Usually one of the barriers to me managing a trip to parkrun is my son’s football. However, despite it having been 8 weeks since his last match, a myriad of reasons had kept me away. Thankfully today I was finally able to get my 5k fix, stepping on to the tourist trail and heading to Henlow Bridge Lakes parkrun.

Now I don’t usually tourist in my own backyard with my New Year’s Day visit to Millennium Country parkrun being an exception, not the rule. However, this run had been somewhat in the planning for a couple of years. One of my best friends lives in St Albans and we have been saying for a couple of years we should meet in the middle for a parkrun. We did manage to run together at Alice Holt parkrun last year when our families went away together, but getting a Saturday when we were both free had proven difficult!

This week though the stars aligned and we were both free so finally it was on. Next was to choose where. There were three options between us and after a few WhatsApp messages back and forth, we settled on a trip to Henlow Bridge (while keeping the others in our back pocket for a potential future opportunity).

I had been woken in the early hours by some torrential rain but as I left the house it was still pretty overcast and sure enough, as I drove towards Henlow, the rain started again. By the time I arrived at the car park it had dropped to a light drizzle. The car park is free on weekends but if you are driving, take care not to miss the turning like I did as then had to drive an almost 4 mile detour and round two roundabouts to get back again! Five minutes later my friend had arrived and we jogged to the start line which is about 5mins from the car park.

There were less than 90 people running this weekend and based on the first timers briefing, about a third were tourists like us. As the run circumnavigates a camp site I wonder if this is a regular occurrence. After the run briefing it was time to head off on the 2.5 lap course.

The entire course is on trail, mostly a combination of made paths and meadow type running. We’d been warned of one puddle on the first straight but other than that, road shoes were going to be fine. When planning where to run I had read a comment referencing the smell of bacon and sure enough as we headed through 500m, the lovely aroma swept across the course. It was also at that point the rain started to fall again.

I was feeling quite comfy as the rain started to fall more but you could feel the ground starting to get slippery under foot as we passed into the second lap. With a smaller field I was often on my own but with my recent fitness levels that was probably best as was able to focus solely on my own run and not get tempted in to a race.

It may have been getting wetter but the course was as flat as a pancake and as I approached the final lap I was still feeling surprisingly strong. My splits were still well off my peak fitness but compared to recent weeks I couldn’t complain and a review of Strava post run showed a real consistency. I ended up crossing the line for a time of 23:49 and in 15th place. My friend got first finisher (one of the reasons we chose the event was we thought he had a chance of nabbing this!)

After quickly shooting back to the car to grab my jumper (as by now I was soaked through) we popped on to the campsite to enjoy a coffee at the little on site shop and have a catch up. The rain kept falling and as we walked back to the car again, parts of the course now had huge puddles across the path. It does make me realise that in the winter this is probably a very tough wet and muddy course but in the summer, even when the summer is so wet, it’s a bit easier! Either way it was a lovely little, friendly parkrun to try and do easy to get to (even allowing for my detour).

This was my 21st different parkrun and 73nd overall. On the Running Challenges add in it nicely joins up Millennium Country and my home run of Pocket parkrun and already we have started discussing when we can next run together and where.

By Mike

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