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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Another glorious parkrun to recommend, and Merry Christmas!