I have been meaning to visit California Country parkrun for a wee while, but hadn't made it for various reasons. Today I found myself travelling to parkrun alone as Husbando is having a day off prior to a race tomorrow, the 15 year old could not be woken up (school is going to be so much fun next week) and my normal parkrun accomplice was otherwise engaged. I've become a real wuss about meeting new people - a really good character trait in a teacher - so told myself all I needed to do was turn up, run and then come home... but if I could talk to people that would be a bonus!
I arrived in plenty of time. hoping to find out why a park in Finchampstead is called 'California Country Park'. The website for the park hadn't helped with that one and I am still none the wiser. It is a lovely park though, with lots of parking (charges apply) and a conveniently located cafe (with loos that are open before the parkrun). Getting to the start was somewhat confusing - so I followed a group of people running apricot and purple t shirts and hoped for the best! The first time briefing was excellent - although I will admit to getting a bit confused about the route and figuring that I would just follow the person in front. I spotted a fellow With Me Now podcast listener and greeted her with a 'Dolly or Bev?' (If you listen to the podcast you'll know what I'm talking about, if you don't then you should!)
The run director's approach to the run brief was excellent. He called us all together and then waited until everyone was quiet, commented that he would start now we were all listening and paused when some chattering threatened to get out of hand - brilliant! I asked him if he was a teacher - he said that he had grown up in a family of teachers! One thing though - and this seems to happen at lots of parkruns - the run brief is given using a PA system, but the count down and start are so very quiet that those of us not at the very front can only tell the run has begun because the crowd moves forward!
The start was quite crowded, the path was narrow, and I hadn't positioned myself very well so the start was quite slow, especially though the wooded section as it was impossible to overtake here at all. It is a pretty and varied course, partly on a lovely smooth path and partly through woods being careful to avoid the tree roots. There was an out and back section and a repeat loop through the wooded section, all supported by marshals who kept us going in the right direction. There was a longish downhill section on the out and back - which meant a longish uphill section too!
As I went into the woods for the second time, probably about half a mile from the finish, I heard one of the marshals say 'That's the 5th lady,' as I ran past. I wasn't having that! So I put on a bit of speed and overtook a few people (jumping over branches and dodging trees) and managed to claw my way up to 3rd lady by the time we got to the finish.
After the obligatory barcode scanning, I chatted to a few people at the finish and then decided to brave the cafe. Jackson's cafe was lovely, and I brazenly went to sit at a table which already had runners sitting at it. We chatted about parkrun and black pudding, amongst other things and passed a very pleasant half an hour in the sunshine.
Thank you to all the volunteers and marshals for making me feel so welcome. I'm not sure if I am now actively chasing down my Cowell Club membership (100 different parkruns) - but I am now on 84 different venues so I might get a bit more proactive in seeking out new ones....