St Helens parkrun review

It’s my final parkrun in Liverpool for the foreseeable future, so I groggily dragged myself down the Knowsley Expressway to Victoria Park, this time for the St. Helens parkrun. The more astute amongst you will remember that the Widnes parkrun was also at a Victoria Park, but that just goes to show that us northerners aren’t very original when it comes to naming parks (and we just really bloody love Posh Spice).

There’s no carpark, but luckily I’m fast becoming a pro at squeezing into tight spaces… also, parking isn’t a problem here. Finding the starting point was easy – it’s the pavilion in the centre of the park. I was surprised by the size of the crowd, but it turned out that another local parkrun was cancelled for the day so the dedicated had flocked to this one – there were 245 people today, compared to between 160-200 normally. The first-timer briefing and pre-run briefing were both comprehensive, with plenty of clapping for volunteers and a lady who was completing her 100th parkrun. Always a nice touch, and the pre-race vibe was really positive. There didn’t seem to be many club runners either (not that club runners are a bad thing!).

The course is three ‘big’ laps and one ‘small’ lap of Victoria Park. Both laps includes a gradual hill, which although not particularly steep (~40ft) does hit you by the third time round. The course was a concrete path, no track or grass, and had a lot of turnoffs. Thanks to a liberal use of cones (something I never thought I’d have to type) it was easy to keep to the course. Once you’ve crossed the finish line there’s free tea, coffee, and biscuits available. I don’t know the nutritional benefit of a post-run shortbread, but at that point I didn’t care.

The main problem I had with the course was the start – again, it was crowded, with people pushing to the front who really had no business being there. This isn’t some sort of ‘humble-brag’, trying to imply that I’m a fast runner and I’m held back by Tom, Dick, and Harry (I’m not even allowed near them, thanks to the Home Office’s liberal application of restraining orders). I know I’m never going to lead the pack and because of that I don’t have my toe on the start line. I’m happy a line or two behind, and if need be I’ll work my way forward at the start of the race. However, this becomes so much harder when you have a group of slower runners who insist on placing themselves right at the front, standing side by side and essentially blocking any number of faster runners getting past.

For me, it comes down to basic manners – everyone there is trying for a PB, and for the faster runners losing 10s at the start of the race because they’re ducking and diving to get past others can quite easily be the difference between a PB and a narrow miss. I’m not sure people realise they’re doing this, and I would love for marshals to mention this at the start of races, especially since parkrun’s laid back, friendly manner makes behaviour seen as competitive slightly out of place. Basically, my message is – if you’re running 25 minute 5ks, DON’T STAND AT THE FRONT.

End rant.

Actually, there was another thing which I thought was a bit off today. I was running behind a gentleman who insisted on wearing a running top, shoes… and running tights. Nothing else. Now I’m obviously no prude, but at 9am there are some things I don’t need to see jiggle. Certainly the last thing I want to be running behind for 5 minutes is someone in very tight running tights, leaving literally nothing to the imagination. Now, I don’t want to come across all Mary Whitehouse… but SOMEBODY THINK OF THE CHILDREN!

End second rant.

Overall, St. Helens parkrun was good. Yes, laps are a killer, but there is a great community feel there – the volunteers were numerous and cheered us on, and free drinks and snacks are a plus. The hill isn’t too big a challenge but it keeps the course interesting. There is also a flickr page for the parkrun, with a few of people taking photos on iPhones (I’ll throw some up if/when they’re uploaded). Results were out by 1pm. I’d be happy to call it my home parkrun!

2015-08-29 - St Helens runMy run was ok. I was pretty excited for this one, since it’d be the first parkrun in ages when I’d be able to run on fresh legs – no gym or run the day before. Foolishly, I went out to see my old drama group do Sweeny Todd (very good, by the way… clearly quality improves when I’m not involved) and stayed out until about half one. I got into bed around 2, sober, but couldn’t get to sleep. I got up at about quarter to eight after about 5 hours of sleep. So, dreams of a fresh run were dashed.

As usual, though, once you start most of these little gripes disappear. I felt like it was a good run, slightly more consistent than usual. As you can see from my Nike+ report, my GPS is crap – it looks like I’d had a few drinks before I decided to start. Hence, the report reads 3.18 instead of 3.11 miles – still, that’s 5 seconds off the Widnes parkrun the week before. See my times here.

Main points

  • Laps: 3.5
  • PB potential: Medium – hill might slow you down, as might the start…
  • Facilities: None that I saw. Free tea, coffee, and biscuits.
  • First-time friendly? Yes!
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