This time 3 years ago I had just completed week 10 of my original marathon training block. My charity vest had just arrived and I was sorting out race day logistics. At this point I also had to work out how I was going to manage week 14 of training. That was because just 2 weeks before Manchester, I would be heading to North Wales for my brother in laws stag do. Week 14 would be the last long run at 18 miles and how I was going to fit that and a 5hr car journey in was playing on my mind. The Saturday however was going to be easier, Penrhyn parkrun was only a 10min drive from where we were going to be staying so that was locked in.
Then covid hit!
Fast forward almost three years and finally the stag do was back on. This time I didn’t have any marathon training on and in fact I’d only run three times so far in the year so fitness was through the floor. But I wanted that bit of parkrun tourism!
Having all arrived in North Wales on the Friday evening, it had then been a very late night so I wasn’t sure how many of the group who had expressed an interest would be up to head the 10mins up the road to Penrhyn Castle. As it was two more of the group were up (albeit with one needing us to turn back to get him) so off we went.
It was easy to find Penrhyn Castle and having parked up (as a National Trust property parking was plentiful), we started the 5 minute walk up the hill with the beautiful site if the castle at the top and looking out at the Menai Strait. Unfortunately the detour back to where we were staying did mean we missed the first timers briefing so the run was going to be a learning experience. Likewise, we couldn’t really hear the briefing as there were too many people chatting but at least I understood it would be two big laps, two little laps and then the great finish line of the castle entrance.
Now, on the parkun page the course is described as: “mostly flat with some small undulating slopes“
Now I suppose when you have Snowdonia as a backdrop it’s all relative but as we almost immediately headed down hill, I realised it may be a little hillier than I was expecting! I also had the issue that, despite really not running much in recent months, a downhill section coupled with my interest ability to be like a greyhound chasing a hare at the start did lead to my first km being a far too fast!
The big loop takes you around the entire castle and after heading down, you then climb back up, eventually landing back on the same long straight path that you start on. At the end of lap one a left turn takes you round this loop again. Each big loop is about 1.5km long. I had hoped that I could just hang on after my speedy start but alas the hills (in total my watch measured 55m of climb) and distinct lack of fitness meant that by the end of lap 2 I was behind my two friends and really blowing.
The two small loops aren’t really that much smaller at 1km than the big loop. The main difference is that by turning right in front of the castle rather than left you don’t circumnavigate the whole thing but eventually you meet the same paths that you previously were on. This has the risk of a bit of a bottle neck as you have the potential of having people on three different laps but I didn’t find it too bad at all.
Finally at the end of the 2nd little lap it is a sprint finish towards the castle gates where you cross the finish by entering the castle. I was absolutely spent but creeping under 25mins in my current state was the best I could have hoped for! Overall there were 139 finishers so it was on the mid to smaller side of runs I have done. We couldn’t stick around unfortunately so after a quick frame selfie, we headed back as we needed to be at the nearby Zipworld by 1030.
The location for this parkrun is stunning and unlike some multi laps I have done, it never felt repetitive so I enjoyed the course. In fact my only real issues were to my own lack of fitness. Penrhyn became my 16th different parkrun and the first new one I had done since Pontefract on Christmas Day 2021. Given I had waited three years I was very pleased to have got it done and not wimped out after a late night and as I have come home adamant I want to take the kids to North Wales, I could see a return visit being likely!