A revisit to Leavesden and a volunteer celebration!

In the wilderness between milestones (still well over 3 years to my next one) chasing random challenges (hello Wilson Index) is a fun way to occupy the time and also to help me decide where to go. I know I go on about it, but as Ellenbrook Fields didn’t come back after the pause, I do not feel I have a home parkrun. I think Panshanger is my official one, and I do love it there, but it’s not the same.

Anyway, the Herts branch of Vegan Runners UK have a fab stats person (Gary) who each week produces some stats linked to parkrun attendance in Herts- number of Herts locations visited, number of VR’s at each location and so on. I have been to all the Herts parkruns, but not in this calendar year, and so I decided that this weekend I’d head to a Herts parkrun that I’d not been to this year, to move myself up on that table. I’d been to Jersey Farm, Panshanger, Letchworth, St Albans and Aldenham, so my choice was between Leavesden, Westmill and Stevenage.

A couple of other members of my club fancied Leavesden, so it was decided!

It is a super convenient parkrun- there is parking right by the start (you can see the flag from in the car), there is a little cafe and toilets by the start, it’s not too far a journey and not too difficult to find. It doesn’t seem to get huge numbers, but I think that’s a good thing as it’s a 3 lap course with one section where you have to keep to one side as runners come in the opposite direction (almost like a figure of 8 with the middle section where people meet). For us this was fine but if it was busy then it would be harder to pass- we had 99 participants that week.

I ran with Fiona and we had a lovely time chatting about all running and parkrun (and how much we missed Ellenbrook). It was sunny as I left home, but as we drove it had started to rain, and it drizzled on and off during parkrun. Nothing too bad but not really the weather we expect in June! The shade of the trees was still appreciated more as shelter from the rain.

Of course once finished we had to get a few photos. Gary (of VR stats fame) was also there so we got a picture for the VR club, plus of course we needed one of our little touring group too. Gary was also with a guy who used to run at Ellenbrook, so the day felt very themed towards that- lots of our club got into parkrun tourism after the pause because they didn’t have a parkrun home any more.

The cafe at Leavesden is really nice but we all had to head home so just went back to the car after taking the photos and scanning.

When the VR stats came through my name was on several of the categories-

Finished Top 20 for Gender: 13th at Leavesden Country parkrun – Maria W, Fastest Female Times: (I was number 3)- 00:29:57 Maria W Leavesden Country parkrun, Most Herts Finishes -11 (along with several others- the top person has 24 this year), Most Herts locations visited in 2024- I am on 6 which is now joint top of the table! I think this is the one I am most likely to do well at as I could potentially visit them all (although maybe would choose not to revisit a couple…). So it was worth me visiting there just to see my name in lights!

On Sunday I was off to Norton Common junior parkrun (Letchworth), as Branka was celebrating her v250! What a fantastic achievement! It was also their first birthday (which is why we had party hats on). The park is so pretty! I’d been for a little wander around as I sometimes park there when going to Letchworth, but the junior parkrun route is so lovely with all the tall trees. It has a wilder feel than the more manicured parks that other junior parkruns are in. Anyway, I was barcode scanning which was good as I was then at the start/finish area for the event.

Congratulations! Very much looking forward to seeing the green shirt in real life!

It was even more of a celebration as another RD was also celebrating his v250! All the things! Finally the High Sheriff has been making her way around all the Herts parkruns, and she was visiting. I think this is the third time I’ve seen her now- she was at St Albans, Letchworth and now Norton Common juniors.

Of course, if I am in Letchworth I am going to head to Vutie Beets for breakfast after. I opted for a crookie this time (croissant + cookie) and tea, and then bought some buns to take home and share with Andy later. Because the weather was so good (at long last) we had a long walk in Panshanger in the afternoon before watching the football in the evening.

Panshanger park/ breakfast/ on my walk/ the birthday decorations at NC.

How do you choose which parkrun to visit? I know I am in a great situation with so many within a short distance. I am still going for my single-ton at Panshanger so that is still on the cards for when I have a busy weekend too.

Gladstone parkrun- parkwalking

My friend Branka was keen to do Gladstone parkrun, and when I looked at the route and saw all the photos, it was added to my list too as it is in a very pretty park.

The day we chose to go was the day before I was running a 10 mile race, and Branka was going to parkwalk, so I decided to volunteer as parkwalker as well so we could walk together (and I could not be tempted to run the day before a race).

I am not sure if anyone had done that role there before- it wasn’t on the roster for the weeks before and I couldn’t see any photos on their facebook page for example, and it did take a bit of emailing to hear back from the team.

We arrived nice and early to am empty park, and ended up chatting to a couple of tourists for a little bit, as they had on some With Me Now gear too. Once the event team turned up, we got our bibs, and then I had a rather disappointing conversation with a marshal, who said to me “you’re not going to walk really slowly are you?” She continued to be negative about walking at parkrun, basically saying it was ridiculous that people were walking and not running, and that if people wanted to walk they should go to one of the health walks held on other days in the park, and that if people were walking to get fit they needed to walk quickly. I said something to her about how parkrun are encouraging walkers, but she then decided to walk to her marshal point so the conversation ended then. The RD was really welcoming, and I didn’t want to bother him with that issue at the time as he was very busy sorting out everything to make the event run smoothly. It did really surprise me, and I think if I was new to parkrun it would put me off. I have been going long enough and have enough confidence with it to know that I can walk, but I could see how one comment like that would put off someone from ever returning.

The first timers welcome continued in that theme a little, with the person telling us about how they have some of the fastest buggy runners, and VI runners, mentioning a few records, and then the main briefing was super quick before we started.

The park is really pretty, with lots of lovely tree tunnels, views of the Wembley arch, various art instillations and memorials. We had a lovely time walking together, and were not the only ones walking. On the second lap we chatted to one of the marshals who wanted to know about the bibs we were wearing. She said she had an injury and couldn’t run, but would like to walk, so we encouraged her to volunteer as a parkwalker- hopefully she will on future occasions.

There were a few marshals still out on the second lap, but also some of them had gone- we could see a few up ahead and had to follow them, and work out where we were. It isn’t the easiest course as you can see above- a sort of butterfly shape but there were plenty of path intersections to cross. We were ahead of the tail walker the whole time, so this wasn’t good as the marshals shouldn’t stand down until the tail walker has passed.

Even when we finished there was still no sign of the purple pop up, so we had selfies in our parkwalker bibs and then one by the Gladstone park sign instead.

An enjoyable 109th different event, and definitely a memorable one!

Selfies without the purple pop up to prove we were there!

I did enjoy the course- it was undulating and would be tough to run, but none of the paths seemed super steep and none of the hills went on for too long. I did email parkrun HQ about some of the issues so they said they would contact the team.

Breakfast catching up on the live t-shirt reveal, my new giant cup and a picture of the parkwalker bib from Gladstone facebook page (my collage cropped me out but I am there!)

Once home I watched With Me Now live as they unveiled the new v1000 t-shirt (a With Me Now yellow colour!), having tea in my newest DLP purchase, the biggest cup ever!

Visiting B&B, pizza for dinner, mega latte and the Moonwalkers

Then we were off to London for the afternoon, to visit Bird and Blend (a vegan creme egg mega latte was mine!), but mainly to go to The Moonwalkers, a brilliant show/ experience about all the people who have walked on the moon, narrated and produced by Tom Hanks.

Do you walk at parkrun? Have you been a parkwalker?