My first piece of parkrun tourism – Penrose parkrun, Helston, Cornwall.
Having only recently started participating in parkrun, so far I have completed two runs at my local Wycombe Rye parkrun. One of the beauties of the parkrun concept is, once you have registered, you can run at any parkrun, not just your local one. This is great as wherever you are, be it on holiday, travelling on business, it’s very likely a parkrun will be not far away here in the UK. While on holiday in Cornwall, I decided to see if there was one nearby and complete my first tourist parkrun.
There are seven parkrun venues at the moment in Cornwall; Penrose, Heartlands, Lanhydrock, Tamar Lakes, Mount Edgcumbe, Trelissick, and the Eden Project. I struck a bit of luck, from where I was staying Penrose parkrun was only a 15 minutes drive, perfect.
Penrose parkrun #223. On the day, 252 people ran, jogged, or walked the course. 37 recorded new personal bests. 65 runners were first-timers, mainly parkrun tourists, I believe there was only 1 local first-timer, and there were representatives from 29 different running clubs. This was parkrun #3 for me.
Penrose parkrun is currently the most south-westerly and southerly parkrun on mainland UK with a postcode of TR13 0RA. The parkrun takes place in the Penrose Estate an area of woodland, coastline, and parkland maintained by the National Trust. Parking is available in Fairground car park, just past a Ford dealership in Helston. Across the road from the car park entrance is a boating lake in Coronation Park with a Cafe at one end. The parkrun meeting point is just 1-minute walk away.
I arrived in plenty of time as not so familiar with the area and did not know how big the car park was, or how quickly it would fill. It accommodates approximately 200 vehicles. Two public toilets are available close to the Café by the boating lake, around a 3-minute walk. The Café is open in the morning, perfect for that cup of tea, bacon butty, or social afterwards.
Set in National Trust land, Penrose parkrun is somewhat picturesque. I would describe it as an out and back type route run on hard tarmac paths. It is one of the flattest courses you will find in Cornwall. Both runners with dogs and buggies are all welcome to join in the fun. This is not the original Penrose parkrun. Unfortunately, they had to change the course from the hilly route running along the coastline because of erosion, part of the coast path fell into the sea.
This parkrun starts on the edge of the estate, is mainly flat with a slight incline approx. 50-100 metres long leading up to the halfway point. You turn around at this point and head back the way you came eventually finishing on the grass by the meeting point. The route is mostly tree-lined until you pass the gatekeeper’s house on the estate. You have to be mindful to keep to the left side as faster runners will inevitably be, at some point travelling in the opposite direction to the slower runners.
Just before reaching the halfway point and incline, you will be able to see Loe Pool on your left-hand side. This is the largest freshwater lake in Cornwall and is separated from the sea by Loe Bar, a narrow stretch of sand. As you climb the short incline, you see Penrose House (not open to the public). Along the route, I noticed there weren’t any kilometre markers, whether this is a usual aspect of parkrun, I don’t know. There was a marshal at the halfway mark, nicknamed Turnaround Mick. There were not many others due to the nature of the course.
Before the start, quite a few runners were warming up by running around the boating lake across the road.
The run director Craig gave a really upbeat, friendly fun and motivating briefing. Unsurprisingly there were a lot of tourist runners, and each week there is a competition to see who has come from the furthest place. When finished, we made our way to the starting point, a 30 seconds walk away. Some runners were already there, I assume, local runners or parkrunners who already knew the drill.
I lined up right at the back, and I found myself in a bit of queue. Because of the width of the tarmac path, the sheer number of runners, and space available, the start was a little congested. You had to simply follow at the pace of the other runners, as there was not so much space to start with. The beginning of my run was much slower than other ones. That was okay, as I was not treating it as a race. The path widened a little further on, by this time, runners had started to spread out as everyone found their natural pace. For the remainder of the run, it was easy to overtake if needed.
I decided I would run 1 km then walk for 60 seconds and repeat. It seemed a fast course, and was surprised how fast I was travelling when I looked at my watch. Of course, my 60-second walking portions obviously slowed my kilometre splits down. One of the local organisers was taking snapshots of visitors for the parkrun page. She also took photos while running as well. She happened to catch me on my first walking interval,… obviously, I would have preferred to be running, but hey ho. After reaching the finish line, it was easy to locate the barcode scanners who were just behind the funnel. I did notice a sign by the wooden bridge over the stream to the carpark which reminded people not to leave with tokens.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable parkrun, and the friendliest so far. I would definitely do it again if I was nearby.
My time for the Penrose parkrun was 35:11 finishing in position 205.
Route and elevation profile
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