Parkrun tourism, part 2: England

I can admit immediately that my initial plan to follow up on my Parkrun streak from Ireland with three Parkruns in England failed. There was no way I could get up and pack my tent at the break of dawn after a busy WIMA rally and farewell dinner followed by a rock concert by Thor, the gods of rock (that is what they call themselves, and I’m inclined to agree).

The first weekend in England we headed into Stoke-on-Trent and Hanley Park. Parking possibilities there were excellent and the park offered a challenging and rather complicated combination of loops before the beautiful home straight by the pavilion. But before we got started, the Parkrun organisers had to deal with a medical emergency and an ambulance was called in. Someone had collapsed and needed medical attention, which the team saw to with impressive professionalism. With a mere 20 minute delay, the rest of us were sent off running.

After the rather small Parkruns in Ireland, this one felt gigantic, probably about 250 runners. We did not stay for Parkrun coffee, instead we returned home to Christopher’s parents for a brunch consisting of rice and stirfried veggies that his mum prepared, yum yum.

The last Parkrun, in Ludmoor Park, Weymouth, was one I had looked forward to for a long time as my friend Sheonagh was going to join me. I’ve done this Parkrun a few times before when I was house-sitting and she was away riding motorbikes in Africa, but we had never done it together before. In the three years since I last ran, there the gathering had grown to a shade over 400 hundred runners and we all set off like a colourful snake through the park. I think this is the largest Parkrun I have attended.


For this outing I had swapped my motorbike for an e-bicycle. After the run, we returned home for coffee and toast with homemade marmalade in the garden. Then off to the beach. A grand finale for my Parkrun tourism!

Next time will be with my Sudbury Court mates in December when Christopher and I are going to London for a cultural weekend.

Parkrun tourism, part 1: Ireland

“Are you going to take part?” the man asked me rhetorically as I parked my motorbike near the Parkrun start and finish. He was happily surprised when I responded, “Yes! I’m just going to get changed”. Off with boots, trousers, jacket, gloves and helmet and on with my Vivo Barefoot shoes, running watch and cap. When all my motorbike gear was packed away and secured on my bike, I was ready to start. Ride and Run, yeah!

Parkrun tourism is a great way to interact with the local running communities while running in some new and interesting places. All our Saturdays were planned so that I could run a new Parkrun.

First out was Tullow Parkrun near the Wicklow Mountains. Their Parkrun is a two lap course in Rathwood Rath nature park near a garden centre where you could eat full Irish breakfast to the price of two for one afterwards. The run itself was an enjoyable, flat course in the forest and around a pond, overall on a rather soft, pleasant surface and the breakfast got full points.

Taking off at Tallow Park Run
Taking off, barcode in hand.
No, I have not started to eat bacon and black pudding all of a sudden, this is Christopher’s breakfast.

The following Saturday we were on the south coast camping at Eagle’s Point. We had just waited out a horrible storm and the weather for Saturday’s Parkrun at Glengarriff Nature Reserve was excellent. The course was a figure of 8 on a mixed surface, some excellent soft trail but also some rather harsh tarmac. It was a rather challenging course with one super long hill but I made a point of running all the way, albeit very slowly at points. This Parkrun had no feasible breakfast place so we continued over the mountain and the Caha Pass and on to Kenmare for a full Irish, but not before I’d had a splash in the river to freshen up. So, full points for the location, the route was very scenic and the river refreshing. This was my overall favourite among the three Parkruns I participated in.

My favourite stretch of this Parkrun.
I can’t think of a better place for a run.

The third and last Parkrun in Ireland, Clonmel, was the most sociable one. They might be disappointed to see that their Swedish Parkrun tourist from Spain actually is registered with Sudbury Court Running Club in London. Well, it is the running club in my heart and it is difficult to let go. The course was a temporary one, normally they run on the perimeter of the horseracing track, but the substitute was a delightful 2.5k along the River Suir and back again.

Sprint to the finish.

Local running

I run therefore I am. This is very true and although other things has taken over my life and I have given up my ambition to run 42 when 42, I’ve still taken part in some really cool events during the last year. I have focused on the local events and enjoyed the proximity of the beach.

