I am not an early riser by nature and certainly not on the weekends, so I was not best pleased when my husband woke me at 6.30am this Saturday even though I knew it would happen. The reason? Parkrun tourism! He had read online that Heartwood Forest parkrun was going to be closing down and had decided that he wanted to run it while he still could. The fact that he had never heard of Heartwood Forest until that point and didn’t even know where it was didn’t seem to matter to him! Luckily it isn’t too far away, about an hour or so’s drive, but it still meant leaving around 7.20am to give us time to get there, to find somewhere to park, and then to walk the half-mile that the Parkrun website advised was the distance between the nearest parking area and the start. Hence the 6.30 alarm call.
On long journeys, he drives and I knit, but at that time in the morning all I am capable of is simple knitting and I have a garter stitch blanket that I work on when I don’t have the brain power for anything else. I got a fair amount done on the round trip! The car journey went smoothly and we found the village hall car park which was the suggested place to stop. Then it was just a case of following all the other people in running gear along the farm track and footpath to the forest and the start.
We didn’t have to wait too long for the first-timers briefing, led by a lady with a loudhailer and a tambourine! There were a lot of tourists, there for the same reason we were, I’d guess! She tried to explain the route, came a bit unstuck, and finished with “just follow along, you’ll be fine!”. To be fair, the course was very well marshalled by a local running group so navigation was no trouble at all. The course was not quite two laps and we were walked halfway up the hill to the start. Final briefing delivered and off we went. There was some more uphill to start on a gravel path before we struck out across the grass and then along a bridlepath, all still uphill. At the top of the hill, there was a very sharp turn to the left through an area with long grass and short trees before we ran through a carved wooden archway and back along the bridlepath again. That took us to a gravel path downhill. I was glad I’d worn my trail shoes as I could just trust to gravity and go without worrying about sliding on the loose surface. Then it was another left turn and a short flat stretch before turning left away from the finish to head back up the hill for the second lap.
The hill the second time around was not fun. I’d forgotten we’d walked up half of it to reach the start so that hill seemed to go on and on. It was quite a relief to finally reach the sharp left turn and to know it was downhill all the way from there. Back through the grass and trees, through the carved arch, along the bridlepath and then down that big hill again, where a marshal and another runner complimented me on my bright running leggings!
At the bottom of the hill, the finish came into view and I was pleased I had strength left for a sprint finish. In fact the whole run overall picked up in pace, with the first mile taking 9:13, the second 8:56, and the third 8:30, with the final 0.1 at 6:57/mile pace. My final time was 27:31, not a PB but far faster than I had expected to run it in given that it was both hilly and cross-country which are two things that usually count against me.
The local running club had kindly provided cake and sweets at the finish so I thanked them for a cupcake and a jelly baby, and my husband signed the visitors book. Then it was back to the car for the drive home and more work on my blanket, feeling a bit more awake by then.