This blog will be switched off later this month. Old and new posts are to be found on Substack, at
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Travelling slow and parkrunning, wherever I can.
This blog will be switched off later this month. Old and new posts are to be found on Substack, at
Join me on Substack for more – parkruntourist.substack.com/
This and all future parkrun write-ups will appear on substack. My post on Etna parkrun is at
https://parkruntourist.substack.com/p/etna-parkrun and you can sign up for updates at the bottom of that page, too.
Still based in Mayo, I headed South to Achill, an island with dramatic views of sea and mountains. I’d already seen it from the other side of the water to the North, now I could take a closer look. I wasn’t that far away, but the roads are twisty and not particularly quick, so it was nearly an hour’s trip from North of Belmullet.
The event is straightforward to find. You can park at the hotel, or the GAA club if the gate’s open, and the hotel were happy for me to use the facilities beforehand. It’s a short walk round the back of some houses to find the greenway, and on this still and calm day the team were there well ahead of the start (9:30) so I wasn’t hanging around on my own.
The event is just off Achill Island, with the hotel right on the bridge that takes you there. Views over the island are great, particularly on a day like today, with barely a breath of wind. No guarantees, as that will change from week to week, sometimes from day to day.
The run is on a good surface throughout, with a few road crossings, mostly marshalled, before you get to the turnaround point, which is also marshalled. It’s not too testing, though it undulates – it was slightly uphill for the first mile (nearly), then flat, with the prospect of a slight downhill gallop to the finish a welcome one.
Afterwards most people scooted off to carry on their Saturdays. I hung around to watch the last few come in – it just wasn’t cold, so I cooled down nicely before strolling back to head off. Some weeks they go for refreshments at the hotel, but not this time.
This is a fabulous event which would welcome more people, and I recommend it both for the welcome, and for the views, which change as you progress along the course. I was so busy looking out to sea that I missed the fact that mountains had appeared on my right, but even if you somehow missed them all the way out, you’d have the trip back to take them in. Super scenic, and secure underfoot so you can spend your time in looking around you.
Results from Achill Greenway parkrun, 3/12/22; 16 finishers.
Anacostia is a neighbourhood in Washington DC, easy to get to via metro or bus from other parts of the city. For me, the no. 90 bus would have taken me there, but it was quicker to walk a mile to the green line and ride that. From Anacostia station, there’s an exit to the main car park that looks toward the river, and you just have to walk past the park police complex to get to the start. I took the other exit, and walked. It’s not far – under the underpass, turn right and you can see the car park ahead. It all looks a bit car-friendly, but there is a walkway.
I was too early, at before 8.30, so strolled along the river in the sun. There are a couple of lookout points near where the parkrun starts, and across the river is the naval district, with the occasional helicopter coming and going. It was a sunny day, warmer than a couple of days before, and the view is wide open and relaxing.
A little later I spotted the parkrun flag had been put up, and volunteers were adding an advertisement to try to pull a passing runner in. A runner coming from the other direction from the one the sign faced was soon called over by the run director, given a flyer and only escaped by promising to come back the next week.
The route could not be simpler. Run out for 2.5km, turn around at a low wall which borders a circular paved area (though you do also run past a couple of those, to the side – the one you want is right in front of you) and run back the same way. Without a GPS you might not be sure when you’ve got to the halfway point, and there wasn’t a turnaround sign this day, but otherwise it’s pretty much impossible to go wrong.
Setup is minimal. A flag, a sign, and some small cones to mark the finish, and remind people to finish off the trail. Not that anyone who forgot was refused a finish token. There’s a waterproof tarp on the ground for people to leave bags and extra clothes, too.
The route is pretty flat; it felt slightly up on the way back, though that might show my increased effort from lack of fitness. It’s a nice run to just switch off and do – no need to ponder turns or twists, and plenty of space for people to spread out on the route after the start.
There’s a lay-by a few hundred metres up the road for parking, and the parking garage for the metro is not far away. The metro is the quickest public transport method, but buses go to the junction of Good Hope Road SE and Martin Luther King Junior Avenue SE, which is just a short walk away.
