One of the many good things about parkrun is that it gives you an excuse to hop on a train and visit friends in far flung glamorous locations (like Derby) whom you have not seen for far too long. You shouldn’t need an excuse, of course, but as we get older, busier and less prone to wild, all night partying, “we really should meet up, it’s been too long never seems precise enough to actually generate a meeting, whereas “come to my home town and do my parkrun on your next available Saturday” actually seems to work. Mof and I have been friends for nearly twenty years but the last time we saw each other was at the funeral of our young friend Zara, another person I really should have met up with while I still could. We parted saying that it really shouldn’t take a funeral for us all to hang out and we must see each other soon and then of course another two years passed, until thank god, parkrun came to the rescue.
This has started as a lovely sentimental heartfelt post but will now degenerate into my usual level of calamity. Our initial plan was to visit Long Eaton parkrun, as this a) would be the L for my alphabet b) featured on a recent list entitled “seven parkruns for a PB” c) actually looked quite nice and my kind of course. Unfortunately, in the last few weeks Derby has seen an outbreak of Weather of the wet variety and Long Eaton is on a flood plane. It has now been cancelled for a grand total of three weeks and counting. A Plan B was clearly needed, and luckily there are several choices in the vicinity of Derby. I was quite drawn to the idea of Conkers mainly for the name but then someone mentioned “tree roots”. Eventually we decided to plump for Alvaston because it is a) new, and might earn me some credibility points with my hardcore parkrunning tourist friends b) it is all tarmac and seemed slightly less weather-prone than the other options c) it is actually in Derby.
On my arrival at Alvaston Park, this was the sight that greeted me:
“Hope that’s not on the course!” I joked, but my laughter ground to a halt as I saw the cones surrounding the lagoon. Yes, it was on the course. Not only was it on the course, but one is required to run through it three times, which is quite impressive considering this is a one-lap course! I started googling whether we had time to get back in the car and abscond to Markeaton. (We didn’t, and apparently Markeaton was even wetter anyway.)
After showing off my “50 parkrun venues” t-shirt (it is finally cold enough to wear it) to an assortment of people I’d never met before, the run commenced. The route would be an out-and-back down a big, wide, flat cyclepath but the path isn’t quite long enough, so there are bits tagged on either end. At the beginning, there is a full circuit of the park square – the paths are quite narrow so it’s not a fast start. The “water feature” came about 200 metres into the run, and the first time through was the worst as not only did the icy cold water fill my trainers to the brim, I was splashed with water by 300 other runners. In my opinion the marshal at this point was taking far too much pleasure in encouraging us through this spectacle, declaring “through! not around!” at the top of his voice over and over again.
Everything that happened next paled into insignificance but the other three sides of the park featured “The Hill” (complete with sign – I have seen bigger speed bumps) and one gravelly, muddy side – this is the only part of the run that is not tarmac. Then it was back through the water feature – yes, twice in the first kilometre. At least my feet had not had a chance to start drying off.
The out and back bit was much nicer – I loved the smooth, wide tarmac, the chance to wave at other runners as you passed and while a cyclepath is not really an area of outstanding natural beauty it was pleasant and green enough. I was delighted to learn that the occupants of a local care home come out every weekend to watch the run, with one elderly lady giving out high-fives from her wheelchair.
Once back in the path, there was a nice little meander up to the lake, then back again, and then the end was in sight and, oh bollocks, there goes the water feature again. Any hope I had that the faster runners might have displaced all the water by the time I came through was in vain, and once again I sploshed through with considerably less good humour than the first two occasions. My soggy feet refused to oblige me with anything resembling a sprint finish and five whole people overtook me in the last hundred metres. Obviously they’re used to this kind of thing.
My finish time was 36:44 which I found fairly unremarkable. I think that this could be a really fast course if it were dry and I had not started right at the very back (my own fault for showing off my t-shirt to the tailwalker). Also, my dodgy ankle is remaining dodgy and probably cost me a few seconds.
Back to the lovely sentimental heartfelt bollocks, it was great to do a new parkrun with an old friend, and I hope lots of my old friends who I don’t see enough will suggest that I pop along to their local runs in 2020, particularly if they live in Luton, Letchworth or Littlehampton.