If you are partial to a parkrun on a Saturday morning, then you may have heard of parkrun tourism. Completing different parkruns from your local event is a great way to keep motivated, whilst seeing new places and meeting new people in the process.
South Cheshire Harrier members Alice and Nathan (@Cheshire_runners) have completed parkruns at 39 different locations to date, even travelling abroad for a parkrun last year. Below, they talk about their experiences with parkrun tourism, and their parkrun plans for 2022.
So, tell us a bit about parkrun Tourism? What is it?
Basically, it’s travelling around doing any parkrun which isn’t your registered home event, for us that’s Crewe. It can be the next closest or as far afield as you fancy – even going abroad! There are over 1,000 events in the UK alone and over 2,000 worldwide.
Various unofficial apps track different challenges, which adds to the fun. The most popular is the alphabet challenge, this requires completing a parkrun with each of the 25 letters, as currently there’s no event in the world beginning with an X! All bar a Z can be achieved by staying in the UK!
We’ve got 5 letters to go and hope to achieve them all by the end of the year. A useful term to know for any ‘wannabe’ parkrun tourist is NENDY (nearest event not done yet), which again can be found on the unofficial apps. On the apps, you will see the closest event that you’ve not ran at yet and it will tell you exactly how far away it is from your home. We’ve found this very useful.
How did you first get into parkrun and what do you like about it?
We had both completed couch to 5k before we met but had never taken running seriously and actually hadn’t ran for a while. However, after moving in together we decided to start up running again. To begin with, it was a real struggle and we had to build our fitness back up to be able to run 5k!
After lots of persuasion, I managed to convince Nathan to head down to parkrun with me. He was very reluctant and had actually made a few excuses, but as soon as we arrived at our first event in Queen’s Park, we fell in love with it. The welcoming atmosphere and encouragement was overwhelming.
By far, our favourite thing about parkrun is the inclusive community. parkrun has taken us all over the country and we have always been welcomed with open arms. It’s amazing to see that the very fastest of runners as well as those who walk the entire course enjoy it just as much as each other.
It’s always amazing to see all the incredible volunteers too, who we are forever grateful for as we would be unable to have all our adventures without them. We try and volunteer whenever we can to give something back to this amazing community.
How many different parkruns have you done so far?
Currently we have completed 54 parkruns at 39 different locations. We’ve returned to Crewe the most; 10 times.
Where is the furthest you’ve travelled for a parkrun?
That would have to be the Netherlands, our first abroad trip to compete a parkrun, you’ll find out a bit more about this further down. In the UK, our furthest from home is Land’s End. That is an incredible parkrun and we highly recommend it.
What’s your favourite ever parkrun and why?
For me, I would have to say Alice Holt. When I heard there was a parkrun with Alice in the name, I just had to do it! A weekend away was planned and a 300 mile round trip. This was actually the last event we did before lockdown. Driving down, there were rumblings that this would be the last parkrun for a while, but we never imagined we’d be without it for 70 weeks. Everyone there was just grateful to be running one more parkrun, making the atmosphere electric. I also had a special shout out at the start for having travelled so far for the name! All the way round, everyone was calling out to me as “Alice at Alice Holt.” It’s a tough course through a forest with lots of hills but the views are beautiful.
Nathan’s favourite is Morecambe Prom, this was the first time we booked an overnight stay for the sole purpose of doing a parkrun. We’ve not looked back since. The route is an out and back along the prom, it’s extremely flat and we were so lucky that day as it wasn’t really windy! At that time, it was a relatively new event, and it was nice to see the team establishing themselves.
We both managed a PB that day, with Nathan smashing his. It was the first time he realised he had the potential to go even faster and push on more, which he did. After the parkrun, we enjoyed a lovely afternoon at the seaside.
Finally, we both thoroughly enjoyed our New Years Day double in 2019 when we headed to Chadderton Hall followed by Oldham. This is something that parkrun no longer offer as it poses too many risks. They used to stagger the starts with some starting at the usual 9am with others at 10:30 am meaning you could get from one event to a close by one on the same day. There was an extra special atmosphere at the double, something we’ve not experienced anywhere else.
What’s the toughest parkrun you’ve ever done and why?
We’ve done a few tough ones, but Lanhydrock would have to go down as the toughest. The start is amazing and you literally fly down the first mile. The next mile is relatively flat but it’s the final mile that is the absolute killer! All uphill (and we mean steep hills) with 420 ft of elevation. It was still a stunning parkrun and one we’d highly recommend.
Tell us about your recent trip to the Netherlands for parkrun?
This was our first ever trip abroad for a parkrun and doing it during a pandemic wasn’t the easiest, mainly down to the numerous covid tests. As there are no events starting with a Z in the UK, we knew we’d have to go overseas. When Zuiderpark started in the Netherlands, within easy reach of the airport, it was too good of an opportunity to miss!
We managed to coincide it with my 50th event, making it a very special weekend. We managed to fly out on the Friday evening and back on the Sunday afternoon, meaning we didn’t even need to book any holiday days. It was only their 14th event, with parkrun being relatively new to the Netherlands. It was 2 very flat laps, definitely PB potential! The core team were all English which meant the briefing was in English first and then Dutch. As we were there at the beginning of December, people were leaving out an extra shoe to collect their sweet treats from Sinterklaas. Once again, it was another event with a fabulous atmosphere. Just beware, in the Netherlands, bikes have priority over everyone so you need to look out for them on the course.
We found it all very straightforward and thoroughly enjoyed our trip abroad. We’d definitely recommend Zuiderpark to anyone in search of a Z and after having done it once, we’re certainly going to look into going further afield again.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to parkrun tourism and wants to give it a try?
Firstly, don’t be afraid to go! We kept putting it off and our only regret is we didn’t start sooner. Secondly, do the research to find out exactly what each parkrun is going to be like. Every event has their own page on the official parkrun website and also their own Facebook page. This gives a map of the course, tells you about the facilities and the best places to park.
There are also lots of unofficial Facebook groups that you can join full of avid parkrun tourists sharing their adventures and offering advice. When you’ve completed 20 different events, you become a “tourist” in the Facebook world and can order a cowl, this is then worn at events to show you are a tourist. Again, this is unofficial and isn’t part of the parkrun milestone collection but we’ve enjoyed wearing ours with pride.
What are your running goals for 2022? Will you be continuing your parkrun adventures?
Our first aim is definitely to complete the parkrun alphabet. We’d also like to complete a few more events abroad but our main aim is continue enjoying running and exploring new places. We’ve not set any particular goals or put any pressure on ourselves.
If you’ve felt inspired by this post, why not download an unofficial app and set yourself a parkrun related challenge for 2022? 🙂