This has been written entirely in the third person for reasons I’m not entirely sure about. This is a true story, but some scenes have been
made up embellished for dramatic purpose.
The inaugural Grantham Running Club parkrun tourist trip began with a short forty minute trip up the A52 and A6097 towards Nottingham and the 47th edition of the Gedling Country Park parkrun. Whether it was the rumour of hills aplenty, it being a bit too far away for just a parkrun, or I’ve got Belton House parkrun on my doorstop it turned out that the GRC group trip became just a couple’s getaway as Messrs Limmer and Kingston-Lee (MKL) set off on a fine late Spring morning to the former colliery, closed as recently as 1991.
Where there is a colliery there are usually hills and the transformation from coal pit to parkland has not reduced the abundance of (quite severe) elevation. MKL in stipulating the T&C of the tourist trip demanded a three mile warm up before parkrun itself, so Limmer duly obliged in parking at the secondary car park around a twenty minute walk from the start. Limmer thought about wearing his GRC vest on this tourist trip, but decided that breeze was a bit too chilly and thought better of it. MKL, staunch believer in not wearing club kit in anything other than a race, reminded himself and no one else that a parkrun is not a race but a ‘free-to-enter-timed 5k run’ and so went for the debut outing of the voluminous 2016 London Marathon finishers’ t-shirt.
A little stiff in the legs following Ben Smith’s marathon #247 in Grantham on the Wednesday and a couple of bike rides in between, MKL soon regretted the notion of an extended warm up as he staggered up the first 10% plus hill less than three minutes into the run. A mile or so later and the ascent of an even steeper, longer climb, he declared it a good time to stop and stretch. Feeling better for the five minute rest stretching routine, the intrepid duo headed to the start line via a couple of wrong turns and in so doing a couple more hills. Keen to let his GPS click over to 3 miles, thus having accurate mile splits for the parkrun without need to reset his Garmin, MKL made Limmer run back and forth somewhat aimlessly for a bit before the third mile was hit.
At the start, a good 20 minutes before the off, MKL was most relieved to see the promise on the Gedling parkrun website of there being no toilets was in fact a lie, for there were two Portaloos at the start line. Having feared an alfresco trip following a hefty portion of fish and chips the night before, this was as welcome a sight as water is to a man who has not had water nor a drink of any kind in a very long time.
Five minutes before the off and there was the usual playing down of expectations: Matthew ‘I ran two marathons in less than two weeks and had a stinking cold’ Kingston-Lee went for a happy to finish prediction; Chris ‘I’m running the Bosworth Half Marathon tomorrow’ plumped for happy to ‘jog’ around in 22 minutes’. they headed to the first timers and tourists briefing. The course was a single lap figure of eight which essentially circumnavigated a pair of large mounds with, for want of a better description, a cleavage to dive down. Twice. There were two main climbs on each mound, the marshal gleefully announced. The first is known locally as the Beast, the second is known as the Cobra!’ With that expectations were down graded accordingly to let’s see how it goes and 23-24 minutes will be fine.
The start came moments after the main briefing (Another Race Director having a Freudian slip, wishing everyone a good race, before hastily retracting and using the correct protocol of have a good free-to-enter timed 5k run). The opening 400 meters or so was all downhill and off shooting into the lead was Erdinger tri-suit man, who Limmer and MKL, using their well tuned who is the competition? eyes, correctly assessed was the man most likely to head to
victory a first place finish.
The path was mostly gravel but it was in immaculate condition – not a rut nor pothole to worry losing your footing on. So it was that Erdinger Man (Later revealed to be Tom Vickery of Cambridge and Coleridge AC, taking part in his first ever parkrun) who covered the first half mile or so in what looked like sub 4 minute mile pace, already miles ahead of man being dragged along with manically over-excited canine assistance; man in yellow vest; man in orange vest; someone else, and MKL in sixth as the field turned sharp left to take in the Beast.