I thoroughly enjoyed my morning; the sun helped, but we got a warm welcome, I bumped into a fellow tourist I knew from the UK, and we all ended up chatting for some time. We were glad to still be there at 10, as a driver stopped to ask us a question. I assumed it would be something we couldn’t answer, but no “Is this Anacostia parkrun?” Why yes! He wasn’t late, just checking where it was, for whatever reason.
Afterwards I caught the no.90 bus all the way to the other end of its route, and walked to the National Cathedral. It’s not close to the parkrun, but here’s a photo to show what’s waiting for you if you go. It’s grand, only without hundreds of years of old building practices, or ancient tombs, to navigate, which makes it a different experience to European cathedrals. The view from the 7th floor, over DC, is worth a look.
Results from Anacostia parkrun event 167, 26/11/2022; 29 finishers.
It was 16 degrees the day I’d landed, in the afternoon, and this day was set fair to be similar, but it started extremely cold. In the way of tourists keen not to miss the event, I arrived very early, strolling the less-than-two miles from College Park metro as the weather warmed a little more slowly than I wanted around me.
This particular event is always big, with well over 100 people, and today was expected to be even bigger than usual. Unlike many parkruns holding an extra event, though, that wasn’t going to be because of tourists – although it’s easy to get to on the metro from anywhere in DC, tourists tend to head for Roosevelt Island or Fletcher’s Cove. Here, it’s the draw of a ‘turkey trot’. The event team had taken an all-in approach to attracting people back if it was their first time, by chalking corny puns and jokes at intervals along the route. It was a welcome distraction from the actual running, I thought.
Both I and the other British tourist I met had arrived at the same time, pausing for a moment before climbing over a ‘road closed’ sign. He had spotted a couple of police cars nearby, and wanted to not be quite as obvious about clambering over the barriers as we had to be, before spotting it was the only way to the trail for some distance. So we were disconcerted when one of the police cars pulled up right next to the start. This couldn’t be good – were they here to check why so many people were gathering? But no, the officer who got out in full kit is a regular, and had finally got permission to walk the event in uniform. Yes, with gun and taser, obviously – they weren’t brandished, but it might have been a little extra incentive.
We were greeted warmly by several different people, which is the secret to this event’s success in attracting and holding on to large numbers of people – they welcome people, help them feel part of the group, and make sure that walkers know they are as welcome as runners. It certainly worked today, with 309 finishers, their record attendance by just a few.
The route couldn’t be simpler, out and back along the trail, ignoring any side tracks (and jokes, if they’re not your thing – don’t blame me, I was corn this way). It means they can manage it with two marshals, one a few hundred metres in where a crossing goes over a road in the park, and one at the halfway point. For the rest of the route, it’s you and those around you and, before too long, people coming the other way, which will persist for some time, with those ahead and behind all available for thumbs up, “good job”s and any other encouragement you like.
Afterwards we stood and sat on the grass in the sun, by now into double digits and comfortable. It being thanksgiving, the usual post-event meeting place wasn’t open so we went back down the road towards the metro to Bagels and Grinds, which offered a delicious breakfast so long as you could navigate the bewildering array of choices, and a view over the road to the University of Maryland over the road. The latter had meant I picked up wifi via Eduroam on my stroll to the event, which would have been useful if I had got lost. If I had to offer thanks, it would be to my fellow participants, who gave such a warm welcome, and to the joy of being dropped back into more balmy November than I’d left in Ireland.
Results from College Park parkrun event 258, 24/11/22; 309 finishers.
There is land in Ireland (and other countries) to the West of it, so it may not remain so, but this is currently the most Westerly parkrun in Ireland and in Europe. It isn’t actually right on the coast, but the wind is pretty unrestricted in blowing into your face as you step out of a car, holding the door carefully to avoid that banging open. The rain, too, is going to go with whatever direction the wind blows it. It rained before the start, stopped for most of the run, and threw it down while walkers were finishing off – by luck more than judgment, I was back in the car by then.
As you can see from the route map, there’s a gap between start and finish. That short walk, up and over a dune, made it even luckier that I had made it back to the car before the rain really started again. Only when my teeth were chattering after a visit to a supermarket on the way back did I realise that the drizzle – probably horizontal, if unshowily so – I had been out in had made me pretty wet in any case. This was also my first run of the colder season in a hat. And I very rarely wear a hat.
