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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This exhibition aims to take you through 50 years of video games with some emphasis on Dutch game makers, though not to the exclusion of classics such as Space War, Pong, Pacman and so on.
It’s on the 5th and 6th floor of the Forum (entry on 6th), in the middle of Groningen, and you’ll need a mask and covid pass with proof of identity to get in. It started on 2nd October 2021, and is currently bookable through to the end of February, which I’m presuming is the close. Tickets are €12.50 (€7.50 for students), though you can add entry to Storyworld on the same day for just an extra €2.50 (for a total of €15) to make it all bargainacious. I had to buy my ticket on the day, as going via the web is tilted to Dutch bank cards and accounts, but that was no problem. It also meant I wasn’t tied to a time slot I’d picked in advance, so on this quiet weekday (I saw no one but staff till the end, where four of us were on different machines) I just could roll up and head in.
As it’s in the Forum, there’s free wifi throughout, you just need to be able to head to forum.nl/wifi to get a code – it’s for 24 hours, so you could do that in advance if you don’t have mobile access. There are free lockers inside the exhibition so you don’t have to carry anything with you – just read the instructions more carefully than I did, or it will take you a couple of goes to set a code.
There are some explanatory panels giving context, and some basic info about the consoles and games on show, but really this is all about playing. I think even if you came here to learn, you’d probably pick up more by actually trying out the games, but I doubt many people come in without some interest in playing games. I headed straight for Asteroids, paused briefly by Pong and then tried Sentinel for the first time.
Some of the older exhibits are only for display, or are playable but fallible. I found the Puck Monster console, below, hugely exciting to get my hands on, as I had one a long time ago, but the joystick only sporadically moving left meant that playing it was not as much fun as looking at it. I wonder how many of these older exhibits were in full working order at the beginning of the exhibition, and how many stopped being fully operational a long time ago. At any rate, it’s a full-time job for someone, going round and re-connecting controllers and so on, particularly on the more temperamental of the modern pieces of kit; there was a Wii-U simulation that is used to give surgeons experience of laparoscopy, which is amazing, but the controllers are fragile. Fine if you’re showing surgeons how to be careful, maybe less so with others wandering around and trying it for fun.
A little knowledge is useful as you wander round, particularly at quiet times. Obviously if you’ve played a game before then you might know what you’re doing, but it’s also handy to know that if an Xbox says it’s lost contact with the controller, then you press and hold the round X button to reconnect, or on a Wii, press a button.
I tried all sorts of games, but had the most fun with the ones I didn’t know well but that were easy to pick up. A modern “stroll about and solve puzzles” game held me for the longest, as what I should do wasn’t clear, but revealed itself with just a few moments exploration. Other games, particularly fighting games, have never been my strongpoint, and even when I realised that there was a list of which buttons did what (often at waist height – or small child height, perhaps) I didn’t get much further.
The two floors are split into 16 sections, though they flow into each other naturally. The first floor – head downstairs once in the front door – starts with the old and heads through classics into multiplayer, while upstairs shows the portable systems, simulation and independent games but still ends with older arcade cabinets. They’ve done a good, and smart, job in making multiplayer games available periodically, not all in one place, and the same is true of most other things – you don’t go past the entrance and then run out of original classics, for instance, and I ended my visit with games of Track and Field and Pac-Man. So much is possible with emulation now that some of these games may not be running on original hardware – I couldn’t work out whether the fact that the bottom lines of Track and Field’s display had slipped out of view were because of a screen positioned wrongly, or an emulator with different aspect ration. But it didn’t matter to me – the fun is in the playing, and for me, in rediscovering old favourite controllers. There were a few ‘clicky’ microswitched joysticks to use with the Commodore 64, a variety of fighting sticks (which were my favourite for everything, but designed particularly for fighting games) and a simple joy in bashing buttons to get my athlete running faster in Track and Field.
