Only a few weekends after running at Boston on a weekend away to celebrate a friend’s birthday, I found myself on another weekend away celebrating another friend’s birthday – this time in Suffolk. Now despite living in East London so not a million miles away, I’ve never actually run a parkrun in the East of England region. So I was keen to see if I could fit in a bit of parkrun tourism into the weekend and get my first parkrun in the region. A quick look at the map made me more excited as I realised that this might be a chance to nab an elusive ‘I’ in my parkrun alphabet challenge by running Ipswich. I’ve not checked fully but I think the only other parkrun beginning with I in the UK is Inverness which is quite a long way from East London, and Inch in Ireland is even further.
So I packed my running kit and mentioned to the friends I was staying with that I would be disappearing before they were out of bed on the Saturday morning to go and run parkrun. Whilst most of them thought I was mad, one friend (who I have previously dragged to Seaton parkrun whilst we were away to do her first parkrun) said that she would bring her kit too. The night before we looked up Ipswich parkrun to find out what time we would have to leave, and found that it would take about 50 minutes to get there from where we were staying, whereas there was another option which was only 40 minutes away – Kesgrave. I’d never heard of Kesgrave before, but realised it afforded me the opportunity to get a ‘K’ in my alphabet challenge with an extra 10 minutes in bed! Looking at the two courses clinched it; Ispwich was very wiggly-piggly whereas Kesgrave appeared to be an almost straight line according to the website. My friend worries about getting lost on the course (I know, I know, I’ve told her about the brilliant parkrun marshals) and the simpler route of Kesgrave appealed to her, so the decision was made.
The morning came and we set off for Kesgrave in the car, arriving pretty early to find that there was plenty of parking. The parkrun takes place on the Millennium Jubilee Field in front of the Millennium Jubilee Hall which was resplendent with bunting. It got another tick in the box for me as there was a toilet – just the one but one is better than none! We’ve been having crazily hot weather across the UK over the summer and the grass on the Millennium Field looked scorched – almost like sand on a beach. I had had a really bad running experience a couple of weeks before when I became really dehydrated, so I started to worry about the lack of shade and getting dehydrated again, but before I could worry too much the new runners and tourists were gathered together for the New Runners’ briefing which was carried out by the enthusiastic and exuberant Tim. Then after the RD’s briefing held in front of the hall, and we lined up at the start ready for the off.
The route is very straightforward, starting with two laps of the Millennium Field, then off down a long path to a turnaround point, then back down the long path before the final 1k which loops around in the wood next to the field. I was pleased to find a little shade in a hedge that runs the length of the long path, but you only get it on the way back, and so I was grateful to reach the shade of the woods at the last 1k which was very welcome. I use the word “straightforward” to describe the course over the ‘B’ word (boring!) as another blogger described my home parkrun as ‘boring’ which has caused such a furore and has got many people hot under the collar if not apoplectic with rage! Kesgrave is not blessed with a lot of interesting features that some other parkruns have, like lakes or sculptures. But it is flat as a pancake (hurrah – I hate hills!) so I’m sure is fast if you are a fast runner (I’m not!) and what it lacks in features, it makes up for with fantastic marshals and volunteers, like the wonderful young lady handing out high-fives at the “high-five corner” of the field. In fact, this young lady was highlighted for some well-deserved kudos by Nicola Forwood on the pilot episode of the With Me Now parkrun podcast, so having listened to it I looked up the results and found that we were at Kesgrave in the same week. With Me Now is the new podcast by Danny Norman and Nicola Forwood who used to produce the parkrun show podcast three and a bit years ago, and is well worth a listen whether you’re a parkrun geek or just an occasional parkrunner. Weirdly I had met Danny at Boston three weeks before I ran at Kesgrave the same week as Nicola – I’m not secretly stalking you, Danny and Nicola, I promise!
I did enjoy the woods section of the course the most, not just for the interest but also for the shade since it was such a hot day, although I imagine it could get muddy in the winter. After the run there was tea and coffee and a great selection of cakes and biscuits, so no need to retire to a nearby café. And the friendly barcode scanners had their own gazebo – how luxurious! One of the things I love about touristing is seeing all the innovations and nice little touches that other parkruns come up with, and then shamelessly nabbing the idea and introducing them at my home parkrun! At Kesgrave I particularly liked the welcome board, and the bucket on the chair for people who were in too much of a hurry to get their tokens scanned – who are these people, by the way? Half the fun of parkrun is to hang around afterwards chatting to other parkrunners!
So all in all I would heartedly recommend Kesgrave, and I was very glad to get my ‘K’ and my first East of England parkrun under my belt. It’s a nice, friendly parkrun – nothing flashy, no complicated route, just a straightforward, well-run 5k with cheery and welcoming volunteers. And I’ll just have to return to Suffolk on another weekend to bag my ‘I’ at Ipswich!