Sometimes you just want to run on a trail somewhere beautiful. Luckily for that, there’s Newbury parkrun.
With the option of almost any parkrun between Baskingstoke and High Wycombe, I panicked. The pressure of choosing just one, was too much. I sent a WhatsApp message to my ‘parkrun crew’ group touting for suggestions, but all I received was a picture of a the see of pins suggesting that there looked like there was a lot of choice. Thanks guys! So, after much googling of the different courses I finally settled on Newbury. It won because of its single lap course around Greenham Common, an area of outstanding natural beauty (officially, not just my opinion). It starts on an old airstrip and then follows the trail for the rest which also sounded a bit different to many that lap a local field.
As I said, Newbury parkrun is a single lap course, mostly on trail. The briefing takes place on the concrete of the old air strip about half a mile south west of the control tower, which you can see in the distance.
The start is wide and fast meaning that you don’t need to fight for position. You do, however, want to get to the first right hand turn, about 200m in, fairly swiftly, as this bottle necks further back in the field. Due to the strict ruling of sticking to the path and not on straying onto grass, so as to protect the common, the width of the rest of the course is then limited to 3, maybe 4 runners abreast making it more difficult to overtake slower runners after this. This does improve as the field thins a bit over time.
The rest of the course is only very mildly undulating and on hard pack gravel. There were lots of giant puddles to either jump or splash your way though, so I imagine in really wet weather, trail shoes may well be the way to go. Theres only one fork in the path at around 1k, where you head left, through the trees and then emerge out by the pond. This section was my favourite as there’s lots to look at. You then pass the athletics track on your left hand side before continuing up the other side of the common back towards the start. This last 1.5k section was probably the most undulating, but still only mildly.
As I was on route to High Wycombe from Dorset, I had no choice but to drive to the start. Parking at the Control Tower car park is limited and there are no toilet facilities. Not an option after a 90 minute drive with a large coffee for company!
Instead, I parked out on Greenham Business Park, where there are marshals to direct you to the large car park. New Horizon House at the Business Park is open from 8am to use the toilets if needed. It’s then about a mile jog across the business park, through the gate onto the common and along the gravel path to the start. It actually made for for the perfect warm up and cool down.
What I especially loved
- The single lap course. There aren’t many, but it is nice to always be in new territory.
- It’s super pretty. We were lucky that it was a really sunny winters morning, but you can see why this is an area of outstanding natural beauty.
- I’d go as far as saying this was one of the friendliest parkruns I’ve been too. Everyone spoke to everyone.
- Running around the pond at the far end of the common
And what I didn’t
- It seems to start consistently late. Today was just after 10 past 9. This isn’t a big deal, and I completely understand the safety need for a briefing. Most of it though was spent justifying why it was always late, and I couldn’t help but think that it seems like an easy problem to fix. I’m sure there is a reason that as a tourist I was oblivious too though.
- Sometimes you need a last minute panic wee, and that wouldn’t have been an option as the closest toilets are a mile away. Not Newbury’s fault, just an observation!
In theory this should be a fairly quick run. It’s reasonably flat, and the single lap means faster runners don’t get caught up lapping the back of the field. The gravel is loose on occaision, and is never going to be as fast as tarmac. More though, it’s really exposed and so the wind, particularly on the last 2k, made life hard and may well have squashed some PB hopes. I’d say it was very similar to Moors Valley for PB potential, maybe slightly less as it measures about .08 of a mile longer. Every little counts, right!
Stats from 1st February 2020
Event number: 431
Number of runners: 659
This weeks fastest: M- 17.42 F- 21.56
All Time Stats
Lasting memory of Newbury parkrun:
That I wish it wasn’t an hour and a half away! This was one of my favourite events and I really wish it would be more practical to come back more often.
Thanks for having me Newbury!