Oxford parkrun review

It has been AGES since I had a parkrun review. I really must get back into them as they’re quite handy and I’ve done so many more since. I have my lovely friend Michelle (from the Austria Run Camp and used to be part of my running club) to thank for this post as she’s kindly written up a review of the Oxford parkrun. She’s now a DOCTOR (not only is she super fast but she’s super smart) and so this is now her local parkrun. Let’s get to it. (All photos are from CJ Photos found on their Facebook page).

Location

Oxford parkrun takes place in Cutteslowe and Sunnymead Park which can be found on the far north of the city, just outside the ring road. The park itself is the largest in the city and has received a Green Flag Award.The 42 hectares of parkland are split into Cutteslowe Park to the north and Sunnymead Park to the south with a bridge joining the two. During World War II large parts of the park were used to grow vegetables and afterwards continued to be home to allotments. More recently this area of land is managed to provide community woodlands and a semi-natural wildlife area.Parking

There are two car parks available at the park; Harbord Road to the north edge of the park and the other at the south just off the A40 if you’re heading towards Headington. Both are pay and display however charges don’t come into effect until 10am.

The two main entrances to the park are also where the car parks are for those travelling by two wheeled or two footed transport. Oxford Parkway/Water Eaton park and ride is approximately a mile down the road so ideal for any keen bean wanting a mile warm up and cool down. From here you can then get either the bus or train into Oxford city centre and spend the rest of the day exploring oxfords colleges, shopping streets and cafes. The park and ride costs £2 to park for 11 hours and then bus is £2.80 return (although train is only £1.90 if you have a railcard!).

Amenities

Okay I’ll start by ticking off the two most important things…firstly yes there are toilets within the park. Secondly post parkrun coffee and cake is within eyesight of the finish line. The San Remo cafe located within the park is where everyone tends to head (I can’t vouch for it personally though having not been). If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous then there are several lovely cafes and bakeries in Summertown which is very close by (walking distance).Within the park itself are several children’s play areas, table tennis tables, a miniature railway, beach volleyball courts, a skate park and outdoor tennis courts. There are also cricket and multiple football pitches which are used by local football clubs on a Saturday morning. For hide and seek lovers there are several geocaches hidden within the park and a marked 18 point orienteering course. Or if you just want to be outdoors with nature there are areas of wildflowers, oriental flower beds, allotments and community woodland.

As well as the parkrun course there is also a 1 mile course marked around the park.

Course

The course itself starts in a northerly direction on an area of grass, your run 1 and 3/4 loops of the small grass field (marked with posts which you go around, a bit like a rounders pitch) and then you leave the field at the southernmost point to head out and complete 2 large laps of the park.The large laps start with a slight downhill on tarmac and then you turn left to follow the southern perimeter of the park on the grass. This is where you need to be careful as there are some rabbit holes and mole hills as well as the grass being slightly banked. After a short stretch of gravel path you turn onto the main open field which you follow the edge of for 3 edges of the square. Again, this is grass with a trodden “track” and signs marking the route. When I ran the course it was soft underfoot due to recent rain but I can imagine during winter to can become very muddy so don’t wear those new shiny trainers!!
When you get to the final edge of the field the grass track turns to a gravel path. This is the only real uphill on the course but is not steep and only about 200m long. At the top of the track you turn left onto a tarmac path which you then follow through a sharp right then an almost 180 degree left turn to complete the first large loop.Once you complete the second of the large laps you head back onto the grass after the tight left turn and straight into the finish funnel with just enough distance to get a sprint finish in.

Elevation

The graph below shows the overall elevation of the course.As I mentioned above there is only really one uphill and that last for approximately 200m but isn’t steep. Only thing is you do it twice. Otherwise I’d say the only thing slowing the course slightly is that it’s mostly grass underfoot and there are a few tight turns!

