If your New Year’s Resolutions involve getting more outdoor exercise, parkrun is an excellent opportunity for it. Since it happens every Saturday morning, it can be factored into your routine; there are plenty of other people there to keep you motivated; and you can run or walk as fast as you like without feeling under pressure. With hundreds of different parkruns around the UK, it’s also likely that there’s more than one within easy reach of you (see here for a map) so why not also be adventurous and head beyond your local event for some parkrun tourism?
Having now been to twenty different parkruns myself, I thought I’d give a summary of my experiences.
Preston – first run 24/11/2018
This is my nearest parkrun, located at Avenham Park by the River Ribble. It’s a three-lap course with a steep hill – challenging, but it certainly helps build and monitor your endurance!
Lytham Hall – 19/01/2019
Still being a relative newbie when I ran this one, I was struck by how much flatter and easier it was than Preston – in spite of the winter mud – and I ran it considerably faster than I had done at Preston up to that point. I’ll have to run this one again soon.
Peel – 06/11/2021
This parkrun is located a short walk from Salford Crescent railway station – I was coming to Manchester to see astronaut Tim Peake at the Lowry and thought I might as well get in a new parkrun at the same time. This one was easier than Preston as well; I set a new PB.
Lancaster – 11/12/2021
Located in Williamson Park, this was a challenging one, particularly with it being winter; lots of uphill sections, and a great deal of unavoidable mud to contend with. I’d like to see what it’s like in dry weather.
Blackpool – 15/01/2022
Another flat and relatively easy one; Stanley Park is lovely and I definitely intend to come back at some point.
Witton – 22/01/2022
The woods here are very scenic, but there’s a lot of rough terrain going both up and downhill, so you have to be careful. It may be best not to get the train to or from Cherry Tree station: my train home was cancelled, forcing me to take a bus into Blackburn to get the train from there.
Warrington – 26/02/2022
This parkrun at Victoria Park features Lake Victoria, a ten-metre section of path that floods after enough rain. You can either try to go around it in the damp grass, or say “The hell with it” and run straight through. I did the latter, twice; luckily my running shoes dried out quickly.
Morecambe Prom – 05/03/2022
If you’re looking for a PB, it doesn’t get much better than Morecambe. The promenade is flat, and wide enough to allow plenty of room; plus the scenery is lovely. It may just be a bit windy and cold.
Haigh Woodland – 09/04/2022
The start of this parkrun featured background music coming from a nearby cafe. Another scenic woodland run, though there was hard uphill work in the second half.
Hyndburn – 16/04/2022
In spite of the uphill sections, it was very pleasant to be running through woodland just as the day was starting to warm up. Plus there was cake at the end!
Clitheroe Castle – 25/06/2022
This one was harder than it looked at first glance, with no less than five laps; not only did the uphill sections become progressively more draining, but with lapping people so many times, it was very difficult to tell what position I was in until the end – when I found out that I had finished third!
Fleetwood Promenade – 09/07/2022
This one is very similar to Morecambe: flat, scenic, well suited for fast running, and so windy that I decided not to risk putting my cap on.
Ormskirk – 23/07/2022
Taking place on the campus of Edge Hill University, this one was one of my favourites. There’s a mixture of scenery: you start by running along paths with bushes on either side, before going twice around a nice open field. The volunteers were especially friendly: the run director actually did a poetry reading before the start. Feeling highly motivated that day, I ended this run sprinting for the finish, in an epic duel with another one to claim 24th place.
Kew Woods – 13/08/2022
I ran this one on a very hot day. The route was pleasant enough, but as well as the heat, narrow trail paths and having to dodge dog-walkers made things difficult.
Bushy Park – 20/08/2022
The place where parkrun was founded in 2004 is considered a pilgrimage site for parkrunners, so I thought I’d better get there myself. After a long period of dry weather, the park was looking rather parched, but there were still several red deer roaming around. From my position, I was only able to appreciate just how many people were there when the run began and a whole bunch came thundering in from the left of me. There were over 1,100 of them in total, and the crowding made for a slow start, but I was able to make up time later on.
Blyth Links – 10/09/2022
Having gone all the way to the North East for the Great North Run, I thought it would be a waste not to do a new parkrun at the same time. With the half-marathon coming up the following day, I was sensible and didn’t go too fast; despite being damp and windy, it was very nice to run beside the sea.
Southport – 17/09/2022
I counted three other runners with Great North Run T-shirts at this event. Hesketh Park is a lovely place to run; there are lots of little corners around the lake which need to be navigated, but it’s otherwise a flat and speedy course. I finished in a time of 21:07, my fastest parkrun yet; my smartwatch recorded a distance less than 5km, but apparently that often happens on this course due to the trees interfering with the GPS.
Bolton – 15/10/2022
This is not an event for going particularly fast. The narrow muddy trails slowed me down, though I was able to make up time on a flat tarmac section later. There are also a few hills, including a particularly long and steep one named Cruella which you have to go up twice.
Alexandra, Moss Side – 22/10/2022
This Manchester-based parkrun, about two miles from Oxford Road station, takes place in a small and open park where you can see a lot of the course from the start line. Relatively flat and simple.
St Helens – 31/12/2022
Despite the weather being wet and gloomy, this was still another pleasant place to run, only about a mile from the railway station. As with Preston, you have to go up a hill three times – but it’s considerably less steep!