Inverness parkrun is held weekly in Bught park. Usually. The day I chose for a spot of parkrun tourism, the run was having a holiday of its own. It had relocated down the road to the small and muddy Whin Park.
What is ParkRun?
Parkrun is a weekly, timed run held in parks across the UK and internationally. The run is 5km long and is open to all levels of participant: from walkers to sprinters; from babies in push-chairs to active nonagenarians. And the best bit? It’s totally free! If you are not familiar with parkrun then you must check it out. I will definitely be writing more about the parkrun movement (and it is a full-on movement!) in future posts so watch this space.
What is parkrun tourism?
Parkrun tourism is when you visit other runs that are not your home or regular parkrun. Parkrun has made this really easy. Your registration and barcode are valid at any and all parkruns making the parkrun world your oyster.
And as word of advice to those of you with an active husband/wife/significant other: a romantic weekend away may be more appealing if there is a parkrun for him/her to visit. That’s how I ended up standing in a Parisian park at 9am on a February morning. But that’s another story…
Inverness Park Run
As the run director said at the start, the conditions in the small Whin Park were hardly ideal for the 170 runners who showed up. We packed out the park in our brightly coloured garb. The run route, we were warned, followed narrow, very muddy paths with the terrain varying from gravel to stone to grass with a good bit of tree-root hopping and puddle dodging for good measure. I was pleased to hear the run director say:
This week, more than ever, it is a run and not a race
For me, this change of venue was ideal and I was rather pleased. It meant, as a parkrun tourist, that I wasn’t at the usual disadvantage of not knowing a course. This time, nobody knew the course! It made for some interesting banter and general confusion but also a genuine “all in this together” mentality.
Of course I was slightly apprehensive when listening to the instructions at the beginning of the run. As far as I could gather I had to run round a pond, past some plastic hippos and then through a gap in the hedge whilst avoiding running on the grass except for that bit of the course that was across the grass. But, of course, there were plenty of marshals pointing us in the right direction and, as a back-runner, I was never at real risk of getting lost or doing something wrong. I just followed the feet in front of me.
With the race director’s final instruction to “ca’ canny!” (Scots for “go carefully”) ringing in our ears, we were off!
I love the enthusiasm of parkrunners but this makes the start of any parkrun a challenge for a slow-and-steady jogger like myself. There is a tendency for everyone to shoot off the line at a gallop with a whoop, leaving me and my shuffling gait at the back, fighting the urge to up my pace and stay with the pack.
At my home parkrun in Crystal Palace I’m usually last around the first corner but I soon find myself catching up as people slow to walk up the first hill. At Inverness it was the mud and the puddles that slowed up the enthusiastic sprinters and allowed me to settle into a comfortable shuffling jog with a good group of similarly minded individuals around me.
The layout of the run meant doing two short loops around the pond to start. I was barely half way through my first loop before I heard thundering feet behind me and in a flash a young guy in a tartan-accented running top came and went with frightening disregard for the slippery conditions underfoot. I was jogging alongside an Inverness lady. We both agreed:
While very familiar with being lapped at parkrun this was the first time it had happened in the first 400 metres!
As the run progressed – two small loops followed by three large loops – I was to be overtaken many more times. But, unlike my home run where I feel the emphasis is on individual performance, I couldn’t help but laugh as we collectively slipped and slid around in the mud, trying to avoid colliding with each other or getting in the way. There was lots of “thank you!”and “good job” and “watch the puddles!” making for a general jovial atmosphere rather than a competitive one.
I can’t speak highly enough of the marshal team too. Every single one of them had a big grin, a supportive word and a clap or cheer for each of us. A big shout out is due, in particular, to the guy who manned the “hole in the hedge” for his genuine enthusiasm for the safety of each of us. Transitioning onto the slippery grass while navigating a hair-pin corner was greatly improved by his kind support on each of the 3 laps.
Keep it up!
It was with slightly damp and very muddy feet that I rounded the pond for the final time. I must have looked slightly worse for wear as the last marshal cheered me on:
Keep it up! This is the best bit!
I came over the line feeling triumphant. Yes, I was beaten by a tiny child (seriously, the kid was like five!). Yes, I was lapped more times than I could count. Yes, I was muddy, red in the face and out of breath. But, yes I was damn proud of myself! I had shuffle-jogged the whole way round and done so smiling. I was thrilled to have taken part and even more pleased when my time came through: 35:49! A very respectable time for me.
I would absolutely encourage everyone to try parkrun and indulge in a bit of parkrun tourism. It may seem odd to gather in a park with a hundred strangers on a Saturday morning but, ultimately, it is your run and no one else’s. The only pressure is the pressure you put on yourself. And, if you are ever in Inverness I can personally vouch for the welcoming and friendly atmosphere at the Inverness parkrun. Do it. You won’t regret it.