There are only two non-Saturdays each year in which parkrun can be held: Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. As an added bonus, you are allowed to count two runs on New Year’s Day: if you can find two close enough to do with a big enough gap. Unsurprisingly, some pairs of parkruns arrange between them to stagger their start times to make this a bit easier. Last year, Little Stoke and Pomphrey Hill, both in Bristol, had done this, and Lolly and I were hoping that they would repeat it. However, rather than Little Stoke, it was Ashton Court which paired up with Pomphrey Hill this year. We hadn’t done Ashton Court before, so this wasn’t a problem at all!
7:30 – Leave home.
8:30 – Arrive at Ashton Court, and look around for other runners, in the hope that they can show us where to go.
8:40 – Give up on waiting and head in the direction we think must be right.
8:45 – Find start/finish area, ask for directions to toilets for last minute relief.
8:55 – Short warm-up and new runners briefing “Go up the hill until you get to that lodge. Then keep going up over the horizon. Turn left. Keep going up. Turn around at the end, and come back the way you came.” Spot Sam White from Longrun Meadow parkrun.
8:58 – Put hoodie, water, car key and asthma inhaler by tree. It seemed to be the bag drop area.
8:59 – Enter crowd of runners at the start, spot Al and Ben from Longrun, who I often run with. Remember I’m meant to be taking it easy because of my quads.
9:00 – GO! Ashton Court parkrun begins.
9:04 – Blimey, they weren’t kidding about the ups! Since when has Bristol even had a mountain?! Pace has dropped to slower than 10 minute miles, but that’s fine, I’m supposed to be taking it easy.
9:08 – Okay, seriously, is this still the first mile? *looks left* And how much longer does this hill go on for??
9:14 – Turnaround point, finally. 13:53, which isn’t great, but firstly, I’m meant to be taking it easy, and secondly, the way back is downhill. I smile briefly at the photographer’s sign “See you at Pomphrey”
9:20 – Running downhill is FUN. Wheeeee!
9:23 – Okay, I didn’t notice that we’d gone downhill for a little bit at the start. That means an uphill finish, bugger. Oooo, lots of people to overtake. I’m sure my quads/knee won’t mind a little sprint finish. Overtaking people is even more fun than downhills!
9:25 – Regretting that sprint finish slightly now that I remember I’ve got another parkrun to go in just over an hour.
9:45 – After Lolly finishes, and another relief break, we’re back in the car to head across town. Now, let’s just not get lost – my navigation skills around Bristol are not great.
10:10 – Wow, we’re there, and actually in the right place, because it appears EVERYONE else is there too! After waiting in the queue for a while, we give up and find a space in the small housing estate opposite.
10:40 – After a bit of standing around, and a slight delay, during which two runners who had decided to run the 8 miles between Ashton Court and Pomphrey Hill arrived (nutters!), we were off again, to start our second parkrun of the day.
10:41 – Hold on, I recognise that camera lens! Unexpectedly, father-in-law has come up with our toddler, arriving just in time for the start. (Had we read our text messages, this would NOT have been unexpected.)
10:42 – Far prefer this flat/downhill start to the course, as compared to the huge hill at Ashton Court. Probably running too fast, but it feels okay. And more fun. Unlike at Ashton Court, where me and Al had a gentler run, while Al’s son Ben ran off ahead of us, this time I headed off ahead on my own.
10:45 – Up Pomphrey! They weren’t lying about it being muddy. Better to go straight up the middle through the boggiest bit though, it provides more grip than the grass around it. Whoops! The chap next to me takes a bit of a fall, but he’s probably okay.
10:48 – What goes up, has to come dooooooooown! A bit too steep to be fun, really, but beggars can’t be choosers.
10:53 – Up Pomphrey again. Stupid shoe lace comes undone, which I then tread into the mud. A slight pause at the top to do it back up, and cake my hands in mud, and then I’m off again. Must run faster to catch back up to those around me. No, must remember I’m injured/coming back from injury/taking it easy. Meh, run fast it is.
10:58 – Glance at my watch, pace is sub-7; perhaps I’m getting a little bit carried away now really? But it’s the last lap, and I’m feeling good.
11:00 – One final time up Pomphrey, and this is more of a struggle. We’re lapping lots of runners, and a combination of that and the better part of two parkrun’s fatigue means that my pace really drops on the climb.
11:04 – Finished! Managed to more or less sustain my pace from the downhill through the final straight, though I opted out of a sprint finish; for once it just didn’t seem worth it. Quicker than Ashton Court, which is a nice boost.
11:16 – Once Lolly has finished, there’s time for a cup of tea, a bacon butty, and a few chocolates from one of the tins provided. Presumably one (or two) parkrunners wanted to remove temptation!
Although I’d been looking forward to the prospect of two parkruns in a day, and indeed had missed the first run of 2016 Somerset Series (the Chard Flyer) to travel up and do them, I had been a bit worried about whether it would be worth the early start and all the travelling. But it definitely was. Pomphrey Hill is a really good course, and while I was less impressed with the Ashton Court route, it certainly provided something different! The atmosphere was brilliant at both, even by parkrun’s high standards. In all, 171 registered parkrunners completed both events, and Pomphrey Hill’s attendance of 365 was a new record.
While my injury had prevented me from doing too much else around Christmas, Lolly made it 4 runs and 1 volunteering stint at 4 different parkruns in 9 days; she ran at Longrun Meadow on Christmas Day, marshalled at Longrun Meadow on Boxing Day, ran Ashton Court and Pomphrey Hill on New Year’s Day, and then ran Killerton on 2 January. Not bad – it’s just a shame that there is only one parkrun next week!