parkrun Kraków, Poland

Kraków parkrun route map, a loop and a bit of the park.
Kraków parkrun route. Head anti-clockwise to the 734m mark, turn, back to the start/finish and then a complete loop of the park.

Kraków parkrun is easy to find. The start and finish are at the NW corner of the park Błonia, which is walkable from the old town, and has a tram stop directly opposite. I walked from town – about half of that time I was walking to the park, then the other half I was walking along that long straight you can see at the top of the map. It’s about a mile just for that section. That also takes you past the city stadium which this weekend was hosting the European Rugby 7s.

Grass in the middle of the park, very pale after days of sun
Blessed drizzle over the park

I had been in Warsaw at the beginning of the week. It was very warm, but cool enough on the Monday that lying in the shade in a park was pleasant. But no bedroom was air-conditioned, and the heat increased through the week. A cloudy day and downpour on Tuesday was relief enough for me to walk to the bus station on Wednesday, but Krakow was back to the same heat, and then more. As a result, the forecast drizzle and sub-20 temperatures of Saturday loomed like a mirage, even more so as the thunderstorms meant to arrive on Friday moved from the afternoon to evening to night. But sure enough, Saturday morning was cool. The pictures might look a bit dull and drizzly as a result so you’ll just have to trust me that for most of us, this was fabulous.

Chalk marks on the ground to show where to make the first turn.
The 734m turn around point

I chatted to a Frenchman at the start, after he’d explained the course to me. I hadn’t understood why on the way there I’d passed the 4km marker, then the 734m turnaround point. How would we turnaround, but still get to 4km on that stretch? It’s straightforward enough – head off clockwise to the turn, run around it and then do a complete loop anti-clockwise. So although you start on the long straight, you only run the whole length of it at the end, including that 4km marker.

4km chalked on the ground on the long straight
The long straight

I suspect the course is completely flat, but I struggled a bit, feeling like I found a headwind on that long last stretch. It might just have been a general sense of lag after a week of not sleeping very much. My brother, at any rate, thought that my next destination Slovakia suited me. I was just pleased to be warm but not hot. (Did I mention Poland was hot? So hot, for instance, that sitting on a park bench in the shade at 6pm was too warm.)

Wide and damp paths
Damp and lovely
Running along a wide path in the drizzle.
Sweeping turns and long straights
The finish line, marked with the word META
The finish line

Some friendly locals got me and others to sign the visitors’ book (/sheafs of A4) and chatted for a while at the finish line. As with other runs I’ve done in Poland, there’s no culture of heading straight to a cafe here, which is fine in the summer, and there’s plenty of space to mill about after the finish, either off to one side of the course, or the whacking great grassy area in the middle.

Results from Krakow parkrun, event 414, 2/7/22; 154 finishers.

parkrun Zamek w Malborku, Malbork, Poland

parkrun Zamek w Malborku route. Two out and backs, a long one then a short.

This region is well-served for parkruns. Other than Warsaw, they aren’t always clustered in individual cities, but there are several here that can be reached by a short train journey, particularly from Gdansk. Malbork is just a 40 minute, £2.30 train ride away (over £5 if you get the express train), and I opted to stay in town for a few days to make it even easier.

This event was their third birthday (but only event 84, thanks to Covid), and they had put the word out, upping attendance from last week’s 28 to 73. That, balloons, cake and celebrations made for a festive atmosphere, even if I and the two Irish tourists I’d bumped into on the way understood barely a word.

Group of runners walk to the start, on a path bordered by tall thin trees
Walking to the start

We were made welcome, though, and the run director made sure I knew roughly where I was going. It isn’t tricky, though this is their last run on a temporary route they’ve used while the boardwalk in front of the castle was being renovated, so you won’t need the details. Still; head North for a couple of kilometres, round the U to a turn-around point, all the way back and beyond for a few hundred metres, and back to the finish.

The sun shines through the trees that line the route
Shade covers most of this course

Today was a very warm day, comfortably over 20degrees even on the way there, let alone after the start at 9am. Much of Malbork, including parts of the boardwalk, is open to the sun, so this route was a huge bonus on a day like today. There’s an unshaded bit at the top of the course, and we really felt it at that point.

