Clitheroe Castle parkrun, Lancashire

Map of Clitheroe Castle parkrun, 5 anti-clockwise laps in the park outside the castle.
Clitheroe Castle parkrun. 5 anti-clockwise laps.

A misty morning lured people into wearing more clothes than were needed as the sun broke through around 9am, but on the upside the sense of giddiness that engendered meant that people wandered up and talked to me before and after the run, and then on the streets of Clitheroe. Based on today, I may have found England’s friendliest town.

A castle keep up on a grassy hill that is model-perfect in its perfect state of being kept.
The remains of the castle overlook the park. The path behind, with benches, is the longer uphill section (then heading downhill behind the parkrun flag).

There are a few car parks around the area, but I didn’t have the right change, and the streets to the South of the park offer free parking in any case, so I just parked a few roads away and wandered to the castle grounds. The toilets in the park were open, and just down the small hill from the start.

Pre and post run happens at the bandstand, with the short path that leads there used as the finish funnel, steering everyone off the path.

Tiered concrete steps provide seating in front of the bandstand, on which sits the Clitheroe Castle parkrun sign.
The bandstand, with a view off to the side.

The course is 5 anti-clockwise laps, heading downhill at the start, taking a left turn to run down the side of the park before wiggling through some sharp turns and a couple of short uphill sections before a slightly longer grind uphill past the castle.

It’s a reasonably tough run, fairly described as undulating, given the twists and turns and repeated (and repeated again) uphill sections, plus a slightly damp course making caution wise on those turns. Unlike the last time I ran a course with so many laps, I managed not to overthink the laps I’d done and found counting straightforward (last time, I worked out I’d pass a particular tree 6 times, this time was the second, but I’d only finished one lap, and went from there in confusing myself a little).

After the run I wandered up the hill to the castle, which has a short walk round part of the old walls, with great views of the town and countryside beyond. I wandered back down and into town, where several residents shared their excitement at how lovely a day it was, and how they’d worn far too many clothes for the conditions. Tesco is nearby for food and a sit in the sun, and in general I was filled with the joy of a warm Spring day. I only hope that if you go, you have a similar experience, because I can’t emphasise enough how genuinely I mean that this felt unusually friendly for an English town.

A war memorial in front of the castle keep, with a line of purple flowers all along the railings in front.
Walking down from the castle into town.

With a fell race locally in the afternoon, attendance was down on the usual – the week before was relatively busy, with 114, and on this Saturday we had 51 finishers. That meant relatively few people were lapped and there was little pressure on the narrower sections of the course, though I’m sure it’s no problem even with another 50+ people.

A testing run/walk in a friendly town with plenty of foliage to enjoy as you go round; if you’re anywhere near, take it in on a Saturday. A surprisingly warm one, if you can.

Looking down from the height of the castle, seeing a path winding below, the whole of the bandstand and its concrete steps, and houses behind the well-defined tree-lined border of the park.
A view from the Castle (you don’t get this high on the run).

Results from Clitheroe Castle event 135, 7/5/22.

Cliffe Castle parkrun, Keighley

Cliffe Castle parkrun route

This 3 and a half lap run round the lovely gardens of Cliffe Castle was described as 90% downhill – which sounds great, till you realise what that means for the other 10%. It’s worth mentioning early on, then, that there is a pretty steep uphill in which, other than a very short rise at the left turn (top right of the map) and an uphill finish, you make up all the ground you have gained.

It isn’t unfair, mind – it starts shallow, gets steep for a while, then levels off (with a couple of trip hazards), goes down for a while before a 180 degree turn to the last, leg-sapping but less steep rise back towards the castle.

Cliffe Castle, an old hall with crenellations.
Cliffe Castle in the sun.

Cliffe Castle is an 1880s building with a free museum inside and free parking outside – not for loads of cars, but the roads nearby are fine, too. It’s open 11-4 on Saturdays and Sundays, 10-4 other days except Monday. That was just a little late for me, even after a chat at the end and a further wander round the grounds to enjoy the sunshine.

A wide path leads downhill through grassy banks which are tree lined.
The start line, with PA system to address the crowd.
Wide tarmacced path with other paths leading off to left and right.
The left turn after the initial swooping downhill. On laps 1-3, take the middle path, heading slightly up. For the finish, it’s the path to the left. Ignore the path going straight on!

The downhill running starts right at the beginning, with a gallop along a wide tarmacced path, swooping round to the left before a slight uphill at a sharpish left turn, well-marshalled, and onto a gravelly path. The surfaces are good pretty much throughout, with just those trip hazards waiting for tired legs on the uphill section.

The course narrows at the uphill section, though there are still places to pass on most of it if you need to. I was busy concentrating on breathing, and on moving my legs just fast enough to still consider it a run, though it was pretty marginal. It’s hard work (though friends ran Church Mead parkrun in Amersham on the same day, and that has 3x the elevation gain).

