Yes, you’re right, it is odd to review an event like it’s a sort of t-shirt.
But I thought it would be a fund thing to do, so I’m going to.
Where I live, I’ve always assumed that either Newcastle or Gateshead Parkruns are my nearest. I’ve run to the Newcastle one before, and it was around 9 miles. So far so good.
However, in idly scanning the Parkrun website* I noticed one at Blackhill. I knew that was about where I am, as the Blackhill Bounders running club are from round here, so I looked it up on the map.
Blackhill, it turns out, is about 7 miles from my house, in Consett and pretty easy to get to. So, I decided I’d have a look and see what it was like.
The first time, last week, I arrived as the run started, so my later lack of knowing where to run, or where they’d hidden the finish is no-one’s fault but my own. Perhaps an arrow at the last turn marked “Finish” would have helped, but then again so would have asking before I started running (had I turned up in time, so we see it’s down to me again).
I went back yesterday, turned up a little earlier and knew which way to go. These were all good things.
They’re on to the 19th event, and seem to be getting into their stride – if someone had shouted out maybe five minutes before the start to see if there were any new people who needed directions (which I’ve seen at Whitley and Riverside runs, but not at others – I think it’s a good idea) then I think the organisation would be pretty much perfect.
The route has one small loop, then three long loops. The first one is designed to fool you into thinking that it’s a nice easy run, up the hill from the start which is pretty gentle, then peel right, down a lovely descent and back by the bandstand to pretty much the start. Lovely.
Three longer loops then? Back up the hill, but turn off left half way up, back down to the bottom on the path and then out of the park and past the allotments, running mildly uphill. Once you get to the top of the allotments, let’s have a steeper hill with a bank/steps choice at the top. Gravel and some earth on the hill, so a little bit of mud if it’s wet, but this is the bit that’ll get your heart rate up. Top of the hill, right and along the hillside, back into the park and across the top to come back to the lovely descent** to the bandstand. Do that twice more, and then when you get back here the next time, turn left rather than right and sprint*** back towards the park gates – the finish is on the bit of grass just by the gates.
Me, starting on the descent – look at my happy little face… (look Ma, I’m floating!)
This is not a PB**** course. It has hills. If you want a PB, then I’d recommend Whitley Bay – it’s flat and fun, much like a chocolate pancake. However, Blackhill’s got character and that counts for a lot. Because it’s not a straightforward “how fast can you run for 5km?” course, you pass people and they pass you back. One chap passed me on the uphill a couple of times and I passed him on the descent. I have no idea which of us came in first, but it was fun.
I’m not usually a fan of laps, but this one works, and it was lovely to see folk who knew each other where the faster runner was lapping the slower one and offering some encouragement as they went past.
If you’ve got kids who want to run, this looks like a good venue too – there were more children running this than I think I’ve seen at any other Parkrun – there were also folk with prams (not sure if they were running) and a couple of people with dogs taking part.
There was a good mix of people and ability – I’m no speedy runner, but I managed 24th this time and 23rd the week before. I was maybe a minute or two slower than I’d usually expect for this distance, and a good three minutes off my overall Parkrun PB, but I wasn’t going all-out to kill myself in the process like I was then (and I wasn’t chasing Mr Richie’s trainers speeding away like I was when I ran my fastest Parkrun at Whitley).
Afterwards, the people in the Bowling Club were putting on tea and coffee for Children in Need – I would have gone if I’d hadn’t needed to get away for an appointment. That kind of connection with the other park users is important. I remember being shocked at another Parkrun that the lady in the cafe there only ever gets runners coming in to use her toilet. Doesn’t send the right message.
In short, if you’re anywhere near Blackhill, I’d say give it a go – even if it’s just to have a pop at a hillier-than-average Parkrun. I’ll be back when I can.
Blackhill Parkrun on Facebook
*This isn’t entirely true, I’ve never just gone to their pages for “a bit of a look” – that would be weird, like “just having a flip through the Yellow Pages”, not that you get them anymore… I’m just not sure what I was doing on their website at the time.
**I keep saying it’s lovely because it’s about the right incline that gets my legs pinwheeling to keep up, but not so much that I’m about to trip myself over. In short, in the two times I’ve done this run I’ve made up places on this descent because other people are keeping their brains engaged. And I’m no downhill runner, in case you’re thinking I might be…
***Assuming you’ve got any sprint left in you, by this point I was knackered.
Persimmon Migration sorry, no, it’s Personal Best, or if you’re American then it’s PR which is Personal Record, I think, but I’m not sure, as I’m not. I only found out last night that a Persimmon is actually a type of fruit, and not a marsupial at all. No wonder the pet shops banned me…