Brick pillars on either side of the path near the turn-around point
The first turnaround, 2km in. I totally missed the sign, but you go round the first barrier at the end

Swapping notes with the two Irish runners afterwards, both of us blokes had missed the sign that pretty clearly marked the first u-turn, but we had other runners to follow and made the turn without incident. The second u-turn, 550m or so from the finish, was marked by both a sign and a marker on the ground, so wasn’t hard to miss. It seemed a long way when I was going it, but it isn’t really – there is a little gradient here, so perhaps that’s why I was wishing it into view.

A wooden structure in front of the path, as the run goes round to the right then back to the left to head along the riverside
Heading back at the top of the ‘n’ shape

The first and last bits of the run are along the riverside (River Nogat), and I presume the percentage of the course that is there will only increase on the new route. Trees shield it from view much of the time, but it’s there, providing a sense of space.

Lush green vegetation by the path as the route heads through a car park
Crossing a car park towards the finish

In common with many events here, it runs with relatively few people, and just one marshal, at the car-park which is on the route. It was very quiet there, I never saw a car moving, and some cones reinforced the idea that something was happening.

The finish is on a narrow section of the path
Running in to the finish/meta

The finish is on a narrow section of the path, so we were all sure to step off the route quickly as people were still coming through the other way. I didn’t notice any problem even with 70+ people, other than a few finishers racing through the finish and having to be chased down by the lady handing out finish tokens.

Finish ("meta") sign on the path after the event, with small boats in the marina behind
A view of the marina

Afterwards we hung around and nattered while the sweat started to dry – it really was pretty warm, and stayed that way – before wandering back towards town via the boardwalk. The view of the castle there is pretty dramatic, and it’s a great backdrop for the whole thing. I had also done the tour the day before, so was filled with thoughts of the Middle and High Castles as we walked by. More usefully for a runner, if you keep going along the waterfront, you come to a man-made beach and a spot where you can take a dip in the river, which was sorely tempting today.

We roped in the run director for a fully international flavour – Polish, Irish, Irish, me.

Results from parkrun Zamek w Malborku, event 84 25/6/22; 73 finishers.

Gdańsk Południe parkrun, Poland

Route map, hung on railings at the finish line.
parkrun Gdańsk Południe route map.

On a day that saw runs cancelled in France for excess heat, and England was warm too, Poland had ideal weather for running – overcast, warm, a tiny shower after we’d finished and then some sun to enjoy later.I celebrated with my fastest run since Rotterdam, last year, even getting over-excited and catching the young boy who was pacing 22 minutes. It didn’t last, but I was happy just to be in the ball park.

Południe is a district of Gdańsk – the word just means South, so many cities have a “Południe”. I had an easy stroll through parks and quiet streets for 4km or so from the South of the city to the park, ‘Zbiornik retencyjny Świętokrzyska’. It’s more like 7km from the centre of the city, but there are plenty of buses. You also have the choice of Gdansk parkrun itself, at a similar distance from the city, though it was cancelled this weekend for a triathlon.

A flag and banner advertising parkrun in front of the lake. People are chaining their bikes to the railings on a small concrete jetty onto the water.
Banners

The run is a fast and flat one, and a pretty simple course. There are no facilities, so post-run entertainment is provided by the participants, with water and some biscuits with the parkrun name on. They made me pose with one of those, but it was a terrible picture and I’ll not share it. Nice biscuits, though.

A view of the larger lake
The first lake from the South
People gathered on the paved path at the finish, with apartment blocks behind.
The meeting point, with finish line (META) marked on the ground.

The meeting point is the car park at the SE corner of the park, next to some apartment buildings as you can see above. The start is further round the park, on the West side, so everyone wanders over there. That happened organically, but it seemed to slightly surprise the organisers, and I wondered whether if they’d had a moment longer, they might have done the announcements at the initial meeting point. It didn’t matter, they carried the megaphone to the start and did them there – several rounds of applause, some I couldn’t make out, others clearly for milestones (such as someone running their 50th parkrun).

