For the list-orientated type, parkrun tourism is a veritable treasure trove of opportunities. We’ve mentioned in the past our (very) long-term goal of becoming South West regionnaires (that’s every parkrun in the South West region), but along the way there are different counties to complete. When we did Shepton Mallet back in January it completed our Somer-set, but with a parkrun collection you’re never complete for long.
Street parkrun started in May 2018, and became the 3rd parkrun to feature on Longrun Meadow‘s “Other parkruns nearby” list. We’ve had it on our to-do list ever since, but it’s risen in priority since the start of the summer holidays as it requires neither the M5 or the A303 for us to get there. After 2 failed attempts (kids poorly, adults poorly), this weekend we were extra determined to make it.
Uncharacteristically, we actually left a few minutes earlier than planned. 5 minutes into the drive we realised my Garmin was still on charge and so we went back to get it and ended up running a more familiar 5 minutes late. Street parkrun takes place in the playing fields of Strode College Sports Centre. We were initially unsure if the sat nav had taken us the right way, but happily saw the familiar collection of running kit at the other end of the car park.
First running buggy assembled, I took it (and our son) over to the start, hoping to catch at least a bit of the first timers’ briefing, while Ben stayed with Lani as she decided whether to run or go in the buggy. I found the briefing on the other side of the playing courts, and typically was too late to get much course information. The safety warning at the end for rutted ground was pretty crucial though, particularly with a buggy.
Handily, at the end of the briefing someone said hello to me – it turned out that Al who we know from Longrun Meadow was also visiting that day. He confirmed that the course was 3 laps of fields. Just as I was starting to get worried about timing, Ben and Lani appeared having made the decision of no buggy.
Everyone moved the short distance to the start, which was a reasonably wide area on the grass. The briefing covered the usual basics, with more emphasis on being careful with the ground conditions. The start was a nice clear air-horn sound, which meant it was easily audible at the back of the pack. Not that the back was very far away, thanks to the wide starting patch.
And so we were off and dodging obstacles. At least that’s what it felt like, with the usual shuffling of people finding position combined with a few sports-related fixings. I was happily surprised with how good the surface was underfoot, and more importantly for me under-wheel. We were quickly at our first 90 degree turn to go along the top of the field, and despite fears to the contrary I found enough width amongst everyone to swing round.
The course sounds pretty awful on paper. Round two sides of one field. Through a gap to the next field. Round 2 and a half sides of the field. Out and back in the middle of the field. Round the other 1 and a half sides of the field. Back through the gap. Round remaining 2 sides of first field. Do this again twice, then straight on to finish. See? Really not appealing.
Strangely, though, it works. One of the beauties of visiting different parkrun locations is you see the wide variety of ways that you can do 5k. Running with the buggy I found that the many turns broke it up into manageable sections. There was a slight gradient, and so for one side in each field I could relax a little as the buggy gained a bit of downhill momentum. It was a welcome let-off, as the rutted grass was otherwise relentless.
The back-and-forth nature of the course made it a very sociable event. It was easy for me to keep track of where Ben and Lani were, with having several reference points. There were also a surprisingly large number of marshals, with one at pretty much every turn. I don’t know if they will reduce the number slightly as the event beds in more, or if it’s felt the number is right. The marshals were very encouraging, several with jingle bells, and also helpful in pointing out the worst of the terrain.
Inevitably on a 3 lap course, I was lapped reasonably early on. I tried to stick obviously to one side, as I was a bit worried about the width in places. It all worked ok though, with one runner passing me on the narrowest bit with no issues. And I didn’t even take anyone out while going round the corners.
As is my standard, I’d saved a little for a faster finish. Unfortunately there was someone relatively close in front of me, and it became clear that if I kept going I would either hit them or the route markers, so I didn’t go as fast as I could have. The finish funnel was a little on the narrow side for a buggy, but wider than it first appeared.
I collected my finish token, and had a chat with the volunteers about my barcode placement (I keep it on an extra hairband in my hair). After a quick chat with Al, I headed to the car to pick up Lani’s barcode wristband, which had been left there in all the indecision. The ease of pushing the buggy across the playing courts instead of the grass added an extra spring to my step.
All that was then left to do was chat to some more people near the finish, cheer people in, and wait to watch Ben and Lani finish. Which they did 4 minutes faster than the previous time Lani had done a 5k parkrun.
For most of the year there is a cafe in the sports centre, but it was closed due the summer holidays. The other sports facilities were still available, including free to use showers. Unsurprisingly, though, we were in need of post-run refreshments. So we headed over to Clarks Village for food and shoe shopping.
Street parkrun was a pleasant surprise for me, and a good reminder that the paper description doesn’t mean everything. The community feel was particularly good for such a young parkrun. I’d be interested to see how the fields cope over the winter, and was definitely pleased that we went in such good conditions. We could well be back to this one though… probably the next time the kids grow out of their shoes!