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Discussion Starter #42
Flatts Lane parkrun - 16/09/2017

I decided a few weeks ago that I would resurrect Trinity's Tour de parkrun as soon as I returned from my hiking trip. My plan is to run a new parkrun each month throughout the Winter.

A few weeks ago I visited the parkrun website to decide which one I would do next, only to find that the number of North-East parkruns has now increased to 21. The new one, Flatt's Lane, turned out to have not started yet, and the inaugural run was set for 16/09, ie yesterday.

Having never done an inaugural parkrun, I decided to start with this one. A little bit of research showed me that it was a two-lap course, and had something the locals called 'Cardiac Hill'.

It's a long way away, south of Middlesbrough, so I got up very early yesterday morning and left the house just after 7am. I drove through an awful lot of rain on the way, and when I arrived at the country park around 8:20, it was lashing it down.

I went for a 1.5 mile warm-up jog in the pouring rain, didn't encounter Cardiac Hill but saw enough to confirm it was a hilly course. The entire course is on woodland trail, and the heavy rain had made everything nice and muddy and slippy, making me pleased I had chosen to wear my trail shoes.

So, on to the run, by which time the rain has stopped. The start of the run was a short walk from the Visitor Centre, the first half mile being on a long straight path, quite wide at first, narrowing later on. This was quite muddy. The first half mile looked flat, but was actually a very gradual climb. At the end of this long straight, we made a left turn onto Cardiac Hill for the first time.

This was a steep climb, last about 0.2 miles, up to the top of the park. It was a bit of a beast the first time round, so I knew it wouldn't go well the second time round. Pace towards the top was not much quicker than walking pace.

Turning left onto the top we had half a mile or so of undulating trail, with net downhill, followed by a left turn to take a steeper narrow descent towards the Visitor Centre. This section was much more enjoyable than the first mile, and I particularly enjoyed the descent. Having recced it beforehand, I knew it was fairly innocuous even though it looked bad, as the small stones made it fairly grippy and there was only a couple of slippy rocks.

At the end of the steep descent, we took a left round a big loop behind the Visitor Centre and descended less precipitously towards the start. Second time round we would not take this left, but continue on to finish on the grass in front of the visitor centre.

The second lap went similarly to the first, with my pace on most sections being similar to the first, though second time up Cardiac Hill I has insufficient oomph to make it to the top without walking. Many of the people around me we also walking, and although a couple of people passed me, I recaught them on the descent.

Once the hill was over I was able to enjoy the rest of the run, though my descent was not quite as quick as I'd have liked as I had some timid blokes in front of me! My time was 24:14 - my slowest 5k in several years.

So, overall I enjoyed the run. There is not much to look at aside from trees but it is a pleasant enough woodland trail, which would have been even more pleasant without so much recent rain.

My stats for the run are as follows:

3rd lady out of 69.
1st VW40 out of 15.
32nd overall out of 174.
 

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Discussion Starter #43
Redcar parkrun - 11/11/2017

A bit late with this report, but better late than never. I decided I wanted to do another parkrun but to have a chance of a decent time. Out of the few remaining North-East parkruns I hadn't done, Redcar is the only one which was flat.

I studied the run on Strava beforehand, although as it turned out, that was a waste of time because the course they are using is not the one published on the parkrun website. On Strava it was often being measured as short, with people running around 6:45 per mile, yet getting sub-20s!

However, on runbritain rankings I could see the run was often given a high SSS value, which indicates a slow course. I couldn't see how this could be, as it's dead flat!

Anyway, Redcar parkrun is the furthest NE parkrun from where I live, so I dragged myself out of bed at 6 am after a poor night's sleep (pre-race nerves).

The drive took a bit less than expected so I arrived at 08:10 - plenty of time to park, recce, go to the loo, have a warm-up jog, go to the loo again...

Conditions were good - dry, wind-free and cold. Actually... very, very cold!

Not much to say about the course. It's a compact square park, with a kids' play area, a little lake, some small bridges, tennis courts. As the park is so small, it's a three lap course. Actually, they do a 20 mile race here - the Locke Park 20, which is 20 one-mile laps. It's a favourite test race in the run-up to spring marathons, but the idea of doing twenty laps appalls me!

It's quite a small run, not hugely competitive. I managed to stand right at the front with no problems. No worries about bottlenecks! Was overtaken shortly after the start by another lady, who stayed a bit out in front for a lap, but then started to fade and I went past her. I subsequently passed a further three people, but got caught by another chap halfway through the final lap (who later told me he was using me as a 'pacer'!)

Splits were surprisingly slow, and I think I figured out why the course is so slow. Despite being pancake flat, there are loads of tight turns.

