Saturday 9 a.m. used to be no different to 8 or 10 a.m. until parkruns appeared. A parkrun is just that, a run in a park, there isn’t the pressure of a race number and it really is all inclusive.
Last week myself, Paul and Nikki had planned to visit Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP), starting with the QE parkrun and then carrying on along the South Downs Way for some extra training.
This post is a thank you to the volunteers that hosted the event and a description of our experience which I’d thoroughly recommend. Parkrun tourism has become quite a feature of the 5K revolution so I hope this wets your appetite for a visit !!
QECP was originally planted in the 1930’s and the forested rolling terrain extends for quite a considerable area. The predominantly beech trees are managed by the Forestry Commission and the whole area sits within the wider South Downs National Park.
With BBQ’s, picnic areas, adventure playgrounds and an assault course, for “older children”, why limit yourself to just running the 5K, take the family and make a morning of it.
With a visitors centre full of local information and a café you really are spoilt !!
Have I wet your appetite yet ??
Once I’d mentioned on social media that we were visiting QECP I had tweets from both Dwayne and Paul, who are local running friends of mine and are part of the team that volunteers.
As we gathered for the pre run address we were told to expect gravel paths, trails and grass which was music to my ears. Joanne also joined us for one of Paul’s photo opportunities. Running through all that nature has to offer is such a privilege and a joy. The trees sway with the chilly breeze, there’s occasional bird song and you are breathing in clean crisp air.
The course is a two loop route with some challenging elevation but nothing that can’t be walked with a purposeful stride or run depending on your level of fitness. We were ushered slightly further up the first gravel hill so as to reach the official start point.
Runners of all ages, abilities and motivations stood like coiled springs ready for the 9 a.m. start. Quite a few canine companions we wagging their tails in anticipation and we were off !!
The adrenaline soon kicked in as we climbed this first hill, conversations we quickly replaced with the huffing and puffing of the task at hand. This first hill didn’t last too long and naturally following the premise that what goes up must come down we were guided to quite a long downhill section.
Luckily the weather has been dry so a fair amount of caution could be thrown to the wind as we plummeted down the grassy slope. Turning right at the bottom of the hill you are presented with a combination chalk and grass to run on, as you make your way back to the start, and the end of the first smaller lap.
Climbing the original hill is now more taxing as you start from the bottom and follow the trail for longer up to the 3K marker. That said, you have the benefit of the marshals and well wishers at this half way point to spur you on.
Hills are a great training exercise so my advice would be to treat them as just that. Repeat after me … “hills are good for my running”. Down land areas break up some of the forest so as to give you views through the trees and maybe even a deer if you are lucky.
Once past the 3K mark you benefit from a more gradual drop in elevation and then you are back to the chalk and grass. Through 4K its a case of mustering what you have left and concentrating on your breathing.
This is the home straight as you approach the tokens and barcode finish, you’ll be emptying the tank from this point.
So, this parkrun in the beautiful countryside comes highly recommended, throw in some hills and you have an all round workout for the body and mind. As an introduction to trail running the QE parkrun is an excellent starting point and scores highly on my wellbeing chart.
You may not come away with a personal best but you’ll be rewarded with a morning running through nature and pondering just how soon you’ll be returning.
Thanks, as always, must go the volunteers who make this, and every other parkrun work.
Enjoy your running …. Roger