This post originally appeared on Ben’s old blog, Running From the Physio.
Firstly, a question: as a brand name, “parkrun” isn’t capitalised. Grammatically this is clearly incorrect, it is a proper noun, and therefore should take a capital letter. However, as a corporate styling, it doesn’t. I can cope with that. But, but… what about when it starts the sentence, then what am I meant to do?! Anyway, never mind, I went with the corporate styling, even though it offends my eyes.
Last weekend, I decided to cheat on Longrun Meadow parkrun, and pop down the road to my next closest. This isn’t the first dalliance, but previously it has only been on a weekend when I was out of Taunton anyway, and everyone knows the postcode rule, right? But this time was different, I was still at home, I could have easily walked down the river for my usual Saturday morning routine, but I wanted something new, different, exciting! I wanted… Killerton parkrun.
Actually, there’s a bit more to the story than that: Killerton were short of volunteers early in the week, and my wife currently isn’t running, so given that we’d wanted to try the course out for a while, it seemed an ideal opportunity: she signed up to barcode scan, and I went along to run. Killerton was very, very different to Longrun Meadow, and rather than write a normal “race report” style post, I’d like to compare and contrast:
|Willow Cathedral in Longrun Meadow
(credit: shuunyanet, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
|Killerton House (credit: Roger Cornfoot)|
This is the first, and most striking difference. Longrun Meadow is part of Taunton’s flood defences, and consists of paths around flood pools. A number of projects have resulted in the Oak Barn and the Willow Cathedral (pictured), but it is still essentially a flood plain! In contrast, Killerton parkrun takes place in the grounds of a National Trust property, and weaves its way through woodland down onto pasture land at the end. Not that I was doing a great deal of sightseeing during the run! Being a National Trust site did help us navigate to the run, as there were useful brown signs directing us from the motorway, although my car’s sat-nav still got some use! The other obvious difference in locations was in their distance from me: Longrun Meadow is a slow twenty minute walk along the river from home. Killerton was a forty minute drive. I know which I’d generally prefer on a Saturday morning, although, with a young daughter, I’m up early enough either way!
As a flood plain, Longrun Meadow is almost entirely flat, and predominantly on lightly-gravelled paths. There might be some sort of technical name for the type of path, but I’m not really a path expert, so if there is, I don’t know it. A short section is tarmacked cycle path, while another, dubbed “the muddy bit” is grass in the summer, and a mud-bath in the winter. Killerton on the other hand is an undulating course, though one that drops about 125 feet from start to finish, taking in fields, woodland paths and farm-tracks. The footing is uneven in places, uneven in others, and particularly hazardous with the current generous layers of autumn leaves. Thankfully, some of the gates are left open and guarded by marshals to prevent hazardous prancing over cattle-grids or vaulting over fences. (Though I hear one such manoeuvre might have been involved when the course record was set!)
Apart from the terrain, the most obvious difference between the runs is perhaps that Longrun Meadow parkrun is run over two laps, while Killerton takes in just one: and in fact as the start and finish are a few hundred metres apart, it could be argued it isn’t even a lap! I’ve always favoured “one lap” events, citing the fact that multiple laps of the same course would be boring, and having to go around everything again would be mentally tougher. To an extent, I stand by that, but on the other hand, taking in two laps of Longrun Meadow means that we run past the finish line, where most of the volunteers, and any supporting family members are, halfway around. Whether you’re struggling or not, this gives a nice little boost in the middle of the run. Not just a mental boost either: the speed increase in the graph below is replicated in almost every run I do at Longrun Meadow, and it’s completely unintentional.
|Not sure your cheering and clapping helps? My pace graph says it does!|
At Killerton however, only the marshals provided support around the course, and while that support was welcome and well-received, it can’t quite compare!
Volunteers and runners:
What wasn’t different? The cheery, friendly nature of every parkrunner and volunteer. Despite being short earlier in the week, I think Killerton ended up slightly over-subscribed with volunteers as people sacrificed a run to help out. I got chatting before the race to a chap who was down visiting family, running his 49th parkrun, but his first at Killerton. We compared notes on our “home” parkruns and moaned about the hill we had to climb to the start. During the run, I did have a small problem with an unaccompanied junior runner, but these things happen, and credit to the Killerton core team, after I mentioned it, they posted a notice about junior runners on their Facebook page later that day. I hung around at the finish line, cheering runners home after I’d finished, and as always it was great to see the smiles as people pushed for the final sprint.
So the conclusion? Different, different, but same! This week, I’ve got to work on Saturday, but next week I’m cheating on Longrun Meadow again, and am heading out to Yeovil Montacute. I’m sorry Longrun Meadow, but I’ve had a taste of something different, and now I’m hooked!