Number of participants

The largest turnout is 405 but on average there are 165 runners so it is a small parkrun for being located in a big city.There are often families, runners with buggies and runners with dogs taking part and the other facilities in the park make it an ideal family morning out!

Check out their Twitter and Facebook pages for updates and information!

Thank you Michelle, a fabulous review 🙂

If you’d like to do a parkrun review, please email me (annatheappleblog@gmail.com) and I’ll post it up!

Have you ever been to the Oxford parkrun?

Have you ever been to Oxford? I love it there. So British and lovely.

South Shields parkrun review

So I’m continuing on with the parkrun reviews (check out more reviews HERE). I’m very grateful for people having sent me reviews as there are obviously so many that I wouldn’t be able to get to (and would likely only visit once so wouldn’t have as thorough a view of it as someone who’s been more often). So thank you once again to Michelle for providing this great review of South Shields parkrun.

Photo credit: Facebook page

Location: South Shields parkrun takes place along the coast at The Leas, South Shields about 13 miles east of Newcastle and 8 miles north of Sunderland. You might have heard of South Shields before and have probably seen it on the TV as it’s where the Great North Run finishes! In fact, the last mile of South Shields parkrun is the same as the last mile of the Great North Run! It is slightly outside South Shields town centre but close to a park with play area and a short coastal walk from Souter Lighthouse (worth a visit!) in one direction and Ocean Beach Pleasure Park in the other.

Parking: There is plenty of free roadside parking available along the A183 Coast Road and further parking in the seafront car parks.

If you fancy taking public transport South Shields metro station is about 1 mile away (perfect warm up!) – just follow signs towards “The Coast” or “Seaside”. Numerous buses also run along the South Shields coast and are operated by Stagecoach.

Amenities: Toilets are available at the clubhouse inside Gypsies Green Stadium (close to the start and finish) and during summer months’ public toilets under the bandstand (a little closer to the start) are open.

Post parkrun coffee is at The Bamburgh which is on the Coast Road and almost opposite the finish. Alternatives on the coast itself include Sand Dancer which is opposite the start and just slightly further along Minchella & Co which do some of the best ice cream in the North East!

Photo credit: Facebook page

Course: I will admit now that the course has been reversed since I ran it! This means it is now overall uphill as compared to downhill!The start is on the seafront promenade outside the Sandancer pub and heads in a southerly direction. Depending upon the weather the first short stretch along the promenade can be covered in a good layer of sand! The course then joins the coastal path at a gate at the end of the promenade which it follows along the cliff tops until it turns slightly inland and you reach a tarmac path at Minchella & Co ice cream hut. It is a bit up and down but overall a gradual up!

Once you reach the ice cream hut you turn right onto the pavement along Coast Road for the final mile (and the Great North Run final mile). This mile is again slightly uphill making for a tough last mile! The finish itself is opposite the Bamburgh pub (notice a theme here :P).

Photo credit: Facebook page

The coastal path itself is a mix of gravel, rough ground and grassy paths which can be puddly when it’s been wet and is bumpy in places so watch your footing. Being a costal parkrun you are well and truly exposed to the elements so maybe one to visit on a sunny summers day!

Elevation: As mentioned about the reversal of the route means it is basically an uphill parkrun!You get some relief whilst along the coast path as it has short stints of up and down but the last mile is a slow, gradual uphill unfortunately!

Number of participants: South Shields is one of the North East’s slightly smaller parkruns with an average number of 130 runners but a record attendance of 329. The point to point run means there is no passing other parkrunners on laps to cheer each other on but the small field means no tripping over each other although you need to choose your moment to overtake other runners due to the rough nature of the coastal path.

As you would expect from any parkrun there is a wide range of finish times from just under 17 minutes at the fastest to around 55 minutes for the final runner so as always it’s one for everyone!

Thanks, Michelle! For more information, check out their Facebook page and Twitter account.

Please do send me any parkrun reviews and I’ll post them or if you have any comments or additional points on existing ones, let me know! The more information the better 🙂

Does your parkrun ever reverse its course?

