We had a weekend plan….easy parkrun, hard effort run at the seaside, family visit. You may question my choice of Lullingstone parkrun as easy (it is a two lap course with a hill) but I thought I had that covered. I volunteered to be a tailrunner on tour, not only would I be doing my bit to help out another parkrun but I would be able to take things easy. My recent tailrunner on tour efforts were 51:25 at Dartford and 52:51 at Fellfoot, so I was expecting Lullingstone to be similar. Boy was I wrong!
We arrived in plenty of time for me to walk up the gentle hill to the start to collect my volunteer parking pass (parking costs £2.50 but lasts all day so you could make sure you get your money’s worth by sticking around after parkrun). The core team were really welcoming and I could sense that it was going to be a nice parkrun to be at, with 44 runners on the day it had a really nice, friendly vibe to it. One of the runners, Richard (in the VM80-84 age category), decked out in his 100 shirt let me know he would most likely be joining me at the back of the pack. I hope I can be forgiven for still thinking that my easy tail-run was on…..I was rapidly proven wrong! Despite telling me as he set out that he’d be taking it easy (he was a bit tired from the recent British Vets Sprint championships last weekend and a 5km race on the Friday) we were off up the hill. Thankfully my powerhike was enough to keep up with him for the most part but I already felt like this was going to be a toughy. We chatted as we went and he pointed out the lovely view over the golf course. We were soon up the hill and into a slightly steeper climb in the woods. I would say that these were all runnable if you were in the mood to be running up hill but thankfully we took it slightly easier. We were then into the long down through the trees and back out onto the grass we had climber earlier. Serious speed emerged on this section and we definitely made the most of gravity assisting us to the turnaround point.
The volunteer marshals were all really cheery and it was nice to have their support as we took in the gentle climb back to the start and loop 2. Lullingstone really is a lovely parkrun, yes you have to climb the hill twice but the downhill more than makes up for it. On lap 2 I stopped to take some photos in the tree section, they had some great bug shaped benches and a “thou shalt not pass” short-cut stopper at the top of the hill. I admit that I wasn’t able to catch Richard up after my stops as he was really flying on the downhill section. Another cheery hi to the marshal at the turnaround point and then I pushed on up to the finish. Tailrun complete, 44th over the line in 36:17! My last steady run at Wimpole Estate was finished in 35:30!
It was certainly not what I expected, that’s for sure. I was chatting to the team afterwards and they are a bit concerned that Lullingstone is getting a reputation for being tough (and in fact the Boyf and I do think it has just nudged Tring off the top of our list), but equally they would welcome more slower runners. It is a great course, the views are lovely and the team are more than happy to support those parkrunners who want to take things a bit easier, walk a lot of the course and just enjoy the fresh air. So if you aren’t speedy please don’t write Lullingstone off as an option, you will be made welcome and at least you have great views and interesting woods to explore as you go round. You also get 10% off in the cafe afterwards if you show your barcode. We weren’t able to stay on this occasion but we will most certainly partake of a cuppa next time round.