We were up in Derby for the weekend and decided to go along to the local parkrun, which was taking place in Darley Abbey Park, close to where Debbie had gone to secondary school. We were staying in the Holiday Inn in the centre of town and that meant we had something of a drive to get there because of the nature of the ring road, while the drive back afterwards took no time at all. We also parked in the wrong car park to start with and were walking the wrong way over a playing field before Debbie had a sense that we were not going the right way. Fortunately, we had left ourselves a good amount of time, so we went back to the car, found the correct car park, and had an easy walk in the sun from there to the starting point in Darley Abbey Park.
We gathered for the introduction, which was brilliant, including telling us that there were many volunteer marshalls there today, so hopefully they would not lose anyone; that anyone running with children should keep them an arms’ length away, so if they sprinted off you had better sprint fast to catch them; and there was one dog allowed per runner, so please do not collect any more as you run round. Then they asked if there were any first time runners, and a lot of hands went up, which is always good to see, before asking if there were any “parkrun tourists”, and as they mentioned some runners from Stoke we realised that we came into that category as well. Finally they said there would be a 30-minute pace-maker running today, and we decided we would tag in behind him so that we did not lose our way on the unfamiliar course while also putting in a good time.
The course is 5k on a mixture of tarmac paths, trail paths and grass, and takes in one large lap (which is run twice) and one smaller lap. The sun was out but it was still not too warm out in the open as we set off at 0900, finding that the pace-maker was launching at a blistering pace. We stayed with him as we started on grass, heading under some trees and down along the river, then just before the rowing club we turned right up a small bank which was not too steep, and about the same as the bend on to the final straight in St Albans. It had been interesting running on the grass, which had definitely retained some moisture from the rain the day before, and so we did need to be a little careful to keep our feet even along the flat surface. However, after the bank we came on to something completely different, a bridleway which started to go uphill, and then really took a sharp rise into what we were later told is called ‘cardiac hill’, taking us steeply up the hill onto a rough tarmac track, and even at the top of that it continued along an incline until it finally flattened out to take us to the park gates. It had taken a real push to get up there running all the way, and we had lost the pace-maker. We then turned right through the gates and headed fast down the hill along a smooth, wide tarmac path towards the Café, a perfect chance to open our legs, and just before reaching the Café a marshall signalled us to turn right off the tarmac path onto the grass and we continued to head fast downhill, turning left around some markers towards a large tree, then turning left around that tree to the start/finish straight, and continuing past that point to complete the first large lap and start the smaller lap.
We ran past a childrens’ play area, between some trees and up a bank on to a gravel trail that runs behind the cricket pavilion and then, under some very welcome shade, follows the perimeter of the cricket pitch and then the adjoining meadow next to the river, until we reached a small patch of trees where we turned right off the trail onto the meadow and headed back to the children’s play area, where we then turned left back onto the start/finish straight to complete the smaller lap, continuing on again to start the final lap.
We knew what was to come this time as we were running down to the rowing club, and pushed right up the bank onto the bridleway, keeping it going up the hill to the gates, and then really picking up some speed down the hill and keeping that going on to the grass and round the tree and on to the finish. As we came on to the grass I could see the pace-maker a little way ahead of us and he finished about a minute ahead. We really pushed on to finish and came in at 30 minutes and 25 seconds, which put Debbie in 135th position out of 189, third in her age category and 30th of all the female runners.
This had definitely been a harder course than the flat of St Albans and it was good to try something different, although Debbie did say she certainly preferred having had the flat of St Albans as her first 5k run. Everyone had been very welcoming and friendly and we chatted with some of the volunteers and thanked them for their time and excellent organisation before we headed off to enjoy the rest of our day, with a run already under our belts.