St Helens is one of the newer parkruns and is now the nearest parkrun to my mother’s, so as we were there for the weekend, Gill and I decided to give it a try. It is in park that was completely new to me, Victoria Park, so we didn’t really know what to expect and the course map on the website filled us with some trepidation:
Having run the course, I’m still not sure how it maps onto the picture! Everybody congregated around the bandstand before filing en masse around the corner to the start line, then we were off through the middle of the park before turning and doing 3 full laps around the outside. The park slopes slightly from top to bottom, so there is an uphill and downhill stretch on each lap. I heard a couple of the locals commenting on the wind, but the park is fairly sheltered and it was nothing for us battle-hardened Town Moor veterans, especially as it had the decency to be behind us for the uphill sections.
The field spread out quite quickly and I could see a couple of fast lads disappearing into the distance, but I estimated that I was about 10th as we came around to complete the first lap. I was having a tussle with a tall guy who struggled up the hill and then caught me on the downhills. We exchanged a few words as we ran and he kept me right as to when to turn for the fourth, final shorter lap. In general, I don’t like laps. We were passing the slower runners before the end of the second lap and that never feels good to me (I know how it feels to be lapped at cross-country). By the third lap, I’d lost sight of the leaders and was having to weave in and out past runners still on their second time around.
On the fourth, shorter lap, I missed one of the direction arrows and turned the wrong way. I immediately heard shouts of “turn left” from a marshal and the runners behind me. By the time I’d got back on track, I’d lost 3 places and a few seconds. Another guy sprinted past me on the run-in and I finished in a respectable 15th place out of 140 runners. The three runners who had overtaken me all came to chat and I generally found the natives to be friendly. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to join them for the after run coffee.
Both Gill and I were first in our age categories and, in fact, I am now my age category record holder – but as there have only been 7 events, I don’t think that will last for long.
It is a shame that the park is a bit small as the laps are off-putting, but the locals were friendly and the volunteers enthusiastic, so I will be back soon to defend (or, more likely, try to regain) my title.