Saturday morning was absolutely beautiful; the air had an early warmth about it which did not take an expert to forecast a hot day ahead. After a few glasses of wine Friday night I had been convinced by fellow delegates that running down to Tring from Berkhamsted before parkrun was a good idea - to be honest they did not have to try that hard to convince me. No one knew the route exactly, but there was a lot of enthusiasm. It was in fact a great idea, and as the sun was slowly rising into the clear blue sky I joined a number of runners to complete the 6.2 miles down to Tring, weaving our way through beautiful countryside, and probably surprising a few early morning drivers who were most likely not used to seeing a mass of runners out so early!
As we arrived at Tring park we joined the other delegates to create a sea of apricot. The park looked amazing, a green rolling landscape with the quirky addition of cows dotted around – Tring even have a 'cow marshal' volunteer role and a cow bell to ring if you set a PB! There had been much talk about the Tring course. Some had ran it before and knew what to expect, but the majority of us were Tring parkrun tourists for the first time. I knew there were hills, and the first kilometre was said to be a particularly ‘character building’ hill. The new runners briefing was possibly the largest I have ever seen, and the volunteers joyfully explained to us what to expect from the course – no shock, hills.
Taking my place in the starting huddle I knew this was not going to be anything like a PB run – my home Lincoln parkrun is fast and flat! – but I aimed to simply enjoy the route and push as hard as possible. The first kilometre was certainly character building. From the start we began a climb up a long grassy hill, definitely not the sprint start I am used to at Lincoln! As I reached the summit of this lengthy mound the course turned and continued to climb further, this section was even sharper now and wound through welcomed woodland shade. At this point Chrissie Wellington, British triathlete and four time Ironman Champion who now works for parkrun, overtook me – at least I was briefly in front of her for a kilometre! Finally the route stopped climbing and it soon became apparent the hills were worth the burning quads. A brief spell of flat along the top of the ridge let us experience the views below which were quite simply stunning.
Much to my quads delight the course then treated us to a section of downhill; freewheeling on dirt track, I felt amazing. This sensation was short-lived though as the route turned back onto grassland and I was met with a visibly undulating route ahead, some mounds were steeper than others and my quads began to whimper again. I then came to what the volunteer at the run briefing had called something like ‘false hope corner’ (I cannot remember the exact wording now!), it seemed as though you were at the finish and the funnel was in sight, however a sharp left turn in the other direction told you otherwise. The heat was apparent now and my legs were getting heavy beneath me, I hadn’t been paying attention to my pace at all, but I glanced at my watch to see how far left I had to go. Less than half a mile; I could do this. But wait, there was another hill. Jokingly known as Heartbreak Hill, the hill falls just when you thought you had made it. A steep slope presented in front of me; I smiled and laughed with the marshal stood at the foot about this being some kind of torture, but I was determined to make my way to the top, and even mustered something from my weary legs for a sprint into the finish funnel. Finally, no more hills!
My time was 26:08, virtually five minutes slower than my usual Lincoln parkrun times, which indicates the sheer difference in terrains. Tring parkrun was challenging in a new way though, and despite the demanding course, I absolutely loved it. The volunteers at Tring were amazing too, and I took great pleasure from looking at the photos taken afterwards, which shows so many runners winding through the gorgeous landscape. I would love to run Tring parkrun again in the future and would recommend it to anyone; it is tough but as with all parkrun events, everyone is welcome and I was seriously impressed by some of the younger children, buggy pushers and more senior adults tackling the climbs. Moreover, who could resist the chance to get to ring the famous PB cow bell!