Runners on the brick-paved surface
Running

There were a couple of other English people there, taking a break from a stag-do, which is an impressive effort. We all ran one loop of the Southern-most, larger lake, ran round the East side of it again before heading up the path to the other lake, which is smaller, has a small hill to surmount to get up onto the path, and a fountain in the middle to greet you once you’re up the hill. Back down the path, round the other side of the larger lake and back to the meeting point. Job done.

Not many people spoke English, which isn’t uncommon so far for me in Poland (and if they’re learning a language, it’s more likely to be Ukrainian, to talk to their new friends), but I still managed to have a quick chat about my 500 shirt with a runner – he was breathing more easily than me as we ran down the last straight, asking me first in Polish and then English but I managed to answer his questions. And I had a nice chat via a phone’s translation (typing) with a young girl whose mum had asked me to pose with the Gdańsk Południe biscuit. She wanted particularly to know how long I’d been doing parkrun for to get a 500 shirt, and was kind of amazed that my first event was in 2007. I looked at her and suddenly realised that most of her life, and we communicated that with a big of sign language. She enjoyed it, I pretended to. Yikes.

A crowd of runners by the lake after finishing the event.
Gathered at the finish
Me, in a parkrun Gdańsk Południe frame by the lake
Me, and frame

Results from parkrun Gdańsk Południe event 247, 18/6/22 – 78 finishers.

Haga parkrun, Stockholm

Haga parkrun route. Start heading North, through the gates, turn left up the hill, run the loop twice and then back to the beginning.

Haga park is to the North of the centre, an easy walk from where I was staying, near Stockholm Central, a bike ride for some, a jog for others. There’s a car park right by the start, too, for anyone who had driven.

A parkrun flag flying on the grassy area that makes up the finish line. Trees line the path behind. A few runners and several hi-viz volunteers are gathered.
The start (by the finish line) and finish.

This was to be a cloudy and cool day with drizzle, but you wouldn’t have known it from the period up till just after 9, which was very warm and sunny. It was only as we came out of the trees after the second loop of the park that the sun had properly disappeared, making only intermittent appearances afterwards. The run director tried gamely to convince us that this was typical Stockholm weather, but no one was fooled, especially not an English runner who had made the trip from Helsinki. We all enjoyed it throughly, mind.

The Haga gates, head through them shortly after the start.

I arrived early, standing around in the sun, just a little too warm to be wearing a long-sleeved top. Everything was already setup before 9, despite the start at 9.30, so it was very easy to find, but it isn’t tricky – the bottom end of the park, just North of the parking, on the road-side of the first grassy area.

There are no facilities at the park, or all that nearby – toilets at Odenplan, the course page says, which is a little walk away.

We were warned that the left-side of the loop is mostly uphill, and there are two hills/lumps on the other side, too. You’re heading uphill from the start, too, to get through the Haga gates, but none of the hills go on for too long. I had two quick miles, bookending a significantly slower one, and ran exactly the same time as at Vallaskogen, in Linköping, so must have made the most of the downhills. I was pushed all the way by a Ukrainian who was walking up the hills, which was humbling, and he tucked in behind me down the last hill before racing off to the finish, then joining me and a festival-attending Brit for a drink afterwards. It was only the Brit’s second parkrun, and already he has run events in two countries.

Tall trees stand in the park, with open spaces all around.
Heading back downhill at the top of the loop.
Runners on the path to the right of a lake.
Lake on your left as you head downhill

There are just a couple of marshals to check on you as you go round, but plenty of signs at the top right of the course, and no chance to go wrong. Each kilometre is marked, too.

A runner in shorts and t-shirt on a wide path, with trees lining the route.
A kilometre marker on the path.

The paths are all wide, if a little gravelly to slow you just a little. There’s a gravelly area just as you come downhill at the top of the loop, which acts as a brake but is soon over. Essentially, with all this space and tree cover, there’s little to stop you getting on with the event – people are easily avoided, the sights are clear and even on a sunny day you are in the shade often.

Cones mark the finish, heading off the path and onto the grass, with plenty of room for finishers to mill about and a few bikes parked by the finish line.
The finish, and a crowd eating watermelon to celebrate a finisher’s 100th parkrun.

