Rubbenbruchsee parkrun, Osnabrück

Map of the Rubbenbruchsee parkrun route, a single anticlockwise lap of the lake, with an out and back section at one end.
Rubbenbruchsee parkrun route. Anti clockwise, with out and back at the bottom.

On a cold winter’s morning (-3), in a car bound for Germany, I met up with some park runners. We were all too happy to sleep, so we joined in to run round a lake in Lower Saxony (original lyrics: Kenny Rogers).

I had worried about this journey on and off ever since deciding to make it – for a Christmas Day parkrun it was either this or back to the UK, once The Netherlands closed most activities from the 19th December. But I had to keep an eye on restrictions, and it is easy to get lost in the spiral of different sites, different federal restrictions, and then to discover new things. For instance, most cities in Germany have Green Zones, into which you may not drive without a vehicle that both doesn’t pollute too much, and carries a sticker to say so. I checked that trips under 24 hours didn’t require anything other than proof of vaccination, and was pretty sure that the parkrun was just outside the 6 districts which make up the Green Zone (it is, though the border between Alter, which is not Green, and Westerbury, which is, is somewhere in the Rubbenbruchsee recreation area, so if you drive there from the East, you may need to pick your route). And I left time, unused, in case I was stopped by someone checking what I was up to.

Group photo of 16 participants, runners and volunteers, in front of the lake.
Group photo before the start.

I stayed only just in The Netherlands and so drove through the dark for just 45 minutes or so before getting to The Rubbenbruchsee and parking outside the cafe, which is marked on their course page. My British car stuck out like a sore thumb enough that one or two people mentioned it, but no one had bothered me on the road.

Picture of me in front of the lake, by the tape that marks the finish line, in front of the lake which has a line of brown trees (thanks to the light) on the far side. A blue sky lights everything.
Solo photo at the end.

I was there early enough to be the first participant to rock up, having the attention of the run director as she setup the flag and start area, but we were soon joined by (English) volunteers and (English) runners, and eventually by some German ones, too. It’s always nice, if not always the case, when a parkrun outside England isn’t dominated by the English.

As well as parking, there are public toilets just by the car park, within sight of the start area. The cafe is used to store equipment, and was open before the start, and ready for refreshments afterwards (though not everyone found a seat inside, so had hot drinks in the cold air).

Graffitied public toilets in front of trees that border the path, with cafe and start/finish area behind.
Not pretty, but important – public toilets available within sight of the start.
The start, marked by sign and flag, on a hard-packed path between thin trees. The finish is to the left, on the grass.
Start and finish (ziel) areas.

I had checked the route, so knew more or less what to do, but was talked through it, along with the important note that there are no signs out on the course. It is straightforward: head along the path, keeping the lake on your right, till you can’t go further, then turn left to run an out and back (turning at the end of the path), then continue on the far side of the lake. The one easy mistake to make would be to miss out a left turn round a slightly longer section, continuing by the lake instead (just next to the lap 2 marker in the course map above), but I had someone to follow and everyone else knew what to do.

Decking in front of the lake near the start, with a line of trees a uniform brown thanks to the light on the far side.
The lake at the start.

It’s a gorgeous run, bordered by tall, thin trees all the way round, and with a great view of the low sun through the trees towards the end. I noticed it at 4.3km, but that may just be the point when I remembered to look up. The forecast had been for ideal cancellation conditions – 9° and rain the day before, then slipping well below 0° overnight with possible snow on top. As it turned out, there was no rain so it was just cold with nothing to slip over on. The course would hold up to most conditions in any case, with hard-packed trails rather than tarmac and the covering of those trees to keep rain and sun off to some extent.

The course is quick; mostly flat, and with simple twists and turns through forested paths to keep you interested. There’s always something to see if you want distraction, whether knotted trees to the side, other runners passing with a nod or the lake opening up in the gaps.

Wooded paths at the main junction, with the out and back section, with a small wooded fence over a short bridge.
Looking back: you emerge from the left, head straight on to the out and back, and then come back toward the camera.

I was very cold, but very pleased to have got to this run, which made my ninth parkrun in Germany. That gives me at least 9 different parkruns in each of 9 different countries, which is a nice marker to offset the disappointment at missing out, for now, on the last few Dutch runs. Leaving others to their Christmases, I wandered the other way round most of the course in the sun, just about warm enough but also craving the warmth of the car by the end. It does look absolutely lovely in the sun, though, as I hope you can see.

