Zuiderpark parkrun, The Hague

Maps showing a GPS trail from Zuiderpark parkrun to show the route. A circle, and you run two loops.
Zuiderpark parkrun route – two laps, clockwise, starting next to the Sportcampus building.

I saved Zuiderpark for this weekend because three people I had met previously had said they’d be there. We met in Haarlem on my first, and still the most sociable (for me) Dutch parkrun of the trip, so this was to be a repeat of sorts.

This is an obvious destination for parkrun tourists, as the name begins with Z, and collecting parkruns that begin with different letters is “a thing”. I’d already run one beginning with a Z, but was happy to add another, just not rushing.

Parking is easy, and free, with loads of parking around the Sportscampus, all within walking distance of the start, behind the sports centre. Maybe check whether there are any huge events happening, but the parking areas were busy and the facilities well used, without it being a problem for those us us arriving before 9.

A parkrun 'feather' flag in between mostly bare trees, but there are some orange-leaved trees beyond, lit by weak sun.
Sun shining on the tree tops.

The route is a straightforward two lap one, clockwise round wide paths that take you round the whole site, under autumnal trees and past pretty bridges. It’s fast and flat, with room for plenty more people than were there this Saturday if necessary.

The large curved lines of the Sportcampus building, with orange leaved trees, lit as if from below by the sun.
The side of the Sportcampus.

Pre-run we gathered outside the centre, with facilities available inside. This will be irrelevant very soon, I’m sure, but this weekend you needed both a covid pass and passport/ID to gain entry. Not hugely onerous – the Dutch already knew, and most tourists had theirs somewhere nearby and just had to work out if they needed them enough to head back to the car. It is doable from an early morning ferry, or by driving through France etc overnight, as a couple of people had, but a more relaxed approach suits me.

Wide tarmacced paths all the way round the route, here with trees and grass on either side.
Running on the route.
Hi-viz wearing volunteers cover the finish line, which is on grass and marked by small discs. A group of runners on the left have already finished. There are bare trees along the paths.
The finish line.

It is such a straightforward route as to need few marshals, and it is signed/coned in all the important areas. As you can see from the photo above, space is not a problem, so we could gather after the finish and chat without being in anyone’s way.

The park itself is picturesque, albeit without the thick forested areas that the parkruns at Amsterdamse Bos and Rotterdam (Kralingse Bos) run through. Just like those areas, it will change its appearance in equally picturesque style through the year.

A closer view of the finish as a runner comes in to finish.
Finishing.

After the run we wandered round the park to the cafe. It seemed a fair way there, but actually the cafe itself is fairly near the parking areas. It’s worth knowing that the staff there are in training, people who might not normally be offered work, and so service is very good but may be a little sporadic. Once you know the reason, as we did in advance, there’s no problem at all, and I enjoyed waiting to see exactly which cheesecake I might get, given my inability to speak their language. The answer was – a delicious one, thank you, and if it hadn’t been then that would just have been more incentive to learn some Dutch.

Leaves on the grass, and runners in the foreground chat in passing as we look sideways at the finish, seeing the volunteers cheering on a finisher, the cones marking the grassy finish and trees in the distance.
Side view of the finish.

This isn’t an event that needs promoting to tourists, who will become well aware where “the Zs” are once they learn of the different parkrun ‘challenges’, but I’m happy to add another voice saying this is a lovely run, fast if you want it to be, nice and accessible whether you do or not.

Results from Zuiderpark parkrun event 13, 27/11/21.

Kralingse Bos parkrun, Rotterdam

Kralingse Bos parkrun route. One anticlockwise loop, with a short section repeated at start and finish.

I know of Rotterdam because of its famous marathon, as well as it being one of the many places The Beautiful South sang about. More recently, it was the site of unrest the night before but it dawned peaceful and dry. I rolled up around a quarter to nine to find the course laid out and volunteers chatting before the start. I parked in the street to the South of the start, Plaszoom, as that was slightly easier to reach than the car park by the restaurant, De Schone Lei. That restaurant is on the route, and you pass it on the way out and back, though I didn’t notice it till the way back. The Plaszoom is marked by a couple of windmills, for an early morning distinctive Dutch feeling.

Ready for the start.

The pre-run briefing was in Dutch. Three of us there were English speaking, but hadn’t made ourselves known, and could follow along well enough in any case. I even caught on to the “give way to cyclists” that was added in a postscript – this is thinking particularly of the spot where the route comes back onto the lakeside, as it crosses a bike path (and bear in mind that here those aren’t narrow afterthoughts, but two-lane bike freeways).

The start is straight, and then there are a couple of tight-ish turns to get over the bridge, as shown below. There are no signs here on the way back, so just remember to make the turn right after the bridge, rather than run down the cycle path (though I’m sure you can still finish if you go that way).

