Every Saturday at 9am, several SJ members, and thousands of runners nationwide, and even worldwide, take to their local parks and start their weekend off the right way, by running a 5k. Many of us decide to branch out and explore what other parkruns are around, both far and near.
And that got me thinking…why not start a journal series where I go to some local parkruns, and review them? Cover the key information (parking, surface type, how cute the dogs were), and also give some of my thoughts on my experience. Nothing serious, just a bit of of lighthearted fun, but hopefully for those who may be considering trying out some different local (ish) parkruns, this may be of use!
The main rule of this series is that the parkruns I go to shall be within 45 minutes/1 hour drive from Sandhurst, to save you (and me) having to leave at the crack of dawn. I’m also going to use this series as a chance to cover some of the parkruns that not so many members have run before. Apart from this edition, as it’s the first, and I don’t want to go too wild already.
So, with that in mind, let’s get going! This Saturday I headed to….
Dinton Pastures (although you knew that already from the title)
First parkrun: 14/07/2018
Fastest recorded time: 16:29 (Max Costley, August 2018)
Number of parkruns: 48
Average number of runners: ~250
Number of SJ members who have run it: 58
Journey time from Sandhurst: 20 minutes
Number of laps: 1 and a half (ish?)
Surface type: Loose gravel
Does the race director stand on a stepladder and use a megaphone in briefing: Yes
My usual parkrun routine is to get there at 9:01, be relieved that they only start the briefing at 9am, not the run, and stumble around the course until someone tells me to stop and scans my barcode. However, knowing that I was going to be doing this series, I was actually very organised for once (I blame the weight of responsibility), and so I headed over to Dinton Pastures ready to get exploring.
I arrived at 8:40 (I know, so early), and already the car park quickly started filling up. It costs £1.50 to pay for an hours parking, so don’t forget to bring your pennies. I headed over to the start area, which is a couple of minutes walk from the car park, and joined the other runners for the pre-run briefing. As mentioned above, the race director did use a stepladder and megaphone for his briefing, an appreciated touch (photographic evidence below). During this briefing, a local GP was invited up to the stepladder and paraded for her service to the local community, and rightfully so. Does this happen every week? Who knows, different GP every week? Perhaps any members who are a GP, or know of one should go along and test it out. Feedback would be appreciated.
Anyway, local heroes aside, we went on a group walk to the start point, which is about a 2 minute walk from the ‘start area’. On the walk, I heard some gents talking about a ‘rolling start’, so I started preparing my Le Mans start technique, only to find we did stop and start on the traditional klaxon. And we were off, watches beeping all over the place (at 9:06)!!
Right off the bat, we were running around the lakes, which was something I was looking forward to about this parkrun; a good geographer appreciates a water feature, you see. I somehow ended up running just behind a man who was whistling whilst running? I never knew this was a thing, but after hearing a beautiful rendition of ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet, his whistling left me standing so tall, and I decided to leave Mr Whistler behind to see what the rest of the course had to offer. The field spread out pretty quickly, which allowed for some nice relaxed running.
N.B the point of this series is to enjoy the parkrun and take it in, not to sprint and try and set a PB (partly because I know it’ll go down on my record as a ‘First Timer’ run, so I’m secretly setting myself up for multiple PBs…don’t hate the player, hate the game).
The first lap took us around what I now know is White Swan Lake. There were km marker signs which were useful, albeit the 1km and 4km marker were the wrong way around (unless they were counting down?), there I was thinking I was about to run a 10 minute parkrun, damn. At this point I passed the local hero GP, as we made our way around Black Swan Lake, although the lake was not always visible (-1 point for lack of consistent lake visibility). The course is pretty flat throughout, and run on pretty steady gravel paths, which is nice. At the top of Black Swan Lake, you take a left turn and head for home, after another half lap of White Swan Lake.
There were quite a few photographers around, and plenty of cute dogs, so I made sure to smile every time I ran passed one (the photographers or the dogs? You decide), and of course said thank you to all the marshals around, although there didn’t seem to be as many marshals around as at other courses, but this obviously depends on volunteer numbers. I am always grateful for the job marshals do, as we should all be.
And there I was, running past the 1km marker on the home straight, quite confused (not difficult), but crossing the line in a time of 25:28. I stayed around to watch other runners come through, and plenty of people seemed to decide to stop a few yards short of the line and walk across the actually finishing line, an interesting tactic, not sure it helps your time much, but hey, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
A finishing selfie in my SJ top, and we were done!
So, shall we sum up this experience? Let’s. Here are the important questions:
Does a GP get paraded before every run? – They did this Saturday, might have been a one off. To be confirmed upon future visits
Does Mr Whistler have a more varied setlist other than ‘Gold’? – I did not run alongside him for long enough to confirm. His identity also remains unknown
Is the scenery nice? – Yes! Plenty of lakes to look at, all photos were taken on the run (yes, I am quite proud)
How would I sum up my Dinton Pastures experience in 3 words? – Whistling, GPs, lakes
Would I go back to Dinton Pastures? – YES!
Where am I going next week? Who knows….
I hope you all enjoyed the first installment of what I am looking to make a regular series on parkruns on the SJ Joggers Journal. As mentioned at the start, it’s very much a fun, light-hearted look at what local parkruns are on offer to us. If you have any feedback, then please feel free to message me or let me know via the Facebook page and I will be happy to work on it for future editions. Until next time, keep park running!