Kilkenny, Co Kilkenny, Ireland

Jetlag means that although I have been in Kilkenny for over 24 hours, I haven’t done much. I have seen a fair amount of the surrounding countryside, thanks to a couple of hour+ runs, and wandered through the centre a couple of times. But otherwise, I arrived around 3pm yesterday, as school kids made their way home, ran, slept 8 till midnight, was awake 5-7 and planning a run as soon as it got light, then, with a nice synchronicity, slept 8-12. Finally I was up, ran again at 2, South through country lanes, returning as, again, school kids made their way home. Youngsters walked through the streets with their hurling sticks, politely moving out of my way (how unlike England) and older folks asked “how are ye?” Cars, while not quite on the ‘automatic deference to the pedestrian’ level of the US, are politer than in the UK, with one or two even rolling along behind me on quiet roads, till they were sure I was happy for them to pass (by my having stepped off the road – there was room anyway). Even watching England collapse in Barbados (cricket) and Tottenham lose to Chelsea on penalties (football) haven’t taken the edge off.

It’s a joy, even on a damp and occasionally drizzly day.

Some photos, which aren’t brilliant, but give a flavour of the sights, if not the feeling.

Renton parkrun, WA, USA

Renton parkrun route
Renton parkrun route.

The state of Washington has two parkruns, within a few miles of each other (though it’s easier to get to each from Seattle, than from one to the other). I ran Des Moines in the summer, and very nice it was too – 2.5km up, then 2.5km down. Renton, on the Cedar River trail, is significantly flatter, though not totally flat, as my slightly disappointing third mile (and pleasingly quick first) showed.

Although the parkrun page suggests that there’s no available public transport, the 101 from Seattle to Renton arrives just after 8, and it’s not a massive walk from there – a couple of kms, and you can get straight onto the trail. I’ll admit, I didn’t do that – I stayed in the Quality Inn, for $80, which is on the other side of the 169 (road), just East of I5, in the map, above. From there, wander over the road (6 lanes, but there is a crossing), through the park and there’s a foot/bike bridge under the I5. Walk along for a mile or so, and there’s the start.

Simple. And beautiful. The trail is tarmacced, and wide enough to take both runners and cyclists, which is good, as the latter were out and about. Most of the route is surrounded by trees on both sides, as in the picture above, and in places you can convince yourself you’re in a rain forest.

Finishing Renton parkrun
Finishing Renton parkrun – as if coming down from the air.

The event is usually small enough that the keen event directors, Catherine (who ran today) and Kortney, and now including Patrick, training on the day, could introduce themselves to more or less everyone, and mingle to keep conversation going after the finish. We had 40 people with a good mixture of paces, ages and sexes. It was quick enough at the start, too, though without the mass of over-quick starts that is so common in the UK. That said, two people cruised past me after 500m and I reeled them in, so people put extra effort in at the beginning all around the world.

Renton group photo
Renton group photo.

The event director asked for tourists, and two of us made ourselves known. The other is in the photo above, and waved his cap at me on the run – yes, that’s a Spurs badge! At the time, I was too hard of thinking to be able to cheer him on, so at the end he wandered up to apologise for having the ‘wrong’ badge. “No!” I said “the right one!”. He was the other tourist, having been based in the UK for the last few years, and moved back to the relative sanity of the US (yes, really) just recently.

The course takes you out, East, for a km, then back on yourself, back past the start/finish, back West for another 1.5km and back to the finish to end up. Simple, with the start/finish just off the path. If you’re in the area, you can’t miss it. They also chalk encouraging messages onto the path, which is great. Weather was cool and damp, and probably tends to the humid in the summer, but it would be a pleasure to give it a go then, too. But there’s a new parkrun at Redmond in the offing, and a putative one in Portland, which is likely to keep me busy on a future visit.

The team retire to a cafe in Renton, post run, but I had a couple of buses to catch, down to Olympia, so left them to it, jogging back along the trail to the hotel. Such a pleasure to be able to roll out of bed at 8am and head for a 9am start. It could catch on.

Jersey Farm parkrun, Hertfordshire

This is a fairly new event, having started up on 10th October 2018, so this was only event number 9. It replaces one I never got to do, at Heartwood Forest, with the name alone ensuring it will be popular. For a number of people, chasing the ‘alphabet’ of parkrun (running an event that begins with every available letter, which currently excludes only x), the nearest J to England previously was in Jersey. Jersey Farm is easier to get to for a lot of people. Certainly there were some there talking about their alphabet before the start.

Jersey Farm parkrun start line
Jersey Farm parkrun start line.

The run itself gives some great views, as the photo above, looking over the start line, shows. It is entirely on trails, with a few tight turns – a right, closely followed by another right, is entertaining, and there’s one other right turn, following a downhill, where it’s hard not to swing out wide with the momentum, which is alarming for anyone coming the other way. There’s a marshal there to keep order.

Jersey Farm start
Jersey Farm start.

For all the muddy pathed underfoot and undulating route, it isn’t the slowest course, and the first mile has a little more down than up, to get you off to a good start. Parts of the course are narrow, and since it’s two laps, you may have to slow on the second to make sure everyone gets their share. It really wasn’t a huge problem while I was there, and it’s better training to slow then speed up again, anyway.

Jersey Farm parkrun, on the route
Jersey Farm parkrun, on the route.

The lady who scanned my barcodes at the end was obviously a fan of the space, though having stood around in the cold waiting for us to finish, was quick to point out that it’s even lovelier in the summer.

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