It’s a great and well-designed exhibition. It misses out all sorts of things – I’d have liked to see an Amiga and Spectrum, for instance – but that’s to be expected and besides, the joy is in the combination of the familiar and the unfamiliar, rather than in seeing a whole load of things that you already know all about. Highly recommended, and even better if you can take a friend to enjoy the multiplayer games. My one recommendation is that you allow time to eat beforehand, as several hours in the exhibition on one banana left me pretty tired when I left.
I expect you’ll see that quote on a poster some time soon.
On a cold morning, as I scraped ice off my car and the chill seeped through gloves to my fingers, only at the last minute did I think I ought to check the event page to see if it was going ahead. Too late now, I reasoned, with no other options in the area, and so drove into Groningen. That was thanks to a wrong turn, so I drove back out of Groningen and took the correct turning, into the park. Parking is free and plentiful, at various places in the park; along the South edge, a small potentially muddy spot by the football pitches (nearest the parkrun) and a larger one toward the city.
From the South, it’s actually easier to drive into the park than to walk, I’d found yesterday, as they are currently working on the main entrance – you can drive in as normal, but cannot walk/run that way (unless, I suppose, it’s quiet and no-one’s looking). On foot, you have to head West beside the main road until you reach the corner, then you can get in. Not a problem if you come from town, which is to the Northeast, or if you’re on a bike, as it’s not that far, but it gave me pause at the time.
I walked past busy football pitches to the parkrun flag I could see flying, next to signs and cones. Past there I spotted the start sign, and then the finish. But no actual people. They weren’t far away, just beyond the finish, overlooking a part-frozen lake, but as I stopped to take pictures and considered staying at the start, it seemed a longish time without seeing anyone. The ice frosting the tips of the trees only added to the sense that this was the ghost of a parkrun, perhaps there to trap the unwary. Although any actual parkrun generally means I don’t drink on a Friday night, get up early on a Saturday and then run 5k, so there probably isn’t much a ghostrun would do that could intimidate. Add a soundtrack of “wooooo”? Present us all with a view of parkrun past (my past self seems so quick, now), present (not so much) and future (oh dear)?
I was the first participant to turn up, and received a very warm welcome from two English-speaking volunteers. One of them is English, in fact, and the other had daughters living within a few miles of two different places I’ve lived in England, so we immediately found common ground. Others soon joined us and even with only 17 finishers, we had space for Russian, Latvian and Irish runners, to join Dutch and English.
I had walked the park yesterday, with no real idea of where the course would be, so I hadn’t realised how tucked away in the NW corner it is. It’s a very pretty route, avoiding the roads in the South of the park and the petting zoo in the NE. I just followed the signs, which was very simple, and enjoyed running up a small hill at the back of each lap. It really isn’t a big hill, but seeing as I keep banging on about the total elevation for the run, I’ll record that this one took me up to a new high total for The Netherlands of 8m.
The run is on a good surface, though there are a few parts with a bit of mud on the course. This week that had firmed into ice in a few places, but that was fine with a bit of care. I took it easy on the right turn after coming down the hill (the hill!) which is a reasonably sharp turn, but probably a nice one to race round if you’re fit.
As we finished, people helped themselves to coffee and tea which was provided, dancing about if necessary to stay warm. I grabbed a mince pie and Dutch biscuit (name forgotten) and talked about all and any subjects with the international crowd. As the sun came up it was just about warm enough to stand around in a coat, without teeth chattering.
After the event I went, as I had been told I must by one runner, into town (under 2 miles) and found the Forum. As promised, the views from the top were grand, and I figured I’d come back in the week for the ’50 years of video games’ exhibition. Instead, I sat in the comfortable library, used the free wifi and spent longer taking in some views from lower, but warmer. The market was nearby and I enjoyed the smells and atmosphere in town before finding food and wandering the lanes. It’s a pretty city, and a generally more relaxed place than cities further South.
The first parkrun in December and I visited my current local, Kagerzoom, near Leiden. It’s named for the golf club around which you run – it is entirely contained within the smaller loop, above, so not the biggest course around, though it has a swanky driving range.
