Sunday, 23 September 2012

parkrun Course Description: Milton Keynes

Milton Keynes was voted the most beautiful parkrun in the world by the parkrun show, perhaps it should be the most social media savvy parkrun but nevertheless the result stands.

So lace up your trainers and come and join me on a trip around the 'World’s Most Beautiful parkrun'.

From the yell‘GO!’ around 300 runners and walkers hare down the start straight and turn left up towards the canal. Don’t forget to smile as you approach the underpass as quite often there’s a photographer standing on top of the bridge.

There’s a gradual incline up to the canal, which makes this part of the course harder work than it should be. We’re still getting used to running and our legs haven’t got into their rhythm just yet. There’s a sharp, short, steep bit to get up to the canal but once you’re canalside you’ve got over a kilometre of flat path lined on both sides by trees. So settle into your rhythm and enjoy the sun glinting through the trees.

We turn away from the canal and head downhill, letting the legs go as fast as they feel. Then it’s up over a road bridge and down the other side. If you’re looking up at this point you might start and wonder which way you’re going next, but then you spot the runners in front of you snaking their way up the steep hill in front of you.

The ‘dreaded zig-zags’, ‘switchbacks of doom’, or whatever else you want to call them await. You maintain your effort, though not necessarily your speed, on the zig-zags, take a deep breathe at the top, thank the marshal and then sprint down the other side of the hill. You feel as if you are flying and if you glance to your right you’ll see Milton Keynes’ Peace Pagoda.

The Peace Pagoda is Buddhist stupa designed to provide a focus for people of all races and creeds, and to help unite them in their search for world peace. The one in Milton Keynes was completed in 1980 and it was the first Peace Pagoda built in the western world. Although you can’t see it from the parkrun course, there is a Nipponzan-Myōhōji Order temple and monastery just behind it.

We now turn right to pass in front of the Peace Pagoda and onto Willen Lake. Give yourself a pat on the back, you’ve now passed 2.5kms and you’ve got the satisfaction of knowing that the rest of the course is flat…ish.

The course ducks under another underpass and leads you onto the southern Willen Lake. The underpass is very echoy (if that’s a real word, and is good for making ‘Whoop, Whoop’ noises if you’re not too out of breath).

From now on you’re following a gravel path next to the lake shoreline. You can distract yourself by watching waterskiers or if you’re not aiming for a PB you can stop off and do some of the Trim Trail activities.

The course goes round the underpass loop (an underpass, over a bridge and back under the underpass) and once you are out of the final underpass you can see the finish. The bad news is you’ve still got 1.5kms to go. This part of the course can be quite blustery as it’s very open but today it’s sunny and still. Perfect weather.

Running along the path you pass 4km and you can see a marshal in front of you. You follow the marshal’s directions and you’re onto the home straight, one of Milton Keynes’ famous Redways. The surface is flat, hard and fast.

The finish is getting closer and you’re focusing on it so you don’t notice Aerial Extreme, the high rope adventure course, on your left. Round the final right turn and there it is, the finish, just metres in front of you. You put your head down and sprint for the line.

Congratulations! You’ve done it. I hope you’re happy with your time.

Anyway, it’s now time to head into the café inside LA Fitness (no need to be a member, just tell them you’re with parkrun) for a latte, bacon butty and general chit chat.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your run around Milton Keynes parkrun, and we’ll see you again soon.