How to be a successful Parkrun Tourist:
I suppose the short answer is just have a go at it. In a new place for a weekend, is there a Parkrun? (Tick). Is it somewhere I can easily get to? (Tick). Do I understand the course and where it starts from (Well, I thought so).
The weekend before last, I spent Friday night in a hotel at the top of Richmond Hill, just minutes from the start of the Richmond Park parkrun. I endured an evening of the friend I was seeing filling me with fears of hills, ticks and Lyme Disease. You see, I run in a very flat place, and I mean very flat. The nearest thing I have to a hill is where the promenade rises up very slightly round the seafront side of Southsea Castle. So I am not really acclimatised to running anywhere that isn't dead flat. To give myself the best possible chance, I drank too much (pint and a half of cider with friends in pub, shared a bottle of wine over dinner). It was also going to be hot, very hot.
I set off at about 8:45, anxious the start would be a bit further away than I expected. Now I am used to people coming out of nowhere at 8:55, but was puzzled there didn't seem to be many people around. Just one other parkrun tourist looking for the start. I found the pond where I thought the start was, still no-one there. Then someone appeared in a high vis vest and I found out the briefing was back where I first entered the park. Talked to 3 or 4 people, every single one doing the event for the first time, with no idea of start point or course.
Of course, by 8:55, everyone had materialised out of nowhere and it was very obvious where the briefing was. It was also obviously the same event but different to my home park run. More people. Lots more younger people. Fit looking people. Pacers! Pacers for several different finish times! The event director stood on a tree and announced the trial of a double funnel. A double funnel!
We walked back to the pond (yes the start was at the pond) and the parkrun got started. Long, long period in a funnel as the faster runners left before the slow ones could get going.
I am no spring chicken and I am not fast. My PB at Southsea is around 37:30 and I am usually 38-39 minutes but there are normally quite a lot of people who finish behind me. I set off at Richmond Park and it's immediately obvious I am going to be at the very back of the pack. A very pleasant tail runner picked me and another runner (also a parkrun tourist) up, and talked us round the course. It was indeed undulating with (to me) a killer hill at about 4k. Bits of the course on paths and even a bit on grass, versus my beloved paved and tarmac promenade. Very hard. And did I mention it was hot? Very hot!
After about 3.5K we caught up with a couple of people who had started walking, so I carried on running, leaving the tail runner and the other tourist behind. In the end I managed to overtake another man and his very young son too, so my fears of being last didn't quite materialise. But it was much harder than my usual course, adding a good couple of minutes to my typical time. At least the hotel with its nice shower was only a couple of minutes away.
Great fun, very challenging, and so nice to do something so familiar, but so, so different.