Sunday, 18 August 2019

Milton Keynes

The last time I went to Milton Keynes was for an interview for a place on the Open University's PGCE course.  I was so nervous on the way there and so relieved on the way home that I could have been anywhere!  Today I was travelling to Milton Keynes as it was a convenient, almost halfway point, between our house and my mother's house and as such a useful meeting point at which to hand over a small person who wants to spend a week with her grandmother and aunts.  I was also aware that it gave me options in terms of parkrun locations so that I wasn't just driving for hours and hours on a Saturday morning!  I gave my mum the details of several parkruns and she chose Milton Keynes.  This was fine by me - it looked really easy to get to from the M1, had a cafe, loos and lots of parking nearby.  It was also a non lapped parkrun... I'd say a single lap, but it isn't even a complete loop, the finish point being about a quarter of a mile away from the start.  Given the size of lots of city parks and open spaces non lapped parkruns are quite rare  - I think I've only run two or three such courses.  It also looked fairly flat.  
Smallest one scanning barcodes

Small person and I got up stupidly early - 5.30am in the school holidays is not nice and were packed up and on our way by 6.15am which meant we arrived at Willen's Lake at about ten past eight.  Willen's Lake is an amazing venue in the midst of a series of parks and green spaces.  At the lake you can take place in all sorts of water sports and other activities - it looked amazing!  When we arrived there were very few other people there, but the loos were open (thankfully!) and we soon found the volunteer co-ordinator who had been so helpful the previous evening when I'd asked about the small one helping with barcode scanning (to keep her occupied while I ran).  

Run director Ros gave an informative run briefing, welcoming many guests including a large number of runners from Kingfisher Harriers all sporting bright orange t-shirts with kingfishers on them.  As we assembled at the start runners appeared from everywhere!  There were over 600 this morning on what is quite a narrow start (a gravel path between two trees).  The first few hundred metres are slightly uphill followed by a section along the edge of the canal.  The route is entirely on gravel and tarmac paths, it isn't a hilly course but there is a zig-zag section through a wooded area which concentrates the mind somewhat!  Being quite open, the wind could be a problem - in fact I was blown sideways as we ran under a bridge that was doing a very good impression of a wind tunnel!

I haven't run at such a large parkrun for quite a while and I was struck by the fact that there was very little thinning out (at least where I was running).  I was always surrounded by runners.  The marshals were enthusiastic in their support.  Back in the days when there were far fewer parkruns, if I visited a new parkrun I would just 'plod' around, knowing that there was a good chance I'd be back and that it would be nice, if slightly artificial, to get a course PB!  Now we are spoilt for choice and I can't really justify doing that anymore but, having sat in the car for hours and knowing that they journey home would probably take even longer, I didn't feel as though I really wanted to push it, so I decided not to look at my watch, not to push it and just run at a pace that felt comfortable and where I could chat with those around me and have enough breath to thank all the marshals.  I was pleased with my result - I always run a bit faster at parkrun than I run the rest of the week.

After having my barcode scanned (by my own daughter) we went to the cafe near the finish, One4six.  The cafe is quite large with loads of picnic tables outside, the drinks weren't cheap - £10 for a can of pop, two coffees and a tea - but at least there were reasonably large cups!  I am still trying to persuade my mother and sister to take part in their local parkrun but they keep saying that they can't because they are not runners - I hope that sitting watching the walkers finish might just make them think that they can take part - they could even take the dog!

As I headed back to the car and paid for parking it started to rain - the parkrun weather fairies had given us an hour and a half of sunny weather to enjoy our run and coffees!  My result text popped up on the screen as I sat in a traffic jam on the M1 - very efficient - and thanks to me having eventually mastered the voice activated technology in the car I could get my result read out to me!  

Huge thanks to all the volunteers, it was a pleasure to run with you today.

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