It has come to my attention recently that I am a parkrun tourist.
How does this happen, I hear you ask? How do you unwittingly become a parkrun tourist?
I began running at parkrun when our first local Newark parkrun opened back in 2013. Until then I had never even heard about parkrun. I didn’t go very regularly then, because our daughter was only a few months old, so our ability to get up and out of the house ready to start running at 9am depended on what kind of night we had had with her. However, by 2014 I was parkrunning (can I use it as a verb? Is that allowed?) a little more regularly due to marathon training, and had begun to visit other local ones including Lincoln which had opened shortly after Newark and is actually closer to me, and Clumber Park. I had also visited both Warrington and Bolton while we were visiting family.
Parkrun only became a habit during 2015 however, as it became part of our family Saturday, particularly once my husband and I started a runstreak. As more local ones opened, our club began to make a point of visiting them, and we continue to support most of our local events equally now, which now also include Sherwood Pines and Belton House, rather than just stick to one home parkrun. Our club has also done group outings to others slightly further afield in Nottingham and at Rutland Water, and I began meeting up with running buddies from Twitter at various parkruns, and visiting a different event every time we visited family.
Last summer was the point at which I realised we were becoming tourists, when we decided to go on a family camping weekend and chose a campsite based on proximity to a parkrun we liked the look of. We chose Dalby Forest parkrun, which is on a stunning Forestry Commission site just outside Pickering. We pitched our tent on the Friday afternoon, had dinner at a local pub, went to parkrun the following morning and then packed up and came home (well it was forecast rain that afternoon!). Bingo – we were
officially tourists. I remember laughing about it on the drive home, and I wanted to do it again! Luckily, we were at a wedding in Aylesbury the following weekend, so we also researched the local parkruns in that area, chose Rushmere based on its woodland location, and planned our Saturday morning accordingly. That also coincided beautifully with Mr M’s 50th parkrun.
I got a little bit too excited planning our New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day parkruns this year. We had the opportunity to do 3 over one weekend, and we had planned to stay with family in the northwest so I started researching in November. It took me a while to decide, but eventually we opted for Worsley Woods on New Year’s Eve, then Watergrove followed by Burnley on New Year’s Day. It was like Christmas all over again – I loved it!
It was only a couple of weeks ago that I realised there is a special (unofficial) parkrun tourist club, after a conversation with @outrunninghills while were were, as the name suggests, out running hills around Hebden. He mentioned I could get my hands on a cow cowl and join the tourist club with all the events I had done. What on earth is a cow cowl, I enquired. Well, that same weekend I had discovered I was on a list of ‘Most Events‘, had ordered my Cow Cowl, was admitted entry into the Facebook and Strava parkrun tourist communities, and was already planning where else I could visit this year. The club isn’t an official parkrun thing, it’s just a bit of fun for tourist addicts like myself, and the cow cowl acts a bit like a secret handshake. I’d never noticed them before, but now I have one, I see them everywhere, and this morning at Knowsley parkrun for example, it acted as a real icebreaker to get chatting to another chap wearing one about all the parkruns he has visited. This is why I’m now happy to turn up to unfamiliar parkruns on my own – it doesn’t matter that you don’t know anyone, the community just embraces you anyway.
This morning was my 26th event, which is small fry really compared to how many events others have done (have a look at the list and gawp in amazement), but I’m just getting started, and I want to keep trying new ones. I think the reason I love visiting different parkruns is because they are all so different and unique. Every one has a different character. If you’ve only ever been to one, you are missing out on so much. I was bored a long time ago of running the same 3 laps around both my closest parkruns which is why I only do them once every 6-8 weeks just so I can check progress with my training (it’s good to use the same course as a regular benchmark).
Trying new parkruns keeps things interesting. The most hilly contenders I’ve tried so far include Watergrove, Penrhyn, Witton and Gainsborough. Courses vary between open parkland (Belton House), woodland (Haigh Woodland), town parks (Phoenix), out and back avoiding sheep poo (Rutland Water), lake views (Colwick), castles (Penryhn) and the beach (Crosby). If you asked me to choose a favourite I’m not sure I could, because each one is so very different.
On my list to try this year are Bushy Park, the spiritual home of parkrun where it all began; Fountains Abbey which I have had recommended to me as a beautiful one; Peterborough to meet up with a few UKRunChat people, and because I want to tag on a long run through the Nene Valley; and Birkenhead and Southport so I can see some Twitter buddies doing their race directing thing. There will also no doubt be plenty of others.
Go on, try a new parkrun this month, I challenge you.