This being Ireland, I was given a warm welcome. And with it being a small group of people, almost all regulars, I was able to speak to many of the people there, even though we didn’t hang around long at the end.
There are many things worthy of mention about this parkrun. Parking is free, just find a spot next to the route. There are no other facilities at all. The views are great, and you are very exposed to the weather, whatever it may be. It’s Westerly. The people are wonderful – just for being there, but also for the warmth of the greeting that helps a visitor feel a part of the community. One thing immediately obvious as a contrast to England is that although this is in rural Mayo, and accessible down small roads, I didn’t hit a pothole. Not one, honestly. I know! 2022, and roads without potholes? No one will believe it possible in England.
That is also true of the route, which is run along the road around the lake. That road serves a few houses only, but looks brand new in a way I had forgotten is possible. It’s a great surface, and the only car we saw, pulling in just after we set off, turned out to belong to a park runner who started late and still caught many of us up, and so was very careful in picking his way through the runners and walkers.
Given this was autumn, I can only wonder at how ragged the conditions might be in winter, but this is a lovely event no matter what the wind throws at you. Just take some warm clothes, and change wet clothes afterwards rather than relying on a car heater to dry you off. I was still very glad I’d picked this run, as I’m sure the chat can’t be beaten, even if other places in Ireland might equal it. Completing it also marked my 10th event in Ireland, which means I’ve run at least 10 different events in each of 10 countries, a nice round number to hit.
Results from Erris parkrun, event 275, 19/11/2022. 23 finishers.
I thought I had the pronunciation of this city down, but my attempts to tell a Dutchman where I was headed proved it isn’t the case. At least you can’t tell on the page, and I learnt my lesson and didn’t tell anyone else where I was. I travelled to Nijmegen from Arnhem, which is under 20 minutes on the train, though I had a couple of miles to walk either side so had an early start. It’s a straightforward walk, so long as you don’t head straight up the elevated road you see when you turn right out of the station – it’s exactly where you want to go, but there’s no walkway, so just trust the maps app when it takes you on a slight detour from the shortest route.
I was in Nijmegen in March 2020, ready to parkrun here before Covid shut it down. I had it planned for December 2021, too, and again Covid shut it down – those coincidences made superstitious enough not to tell anyone I was coming here till the night before (I may even have said out loud “hmm, maybe I’ll get the train to Utrecht” despite knowing I had no intention of doing so). I was very glad when early morning rain stopped, the trains ran and my legs didn’t fall off or anything on my way to Goffertpark.
The event starts at the top right of Goffertpark, next to the pavilion. The course page suggests the pavilion is named on Google maps, but it doesn’t seem to be any more – so long as you’re at the top right, and the structure above is near, you’re in the right place. There’s a pin for Goffert parkrun in Google maps, and that’ll see you right. There were plenty of other exercise groups around the place, including a group running up the hill on the grass, so I felt like I was in the right place for some effort.
I arrived at 8:40, which was just a bit ahead of the event team – they were in the park, just not at the start/finish. I could see a few arrows off in the distance, though, so was pretty sure everything was happening. People arrived – on bikes, of course – over the next 20 minutes. Only 11 of us ran the course, the lowest attendance since June, which made for a nice peaceful run for most of us. Two chatted all the way round, and as soon as they had our attention in the finishing straight, started leapfrogging each other and generally cavorting joyfully, which was very entertaining.
The course is fairly flat, so Strava tells me – it reckons on 2m of elevation. Yet there’s a distinct, cruel and short hill part way round the loop, and the finish is definitely uphill. Amsterdam was the same – 2m of elevation despite it definitely finishing uphill. I’m sure there’s a little more here, because of that cruel hill and then an uphill finish, too. You have the benefit of a downhill stretch after the cruel hill, at least, and none of the turns are taxing.
Afterwards we went to Buuv, a cafe very near to the park, though a little walk away. I mention the walk only because the others were kind enough to stroll with me despite having their bikes to hand, not because it was particularly long – it felt a smidge longer because of the mild guilt. Breakfast was delicious; avocado on toast for me, which means I can’t afford a house, or something. On the way I’d also looked at my kindle and decided not to read a couple of books before I chose one, which is enough to make front page news in the UK these days, so I had a morning of provoking the older generation.
