Mark Reynolds sends in this report from the inaugural Gateshead parkrun where we had 2 Tyne Bridge Harriers taking part.
Saturday 18th February 2012 marked the day when the parkrun phenomenon arrived in Gateshead. Much work has been going on behind the scenes to make this happen and the efforts of Race Director, Hilary Shaw, and the team of volunteers have been richly rewarded.Already dubbed ‘Heedrun’ by participants this free, timed, 5 km event takes place in the environs of Saltwell Park. Originally opened in 1876 the park is a perfect example of ornate Victorian splendour with a boating lake, aviary, bandstand and recreation areas. It also has some slopes. Well inclines. Let’s face it – hills. In fact it’s mainly hills. This made for an interesting and challenging course, especially for those used to more flatter territory.
The start area is at the top end of the park close to the main entrance. Brilliantly this is also the home to several pavilions that dot the park and provide an ideal area to meet, shelter and get ready for the run. A healthy gathering of parkrunners old and new were already there at 8:45am as a cool breeze pushed showers of rain overhead. Many familiar faces dotted the crowd including our own Rob Wishart (fresh from a morning warm up run that started in Co. Durham). There were welcoming words from parkrun HQ, as well as the Gateshead Race Director explaining the route and before we knew it everyone was off.
Gateshead parkrun Course
View Gateshead parkrun in a larger map
Initially we ran along the top path of the park to the far corner before taking a left downhill for some 400m. At this point it felt great, smooth fast running with plenty of energy in the legs. I then remembered that I’d be climbing back up this at the finish and tried not to go off too fast. We completed one large loop of the Northern Field in about 4 minutes, returning to the start line before descending again, this time to the bottom end of the park and the boating lake with its resident ducks. We then completed three shorter loops consisting of the combined lake and bowling green. Marshalls were dotted around the course in bright vests showing the way clearly and shouting out words of encouragement to all the runners. I kept to a steady pace round these laps keeping an eye on the runners in front and watching as Rob disappeared into the distance.Suddenly the final hill back to the finish beckoned and I decided it was time to try and move on a bit. Shortening my stride and upping the cadence to ‘flatten the hill’ took me up the final slope to the finishing straight. Trying to keep up the pace I crossed the line in a bit over 21 minutes, a wee while back from Mr Wishart. There the efficient volunteers were waiting to scan barcodes, offer words of congratulation and hand out chocolates from the tin – a welcome finish!
We then watched the rest of the 83 strong field cross the line from the handily placed benches, whilst chatting about the latest addition to the parkrun stable. Everyone agreed it was a good course, with an interesting and well planned route. Despite the up and down nature of the terrain there were never any long drags, with plenty of features preventing it becoming a slog. It was also great to be able to sample a new parkrun so close to home.
Many thanks to Hilary Shaw and the 14 enthusiastic volunteers who made it all possible as well as parkrun, the sponsors and other authorities who have backed the event. Here’s to many more Heedruns in the weeks, months and years to come!
Mark ‘Cuthbert’ Reynolds
Tyne Bridge Harriers Results
04 Rob Wishart – 19:51
05 Mark Reynolds -21:16
Full results of the first Gateshead parkrun here.
If you are interested in joining either this, or any of the other parkrun events in the region, head to www.parkrun.org.uk and get registered, it’s quick, free and easy.