Saturday 7 December 2013

Margate parkrun

While I was reading up on Margate parkrun, the one recurring theme was how windy the course usually is. It's not surprising considering that the run takes place right on the seafront with absolutely no protection from whatever the North Sea decides to throw at it. So at some silly hour in the morning in early December 2013, I crawled out of bed and got myself ready - that was the easy part. Next I had to remind the wife that she had to get up as well - After all, she had been the one that made the final decision on which venue to visit - I had offered to go to Shorne Woods parkrun which is only 15 minutes away from us, but she wanted to go to the seaside! Yes, even in December.

Historic Margate

So, with the wife up and milling around, I was left with one more task - persuading our daughter that getting out of the warm, cosy bed was just what she wanted to do. She was less than reluctant to join in with my 6am parkrun enthusiasm. In the end, the promise of a trip to the seaside won her over and I carried her into the car where she continued the rest of her slumber en-route.

Dreamland and Marine Terrace

We drove through the centre of Margate and in doing so went past the derelict amusement park -Dreamland, the amusements arcades and some old boarded or run down seafront shops. It seemed quite sad to see it like this. However, it's not all doom and gloom - the recently opened (2011) Turner Contemporary Art Gallery has brought a trendy, modern, arty feel to the seafront. The olde world back streets off the main sea front seem be thriving with cafés, vintage furniture and clothes shops and restaurants. The regeneration seems to be extending onto the seafront with plans in place to revive the run down seafront, including restoring the old amusement park along with its grade 2 listed rollercoaster, which is the oldest in the UK.

The Turner Contemporary Art Gallery

I have heard it said that the only people that arrive early at a parkrun are first-timers and parkrun tourists. I can't really argue with that - I very rarely arrive at a new venue after 8am, and our arrival at Margate was no different. We easily found the main start/finish area of the parkrun, which is right at the end of Fifth Avenue in the area known as Palm Bay - It all sounds very Miami Vice to me.

Catching the sea breeze

We parked outside the Walpole Bay Hotel on Fifth Avenue, there is limited space here but there is also ample free parking on the main road (B2051). I then headed off to have a look around the course and take some photos. Should you decide that bicycling is you preference, I couldn't find any bike racks but there were railings (or the seats in the shelter which, coincidentally, look like bike racks) that could be used as a secure anchor.

pre-run briefing

Something you might want to make a note of - There are no toilets at or near the venue. The best idea I could come up with was to nip down below the main path to the cliff face using one of the staircases and find a secluded spot. Other than that, you'd probably have to head into the town centre and find a public toilet - I believe there are some just next to the clock tower on the seafront - probably best to stop on the way.

part of the course (this is the first section)

I finally walked over to the meeting point, which is at a shelter overlooking the sea. I bumped into a regular who clarified a few points that I was unsure on with the route. With the seafront at Palm Bay having a cliff face, there are two levels - the Promenade on the upper level and another wide path at beach level. The official course map gives the impression that the route goes down onto the lower level next to the beach for part of the run, but it doesn't. It stays on the upper level (Queen's Promenade and Princes Walk) at all times.

the bandstand

You could describe the layout as two out and backs - one short and one long. It is approx 85% on very wide tarmac paths, 10% on grass and 5% on a gravelly path and is mostly flat apart from an undulation that you have to negotiate in both directions during the longer out-and-back section. Looking at my GPS file of the route, I think it looks like a man lying flat on his face - I imagine he's exhausted from his morning's parkrun!

princes walk (as you can see)

Starting at the shelter, the run starts by heading West for 500 metres or so where the runners leave the main path, loop around the bandstand, rejoin the path and head back towards the start area. This is the shorter of the two out-and-backs.

the vehicle access road to the beach level - the course passes over the bridge

Now heading East and passing the start area, it's time to start the longer out and back. Runners head over a couple of bridges - these pass over access roads for people wishing to access the sea level with their jet skis, which is quite popular here. There are also a few more shelters/huts and some tennis courts to pass, and they also have to negotiate the undulation - it's a bit like a long, sweeping wave - before continuing to work their way around the path as it hugs the cliff edge to the left.

what a view - sadly i don't seem to have captured the wind farm

Upon reaching the far end of the course, runners are directed around a clockwise loop which starts by passing the Southern Water pumping station before turning onto the grass section and then returning to the main path via the gravelly path. By the way, at the far end, it's worth looking out to sea - if you're lucky you might just catch a glimpse of Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, which is 11km away from the coast and boasts 100 turbines. From here it's a dash back along the same path in the opposite direction, passing over the undulation and the bridges and eventually into the finish funnel.

finish funnel

The coastal wind actually behaved itself and didn't feel any worse than most other recent weeks of parkrunning at various inland courses - Looks like I got away with that one! The run was an interesting one for me - I set out just behind the lead bunch of four and clung onto them until they started to break up about halfway around leaving just two of them and me. The last kilometre was the strangest I've experienced, with the front runner stopping and starting every 30 seconds or so and as a result, we all kept changing positions until the finish line put an end to it, with the top three of us finishing within 4 seconds of each other.

margate parkrun

After the run I didn't feel too well, so we headed straight back to the car and into the town centre where we could grab something for breakfast (it was an early lunch by the time we arrived). Fortunately I started to feel better and we wandered around all of the shops and the art gallery mentioned above, as well as playing with the sand and building sandcastles on the beach. So if you do find yourself in Margate for the parkrun, try to stay a little longer and make a day of it! I imagine it'll be even better in the summer!

We revisited in June 2023 - the new and update write-up can be found here via the link below.

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