This event couldn’t go ahead on the National Day, because the park was being used for other celebrations, though it still had an attendance spike on the Saturday before, with 133 finishers. We had 87 this Saturday, which is a nice crowd – a fair few people, but soon spreading out. I thoroughly enjoyed my morning, both here and chatting afterwards in the cafe – possibly the wrong cafe, with hindsight, given that only the Ukrainian joined us, but perhaps we were just there and finished before everyone else. It didn’t matter. We managed to confuse the lady in the cafe by putting in two orders – she seemed to think the second order overruled some of the first, so we got exactly half what we’d ordered. Given I’d offered to pay, that was a big saving – orange juice and small pastry, £6.32. I popped into a supermarket on the way back. Perhaps because UK prices have risen/are rising so much, supermarkets seem more reasonable than I remember (two pastries, £1.60). But everything else (hotels, as I found on my first night, when the key had been swiped from my AirBnB, cafes, restaurants etc) is reassuringly expensive.

That evening, as I wandered the decks of a Polferry from Nynäshamn to Gdańsk, I could immediately see the difference, and my wait for a beer was rewarded – even the ferry price was only just over £3. Just remember to always choose to pay in the local currency. On small amounts, the markup when they offer to let you pay in your own seems less of a ripoff than I remember, and it was still a bargain, but I was happy with £3.01 rather than, I think, £3.35. The 50cl topped off my time in Sweden, and memories of running in Swedish warmth, nicely.

Results from Haga parkrun, event 209, 11/6/22, 87 finishers.

Vallaskogen parkrun, Linköping, Sweden

Each country can choose a day on which they can hold an extra parkrun. Sweden chooses its national day, 6th June. Because it was a Monday, and also because it followed some national holidays in the UK, many of the runs in Sweden were busy – Malmö, which I ran in 2019, especially so. In 2019, we nearly set an attendance record with 144. This year, they all-but doubled it, with 287.

Route map of Vallaskogen parkrun.
Route map – one short loop at the top, then onto the longer loop. The marshal at the Lap 1 marker directs you three different ways – left (anti-clockwise) first, round the small loop, then straight on, down to the longer one and finally left again (clockwise), to head to the finish.

Vallaskogen was much quieter. They’d had an influx of tourists on the Saturday before, taking their attendance to 38, and today they were at a still-higher-than-average 27.

Vallaskogen is a nature reserve to the NW of Linköping. I was staying in Skaggetorp, a self-contained suburb further NW, but even that was a straightforward 4km walk to the start. From the centre of town, it would be much shorter.

Everyone meets at the edge of the reserve, still within the confines of the Gamla Linköping, an open-air museum preserving buildings and more from small-town Sweden of 100 years or more ago. The red cabins you can see in the start pictures above are typical. There are picnic tables to gather round afterwards, ground to lie on if you need it and toilets nearby.

There was one other Brit there, who managed to take better pictures while on the run, which I’ve reproduced below. Thanks!

An open-air area with picnic benches and the parkrun flag.
A gathering point
A tree-lined path with wooden fences on either side. The ground is covered in pine needles.
Pine needles on the ground.
A gravel path running through tree-lined surroundings
Me, running.
A marshal in hi-viz at the junction of several paths.
The busy marshal, here at the first turn.

The course is mostly on forest paths, which at this time of year are covered in pine needles, giving a slightly gentler landing. It’s all run on a good surface, and with not too much up and down, making for a quick course. Plenty to divert you as you progress, too, with trees and wildlife everywhere.

There’s a short loop to get you going before you head out into the forest. The course doesn’t take a right-turn it used to, because there are goats there – an unusual reason for a course change. I couldn’t spot the old route while running, though, and just followed the signs. On the main loop, you’re following yellow diamonds and yellow runner signs. I was lucky enough to have an actual yellow runner up ahead, so was in no doubt as to where to go.

The event can run with very few volunteers. The lady handing out finish tokens was also scanning people’s barcodes, which is perfectly possible but I couldn’t really stand by while she was busy, and ended up giving out finish tokens to everyone finishing behind me, which is why you’ll see me standing at the finish in the picture below.

Signs in Swedish at the finish line, warning people to watch out for runners.
The finish line.
A runner comes in to the finish line, tall trees surround the path.
The finish line from behind.