Crossed the finish line in 20:43, the Garmin measuring exactly 3.11 miles. The stats:

1st lady out of 77.
1st VW40 out of 7.
7th overall out of 182.

Was very pleasantly surprised with 7th overall - it's the highest I've finished in a parkrun.

I've now done 16 of the NE parkruns during Le Tour. There were only 18 when I started this over two years ago, but now there are 22 and they are about to add a 23rd.
 

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Discussion Starter #44 (Edited)
Windy Nook parkrun - best for mud and slush - 02/12/2017

If I was writing a travel article, I might summarise various destinations under headings like "The Maldives - best for sandy beaches", "Bangkok - best for streetfood".

Likewise, if I was classifying parkruns in such a way, Windy Nook would be "best for mud and slush".

So on Saturday morning I decided to bin the idea of a fast one at Riverside as I'd been ill all week, and instead attend the inaugural Windy Nook parkrun. I knew it was mostly off-road and lumpy, so no pressure for a fast time.

For some reason it hadn't occurred to me that with Windy Nook being at quite a high elevation, there would still be snow up there, until I turned up and saw the state of the park.

Had a bit of a jog around the park to assess the state of the paths - not good! Lots of slush, snow, ice and mud.

After an interesting briefing which mentioned a 'ditch' and a 'flight of 14 steps', we set off. By then the ice was melting quite well and wasn't slippy for the most part, just very slushy. It was a 3-lap course, but being an unfamiliar course, we all went a bit wrong on the first lap, turning left too early to go up the wrong flight of 14 steps!

Once at the top, there were of course no signs, because it was the wrong steps, so the front off the pack went left, when it should have been right. Fortunately they hadn't gone far before someone shouted them back.

Eventually we got back on the right track, and second time round we went straight on and up the correct stairs. By the time we'd done 3 and bit laps of this course, it was churned up pretty badly. Essentially it was a cross-country course, and much tougher than the cross-country races I've done so far this season, which have been practically bone dry.

My finish time was 23:30. The run was given an SSS of 5.7 on runbritain, so a very slow course. The wrong turning didn't seem to affect the course length - I measured it as 3.13 miles.

Stats were as follows:

39th out of 215 overall.
3rd female out of 69.
1st V40 out of 6.

Photo of one of the paths!

 

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Discussion Starter #45 (Edited)
Newbiggin-by-the-Sea - a festive parkrun - 23/12/2017

I really wanted to go to Gateshead for the festive parkrun this year, but discovered the evening before that it was cancelled (due to the Saltwell 10k).

We decided spur of the moment that we'd go to Newbiggin instead. This parkrun only started recently, so Saturday was the 11th running of the event. It's not a fast course, and the ladies' course record was 21:40, which I had my eye on, despite the fact I would be unleashing the Christmas outfit!

However, it became apparent that a course record might be tough on Saturday morning when we saw the conditions - it was so windy I was actually worried I would be carried out to sea.

I did about 1.5 miles along the promenade without the outfit as a warm-up, and it was very tough into wind. I then put on my outfit and assembled with the other runners, including a Santa, on the beach.

The first part of the run is hard, as it is a short section across deep sand. The photo below shows us leaving the beach - you can see me to the right of Santa:



Once up onto the prom it's a nice flat run along to the opposite end of the small bay, although pretty tough into wind. Quite a lot of people went off too fast, so I was steadily passing people all the way.

Once at the end of the prom, the route goes briefly back onto deep sand, before turning right up a set of steps, then left along a grassy shelf, then right up a further set of steps and a steep grass bank (like I said - not a fast course). Then it's onto tarmac for a loop round some tennis courts, more grass, then back onto a concrete ramp back down to the prom.

Heading back along the prom was a nice fast section with the wind behind, eventually reaching a cone near the finish where we turn and do another lap of prom, steps, tennis courts, prom.

Here is a photo of me approaching the cone at the end of lap 1:



If the photos are correct I was in 11th place at this point, but I managed to take the guy in the blue that you can see heading out on lap 2 in the photo. Second time up the steps on lap 2 was tough, but once back onto the prom it was a nice fast run in to the finish.

Here is a photo of me approaching the finish line, wearing the pudding outfit in a fashionable off-the-shoulder style:



Unfortunately there was a female who finished ahead of me, but she is listed as unknown in the results, making me officially first lady. Not counting the unknown lady, my time of 22:25 was the third fastest by a female so far in the 11 runnings of the event. I was also fastest in fancy dress, beating Santa by a couple of minutes.

Race stats below:

10th overall out of 57.
1st lady out of 17.
1st VF40 out of 4.

