Free, and every week. That’s the simple thing about parkrun, and one of its great strengths. Sometimes people wonder why we aren’t charged some small amount, to cover costs of setup or refurbishing a park, or providing something essential, but as the head of parkrun UK once put it, there is a big gap between nothing and something. From time to time, when one has free time, the weekly nature is frustrating – if only I could squeeze in another one on Wednesday!
But you cannot, and the run is worth waiting for. That was today. I was tempted to liken it to the Tory party’s recent astonishing “this week’s idiot” campaign, which has been a huge success, and shows no sign of slowing down – Mcvey says prisons have dogs that can bark at drones to scare them off, Francois reckons he knows aviation better than the CEO of Airbus, Kawczynski claims the UK had nothing from the Marshall plan (it was only the biggest recipient, so, um, close) and then sticks to that line after being corrected many, many (many) times, including live on radio. Labour hasn’t been able to keep up, with Hoey trying valiantly to do it on her own, with Onasanya taking the heat off her one week. The Tories, unfortunately, got into that state of excitement I mentioned this week, with Fysh and Chope going in the same week. It does at least let you work out why there are two “Disgraced Former Minister, Minister”s in the government – when there’s no talent, you go with whatever’s left.
Where was I? Wait for it, and talent. I can do the former, if not the latter, but having felt not in the mood during a sluggish warm-up, the run itself, as I got going and felt sprightly from the start, was great. I used what I had. My position was artificially high, with cross country this afternoon in Pontypool keeping away, or slowing down, the quick runners who are normally here, but even without much company, I was happy to keep a regular pace, aided by knowing there was a pacer behind giving motivation not to slow down.
The park, and therefore the run, is right in the middle of town, so simple to find. There’s paid parking in town, or plenty of free roads nearby (I parked up the hill behind the station). The location means I felt I got to see the town as well as the park, even with only a short warm up and cool down run – the latter took me, accidentally, on a loop of town. No, really, accidentally – what if I head down here? Where am I now? Um, left? That’ll do. Where on earth am I now? Oh, there’s the station!
The run itself has one short loop, then three large ones, which means plenty of traffic with a few hundred people, but marshals call out in friendly fashion that people should stay left, and you can actually see them react to drift back in if they’ve drifted out. There is a bit of a rise on the back of the long loop, which makes for a lovely swoop to get you moving on the gallop towards the end, past the lido. People spread out nicely on this wider section, in the same place, but part of different groups – you know, the way our political parties ought to accept they are now.
I found the incline hardest on the first lap, when it came as an unwelcome surprise, and one which I felt I struggled up. After that, despite my mile splits getting a second quicker each time, it seemed easier, so it clearly isn’t too great. It’s a pretty quick course, then, and with 300-400, at least, that should apply to more or less anyone (though there’s always a chance you’ll get stuck in a clump at any massed event). The town was damp and a little grey but still welcoming, and the fact of the run being so close to the river adds scenery (if you remember to look) even as it runs brown under overcast skies. Overall, it’s a run even Grayling couldn’t make a me… actually, I’m not sure about that. But it’s a lovely run, and you can explore the Taff Trail afterwards, for almost any distance, if you’d like some extra Welsh miles.
I didn’t stick around after my loop, skipping down to the afterchat of Cardiff parkrun, where friends had run, which is only 20 minutes or so away. You have plenty of parkrun options if you’re in the area, all highly recommended.