A whole 3 weeks after our last parkrun tourism, we were on the road again – this time heading up to Kingsway in Gloucestershire. This was a pretty logical choice for our next trip – just off the M5 and (from reports we’d received) buggy friendly.
The first thing we noticed was that the course information page for Kingsway was really helpful. Plenty of information on parking and the facilities available. We also copied down the directions – just as well as the sat nav tried to send us to a different part of the postcode.
Kingsway parkrun is based in a park right next to a sports pavilion. When we arrived it was raining, but happily everyone congregated inside the pavilion so we were relatively warm and dry. It did, however, mean relatively noisy conditions for the new runners/tourists briefing. But the key information was confirmed: 3 laps, starting on the path near the pavilion, about half the course on grass or trail path. Erm, what? When I agreed to buggy run this one I’d been told it was mostly path. In fairness, Ben did give me the option of swapping, but it seemed silly to do so at such late notice.
After a late decision on outfit choice (hoodie and short-sleeve t-shirt) I headed out to join everyone else. With the number of people already lined up, I had to take quite a wide route on the grass to get to the back of the pack. My buggy running confidence isn’t that great, and there was no space on the path further forward, so I was kind of glad to have to start at the back.
Of course, once we started I was a little less happy to be at the back. The path wasn’t all that wide, and so there weren’t many early opportunities to overtake. We’ll blame the path, not my lack of experience. We quickly moved onto tarmac cycle path and I managed to get into a bit of a rhythm. Then a couple of turns later I could hear a marshal saying “Watch out for the step”.
Great. A step. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. It was just the move from the path onto the trail section, and by taking the corner a lot wider than everyone else the step could be easily avoided. The ground was bumpy but pretty solid. At around this point there were a couple of dogs jumping at each other, and so while trying to keep the buggy on course I was also trying to avoid a dog that kept jumping in front of us.
We soon got a view of some of the faster runners, giving me my first chance to wave at Ben. The course turned onto a cycle path section, although I opted for the grass in places to overtake people. After another turn we moved onto a field, which was much smoother than the trail section and so a little easier technically, just tiring.
After some more cycle path we reached a similar gravel surface to the start. This section would have been easier if I hadn’t been trying to take my hoodie off without stopping. At Longrun Meadow, when you go past the finish there are swarms of people ready to take excess clothing from you. Here I had to keep an eye out for an appropriate location, which turned out to be a bench. Right in front of a photographer.
And so lap 2 commenced. With the field having thinned out a little, the going was a little easier. That is, until the faster runners started coming through. Being lapped was inevitable, but I was very conscious of not wanting to get in the way. In a few places I deliberately slowed down to let runners pass me in a wider spot – and then regretted losing momentum when trying to speed back up.
As I reached the path after the field, runners were lapping me thick and fast. Including Ben. This gave me the small relief that once I got back to the start I could drop off the buggy. Also a relief for our daughter, who hadn’t enjoyed my awful steering on the bumpy ground.
So I started my third and final lap feeling strangely light, and trying to remember how to use my arms. It was like running a completely different route. The (many) turns were wider, the ground was firmer, and overtaking was a breeze. Strava tells me the third lap was 2 minutes faster than the second.
I’d made a conscious decision before the run not to push myself too hard, so I had a little left in the tank at the end. Which I obviously wasn’t going to use to finish hard. Until there were a couple of people right in front of me.
After the run there were drinks and cake available for purchase in the pavilion, and quite a few people stayed around. We stopped to chat for a bit, and made use of the changing facilities before we headed home.
Kingsway parkrun was a more interesting course than I’d expected, with the many twists and turns giving it more character than 3 laps might suggest. There were quite a lot of marshals on course, including a fair few juniors, and all of them were amazing in the support they offered. The only question now is where to try next…