parkrun tourism: Henstridge Airfield parkrun

by Ben

Although we remain a fair distance off our eventual target of being South West Regionnaires, (that is, having done all the parkruns in the South West region), until the start of September, we had completed all of the parkruns in Somerset (the so-called Somer-Set, get it?) However, on 8 September, Henstridge Airfield parkrun started, which we soon discovered was actually in Somerset.

Yeah, that dotted line is the border.

Ever since this discovery, Henstridge Airfield has been close to the top of our to-do list. But for varying reasons, it’s never quite been the top. This weekend we needed a quicker morning, as we had my brother and his wife staying in Taunton. Now, a sensible person would decide not to tour at all. Clearly though, that is not us. We did, however, make the concession of heading off to our NENYD:T (Nearest Event Not Yet Done: by Time). The logic was that a flying visit would see us finished and home again by 11. In theory.

A nice late start of half 7 wasn’t too taxing, and the drive was very simple following the postcode provided on the website, with the directions to help confirm things at the end. Even though we arrived at half 8, there were already a fair few cars in the car park (though not yet a car park marshal – he came a short time later). Having driven through Henstridge on the way, we were now made very aware of the ‘Airfield’ part, as there were two small aeroplanes parked just metres away from the car park.

Look: planes!

We had plenty of time to use the toilet, set up the buggy and get over to the gather point by the café block. We spotted another runner with an Out N About Nipper Sport buggy, but hers was considerably cleaner than ours. It turns out that she was running with it for the first time, so I feel less bad about the state of ours now! I don’t know whether there wasn’t a first-timers briefing, or if we just contrived to miss it somehow, but we did hear the normal run briefing. Well, I say “we”. Lolly heard it, but apparently I zoned out, as once we started running, I realised that I had no idea what the course did at all. (There was a very good map by the café block, but apparently I missed this too. Fails all around for me.)

The run
My selfie skill are immense.

As our old running buggy is really starting to show its age, we are trying to transition over to having Lani run more than she goes in the buggy. As a result, this week our running configuration was Lolly + buggy, Ben + Lani. This had benefits for Lolly, who got both the better buggy (as usual) but also the lighter child (not as usual). At the start, Lani and I got ahead of Lolly initially, as it is always easier to get through a crowd without a buggy, but as things cleared up, Lolly passed us and started to ease her way ahead. Until, that is, Lani shouted “let’s catch Mummy”, and put on a sprint. Fearing for the long-term practicality of this plan, I urged caution, and we slowed back down. Five-year-olds are not known for their long-term thinking.

Although she eased back a little, there was no point in me slowing her down too much. For one thing, I need to let her enjoy the run, and for another, children’s bodies simply don’t work the same way as ours. The first kilometre clocked in at 7:43; roughly 36-minute pace, and definitely not indicative of how we’d finish! This first stretch, in fact, the first 3 kilometres (just under 2 miles) was along what was basically a poorly looked after tarmac (or maybe concrete) road covered in a thin layer of mud. With lots of puddles. Which Lani delighted in trying to push me into. Either that, or splash into them herself, with the aim of getting me wet. The marshals, incidentally, found this hilarious.

Congestion at turnaround points is a nightmare with the buggy.

We went out-and-back along this road twice, which was honestly a little uninspiring. I understand that this a winter course that they’ve been forced to adopt due to flooding – the normal course involves a lot less repetition, and has a long loop next to the river. The one nice things with a double out-and-back is the amount of waving, cheering and high-fiving that can occur. Lani was getting lots of support along the way, which is always lovely. Lots of the marshals also had shakers and stuff to make more noise, which did help to give a run a nice friendly atmosphere.

After the road, we then had a different out-and-back, this time running basically around the edge of the airfield (emphasis on ‘field’) for half a mile each way. I can only imagine that Lolly was having a tough time of it. For some reason, we’d both brought road shoes with us. The field was soggy, slippy and very uneven. Lani was doing really well, and didn’t seem at all bothered by the mud. But she did, apparently, need the toilet. This slowed us down a little. Still, I’d rather have a few walking breaks than an accident to clean up! The support from other runners and the marshals continued to be brilliant, and as we approached the finish, Lolly was there to cheer us on too. As always, Lani managed to put in a sprint finish (and ‘beat’ Daddy) before we took part in a second sprint to the toilets!

1) Yes, those were the puddles I got pushed in. 2) The finish was in sight, and a broad smile appeared on Lani’s face!

As I mentioned above, my plan had very much been ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’, in order to get back to our guests. But Lani had other ideas. As we were coming out of the toilets, she was not subtle. “I can smell bacon. Can I have all-day breakfast?” My daughter is not one to be denied (okay, I’m a soft touch). (And I do like a cooked breakfast). I was amazed to see the
café pretty much full: as Lolly will tell you, my memory is pretty awful, but I don’t remember seeing more people than that after a parkrun anywhere. The food was reasonably priced and pretty decent, and capped off a nice morning. We still didn’t stay for too long – we had a very brief chat with Danny Norman, uber-tourist and With Me Now podcast host, but really had to get back. The original plan to be back by 11 did slip a little bit… ten to 12, not too bad?

We would definitely like to come back in the summer and try out the normal course. Lani got a PB, and has declared it her favourite parkrun because she got to push Daddy into puddles.