Saturday, 22 February 2014

Pegwell Bay parkrun

For the second time in three weeks I made the journey over to Pegwell Bay country park in the north east corner of kent (aka Thanet). The first time, the weather and conditions were bad and the event was cancelled at the last minute. On that occasion I dashed across to Whitstable parkrun instead. Fortunately the weather and conditions had improved for my second visit and at 8.59am I was standing on the grass next to the car park listening to the run briefing for Pegwell Bay parkrun event thirty-nine.

welcome, access to the car park is officially from 8.30am

Before I made it to the briefing, I had parked in the car park which officialy opens at 8.30am (I arrived a little earlier and it was open already) and paid the £1.50 fee. For cyclists there are a selection of cycle racks and for train users there is a 2.5 mile walk/jog/run along the sea road from Ramsgate station. I made use of the very-recently-decorated toilets, which are adjacent to the car park and had a little look around the country park. The wife and daughter had found the playground and were happily climbing and running around as I made my way towards the start line which is on the grass that looks out over Pegwell Bay itself.

run briefing

The run takes place over two-and-a-bit anti-clockwise laps of the country park and it is roughly shaped like a triangle (or maybe a shark's tooth) as you can see by looking at the course page. It is run almost entirely on a compact gravel surface and is essentially flat. Knowing that it was being run in a country park and knowing that it was un-runnable two weeks ago, I put my trail shoes on just in case but I didn't need them - road shoes are perfectly fine here. There were just a few parts that were still wet or muddy (but we're just talking about surface mud, not anything more).

i just liked this shot

So from the grassy start area, we were sent off to do what we came to do. Anyone looking to run their best time will need to be bold with their initial pace because within 30 metres the runners condense onto the main path which doesn't have much space for overtaking, plus 100 metres later there is a single-file gate to squeeze through. A sharp left-hand turn onto a shared-use people-cycle path leads you past the briefing area, where you will also spot the finish funnel sitting there waiting for you to complete the remaining 4.8 kilometres.

we had a lovely clear sunny morning

The next part is interesting and not something you'll see very often at a parkrun. The course crosses the road. Not the main road, but the road that gives vehicles access to the car park. It was marshaled by, I think, two marshals who I imagine will stop any vehicles to allow the runners to proceed. Anyway, it's not a busy road or car park and I didn't encounter any vehicles during my two crossings of it.

this is the crossing. runners approach from the top right and follow the cycle path across the road

Once across the road the runners continue heading along the shared-use people-cycle path. It's fairly straight and is slightly wider here, allowing the runners juggle positions a little easier than previously. It gently meanders from left to right at points until runners are faced with another left-hand turn and another smiley volunteer to ensure the turn is not missed. Immediately after the turn is another gate to squeeze through - again it's single file.

the slightly wider part of the path

Now running towards the sea, there is the slightest suggestion of a rise and the path meanders a little more to bring the runners out onto the seafront path with the foreshore and mudflats on the right. Glancing across the bay towards Ramsgate there's a glimpse of the cliffs in the distance. Being a shallow inlet, the bay is thought to be one of the first places that the Vikings landed in Britain 1,500 years ago. There is even a replica Viking ship just off the main road above the cliffs.

pegwell bay and cliffs

There's a little bump in the path to negotiate and before you know it you pass the start area and begin lap two. At the end of lap two it's a simple case of continuing around to the finish line and entering the colourful seaside-wind-breaker-lined finish funnel to collect your finish token (you'd think I'd remember to grab it by now!) and if you are lucky you might even just get a freshly cut orange quarter at the registration desk after you've been scanned. The results were up online a few hours later.

me. lap two.

Buggy runners will be fine around the course. The two narrow gates should be just about wide enough to squeeze through but you wouldn't be able to charge through them at full pace. There's lots of wildlife around - something buzzed right past my ear during my second lap. I have no idea what it was but it made me jump (I wasn't expecting to encounter buzzing things in February!).

love the wind breakers that create the finish funnel

So, it's a lovely little course nestled right on the seafront in the north east corner of Kent. It's amazing how parkrun continues to lead me to places that I may not otherwise have had the pleasure of visiting. Plus it is of course nice and flat, so you'll probably be able to put in a fast time. I did just that by running my first sub-20 parkrun of the year.

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