Lucky me, being born on the 1st of November which is a public holiday in Spain so I get the day off work. I always enjoy doing something special on my birthday and last year I ran Cursa de Tardor, the autumn race – a 10k trail race with start and finish in Altafulla old town. After the run we could enjoy the beach and some tapas before taking the costal route riding back to Calafell. I hope to comeback for this run next autumn again, since I really enjoyed the route, running mainly on forest trails.

The little village of Calafell where we live has “Tot el any” or “The whole year” as its slogan and the village is trying hard to put on different events every other weekend outside the tourist season as well. On two occasions I’ve taken part in 5k races along the beach and although the beach promenade isn’t the most exciting place to run, as I run there every week anyway, I like to support the local events and just can’t say no to a race on my doorstep.

I was super pleased finishing both these 5k races sub-30 minutes, which proves that even though I’m not as fit as I used to be, I can still match my parkrun results.

I only run 2 times a week these days, 3 in a good week and the mileage is nowhere near what I added up when living in London, but I don’t stress about it. Running is something I do for my own pleasure and I try to mix it up, once a week on the beach promenade and once along the waterfront in the sand. As often as I can, I finish my run with a splash in the sea.

But the sun isn’t shining all the time in Spain. This was especially evident when Anneli joined me for the El Corte Ingles 10k race in Barcelona. Together with about 65,000 other runners we joined the free of charge race on Barcelona’s streets and the rain was bucketing down during the most part of the race. It isn’t half as bad to run a race in pouring rain as it is to be the photographer. Christopher was not impressed with me failing to notice him where he tried to catch us with the camera. That would have been a good day for contact lenses, glasses were absolutely useless, I ended up running without glasses seeing marginally better than with steamed up glasses. Anyway, Christopher has stated that he, for one, very much prefers the 5k races on the waterfront. I do not blame him.

The final race before leaving Calafell for this term proved to be the ultimate challenge. Calafell Historic Trail was the first ever mountain race I’ve run, I’ve done the Harrow Hill 10k and the Watford Half during my time in London and, while both were acknowledged for being challenging hilly routes, they were nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to this race. I’m no where near marathon-fit these days but during the second half of the Historic trail I was contemplating if it possibly was harder than a marathon. Suffering is optional and I tried to be good spirited about it. I had a massive energy crash, nearly vomited and had to walk. Slightly embarrassing, as a teacher from my Catalan class happily ran past me with bouncy steps coming from the 16k route. The trail itself was amazing with fantastic views – you do get that after running up the mountain, and there were stations with historical roleplayers illustrating the civil war, the stone age and other significant events in the local history. During the whole race I was running more or less together with another runner, sometimes she was a little bit before me and sometimes after. The last kilometre we ran side by side and we crossed the finish line together, celebrated with watermelon and shook hands. It was an amazing feeling to not have to run any further, very much as finishing a marathon. The organisers offered sausage in a bun and beer. We even got T-shirts, you get a lot for your 10 euro fee in Spain. After the race, I went down to the sea and soaked myself in the cold water. It was absolutely amazing and horrible at the same time. I hope to do it again next year.

Shortly after arriving in Sweden, I got the possibility to run a race in my home town, Karlstad Stadslopp. It was a 10k race along the streets of Karlstad which also included running through some park areas and pretty much the whole city got involved. Those who were not running were having picnics along the route. In an interesting comparison to the previous local race where I paid 10 euros and got a T-shirt, snacks, fruit and drinks half way and at the finish line + sausage and beer, I now had to pay 35 euros and I got a banana and a bottle of water at the finish. I totally get that salaries are higher in Sweden, so it might not be that much money for local people, but I still wonder why it has to cost that much. Besides the economic drainage, I had a fantastic day and enjoyed my race immensely. I even broke my previous finished time from some 25 years ago – which was actually the first ever race I’ve run. In addition, I was only 5 minutes off my PB for this distance.

As I was running on the streets of Karlstad trying to find my supporters, I couldn’t help analysing the crowd support. In Karlstad, there were a lot of people but the audience was mainly waiting for “their runner”. Very few people cheered for everyone. In addition, there was minimal interaction between runners, beside people who very obviously knew each other or were running together, of course. The races I’ve run both in England and in Spain I have always been cheered on by total strangers, people who are there to support all runners even though they might be looking out for a friend or family member as well. The crowd support was something that I weighed when evaluating if I would run a certain race again or not.  I always let my mind wander when I’m running and I like to ponder different things.