On the far side of the lake, a wide path goes off to the left, while a smaller path takes a shorter route. The course takes the wider path.
Take the wider path, to the left, rather than the easy one straight on.
Towards the end of the route, heading round the North end of the lake.
Wooded paths by the lake. Glorious.

My photos are mostly empty of people, but there were plenty of people out for a Christmas morning walk or run, with each only nodding or giving a quick “morgen”, which suited my general lack (albeit happy) of Christmas feeling.

Thin trees at the side of the lake, and the sun sits very low in the skies, seeming to point directly at the camera.
View of the sun through the trees, North side.

Another glorious parkrun to recommend, and Merry Christmas!

Results from Rubbenbruchsee parkrun event 137, 25/12/2021.

Sonsbeek parkrun, Arnhem

Park Sonsbeek is to the North of Arnhem, cutting into the city with its tip pretty close to the centre. It’s also uphill from there, and is proud to be a parkrun in The Netherlands with an actual hill. It’s toward the end of the lap, so there’s a lovely swooping downhill as you head towards the last section.

Map of the route for Sonsbeek parkrun; two loops going clockwise, starting at the pavilion.
Sonsbeek parkrun route. Two clockwise loops, starting by the pavilion/restaurant.

For a change, I was staying near enough to walk to the start, and so could enjoy the dark red leaves on the trees and gathered on the ground that give the park a particular look at this time of year. I’ve not seen anything quite like it.

The meeting point is on the NW side of the pavilion, which is pretty easy to find (though there are some wending and winding paths in the middle of the park, in which I had got nicely entangled the day before). The start is just along one of the paths there, but everyone walks there together after the briefing.

Start line marked by sign and two cones, either side of a path which is itself bordered by leaves and trees. A Christmas tree is chalked onto the path.
The start line, and the route follows the path you can see winding away.
A pond is beside the course, with a muddy grassy verge. The course goes by on tarmacced paths.
Scenic to the side of the route
A small waterfall into a large pool, with grass nearest the camera and tall trees on the far side of the pool, and dark red leaves on the ground.
A mini waterfall

The route takes in the main sights in the park; a small waterfall, those leaves, plenty of trees, then up the hill through trees, swoop down past a big house off to the right (Stadsvilla Sonsbeek), over a little bridge and back to the start. It is very pretty, the surface is always good with occasional spots of mud to watch for and there are some undulations to keep you concentrating. Marvellous.

Chalk on the floor tells you to go straight on for the 2nd lap (2de ronde) and right over the bridge for the finish.
Chalk marks – straight on first time, right to finish after two laps.

After the event, those of us who’d stayed headed to a nearby cafe, shown below, for breakfast. In a sense, it was just as well we did, as more or less everything in The Netherlands was closed on the next day. The event director had tipped us off that further Covid measures were expected, though was mostly thinking about them closing secondary schools early (primary had already closed). Others had guessed at wider restrictions, though, given that a couple of restaurants with outdoor seating were absolutely full that afternoon. At any rate, the food was good and the chat healthy.

Two buildings with pointy roofs, one holds the cafe and both its barn-style doors are wide open for custom. There are a few trees behind, and a bike is leaning against a low wooden fence in front. The pavement is cobbled.
Post-event cafe, a 500m walk away from the finish, towards town.

This is a lovely event, the hill isn’t particularly steep so is worth attacking if you’re in the mood, and you’re well-placed for a visit to Arnhem afterwards. With around 20 finishers (21 this day) at the moment, it isn’t in any way crowded, but there’s plenty of space for more people as it grows. I’ll leave you with a few more views from the course.

A small humped-bridge over a canal at the end of the downhill section. The paths winds uphill away from the camera, with the white walls of the Stadsvilla visible through the trees.
You run towards this camera point (twice), over the bridge and turning right (left in this picture). Big house behind.
Trees and dark-red leaves surround two paths, the left-one mud, the right tarmac. The parkrun route takes the path to the right and goes uphill, bending right then left between trees.
The route takes the right-hand fork here, heading up the hill.
A pool of water with paths on both sides. The course loops round most of the paths in this picture, almost popping out of the tree-lined area before turning round to come back along the nearer side of the water.
Route comes down the path on the other side of the water, past both big bushes and back towards the camera. A Marshall is there to stop the (accidental!) shortcut past the water.

Results from Sonsbeek parkrun, event 17, 18/12/2021.