What’s your favourite surface to run on?

Stewart parkrun Review

Happy Monday! Can you believe its just two weeks until Christmas? Crazy! I’ve got those two weeks at work so in my head I’m counting down 10 days until I’m off. Pushing through!!

Today I have yet another parkrun review for you. Another one kindly sent in by my friend Michelle (the super speedy one). As she’s currently studying to be a doctor her home parkrun isn’t really Netley or Southampton as she spends more time “up North”, where she’s based for university. Anyway, I’ll leave her to it!

Since moving down to Teesside for the last year of my uni course Stewart parkrun has become my new ‘uni home parkrun’. I felt very welcomed the first time I attended and is popular with members of several of the local running clubs.

Location: As the name suggests Stewart parkrun takes place in Stewart Park which is located in Marton, a suburb approximately 3 miles south of Middlesbrough. The park itself is about 120 acres made up of mature woodland, an arboretum, open parkland and two lakes. There are facilities for the whole family with a play area, outdoor table tennis, mini golf, a trim trail and pets corner which is home to llamas, goats and deer.

Stewart Park is also home to the Captain Cook Museum; located on the site of the cottage where Captain James Cook was born and the start of the Captain Cook country tour. Northern Dales Farmers Markets have partnered the park to hold a monthly Farmers Market and Craft Fair on the fourth Sunday of each month – I thoroughly recommend a visit to treat yourself to some yummy handmade bread, pies and of course sweet treats!

Parking: The park is well signposted and easy to find! There is a free car park with approximately 180 spaces available but it can get pretty busy so overflow parking is close by within Middlesbrough Sports Village (an amazing sports complex with a gym, sports hall, athletics track, sports pitches, cycle track, outdoor velodrome and indoor children’s play area!).

Amenities: Within the park is Henry’s Café which is open before parkrun and perfect for grabbing a post parkrun ice cream in the summer or hot chocolate in the winter! The finish is conveniently located right outside the café so there are no excuses for not staying for a post parkrun drink and natter ;). Bike racks and the all-important toilets are located within the park’s visitors centre area.Course: Starting on the hill and outside the Captain Cook Museum (making it easy to find!) the course is two anti-clockwise laps of the park taking in the open parkland, woodland and both lakes. It is run entirely on tarmac paths but these can be slippy at times when wet and due to the leaves. Also watch out for conkers the paths during the Autumn!The start is very fast due to the first 100m being downhill! From here it goes across the world map and past the play area towards the car park. There are a few corners as you run around the edge of the car park and onto the open parkland at the north of the park. This area is quite exposed so can be tough on a windy day!! You turn 180 degrees just past the lower lake to head south towards the woodland area. Once you’ve run up the long incline to the woodland area the course becomes twisty with lots of turns, a few of which are quite tight! In this area it is important to also watch your footing as there are a few bumps in the tarmac path and just be careful of your ankles on the edges of the path. Towards the end of the part of the course in the woodland area you run around the edge of the upper lakes before heading downhill and turning 180 degrees to finish your first lap at the bottom of the hill which was shortly after the start.

After following the course around for your second lap you take a right just before the world map and play area to run along the northern edge of the Henry Bolckow visitor’s centre before a sharp right through an archway and across the quadrant to the finish line.Once you have collected your finish token the funnel is well organised to snake around the outdoor table tennis tables to reduce funnel congestion and into the courtyard seating area of Henry’s Café.

The course has km markers, arrows at the corners with multiple paths and friendly marshals at key turns so there is little chance of going wrong 😛

Elevation: Stewart parkrun is defiantly undulating!!The start is straight into a downhill followed by a fairly flat section across the bottom of the park and then what feels like a long incline into the woodland. Once in with woodland area there are a few short inclines and declines mixed in with the twists and turns. The finish is very slightly uphill as you pass through the arch into the visitor’s centre area but when you are trying to give it that last push and sprint finish feels more uphill than it actually is!!

