“Save something for the end!”

Leaving my house at 0635 to make sure I kept up my recent record of attending parkruns (only missed two since beginning of September) would to many, including my wife, confirm that that I have become obsessed with running. To be fair, I did have close to two hours of driving ahead, coming down to Southend to visit my in-laws for Christmas, and the early start guaranteed a clear run on the M25.

I started planning my trip to Hadleigh last weekend - it was a choice between here or Southend Parkrun - the description of the undulating course was the deciding factor, along with the extra 30 minutes in bed.

I have no doubt that I made the right choice. The sun rose as I drove along the A127 revealing clear blue sky. It was an unusually warm day for the weekend before Christmas.

The car park was large as promised, and we had no problem finding a space - my poor 12 year old daughter had been dragged in to my mad plan - and we walked in trepidation to the start. As ever at Parkrun everyone was friendly and welcoming, and what a view from the hill where the start was located!

My local Parkrun in Woodley near Reading is a flat three lap affair around a local park in suburbia. So Hadleigh Parkrun is very different! At the first timer's briefing, the course was described and we were told, "... the first mile is downhill and the next two are uphill, so save something for the end.". Good advice indeed! The hill at the end goes on forever.

After ten minutes running - mostly downhill - I turned to another Parkrunner and said how I wished this could be my home Parkrun. The scenery is lovely with views across to the estuary, and the path passes through woods as you descend down. He laughed and suggested that I might change my mind by the end. Another Parkrunner described the course as a "beast", but whilst I understand why you might use this noun as a description, I would prefer to call it a "beauty".

That is not to say the last uphill stretch wasn't a challenge, or that I didn't wonder if it would ever come to an end, but I persevered and managed not to walk. Plenty of others did, and there is no shame in that. It is very much aligned with the ethos of Parkrun - It is better to be there and walking than to be sitting on the sofa at home watching TV - definitely today when the sun was shining and the sky was blue.

In my opinion this is not a course for PBs. To give you an idea of how tough it is, I normally jog around my flat local course in around 28 minutes hardly breaking into a sweat - I'm training for a half marathon in March and am meant to be keeping my heart rate below 140 beats per minute (well at least for the first two laps