News - 8th June 2017
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Confessions of a parkrun Tourist

Bois
Hello, my name is Tim Gallagher, and I am a parkrun tourist.  Not just an average tourist mind you. If I will be anywhere out of town on a Saturday, I will check to see where the nearest parkrun is, and figure out how to get there using whatever means: planes, trains, or automobiles. I have been told I am quite crazy in this regard, but I love it. I love exploring new places and new parkruns. I meet the most interesting people, and they are all so nice and welcoming. I have had many adventures along the way as well.

 

Starting back at the beginning: I have been a runner for 22 years, doing tons of races, and spending tons of money on them. I found out about Livonia parkrun in 2014, and loved the idea of it. But during my first parkrun winter I didn’t get out of bed if it was cold outside, skipping whole months of parkrun at a time. What a crazy concept that is to me now, as you would have to tie me down to keep me away from parkrun at this point. parkrun USA only had four runs in 2014, none close to my local run in Michigan. When Fletcher’s Cove started up near where my sister lived in the D.C. area, I had my first opportunity to be a parkrun tourist. I enjoyed running a new course, interacting with the locals, while also enjoying the familiarity with my home run, the same barcodes and tokens, the same exuberant volunteers, the same “it’s a run, not a race” attitude that most people abandon about 100 yards from the finish line. In addition to Fletcher’s Cove, I attended the second run at Mansfield, Ohio parkrun. And now I have done 88 parkruns in total, and I became one of the Run Directors at Livonia, where we just celebrated out fifth birthday on June 3rd with a record turnout.

 

When my daughters Katie and Sarah planned a trip to England in 2016 to see the new Harry Potter play, I immediately got to work planning what parkruns we would do. I thought of course that we had to do Bushy Park: the mecca, the birthplace of parkrun. Bushy was a major experience. Everything was bigger, including the red deer with the huge antlers. They had over 1,200 runners and walkers the week I was there. And the park was huge too. Our Uber driver had no idea where to drop us off. The grand double funnel system they use at Bushy to make sure everyone stays in the proper order is a smooth flowing marvel to behold. The masses stampeding off from the start are an impressive sight. I had plenty of company tightly packed around me as I maneuvered the first mile or so.

 

After Bushy we were off to Paris. We did the Bois de Boulogne parkrun the following Saturday. Again, it was hard for me to find the start. You look at the course map online, and think “okay, I can find this”, then when you get there, everything looks different in three dimensions. Eventually we found the start in the middle of the woods. The Run Director was kind enough to repeat the course instructions in English after his French monologue. Unlike what I have noticed in the normal results for this run, most of the people who ran the day I did were French. Slight uphills and downhills on this course. It was all through the woods on an asphalt path. Bois de Boulogne is much closer in size to our Livonia parkrun than the behemoth that is Bushy.

 

But that was last year’s trip. This year, 2017, I knew my daughter Sarah would be studying abroad during her junior year of college. As she narrowed her choices of location, I assessed the accessibility of nearby parkruns for my inevitable trip to visit her. When she chose Barcelona, Spain I saw that any parkruns would be a trek, but I did not let that deter me. I made sure I arrived in Spain on a Thursday so I would have a least a day to get to a parkrun. The closest was parkrun La Rameé, in Toulouse, France. This was a five hour bus ride from Barcelona. But I was undeterred (my daughter Katie was more deterred, but she humored me and went along). The bus ride turned out to be a beautiful scenic drive along the Mediterranean coast on our right, with the Pyrenees Mountains on our left. Again at parkrun La Rameé we had an even harder time finding the start. Luckily we ran into the Run Director out setting up cones mid-course and we followed his wife back to the start. We lucked out coming the week of La Rameé’s first birthday, so we got to eat cake and drink champagne, how very French! Even though the English ex-pats and tourists greatly outnumbered the French at this parkrun we still felt the oh-la-la atmosphere.

 

We returned to Spain on the bus and had a great week in-between parkrun Saturdays, travelling to Seville, Málaga, and Grenada. Alas there are no parkruns in Spain currently so we had to go elsewhere for the next Saturday, but where? Looking at many inexpensive intra-Europe flights, we had options of Dublin, Milan, London, Warsaw, all direct from Madrid. But we decided on Copenhagen, Denmark as the flight was only 60 Euros roundtrip, and I always wanted to visit a Nordic country, though Denmark itself is very expensive. Luckily parkrun is always free. We had the choice of three parkruns in Copenhagen, and we chose Fælledparken parkrun, as it was closest to our hostel and I did not want to get lost again. As in France, everyone spoke English, but unlike France there were very few tourists, just my two daughters and me, and one Englishman. The course is three times around a pretty park, almost a perfect oval, so it felt like running on a track, and my run time reflected this: I ran my overall parkrun PB in Copenhagen!  If you want a fast course, go to Fælledparken parkrun. One lady was celebrating her 250th parkrun that day, so there was cake, how nice.  Denmark is a cool country to visit: lots of history, flowers, flags, and we saw the Little Mermaid too.  As a result of this trip my daughter Sarah now holds the World Record for most parkruns in different countries without repeating a country.

 

Well that’s it for now.  As a parkrun tourist, the accelerating growth of parkrun USA and parkrun Canada is going to keep me very busy. It is hard to balance being away from my home run and my friends and still trying to visiting new parkruns.  But I will figure it out somehow.  Thank you for reading.  I am happy to answer any questions in the comments.

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