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Houghton Hall parkrun

After last week’s run at Irchester, I decided that I wanted to try a different type of event. While I was really enjoying the off-road forest/woodlands runs, I was very aware that most events aren’t set in such landscapes. With an eye still on the alphabet challenge, Houghton Hall seemed like a good option which didn’t require too much travel.

The area

Houghton Hall is located in Houghton Regis, towards the south of Bedfordshire. The greenspace, which consists primarily of fields, with some mature woodland, previously formed part of the grounds of the Houghton House estate. Much of the former grounds has since been used for housing development, with the park being the last remainder of the space, while the hall itself is now used for office space.

The course

The course begins in the centre of the eastern field (nearest the car park) and consists of two and a half laps of the perimeter of the park, including a short section through the woods to the east of the park, and a section along a cycle path at the western end of the park. There is also a barrier chicane to navigate as runners return from the cycle path, which requires extra caution!

The majority of the course is gravel, with a section of tarmac through the woods, and grass through the finish funnel.

Plenty of free parking was available at the visitor centre, which was also the location of the cafe and toilets.

The run

Today’s event had a very different vibe compared to the previous events I had attended. The Run Director mentioned during the briefing that it was Houghton Hall’s second birthday, which seemed to be passing without much fan-fare, and a couple of tourists visiting from South Africa were given what seemed to be a relatively luke-warm welcome as they were introduced.

The run itself was quite pleasant, and the constantly changing scenery made it feel like it passed much more quickly than it actually did. The fact it was multiple laps too (the first parkrun I had attended with more than one lap) meant that you were never far from other runners.

We had been warned about the chicanes in the briefing, and while I could navigate it at my pace, I did find myself wondering how the faster runners would manage them without dropping lots of speed. My ponderings would be answered on the second time of passing though, when the faster runners came past - the best way to describe it would be flexible hips!

After the run, I also realised that a run report was never created, nor were any photographs of the event taken, even though it was a birthday event, and this was the normal operating procedure for the event (I don’t think the volunteer roles existed). Neither are obviously required, but the omissions did make me realise the importance of these roles for engagement with events - at least at the surface level. The event was much more established than other events I had attended recently however, and so maybe once peoples’ Saturday-morning routines have been established, these things are less consequential?

Thank you to all of the volunteers, who made this run happen!

Links: Results | Strava

Reference: Houghton Regis

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