The parkrun series continues, and blessed with gorgeous sunny weather, this Saturday I headed to…
Guildford (although you knew that already from the title)
Step 4 in this little parkrun tour that I am embarking on as part of this series, and this week I headed to Guildford, Stoke Park more specifically (located just next to the Spectrum, ample free parking available), ready to sample this pretty size-able parkrun. I got a lift at about 8:25am, leaving from Farnham, plenty of time to spare, what could possibly go wrong?
“THEY’RE LINING UP TO START” a lady hurriedly yelled from behind me as I was walking over with my fellow 9am strollers (parkrun’s equivalent of air passengers who abide by the ‘the plane won’t leave without us’ motto). All of a sudden the stroll turned into a sprint, with about 20 of us running to make the start line before we set off on two laps of this rather picturesque park. Counting that as my warm up, we made it with seconds to spare, and in those seconds I decided we should look at some key facts…
First parkrun: 10/03/2012
Fastest recorded time: 15:14 (Phil Wicks, September 2017)
Number of parkruns: 358
Average number of runners: ~400
Number of SJ members who have run it: 27
Journey time from Sandhurst: ~35 minutes
Number of laps: 2
Surface type: Grass/tarmac
Does the race director stand on a stepladder and use a megaphone in briefing: Who knows? #9amStrollers
So we were off, and immediately it was disaster in the Metcalfe camp as my watch decided to tell me that I wasn’t moving! In fact I was sprinting down the little hill that lead to a slightly steeper ascent with my fellow parkrunners, although now I was multi-tasking, a concept I am totally unfamiliar with, by stopping my watch, cancelling my run and restarting it. Anyway, drama aside, it was time to settle into the rhythm of running and enjoy Guildford parkrun.
Guildford parkrun is held in the very scenic Stoke Park (although slightly marred by the roads surrounding it, damn development) and consists of two laps of the park, to summarise. Allow me to take you on a journey of the lap.
Beginning off with a slight descent, you start off on grass and head up a slight ascent (up and down is a common theme of this run) . Running along a path for a short amount of time, the start of the lap is predominantly on grass. After a short run on the path, handy marshalls were there to show you the way, with the first marshall shouting ‘congratulations guys!’. Having checked that no-one was on one knee around me, I thought that was a bit premature and continued on my way towards the holy grail for people like me, geographers…water. Lakes, rivers, ponds, any sort of water feature is a dream come true, and sure enough Guildford had a lovely little lake, equipped with fountain water feature, at the bottom end of the outward section of the lap. Agonisingly fenced off from access I resisted the urge to hop over and take a dip (it was rather toasty, and instead took a left turn onto the path and continued on my way, as did my fellow runners.
It was at this point I overtook a man I shall call ‘coach Grandpa’. Clearly running with a younger relative, this man was providing handy tips and encouragement to his co-runner, so I thought I’d stay just in front and soak up the advice. ‘Drop your arms down a little bit lower’ he said as we made our way up a slight ascent, so I dropped my arms a bit lower. ‘Lengthen your strides now’ he said as we made our way downhill towards a big old group of trees smack bang in the middle of the park’, so I lengthened my strides, and fell into a pretty comfortable running rhythm. Unfortunately, his advice meant that I started to pull away from coach Grandpa, but his advice was useful and I hope he’s reading this.
Anyway, I forget this is about my parkrun experience and not elderly running coaches. A right turn at this big old group of trees took us towards the London Road, at which we sharply turned left and stayed within the confines of the park. Running through an area slightly covered by trees, I saw a group of people doing an abs/boot camp fitness session on my left. It was at this point that I witnessed a truly shocking act of child cruelty. Thinking back I should’ve reported it to the organisers, as it needed dealing with there and then. Three young boys were playing football, whilst their parent was doing the boot camp class. However, all three boys were wearing PERSONALISED TOTTENHAM SHIRTS. Need I say any more? Anyway, this certainly motivated me to run quicker and get away from them, just in case I caught ‘Spurs’ (note: I felt fine for the rest of the day, obviously didn’t catch it).
At the end of this covered area you take a left turn and run along a cricket pavilion to the finish! Except another lap awaited me, so I had to resist the urge to come through the finish line in first place. As you know, the aim of this series is to enjoy the parkruns I complete, not to sprint around and miss the finer points. And this was the case here, finishing in a time of 24:22, and having thoroughly enjoyed my leisurely ramble around Stoke Park.
One thing I noticed in particular was the sense of community spirit on display at Guildford. There were a few milestone runners who had all bought cakes along, the finish area was lined with people on both sides encouraging runners on their way and applauding as they came through the finishing funnel, which I thought was a really nice tough. Having participated in a bit of this applauding, I got a quick finishing selfie, and we were done! Shall we sum up this parkrun experience? Let’s….
Should you aim to arrive at parkrun before 9am? – Yes
Does coach Grandpa run at Guildford every week? – To be confirmed upon future visits.
What should you do if you see a child in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt? – Get yourself and anyone near you to a safe place, inform others, and call the emergency services immediately (please do not call the emergency services, they’ll come after me if they read this, I’m too young to go to jail).
How would I sum up Guildford in 3 words? – Grandpa, clappy, #9amStrollers
Would I go back to Guildford? – Yes! Lovely course (although the weather did help), nice atmosphere and an enjoyable experience
Where will I be next week? Who knows…(you should know, Craig Bowles has organised a Facebook event so check that in case you’ve missed it)