It was a glorious morning – later it clouded over – and so while others had things to head back to, Graham and I headed to a local cafe to chat. Dahlbergs cafe is just round the corner, and popular enough to have a queue to get in when we got there and when we left, some time later. Time spent in the cafe meant we were still in the museum when a concert of Swedish songs (that is the sum total of what I know about it, and that’s a guess) started later, and we stood for a while to let the atmosphere roll over us.

A crowd of people on a paved area stand listening to a small group of singers on a stage.
Listening to the music.

Heading back, I deviated from the main road that took me directly to Skaggetorp and found that just over the road to the North of the nature reserve is a whacking great forest (Rydskogen), which was a pleasure to stroll through, dotted with wide trails and smaller ones taking you off into the trees, along with a frisbee golf course to avoid getting in the way of.

Tall trees in the forest.
Tall trees.

I’d heard a few people saying they’d considered going to Uppsala but that they didn’t think there were trains. I’d considered Uppsala, assuming I’d stay in Stockholm, and there seemed plenty of trains, so bear in mind that one’s a possibility. Unless I’ve missed something, but I wonder whether the number of train companies means it’s possible to check one operator and not find trains – seat61.com recommends sj.se, which I used with no issues – buy the tickets online, in advance for the best price (see the possible differences below!) and just show the pdf on a phone if you have one.

Train times and prices from Stockholm to Uppsala.
Stockholm to Uppsala

Results from Vallaskogen parkrun event 80, 6/6/22, 27 finishers.

Örebro parkrun, Sweden

Starting from Oset and Rynningeviken, to the East of the city, the parkrun is an easy walk from town. Walking there alongside the canal was a highlight of my morning, and the meanders don’t add much to the distance – I turned a 2.5km walk into a 4km one by heading South to the canal and walking round the castle before I went East.

Örebro parkrun route.

You can walk on either side of the water with no worry about getting stuck – there’s a bridge right by the start of the run. It is surprising how quickly your surroundings change from urban to country as you move East out of town, and good for the soul on any morning, though I particularly enjoyed the fact that it was warm and therefore pausing to look around didn’t mean getting cold.

A bridge over the water next to a paved area from where the parkrun starts and finishes. Several people milling around in Hi-Viz and parkrun vests.
The finish line, with bridge behind. The start is on the other side of this paved area.
A paved area right by the water, with a path heading off through the trees.
The start line and briefing area.
Sign explaining parkrun and showing the route.
Örebro parkrun route, shown on a permanent sign.

I passed a few toilets by the canal, but didn’t check to see if they were open. I think some used the ones at the Naturens hus, 100m from the start, before the event. Certainly the cafe was open afterwards for drinks and food.

This being Sweden, and in the EU, various things are banned, and no one has any common sense, so we had only the loosest explanation of the course and then everyone set off running in circles before working out that a straight line would be best. Meanwhile, back in the glorious UK, the barriers of annoying civil servants who insist on the truth have been further weakened, and the government is able to pretend in an official press release that the EU banned the pint symbol and that the notion of “common sense” is going to stand up to more than a second’s scrutiny and will serve as the basis for law (as QC Joshua Rosenberg put it when talking about the human rights rhetoric/bill “Promises to end abuse and restore common sense are political rhetoric that deserve no place in a briefing note of this sort”). Bless them, that brain drain has kicked in *awfully* quickly. It’s also possible to now see a clip of Johnson arriving in front of a crowd of royalists to loud boos, only with the boos removed. Pravda are in town to take lessons, apparently.

The contrast is stark in a country that isn’t trying to pretend that there are benefits where there are not. In reality we had a lovely briefing in two languages, and no one felt that running 5km was a tyranny that would be fixed by calling it 3.1miles or 24.86 furlongs. It’s a one lap course, with the first and last bit the same, and plenty of time to look out over the water.

The water opens up to the right.

The course heads through trees before soon opening up with water on the right as it heads into the nature reserve. That first section is pretty shaded but after that it’s mostly open to the weather, which made for a warm run on a summery day.

A wide path with long grass and bushes on either side.
Still not much shade.

At the finish, sitting by the water I could hear several birds singing, and a cuckoo making merry that punctuated the rest. It’s pretty idyllic.