The Beast was pretty tough, twice as long as the hill at Melton and about as steep, far harder than anything at Newark, and certainly something to bring your average pace back down to reality after the lightning fast start. MKL loves a good hill almost as much as Limmer does, so it was no surprise, despite weary legs for the double barreled one to quickly take fifth and close in on the fourth placed runner. It was less of a surprise for MKL to turn round and see Mr ’22 minutes Bosworth etc..‘ close behind and patently not going to run 22 minutes, as the first mile was covered in 5:54. Once at the top of the hill there was pretty much the only section of flat on the course which was tempered by the stiff and somewhat chilly breeze. It was here that MKL took fourth place, which quickly became third when the over enthused dog lost all appetite for running when it spotted a small stream it could have a paddle in.
Parkun isn’t and never will be a race, but there was definitely no way MKL was going to let Limmer beat him at another parkrun following the let’s run together and then bugger off into the distance controversy of the Belton parkrun they both ran at back in the wintertime. So it was something close to full gas for MKL as the pair plunged back down the cleavage and traversed across the second mound. The second mile split came somewhere near the start of the second hill, a 5:42 for MKL showed the pair weren’t exactly hanging around.
The second hill was at least twice as long as the first hill, it began on a bearable ramp, then kicked up to around 12% for around 100 meters before briefly hitting a plateau. Normally you’d expect this would be the end of the hill but, around the corner, came another ramp up then, just when the legs were begging for mercy, there was a final short sharp climb. MKL was hanging by a thread but was relieved to maintain the gap on Limmer. The second placed runner was someway in the distance, Erdinger man had long since gone. He’d probably finished by now, happily quaffing away on his 0%, so you can drink it guilt free at 9 am, beverage.
So the final half mile was a case of letting gravity take over and falling down the hill, past the start line and to the finish, which nestled nicely at the top of the cleavage. MKL came home third in a time of 18:38, which is not that remarkable but is the 20th fastest ever time over the course. Limmer came home fourth in 18:57 (27th fastest ever). Erdinger Man, on his parkrun debut, lest we forget, ran 17:02 – the second fastest ever time at Gedling parkrun. Wait until he finds a flat course and sub 16 awaits! The second placed runner was just the wrong side of 18 minutes, the fact he ran 2:48 at London and was looking for a 2:38 performance shows this parkrun is no Ferry Meadows.
As is customary at the end of parkun there was chat among strangers, united in nothing more than having just spent no money at a timed 5k run. It turns out that Gedling parkrun, despite the very scenic surrounds and surface that is good underfoot all year round, rarely attracts that many runners as it just a little too hilly. Locals prefer to run at Colwick, which is just over a parkrun’s distance away and is apparently fast and flat – when it is not underwater.
With at least five minutes spent reflecting on the increasingly popular pastime among runners of where is the fastest parkrun? Limmer and MKL headed off for their warm down, which Matthew Kingston-Lee had stipulated, in writing, should be no less than four miles, so as to make the trip worthwhile. However the hills had taken their toll and Limmer was happy to call it a day with 2.3 miles covered. MKL was more bloody minded and ran around in circles around a field, then around a football pitch, then around a small car park before his Garmin told him that exactly 15km had been run in total. Less than the planned amount, but a special clause was invoked to declare it exactly the right amount for the training plan he had in mind.
Gedling parkrun is comfortably the hardest parkrun MKL and Limmer have ever run. Those who moan that Newark is too hilly need to head to Gedling and see what a hill really is. That said, it was arguably the most enjoyable parkrun for the GRC pair who both have a sadistic passion for steep gradients. The park is a joy to run at and the Gedling parkrun would be particularly recommended if you were training for a hilly race or just fancied a hard workout.
Course type: single lap, figure of 8.
Surface: Mostly wide gravel paths, some concrete path.
Toilets: Officially no. There were two Portaloos at the start.
Cafe: No. There is one nearby apparently.
Parking: No problem. If double the number turned up then it may become one.
Ratings (Out of 5):
PB Potential: 2
Accuracy: 3 (Limmer measured it as 3.2 miles) MKL declined to measure the course.
Congestion: 1 (Single lap course – 115 runners, happy days, no need to get the elbows out).
Beginner Friendly: 2 (Because it’s a tough course, not because the parkrun hosts aren’t friendly).
Overall: 4 (A must do parkrun for those who like a little challenge at a scenic location and also relish the opportunity to clock some hard pre and post parkrun miles).