Newcastle parkrun

I’m conceding defeat, putting myself on the injury bench and taking a break from running for the next couple of weeks. I thought my legs were just knackered from the marathon at first but now I think it’s something more than that, the distinct feeling of “shin splints” in both calves (but thankfully not the symptoms of another stress fracture). This weekend’s parkrun felt like running knee deep in red hot coals and I had to turn it into a parkwalk before I got to 2km, hence the worst ever time of 42:41. I am banning myself from running and high impact exercise until it feels better.

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Anyway, enough about my bloody legs and more about the parkrun. I was up in the north to see my beloved Leyton Orient play a pointless game of football against Gateshead so thought I’d get a parkrun in while I was there.

Newcastle parkrun is one of the biggest – with 716 participants this week, it was the ninth biggest. It is one of those rare courses where you will never get lapped, because there is only one lap. I feel duty bound to point out that when I visited, the cafe was not open until after the run, and there was therefore NO TOILET. When you have 716 people descending on the park to run, Plan B of “use a bush” isn’t really an option either.

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Exhibition park

The route starts in Exhibition Park, which is a nice little park with a brewery and a lake and a bandstand and some ornamental flowers and all that stuff you also get in parks in the South. As you can imagine, with all those people it’s a bit of a shuffling start, and just as you start to get going, everyone has to squeeze through a gate on to the Town Moor. I think the start might be enough to prevent anyone ever getting a PB here, though of course that was never on the cards for me anyway. The first kilometre or so is on smooth tarmac on a very slightly undulating, very slightly uphill path that cuts diagonally across the moor. It does have something of a wilderness feel to it and the sight of runners snaking ahead of you as far as the eye can see is quite spectacular. At about 2km there is another gate – I don’t know if this provides another bottleneck for faster runners or if everyone is spread out enough by then – it was certainly fine for me. Here you actually leave the moor and run on a footpath along the Great North Road. (Great North Road! Is it named after the Great North Run?) It is not a very nice footpath, full of potholes.

Me avoiding a pothole. From the Northern Echo.

Sadly, when the route reenters the moor the footpath gets even worse. The course page says the whole route is on tarmac but I can only assume they mean “Northern Tarmac” which we southerners would call “Gravel”. I did not like this at all! If I was giving out Smooth Tarmac Ratings (actually I think I should start doing this as I am an expert on smooth tarmac) Newcastle would score 1/10.

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Photo from facebook/newcastleparkrun, taken on a nice sunny day. Yesterday was not a nice sunny day.

Photo from facebook/newcastleparkrun, taken on a nice sunny day. Yesterday was not a nice sunny day.

The organisers had made arrangements for anyone who wanted to take part in #finishformatt (doing an extra 0.95km, to make the distance up to 3.7 miles, the distance Matt Campbell had left to run in the London Marathon before he collapsed and died) to run an extra loop, and apparently 179 parkrunners did. I didn’t, as a) I could barely finish for myself, let alone anyone else b) I’ve made arrangements to do it along the actual London Marathon route in two weeks’. Hopefully I will be feeling better by then, if not I’ll have to walk instead.

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The other thing of note is that Newcastle’s run briefing actually included the phrase “Keep your distance from the cows. They WILL stampede.” And indeed, there were a lot of cows marauding on the moor, though for some reason they seemed to understand a parkrun was going on and kept to the non-running sections. There was no stampeding. This also went down in history as the first parkrun where I have had to avoid stepping in a cowpat.

Next parkrun: will probably be a return to volunteering at Finsbury Park on May 12th or 19th. I’m overdue!

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