Anacostia parkrun, Washington DC

Anacostia parkrun route. 2.5km out East, then back West to the start/finish, along the river
Anacostia parkrun route – out and back along the trail

Anacostia is a neighbourhood in Washington DC, easy to get to via metro or bus from other parts of the city. For me, the no. 90 bus would have taken me there, but it was quicker to walk a mile to the green line and ride that. From Anacostia station, there’s an exit to the main car park that looks toward the river, and you just have to walk past the park police complex to get to the start. I took the other exit, and walked. It’s not far – under the underpass, turn right and you can see the car park ahead. It all looks a bit car-friendly, but there is a walkway.

A curved roof with rectangular concrete markings on the DC Metro at the long-named U Street/African-American Civil War/Cardozo
DC Metro keeps it simple

I was too early, at before 8.30, so strolled along the river in the sun. There are a couple of lookout points near where the parkrun starts, and across the river is the naval district, with the occasional helicopter coming and going. It was a sunny day, warmer than a couple of days before, and the view is wide open and relaxing.

A sign post marks the start and finish. The tarmacced trail runs off into the distance, with a yellow line marking the centre.
Looking East from the start. Police complex over the road to the right

A little later I spotted the parkrun flag had been put up, and volunteers were adding an advertisement to try to pull a passing runner in. A runner coming from the other direction from the one the sign faced was soon called over by the run director, given a flyer and only escaped by promising to come back the next week.

The route could not be simpler. Run out for 2.5km, turn around at a low wall which borders a circular paved area (though you do also run past a couple of those, to the side – the one you want is right in front of you) and run back the same way. Without a GPS you might not be sure when you’ve got to the halfway point, and there wasn’t a turnaround sign this day, but otherwise it’s pretty much impossible to go wrong.

A sign advertises the parkrun as volunteers complete the simple setup next to a sign pointing to National Capital Parks - East, park HQ.
Walking to the start area

Setup is minimal. A flag, a sign, and some small cones to mark the finish, and remind people to finish off the trail. Not that anyone who forgot was refused a finish token. There’s a waterproof tarp on the ground for people to leave bags and extra clothes, too.

The route is pretty flat; it felt slightly up on the way back, though that might show my increased effort from lack of fitness. It’s a nice run to just switch off and do – no need to ponder turns or twists, and plenty of space for people to spread out on the route after the start.

The finish line, next to waist-high scrub bushes with some spindly trees behind, by the river
Standing in the sun after the event

There’s a lay-by a few hundred metres up the road for parking, and the parking garage for the metro is not far away. The metro is the quickest public transport method, but buses go to the junction of Good Hope Road SE and Martin Luther King Junior Avenue SE, which is just a short walk away.

The road runs next to the trail.
A little more of the course, on the trail to the left
A group photo of all volunteers and participants for event 167
Everyone, at the start

I thoroughly enjoyed my morning; the sun helped, but we got a warm welcome, I bumped into a fellow tourist I knew from the UK, and we all ended up chatting for some time. We were glad to still be there at 10, as a driver stopped to ask us a question. I assumed it would be something we couldn’t answer, but no “Is this Anacostia parkrun?” Why yes! He wasn’t late, just checking where it was, for whatever reason.

Afterwards I caught the no.90 bus all the way to the other end of its route, and walked to the National Cathedral. It’s not close to the parkrun, but here’s a photo to show what’s waiting for you if you go. It’s grand, only without hundreds of years of old building practices, or ancient tombs, to navigate, which makes it a different experience to European cathedrals. The view from the 7th floor, over DC, is worth a look.

The National Cathedral with a US flag flying out front.
National Cathedral

Results from Anacostia parkrun event 167, 26/11/2022; 29 finishers.

College Park parkrun, Md

College Park parkrun route, an out and back along a tarmacced trail
College Park parkrun route. Start behind the Holiday Inn, go 2.5km out and all the way back on the trail

It was 16 degrees the day I’d landed, in the afternoon, and this day was set fair to be similar, but it started extremely cold. In the way of tourists keen not to miss the event, I arrived very early, strolling the less-than-two miles from College Park metro as the weather warmed a little more slowly than I wanted around me.

A wide trail is marked with chalk, 'Welcome to parkrun Turkey Trot'. Gazebos are set up on the grass next to the trail for people to leave their bags.
The start and finish line

This particular event is always big, with well over 100 people, and today was expected to be even bigger than usual. Unlike many parkruns holding an extra event, though, that wasn’t going to be because of tourists – although it’s easy to get to on the metro from anywhere in DC, tourists tend to head for Roosevelt Island or Fletcher’s Cove. Here, it’s the draw of a ‘turkey trot’. The event team had taken an all-in approach to attracting people back if it was their first time, by chalking corny puns and jokes at intervals along the route. It was a welcome distraction from the actual running, I thought.

