Saturday, 28 May 2016

Woking parkrun

Woking is a large town in Surrey with a population of around 63,000 people. Its first recorded in written form in the Domesday book as 'Wochinges' (or wochingas), but this would have referred to Old Woking rather than the modern town you see today.

The town has links to popular culture in the form of H.G Wells' novel War of the Worlds with one of Woking's suburbs 'Horsell Common' being the area where the invading martians first land. The band 'The Jam' are from the area and their number 1 song 'A Town Called Malice' is about Woking.

briefing and around the park [photos: 7t]

In 1902 the Brettell family, who were known as philanthropists, gave an area of land to the people of Woking with a conveyance order which stated that it 'shall not be used for any other purpose than a public park, public walks, gardens, recreation grounds, pleasure grounds and baths'.

Shortly after this, Woking Park opened to the public. It has been renovated, modified and extended since that time. In 2008 the park was under threat when proposals to relocate Woking College to the land were made - fortunately local residents fought this citing that to do this would be in breach of the original covenant. On 16 August 2014 the park became home to Woking parkrun.

around the park [photos: 7t / dani]

We visited this venue on Saturday 28 May 2016 (event 91) on a lovely morning. It also happened to be the same day that Guildford parkrun and Rushmoor parkrun (both local) were both cancelled, so it worked out to be quite a busy day for the volunteers who coped admirably with the increased number of runners - in fact, a new course attendance record of 340 was set.

We parked in the main Woking Park car park which is also used by people visiting the Pool in the Park swimming pool and leisure centre. According to the council's website and signs in the car park, it is free for up to three hours (the Woking parkrun website says four hours) has plenty of space and did the job nicely. Travel by train is totally do-able with Woking Train Station being just a short walk away. There are some bicycle racks for cyclists next to the car park.

the trail section [photos: 7t]

While I went and took some photos around the course, my wife and daughter hung out in the playground which was renovated in 2014 and the verdict from my daughter is that it is brilliant (I agree, it is superb!). Other facilities in the park include crazy golf, tennis courts, plus football and cricket pitches. In only a small park so it's quite amazing how they've managed to squeeze everything in while still retaining a nice peaceful space for the locals to chill out.

While I was wandering around I found the toilets, which are right next to the parkrun start line and the tennis courts. I also found a lovely pond and loads of beautiful trees and plants - it all felt rather lush. There was a scented garden which I entered and had a good sniff of - it smelt flowery. To top it all off I found some ducklings hanging out on the pond. Before I knew it, it was almost 9am and time for the briefing at the bandstand.

hi-five [photos: dani / 7t]

The parkrun takes place over a three-and-a-bit lap route around the park which is mostly tarmac but also features a section along a dirt trail through the woods. It was dry when I visited, but it looks like it can get pretty muddy on that section during the winter, so some kind of multi-terrain shoe would the best choice of footwear for this course. For the record, buggy runners will be fine on the course, but things do get a little congested.

The route is basically flat, but there is a slight incline towards the end of each lap to negotiate. Without doubt, my favourite thing about the route were the twists and turns of which there are many and they make the course a lot of fun to run around. There were also a few small bridges to cross where the route passes over the Hoe Stream.

woking parkrun [photos: dani / 7t]

It's worth noting that 340 runners on a three-and-a-bit lap course with a fair amount of narrow-ish paths meant that the faster runners soon caught up with the tail runner and started filtering through, lapping the back of the field. It wasn't easy and involved quite a lot of weaving, so if you are running sub-30 you will probably lap people and if you are running 27 minutes plus you will be lapped yourself. 27-30 minute runners are in that zone where they'll be doing both.

At the end of the run the barcode scanning was taken care of right next to the finish line and the results were online shortly after. I'm left with memories of a great park with an amazing children's playground. The parkrun was great fun and the course is flat and fast. The park was so great that we actually forgot to go to the post-run social which is in the Costa Coffee inside the leisure centre, but I'm sure that was also great!

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