I’ve never been much of a saint, but for St Albans parkrun, I was prepared to make an exception! 5k of running at its saintliest, and more importantly, the letter ‘S’ ticked off my parkrun alphabet.
To be perfectly honest, because a friend did some research and decided it was the prettiest parkrun on route to Luton airport. We’d booked a last minute flight in the January sales, and so at 11.35 on a grey, Saturday morning, we were leaving on a jet plane……. for Bratislava. Not exactly known for it’s winter sunshine I know, but at best we’d get to see a new country and at worst, there was bound to be some decent coffee shops! Anyway, with checkin closing at 11, the stars were aligned for a spot of parkrun tourism. St Albans was calling our name.
The briefing takes place on one of the concrete basketball courts with one of the best PA systems of any parkrun I’ve been too. So much so that I actually had to move back in the field to protect my ears! Luckily, it’s also one of the widest starts around, spanning almost the entire width of the court, so jostling to get right to the front isn’t really needed.
On the claxon, you run the first 3-400m on the grass which after a winter of rain was somewhat squidgy. At the end, you turn left along a solid concrete path and complete a lap of the lake. This bit is really pretty. There are swans, a cute bridge and depending on your position in the field, you can watch the speedy front runners across the water. As long as you’ve made enough progress getting to the first corner not to get bottle necked when you join the path, then this lap of the lake is fast. It’s pancake flat and very runable.
You exit the lake up a slight hill and head back towards the start. As the course is less congested by now, you can keep some speed by sticking to the tarmac path. Having said that, even this was fairly caked in mud by this point. You run all the way past the start towards the carpark where you loop around the tree and head back again across the grass to complete your second lap of the lake.
The finish is just past the start point, but you can run all bar the last 10m on the tarmac path, making it quick. Sprint finish anyone?
On route to the airport, public transport wasn’t really an option this week. There is some limited parking in the park itself, right by the start. I believe you have to pay £1.70 for that option. We parked about 0.7 miles away at Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre where parking is free. It also had the added bonus of changing facilities, meaning that we didn’t have to board a plane caked in mud and slightly smelly! The 0.7 miles past the athletics track too and from the start also makes the ideal warm up and cool down.
What I especially loved about St Albans parkrun
- It’s a really pretty, varied route. While the muddy field feels a bit cross country-ish in the winter, I imagine in the summer the lake is even more beautiful.
- That you can see the whole field of runners and their reflections, like one giant congo around the lake.
- It didn’t really feel like a lapped course. The two laps of the lake are broken up with the field section which works really well.
- As people are done the obvious place to congregate is around the finish, which leads to great support.
- An efficient double funnel!
- I don’t think you’d be lapped unless you were outside 40 minutes.
And what I didn’t
- St Albans mud, is the muddiest mud that ever did mud. My shoes have yet to recover!
I imagine it would be much faster during the summer months when you aren’t loosing time sinking into a muddy field. The lake section is pancake flat and very quick. I don’t think it would rival somewhere like Poole for PB potential, but there is definitely some.
Stats from 25th January 2020
Event number: 427
Number of runners: 591
This weeks fastest: M- 18.02 F- 19.13