Couch to 5K
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Oxford area parkruns?

I live in Oxford. I know there are three parkruns about the same distance to me (Cutteslowe, Harcourt Hill and Abingdon. I'm currently on my final week of C25K and surprised myself by running 5K for the first time today!

I had been planning on building up to the distance before dipping my toe in the Parkrun water, but it looks like I may be ready sooner than I thought.

The one concern I have is that so far I've been running almost exclusively on hard surfaces (tarmac. paving stones, hard earth/gravel paths and I know I'm going to find it tougher on grass and softer ground.

Can anybody give me some advice about this, and perhaps recommend one of the runs?

4 Replies

Running on grass is different to running on hard surfaces but you might find you're one of the people who enjoy it - more of a workout for the leg muscles, less strain on the knees &c.

Not all Parkruns are necessarily on grass, either - their websites will detail exactly what the surface is.


Thanks - I know these three are on grass, but I'm hopefully looking for advice about which might be easiest!


Hi Steve

I have been to all 3 of the parkruns you mention! I’m something of a parkrun tourist – as well as these 3, I also have Aylesbury, Tring and Milton Keynes each within 30 to 40 mins drive. So when I wake up on a Saturday morning, I have a decision to make about where to go!

So, here are the pros and cons of each:


I have been here a dozen or so times. Plenty of parking - which costs 50p for an hour – and plenty of toilets. The course is partly on tarmac paths through the park, partly along a track, and partly along the edges of a field. There is a long gentle incline along one edge of the field. I used to find this gradual inclune hard, but I hardly notice it lately. In summer the course is 2¼ laps and in winter it is 3 ¼ smaller laps, meaning you do more path and less field as the smaller laps miss out most of the field as it gets rather muddy. I don’t tend to do this parkrun much in winter as I don’t like doing 3 laps (I feel disinclined to go round yet again, plus faster people inevitably lap me when its 3 laps). One advantage of this course though is that as you pass the finish funnel more than once is that if you are getting hot you can peel off a layer and leave it at the finish as you pass.

Harcourt Hill:

Have done this a couple of times. Plenty of parking, which is free, you just need to get a token from reception to use at the exit barrier. Plenty of toilets. The start and finish are at the same place so you can leave your bags/ jumpers etc there to pick up again afterwards. The course is totally on grass, 2 laps around the playing fields, and totally flat. As the ground is quite high up here, I think it gets less muddy than other courses. The grass, being playing fields is kept short too.


This is my favourite of the three. Plenty of parking (which, as with all car parks in Abingdon is free for the first 2 hours). Just one toilet across the road from the car park which is a ‘superloo’ and costs (I think) 50p. It a really scenic course, along meadowland by the river, then a bit on the tow path, then lots on rough grass in the meadow, then along a lane alongside a field of sheep (should be some lambs this time of year). Its almost a two-lap course (you don’t repeat the beginning ½k or so, or the last ½k or so), so I never get lapped. And its totally flat. The grass can get rather long and the ground in the meadow is rather uneven ground in places, but for me, being by far the more scenic course of the three more than makes up for this.

So in summary, Harcourt Hill is prob the easiest of the three, being totally flat and with short grass, but apart from that I wouldn’t really recommend any one over the others, they each have their pros and cons. All three are a friendly bunch and very supportive. I like to mix things up a bit and rotate between them all. I take the weather into account when deciding which one to do, eg if there’s been a lot of rain, I would go to Aylesbury or Milton Keynes which are both entirely on tarmac paths (although these can have big puddles after a lot of rain!), or if the ground is frozen, you’re better off on an all grass course.

Sorry for the long post – hope it helped!

1 like

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. Much appreciated. I think I'll go for Harcourt Hill Saturday week.


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