parkrun tourism @ Clermont waterfront

On our recent mega adventure to the US, we were fortunate enough to visit not one but two parkruns. We initially thought we were only going to get one parkrun in as there aren’t yet many in the US and there are only so many Saturdays. Imagine how excited we were when we heard that Clermont Waterfront parkrun in Florida were holding an event on New Year’s Day! Clermont is a bit under an hour’s drive from Orlando so we plugged it into the GPS and headed off.

This parkrun is on the shores of Lake Minneola, a picturesque area on the edge of Clermont. We found it very easily, parked up and used the facilities (very clean and tidy) before moving across the road to the gathering spot. While we were definitely looking forward to partaking of another parkrun, running in general wasn’t that appealing on this particular morning – the weather was very ordinary. As well as being cold, it was threatening to rain – Florida had been having an unusually cold spell and most of the state was suffering.

Luckily, the reception was warm. As expected, there were many visitors, including some fellow Victorians who were also running at Disney. Briefing done, we moved onto the path for the start and we were off.

The course follows a path along one edge of the lake and, on a day when you could actually see things, would be very scenic. As we headed out, the drizzly rain began and the low cloud continued so we couldn’t see too much. The course is clearly in a well maintained area – good path and toilets on the way if needed. Being out and back, it’s very easy to follow and the turn around point was easy to spot (complete with a marshal ducking in and out of his car to avoid the appalling weather!).

I’d been looking forward to the return journey to get away from the rain blowing in my face but it seemed to change direction after the halfway point, like a painting whose eyes follow you around the room. And, thanks to me nursing my injured leg, I was walking this one so it felt like it took much longer than normal. Eventually I was back, crossing the bridge and within sight of the finish line. A very eager volunteer was cheering everyone in with the same enthusiasm for the first as the last finisher so I finished with a smile.

Afterwards, we chatted to the local policeman who had dropped in then made our way to breakfast where we experienced the wonderful hospitality and friendliness of the Clermont crew – moving tables so everyone could breakfast together and chatting the morning away while it continued to rain outside.

I’m so glad we were able to include this one in our trip – my husband was fortunate enough to go and run it again while we were running Disney and he confirmed that, with blue skies and better weather, it was even cheerier. However what makes parkrun is the people and the Clermont Waterfront crew are very welcoming and friendly and it has such a happy, community vibe, whatever the weather.

Disney 10km race recap (Dopey – part 2)

It felt a little like ‘Groundhog day’ this morning. Alarm went off at 2:50am, got up and showered, ate toast, took our group picture and loaded into the car to head to Disney. All very much the same as the day before. Except that we were a little bit more tired and a little bit wiser about what lay ahead.

Gary dropped us off so there was no waiting in the warmth of the car this time; instead we headed for the nearest heater and huddled as close as we could. While the temperature was a smidge better than yesterday, the slight wind added an unwelcome chill. We were slightly better prepared with our space blankets from the previous day (thanks Disney) on top of our cheap Walmart blankets (bought at the bargain price of $2.50 each).

At somewhere not long after 4.30am, we moved off towards the corrals, had a final toilet stop and then joined our respective crowds. The time went even quicker for us this morning as we made some friends – a great family from Kentucky completing their 4th Dopey challenge. Before we knew it, the time had ticked by and we were moving off to the start line. I was reluctant again to ditch the layers but it had to be done and then it was our turn to start.

The first part of the 10km course takes you out on to the roads for an out and back section which I was worried might be boring and long. I was wrong. There were enough distractions (in the form of screens, characters and a water station) to keep us amused as well as the people watching opportunities – so many fascinating costumes going past. Like yesterday, it was quite crowded and walkers spilled into all sections although, on the whole, people were very tolerant of each and the need to give each other room.

Jill and I were again running together and I actually tried a little bit of running this time which felt good and was much needed – power walking was beginning to stress my muscles and I needed to give them a break. Odd to think of running as a break from walking but that’s what it was! We also had no music with us and didn’t need it – our chatter, the various bits of entertainment and the general atmosphere was enough.

After about 5km, we headed back towards Epcot and then ran a different route to yesterday through the park, including the Boardwalk area. And it was so much fun. Ridiculous amounts. We could not stop smiling and would find ourselves getting carried away and running, even though we’d promised ourselves that we would walk and conserve our energy. We had stops for selfies and had a lot of marvelling at the surroundings – knowing how lucky we were to be able to run this morning in such a location. Feeling incredibly grateful.

Almost too soon, it was over with the finish line in sight. We crossed it with huge grins and felt great – another run done. And my leg is still behaving itself. It had 1 very minor twinge today but was fine once it (and the rest of me) was warmed up. Next up – 21.1km. See you in the morning (again!!).

parkrun tourism @ Crissy Field

This edition of parkrun tourism is a special one, requiring much more than just an early start and a few hours drive. This morning I ran my first international parkrun at Crissy Field in San Francisco.

It was not a coincidence that we happened to be in town on a Saturday. There aren’t too many parkruns yet in the USA so we had to make sure, when we planned the itinerary for our Disney trip, that we were in an appropriate location on a Saturday morning. Crissy Field was definitely our first choice – the iconic view of the Golden Gate bridge while running was too much to miss.

So we actually managed a slightly later start than usual this morning – parkrun here not starting until 9am and it being a half an hour walk from the HI hostel we were staying at, we could almost have a sleep in. It was certainly a brisk walk down to the start area, somehow managing to feel colder than Seattle had been.

The welcome we got made up for it. It was obvious in the chats we had with other parkrunners and at the briefing that there were a lot of visitors from abroad however we were all given a very warm welcome and made to feel at home as part of the parkrun family. Photos taken and greeting done, we moved on to the start line and were off.

I was walking this one as I’m still recovering from a calf injury and was very soon left pretty much alone at the back of the field. Well, near the back – the tail walker and a couple of people were behind me but it was clearly a faster field today. Luckily the scenery made up for it – it is nothing short of magnificent. For the first half of the run, you have constant, glorious views of the Golden Gate Bridge and we were blessed with absolutely stunning weather. There were lots of other (non-parkrun) runners and walkers out and about as well as lots of tourists on rented bikes, taking in the sights. I was stopped by one tourist who asked if I could take her picture with the Golden Gate in the background and I obliged.

The course starts off straight then has a left turn up to a little loop around the park at Crissy Field before heading back on the same path. The return journey gives you views of the bay and Alcatraz so just as scenic to keep you amused. Today, I needed it. I enjoy walking at parkrun when I’ve chosen to, I’m not so keen when I’m forced to because of injury and that dark cloud was threatening to ruin what was an otherwise beautiful morning. However, I digress.

Finishing at the back at least meant all my friends had already crossed the line and were paparazzi at my arrival. And, more exciting, there was cake (absolutely delicious) to make up for the fact that the donut place they usual partake in coffee at was shut.

This truly is a special parkrun and I feel very fortunate to have experienced it. A friendly, welcoming team, easy to find location and the ultimate in scenic backdrops – what more could you ask for? Definitely add it to your list. Now.