Thursday, 9 February 2012

Course Description: Durham parkrun - A Course For All

It's fair to say that Durham parkrun is now more than well established, the first having being ran on Saturday, August 13th 2011 and this Saturday will see everyone once again lining up on the start line at Maiden Castle for Durham parkrun #27

I am going to attempt to write an unbiased account of the 5km route (3.1 miles in old money) but of course you already know that I am going to fail in doing so, as Durham is such a fabulous course that offers everthing which one could ask for in a run.

Everyone can feel like an Olympian....if they don't, well they should as I can't imagine many Parkruns will start on a tartan athletics track, lined up on the back straight of Durham University's Graham Sports Centre, Maiden Castle and on the word GO! from Race Director, Alister Robson, parkrunners of all abilities, complete 300m of the track and head to the grassed area skirting the tennis courts and all weather pitches. Carefully, the runners negotiate a sign and a volunteer, turning 180 degrees to snake along the banks of the River Wear which is key throughout the route and head towards and across the timber slatted bridge, causing a none obtrussive but rather pleasant cacophony of echoing foosteps before hitting the softer surface of the playing fields This section, I must admit can be challenging as the course follows the perimeter of the football and rugby pitches. No chance of getting lost as you simply follow the leaders, the slower runners may look across the fields and see the 'fast lads & lasses' legging it, but don't worry let them get on with it, parkrun is for everybody don't forget. On leaving playfield pastures you're welcomed by a pleasing stretch of what can be described as ash path, perhaps the time or speed you may have lost tackling the fields you can stretch your legs and make up for it on this path. Continuing along past the end of the aforementioned slatted timber bridge (can I heck recall the correct name of this bridge) runners pass the 3km sign and can now prepare for the final 2km and take in a view that never fails to impress.

Under an old brick railway bridge, across the recently built Kingfisher Bridge, you proceed along the towpath, turn a corner and there it is the most scenic view one could possibly wish for. An expanse of river often littered with University rowing crews, coxless fours, coach and eight, sculls you name it, they are there training hard under the guidance of their cycling coaches, raise your eyes from the river and your spirits are lifted, your tiredness totally forgotten as you witness, Norman architecture in all of it's stunning glory, Durham Cathedral adjacent to the equally impressive Castle, I am swooning right now as I type and recollect this breathtaking vision.

Talking of breath taking, back to the running, continue along the towpath, taking care to avoid collisions with any pedestrian, dog walkers and of course those cyclists barking out orders, advice, encouragement and tactics to their budding Sir Steve Redgraves, usually they and parkrunners have an understanding and respect for one another and steer well clear of each other.

If you glance left across the river, you will see the finish, this can of course work both ways, it can either inspire or tire, the choice is yours hopefully it's the former as you head for the third bridge of the course, known as Baths Bridge. This is where you encounter probably the only wee incline of the route so tackle it with confidence and with a smile as it has been known for Digital Dougie to have his camera set up here. Once you've crossed the bridge it's a sharp left and you can now think of the big finish, go for glory. You started on the athletics track like an Olympian let's finish like one, open those legs and show your class, so to speak and gobble up that block paving with river now on your left and Durham University Race Course on your right, the band stand is ahead and so are those runners you've kept in touch with all the way, now is the time to strike and take them just before the finish line. Awaiting your arrival is a gathering of cheering spectators, hard working volunteers and also a rather fetching Durham Ox statue who I'm sure makes sure you have your position and time recorded correctly by handing your finish tag and barcode to a volunteer for scanning!

To recap, this course is a MUST for any runner, what more can a parkrunner ask for? Enjoy, certainly not endure, this picturesque, varied mix of terrain, relatively flat run, all under the watchful eye of the majestic and monumental Cathedral and Castle!


  1. totally unbiased paul ;-)

  2. Love it Paul, what a fantastic write up. Who could resist that after such a positive review?


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