Sunday, 20 April 2014

King's Lynn parkrun

The background of how I ended up in Norfolk for a parkrun is quite simple. I needed a 'k' that I hadn't already visited for my #7weeksofparkrun challenge and as I had already run at the closest one - Kingston, I went for the next closest 'k' which happened to be King's Lynn parkrun.

king's lynn

With King's Lynn being approximately 107 miles from home, I decided that it would give us a reason to have a mini Easter break. So on the Thursday we headed north along the M11 towards Norfolk. We had booked a room in The Old Rectory Bed and Breakfast (approx 200 metres from the park gate, and only 700 metres away from the parkrun start line), which we found to be very nice indeed.

the old rectory

After three years and 142 parkruns, the overnight stay gave me the opportunity to do something I had never been in a position to do before... Travel to a parkrun ON FOOT! I could get out of bed at 8.30am on a Saturday and still arrive with time to spare. Of course, I woke up at 5.50am and eventually gave up trying to get back to sleep.

the walks

So at 8.15am, I left The Old Rectory and jogged a longer than necessary route as part of my warm-up to 'The Walks', which, at 17 hectares, is the largest park in the town. I was welcomed by some regulars as I entered the park. The Heritage Lottery Fund donated £4.3 million towards the restoration of the park (during 2007-08, I believe) and I have to say that it is a really lovely little green space.

the meeting point / cafe / bicycle parking

If you were driving to this venue, you can park on the streets to the south and east of the park for free. Alternatively there are some pay and display spaces or a multi-storey car park in the centre of the town. There has been an attempt to provide some cycling infrastructure in the town and the park is part of this (national cycle route 1 uses St. John's Walk) so safe(r) cycling is a realistic option for the locals. Cyclists can lock up their bikes at the bicycle racks at the cafe/meeting point, but when the racks are full there is a fence that runs around the adjacent playground that can be used.

pre-run briefing

The main meeting point is the cafe, which opens early for the benefit of the parkrun. It also has toilets. However, the queue does build up here. There is another toilet block on the opposite side of the park that can be used as an alternative.

walking across to the start line

After the pre-run announcements at the cafe, the runners all walk over to the start line, which is on the small diagonal path on the east side of the park (the start and finish areas are slightly different to the official course map at present). From here it is a simple three-and-bit lap anti-clockwise course where runners have the opportunity to see all of the park's features.


From the start, the runners head towards the wooden statues of parents carrying children on their backs and then turn left onto St. John's Walk, which runs adjacent to the railway line (King's Lynn station is right next to the park btw). The runners then pass the parkour area, the playgrounds, the cafe and then swing a left to cut through the centre of the park via Red Mount Walk.

the red mount chapel

On their left, runners may catch a glimpse of the River Gaywood before passing The Red Mount Chapel, which was built between 1483-85 and is classified as an ancient monument. English Heritage have listed it as a grade 1 building. The path here meanders and then has a long curve around to the right and at the end the runners turn right and head off for an out-and-back section along The Broad Walk.

guannock gate

Once runners complete the out and back they continue along The Broad Walk by passing through The Guannock Gate (13th century) which once formed part of the town's defences but is now purely ornamental. It is Grade 2 listed by English Heritage.

river gaywood meandering around the bandstand and vancouver garden

Once through the arch, the next feature is the bandstand and the Vancouver Garden. This is dedicated to the city of Vancouver which takes its name from Captain George Vancouver who was born in King's Lynn in 1757. All that remains is for the runners to turn left and rejoin the diagonal path where the run started, but before completing the lap there are the five carved designs on the right, each with a drumstick carved into the top - this is in tribute to Roger Taylor, drummer with the band Queen, who was born in King's Lynn.

they have drumsticks at the top

Once three laps have been completed, there is just a little further to run. The finish is just off the main path near the children's playground. Barcode scanning takes place just outside the cafe, which is then a very convenient place for runners and volunteers to enjoy a spot of post-run socialising.

coming up to the end of lap 1 (i think) (i'm on the left in the 100 club tee) [photo: from official set]

The run takes place on tarmac and is completely flat so it's definitely a good course if you want to try for a fast time. It's a very nice run and is squeezed into quite a compact, but lovely park. The run usually attracts over 150 runners and the week I ran there were 217 of us! This was a new record number for them, breaking the previous record by 51 runners!

a welcome sight after 5k of hard running

If you run here, you'll find that there is plenty of interaction with other runners during the out-and-back section and as the laps progress, a fair amount of runners will either lap someone or be lapped themselves depending what end of the field they are at. There are friendly volunteers in all the right places and lap times are called out as you pass the start line at the end of each lap - good for keeping track of your pacing - mine were completely even (spot on 6, 12, and 18 minutes), which was nice.

river gaywood

Finally, this was week 4 of the #7weeksofparkrun challenge. With this venue being in Norfolk, I made this my fourth county and it was also my fourth sub-20 (18:40) of the challenge. So I am on target with all of the elements of the challenge.

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