This summer we were off to Florida with Andy’s family- there were ten of us in total (including 3 kids) and it was a fantastic, but very different holiday to usual. We were away for several Saturdays, but only had a car for a couple of them. Andy had agreed to drive me to the parkrun once, and so I got to return to Clermont Waterfront parkrun (as I had been there last summer too).
Their facebook page said they would be on the alternative course for that Saturday, but it started in the same place, Lake Hiawatha Preserve which is to the west of Lake Minneola. They start at 7:30am (sensible due to the heat and humidity) and it was around a 45 minute drive away, so we were in the car at 6:30. The main course is an out and back along the waterfront by the lake, on fantastic foot and cycle paths. As we drove alongside there at around 7:10, there were loads of runners out. I had an absolute panic that I had missed the start, worried that they had changed to 7am rather than 7:30, and worried that we had got up early and driven all that way for nothing. Andy noticed that they had bibs on, as I frantically googled the course to confirm the 7:30am start time. It turned out that I did not need to panic, because there was a triathlon taking place on their normal route (hence the alternative course) and so all the runners we could see were doing the triathlon. Panic over. I had time once we had parked to run over to the toilet block, before heading to the start area. They even had helpful signs at the normal start/finish place, directing you over the road, back through the car park and to the alternative start/finish area. (You could see this from the car park, but it was very helpful nonetheless).
Views of the waterfront at sunrise, the park map and the helpful sign showing parkrunners where to go.
The alternative course was two (and a little bit) laps under trees and on trails. You had to watch out for tree roots as they were plentiful, but the route was fairly flat and the paths were packed firmly so it was a nice surface to run on. The shade was very much appreciated- Orlando was having it’s hottest week since records began, being in the low thirties as soon as the sun was up and with the crazy high humidity it was pretty tough to be outside.
Before running, after the panic! And the walk to the lake.
They only had two marshals out on the course- both near the start/finish area making sure people didn’t trip on the edges of the paths. The rest of the course was marked with little flags (the small flags on little wires that are often used on building sites), and it was fairly busy with 143 runners that day. It’s well established (and had celebrated it’s 10th birthday a few weeks prior to my visit), so I thought I could keep the person ahead in sight and be OK. The first lap went fine, and then partway through the second route I realised that I hadn’t seen any of the little flags for a while. The person up ahead had pulled away from me and was not in my view, so I stopped and started to retrace my steps. Two people who were behind me (using my tactic of following the person in front) asked me what I was doing, so I explained that I’d not seen the flags and thought I’d gone wrong. They retraced their steps with me, but another runner ran past in our original direction, indicating that we were on the right track. We then followed him for a bit, before deciding to go back to the last place we’d seen the flags. Thankfully it wasn’t far before I could see runners looping around, but in looking at my Strava after, had I continued I am not sure I would have rejoined the route.
With the flag at the start area, and all the flags in the finish funnel and my token.
As I was coming towards the finish, another runner asked me where to go- she was a bit confused by them telling us to pass the finish line 3 times (as it was two full loops and a bit, and you started a bit further back from the finish, passing it after a few minutes- see the map below). I explained to her to run to the marshal, follow the path around and then go through the finish, and she then put on an amazing sprint to speed ahead of me at the finish funnel! Looking on the results it was her first ever parkrun so I hope she enjoyed it and returns. As I ran through the finish funnel, the lady giving out the tokens asked me where Ellenbrook Fields was (I was wearing my EF vest) and I said Hertfordshire. “Ooh, posh” she replied in a Yorkshire accent, and I realised that I’d spoken to her last year too! I mentioned it to her and she laughed (last year she had asked me and I’d said near London, which usually seems to be enough info for Americans, but she was an ex pat and wanted more info). A bit of a coincidence but also lovely to see that it is a proper community and not just full of tourists.
Even with the getting lost, I somehow managed a course pb of 32:47 (vs 33:58 in 2022). I think the shade really helped! Also, this was a couple of weeks into our holiday and I’d been running regularly around the hotel grounds, so was a bit more acclimatised to running in the humidity, as opposed to last year where it was our first Saturday and I’d not run at all there.
My full up wrist with Garmin, parkrun barcode and Magic Band (needed to unlock the hotel room), flags at the finish funnel and a sweaty face after running!
After finishing, I took a few photos and then walked back to the car to find Andy. I cannot convey how sweaty I got running in that humidity- even my legs were pouring with sweat! Thankfully we had brought a towel for me to sit on (last year I sat on my buff in the car on the way back which didn’t do much!). We always pack little rehydration tabs to take with us to Florida, and I’d added one to some water to take with me, so as Andy drove back I drank it up and gradually cooled down.
Another enjoyable parkrun morning, and with the early start it meant being back super early for a shower and breakfast.