Both I and the other British tourist I met had arrived at the same time, pausing for a moment before climbing over a ‘road closed’ sign. He had spotted a couple of police cars nearby, and wanted to not be quite as obvious about clambering over the barriers as we had to be, before spotting it was the only way to the trail for some distance. So we were disconcerted when one of the police cars pulled up right next to the start. This couldn’t be good – were they here to check why so many people were gathering? But no, the officer who got out in full kit is a regular, and had finally got permission to walk the event in uniform. Yes, with gun and taser, obviously – they weren’t brandished, but it might have been a little extra incentive.

We were greeted warmly by several different people, which is the secret to this event’s success in attracting and holding on to large numbers of people – they welcome people, help them feel part of the group, and make sure that walkers know they are as welcome as runners. It certainly worked today, with 309 finishers, their record attendance by just a few.

The route couldn’t be simpler, out and back along the trail, ignoring any side tracks (and jokes, if they’re not your thing – don’t blame me, I was corn this way). It means they can manage it with two marshals, one a few hundred metres in where a crossing goes over a road in the park, and one at the halfway point. For the rest of the route, it’s you and those around you and, before too long, people coming the other way, which will persist for some time, with those ahead and behind all available for thumbs up, “good job”s and any other encouragement you like.

Afterwards we stood and sat on the grass in the sun, by now into double digits and comfortable. It being thanksgiving, the usual post-event meeting place wasn’t open so we went back down the road towards the metro to Bagels and Grinds, which offered a delicious breakfast so long as you could navigate the bewildering array of choices, and a view over the road to the University of Maryland over the road. The latter had meant I picked up wifi via Eduroam on my stroll to the event, which would have been useful if I had got lost. If I had to offer thanks, it would be to my fellow participants, who gave such a warm welcome, and to the joy of being dropped back into more balmy November than I’d left in Ireland.

Results from College Park parkrun event 258, 24/11/22; 309 finishers.

Erris parkrun, Co. Mayo, Ireland

There is land in Ireland (and other countries) to the West of it, so it may not remain so, but this is currently the most Westerly parkrun in Ireland and in Europe. It isn’t actually right on the coast, but the wind is pretty unrestricted in blowing into your face as you step out of a car, holding the door carefully to avoid that banging open. The rain, too, is going to go with whatever direction the wind blows it. It rained before the start, stopped for most of the run, and threw it down while walkers were finishing off – by luck more than judgment, I was back in the car by then.

Map showing Erris parkrun route, a clockwise route round a lake, not quite forming a loop
Erris parkrun route

As you can see from the route map, there’s a gap between start and finish. That short walk, up and over a dune, made it even luckier that I had made it back to the car before the rain really started again. Only when my teeth were chattering after a visit to a supermarket on the way back did I realise that the drizzle – probably horizontal, if unshowily so – I had been out in had made me pretty wet in any case. This was also my first run of the colder season in a hat. And I very rarely wear a hat.

Group photo, lots of people looking cold and trying to shelter from the wind just before the parkrun start
Group photo at the start. Wind not pictured, but you get the idea.
Me, pictured next to the permanent sign that marks the start of the parkrun, overlooking the lake which is lapping at the grass
Me, attempting to look as delighted as I would on a sunny day

This being Ireland, I was given a warm welcome. And with it being a small group of people, almost all regulars, I was able to speak to many of the people there, even though we didn’t hang around long at the end.

There are many things worthy of mention about this parkrun. Parking is free, just find a spot next to the route. There are no other facilities at all. The views are great, and you are very exposed to the weather, whatever it may be. It’s Westerly. The people are wonderful – just for being there, but also for the warmth of the greeting that helps a visitor feel a part of the community. One thing immediately obvious as a contrast to England is that although this is in rural Mayo, and accessible down small roads, I didn’t hit a pothole. Not one, honestly. I know! 2022, and roads without potholes? No one will believe it possible in England.

That is also true of the route, which is run along the road around the lake. That road serves a few houses only, but looks brand new in a way I had forgotten is possible. It’s a great surface, and the only car we saw, pulling in just after we set off, turned out to belong to a park runner who started late and still caught many of us up, and so was very careful in picking his way through the runners and walkers.