Right, over the bridge, and left. Repeat in reverse on the way back.

The lake is 5k all around, but the parkrun decided they couldn’t use that route because there are a few crossings. Instead, it heads into the forest for around half the route, before heading down towards the lake and making a left turn to follow the lakeside path all the way back to the finish.

Leaves everywhere in the forest.
Z marks the spot for the finish (the start is just a little further up the path).

With Autumn turning the leaves many shades of orange and yellow, running through the forest is a delight. There is just one marshal out on course, by the lake (and that bike path crossing), so the rest is done by signs. There are just enough of those, with the course otherwise relying on you following your nose. If there’s no sign to say turn, then keep heading in your direction till the next sign. It worked for me, and I’m far from the best at following routes.

A view over the lake.
Gathered at the finish for a barcode scan and chat.
The run director chats with the timer.

After the briefing we moved along to the start with no delay. That shows a certain relaxed approach from the run director, as he didn’t have a timer at that point – as we got to the start, the timer rode up, hopped off his bike and was ready within seconds, which amused everyone. A just-in-time timer!

Just after the bridge, following the lake round to the restaurant.
The route comes through this junction in both directions. On the way out, turn right to head for the forest. On the way back you’ll comes from the left and head toward the camera.
The view when you first turn into the woods.

According to my GPS this had *double* the elevation of last week’s run in Amsterdam. That still only amounted to 2m, and I was never conscious of going uphill. Blah, blah, Netherlands flat, etc.

Non-parkrun runners in the woods.
Tall trees, leaves abound.

There were plenty of other people exercising in the woods, so I was conscious of the need only to try and follow the people actually in the event. As it happened, that soon became irrelevant, as I latched briefly onto a group, ran past them and then lost sight of the runner ahead, despite thinking that now I might work on getting closer to him (he ended up over two minutes ahead of me). I just had to trust that I was on the right route, but the general “proceed until told to change direction” principle worked well.

Half the course is like this, through the forest.
Heading back to the finish, along the lake – ignore the boardwalk to the right.

I’ve run in a few countries while parkrun was new, and found it relatively untroubled by the faster local runners. That is not the case here, with each run I’ve been at having a few quicker runners at the front. Today, two runners completing their first parkruns set the 4th and 6th quickest times yet seen here, and it was great to see them yomping off into the distance. I was also pleased that it wasn’t a course with laps, so I wouldn’t be lapped!

Close to the start and finish, with a distinctive restaurant building to go past.
Back over the bridge, turn to take the right-hand path.

After the event they head for “De Nachtegaal” for coffee etc. I didn’t take a camera on the run, though, so went for a wander to get some pictures instead. Anyone fitter than me and wanting a cool-down run is spoiled for choice – experience the woods again? Head all the way round the lake? Explore a bit more of Rotterdam? There is loads to see, and Kralingen Lake is a great start.

Results from Kralingse Bos parkrun, event 19, 20/11/21.

Amsterdamse Bos parkrun, NL

Turfed out of my accommodation early because of a fire (minor, almost sorted out before I had to leave), I was wide awake for Amsterdam. I suspect the loveliness of the Autumn leaves on huge trees would have sorted out bleary eyes in any case, but I took them in in all their glory.

Looking out over the Bosnian – rowing lake – early in the morning.
Amsterdamse Bos parkrun route. One lap, head out, round, then back along the same km or so, plus a little further to the finish.

Parking is apparently free on a Saturday, and is available in the top right of the route map above, next to the rowing lake. You still have to take a ticket, (which meant undoing a seat belt for me in my right-hand drive car) but then the barrier just opened at the end. Some of the car parks further down have a couple of hours free parking, and I would have been inside that, but given the pay stations were all closed up, I am sure I could have stayed longer.

Briefing, behind De Boswinkel building at the top of the park. The wooden horse is distinctive.
Ready to start, a little further down the path from the briefing.

The run director started talking in Dutch, but was just asking the Dutch speakers present whether she could do the rest in English, rather than both languages, so all the international crowd were well catered for. In fact, I didn’t hear anyone involved with the event speaking in Dutch, and many were English, as were the participants. That meant people happily addressed each other in English without checking, and that just worked – I was even asked “are those your kids?” by a lady whose son was playing football with them, and enjoyed the double-assumption.

An early part of the course, with mist on the lake off to the left, and puddles on the course.
Heading through the woods on the large loop.

The morning had been rainy, but that cleared towards 9:00 leaving mist over the water and puddles on the course. A few longer steps or leaps took most of us over the puddles, but there may have been a few damp feet by the end. That’s all you’d get, though, as it’s a solid surface all round, and just the occasional bike to watch for and avoid; no mud.

