parkrun is a phenomenon which is rapidly spreading across the UK encouraging thousands to take part in physical activity. I love the image which is used sometimes; a map of the UK with every parkrun event identified by a light green flag, flags which are steadily sweeping across the country. It means that you can be almost anywhere in the UK on a Saturday and have a parkrun within reachable distance. A weekend trip back to my childhood hometown of Stowmarket in Suffolk therefore presented me with the perfect opportunity to try a new event and become a parkrun tourist for the morning (when you take part in an event at a different location to your home parkrun).
I actually could have chosen between two parkruns as my nearest locations, but opted for Bury St Edmunds parkrun due it being set in the wonderful Nowton Park. I spent many times here a child with my family and friends, walking around the grounds, getting lost in the maze, playing football on the marked out pitches, and climbing the wooden structures. It would be nice to go back after many years and be able to run around the grounds.
The course was two loops and was predominantly off road. A quick chat with one of the friendly volunteers and an attentive listen to the run brief meant I understood to expect a few inclines along the way and some uneven ground underfoot. It was a warm and still morning, and despite rarely being back in Suffolk these days, I felt at home in the surroundings and among fellow parkrunners, and even recognised a few faces from my childhood.
Proudly wearing my home Lincoln parkrun vest, I took my spot on the ‘start line’, finger poised over my Garmin start button, ready for the 3,2,1 countdown. The start instantly climbed a gradual hill and was definitely a bit unsteady underfoot, I tried to combine my usual initial gusto with carefully pinpointing a safe running route. It certainly got my hearty racing! We then weaved through some thicker grassland before leading onto trail type pathways set on some more graduals inclines and which passed by woodlands and sculpture landmarks I recognised from my childhood. The morning soon became very muggy for running and I was grateful for the next section which saw us duck into woodland and shade, and also run downhill. Emerging from this woodland we looped around the football pitches I sent summers scoring goals past my dad on, and then headed back to the starting hill to complete lap one. One more lap to go.
I felt I had completed the first lap well; without knowing the route I had just ran as hard as possible. It was certainly more challenging than my home Lincoln parkrun route, but a challenge I was enjoying. With the route now locked into my brain a little better, I tried to maintain my pace as much as possible on lap two, and push through the inclines. I did not really concern myself with my exact pace too much as I was running, but with half a mile to go I did glance down at my Garmin to see what time I was closing in on. It was here I began a zig zag battle with a fellow male parkunner, each of us pushing each other to get to the funnel. I pipped him to the post and turned to give a friendly smile. I finished in 22:16 and as fourth female, which I was happy with considering the course. If I went back I think I may be able to push to dip below 22 minutes, but it certainly would be a big test!
Strolling back through Nowton Park it was lovely to see the place again, and also appreciate how it too had been brought to life on a Saturday morning by parkrun. A spot of parkrun tourism was a great way to start my weekend and still allowed me lots of time to get ready for my friend’s wedding for which I had travelled to Suffolk for. If you do find yourself somewhere different on a Saturday morning then I encourage you to seek out your nearest parkrun event; the idea of setting an early alarm on a weekend away or whilst on holiday may seem a bit mad at first, but you will definitely not regret a bit of parkrun tourism.
Alice's Adventures In Running Land
Read about my adventures in running land...