A single runner - a local taxi driver, I found out later - ahead of me on the road. Tall grass at the side of the road leans against the wind.
The route mostly looks like this.
Long straight road ahead with grass down the middle. The finish is near but can't be seen.
Terrible photo, included because this is under 300m from the finish, but you can’t see it, at all.
Finish is painted on the road, with volunteers sheltering by a car but still managing the finish line perfectly.
Brilliant volunteers shelter behind the car whenever people aren’t finishing.
Permanent sign says "In Memory of Mike and Nellie Togher, parkrun every Saturday morning @ 9.30"
Never far from a reminder of the community
Cows are grazing in the field to the side of the road, while I'm running to the finish, smiling to pretend it's really no effort at all
Me, finishing
Cows graze in the field behind the finish, while a permanent sign marks the spot
The Finish line is easy to spot when you’re near
View of the start point and the coast, from the dune you walk over to head back to the start
View over the dune, back toward the start. I’m constantly behind the man in yellow in these pictures, but actually finished ahead of him, and we found time to chat without me shouting from this far behind
View from the dune, back towards the finish.
View of the finish from above. You can see how the road bends close to the finish
A coastal view of low waves crashing in to a small bay, just a few hundred metres down the road
Weather not great, views magnificent

Given this was autumn, I can only wonder at how ragged the conditions might be in winter, but this is a lovely event no matter what the wind throws at you. Just take some warm clothes, and change wet clothes afterwards rather than relying on a car heater to dry you off. I was still very glad I’d picked this run, as I’m sure the chat can’t be beaten, even if other places in Ireland might equal it. Completing it also marked my 10th event in Ireland, which means I’ve run at least 10 different events in each of 10 countries, a nice round number to hit.

Results from Erris parkrun, event 275, 19/11/2022. 23 finishers.

Goffert parkrun, Nijmegen

Map showing Goffert parkrun's route, a two lap course round some but not all of the park
Goffert parkrun route. Two anti-clockwise laps starting at the top right.

I thought I had the pronunciation of this city down, but my attempts to tell a Dutchman where I was headed proved it isn’t the case. At least you can’t tell on the page, and I learnt my lesson and didn’t tell anyone else where I was. I travelled to Nijmegen from Arnhem, which is under 20 minutes on the train, though I had a couple of miles to walk either side so had an early start. It’s a straightforward walk, so long as you don’t head straight up the elevated road you see when you turn right out of the station – it’s exactly where you want to go, but there’s no walkway, so just trust the maps app when it takes you on a slight detour from the shortest route.

Two bikes and the parkrun flag stand next to a tarmacced path leading to the pavilion, which is an open air structure with a leaning roof in the middle of a tarmacced area.
The pavilion

I was in Nijmegen in March 2020, ready to parkrun here before Covid shut it down. I had it planned for December 2021, too, and again Covid shut it down – those coincidences made superstitious enough not to tell anyone I was coming here till the night before (I may even have said out loud “hmm, maybe I’ll get the train to Utrecht” despite knowing I had no intention of doing so). I was very glad when early morning rain stopped, the trains ran and my legs didn’t fall off or anything on my way to Goffertpark.

The event starts at the top right of Goffertpark, next to the pavilion. The course page suggests the pavilion is named on Google maps, but it doesn’t seem to be any more – so long as you’re at the top right, and the structure above is near, you’re in the right place. There’s a pin for Goffert parkrun in Google maps, and that’ll see you right. There were plenty of other exercise groups around the place, including a group running up the hill on the grass, so I felt like I was in the right place for some effort.

The grass is mostly brown after drought, but large green trees fill the far side of the park. The parkrun flag is setup as is the finish funnel
Leaves on the ground in (checks) August?

I arrived at 8:40, which was just a bit ahead of the event team – they were in the park, just not at the start/finish. I could see a few arrows off in the distance, though, so was pretty sure everything was happening. People arrived – on bikes, of course – over the next 20 minutes. Only 11 of us ran the course, the lowest attendance since June, which made for a nice peaceful run for most of us. Two chatted all the way round, and as soon as they had our attention in the finishing straight, started leapfrogging each other and generally cavorting joyfully, which was very entertaining.

Brown on the ground, green in the trees, with a small basketball court to one side of the path. The start sign is off in the distance.
The start line, seen form near the finish. Run right to left.

The course is fairly flat, so Strava tells me – it reckons on 2m of elevation. Yet there’s a distinct, cruel and short hill part way round the loop, and the finish is definitely uphill. Amsterdam was the same – 2m of elevation despite it definitely finishing uphill. I’m sure there’s a little more here, because of that cruel hill and then an uphill finish, too. You have the benefit of a downhill stretch after the cruel hill, at least, and none of the turns are taxing.

Thin tall trees line either side of a tarmacced path that completes a lap and leads to the finish line
Run up here to complete a lap, then to finish

Afterwards we went to Buuv, a cafe very near to the park, though a little walk away. I mention the walk only because the others were kind enough to stroll with me despite having their bikes to hand, not because it was particularly long – it felt a smidge longer because of the mild guilt. Breakfast was delicious; avocado on toast for me, which means I can’t afford a house, or something. On the way I’d also looked at my kindle and decided not to read a couple of books before I chose one, which is enough to make front page news in the UK these days, so I had a morning of provoking the older generation.

