Back when I came up with the idea of doing all the parkruns in Scotland, there were *only* 26 of them. Amongst other things, that will probably mean around 20 hours on trains simply ticking off the 4 events near Aberdeen, but still, at 26 this means one event every other week to get them done within a year. That seems pretty manageable.
It did cross my mind though that with the current expansion of parkrun this couldn’t last for long. Since starting this challenge, I began hearing rumours of new events which were in their trial stages. I joined a Facebook group which is basically a gossip board on new events where everyone is sworn to secrecy until it’s on the official parkrun website anyway. At events, I’ve managed to find a few more possibles in the offing from those in the know, and though I have no firm dates – I am fairly confident that by the end of this year the number will more than likely be in the 30s.
One of the first such rumours I heard was for Vogrie Park. A few of my club mates at Portobello were helping out, and I was aware that they were already running the course and attempting to get the necessary funding together. My plan back when I first heard this was to complete the official courses first, then to attempt to run the unofficial courses. I may still do this – after all, running a secret parkrun sounds pretty exciting. Doubt it would count toward my club 100 t-shirt though.
I’d not like you all to think that I obsessively check the parkrun map every day. It’s more like a couple of times a week, honest. It’s not going to help my case at all though by saying that I noticed pretty much immediately when a new green blob appeared a few weeks ago on the parkrun events map. I started talking to club mates about getting a rabble down to support the inaugural event, and an excited buzz started to build within the ranks. The club’s race calendar was nice and blank that weekend, so no excuses either.
Those following this blog will note that, so far, I have managed to do every single parkrun by public transport. This was something I decided quite early on, since I wanted this challenge to be in some sort of accordance with the spirit of the event. Vogrie however is nowhere near a train station. I believe there is a bus stop around 2 miles from the event, but with wifey also wanting to come along (and her not being quite into running the same way I am, i.e. not wanting to bookend a 3 mile race with a 4 mile jog), I felt the best way forward was to drive. By way of mitigating this, I started a carshare thread, and quite quickly I had a full car along with a much more exotic route.
As we arrived at the park, it was like arriving at a music festival with a line of cars being marshalled into an overflow field. As we made our way to get parked, I saw some guys in Falkirk parkrun t-shirts I’d seen the week before, in Elgin, of all places. Out of the car, down to running gear and ready to go. Having watched a YouTube video of the course the day before in which the guy filming takes a fall half way round, I elected to wear off-road shoes, though many around me were feeling quite confident in their road shoes. On the way down to start line and we got talking to the guys from Falkirk. Another tip off about a new parkrun, and tales of other favourite courses before a short warm up down to join the growing rabble of Porty runners.
I very often miss pre-race briefings. I’m either a bit too far back to hear properly, or just talking and not paying attention. With this being the very first official parkrun at Vogrie, there was a hush over the polyester mob I’ve rarely seen. 2 years was the time taken to get this project off the ground, and a massive debt of gratitude is due to Penicuik Harriers who today make up a lot of the marshalling roster. It’s down to great people like this that we can have nice things, and I for one am hugely grateful. It because of these great people that idiots like me can go gallivanting around the country doing 5k runs for free and then showing off about them online. *ahem*
So, down to the start line and off we go. Down the tarmac path past the big house and it feels like we’re on a ride at Alton Towers as we fork left and into the trees. As we fork left, we get onto the trails, and I’m quickly glad I’ve opted for off-road shoes as although the trail is quite firm, we’re quickly going through what are either very long puddles or a small stream. Splash splash splash and as we reach the bottom of the short descent it’s time to go back up again. It feels like we’re in a tree lined tunnel glowing green as we steadily climb. Emerging back out into the open, the trail now arches away in front of us and we’re surrounded by fields and sparser trees on either side. There’s no breeze at all, and with nothing but the steady rhythmic clomp of a few dozen feet we snake our way through the trees. We go over a small bridge, round to the left and as we go further up the trail it feels less like we’re on a run and more like we’re on an adventure. We get a big cheer from the crows that have crowded in the trees. The trail gets a little softer, we dodge through some trees and suddenly we’re running alongside the road on what feels like a rail line made for people. This stretch of train impersonation is over quickly, and we dart left up a short steepish climb and round to the right. Mile #1 is done in 7.42.
Back to dodging around trees and we can see our fellow runners coming back toward us slightly higher up to our left. To the end of this stretch and a hard left then left again and the ground suddenly gets soft. For the last little while I’d been feeling that road shoes might well have been alright, but for this short stretch alongside a hedge at least, I’d not be in anything else. A short stretch back into the woods, past a club mate on marshal detail. ‘This is BRILLIANT!’ I shout as we go back toward the hedge and out into an open field. ‘Come on T!’ I hear from the sidelines, and right on cue, T surges past me. She’s wearing a t-shirt which features a big picture of beer on the back, so with a suitable carrot in front of me I plough on through the field. (Sorry).
A hard right, and we then have a steep down before a steep up roller coaster section to play with. Up to the top, a marshal giving us great encouragement, round to the left and back into the trees. I’m at this point slightly confused about where lap two starts. We go down a short slope and hard right on fairly soft ground and again I’m grateful I’m not in road shoes as I can take the corner at a fairly confident speed. A short stretch and Alton Towers comes back into view and I know where I am. Excellent, let’s do all that again!
Splashing through the stream again, this time I actually notice the hill as we go up through the dingley dell. It didn’t seem as long the first time round. As we curve round the trail this time, I notice on the left what looks like a landing jetty in a body of water probably not more than 10 metres across. I’m not really sure what to make of this. It’s about this point when I notice a lady with her dog for the second time, the dog looking a bit more relaxed than the first time I saw him. On enquiring, I’m informed that this is his second 5k of the day, so no wonder that he’s now settling down. I’m then told that he’s off to do a 30 MILE run tomorrow. I wonder if he knows about this yet, he might want to save a little bit of energy. Mile #2 clocks in at 7.33.
The crow cheering squad is still in good voice as we approach the railway section where we can again attempt to outrun the cars. I’m feeling pretty good having decided before the run that this week I would attempt to run a more steady race, and actually try and enjoy it. The short climb off to the left is over quickly, and we’re soon seeing runners coming back toward us. Round the sharp bends and onto the mud and I honestly don’t want this to end for at least another five minutes. Once again passing my club mate marshalling I shout ‘still BRILLIANT!’ Out into the fields again and it feels like the day is starting to brighten up. Down and up the half pipe mud roller coaster, and round the bend for home. We’ve only the sharp right hander to tackle, and we’re on the home straight. Out of the trees, heading slightly downhill and there’s the finish line. A few of my club mates helping out, and a rabble of shell shocked Porties over the line who thought they’d seen the last of the cross country season. A team photo done, then before we head to the cafe there’s the small matter of one of my passengers leaving his barcode in my car… golden rule of parkrun anyone?
So far in my experience, there are three kinds of parkrun. Those in what I would commonly think of as a park. Those on seafronts. Then there’s another kind that feel like you’ve escaped everything and are out in the wilds. This is a rare thing to achieve for a 5k course, and Vogrie sits in that category. I’ve been amazed so far at the range of courses I’ve encountered, and Vogrie is as good as any course I’ve run anywhere. I can only hope that it will go from strength to strength, and I can’t wait to go back – though at the rate of new parkruns it’s currently anyone’s guess how long this challenge will last.
Scores! 56th; 22.43