parkrun reports: Bicester, Gloucester North and Little Stoke

As part of my 40 Before 40 I’ve been on the road in recent weeks ticking off some parkrun tourism. Here’s a brief rundown (pun intended) of the last three…

Bicester parkrun – 16th April (inaugural)

A quick stop-off on the way to Brighton Marathon (involving a mad dash to Milton Keynes to get the first of three trains to Brighton…the things we do to fit in a parkrun!) the first week for Bicester was a very cold, very wet one!

Lots of tourists braved the foul weather to join the locals including my good friend Ian, who’s first parkrun experience hopefully hasn’t put him off for life! The start was a little muted as people froze waiting for the off, but once away the marshals on course were brilliant. A three-lapper it was ankle deep in either water or mud for most of the way. In the summer It will be a lovely, flat and fast course with enough turns to keep it interesting. Didn’t hang around at the finish, needed a hot shower and a cuppa before the travelling continued, and no one was brave enough to get a camera out so no photos but hopefully the runners of Bicester will turn out in their droves over the summer and enjoy a great venue.

Gloucester North – 23rd April

Pete, Mum, Me and the lovely RD

Pete, Mum, Me and the lovely RD

I took Mum over to Gloucester for her first go at ‘voluntouring’, and the team there were just wonderful. Really welcoming group, led by ED Pete who is very enthusiastic and a very friendly RD who’s name I didn’t catch. Glos North had an enforced change of course when the original became unusable thanks to flooding, but actual the alternate course is a lot of fun and more popular so I hope it stays. Weaving between and around school buildings interspersed with rounding football pitches it deserves its fame as the zombie apocalypse course! Another three-lapper but with enough corners and changes of scenery to keep it interesting and lots of encouraging marshals. There was also cake at the end, some of the best I’ve ever enjoyed at a parkrun, and as this one is on my doorstep I’m sure I’ll be back.

Little Stoke – 30th April

We all know the tale of Little Stoke and their sad situation, with the executioner’s axe hanging over them it was time to pay a visit before it was too late. (Unless something dramatic happens Saturday 28th May should be the last run at this venue)

The unexpected Cheltenham parkrunners on tour!

The unexpected Cheltenham parkrunners on tour!

We unexpectedly bumped in to several other Cheltenham tourists which was great, but the atmosphere was a little stilted. Knowing the run was ending and with all the media hype recently tourists seemed almost apologetic about being there; I guess there is an element of morbidity about getting it done before the final death knells, a bit like gatecrashing a funeral. The local team were all very nice though, and you can’t blame them for being a little less enthusiastic than usual. The start was a short walk from the briefing then off on the first of three laps, although you cover some parts of the course four times. Mostly flat or downhill this was a fast, simple course. The tarmac path was quite thin in places, and one section had a number of tree roots pushing through, but I couldn’t see any evidence of the damage being caused by parkrun that has so enraged the Parish Council. The route actually passes the Council’s offices so on each circuit I made sure to boo them, although they were closed it still made me feel a little better!

Little Stoke supports park running just not parkrunning!

Little Stoke supports park running just not parkrunning!

What was surprising was how running focused the park is! There is a big Run England board announcing the 3-2-1 route which shares the same paths as parkrun, and the statue of a runner in the photo above is opposite the doors of the Council office! It is very clear that running is welcomed here, just not parkrun, and this move by the councillors can only have been an attempt to extort money from what they incorrectly see as a wealthy organisation. I fear they will be too stubborn to accept defeat and allow the parkrun to continue, which is a real shame, and I just hope that in the next elections there is a large change of personnel and possibly parkrun are invited back to a wonderful location.

Next week Bushy Park, the home of parkrun, then staying in Cheltenham for a while before Copenhagen towards the end of the month, so my tourism days aren’t over just yet…!

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