The team at Goffert aren’t big on social media so there isn’t often a reminder on Facebook or Instagram that this event will be happening. But it will! They’re committed and were happily organising who was in charge for the next few events over breakfast. I was made very welcome and enjoyed the tour of the park that the route gives you – there is more to see, with events often held in the part of the park the route doesn’t cross. In a year without drought and a weird warm weather early autumnal leaf drop, there’d be lush grass to enjoy, too, but the place is pretty enough whatever the conditions. If you can stay in Nijmegen, it’s a lovely city with a relaxed atmosphere. Arnhem is, too, and The Netherlands very easy to criss-cross by rail, so you can cast your net pretty wide for somewhere to stay. It’s less expensive outside August – which you’d expect, but the difference for me between Germany and here was pretty stark, albeit totally worth it.
Results from Goffert parkrun event 52, 20/8/22; 11 finishers.
There’s plenty of public transport in Cologne (see the course page for more), and it’s very accessible given the 9 euro ticket, but I chose to walk to Rheinpark. I was based very near the other parkrun, Aachaner Weiher in the Hiroshima-Nagasaki park, but it was still only a couple of miles to walk to Rheinpark.
There are toilets 400m from the start, with a free urinal for men and a cubicle that’s €0.50.
The start and finish are in the same place, just beyond (if you’re approaching from the South) a covered part of the walkway in front of the Rheinterrassen Köln.
The start takes you right next to the river for a short while, before a right turn to head into a tree-lined loop. You’re very briefly taken out of the park, past a low concrete wall, before following the twisty route back towards the river. The top section of the course has two long straights, the first along a mud-packed or grassy path (depending where you put your feet or who is in the way), then back along a wide gravelly road. The latter seemed particularly long, perhaps because it was almost entirely in the sun on a day warming towards 34 degrees (but ‘only’ low 20s for the event).
The course is very well marked, with arrows to point you in the right direction and red cones on either side of the correct path. Despite that, one runner ahead of me tried to head through a narrow gap as we headed back towards the river – we waved her back onto the path, but her mistake was understandable, as we were looking for the path by the river, and going through the trees would have taken her closer. That North section, then, is by the river, but not right by it, which is worth bearing in mind.
Making the turn after the long earth path takes you onto a few cobbles and then that long gravelly section. Nothing much to do here but get on with it, as the route takes you past port workings and grass.
I struggled on the second half of the course, and was glad to see the bridge and some shade, before attempting a bit more of a gallop towards the finish. The Cathedral comes into view but by then I was more excited by the finish – from any distance, it’s easier to spot the complex that stands above it, and that covered walkway, than the parkrun flag, but you can’t miss the finish when anywhere near.
The whole event was well run and organised. There was no move to a cafe at the end, with people wandering off to do their own thing, and I made it back to the centre of town before it got really hot. There are a few cafes to the South of the route, which were opening up as I walked past, though they looked more focused on drinking, and I think I would have tried the West side of the river for preference if I’d fancied going anywhere. Instead, I enjoyed the sun and the warmth of the city before a well-earned shower back in Neumarkt.
Results from Rheinpark parkrun event 49, 13/8/22; 19 finishers.
The Suermont-Ludwig Museum in Aachen is housed in an 1800s mansion, which has been extended over the years such that it now covers the whole of its lot, where once there were gardens at the back. It’s a gem of a museum, containing art and some curiosities from Aachen collectors, that’s well worth a couple of hours to visit. There’s a lot of religious art and if that doesn’t interest you, you can easily knock an hour off. It is closed on Mondays.
Entrance is normally €6, €3 for concessions, but I went on a Thursday and had free entry. I hadn’t seen mention of that on their website, so it may not be every Thursday. I think the guard said something about all museums being free, so if you can find out which day it happens on, that would be a good day to make a museum day of it. There is a very reasonably priced 6-museum card for €14, though.