December 5th is gift-giving day for Sinterklaas in The Netherlands and so that had to be the theme for the day, with the run director in the outfit and hats chalked at start and finish.
It was a cold, grey day, if dry, and I’d done something to my knee that made walking difficult, but after a couple of days mostly on the couch, I was at least able to jog round. Concentrating on that meant I could pay a bit more attention to my surroundings than I sometimes do, and I took in the golf course on the inside of the loop, water stretching away on one side of the course and a large windmill at the junction of the two laps (straight on the first time, right turn the second).
This was a slightly more undulating course than the others I’ve done in The Netherlands – that still only adds up to a total of 5m elevation from the GPS, but there were a couple of distinct inclines to keep it interesting. It’s a good course to run fast, though, with a wide path that’s solid all round, and just a few puddles from recent rain.
Before today, Kagerzoom had only once had more than 40 runners since their first event’s record attendance of 65, but today there were 52, perhaps buoyed by promises of chocolate in the cafe afterwards.
The event was easy to find, and I parked just outside the golf course. I saw the “Near de parkrun” sign, but at a glance thought it was saying ‘not for parkrun’ and meant not to park there. It didn’t, and I could have passed through the gate and parked right by the start, but other parking places are also close. There are several other businesses on the site, along with just a few houses, some looking slightly out of place on a mostly business area (though there are some bigger ones by the water looked pretty nice). But depending on opening times, you might be able to go for a haircut, some trampolining or, er, monkeying around at Monkey Town, the indoor playground.
I settled for a walk/limp around the local streets and then my easy journey back ‘home’. The park is well-used by other runners and walkers, so there were plenty more people to say hello to before I wiggled my car through the narrow streets and back to the dunes of Noordwijkerhout.
I saved Zuiderpark for this weekend because three people I had met previously had said they’d be there. We met in Haarlem on my first, and still the most sociable (for me) Dutch parkrun of the trip, so this was to be a repeat of sorts.
This is an obvious destination for parkrun tourists, as the name begins with Z, and collecting parkruns that begin with different letters is “a thing”. I’d already run one beginning with a Z, but was happy to add another, just not rushing.
Parking is easy, and free, with loads of parking around the Sportscampus, all within walking distance of the start, behind the sports centre. Maybe check whether there are any huge events happening, but the parking areas were busy and the facilities well used, without it being a problem for those us us arriving before 9.
The route is a straightforward two lap one, clockwise round wide paths that take you round the whole site, under autumnal trees and past pretty bridges. It’s fast and flat, with room for plenty more people than were there this Saturday if necessary.
Pre-run we gathered outside the centre, with facilities available inside. This will be irrelevant very soon, I’m sure, but this weekend you needed both a covid pass and passport/ID to gain entry. Not hugely onerous – the Dutch already knew, and most tourists had theirs somewhere nearby and just had to work out if they needed them enough to head back to the car. It is doable from an early morning ferry, or by driving through France etc overnight, as a couple of people had, but a more relaxed approach suits me.
It is such a straightforward route as to need few marshals, and it is signed/coned in all the important areas. As you can see from the photo above, space is not a problem, so we could gather after the finish and chat without being in anyone’s way.
The park itself is picturesque, albeit without the thick forested areas that the parkruns at Amsterdamse Bos and Rotterdam (Kralingse Bos) run through. Just like those areas, it will change its appearance in equally picturesque style through the year.
After the run we wandered round the park to the cafe. It seemed a fair way there, but actually the cafe itself is fairly near the parking areas. It’s worth knowing that the staff there are in training, people who might not normally be offered work, and so service is very good but may be a little sporadic. Once you know the reason, as we did in advance, there’s no problem at all, and I enjoyed waiting to see exactly which cheesecake I might get, given my inability to speak their language. The answer was – a delicious one, thank you, and if it hadn’t been then that would just have been more incentive to learn some Dutch.
