parkrun tourism: Bideford parkrun

Bideford parkrun has been up and running since April 2016, and is up to event #125. We’ve been intending to do it almost the entire time since. Bideford is about an hour and a quarter drive for us, so is very reasonable as an out-and-back in a morning option. With Lolly’s parents over for the weekend (helping us out with a childcare emergency – thank you) we were free to roam. Unfortunately, the August Bank Holiday meant that the roads were likely to be awful, eliminating most of our options. After a short analysis of the remaining options, we chose Bideford – essentially as the one using the least amount of M5/A303!

Bideford is a town in North Devon that sits on the River Torridge (the name comes from ‘by the ford, rather than a ford of the river Bide). It’s closest other parkrun is Barnstaple, which we did in November 2015. The pair tend to double up for New Year’s Day. The course goes around Victoria Park and King George V playing fields, near the river.

The parkrun course is also marked as an England 3-2-1 route.

We arrived in plenty of time, and parked in the spacious pay and display (or Parkmobile) car park located right next to the park. With some time to kill, we had a wander around Victoria Park, getting a feel for the place. We were annoyed that we hadn’t brought the children, as there is an amazing play area in the park, along with a cafe, paddling pool, toilets, and well… all sorts!

Pre-run faffing and toilet stops done, we headed over for the new runner’s briefing. This was relatively short and to the point, explaining the course: three and a half laps. Basically, one loop of Victoria Park itself to start (the 0.5) and three full loops of Victoria Park and the King George V playing fields. Or, as the RD succinctly put it at the end: three times around the tree stump and four times past the toilets.

The main briefing was similarly routine; one runner on her 50th run, standards terms and conditions apply, let’s go! We were shepherded a short distance back towards the start, and after a little wait for some runners that were late, we were set on our way.

Four times past the toilets (and amazing playing area).

The half lap to start is entirely on tarmac paths skirting around the outskirts of Victoria Park. The event feels like it has a lot of marshals, giving great support on the way around. I can recall eight marshal locations, plus the mass of volunteers around the start/finish area. Not bad for such a small course. The paths are all a pretty good width, and the event tends to attract between 100 and 150 people (we had 133), so there isn’t too much issue with congestion.

After the first half lap, we passed the start line and headed right, going around a Children’s Centre, and into the playing fields. This involved switching off the tarmac paths onto the grass. I’d opted to wear road shoes, not having noticed the grass section during our wander around the park, but thankfully it was plenty solid enough that I didn’t regret my decision. Towards the end of the grass, the ground started to get a bit rutted. On the first lap lightly turned my ankle, but thankfully it didn’t bother me after a few strides. On the final lap, rather than continue back past the start line, we turned off early and headed down the grass for the finish.

Finish strong!

In advance, I always think that courses with three or more laps will be tough and dull, but I didn’t have an issue today at all. In fact, thinking back, I’m not sure I ever have. From a personal point of view, my run was quite disappointing. After a few weeks of not running, I struggled with the pace, and faded away after the first kilometre or so. Hopefully a couple of weeks of decent running will get me nicely back into shape.

As a parkrun, I’d say Bideford is good without being amazing. The park itself is lovely, and the volunteers were plentiful and supportive. Having done 35 different events now, it can be easy to start being snobbish about different courses, and I might have prejudged this course harshly because of that. I would have no complaints at all if this was my home run, and it benefits from being almost entirely pancake flat (just a small lump past the toilet block really).

The Barge Cafe.

Lolly had a fantastic run, setting her P2BPB (post-second-baby personal-best). We considered hanging around for second breakfast in the cafe (which is on a boat!) afterwards, but neither of us were feeling ready for food immediately, so we ended up stopping at Sainsbury’s cafe in Barnstaple on the way home for food instead. Victoria Park also hosts a junior parkrun, Torridge junior parkrun, and we’re already planning a weekend away to spend a Saturday in Bude (Tamar Lakes parkrun) and the Sunday in Bideford. Both because the park will be great for the kids, and because Bideford looks such a lovely place.