An arrow points up the path to take people onto their second lap, under green-leafed trees.
Start of the second lap

The team at Goffert aren’t big on social media so there isn’t often a reminder on Facebook or Instagram that this event will be happening. But it will! They’re committed and were happily organising who was in charge for the next few events over breakfast. I was made very welcome and enjoyed the tour of the park that the route gives you – there is more to see, with events often held in the part of the park the route doesn’t cross. In a year without drought and a weird warm weather early autumnal leaf drop, there’d be lush grass to enjoy, too, but the place is pretty enough whatever the conditions. If you can stay in Nijmegen, it’s a lovely city with a relaxed atmosphere. Arnhem is, too, and The Netherlands very easy to criss-cross by rail, so you can cast your net pretty wide for somewhere to stay. It’s less expensive outside August – which you’d expect, but the difference for me between Germany and here was pretty stark, albeit totally worth it.

At the top of the tree-lined path, the finish funnel is off to the right, on the grass. The funnel is made of tape wrapped around white stakes that are pushed into the ground. The sky is cloudy with occasional blue.
Finish here

Results from Goffert parkrun event 52, 20/8/22; 11 finishers.

Rheinpark Parkrun, Cologne

Rheinpark parkrun route. A one-lap made up of a couple of loops with a view of the Cathedral on the way back
Rheinpark parkrun route. One lap, head North and away from the Rhine to start, under the bridge and on the path near the river before turning right and coming back down the long straight, under the bridge again and along the river to the start/finish

There’s plenty of public transport in Cologne (see the course page for more), and it’s very accessible given the 9 euro ticket, but I chose to walk to Rheinpark. I was based very near the other parkrun, Aachaner Weiher in the Hiroshima-Nagasaki park, but it was still only a couple of miles to walk to Rheinpark.

Riverside view, with a sign high up saying "Rheinpark Tanzbrunnen" to welcome everyone. A large river cruiser is moored on the far side of the river, with Cologne's skyline behind it.
Welcome to Rheinpark

There are toilets 400m from the start, with a free urinal for men and a cubicle that’s €0.50.

The start and finish are in the same place, just beyond (if you’re approaching from the South) a covered part of the walkway in front of the Rheinterrassen Köln.

The word parkrun is chalked onto the tarmac, with further words explaining the concept just out of sight, further along the route. Blue pillars hold a concrete roof over this part of the riverside walkway
Chalk signs explain parkrun and guide you to the start

The start takes you right next to the river for a short while, before a right turn to head into a tree-lined loop. You’re very briefly taken out of the park, past a low concrete wall, before following the twisty route back towards the river. The top section of the course has two long straights, the first along a mud-packed or grassy path (depending where you put your feet or who is in the way), then back along a wide gravelly road. The latter seemed particularly long, perhaps because it was almost entirely in the sun on a day warming towards 34 degrees (but ‘only’ low 20s for the event).

A hard-packed wide mud path heads through a field with trees to both sides of the field
Heading North

The course is very well marked, with arrows to point you in the right direction and red cones on either side of the correct path. Despite that, one runner ahead of me tried to head through a narrow gap as we headed back towards the river – we waved her back onto the path, but her mistake was understandable, as we were looking for the path by the river, and going through the trees would have taken her closer. That North section, then, is by the river, but not right by it, which is worth bearing in mind.

A hard-packed muddy section in the middle of green grass shows where mostly people have walked
A potentially muddy path

Making the turn after the long earth path takes you onto a few cobbles and then that long gravelly section. Nothing much to do here but get on with it, as the route takes you past port workings and grass.

A wide gravelly road with hedges on the left and a grassy bank on the right. The grass is mostly yellow for lack of water.
Heading back South, a long gravelled stretch
The Zoobrücke is a concrete bridge, high above the wide tarmacced path here. A skatepark os on the left, and trees are dotted around by the sides of the path
Heading back under the Zoobrücke towards the finish

I struggled on the second half of the course, and was glad to see the bridge and some shade, before attempting a bit more of a gallop towards the finish. The Cathedral comes into view but by then I was more excited by the finish – from any distance, it’s easier to spot the complex that stands above it, and that covered walkway, than the parkrun flag, but you can’t miss the finish when anywhere near.

Cologne Cathedral is far away but still dominates the skyline on the far side of the river. A wide path heads along the riverside, with a large tree providing shade. A humped bridge (the Hohenzollernbrücke) in the distance leads to the city centre.
View of the Dom on the walk back

The whole event was well run and organised. There was no move to a cafe at the end, with people wandering off to do their own thing, and I made it back to the centre of town before it got really hot. There are a few cafes to the South of the route, which were opening up as I walked past, though they looked more focused on drinking, and I think I would have tried the West side of the river for preference if I’d fancied going anywhere. Instead, I enjoyed the sun and the warmth of the city before a well-earned shower back in Neumarkt.