Number of participants: The record number of participants is 330 but on average there are usually around 300 runners each week. The number of runners doesn’t usually cause a problem, even on a lapped course due to each lap being quite large. When nearing the end of their second lap (particularly in the woodland area) the faster runners do pass those completing their first lap but by this point the field is spread out and paths are more than wide enough for runners to pass each other. I’ve also found that those runners still completing their first lap are very considerate and tend to keep to one side.As with all parkruns there is a wide variety of finish times, with the speediest varying from around 16 to 18 minutes and the final runners finish in about 50 to 55 minutes. There are often a number of children taking part with their parents (or playing in the park) making Stewart parkrun a truly family parkrun!

Check out their Facebook and Twitter page for more information!

Have you ever done this parkrun?

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Edinburgh parkrun Review

Morning, morning. I have another parkrun review, this time from my running club buddy Andy Cockrell. He’s a super speedy and super smart. He has kindly offered up a review for the Edinburgh parkrun. Hope you enjoy!

Location: The Edinburgh parkrun takes place on the shorefront of the Firth of Forth between Cramond and Silverknowes in the north west of the city.  Once you’re on the shorefront, follow the stream of runners and you’ll find the start.

Parking: There are two options for parking.  The first is the car park in Cramond village at the foot of Cramond Glebe Road to the east of the start line.  The car park at Cramond does fill up quickly, but further on-street parking is available along Cramond Glebe Road.  The second option is to park on Marine Drive on the Silverknowes side of the course to the west of the start line.  Both options are free and equidistant from the start line.edinburgh-parkrun-photo-wg12-1

Photo credit: WG12 from the Flickr group

Alternatively, there are regular busses to Cramond.  It’s then a 5-10 minute walk down Cramond Glebe Road to the shorefront.

Amenities: There are public toilets at the Cramond end of the Promenade which are open from 0830 each day.

The Cramond Bistro opens at 1000 and offers hot drinks and homemade cakes (the scones are particularly good).  This is located on the River Almond Waterfront, just follow the promenade around to the left where the river meets the shore when returning from the finish line.  Alternatively, go down the steps opposite the entrance to the car park.

On the Silverknowes side there is Boardwalk Beach Club which opened earlier this year.  It is located between Marine Drive and promenade about halfway along the course.  If you have non-runners or spectators with you, this is a good place for them to base themselves as the patio area looks out onto the promenade.

Course: The course is effectively an out and return along the shorefront, with a small loop at the turn point to prevent the turnaround from being too tight.edinburgh-parkrunThe start line is about 500m east of Cramond Village, usually marked by banners and flags.  The route then heads east along the promenade towards Silverknowes.  With the number of runners, the start can seem a bit narrow, but the route widens up very quickly; the main promenade is 20m wide so there is plenty of room for everyone.

The route follows the promenade winding along the coast for 2km before heading left when you reach Gypsy Brae to hug the shoreline for another 100m, before turning right to run back to the main promenade.  Turning right onto the promenade, you then run 2.5km back along the shore towards the start line.  When running west you have a fantastic view of the Forth Bridges further along the coast.  With about 500m to go there’s a fork in the promenade.  Take the left-hand fork and you enter the finishing funnel.

The course is entirely on tarmac, so mud and slippery conditions under foot are not generally an issue unless it’s icy.

Elevation: The course epitomises the phrase “as flat as a pancake.”  There are no discernible elevation changes apart from where the promenade forks with 500m to go, but even that is a very gradual rise of around 1m!

edinburgh-parkrun-photoPhoto credit: from the Flickr group

Number of participants: On average there are around 350 runners each week, but average attendance is increasing.  There have been up to 500 runners at recent runs, with a record attendance of 642.  For a city the size of Edinburgh there are a disappointing number of local parkruns, the only other one in the city is in Portobello on the East side of the city which was set up last year.  Despite this, attendance at both runs is still increasing with Portobello seeing around 250 runners each week.