This isn’t an event that needs promoting to tourists, who will become well aware where “the Zs” are once they learn of the different parkrun ‘challenges’, but I’m happy to add another voice saying this is a lovely run, fast if you want it to be, nice and accessible whether you do or not.
I know of Rotterdam because of its famous marathon, as well as it being one of the many places The Beautiful South sang about. More recently, it was the site of unrest the night before but it dawned peaceful and dry. I rolled up around a quarter to nine to find the course laid out and volunteers chatting before the start. I parked in the street to the South of the start, Plaszoom, as that was slightly easier to reach than the car park by the restaurant, De Schone Lei. That restaurant is on the route, and you pass it on the way out and back, though I didn’t notice it till the way back. The Plaszoom is marked by a couple of windmills, for an early morning distinctive Dutch feeling.
The pre-run briefing was in Dutch. Three of us there were English speaking, but hadn’t made ourselves known, and could follow along well enough in any case. I even caught on to the “give way to cyclists” that was added in a postscript – this is thinking particularly of the spot where the route comes back onto the lakeside, as it crosses a bike path (and bear in mind that here those aren’t narrow afterthoughts, but two-lane bike freeways).
The start is straight, and then there are a couple of tight-ish turns to get over the bridge, as shown below. There are no signs here on the way back, so just remember to make the turn right after the bridge, rather than run down the cycle path (though I’m sure you can still finish if you go that way).
The lake is 5k all around, but the parkrun decided they couldn’t use that route because there are a few crossings. Instead, it heads into the forest for around half the route, before heading down towards the lake and making a left turn to follow the lakeside path all the way back to the finish.
With Autumn turning the leaves many shades of orange and yellow, running through the forest is a delight. There is just one marshal out on course, by the lake (and that bike path crossing), so the rest is done by signs. There are just enough of those, with the course otherwise relying on you following your nose. If there’s no sign to say turn, then keep heading in your direction till the next sign. It worked for me, and I’m far from the best at following routes.
After the briefing we moved along to the start with no delay. That shows a certain relaxed approach from the run director, as he didn’t have a timer at that point – as we got to the start, the timer rode up, hopped off his bike and was ready within seconds, which amused everyone. A just-in-time timer!
According to my GPS this had *double* the elevation of last week’s run in Amsterdam. That still only amounted to 2m, and I was never conscious of going uphill. Blah, blah, Netherlands flat, etc.
There were plenty of other people exercising in the woods, so I was conscious of the need only to try and follow the people actually in the event. As it happened, that soon became irrelevant, as I latched briefly onto a group, ran past them and then lost sight of the runner ahead, despite thinking that now I might work on getting closer to him (he ended up over two minutes ahead of me). I just had to trust that I was on the right route, but the general “proceed until told to change direction” principle worked well.
I’ve run in a few countries while parkrun was new, and found it relatively untroubled by the faster local runners. That is not the case here, with each run I’ve been at having a few quicker runners at the front. Today, two runners completing their first parkruns set the 4th and 6th quickest times yet seen here, and it was great to see them yomping off into the distance. I was also pleased that it wasn’t a course with laps, so I wouldn’t be lapped!
After the event they head for “De Nachtegaal” for coffee etc. I didn’t take a camera on the run, though, so went for a wander to get some pictures instead. Anyone fitter than me and wanting a cool-down run is spoiled for choice – experience the woods again? Head all the way round the lake? Explore a bit more of Rotterdam? There is loads to see, and Kralingen Lake is a great start.
Turfed out of my accommodation early because of a fire (minor, almost sorted out before I had to leave), I was wide awake for Amsterdam. I suspect the loveliness of the Autumn leaves on huge trees would have sorted out bleary eyes in any case, but I took them in in all their glory.
Parking is apparently free on a Saturday, and is available in the top right of the route map above, next to the rowing lake. You still have to take a ticket, (which meant undoing a seat belt for me in my right-hand drive car) but then the barrier just opened at the end. Some of the car parks further down have a couple of hours free parking, and I would have been inside that, but given the pay stations were all closed up, I am sure I could have stayed longer.
