New totals: 133 parkruns, 20events, 15 letters, 4 countries
Before this bloody pandemic, there used to be the good old traditions like hugging a stranger when Saints scored, blowing on birthday cakes and being late for parkrun on a Saturday morning.
So it’s lovely to say that in one respect, the new normal is EXACTLY the same as the old normal.
08:30 last weekend, I was pottering around in a New Forest barn trying to find my trainers, raise sleeping potential runners and looking out at the light grey blanket of cloud that was engulfing anything above tree level.
What I should have been doing was getting in the car and making our way to Moors Valley Country Park, just outside of Ringwood and about 20 minutes on a good traffic day, which it turns out this wasn’t.
Instead of turning right and following the quickest possible route, myself, Victoria and Hazel (plus cheer squad Jake) were instead heading back towards Southampton, the opposite direction to our destination. It seemed like the sneaky parkrun gods had laid road work traps in order for us to preserve the Old Ways.
So much so that as we made the turning for the country park, there was a queue of cars, vans and motorhomes all waiting to get in through the automated gates.
We had five minutes to make the start line.
An alert ranger spotted the predicament and swiftly set the gate to upright, allowing us to speed through (at 10mph).
Three minutes to start time and we made the rookie error of heading to the car park closest to the line, before realising it was full and having to crawl away, looking for a miracle spot which never came. Instead, we were ended up in Oak car park, just about the time the run started.
I’ve honestly never seen Victoria run so fast to a start line than she did that day as I slowly tied up my laces and locked the doors. By the time I looked back up, she was nowhere to be seen, ducking and dodging through the trees to reach the Totem Pole start.
Somewhat bemused, Hazel and I followed her lead, catching up just as the final volunteer left the start area and my laces came undone once again.
About this time, a bit of a hangover began to kick in and my body was not best pleased that I was in a cold forest chasing down back markers, rather than being in bed still. Ahhhh yes, just like the good old days.
The last person in a parkrun is always a volunteer Tail Walker so if you do go along, you will never be last. We caught up to the two of them and slowly plodded on but not in any particular hurry.
Moors Valley is a strangely peaceful and beautiful country park. The main paths are well maintained gravel tracks with huge trees on either side and off at every angle there seems to be something going on to pique your interest. Behind muddy furrows and bushes you might see a Gruffalo, a railway next to a lake, netting and zipwires in the trees or a colossal spider made of timber.
That’s in addition to cyclists, walkers and Segway-ers(?) but at that time of the morning, it was just a steady stream of parkrun-ers weaving their way through, the final destination obscured behind a wall of trees.
It’s not a flat course but it’s also not hilly. You could probably call it undulating in parts and have some idea. Like running across an ocean swell that was frozen in place – it was cold enough to be honest. There was also an out-n-back loop which I’m never a fan of but oh well.
And it was certainly twisty and turny, with lots of little surprises around each corner, in some cases Jake carry our gear and cheering us on, in some cases a bridge or a somebody cheering us into the finish. Wait, what? We’re here??
Just like that, we rounded the edge of the lake and were crossing the finish line in the picnic area that we visited so many times as a kid. I also used the barcode on my phone for the first time which felt all new and exciting.
Thank you to all the volunteers but especially those at the finish who waited patiently for me to find the image, adjust the brightness, find a different image then have to change scanners.
PRO TIP: from the second scanner – it works better if you turn it landscape on your phone. Not scientific by any stretch but it did the trick.
We didn’t stop but there was a coffee shop, a visitor centre and also a dog bath/shower. Parking was a discount £1.40 for parkrunners if you leave by 10:45. Looking at the website now, it even says it can take 15 minutes to get in on a busy day, plus the first-timer briefing is 08:45 – whoops.
Still, we had a lovely, tardy morning pootle round a beautiful corner of Dorset, so close to Hampshire you could almost reach out and touch it.