Down in Bolton for a friend’s wedding, there was I thinking we’d have a quiet weekend in a nice spa hotel with maybe a bit of swimming and time in the steam rooms. But of course Alister can’t go on a road trip without a parkrun and it turns out the hotel was only 5 miles from Bolton parkrun, so I had no chance of avoiding it 🙂
One of the Event Directors at Bolton, David Ardill, originally worked with Alister to establish Durham parkrun what seems like a lifetime ago now, but he moved back to the NW shortly after Durham started. We were hoping to catch up with him but he was away visiting family for the Easter weekend. We made sure to get the inside info on the course, though, with Alister (at my request) asking ‘Is it flat?’. The response invited a sharp intake of breath from Alister and a ‘are you sure you want to know…?’. I took in the brief overview of the text message: a couple of laps, including twice up something ominously called ‘Cruella de Hill’. Gulp!
The venue was the rather lovely Leverhulme Park, and we met at the running track and leisure centre adjacent to the parkland. After a bit of parkrun mingling and showing off our 50 t-shirts (roll on the black 100 t-shirt – there weren’t many of them there and I’d love to have paraded one!), and meeting the day’s run director, Andrew, we got underway. Beginning with a lap of the track, Alister shot off ahead and I decided I’d keep with the 25 minute pacer for the first part then see how I got on up the hills, as my pace recently has been way down on my best. After the lap of the track, though, I glanced at my Garmin as it all felt a bit speedy – the Garmin had us on for a 6:55 first mile which isn’t ever in my plans for anything!! I slowed off the ‘pacer’ and enjoyed a decent downhill section and a run along a trail past a lovely stream giving me time to admire the scenery before the first attack of Cruella. She really wasn’t a very nice hill – long, steep and reminiscent of ‘Cardiac Hill’ on the science site in Durham. I had a moment at the top where I very much regretted the full English breakfast earlier on, but I managed to hold onto it as I staggered along on jelly legs at a snail’s pace while my legs recovered from the shock. I wound it up again and pushed on hard on the flat section as I was beginning to feel quite good. Despite the pain of the hill, I’d picked a few off and so I strode out down the next bit to pick off a few more and psyched myself up for the second attack of Cruella. Again, it was a tough struggle but I picked off a few (some clearly use this as their ‘walking’ section) and again managed to just about hang on to my breakfast – there were others at the top not so lucky… A decent out and back for the last kilometre, with another hill thrown in for luck, along with a glory sprint finish (well, sort of) on the track saw me finish a scenic but bloomin’ tough parkrun a few minutes down on my usual parkrun time.
I’ve shied away from Gateshead or Hackworth parkrun because I’ve heard they’re ‘not flat’, but, according to Alister, this was the toughest parkrun he’s ever done. It’s certainly a tester! Running wise, I’m pretty sure it was my best performance for a few weeks, but was a good couple of minutes off where I’d have expected it to be. Killer hill, but nice park and, as usual, a lovely parkrun welcome! No café as such, but hot tea was provided at the end by some of the volunteers. Oh, and the wedding later that day was lovely, too!