I have now done 18 North-East parkruns out of 23.
 

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Discussion Starter #46 (Edited)
Prudhoe Riverside parkrun - 17th February 2018

So, the end is in sight with Trin's Tour - Prudhoe means only 4 left to do! (unless they add more, which they keep doing).

Decided to sling in a parkrun in Feb as I had no other races planned so I've got to do something to keep that runbritain handicap from deteriorating.

Because of a lack of time due to exam study, I chose the only one left which is a reasonable distance from where I live - one of the newish ones, Prudhoe Riverside.

I was not overly optimistic about a fast time due to its reputation as being muddy trails - as it happened, a recent dry spell meant it was a lot better than it could have been. I also thought the location - between the railway and the river and near industrial units, meant it might not be an especially scenic run.

As it happens, it's a nice little riverside run on footpaths by and through trees, and you can't tell there are industrial units not far away.

There is plenty of parking available and also public toilets which are open early enough - something which not all parkruns have. I arrived in plenty of time for a warm-up jog and trip to the loo.

The run starts on a tarmac path by the river, running in an easterly direction for around two-thirds of a mile. This section is flat and nice and fast. The course then turns right and goes onto trail path, gradually turning through 180 degrees to go behind an embankment, then there is a short steep climb up onto the side of the embankment - this then means you are running back the way you came, parallel to the outbound. This section is around three-quarters of a mile long and is all on trail, and quite soft and uneven underfoot. It's quite slow along this bit and hard work, and I can see that with a bit of rain it would become very muddy.

At the end of this section, the course loops right again, going down a steep hill back onto the tarmac riverside path to go around for a second lap.

At the end of the second lap, it is a left turn onto the riverside path for a fast sprint finish.

My pacing was a bit iffy for this run, but I think that was more to do with the course - the third mile had a greater proportion of the soft stuff than the other two. Mile 1 was the fastest by far.

But overall, although my time of 21:19 was not particularly fast, it was a decent relative performance. Stats:

3rd lady out of 77.
8th overall out of 170.
1st VW40 out of 18.

Also, due to the high standard scratch awarded to this run by runbritain, the performance improved my handicap so that my handicap is now better than it has ever been. Happy days! :d

So only Gateshead, Tees Barrage, Hackworth and Blackhill left to do of the North-East parkruns.
 

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Discussion Starter #47
So, it's that time of year again, when I say that this Winter really is the one where I'm going to finish all the North-East parkruns. Of course, since my last new one in February, they have added another, and a new one in the town where I live is due to start up in the New Year.

So, there are now 24 parkruns, soon to be 25. I was on 19 back in February, with 4 to go. I now still have 4 to go having decided on Hackworth last weekend, so here goes:

Hackworth parkrun - 10th November 2018

I seem to be left with mostly parkruns which are quite far away. I decided to go for Hackworth, which is probably the second furthest. So it was an early start - out the house at 7:15, but the drive was shorter than expected and I was there by around 8:15.

So plenty of time to look for a loo - why do parkruns never publish this information on their website?

So I went for a walk round the park, which is built on quite a slope, so it was obviously not going to be a speedy course. Checked out a promising looking pavillion at the top of the steep hill, but no signs of life, or toilets. Wandered round the perimeter to another forlorn building. Turned out it was a small football pavillion and someone had left the door open. So I used their loo as I was about to burst - no-one noticed.

Then a one mile warm-up jog and back to the car to drop off some clothes, so I could be as usual the most under-dressed person at parkrun, with my tiny vest and shorts.

It is a small turnout parkrun, so I was hoping for a high finish. Looked around at the other runners trying to work out who might be a threat. Not many people looked threatening.

As I lined up near the front, a woman with a double-buggy also lined up on the front row. I found this rather baffling - surely people with buggies should go near the back so they don't get in the way of faster runners at the front.

Anyway, off we went. It started with a straight run along the bottom of the park, so the early pace was quite quick. One bloke established a lead straight away, followed by a bunch of several including myself and crazy buggy woman, who set off at about 6 minute miles, which terrified me.

After a couple of hundred metres, her wheels were making me nervous as she was right alongside me, so I made the effort to push ahead and get clear in front of her, briefly moving up into joint 3rd place (crazy buggy lady then slipped back and eventually finished in about 28 minutes).

As things settled a few people came past me, including another female, and I settled into 7th place for a bit.

After the initial straight, we turned right into a kids playground, which we ran a zig-zag round, gradually gaining some height, then back out into the main park to turn left onto a steep uphill climb towards the large pavillion. This was followed by a nice sweeping descent round the perimeter to the bottom of the park again, followed by a long grass section which ran parallel to our original straight outbound.

