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)?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.