Waterfront view of the finish area, red short poles mark out the finish.
Waterfront view of the finish.

Results from Örebro parkrun, event 181, 4/6/22.

Telford parkrun, Shropshire

Map of Telford parkrun, in the Town Park.
Telford parkrun route – one small lap, cutting across the middle, then one large lap, going all the way down to the bottom of the map, past Fletcher’s Pool.

The Town Park is just to the South East of town, and the parkrun starts even closer, outside the Visitor Centre. I chose free parking down at the SE corner of the park, just over a mile away from the start. There is paid parking much closer to the start, either the Dark Lane car park mentioned on the course page, or for just £1, the Rugby Club, diagonally opposite the Dark Lane car park (some say the postcode for the latter is wrong, and when I checked it pointed to the rugby club, so it would get you there, if not quite where you might expect – check that you’re being taken to Dark Lane, at least).

Wide paths outside the visitor centre and playgrounds with a few tall trees.
The visitor centre. Post parkrun, so no evidence of it, but the start is on the path to the right.

The start takes you downhill to get to the lake, and you then head round the lake and cut across the middle of the park for the first, short, lap, before repeating the loop and adding some more on at the bottom edge. It’s very straightforward, and it’s organised such that very few, if any, people need to worry about being lapped by the faster runners.

Runners in motion down a path bordered by verdant bushes.
Runners get going.

The course is very green, and mostly shaded, with tree-lined paths making up most of the course. It’s a very pleasant place to be. It’s a busy event, with close to 400 finishers this Saturday, but it very quickly didn’t feel crowded, despite the paths not being that wide. There’s enough space for people to stretch out, once through the first section going downhill.

The finish area is not quite as far up as the start, but it does still involve a cruel hill at the end of the run, before a last quick section on the flat coming into the finish itself. There’s loads of space here afterwards to relax in the sun, if there is any, or just to mill around chatting.

People stand around, with a couple lying down, at the finish area which is on a large grassy spot with paths round the edge for the actual running.
The finish line and grassy area for a nice lie down.

Telford parkrun is another great parkrun, with good facilities, a great park to run/walk around and plenty to see and do afterwards if you want to stick around (it may be that if you do, you should check with the rugby club when they close their gates, but that may not be an issue, and could just be an excuse to move to the small free parking areas at the South of the park).

Results from Telford parkrun, event 388, 21/5/22, with 377 finishers.

Belton House parkrun, Lincs, England

A map of Belton House parkrun route
Belton House parkrun route – a smidge over two laps round the grounds.
A grand mansion house
Belton House
The start line.

Sort of on the way to where I was dog sitting for the following week was this run in the grounds of a grand house. I went for the views, and because this was an event number I hadn’t already done, and got lucky with the weather, to boot. All the facilities you could want are there – masses of free parking, toilets near the start, great views and a restaurant on site.

Hi-viz vests mark the posts on an open gate, with a wide path heading through them.
A well-marked gate near the start of the loop.

The route is well marked and marshalled. There’s a potential pinch point near the start of the lap, where the route goes through a gap in the fence, as shown above. It’s only a problem on the first lap, and there’s still lots of room for us all to fit, but it’s a busy run and it would be possible to clip a gate post in attempting to negotiate the things while everyone is setting off, so those are marked with hi-viz vests.

After the gate, everyone can spread out, some run on the path and others, particularly overtakers, on the grass to either side. A left turn at the end takes you onto rougher ground, with ups and downs and fields to run through. No big hills or particularly tough terrain, but it needs a bit of thought and attention, and running on grass is generally slower than paths.

One lap of these lovely grounds wouldn’t be enough so although I’m sure there were bits I found tough, I was very happy to see the sights again. I particularly liked heading into the fields after the long straight, and then seeing the house come into view as we turn into the second half of the lap, but your highlights may vary.

A large and bushy tree stands over the finish line, as people head back to their cars
Big tree at the finish

The volunteers were as friendly as you could want, and the facilities really are excellent. With sun on our back as well, we all felt lucky to be moving on a great Saturday morning.

Results from Belton House parkrun event 233, 14/5/22; 311 finishers.

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.

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