Seven adults dressed in running kit, one toddler in a buggy and a dog pose for the camera. Between them they hold up cards saying walk, volu, nteer, run, jog. parkrun tourist

parkrun tourist at Clumber parkrun with some Witham Runners

It has come to my attention that I am a parkrun tourist.

How does this happen, I hear you ask? How do you unwittingly becomeĀ a parkrun tourist?

6 adults, one child approximately ten years old, a toddler in a pushchair and a dog pose for the camera. All are in running kit and are smiling. parkrun tourist

Visiting Gainsborough parkrun as a parkrun tourist with some club members

The beginning

I began running at parkrun when our, then local, Newark parkrun opened in 2013. Until then I had never even heard about parkrun. I didn’t go very regularly then, because our daughter was only a few months old. Our ability to get up and out of the house ready to start running at 9am depended on what kind of night we had had with her. By 2014 however, I was parkrunning (can I use it as a verb? Is that allowed?) a little more regularly due to marathon training, and had begun to visit other local ones. I had also visited both Warrington and Bolton while we were visiting family.

A tourism habit

Parkrun only became a habit during 2015 , as it became part of our family Saturday, particularly once my husband and I started a runstreak. As more local ones opened, our club began to make a point of visiting them, and we continued to support our local events equally. Our club also made outings to parkruns further afield in Nottingham and at Rutland Water. I began meeting up with running buddies from Twitter at various parkruns, and visiting a different event every time we visited family.

lady in red T-shirt and shorts holds a card which says #IAmTeamGB. Bunting of union flag patterned triangles lines a finish funnel. parkrun tourist

At Dalby Forest as a parkrun tourist in 2016

Planning holidays around parkrun

The point at which I realised we were tourists was when we decided to go on a family camping weekend. I found myself choosing a campsite based on proximity to a parkrun we liked the look of. We chose Dalby Forest parkrun, which is on a stunning Forestry Commission site just outside Pickering. We pitched our tent on the Friday afternoon, and had dinner at a local pub. The following morning, we went to parkrun and packed straight up and came home (well it was forecast rain that afternoon!). Bingo – we were officially tourists. I remember laughing about it on the drive home, but I wanted to do it again!

Luckily, we were at a wedding in Aylesbury the following weekend. We researched all the local parkruns in that area, chose Rushmere based on its woodland location, and planned our Saturday morning accordingly. That also coincided beautifully with Mr M’s 50th parkrun.

Lady runs towards the camera smiling. She's wearing a red T-shirt and black leggings. Behind her, a man in a blue long sleeve top and black leggings also looks at the camera. parkrun tourist

Burnley parkrun tourist, our 2nd of New Year’s Day 2017

I got a little bit too excited planning our New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day parkruns later that year. Back then we could do 2 events on New Years day, so that weekend we had the opportunity to do 3 parkruns over one weekend. We had planned to stay with family in the northwest, so we opted for Worsley Woods on New Year’s Eve, then Watergrove followed by Burnley on New Year’s Day. It was like Christmas all over again – I loved it!

The parkrun tourist club

It was during a conversation with a friend while were were out running hills around Hebden, that I discovered parkrun tourism was an actual club. I heard about how I could get my hands on a cow cowl and join the tourist club with all the events I had done so far. What on earth is a cow cowl, I enquired (*see below). Well, that same weekend I had discovered I was already on a list of ‘Most Events’, had ordered my Cow Cowl, was admitted entry into the Facebook and Strava parkrun tourist communities, and was already planning where else I could visit. The club isn’t an official parkrun thing, it’s just a bit of fun for tourist addicts like myself.

The cow cowl acts a bit like a secret handshake. I’d never noticed them before, but now I have one, I see them everywhere. It acts as a real icebreaker to get chatting to other tourists . This is why I’m now happy to turn up to unfamiliar parkruns on my own. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know anyone, the community just embraces you anyway.

A group of men and one woman who is a parkrun tourist gather at the finish area for a chat

Having a chuckle about my competitive sprint finish when I beat this chap to the line at Knowsley. The cow cowl helped identify me as a parkrun tourist

A parkrun pilgrimage

The best parkrun tourism I have ever done was when my husband surprised me with a weekend away in London so that I could visit parkrun’s birthplace, Bushy parkrun. It was such a wonderful experience, and I have never before or since witnessed a busier, or well organised, finish funnel. It was incredible to meet up with some UKRunChat friends there too.

Image shows a lady wearing a Cow Cowl which is a tubular piece of fabric in yellow, with white splodges on it, and black cow faces. She wears it as a headband.

My cow cowl, the mark of a parkrun tourist

What’s next?

I have now visited 48 different events, and I still want to keep trying new ones. I think the reason I love visiting different parkruns is because they are all so different and unique. Every one has a different character. If you’ve only ever been to one, you are missing out on so much.

A man in an orange jacket jogs behind a 3 year old girl in a grey tracksuit and red trainers. Behind them is a beautiful stately home. the sky is blue.

Family time at Belton parkrun

Trying new parkruns keeps things interesting. The most hilly contenders I’ve tried so far include Watergrove, Penrhyn, Witton and Gainsborough (which now no longer exists). Courses vary between open parkland (Belton House), woodland (Haigh Woodland), town parks (Phoenix and Peel), out and back avoiding sheep poo (Rutland Water), lake views (Colwick), castles (Penryhn) and the beach (Crosby). If you asked me to choose a favourite I’m not sure I could, because each one is so very different.

Since moving to the northwest, my goal is work my way around all the Greater Manchester parkruns, and I would love to try Fountains Abbey, which I have visited for a walk around, but never done the parkrun there.

Go on, try a new parkrun this month, I challenge you.

*a cow cowl is a completely unofficial distinctive black, white and yellow not-buff designed by Kathy Brown which members of the most events table are welcome to buy to allow themselves to be spotted by other tourists at home or away. It is named after the first parkrunner to complete 100 different parkrun events, Chris Cowell. The Cowell Club was a term coined by Danny Norman on the parkrun show. And then it was pointed out that half a Cowell was a Cow – so at 50 different events you’ve done your ‘Cow’. A cow-head seemed a fitting motif for tourists. By poetic coincidence, ‘cow-cowl’ sounds like ‘Cow-Cowell’.