The fact that the whole place is on a hill does make for great views over the valley, though I confess to looking at them much more after the event than during.

After the climb there’s a short tunnel under the house before a right turn to run round grassy areas at the top of the course, heading downhill again and with a couple of sharp but fast turns.

Top end of the park, with a large greenhouse at the side of the house and a well-mowed grassy field to run round.
Section of the course after the tunnel – you run down towards the camera here, appearing from the right side of the wall.
A lawn decorated by very low-pruned bushes is shaded by trees, with paths all around.
A view over the course – running from right to left, then turning right and heading along the path furthest away.

After three laps, you finally pass the start again, head down the hill and make a slightly sharper left to head towards the fountain and pond in the middle of the park – the fountains start at 9:30 – before a climb up to the finish. That isn’t steep, but felt it to my tired legs. There is a lovely grassed area right at the finish, perfect to collapse on to for a break. I accepted the opportunity gratefully, chatting to the people who finished nearest me.

So long as you know the hills are there, it isn’t perhaps quite as bad as I might have made out, and you can certainly make up time on the downhills, but this is a good challenge. It’s also a lovely park to see, there’s the museum to visit and the Leeds-Liverpool canal is not far away if you want to take a longer walk.

Results from Cliffe Castle parkrun event 120, 30/4/22.

Clare Castle parkrun, Suffolk

Clare Castle parkrun route – 3 laps.
Grass on either side of a wide beige gravelled path, with small brick buildings to one side.
The start/finish area.

I headed to Clare Castle because of the name – there are only a limited number of parkruns including the word “Castle” and because I thought it was a little closer than it was. I had allowed enough time, but was still a little surprised to have got all the way to Suffolk – I don’t know what I’d expected, but it wasn’t a “Welcome to our county” sign.

It is possible to park in town for free, but I used the car park right next to the start and finish, which is £1/hour, max. £5. There is one toilet right next to the start, and some more further round the park.

Wooden railings overlooking a stream (which used to be part of the moat).  Behind is a mound a few metres high, on top of which runs the "Lady's walk", and then another, higher mound which holds the remains of the castle keep.
A view of the castle, off to the left of the run route.

There isn’t much left of the castle, but what is there is immediately obvious and overlooks the start and finish and the car park. The route doesn’t head up that hill, and is pretty flat, in fact. It may not be the easiest, with a 180 turn at the end of the out and back section (covered 3 times), some grass and a few turns, but it isn’t as tough as you might expect from a castle grounds, which tend to have hills available.

Cones down the middle of the path at the out and back section, which starts here, on a bridge with girders holding up the railings at the side.
The out-and-back section.

A local triathlon club had “taken over” the event, covering the volunteer positions, and every marhsal provided great energy and encouragement as we headed round. With 3 laps, we got to see all of them a lot, though none as often as the ones above, who cheered everyone they could on at both the start and end of the out-and back-section.

A view over the park from up high, having walked up to the castle keep. The moat is off to one side, and a clump of trees to the right, with a path disappearing down the centre, forming the Lady's Walk.
View from the castle keep.

Afterwards I had time left in the car park to wander into town and pick up some food while having a little wander around the streets, and that even after walking up the path to the castle keep and taking a few photos of the views. It’s all very pretty, at least on a warmish Spring day where being up high doesn’t bring risk of exposure.

As for the event, parking is easy and cheap, the facilities are nearby and straightforward to access, and the course is flat enough to allow you to complete it at your own pace without too much worry – and with multiple laps, if you want to just do part of it and then disappear, that would work just fine, too.

Results from Clare Castle parkrun event 162, 23/4/22.

Henlow Bridge Lakes parkrun, Bedfordshire

Map of the parkrun route, a 2.5 lap route round the edge of the campsite and lake.
Henlow Bridge Lakes parkrun route, 2.5 laps going anticlockwise from the top right and finishing at the bottom.

The site this event runs round is well-maintained thanks to the owners and some grants, and hosts camping, fishing and anything else I might have missed. It’s an oasis of nature and water, just off a busy road and next to a railway line (which briefly interrupted the pre-run briefing, though they carried on bravely throughout).

A wide mud-packed path with thin trees on either side.
Wide path.

The route has plenty of potential to be muddy and relatively difficult despite its flatness, but it is also run on wide, clear paths and with gentle turns, often with a view over a lake, so it’s pretty and straightforward. It does also cross a couple of access roads into the site, but those are well-marshalled. Occasionally you might have to pause to let someone in, but no biggie (and it didn’t happen to me).

A wooden railing, painted black, marks a bridge over a stream, was the path continues over and then round a left corner ahead.
Over the bridge at the top of the course.

