanges!) and I knew she had to head off pretty quickly as she was off to Oxford (handily with a B&B store there- more on that in another blog post) so I headed off to Vutie Beets for a solo parkfaff (a “me party” if you are a Muppet fan). I listened to With Me Now so it was very much parkrun-flavoured.

Pancakes, buns and my parkrun socks

Of course once I got home my parkrun socks had arrived – I feel like they purposely make sure their deliveries arrive on a Saturday so they are always too late to be worn to parkrun! Also with a random parkrun magazine that was about a year old.

Loving the sunshine at Panshanger park

We couldn’t go to a B&B store but we could go to Panshanger park and visit the Planted coffee van for an iced tea, which is the next best thing! It was a gorgeous day for a walk.

On Sunday our club had a run for the new and back to runners graduation, so we had a lovely run to the lakes (so many goslings!) and then breakfast after. I was very glad I’d put on suncream before I left in the morning. I always forget that in the summer although you have less layers to put on, getting ready still takes ages because of those sorts of things instead.

Another lovely parkrun visit- that was my 4th time at Letchworth, and my first this year which meant I visited another Herts parkrun for the Herts Vegan Runners most events table! I think I’m going to try and revisit a few of them this year as I really enjoyed the more local tourism for when I was chasing Queen of Herts. It’s just a shame there are not more Saturdays really!

Do you have local events that you like to revisit? I’m still working on my single-ton for Panshanger too.