Results from Rheinpark parkrun event 49, 13/8/22; 19 finishers.

Friedrichsau parkrun, Ulm

Friedrichsau parkrun, two clockwise laps by the Danube in Ulm
Friedrichsau parkrun route, 2 clockwise laps

Heading North and wanting to make progress through Germany towards the Netherlands, I picked a place somewhere away from Munich. I ended up in Ulm, which seemed adventurous but it’s a big place (126,000 inhabitants) and right on the beaten track, in that I could get a train directly there from Munich. It also put me back on the shores of the Danube, which has been a nice recurring theme of this trip.

The parkrun is to the NE of the city, and the number 1 tram stops very close to the start. Despite that, and even though had got my 9€ ticket for August some time back, I walked the 2.5km from the centre, and walked back the longer route along the Danube, which was all very pleasant. Even more pleasantly, the weather had broken. Last week, I saw a sweaty mess just walking to parkrun; this week I wore a long-sleeved top for the wander there.

Cones mark the finish on a cobbled path by a lake. The parkrun flag flies under a tree, while green grass neatly marks the verges

The start and finish were already setup when I got there at 8.30, while the event director was out setting up the comprehensive arrows on the course. The route map probably looks complicated, and there are plenty of places where two paths go in similar directions, but there are backup “yes, really this way” arrows in any place with ambiguity, and we really couldn’t get lost. The one exception might have been at a point where a sign had fallen, but it was still visible, and I and the other Brit there were following an experienced German runner at that point. One of the runners behind paused to put the sign back up, too.

There’s a toilet near the start that needs a euro for entry – my fellow Brit was not impressed by the state of what he found inside, but needs must. The start is by the Tiergarten entrance and looks over one of the lakes in the park.

A yellow arrow directs us left after the start, with a right-turn just visible along the path. Other paths criss-cross the location, while the route goes round a large green field in the middle of the picture
Shortly after the start, go left, then right after the monoliths, round the field.

There weren’t lots of people there, but they were all friendly, with several English speakers. Nonetheless, we felt like visitors rather than a majority, as is sometimes the case, and that feels like a good way round.

The route is pretty flat, with just an occasional incline to test a different set of muscles. None of the turns are sharp, either, and that combined with the significantly cooler weather meant I ran significantly better than last week – a relief, to prove it isn’t just pizza retention slowing me down.

A wide cobbled path heads into a tree-covered area which hides a bridge over the park's lakes.
View from the start line – beyond the bollards is a bridge, then you emerge into the field, above

We were presented with watermelon as we finished, and there was lemon drizzle cake and some other biscuits – frankly they had me at lemon drizzle – to tuck into and encourage people to hang around. Not that we needed to wait for the finish, with the tail walker running to keep up with the people at the back and less than 7 minutes separating all the finishers. Clicking through previous results, that’s a rarity and walkers are as welcome here as anywhere else.

A view of the finish line showing the lake behind the path, and a housing block that overlooks the lake.
Trams will arrive on the left of this area. We picnicked on the grass at the finish afterwards

A cafe is listed on the event page but even on this cooler day, there was no movement that way, and we just lounged on the grass. I felt particularly grateful to be able to do just that, given my fellow Brit had a 10-hour drive to get back to Durham and had already left. Instead, I took a leisurely stroll over a bridge and along the South bank of the river to head back to town. The day warmed up, most of Ulm was about walking and cycling and I felt lucky enough to head to another small parkrun in a relatively remote (but populous) spot. The town is a natural spot to stop if you are heading back from Austria to a French ferry, and avoiding toll roads, so I hope they’ll continue to attract a small but privileged group of tourists.

Results from Friedrichsau parkrun event 20, 6/8/22; 13 finishers.

Mensola parkrun, Florence, Italy

Route map for the Mensola parkrun, a three lap route, roughly in a figure 8.

Mensola parkrun route. 3 laps, anti-clockwise from bottom right

Mensola park is a (as of 2022) fairly new park to the East of Florence. I walked there from the centre, around 6km, but the number 17 bus goes very close. Buy your ticket at a tabaccheria. Firenze Rovezzano station is near (1.4km away), but trains don’t run there first thing in the morning. There’s a North and South part to the park, with the run happening just in the top section, North of Via della Torre. The entrance is past the football stadium (and museum), just past the Beach Volley & Tennis Centro. There are no toilets in the park.