We then made a 180 near the start and went round for the second of three laps.

By this time, three of the blokes in front had faded a bit and I had moved up into 4th. The other female was still in front of me in 3rd place. 1st and 2nd were stretching ahead, and there was about 20-25 metres between me and the 1st lady.

Nothing really changed in the second lap. I noticed that the other lady was tending to move away from me on the downhill but was slower on the grass section.

Come the third lap I didn't think there was any chance of catching her, but as we worked our way up to the top of hill weaving round the playground, then up the steep bit, the gap started to close quite a bit. I assumed she would pull away on the downhill, but instead the gap closed further, so by the time we were on the flat it was down to about 5 metres.

Once onto the grass I made my move and came past her. As we went round the tight 180 I could see she was only 2-3 metres behind.

Now we had a final straight run for about a third of a mile, very gradually climbing, tacked on after the third lap. Unfortunately, the other lady managed to find another gear and came past me again.

I was unable to push any harder and she crossed the finish line one second in front of me. We were still in 3rd and 4th place overall.

I finished in 21:58. To put it into perspective, the male first finisher ran outside 20 minutes, so it's a slow course. I was quite pleased with that and it was the first race of mine to improve my runbritain handicap in many months.

So, I'll finish with the stats:

2nd lady out of 24.
4th overall out of 70.
1st VF40 out of 2.

No parkrun this weekend as it was cross-country yesterday. I may do one next weekend but I have a relay race in the afternoon. It's only 1.67 miles though - I guess I could risk a parkrun 4 hours beforehand?
 

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Discussion Starter #49
Probably the best parkrun in the World

Gateshead parkrun – 2nd December 2018

Well, perhaps Gateshead parkrun is not the best parkrun in the world, but Saltwell Park, where it is held, has got to be one of the best parks in the UK. I grew up about a mile from the park, hence why I decided to do a longer report this time with a bit of background about the park.

The park was created in 1876 and includes a mansion and grounds belonging to William Wailes. The mansion is known as Saltwell Towers, shown below, which still stands today. I think when I was a child it was in disuse, but now it houses a visitor centre and café.



My family frequently visited the park when we were kids. It is quite a large park with lots of different parts to it, including a grass area at the southern end with a bandstand, the area around Saltwell Towers which includes a maze, a Pet’s Corner, Saltwell Dene (which is like a magical Fairy Glen), rose walks, bowling greens, a Japanese garden and so on.

The northern end of the park is more open, with a large open field which we used to sledge on as kids, and the boating lake and surrounding paths. Also when we were kids there used to be a large paddling pool, which I think dated back to Victorian times, but unfortunately has now been filled in. Unfortunately I can’t seem to find any photos of it. We also used to go to the very impressive Bonfire Night fireworks display every year.

One of the strangest eras of Saltwell Park history, was when they installed a retired Vickers Viscount aircraft, which visitors were allowed to go inside. It was a feature of the park from 1982 to 1993 when it was dismantled and removed.



There are some great old black and white photos from early 20th century here: http://www.gatesheadhistory.com/saltwell-park.html

Shown below is a map of the current layout of the park.



Gateshead parkrun is held entirely at the northern end of the park. It starts at the Pavilion (number 3 on map), then heads north to do a full lap of the northern field, passing the Pavilion again. On reaching the northern end of the park the second time, the route heads round the perimeter, keeping number 1 on your left, and round the outside of the boating lake, then there are a couple of twisting turns as the route goes round the bowling greens, then continues up between the lake and the northern field. The lap of the lake is then repeated a further two times. On the third time up the hill, the route then turns right to head back along the top end of the Northern Field (in the opposite direction to the start).

The route is quite lumpy, as Saltwell Park is built on the slopes of the Team Valley, the Pavilion is a much higher elevation than the most westerly part of the route round the outside of the lake.

Although I have done this run before, this was the first time since the start of Trinity’s Tour de parkrun. It is five years since I last did it and my course best was outside 24 minutes.

Conditions were very cold and it started to rain during the race. As we set off I was initially in third position in the ladies’ field but soon moved past number 2. Towards the end of lap 1 I passed the first lady and then remained in the lead for quite a while after that.

Unfortunately, towards the end of the second lap of the lake, a lady came past me – I think she was the same one who’d originally been in 1st, then towards the end of the third lap with only about 0.2 miles to go, another lady passed me.

So I finished 3rd lady in a time of 21:27. This was enough to improve my dire runbritain handicap by 0.3!

Stats:

3rd lady out of 80.
24th out of 193 overall.
3rd VF40 out of 12.

So I am now on 21 out of 24 North-East parkruns.
 
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