There’s a large car park, serving Arlesey station, just over the road from the site, with a few more minutes needed to walk to the start line. I chose to park the other side of the course, next to a local park, and walked down and along the main road to get there, which was a little further. On the way back I took a slight short-cut, walking past Champneys and cutting across the field. It was good to see other people, clearly locals, walking that way too – and lovely to have an event that close to your house.

The finishing line, with a bush marking one side and wooden railings the other.
The finish line, next to Arlesey Road. Note the path is wide here, but the actual well-used line is narrow, making the rest of the space bumpy underfoot.

This was one of the first non-muddy days of the year, thanks to some dry weather, which almost certainly made the course easier than it had been. That still brought its own challenges, with recent churned up mud, now dried, making for some ruts to avoid, but the footing was secure all round, and it is as flat as a flat thing. Though, as ever, I quickly compared it to the Dutch parkruns I ran, the first few of which varied from 1 to 3m of elevation and, yes, this one had more, at 8m.

Arrows and cones mark the finishing line as people chat and wander off after the event.
View of the finish line – run past it twice, then head left.
A cone on a bench, to make sure no one runs into it, by the side of the path. The biggest lake is to the left.
Cone marks the bench. The biggest lake is to the left – this path is at the end of each lap.

There are a few other paths to explore if you have time and on a sunny day it’s a lovely place to be. I was near enough not to need any other facilities, but apparently they are available at the main entrance – see the course page for full info.

A wide grassy area is used for the start line.
The start, after the event has happened.

Results from Henlow Bridge Lakes parkrun event 27, 16/4/22.

Felixstowe parkrun

Felixstowe parkrun route – start by the leisure centre, head SW then back past the start to the NE, though we headed NE first.

On a warmish sunny day, in between a couple of storms, Felixstowe was a lovely place to be. Around a third of the UK’s parkruns were cancelled for stormy conditions or the after effects of same, so as soon as Felixstowe said their course was fine, I headed down to the seaside.

Picture of the Felixstowe promenade, with a caution runners sign on the railings and an ice cream stall on the other side.
Near the start – the leisure centre is on the right.

The webpage suggests gathering on the grass in front of the Leisure Centre, but I chose to stand on the beach, and many others were clustered on the promenade, catching up and counting our good luck in finding a run that was definitely going ahead, and without too much wind compared to the night before, though it was still there.

Cones mark the finish line on the promenade, under blue skies, with a yellow sandy beach to the side.
The finish line.

The route is very straightforward. I missed the first part of the briefing, blown away on the wind, but he may have announced that we were doing it in reverse, as the official site says the opposite, but we lined up facing the pier and headed NE past it and on to a turnaround, then back past the start and to a turnaround over a km from the finish. It’s not a course you can go wrong on, unless you try and run on the beach and get carried away, but the regular groynes would make that a hurdle course rather than a lovely run on the sand.

A building with a small tower on the pier, with sandy beaches in front.
Felixstowe pier.

We had the wind behind us for the first section, which gave genuine assistance, but meant that we then had it in our faces for twice as far as we went back on our tracks, past the start/finish and on to the second 180 degree turn. I managed to catch a group ahead of me, with the intention of drafting for a bit, but ended up going past and allowing them a brief respite from the wind. Reaching the last section is always good, but on this windy day there was the extra incentive of knowing the wind would be behind us again.

Caution runners sign on the prom, looking North.
Fish & Chips store.

Aside from the wind, the only other things to cope with were a slightly narrower section near the start, with beach huts taking up some of the promenade, but given that no one was yet coming back on the other side, there was plenty of room. Stones had blown over the course at the second turnaround, which slowed us down, but otherwise this is a flat and fast course, depending on conditions, on a good surface.

View North along the promenade, with beach huts on the left and sandy beaches on the right.
Looking North.

It looks pretty good in the sun, too. There are plenty of attractions for afterwards, and parking is easy. There’s a paid car park right by the start, or the roads behind the front are free to park in. They are immediately up a hill, but it’s a short but hilly walk to the start.

Results from Felixstowe parkrun, event 131, 19/2/22 – 165 finishers.

Rothay Park parkrun, Ambleside

Route map of Rothay Park parkrun in Ambleside, Cumbria.
Rothay Park parkrun route. Start next to the playground, three laps.

My original plan was to struggle up the hills at Whinlatter Forest, but they have to cancel when there are high winds. Luckily, that meant I could walk to my (temporary) local run at Rothay Park, in the North of Ambleside. It’s very easy to find – Ambleside’s not that big, and the church is a good landmark. There’s plenty of car parkland free parking for a few by the river.

Cut trees beside a wide path and a large tree stands over a trimmed hedge.
The start, which heads towards the camera. On each lap you then run away from the camera past the tree on your right, turning right at the end to go past the playground.