The run director started talking in Dutch, but was just asking the Dutch speakers present whether she could do the rest in English, rather than both languages, so all the international crowd were well catered for. In fact, I didn’t hear anyone involved with the event speaking in Dutch, and many were English, as were the participants. That meant people happily addressed each other in English without checking, and that just worked – I was even asked “are those your kids?” by a lady whose son was playing football with them, and enjoyed the double-assumption.
The morning had been rainy, but that cleared towards 9:00 leaving mist over the water and puddles on the course. A few longer steps or leaps took most of us over the puddles, but there may have been a few damp feet by the end. That’s all you’d get, though, as it’s a solid surface all round, and just the occasional bike to watch for and avoid; no mud.
There’s also barely any elevation, which I’m sure I’ll write on every Dutch parkrun. This one did feel as though it had a couple of different inclines, and it is distinctly uphill towards the finish, but all of that barely registered on the GPS record of the route: it’s been true of everywhere so far, as I ended up walking 25,000 steps in the day, and only just hit the watch’s target of going up the equivalent of 10 flights of stairs. And most of those were probably done on actual flights of stairs, rather than outside on hills.
It’s a lovely area, and a lovely run. I’d hope that all those tall trees would given some serious shade in the summer, and today they were a dramatic backdrop. Attendance varies, somewhere under 100 for now and 70 today, after a mammoth 257 at the first event back in 2020 (after which they had a very long gap before no.2, which was on 28/8/21).
The course page says that the toilets in the Cafe Bosbaan aren’t available till 9, and those in the Boswinkel not till 10, but there didn’t seem to be an agitated crowd at the start, so they’d either come from nearby, or there are other options to find.
Afterwards a very international crowd stood around chatting, while I smiled at those kids playing and was thought to be their father, and the sun poked out to warm the day up a little. Lovely run, on a lovely day, and simple enough to get to – the park is accessible via public transport from the city and may well be walkable, especially if you stay S-SW of the Rijksmuseum.
Schoterbos is in North Haarlem. The course is a very natural, hard-to-get-lost, loop round the edge of the park, on a 1300m route marked for running. That isn’t the original course, which takes in the middle of the park as well as the outside, to make a two-lapper, but there are extensive renovations going on at the moment in the park which necessitate the simpler course.
There’s free parking at the tennis club to the South, which is also used to store the equipment, and for coffee etc. after the event. Spotting me poking around, a gentleman came out of the club to see if he could help, and was very welcoming, pointing me to the toilets in the tennis club, and explaining that there’s currently no cut-through from the club to the park, so I should go round the edge (which is only a few hundred metres). I parked in the street outside, which was about as easy as it could be – not always the case in The Netherlands, with some towns full of paid-parking. It helps that this is a little distance from the centre.
Other than the occasional walker, there is barely an impediment on the course, certainly no hill or even a bump. I ran this, walked into town and back and still had barely covered any vertical distance. While I was in Northern Ireland, I kept being surprised by courses that felt hilly and yet only have 20m or so of ascent. This course had 1m, and that shows the difference between a flat course and one that is a ‘bit hilly’ – 20m isn’t much, but 1m is as near to nothing as you are going to get.
It’s tarmacced all the way round except for a chicane in the middle, caused by the renovations. They put the world’s most energetic marshal there to give everyone a lift. He’s also a prolific plogger (picking up litter on the go), @wayeoflife on Instagram/Facebook – have a look to get an idea of some of the energy he transmits.
This was event 11, having started in August 2021, and it’s a very slick event. Even with only 32 finishers, we had a new course record at the front, followed in by Dutch, South African, Australian and British runners.
Despite missing out on the sights of the middle of the park, with other people exercising, lakes and more trees, it’s a pretty enough route, with plenty of tall trees looming over the side of the path.