It is known as being a bit exposed, and it certainly is that, but there is shade on a couple of lovely bits of the course, and at the meeting point. This Saturday was a little cooler than recent weather, but the temperature was still in the high 20s when we started, and was climbing into the 30s. This was their first birthday, so we celebrated afterwards. There isn’t a cafe nearby, so they usually bring something to eat and drink, but we may have been treated even more specially. There’s a Lidl en route (1.8km away) if you walk, and I was very glad I’d picked up extra food and drink. The run director had spotted me outside Lidl as she drove past, so I’m very glad not to have got lost which might have sparked the mystery of ‘what happened to the obvious parkrunner heading to our event?’

Through two thick trees stands dry grass and a villa beyond, at the end of a straight line of tall thin trees
Looking through the trees at the meeting point

I bumped into a few other tourists on the way in – in a group of 6, there were English, Australian and Danish. The Australian had been walking to Firenze parkrun when he bumped into the others and it was lucky he did, as that event is not currently running and may not restart – the run director who was there when I ran in 2019 is now running this event and it’s much more convenient for volunteers.

A sign at the park entrance, hanging on a metal gate, points participants to the start. Behind is a grassy bank, brown for lack of rain, with trees standing up behind that.
Shown the way at the park entrance – you can’t see the start point from here because of the bank, but it is only a minute or two’s walk
Runners in parkrun shirts head off along a gravelled path, with one running barefoot
Shortly after the start, so I’m still close to all these people, who finished far ahead

Although the ground is brown for lack of rain, the course is colourful, with the brown complemented by the beige of the gravelled path and grey stone, and offset by the green of plants and trees. The clear blue sky and bright sunshine helps that, too, though it meant I struggled on the actual run. The course is undulating and twisty, with gravel underfoot, so although you can’t really call it hilly, it isn’t the easiest. I’d have done a little better on a cooler day, though.

I had been amused to bump into a runner I knew last week, and even contacted a friend I met the same day, in Rome in 2019, saying she should say hello to him if he was back in Rome. He was not, he was here, so we again had a couple of photos together.

Luigi and me, pictured at two different parkrun events on consecutive weeks - we hadn't arranged to meet.
Luigi and me, in Florence (top) and Salzburg

Although I came from Certaldo, a 45 minute drive away, and he from Rome (c.3hrs), we had started our journeys around the same time. Admittedly, that is partly because I caught the 6:17 train not the 6:59, to allow more than an hour for the walk, but also Rome has much quicker and more direct trains. It’s a fairly straightforward piece of tourism either way.

On top of a berm stands the parkrun flag and some cones to mark the route.
The finish line. The course runs on the lower path, toward the camera, up a small hill then (on the last lap) turns left to the finish

The park was very quiet apart from us. One other runner joined us for a while, one other walked a dog and I saw a couple of people walking through the Southern section of the park. There was plenty of room, in any case, and would have been even with more than the 22 finishers we had. The volunteers were excellent, giving briefings in English and Italian and smoothly navigating us round the course. I had my 500 shirt on, so was encouraged with “Cinquecento!” – I managed to splutter that I felt like a banged-up old fiat in reply.

People in purple, red, hi-viz and other colours stand around talking in groups after the event has finished. Bags rest on a bench made from a cut-down tree stump.
Gathered after the event
After the event, some purple-wearing participants chat, while the event paraphernalia (a message board and some poles) rest on some tree stumps. To the right of the path are a few trees, mostly hiding the view of the hills behind.
Chatting after the event. The noticeboard reminded us all it was the event’s birthday

I absolutely loved this event, despite being a bit hot from the very start. The contrast between the dry park and the green hills in the distance is gorgeous, and it is overlooked by villas, enabling a heap of romantic fantasies. The event is slickly run and well worth the effort it takes to get there from Florence. If you run along the river it adds a couple of km, but allows for extra sight-seeing opportunities.

Results from Mensola parkrun event 52, 30/7/22; 22 finishers.

Hellbrunn parkrun, Salzburg

Map of Hellbrunn parkrun route, a loop round the grounds of the castle
Hellbrunn parkrun route. Not quite three laps, starting at top right and ending at top left

Salzburg is hilly. Hellbrunn palace looks onto hills and a mountain. The parkrun course avoids all of that and has Dutch levels of elevation – 1m in total (there’s always a margin of error, but still).

The palace and gardens are 7km or so from the centre of Salzburg, which meant a bus ride was the best way for me to get there – the no.25 which starts at the main station (and elsewhere) leaves every 30 minutes, so I hopped on the 7.35 to be sure. As a result I was very early, and rode an extra stop to the zoo so I could wander back to the palace grounds.

View of the mountain looking away from the zoo.