Game On Exposition, Forum, Groningen

This exhibition aims to take you through 50 years of video games with some emphasis on Dutch game makers, though not to the exclusion of classics such as Space War, Pong, Pacman and so on.

It’s on the 5th and 6th floor of the Forum (entry on 6th), in the middle of Groningen, and you’ll need a mask and covid pass with proof of identity to get in. It started on 2nd October 2021, and is currently bookable through to the end of February, which I’m presuming is the close. Tickets are €12.50 (€7.50 for students), though you can add entry to Storyworld on the same day for just an extra €2.50 (for a total of €15) to make it all bargainacious. I had to buy my ticket on the day, as going via the web is tilted to Dutch bank cards and accounts, but that was no problem. It also meant I wasn’t tied to a time slot I’d picked in advance, so on this quiet weekday (I saw no one but staff till the end, where four of us were on different machines) I just could roll up and head in.

As it’s in the Forum, there’s free wifi throughout, you just need to be able to head to forum.nl/wifi to get a code – it’s for 24 hours, so you could do that in advance if you don’t have mobile access. There are free lockers inside the exhibition so you don’t have to carry anything with you – just read the instructions more carefully than I did, or it will take you a couple of goes to set a code.

Neon lighting marks the entrance to the exhibition, with retro video games visible in cabinets behind.
The entrance.
A large info board in red with white grid lines, above give display cabinets showing items from the 70s, including converse trainers, a telephone and an etch-a-sketch.
Introductory panel and paraphernalia from the 70s.

There are some explanatory panels giving context, and some basic info about the consoles and games on show, but really this is all about playing. I think even if you came here to learn, you’d probably pick up more by actually trying out the games, but I doubt many people come in without some interest in playing games. I headed straight for Asteroids, paused briefly by Pong and then tried Sentinel for the first time.

Two cabinets hold an Atari Jaguar and Nintendo 64 console for play. Mario Kart and Sentinel are loaded and ready. Above are a Gamecube and older Atari on display only.
Atari and Nintendo.
Two cabinets hold old consoles with controllers attached for play. Sony Playstation and Sega Dreamcast, with older consoles above, display only.
Sega and Sony.

Some of the older exhibits are only for display, or are playable but fallible. I found the Puck Monster console, below, hugely exciting to get my hands on, as I had one a long time ago, but the joystick only sporadically moving left meant that playing it was not as much fun as looking at it. I wonder how many of these older exhibits were in full working order at the beginning of the exhibition, and how many stopped being fully operational a long time ago. At any rate, it’s a full-time job for someone, going round and re-connecting controllers and so on, particularly on the more temperamental of the modern pieces of kit; there was a Wii-U simulation that is used to give surgeons experience of laparoscopy, which is amazing, but the controllers are fragile. Fine if you’re showing surgeons how to be careful, maybe less so with others wandering around and trying it for fun.

Puck Monster hand held console from the 80s (?) - it's big, but can be held in two hands. A version of pac man, powered by batteries or a DC adaptor, with two game modes.
Puck Monster – Pac Man? Never heard of him.
More portable game consoles and units, for play, mostly retro, but including a Nintendo DS with a recent Pokemon.
Portable games for play.

A little knowledge is useful as you wander round, particularly at quiet times. Obviously if you’ve played a game before then you might know what you’re doing, but it’s also handy to know that if an Xbox says it’s lost contact with the controller, then you press and hold the round X button to reconnect, or on a Wii, press a button.

Three games next to one another, playable by single players. Splatoon, Super Monkeyball and Vib Ribbon.
Splatoon (2015), Super Monkeyball (2001), Vib Ribbon (2000)

I tried all sorts of games, but had the most fun with the ones I didn’t know well but that were easy to pick up. A modern “stroll about and solve puzzles” game held me for the longest, as what I should do wasn’t clear, but revealed itself with just a few moments exploration. Other games, particularly fighting games, have never been my strongpoint, and even when I realised that there was a list of which buttons did what (often at waist height – or small child height, perhaps) I didn’t get much further.

Portable Games section divided by a screen. Playable Rockband is on a console to one side.
Portable Games section.