Afterwards I sat in the tennis club with fellow runners for a couple of hours, and a group of us headed into town to eat, which gave me my first experience of having my vaccination certificate scanned – very simply, now they recognise British ones, and I just called it up on the NHS app and people used their phones to scan it in.
It’s a little further into town than we’d thought, a good couple of miles to the heart of Haarlem. Not that we particularly noticed, chatting about everything and anything, but one of our number was on a tight timescale and had to miss lunch. Apart from that, everything was spot on: the event was easy to find, the place welcoming and the town very pretty.
On a wet, wet, wet day, I was in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire. Unlike the volunteers, I could at least shelter in the car till it was nearly time to start, and we all caught a break as it stopped raining for 20 minutes or so, just before 9am.
Despite the weather, I enjoyed my run around, and was happy to be doing laps of the park. Those laps vary a little, with the first a longer one, taking in a wooded section at the top right of the map. After that, we headed round the main loop a couple of times, avoiding some puddles and splashing through others.
I blame those puddles, and my focus on planning a route round them for the fact that I missed the inside of the park entirely. There is more there than I appreciated at the time, with a large grassy area spotted with hay bales at this part of Autumn.
The route heads out of the main part of the park for a short downhill section. It’s worthy of note mainly for the narrow gates on the way out and then again on the way in, which are described as an impediment, but have a gap big enough to tempt you into racing through them. A tempter! They definitely don’t need much of a shuffle for most of us, but if you get it wrong you’ll be brought up short by the metal. A nice piece of jeopardy on the route.
A pretty park, a well-organised event, and all the facilities are available right by the start/finish.
A mile or so South of the Suffolk town of Harleston is a hockey club, from which this parkrun takes its name. Since parkrun spread widely, and calling the runs after the town became problematic (taxi to London, please!), they updated their naming convention such that we will see more and more of these eclectic names. (Take a bow, Dallas Burston Polo Club parkrun.)
Wondering whether I should park elsewhere to make sure there was space, and that there was no need to test the instruction to park not in the club car park, but on the grass behind the club house, I looked at walking from town, and found a couple of lay-bys to the North of the club, next to the water, which looked like a decent compromise between parking right at the event, and walking down pavement-less roads to the place. In the end, I was there so early I just parked in the field, and for the numbers attending at the moment (66 this week), that’s unlikely to cause any problems.
The clubhouse has refreshments after the event, and probably facilities beforehand, too, though I didn’t check – frankly, given England’s current “hey, let’s ignore the queues outside A&E, the fact it’s only early Autumn by any sensible measure and just pile into places without masks” madness, I preferred to keep away from crowded spaces, even if they’re only full of lovely runners.
The ground was pretty firm underfoot this morning, but being grass throughout it’s never going to be especially quick, despite being fairly flat. As you’ll see from some of the photos, the route is already getting quite nicely (I hope that’s the club’s view, too) marked even though this is only week 5, but at some point that will probably be a little muddy, too.
I went to this event partly because it was a new event, and partly because of the unusual name, but it was enjoyable. Everyone involved seemed very keen to see it succeed, and there was a general air of excitement, suggesting new runners and a community being formed. I overheard a couple of hockey players talking about it, and they obviously didn’t know much about it – there’s an obvious possible cross-over if any of them can fit in some pure cardiovascular activity on a Saturday morning, though the event will happily go on around them.
With such an open course, you’re going to be subject to whatever the weather throws at you – this was a cool October morning but with nothing else we were free to get on with getting round as well as we could.
The turns within the fields were often just a little bit further round than I expected – turning a right-angle is apparently easy for me, but going a bit further is something I apparently forget to do – so it helps to keep your wits about you, or have someone to follow. You can see from the width of the lighter colour on the field that people have not picked one line and stuck to it. It doesn’t matter, so long as you head for the sign and turn round it, you’ll cover at least 5k, but if you’re pushing for a time you’ll want to pay attention and keep straighter lines than I managed.
I hope club and parkrun have a long and happy association.