I’d visited the zoo a few days before. I wouldn’t normally, but Salzburg’s attractions are all (I thought) slightly overpriced individually, but then a total bargain with a Salzburg card, which covers all public transport and entrance to everything I wanted to do, plus queue skipping for the funicular if needed. 30€ for the day seems steep, though you can easily save with that, but €39 for 2 days, and €45 for 3 becomes more and more of a bargain. I was never actually asked to show the card (digital, on my phone, for me, but real ones are easily available – e.g. at the souvenir shop in the main station) on the bus, but scanned in to other locations willy nilly.

As a result of that prior visit to the zoo and palace, I knew my way around, and strolled through the grounds – essentially, from the zoo bus stop, head left at the zoo and keep following that path. It’s even easier from the palace stop. There are plenty of toilets at the palace, all open around 8am (or earlier, I can only go by when I got there). I used the ones I knew, next to the Trick Fountains, but there are some on the main drive to the palace, and more even closer to the parkrun start, almost directly North of the meeting point, next to the Fürstenweg.

The meeting point is by the small dipping pond – a neat circle on the map, East of the Palace – and that’s where the finish is. The start is further along the path from the palace and the route is nearly three laps. All the way round twice, then the third time, finish at four-way ‘crossroads’ of paths, on the grass. Signs wherever needed, a couple of marshals, and even I couldn’t get lost.

People gathered at the finish line, on the grass where several gravelled paths meet. Trees and grass are on each side.
The finish line

We had a very international crowd. I even knew a couple of them – one I had met at Linz last weekend, and was expecting to see. And tail walking today was “the fast bloke” from Roma Pineto – when I saw his parkrun shirt with the name of the run on it, I recognised him. I ran Roma a few years ago, fresh from finishing first at Roma Caffarella the week before. I hoped for a repeat, but was rapidly disabused by the event director when Luigi turned up and, sure enough, he had a jog and beat me by two minutes. Today, with a sore foot, he walked at the back but I can’t exactly claim revenge – he’d still have beaten me at a jog. We had a photo together for the memories.

There were also runners from Germany (Westpark – another fond memory, as I bumped into a Ware Jogger I knew, and had been racing her son in law (he beat me, too), New Zealand, England and South Africa. The event director was Irish and one of the volunteers from the US, for good measure. To be expected, in such a tourist-heavy place, but still impressive in a field of 31.

Looking away from the finish line – the route comes up the path to the right, then make a sharp right to head along the path on the left. The start is at the end of the left-most path. This is the sharpest turn of the course.

I struggled a little on this very flat course. Partly a week of good food and drink in Salzburg, but also I think that despite the very flat course with only one sharp turn, the ground is gravelly throughout, which takes some of the thrust out of each leg strike. I certainly wouldn’t claim it’s a hard course, but it’s surprisingly un-quick for such a flat one.

There are views on the course, though I’d recommend a good walk around the grounds afterwards to see things properly. If you have a card, or are happy to pay, the Trick Fountains are both tremendously naff and equally good fun and the palace is interesting with a well-curated exhibition on the archbishop Markus Sittikus (show your card at the ticket office to swap for a timed-slot for the fountains; that ticket then gets you into the palace). Most of the participants headed off to the cafe nearby and ended up nattering till midday before hopping on the bus back home. It’s a lovely run/walk, but with the attractions of the palace and grounds on top, you can upgrade it to stunning.

Results from Hellbrunn parkrun event 45, 23/7/22; 31 finishers.

A four-way path crossing, surrounded by high trees
View of the finish area (taken on a non-parkrun day)
Looking down an avenue of tall trees back through a hedge and to the grounds of Hellbrunn Palace, very small in the distance
View from the finish area towards the Palace Grounds

Donauradweg parkrun, Linz

Donauradweg parkrun route on this day only – head NE, back to the first (North) bridge and over, down to the South, back to the Southernmost bridge and finish in the same place, but on the grass.

The meeting point for the Donauradweg parkrun is on the North side of the Danube, just next to (under if wet) the Neue Eisenbahnbrücke (New Railway Bridge). Don’t be put off by the name – it’s a pedestrian bridge, so it can be your route across if necessary. Indeed, it was part of the event route this time, though not currently marked as such on the official course page, which shows the out and back route, staying North of the river. The route I ran, as you’ll see in the comments below, turned out to be too tricky to marshal, so you now run an out and back along the North side of the river. Nothing to stop you having a run or walk across the bridges, though, and exploring the South Side.

Unfortunately for us, the usual course setter-up wasn’t there this Saturday, and we completed the first turn-around too soon. I figured it was early; we’d been told the turn was after a km or so, and I was initially impressed by how quickly the first runners were coming back at us. Then I made the turn after 100m or so more myself, was only about 600m in and thought it must be too early. Sure enough, we all got very quick times, though they might later get adjusted to fit!

