7.30am, Saturday 17 August 2019. The sun had risen over Roundhay park and was now shining on the lake, and on the 11 Hyde Park Harriers who had congregated on the dam at its southern boundary. A very long day was about to begin.
After the success of last year’s event, in which a squad of Harriers took on the seven parkruns of Leeds, it seemed only right and proper to do it all again in 2019. The slight snag? An eighth parkrun (Potternewton) had subsequently opened… A braver man than me could have suggested substituting one of the previous year’s courses but how do you choose which to sacrifice when they’re all perfect in their own way?! (Okay, it would have been Bramley). Instead, we decided to double down – we’d do not one but two more courses this year, thus increasing the total distance to 45 kilometres and therefore an ultra (by 2,805 metres).
In order to ensure we could get round all nine courses before dark, our first challenge was to start early enough in the day. For those who find parkrun’s usual 9am start to be an impediment to their weekend lie-ins, there was bad news – we’d be starting some 90 minutes earlier. A second challenge soon presented itself: the usual Roundhay course had been trampled into mush by 50,000 screaming Ed Sheeran fans the night before and was therefore inaccessible. The landscapers of Roundhay had, however, clearly been gifted with astonishing foresight and designed the park’s iconic lake such that two laps around its edge would measure nigh-on five kilometres precisely! Everyone agreed that the new route improved on many aspects of the usual Roundhay course – its flatness, in particular, was much admired. Perhaps Roundhay’s team could consider it as an option one day (subject, of course, to them acquiring a suitable lifeboat to rescue the victims of boisterous overtaking manoeuvres on the lakeside path).
As a mark of respect to its status as the newest venue in Leeds, Potternewton was to be the day’s official parkrun. It promptly repaid this accolade with pain and suffering – it hosts two of the finest hills known to Leeds parkrunners, each of which must be completed three times.
Fortunately, we were joined by a red and white army, with a large contingent of Harriers descending (then ascending six times) on the park. It was great to see so many friendly faces – thanks to all who came along! Massive thanks also to all the volunteers and organisers at Potternewton (sidenote: if you haven’t volunteered at parkrun yet, please do so – it’s ace!).
Our third course was Temple Newsam. For those unfamiliar with this one, it’s an object lesson in “what goes around, comes around” – you get a lovely downhill, but by heck do you pay for it! By this point, nine of us were set on doing all the venues, together with half a dozen more intending to do at least three or four each. Other than a slight hiccup involving a dodgy postcode, which sent one Harrier to Rothwell two hours early (sorry again James…!), everything was going smoothly and we were all starting to get into the rhythm of the day.
Rothwell followed – personally, I think it’s much improved by the new path (having previously only run it when it was a grassy path around the field). The first signs of tiredness were beginning to show as we came up on the half-marathon distance – well, not counting Rich Garratt, who flew around every course on seemingly robotic legs. It was also great to see more Harriers here, who were just finishing a post-parkrun brunch at the café (although they politely declined our invitation to join us for the remaining six venues).
Our fifth run took place at Middleton Woods: predominantly trail-based and probably the prettiest of Leeds’ parkruns. It’s a good thing it’s pretty as it also has quite an incline! As organiser, this was the run I was most worried about – last year, I was responsible for half the group getting lost in the woods due to dodgy directions and a complete failure to pace it sensibly. We fared much better this year and everyone emerged safe and sound in time for lunch at the café. Sitting down was both a blessing and curse – we were all grateful for the rest but knew we had nearly half a marathon still to come…
Cross Flatts is a great parkrun, but it will kick your ass if you don’t give it the respect it deserves. It lulls you into a false sense of security with the relatively flat, short starting loop, even gifting you with a long downhill swoop to the bottom of the park …then it drags your bones back up to the top, screaming all the way. Everyone did brilliantly as the fatigue started to set in – we could just about start to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel!
Next up was Bramley and another potential course diversion – the carnival was in town and we originally thought (hoped?!) we might have to divert elsewhere, thus missing out on the notorious four lap course, including brutal ascents up the hill on the eastern side of the park. Rich G heroically volunteered to recce the course to see if it was passable – save for a slight detour around a chap getting impressively drunk and high on the top field, we were indeed good to go. It was at this point that Rich’s plan suddenly made sense – he was already one lap ahead of the rest of us! Rich E was bolstered by support from Team Edwards; Sam had more energy than the rest of us put together.
