Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Inaugural runs: Elliðaárdalur parkrun (29 October 2011)


I went to Iceland for the weekend. It's the first time I've been. I didn't see the northern lights, but I did lounge around in an outdoor thermal pool, marvel at a waterfall, cross from the north american tectonic plate to the eurasian tectonic plate, go 'ooooh' at a geyser and visit the blue lagoon. And I'm still in shock about the fact that Iceland is larger than Ireland and has a population of 320,000.

320,000. On an island that is larger than Ireland. That's essentially the same as the population of Cardiff. Or Wakefield.

Elliðaárdalur parkrun

Started this week. First in Iceland. It's a lollipop course. The out is downhill along a tarmac path alongside a river with a bundle of mini waterfalls. It's fast, it's pretty and the noise of the river is hypnotic.

The loop is on a gravel path and I think it's through trees. Though I'm doubting that memory, because one thing that Iceland has very little of is trees. I may have hallucinated the trees.

The back, strangely enough is on a tarmac path alongside a river with a bundle of waterfalls. I assume that it is as pretty as the out section and that the sound of the river is as hypnotic, but it's uphill, and I'm afraid that the only thing I was aware of was that.

Oh yes. And afterwards, you get to go next door and lounge around outside in a thermal pool. I very nearly didn't leave.

The parkrunners

I didn't go to Iceland alone. I went as part of a centrally co-ordinated parkrun posse. There were, give-or-take-approximately, thirty-eight of us.

I'd assumed, before we went, that most of the party would be obsessive nomads like me. After all, who else would be mad enough to travel to Iceland for a parkrun?

Turns out, the party was much more interesting than that. By a long, long way.

Kirsty, from Bushy, has only got 10 more runs to go until she joins the 250 club. Tracey, from Hampstead Heath, was clocking up parkrun number 3.

Neil, from Roundshaw Downs, races his parkruns, and was not only the fastest person round, but also clocked up the best performance by age grade.

Carol, one of the seven runners from Cannon Hill (the Cannon Hill mob?) was the first woman home and Mary (from Tiverton) topped the women's age grade table.

Another of the Cannon Hill mob, Lesley, made a perfect pacemaker on the parkrun, and put up with my random babbling for a significant proportion of the course.

Joshua, Helen and Peter were representing Cambridge parkrun. Joshua was the only Junior there, and now has an impressive 51 parkruns to his name.

Ingrid, David and Peter are Kingston parkrun regulars and all members of the Stragglers running club (the drinking club with the running problem). Early this year they all took part in a relay run from John O'Groats to Land's End, along with Paul, who I met at the inaugural Riddlesdown parkrun.

Jamie and Louise have recently set up Aberdeen parkrun, despite having run only 25 parkruns between them. Four weeks in, it has attracted 213 runners from 15 different running clubs, evidence, if any were needed, of the amazing appeal of parkrun.

Peter from Frimley, grilled me about other parkruns in his neck of the woods, and may or may not be checking out Basingstoke, Black Park and Bedfont Lakes in the not-to-distant future.

In return, I grilled Sheila and Melanie about Heaton Park, Karen and Andrew about Leamington, Kathleen and Mel about Ashton Court and Howard about Cardiff.

But I think the most telling comment of all came from Helen. She was part of the group, but has no connection to parkrun at all. Some late drop outs left some places available, and she thought the itinery sounded appealing. As we stood in the baggage reclaim at Gatwick Airport, I asked how she'd found the weekend.

"Brilliant!", she replied. "Everyone was just so friendly."

And finally

Huge, huge thanks to the Elliðaárdalur parkrun team. As usual, the organisation was exquisite, and I'm sure this parkrun will go from strength to strength.

Thanks also to Peter Fordham for co-ordinating the initial set-up, and for Jorunn Jonsdottir and the team at All Iceland for making it happen.

Roll on the next parkrun tour!

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