Other: The course record is 14:31 for men, set by Ross Toole and 16:35 for women, set by Sarah Inglis.edinburgh-parkrun-photo-wg12Photo credit: WG12 from the Flickr group

It’s a Scottish parkrun so remember it starts later at 0930.  As it’s on the coast, the wind can be an additional challenge at times, but at least the wind will be behind you for half the run.  In the winter, the wind can have quite a bite to it, so remember to dress appropriately!  On a calm day, however, it is a very fast course.

Check out their Facebook page and Twitter for more info!

Have you done any non-English parkruns?

Do you prefer a flat but potentially windy course or a hilly but less windy course?

Burgess parkrun Review

Another week, another parkrun review. I hope you’re enjoying these and/or find them helpful! I love parkrun so for me I love hearing about other ones around and I hope people find the information helpful – especially as they’re written from runners who have a good knowledge of that particular parkrun.

Anyway, this one, Burgess parkrun, is written by the lovely Gemma (@peeriegemgem), an avid runner and Twitter friend.m
Location: Burgess Park is in Camberwell, South East London and is the Southwark boroughs largest park. Along with Southwark parkrun it can claim to be the most central of London parkruns.  The easiest way to get there on public transport is to head to Elephant & Castle tube station (on Bakerloo and Northern lines) and walk about fifteen minutes down the Walworth Road or get a bus.  On bus, locate Citymapper to stop on Camberwell/Albany Road as this is the nearest entrance to start/finish of the run.  (pic shows entrance)

Parking: Being in Central London, parking is on the limited side although the website does note there is some spots available in Addington Square and on Albany Road and this is free for up to four hours.

Amenities: There are toilets available in the tennis court centre which should be open just before the run begins.  These are just as you head into the park on the right hand side.img_8078After getting an absolutely drenching visiting a friend for their 50th parkrun (see Wally – dressed for the occasion!) we headed over for warm mugs of tea and avocado on toast where the results are processed at Fowlds Café, Addington Square.  It is very small on the space front so head over promptly once you’ve finished your run to get a seat!img_8083Course/Elevation: The course is an out and back with two laps of a lake in the middle.  (See pic)  Note the start and finish are not at exactly the same point as the start was moved further back to ease congestion. Most participants wander up, leave their belongings at the finish on a waterproof sheet and head to the start. img_8072The course starts with a long straight of about a kilometre before turning back on itself, out towards the lake, twice around, and then heading back to the finish (but cutting short the full kilometre straight!).  It is well marshalled at each turn so the only thinking required is remembering two laps of the lake!  There is a slight dip where you go through the underpass on the final straight and this is about the point where you want to consider kicking in for that final sprint.

I may be slightly bias as this is my first parkrun and where I have done the most runs, but it remains one of my favourite runs.  It is a very friendly parkrun and I have made many friends after running Burgess over fifty times.

It is a fast flat course (see elevation!) that doesn’t get too congested once you are out of the start.burgess-elevationIt is ideal for pram/buggy runners – one flew past me as I headed onto my second lap of the lake. The volunteer team are very enthusiastic and there are usually post run goodies on offer.  I tucked into fruit and homemade brownies as post run fuel – yum!

Number of participants: This parkrun has really grown in size since my first days of attending two years ago.  Back then a hundred was average but the record attendance has now hit nearly 300.  As the Saturday I picked to return was the worst monsoon rain I’d ever done a parkrun in, there were 149 brave souls facing the rain.

Other: Check out the Burgess Park Facebook/Twitter as they post updates fairly regularly.  Sometimes people take photographs which will appear on social media and there tends to be socials organised a couple of times a year.

Do you enjoy doing parkrun in fancy dress?

What’s the funniest fancy dress you’ve seen for a runner?

Are you a fair-weather parkrunner?