Clover Point parkrun, Victoria, BC, Canada

Clover Point was the first parkrun I looked at when heading to North America in June. I got the idea that they all start at 8, but actually it is just this one, which has a slightly different climate and daylight hours to others. I also realised that travel was going to be fiddly – you can certainly get here from Vancouver, but without a car it might take a while to get to various ferry ports. The bus from Swartz Bay, on the island, to and from Victoria is, at least, straightforward.

Clover Point parkrun route
Clover Point parkrun route.

Travelling from Seattle, though, is simple. Hop on the clipper from pier 69, just before the waterfront and sculpture parks in the city, and 2hrs 45mins later you are in Victoria (though there’s no stupid-early service, so you’ll come the day before at latest). From there you could walk to the parkrun, though it would be daft to get there the day before. I walked close, mind, because sunset over the water from Beacon Hill park and its surroundings is pretty stunning.

Sunset over Beacon Hill park
Sunset over Beacon Hill park, Friday.

The run itself heads along the coast, with one point where you don’t take the shortest route. It is clearly marked by cones. A little further along, just before a bridge, I spotted more cones to my left and wondered if I had missed another turning, but they were marking part of the route back. The run goes round Holland Point park, top left of the map, anti-clockwise, so it isn’t quite an out and back. The left turn to bring you back on yourself, despite being the furthest point from the start, isn’t quite at half way, for instance.

Gulls grouping at Clover Point
Gulls grouping at Clover Point.

I walked to the start, through the park and passing several runners enjoying the trails there. There wasn’t much sign of life at 7.30, butI am sure volunteers were on the course, setting out cones, and perhaps positioning the one marshal, at that main left turn. Gulls flocked at Clover Point.

A runner on the coast
A runner – not a parkrunner, nor is this the route – on the coast

I had a really good run, perhaps because my body was having a boost after all the walking at altitude last week. I’ve a knee problem which is getting no better despite little running, but it didn’t stop me moving at a fair pace. I had heard one of the volunteers saying that “Matt is there to show everyone the way”, so when I was joined at the front by another bloke, I assumed it was Matt, pacing me for now but soon to head off. I dropped him, though, about 2km in, and opened up a gap. I wasn’t sure what pace we were doing, but the course’s undulations – with a tarmacced surface, mostly out and back route and small ups and downs, it’s a lot like Folkestone – kept me thinking. Just as well, because I tried to check my 1-mile split and couldn’t see, being in a shaded spot just then.

People gather by the parkrun flag
People gather by the parkrun flag.

As it turned out, mile 1 was my slowest, 2 my quickest, with 3 solid, and a downhill finish onto the final grass sprint (which will change when some works have been finished at Clover Point) kept me honest, for a solid sub 19 time. Quite a difference from running around 21 minutes at altitude! As a nice bonus, though it shouldn’t matter, parkrun being all about personal challenges and community, I finished first for the first time in Canada, which means I have managed that (or been in the right place at the right time, without super quick runners – like Matt, who was tail-walking today) in seven countries.

View from the start line, Clover Point parkrun
View from the start line, Clover Point parkrun.

It is their anniversary next week and they hope for a record attendance. It should be a good omen that they nearly had it this week, just 1 short of that record. After a fascinating conversation with a fellow Brit who has been through some tough and some good times since moving to Canada, I cadged a lift to the coffee place, chatted with a South African and several Canadians and was still in plenty of time to checkout. An 8 am start is a shock to the system at first, but it does offset the morning nicely, leaving more time to socialise and then be pleasantly surprised to find it is still fairly early.

I imagine that in colder months it can be pretty exposed on the route, but this is a glorious run, and a decent one to have a go at if you are in search of a fast time.

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