The curious case of the Ashton Court ParkRun

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The Night Before
‘Burrito please’ I said as the lady behind the counter inquired as to the nature of my order. It had been a pretty lousy week for running and exercise in general – just 13.1 cruddy miles and I was now off to Bristol which I had assumed would offer no real running fun. So, on Friday evening before I set off for Bristol I chowed down on a big fat dirty Burrito.

Bristol
I arrived in Bristol to be greeted by the lovely Lynne and her partner in crime Anna – met up with my own partner The GingaNinga and of course UltraBaby. Despite the lateness of the hour I had mentioned to Lynne that there was an event called ‘ParkRun’ that she could join, with some trepidation she agreed to join me and between us we figured out which was the closest and most accessible of the runs – it turned out to be Ashton Court.

ParkRun
Now the name Ashton Court had me imagining some large council owned tower block out of Only Fools and Horses so when we pulled up about a kilometre from the start I was rather surprised to see that there was nothing but lush greenery and hills.

Vilma
Behind us another car pulled in and out stepped what you might describe as a senior lady, ‘are you going to the ParkRun?’ she inquired.

We all headed up together and Vilma turned out to be a little treasure trove of information about this ParkRun and bit about her own story. I got the felling that Vilma was a bit of a character at this event. She described this as quite a small event, about 300 runners (small I thought???). Anyway Vilma helped us find a loo, we chatted some more and then we lost her but Lynne and I mingled and introduced ourselves to lots of runners – it was an incredibly friendly atmosphere.

We went along for the newbies chat, Lynne as a first timer and me as a tourist. Our run leader was a very pleasant gentleman and kept the party mood going with a bit of banter.

Being a nice, cool and crisp morning meant it was ideal conditions for running and I’d be listening to tales of a 2.5km hill and then a 2.5km hill down, in ideal conditions this could be fun.

‘What’s your normal 5km time?’ I asked
’34, 35 minutes… came the reply’
I said I’d pace to make sure that’s what we ran but in all honesty I knew that Lynne would benefit from a PB on a potentially tough course with a fast finish.

The crowd gathered and Lynne turned and said ‘we should have started at the back…’
‘People will go round us, concentrate on yourself,’ was my reply and one that was reinforced politely by a lady who turned and smiled at us.

Run
I’d never seen Lynne run so she could have been really crap but actually she had great form and a steady pace. I ran a few metres ahead offering gentle words of encouragement as we pushed up the hill. Because we weren’t going near my normal 5km pace I decided I’d make a few jokes and had a few laughs with some of the runners we were passing.

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Then a tight left turn and onto the final ascent, here I insisted we start targeting runners. ‘Girl, green top, blonde hair, ridiculous leggings – let’s have her’ we started passing people.

Downhill
We reached the halfway point at the top of the hill and I asked how Lynne was going

‘Fine’

And then I put my plan into action. I had 30 minutes in my head and I pressed a bit harder, targeting runners, not letting Lynne lose sight of me. We briefly saw the lovely Vilma again and (the previously unmentioned but awesome) Craig (we waved).

Then it was race time ‘Breathe deeply, stay in control, don’t let your body just flip down the hill – push’ I said, ‘see that woman she’s our next target…’

Sprinting
Then a young girl sprinted past me, I laughed, turned to Lynne and gave her the thumbs up – she was on fire. The young lady however, needed teaching a lesson, and I was in a giving mood!

‘You’re quick!’ I shouted as I sprinted past her
‘My second ParkRun!’ She hurled at me as she thundered past.
‘You’re doing great, but I can’t let you beat me…’ and with that I hit the afterburner ‘…c’mon Lynne – faster’

250metres to go – woman in blue, going to a sub30 finish – she had maybe 80metres to go – uphill. I apologised as I blasted past her but I was feeling fun.

Awesomundo
I crossed the line, feeling better than I have in ages and then waited for Lynne. Each second felt a lifetime and then I saw her and she had stepped infront of the sprinting teenager. Holy shit she’s going to make it!!! Mere inches separated them but she had done it and in a very respectable time too.

Lynne collapsed to the floor, I think moaning about the level of energy she had just expended but she was ecstatic.

Cup of tea was now in order. Yum

So…
What can I say to make you attend this run? Well…

1. What a course, amazing – one of the best 5km routes I’ve ever done
2. Super friendly
3. Great facilities
4. Great views of Bristol
5. Well attended
6. Outstanding volunteers

As a final note I’d like to say thank you to Vilma for the note she left us on the car (if you know her and see her this week please pass on my best wishes). It’s that level of friendliness that makes me want to go back to this run or perhaps more importantly – try another one 🙂

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Thanks to Rich Kenington for the second of this posts photographs!

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