This is a lovely run round the town park and a field next to the football club. Three laps, a little bit of up and down, some mud (but nothing this weekend that needed special shoes), parking and toilets nearby.

Path at the top end of the park with thin metal railings keeping us off the river on the right.
Round the field, alongside the water.

The paths are pretty narrow in places. Room enough for the 92 of us there were, but it does mean there are a couple of stretches where you either can’t or shouldn’t overtake, as people come back the other way. The path to the field next to the football club is also the path back from the field, for instance, and so are busy in both directions. I say “shouldn’t” not to say you must not if there’s space, but because one of the leaders only looked straight at me as he stepped out in front of me to overtake a back marker. I was happy to move aside, but probably shouldn’t have had to. But no biggie.

A bench in the foreground, with green grass and a tarmacked path to the right.
A bench. The finish is towards the back of this section.

It was a windy day, which didn’t affect this course too much, though it did hit us as we turned into the field, which is also the soggiest part, needing a little care. A little frost would toughen this part of the course up, otherwise it’s only going to be muddier in the next few weeks. You wouldn’t feel daft running this course in trail shoes during the winter, and many people did exactly that.

Narrow tarmacced path runs down a small incline, toward a playground in the distance.
A small downhill section down the twisting path.

I’ve taken photos on a sunny day, though Saturday was a little drizzly. It was still perfectly good weather for a run, though, and there are plenty of trees and hills around to break the weather up a little.

A muddy path through gates, with the local football club building on the right.
Through the gates into the field, and back out again after you’ve been round it.

It’s a lovely event in a gorgeous small town, with very friendly and welcoming volunteers. I was running a milestone event, but quietly – all those months conspicuously not getting to the milestone during the pandemic closure meant that I was not really feeling it. A friend had tipped off the run director, but with many other things to think about, he got the name a little wrong at the start, and I only realised he meant me when he said “ah, must have gone to Whinlatter”. Too late by then, but I did say hello at the end and we had a laugh about it. That worked out ideally, really – no fuss made, but it also wasn’t a total surprise so no-one was offended that I hadn’t mentioned it to them. A couple of others also ran milestones and they hadn’t had a shout-out, so I was happily tucked into a sub-group, enjoying a lovely run without distraction.

The town really is set in a lovely location, especially when the sun is out. A few views below.

Results from Rothay Park parkrun, event 29, 29/1/22.

Haverhill parkrun, Suffolk

Haverhill parkrun route. Parking by the bottom-left arrow.

At this time of year, and following rain, this is a lovely but very muddy parkrun. After I’d parked where the event webpage suggested, near the Golden Apples day nursery in Homefield Road (they call it Dizzy Duck’s on the page, presumably they’ve changed name), I peeked into the field and immediately changed into trail shoes.

A caution runners sign in the field, with a muddy puddle off to one side.
Muddy field

The route is run entirely round fields, so although it’s flat, it’ll only be quick when they’re firm underfoot. This was not that day, with particularly wet areas behind the football goals and at the entrance. With footwear on that could handle it, it was fun slogging round the 3 laps. By the end we were all experts on the wet and dry-est areas.

A muddy field after the runners have been by, with footsteps covering a wide lateral area as people look for relatively untrod ground.
Footsteps in the mud after the event.

Any first-timers at the course received a lovely welcome from the run director, who talked us through the route and gleefully sympathised at the mud in prospect. Anyone who’d parked in Homefield Road had already walked across the fields, and almost certainly stepped in a hole a little deeper than they’d expected, and so was prepared for wet feet. This isn’t the largest event, though, and I got a definite sense that locals from the surrounding houses contributed plenty of participants, which made for a great community feeling that I was welcomed into.

Muddy field and a puddle next to the football pitch. Plenty of green grass in among the slightly churned up mud.
Puddles by the football pitch.

As you can see from the above, there’s a puddle by the football pitch, right where you’d be running on a hard-surface day, to run the shortest route. The advice to avoid going too close to the pitches was spot on, but as you can see, that didn’t mean we weren’t muddy. All the volunteers were cheery and encouraging, despite standing in the rain on a cool day, which really helped. For me, particularly on lap 2, when the thought of another lap picking through the boggy bits was not motivating. A well done from a nice face or three was, though.

A hedge marks the edge of the field, with a yellow cone marking the route, and a pothole to avoid.
Cone marks the spot.

The whole event lifted my, and I’m sure pretty much everyone involved’s, spirits on a wet day when thoughts might otherwise have been on how early into the year it was, and how much more of this weather there might be to come. Instead we could hang out with kindred spirits, with veterans of hundreds of parkruns finishing along with those completing their first. Don’t be put off by the thought of slogging round fields multiple times, this is a great community event with a warm welcome.

Results from Haverhill parkrun event 128, 8/1/22 – 45 finishers.

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.

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.

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