There’s also barely any elevation, which I’m sure I’ll write on every Dutch parkrun. This one did feel as though it had a couple of different inclines, and it is distinctly uphill towards the finish, but all of that barely registered on the GPS record of the route: it’s been true of everywhere so far, as I ended up walking 25,000 steps in the day, and only just hit the watch’s target of going up the equivalent of 10 flights of stairs. And most of those were probably done on actual flights of stairs, rather than outside on hills.

Mist over the lake as the sun starts to poke through.
A local filmcrew recorded the day for TV, which may bring in more Dutch participants.

It’s a lovely area, and a lovely run. I’d hope that all those tall trees would given some serious shade in the summer, and today they were a dramatic backdrop. Attendance varies, somewhere under 100 for now and 70 today, after a mammoth 257 at the first event back in 2020 (after which they had a very long gap before no.2, which was on 28/8/21).

The course page says that the toilets in the Cafe Bosbaan aren’t available till 9, and those in the Boswinkel not till 10, but there didn’t seem to be an agitated crowd at the start, so they’d either come from nearby, or there are other options to find.

Swap sides on the main boulevard (left to right as seen here, from right to left as you do it) for the finish.
Looking down the start/finish boulevard.
De Boswinkel building behind the finish funnel.

Afterwards a very international crowd stood around chatting, while I smiled at those kids playing and was thought to be their father, and the sun poked out to warm the day up a little. Lovely run, on a lovely day, and simple enough to get to – the park is accessible via public transport from the city and may well be walkable, especially if you stay S-SW of the Rijksmuseum.

Results from Amsterdamse Bos parkrun, event 13, 13/11/2021.

Schoterbos parkrun, Haarlem

Schoterbos parkrun route – currently 4 laps round the park, anticlockwise.

Schoterbos is in North Haarlem. The course is a very natural, hard-to-get-lost, loop round the edge of the park, on a 1300m route marked for running. That isn’t the original course, which takes in the middle of the park as well as the outside, to make a two-lapper, but there are extensive renovations going on at the moment in the park which necessitate the simpler course.

There’s free parking at the tennis club to the South, which is also used to store the equipment, and for coffee etc. after the event. Spotting me poking around, a gentleman came out of the club to see if he could help, and was very welcoming, pointing me to the toilets in the tennis club, and explaining that there’s currently no cut-through from the club to the park, so I should go round the edge (which is only a few hundred metres). I parked in the street outside, which was about as easy as it could be – not always the case in The Netherlands, with some towns full of paid-parking. It helps that this is a little distance from the centre.

The start, on Noorderhoutpad.

Other than the occasional walker, there is barely an impediment on the course, certainly no hill or even a bump. I ran this, walked into town and back and still had barely covered any vertical distance. While I was in Northern Ireland, I kept being surprised by courses that felt hilly and yet only have 20m or so of ascent. This course had 1m, and that shows the difference between a flat course and one that is a ‘bit hilly’ – 20m isn’t much, but 1m is as near to nothing as you are going to get.

The start.

It’s tarmacced all the way round except for a chicane in the middle, caused by the renovations. They put the world’s most energetic marshal there to give everyone a lift. He’s also a prolific plogger (picking up litter on the go), @wayeoflife on Instagram/Facebook – have a look to get an idea of some of the energy he transmits.

Blurry picture, but here’s the chicane and big energy from the marshal, who switched seamlessly from the two ahead to me without drawing breath.
Tailwalker pausing to cheer everyone else on.

This was event 11, having started in August 2021, and it’s a very slick event. Even with only 32 finishers, we had a new course record at the front, followed in by Dutch, South African, Australian and British runners.

Go past three times, then into the finish – so technically, given you start further ahead, it’s a 3.9 lapper.

Despite missing out on the sights of the middle of the park, with other people exercising, lakes and more trees, it’s a pretty enough route, with plenty of tall trees looming over the side of the path.

Noorderhoutpad, and cycling infrastructure.
Looking into the park, past the finish.
A Dutch scene, with bikes and people at the finish.
Hitch the bin to the bike and the event is done.

Afterwards I sat in the tennis club with fellow runners for a couple of hours, and a group of us headed into town to eat, which gave me my first experience of having my vaccination certificate scanned – very simply, now they recognise British ones, and I just called it up on the NHS app and people used their phones to scan it in.

It’s a little further into town than we’d thought, a good couple of miles to the heart of Haarlem. Not that we particularly noticed, chatting about everything and anything, but one of our number was on a tight timescale and had to miss lunch. Apart from that, everything was spot on: the event was easy to find, the place welcoming and the town very pretty.

Results from Schoterbos parkrun event 11, 6/11/21.

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