The two floors are split into 16 sections, though they flow into each other naturally. The first floor – head downstairs once in the front door – starts with the old and heads through classics into multiplayer, while upstairs shows the portable systems, simulation and independent games but still ends with older arcade cabinets. They’ve done a good, and smart, job in making multiplayer games available periodically, not all in one place, and the same is true of most other things – you don’t go past the entrance and then run out of original classics, for instance, and I ended my visit with games of Track and Field and Pac-Man. So much is possible with emulation now that some of these games may not be running on original hardware – I couldn’t work out whether the fact that the bottom lines of Track and Field’s display had slipped out of view were because of a screen positioned wrongly, or an emulator with different aspect ration. But it didn’t matter to me – the fun is in the playing, and for me, in rediscovering old favourite controllers. There were a few ‘clicky’ microswitched joysticks to use with the Commodore 64, a variety of fighting sticks (which were my favourite for everything, but designed particularly for fighting games) and a simple joy in bashing buttons to get my athlete running faster in Track and Field.

Large red display board about connected gamers, with items from that era in display cabinets below, such as a Furby, mobile phones and trading cards.
2001 Connected Gamers

It’s a great and well-designed exhibition. It misses out all sorts of things – I’d have liked to see an Amiga and Spectrum, for instance – but that’s to be expected and besides, the joy is in the combination of the familiar and the unfamiliar, rather than in seeing a whole load of things that you already know all about. Highly recommended, and even better if you can take a friend to enjoy the multiplayer games. My one recommendation is that you allow time to eat beforehand, as several hours in the exhibition on one banana left me pretty tired when I left.

I expect you’ll see that quote on a poster some time soon.

Stadspark parkrun, Groningen

Route map of Stadspark parkrun, looking like a crooked thumbs up on a mittened hand.
Stadspark parkrun route. 3 clockwise laps. Most of the time/when the grass isn’t boggy, the finish is on the field (right next to where it is above, you can’t miss it).

On a cold morning, as I scraped ice off my car and the chill seeped through gloves to my fingers, only at the last minute did I think I ought to check the event page to see if it was going ahead. Too late now, I reasoned, with no other options in the area, and so drove into Groningen. That was thanks to a wrong turn, so I drove back out of Groningen and took the correct turning, into the park. Parking is free and plentiful, at various places in the park; along the South edge, a small potentially muddy spot by the football pitches (nearest the parkrun) and a larger one toward the city.

From the South, it’s actually easier to drive into the park than to walk, I’d found yesterday, as they are currently working on the main entrance – you can drive in as normal, but cannot walk/run that way (unless, I suppose, it’s quiet and no-one’s looking). On foot, you have to head West beside the main road until you reach the corner, then you can get in. Not a problem if you come from town, which is to the Northeast, or if you’re on a bike, as it’s not that far, but it gave me pause at the time.

I walked past busy football pitches to the parkrun flag I could see flying, next to signs and cones. Past there I spotted the start sign, and then the finish. But no actual people. They weren’t far away, just beyond the finish, overlooking a part-frozen lake, but as I stopped to take pictures and considered staying at the start, it seemed a longish time without seeing anyone. The ice frosting the tips of the trees only added to the sense that this was the ghost of a parkrun, perhaps there to trap the unwary. Although any actual parkrun generally means I don’t drink on a Friday night, get up early on a Saturday and then run 5k, so there probably isn’t much a ghostrun would do that could intimidate. Add a soundtrack of “wooooo”? Present us all with a view of parkrun past (my past self seems so quick, now), present (not so much) and future (oh dear)?

The parkrun feather flag flying next to tarmacced paths, lined with orange-leaved trees.
A right turn (to the left as pictured) after the hill (yes, a hill)
Multi-coloured small cones mark the turn, running on a path with green verges.
Start line just visible.
Finish line just off the park, on the grass, overlooked by a skinny tree.
The finish line. But no people.
A low watery sun pokes through trees over a lake with a smattering of ice, with bikes and bags on the grass.
Meeting place by the lake. Note the ice, and the sun struggling up.

I was the first participant to turn up, and received a very warm welcome from two English-speaking volunteers. One of them is English, in fact, and the other had daughters living within a few miles of two different places I’ve lived in England, so we immediately found common ground. Others soon joined us and even with only 17 finishers, we had space for Russian, Latvian and Irish runners, to join Dutch and English.

A wide path, by the lake pictured elsewhere. Trees on each side.
The view early in each lap.

I had walked the park yesterday, with no real idea of where the course would be, so I hadn’t realised how tucked away in the NW corner it is. It’s a very pretty route, avoiding the roads in the South of the park and the petting zoo in the NE. I just followed the signs, which was very simple, and enjoyed running up a small hill at the back of each lap. It really isn’t a big hill, but seeing as I keep banging on about the total elevation for the run, I’ll record that this one took me up to a new high total for The Netherlands of 8m.