Mike, who had run all seven locations up to this point, took the opportunity to depart in time to watch the Man City v Spurs game (ironically, a game to make us all wonder if we’ve gone VAR enough…). For the rest of us, the home stretch was in sight as we journeyed on to Armley. The rains of the night before had us fearing this course might turn out to be a quagmire but fortunately the ground had mostly dried out. Greg put in a storming run – phenomenal stuff given that this was his seventh parkrun of the day and he’d also cycled between each of them (by my rough calculation, a ride totalling 27 miles).
Only ten hours after “official” parkrun had begun (and nearly 12 hours after we ourselves had started), a weary crew of Harriers arrived at the start line of Woodhouse Moor, augmented at the last by the arrival of more familiar faces! We’d started the morning in sunshine and we finished it in sunshine too – tired, a bit broken, but elated.
I was, in all honesty, surprised I’d made it round them all – having struggled with injuries over the last year, I wasn’t convinced my ankle would hold out or that I had the overall fitness to run the furthest I’ve ever run in a single day. I’ll credit the fact that I made it to the awesome company – I’m extremely proud to have run with everyone who came along at each of the locations and I really hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
There’s already talk of doing a winter version, or perhaps doing something similar in and around a different city… I’d love to see even more people at the next iteration of the event – for me, the fun, the inclusivity and the challenge of a day like Saturday are central to what Hyde Park Harriers, parkrun and, ultimately, running are all about.
Below are the names of the Hyde Park Harriers who came along to one or more locations on the day (apologies to anyone I’ve overlooked!):
The nine who ran all nine venues (henceforth known as the Nine): Richard Edwards, Jonathan Spain, Ellie Colman, Chris Worfolk, Paul Dickens, Chris Hassall, Richard Garratt, James Tarbit, Toby Adkins
1 Roundhay: Robyn Johnson, Mike Webb and the Nine
2 Potternewton: Adam Lomas, Paul Sawyer, Clare Slorach, Andrew Carrier, Mike Webb, Conor Goold, Chris Jones, Graeme Miles, Alison Pullan, Anna Stocks, Alison Hargreaves, Tilly Rhodes, Rebecca Goody, Greg Billenness, Paul Farmery, Liz Jones, Ralph Kidner, Helen Beddow and the Nine
3 Temple Newsam: Paul Ramsden, Alison Pullan, Anna Stocks, Mike Webb, Greg Billenness, Helen Beddow, Rebecca Goody, Paul Farmery and the Nine
4 Rothwell: Alison Pullan, Mike Webb, Greg Billenness, Helen Beddow, Russell Webster, Paul Farmery and the Nine
5 Middleton Woods: Alison Pullan, Mike Webb, Greg Billenness, Helen Beddow, Russ Webster, Paul Farmery, Robyn Johnson and the Nine
6 Cross Flatts: Alison Pullan, Mike Webb, Greg Billenness, Russel Webster, Paul Farmery and the Nine
7 Bramley: Mike Webb, Greg Billenness, Paul Farmery, Sam Edwards and the Nine
8 Armley: Greg Billenness, Paul Farmery, Helen Beddow and the Nine
9 Woodhouse Moor: Jane Bracchi, Chris Bracchi, Steve Milne, Rebecca Goody, Laura Garratt, Greg Billenness, Paul Farmery, Helen Beddow and the Nine
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You can join Coach Farhad for a strength workout at 6pm on our Facebook page! Free for all to join 🤗💪 Bring 3 water bottles (two for weights, one to drink!) facebook.com/1090853…
A great idea!! Thinking Mondrian would be a good starting point... twitter.com/MaraidDe…
RT @Drfionab We may not be physically running together but we can virtually. @HydeParkHarrier virtual relay- run as far as you can for 19 mins, the next day another team member runs. I managed 4K . 🔴⚪️🔴 pic.twitter.com/VjTR…