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Milton Keynes parkrun

After my really positive experience running at Northampton last week, something I was attributing to the well-attended, mature nature of the event, I decided that I wanted a similar experience for this week's extra event, and Milton Keynes fit the bill perfectly.

The area

Milton Keynes parkrun takes place in the East of Milton Keynes, tracing sections of both the Grand Union Canal, and Willen Lakes.

The Grand Union Canal was formed from a number of waterways to connect London with Birmingham, with construction of the earliest developments beginning in 1793, and development of the latest chunks of development between Milton Keynes and Bedford being delivered in 2009. While the canal was originally built to improve trade and communication links, it is now a popular route for pleasure boaters, cyclists, walkers, runners, dog walkers and anglers.

Willen Lakes form the largest purpose-built stormwater balancing lakes in the UK. Unlike most of the UK, storm water is managed through an independent sewer network in Milton Keynes, which allows the water within the lakes to remain unfouled. The unfouled water enables the lakes to play host to a wide array of water-based activities, profit from which is used to support the management of greenspaces across Milton Keynes.

The course

The run starts on the avenue connecting the Grand Union canal to Willen Lakes. Runners head West to join the canal, following it North for approximately 1km, before leaving the canal heading Eastwards towards the famous Zig Zags. The course then follows the path clockwise around the South lake, finishing on the peninsular.

The finish funnel is located approximately 500m from the start, making this the first event with any sort of point-to-point element to it that I have attended.

There is plenty of paid parking in the area, and there are normally toilets and a cafe near the finish, but they were both closed when I visited due to it being Christmas day.

The run

Fancy dress and Christmas cheer exuded from the runners this week. In addition to the more "traditional" Christmas clothing, one runner chose to run the course dressed as Jesus himself (sandals and all!), while pumping out the very festive song Personal Jesus by Marilyn Manson on repeat.

Runners in fancy dress as a christmas tree, Jesus, and a cracker

There were 812 runners this week - by far the largest event I have attended to date, which meant that you were never far away from other people around the course. The start was slightly congested however, with a lot of people (myself included) running along the grass, but we had spread out enough by the time we reached the canal that everyone could run on the tarmac path.

A crowd of people in fancy dress before the run starts

After the canal, we navigated the famous zig-zags, which sap your energy as the lakes come into view, and then it was just a matter of looping around the lake to the finish.

The view over Willen Lake

The finish funnel was full of hurried excitement, as people caught up with friends they hadn't seen in a while, while others dashed off to their other Christmas day activities.

An extra special, festive thank you to all of the volunteers who made this event happen!

Links: Run report | Results | Strava

Reference: Willen Lake

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