The course has been changed to make it more interesting than the old out and back, and to let participants see a bit more of the river (and enjoy the climb up to the apex of the bridges) as they go. Other than the turnaround snafu, it’s certainly successful, and worth the work involved in getting permission from two different authorities. It sounded as though they were keen enough, guiding organisers through the nomenclature – parkrun is ‘official’ to us, but with no numbers etc., not so for the authorities, which makes getting permission easier. The parkrun guidelines required written permission, which was harder to get since the authorities deemed that unnecessary, but eventually they managed to make all the edges fit.

There are a couple of little climbs, including one early on – always keep to the higher path is the motto of the route. There are some tight turns, including the two 180s for the out-and-back sections, but otherwise this is a fast and flat route, if you’re not totally distracted by the river to the side.

Linz itself seemed, as I arrived by train, a very relaxed place. The railway station is a little way from the centre, which probably adds to that feeling, but despite being Austria’s third-largest city it isn’t such an obvious tourist destination as some of the others (Hitler spent his youth there and considered it his hometown, but that’s not something they make anything of) so I felt relaxed even in the city centre itself. I stayed up on one of the hills to the South of town, and walked (just under 4km) to the parkrun start though there are buses and trams nearby. There are portaloos and a drinking fountain just to the SW of the start if you need them.

Results from Donauradweg parkrun event 14, 16/7/22; 28 finishers.

Donaupark parkrun, Vienna

Donaupark parkrun route, three laps of the park by the Danube.
Donaupark parkrun route. 3 laps, anticlockwise.

Austria started parkrun in Salzburg in August 2021 and now has three events, in Salzburg, Linz and Vienna. Vienna started in October 2021, and was today on its 33rd event. It’s very easy to get to, albeit I broke with my tendency to walk to the start (it being 9+ km away from Westbahn) and hopped on the metro. From Alte Donau (‘Old Danube’) metro, on the U1 line, it’s a 400m walk and you can’t really miss it – take the Arbeiterstrandbadstraße exit, turn right and walk along the road, then cross over once you’re past the Sportcenter and you’re there.

Skyscrapers look over the park, while a hi-viz wearing volunteer gives the German-language briefing. An English one followed.
Introductory briefing from the concrete

By now I am used to hearing briefings in languages I really don’t speak, and enjoy picking out the bits that I can – three laps, clap for volunteers, qr code here if you’d like to help out in the future. But it was a somewhat wasted effort, in that the German-language briefing was immediately followed by a fulsome one in English, from a different volunteer. A nice touch, and helpful given the number of tourists.

The tall Donauturm, or Danube tower, rises in the park and the path and runners head towards it.
After the first turn, you run toward the tower. Even I couldn’t miss it.

I chatted to a couple of English people before the start, and we later found that we covered more-or-less exactly 20 years, with 10 years between each of us. They then took the Mickey out of me for not being significantly faster than them, which was fair enough. Both I and the 59 year old sandbagged; me suggesting I’d run a minute quicker than him, which made for a surprise when he came past me in the last 500m or so. There was little I could do about it, other than congratulate him.

A wide path, with trees and mowed grass on either side
Wide paths

No one really bit on my jokes about no-one knowing the name of the park (“What’s this park?” “Donau”), and how the situation only gets worse if you ask, well, okay then, what’s the river called? but I enjoyed them immensely. It’s good, I think, to have a nice time in your own head. I also had a perfectly decent time running round the park. It’s yet another parkrun with a mini-railway track running near it, and you cross that en-route.

Concrete blocks showing the park name
The briefing area, finish and start just behind here

The run is a fast and flat route, with a slight headwind today down the first/finishing straight to keep us occupied. It finishes in almost exactly the same place as it starts, so couldn’t be simpler, other than remembering to run round the edge of the area marked by the cones, rather than taking a shortcut across the tarmacced area from which the event briefing is given. The course was mostly unmarshalled, but just needed the few arrows it had to keep us heading the right way. Towards the end of the loop you take a smaller path to the right, to loop slightly away from the start/finish, but other than that I reckon I could run it again without markers, which is rare.

Post event we went to the Café Oide Donau (no, oi don’t know either) which is close, though not the cafe that is in the park so don’t head off for a post run cooldown and miss out. I sat chatting with a couple of Brits, enjoying the warm (but not too warm) weather before hopping on the metro with a new friend. Polish parkruns are great, but they do slightly miss out for not so often having a post-event cafe visit, and my three weeks there made this cafe visit all the sweeter. And this is a lovely event, which is never going to be a slow course unless there’s ice on the course. First place today celebrated that by setting a new course record – it’s not out of reach, but a good marker for decent runners to hit in the future. Whether you come for that or just to take in an Austrian parkrun, this is a easy to get to, straightforward to navigate and recommended event.

Results from Donapark parkrun event 33, 9/7/22; 58 finishers.

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