The Best parkruns For 2019
Love your local parkrun, but fancy a bit of a change? Why not give “parkrun tourism” a go, and join the increasing community of runners exploring the world one Saturday at a time?
We caught up with committed parkrun tourist Roderick Hoffman to find out what’s involved. With 227 different parkruns to his name, we reckoned that he would have plenty of good advice, as well as insights into the most memorable parkruns around the world.
Team Iffley's Steve Skinner at his local parkrun
Iffley Road: What got you started with parkrun tourism?
Roderick: It started by accident really. I’m an active member of British Airways Athletics Club, and back in 2011 I was leading an initiative to boost attendance at club events. Part of this involved choosing a different “featured parkrun” each month, so pretty soon I’d run 4 local parkruns. I then visited my sister in Melbourne, Australia and discovered they had recently started a parkrun – that’s when I got hooked on the idea of parkrun tourism.
Iffley Road: What advice would you give anyone wanting to do parkrun away from home?
Roderick: Just do it. Every parkrun is different but at the same time every parkrun is the same. You’ll get the same friendly welcome and your barcode is valid for all the 1000+ parkruns worldwide. You could start locally in the UK, then build parkruns into your holidays or business trips.
You will find the parkrun tourism community friendly, active and welcoming. There is a Facebook “UK parkrun tourist group” open to anyone who has run over 20 different parkruns. Each week we discuss where we plan to run and sometimes around 100 of us will descend on a given parkrun (by prior agreement with the race director of course!) A few times a year we take over the volunteering duties at various parkruns just to give something back to the organisation.
Every parkrun is different but at the same time every parkrun is the same.
Iffley Road: Tell us about some of your most memorable parkruns?
Roderick: There are so many, but here are six that really stand out for me…
1. Ashton Court (England). Probably the hilliest course I’ve run. You start at the bottom, run 2.5k uphill then run back down again. Perfect as you don’t need to hold anything back for the second half.
2. Bere Island (Ireland). This is a real adventure from start to finish. My journey involved a bus from Cork to Castletown, a ferry (where you notice most of the passengers are wearing trainers) then a minibus to the start on the far side of the island. Many Saturdays there are more runners than inhabitants on the island.
3. Cieszyn (Poland) is unique as it starts in Poland then crosses into the Czech Republic. One parkrun, two countries and you don’t have to show your passport! On a similar note the Gunpowder parkrun in Essex crosses the Greenwich Meridian several times so technically you’re criss-crossing between the western and eastern hemispheres!
4. Crissy Field (USA). I love this course for the iconic finish with the Golden Gate Bridge as your backdrop. Just pray you’re there on a day without the dreaded sea mist.
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
5. Penrhyn (Wales) has a stunning National Trust castle where you start and finish. Other great National Trust courses include Fountains Abbey and London’s Osterley Park.
6. Portrush (Northern Ireland). This is run entirely on the beach. Every Saturday the organizers have to check the tides and set the course anew. I recommend the firm sand just above the waves. Alternatively some people run the course barefoot through the waves.
View of Portrush, Northern Ireland. Photo Credit: Pixabay - endamac
I’d have to save a special mention of the café at one of my local parkruns, Northala Fields. The community feel of a parkrun can be really helped by a friendly café – at Northala Fields they opened specially on Christmas Day, and didn’t close until the last volunteer had left.
A great note on which to end. There are adventures to be had worldwide as a parkrun tourist, but remember to savour the charms of your local events too.
If you’ve had any adventures as a parkrun tourist we’d love to hear from you. Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.