A parkrun on a new continent for me, in North Carolina, in the middle of the three existing parkruns.
My hosts were running the Merge 25k, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the record label, Merge Records, by running from Chapel Hill to Durham. They had to leave early to catch a bus for a 7.30 start, so I had the VIP treatment, with Eric coming to pick me up and whizz me to the start and then photographer Tom carrying me back downtown for the race finish.
Durham is big on runners, which surprised me. There are a couple of universities, which helps, but the population has plenty of runners in any case, I’d seen several in town during the day and roundabout whilst travelling. Despite that, the record attendance is 46, and they’ve not had more than 20 since the end of November. Today, with the race taking the attention of many of the city’s runners, we had 7 runners, smaller even than Concord when I ran it with 12 others. Yet those 7 represented a broader spread of parkrun participants than some bigger events would have seen.
One was a parkrun first-timer, new but we hope now hooked. Three people with a pb (pr as they here, which is a phrase that jarred with me, but makes perfect sense when I think about it – world record, continental record, personal record…) to aim for, one new pb, on a cool and still day, perfect for running.
Book-ending the field were not one but two 100 club members; both of us also appear on the global most events list. I ran my 142nd different parkrun, while Ron (not the) Hill ran his 43rd. I’ve noticed his name before – it’s one that would stand out to any UK runner – and reminds me of my friend Guy’s words on being told he was shaking hands with Winston Churchill, “that’s a name to conjure with”. He and his wife used to live in Slough, which gave him a good base to explore the south west parkruns and he got to his 100 just before they moved out to the US, with a gap before they moved near enough to run Clermont regularly.
The run itself is a two-lap scenic course. Durham is blessed in many ways. The city was too poor to pull down the old tobacco firm warehouses but they have now been renovated to eateries around open urban parkland, while old autoworks form bars and restaurants in another part of town. With a new bridge over the interstate, The Tobacco Trail runs for over 30 miles, forming an area where pedestrians rule in the land of the car.
There’s a small loop near the car park and parkrun starts within that, running half the loop, out along the path then under the road, out over three footbridges before looping back, over the same course, right to complete the loop and back on the same ground again. The opening mile has a long gentle downhill to let you find your stride, and you pay for that at the end of each lap, with a climb that is gentle but tough. There’s probably a slight net drop, with the finish short of the start, thought I’m not in good enough shape to tell how fast the course is. Pretty quick, I should think, with a good surface, though in summer it will be hot and when the lower area floods the course changes to a three lapper, climbing the uphill sections one more time. Another lovely event, one where everyone ‘gets’ parkrun and most can spot any new faces and greet them. It deserves a larger audience, but will doubtlessly find one over time. It only occurred to me afterwards that I now have a Durham/Durham international run double to go with Newy/Newcastle.
Results from Durham NC parkrun, event 39, 22/3/14.