Tag Archives: Killerton parkrun

parkrun tourism: return to Killerton parkrun

by Ben

Between Lolly and I, we have actually visited Killerton parkrun three times before. I did post about my first visit, way back in October 2014. Back then, I was in the infancy of my running; I’d run my first trail race a few months earlier, but was still very much a road runner. It was only the second event I’d ‘toured’ at, and I was very much a regular at Longrun Meadow at the time. In contrast, only six of my last twenty six parkruns (dating back to the start of 2018) have been at Longrun Meadow, and I’m predominantly a trail runner these days. With these things in mind, and the fact my previous post was more of a comparison between Longrun Meadow and Killerton, I thought it worth writing it up again.

Although Killerton is a parkrun that I’ve been meaning to get back to again for a while, it’s taken me 225 weeks to return. In fact, it only happened this week because of the snow. We had been scheduled to visit Severn Bridge parkrun: I was even on the volunteer roster as Run Report Writer. But then the snow and ice hit, and in a swathe of cancellations (particularly in the Bristol area) Severn Bridge was called off.

Everything went a bit white…

With Longrun Meadow also cancelled, it was time for Killerton to shine. They had announced on the Friday that they would almost certainly be on, so it only remained to get myself into gear and out in time to do it. Which nearly went all wrong – when I got in my car, after de-icing, my sat-nav suggested that I would arrive at Killerton at 8:58. Bugger. It would take longer than two minutes to change into my trail shoes and get to the start!

Well, after an entirely legal drive within the speed limits, it turned out that my sat nav just didn’t like small country roads (I’ve only had this car for five-and-a-half years, you’d have thought that I’d realise that by now.) I arrived at about 8:46. This left just about enough time for me to get my stuff sorted and head up to the start for the first-timers briefing. Sure, it technically wasn’t my first-time, but after 225 weeks, things get a bit rusty. There is space for 270 cars in the National Trust car park (free to members, no idea how much for anyone else, as we’re members.) Killerton are very open on their social media that car sharing is important, and they will literally turn any car after the 270th away. (They have a car park marshal with a tally counter.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the weather, there were not that many first-timers or tourists of any description. As far as we could tell, I might well have ventured the furthest (Taunton to Killerton being a huge 29 miles), and there was only one person running their very first parkrun! It does have to be noted that I appeared to be in a distinct minority, with both my arms and legs bare. I was certainly a tad chilly at the start, but I was absolutely fine during the run, so I don’t have any regrets.

The run

Both the first-timers and the main run briefing had warning about slippery sections on the course due to ice, but things weren’t too bad early on as we crossed a snowy field and then dropped down along woodland paths. I went off a little too fast through this first mile, enjoying the terrain. There are a few gates and cattle-grids along the route, but they are all marshalled and open during the run. (Except the cattle-grid, which is taped off!)

A snowy start – but lovely and wide to avoid congestion!

Shortly after the start of the second mile (towards the end of the second kilometre) the course winds around the edge of a field (though still on the woodland path) and starts to climb again. At this point we had our first real issue with snow or ice, with a short section of compacted snow on the uphill that was a little bit slippery, but nothing too serious. We continued on for another half mile through the woods before emerging onto farm-track. While this is probably normally an upgrade in terms of grip and pace, we now found ourselves playing ‘dodge the icy puddle’. I was running well inside the top-20, so few of the puddles had been broken up.

My memory gets a bit hazy as to exactly which order things came along this stretch, but things definitely got worse before they got better. We had a huge puddle to get through, which while not actually icy, was unavoidable and very, very cold. There was then (or possibly there had already been, whatever) a stretch with more mostly unbroken puddles: though bizarrely, my biggest concern was the marshal who was walking down to warn us to be careful!

You can just about make out the finish funnel, and the huge field we run up towards it.

Safely through all the ice, the course returned off-road into the large field to the south of Killerton House. During the summer, these are often filled with livestock (last time Lolly ran, the lead runners were having to weave through some quite rowdy cattle in the finishing straight!) There was nothing there today, and in the clear conditions, I could see all the way to the finish from a long way off. I slipped past one runner early on during this field, and had expected to gap him easily, as he seemed to be struggling, but he made me work all the way to the finish!

Post run

A time of 21:21 equalled my effort at Penrose parkrun on New Year’s Day, the quickest of the year for me. It’s worth bearing in mind that Killerton is a downhill course, finishing about 120 feet lower than it starts. After scanning my barcode, I overheard a couple of runners mention that they were going for another lap. I’d wanted to make sure I added a couple of miles onto this run, so I figured that I’d try and tag along. There ended up being a group of six of us heading around the course again, and I got a lovely commentary on the course and some of the runners and marshals from Gordon Seward, a very regular volunteer at Killerton (he’s been timekeeper over 40 times every year since the event started in 2011.)

I dropped off the group as we approached the finish for the second time, and stopped to chat to Kirk Shepherd, a fellow tourist and Longrun Meadow runner. We discussed the course and conditions for a while before he headed to the cafe and I headed home. (As Danny Norman told me last week, I’m a part-time tourist sometimes.)

Killerton is a lovely parkrun in a gorgeous location. There are toilets in the car park, and a National Trust cafe, which smelt delicious, between the scanning table and the car park. There’s generally a hose available by the toilets to hose down dirty shoes, and this week there was a bread stall set out by the car park! Lolly has often brought the children down during holidays as it’s a great place for them to run and explore, but I have to admit that I’ve never been myself outside of parkrun.

Hopefully it’ll be less than 225 weeks before I return again.

parkrun tourism: Killerton

by Ben

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: shuunyanetCC 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!

Have you cheated on your “home” parkrun?
What differences and similarities did you find?
Do you want to run more different parkruns, or do you prefer to run the same one?