A field in the middle of the park, with large metal girder artworks scattered around, sticking out of the ground at different angles.
The central area, which normally has the start and finish points.

The run is on a good surface, though there are a few parts with a bit of mud on the course. This week that had firmed into ice in a few places, but that was fine with a bit of care. I took it easy on the right turn after coming down the hill (the hill!) which is a reasonably sharp turn, but probably a nice one to race round if you’re fit.

The sun lights the leaves left on the trees, overlooking the run director at the finish line, with pink and orange cones keeping runners out of the mud just off the path.
View from behind the finish line, with run director Rhys at work.

As we finished, people helped themselves to coffee and tea which was provided, dancing about if necessary to stay warm. I grabbed a mince pie and Dutch biscuit (name forgotten) and talked about all and any subjects with the international crowd. As the sun came up it was just about warm enough to stand around in a coat, without teeth chattering.

A black bag used to keep finish tokens. 'Stadspark parkrun' has been transferred on in silver.
The bag for finish tokens.

After the event I went, as I had been told I must by one runner, into town (under 2 miles) and found the Forum. As promised, the views from the top were grand, and I figured I’d come back in the week for the ’50 years of video games’ exhibition. Instead, I sat in the comfortable library, used the free wifi and spent longer taking in some views from lower, but warmer. The market was nearby and I enjoyed the smells and atmosphere in town before finding food and wandering the lanes. It’s a pretty city, and a generally more relaxed place than cities further South.

Results from Stadspark event 20, 11/4/21.

Kagerzoom parkrun, Leiden

Kagerzoom parkrun route map, from a GPS trace.
Kagerzoom parkrun route. Two laps, the larger loop first, all clockwise.

The first parkrun in December and I visited my current local, Kagerzoom, near Leiden. It’s named for the golf club around which you run – it is entirely contained within the smaller loop, above, so not the biggest course around, though it has a swanky driving range.

December 5th is gift-giving day for Sinterklaas in The Netherlands and so that had to be the theme for the day, with the run director in the outfit and hats chalked at start and finish.

It was a cold, grey day, if dry, and I’d done something to my knee that made walking difficult, but after a couple of days mostly on the couch, I was at least able to jog round. Concentrating on that meant I could pay a bit more attention to my surroundings than I sometimes do, and I took in the golf course on the inside of the loop, water stretching away on one side of the course and a large windmill at the junction of the two laps (straight on the first time, right turn the second).

This was a slightly more undulating course than the others I’ve done in The Netherlands – that still only adds up to a total of 5m elevation from the GPS, but there were a couple of distinct inclines to keep it interesting. It’s a good course to run fast, though, with a wide path that’s solid all round, and just a few puddles from recent rain.

Before today, Kagerzoom had only once had more than 40 runners since their first event’s record attendance of 65, but today there were 52, perhaps buoyed by promises of chocolate in the cafe afterwards.

View of the finish line from the course, with the parkrun 'feather' flag flying above it and volunteers waiting for finishers.
The finish line. The grass looks boggy, but it’s not from runners – we stick to the paths.
Dutch watch out for runners sign, early on in the loop, with a canal and green grass behind the paved path, and tall spindly trees dotting the golf course.
Watch out for runners
View of the finish line, with grass bordering the park and puddles settling by the side from rain in the week.
Run in to the finish.

The event was easy to find, and I parked just outside the golf course. I saw the “Near de parkrun” sign, but at a glance thought it was saying ‘not for parkrun’ and meant not to park there. It didn’t, and I could have passed through the gate and parked right by the start, but other parking places are also close. There are several other businesses on the site, along with just a few houses, some looking slightly out of place on a mostly business area (though there are some bigger ones by the water looked pretty nice). But depending on opening times, you might be able to go for a haircut, some trampolining or, er, monkeying around at Monkey Town, the indoor playground.

I settled for a walk/limp around the local streets and then my easy journey back ‘home’. The park is well-used by other runners and walkers, so there were plenty more people to say hello to before I wiggled my car through the narrow streets and back to the dunes of Noordwijkerhout.

The start line; the finish is round the corner
"Naar de parkrun" sign: "To the parkrun" on a metal fence, with a parking area beyond, just next to the start/finish.
To the parkrun. There’s parking here, but also before this point.
The North side of the course, a paved path with grass on one side and tall reeds on the other, where the water stretches away. The windmill is in the distance.
North side of the course.

Results from Kagerzoom parkrun event 18, 4/12/21.

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