The entrance and cloakroom are on the ground floor, along with a small but well-stocked library – worth a look for the ceiling alone, but the quiet makes it a place not to stay unless you want to read in peace. Up the staircase for the sprawling galleries. Only the first floor was in use when I went, but there looks to be extra space on the second floor for more exhibits – perhaps only on paid days.
Exhibits are grouped first by their century – largely 15-1600 and 16-17 – and then thematically. There is a large selection of Dutch paintings.
The painting below is displayed on a screen, so the animation can be shown. The painting has been simply (in effect, probably not in practice) such that the bee that sits on the flower at top flies away, a dragonfly flies in to sit on the blue flower and so on. I found it mesmerising, and it brought the painting to life in a very interesting way.
There is free wifi in much of the museum, which is useful for looking up occasional latin phrases (perhaps I should have known that Ecce Homo means a representation of a scourged Jesus, bound and crowned with thorns. Equally, I would have ignored one, but by the time I was on the third, I had to check). I looked up the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, which is referred to in the painting below. Workers recruited early were offered a denarius for their full day’s work, which was a very generous offer. Through the day, more people were recruited, not offered a set amount but told it would be fair. At the end of the day, all were paid a denarius, to the complaints of those early workers. And this is like religion – devout all your life or not, the rewards are open to all.
A lovely museum, big (one of the largest provincial museums in Germany, the entry hall info board says) but not too big and with lots of beautiful things to see.
Heading North and wanting to make progress through Germany towards the Netherlands, I picked a place somewhere away from Munich. I ended up in Ulm, which seemed adventurous but it’s a big place (126,000 inhabitants) and right on the beaten track, in that I could get a train directly there from Munich. It also put me back on the shores of the Danube, which has been a nice recurring theme of this trip.
The parkrun is to the NE of the city, and the number 1 tram stops very close to the start. Despite that, and even though had got my 9€ ticket for August some time back, I walked the 2.5km from the centre, and walked back the longer route along the Danube, which was all very pleasant. Even more pleasantly, the weather had broken. Last week, I saw a sweaty mess just walking to parkrun; this week I wore a long-sleeved top for the wander there.
The start and finish were already setup when I got there at 8.30, while the event director was out setting up the comprehensive arrows on the course. The route map probably looks complicated, and there are plenty of places where two paths go in similar directions, but there are backup “yes, really this way” arrows in any place with ambiguity, and we really couldn’t get lost. The one exception might have been at a point where a sign had fallen, but it was still visible, and I and the other Brit there were following an experienced German runner at that point. One of the runners behind paused to put the sign back up, too.
There’s a toilet near the start that needs a euro for entry – my fellow Brit was not impressed by the state of what he found inside, but needs must. The start is by the Tiergarten entrance and looks over one of the lakes in the park.
There weren’t lots of people there, but they were all friendly, with several English speakers. Nonetheless, we felt like visitors rather than a majority, as is sometimes the case, and that feels like a good way round.
The route is pretty flat, with just an occasional incline to test a different set of muscles. None of the turns are sharp, either, and that combined with the significantly cooler weather meant I ran significantly better than last week – a relief, to prove it isn’t just pizza retention slowing me down.
We were presented with watermelon as we finished, and there was lemon drizzle cake and some other biscuits – frankly they had me at lemon drizzle – to tuck into and encourage people to hang around. Not that we needed to wait for the finish, with the tail walker running to keep up with the people at the back and less than 7 minutes separating all the finishers. Clicking through previous results, that’s a rarity and walkers are as welcome here as anywhere else.
A cafe is listed on the event page but even on this cooler day, there was no movement that way, and we just lounged on the grass. I felt particularly grateful to be able to do just that, given my fellow Brit had a 10-hour drive to get back to Durham and had already left. Instead, I took a leisurely stroll over a bridge and along the South bank of the river to head back to town. The day warmed up, most of Ulm was about walking and cycling and I felt lucky enough to head to another small parkrun in a relatively remote (but populous) spot. The town is a natural spot to stop if you are heading back from Austria to a French ferry, and avoiding toll roads, so I hope they’ll continue to attract a small but privileged group of tourists.
Results from Friedrichsau parkrun event 20, 6/8/22; 13 finishers.