As it was Cathy’s birthday coming up, we decided to mark the occasion by ticking off an item from our parkrun Tourist bucket (and spade) list, namely Crosby (beach) parkrun, (you know…the one just outside Liverpool with the Iron Men statues planted in the foreshore) and followed by an excursion to Beatle-pool.
We drove up the night before and stayed in a hotel just round the corner from Aintree racecourse, ideally located for a short drive both to Crosby beach and also well placed as a base for a post parkrun excursion into the city and do the “Beatles tour and experience”. Nice hotel, not exactly in idyllic surroundings wedged between a BP filling station and an Aldi but hey, we were only going to be there two nights, and none of the days.
When we checked in to the hotel, we were told that we could get an evening meal by ordering from the bar. What we weren’t told was that the (main) restaurant was closed that evening due to a private function. So we dumped our bags in our room and went down to the quiet bar and ordered something to eat. The menu was a little limited but certainly there was enough choice to satisfy our appetites. So, there we were having a quiet meal together at the start of our weekend away, when several people turned up to the bar up dressed to the nines (whatever that means) and certainly over-dressed for a hotel bar in the suburbs (even for a supposedly 3-star hotel). Then the bar begun to fill up with similarly attired folk. Being cautious about the Covid risks of crowds indoors, we decided to decamp into the patio area adjoining the bar. (The atmosphere was convivial enough but it’s just too soon, i.m.h.o., for us to be in such large crowds of unmasked people indoors).
We sat outside and observed the swelling throng of happy scousers (boys and girls, men and women) as they too spilled out onto the patio for their pre-dinner drinks. We had ring-side seats to the wedding party getting into gear before the nosh and ensuing disco. As I said earlier, this was a convivial crowd, and we were treated to flash mob version of “scousers having fun”. (Who says that travel doesn’t broaden your mind!)
The following morning, we got out of the hotel a little before 8am, suitably attired for parkrun, jumped into the car and set off for Crosby Leisure Centre, looking forward to our Chariots of Fire moment on the sands.
As we drove up, (plenty of free car parking space here b.t.w.), it started to rain. This was a little more than runners’ rain, and there was a moderate wind building as well. This was going to dampen our runner’s kit, but would it dampen our enthusiasm? Certainly not! We had heard from a very reliable source that the parkrun core team and volunteers were especially friendly, and that the beach running experience was not to be missed. And so we emerged from our car and made a dash to the relative shelter of the Leisure Centre patio area, (under the eaves) where we joined the assembling crowd of tourists and home-runners, waiting with eager anticipation for the RD to call us all to order. We were immediately accosted, in friendly fashion, by two smiling high-viz heroes eager to know where we were from, why we had chosen Crosby to visit, and most importantly, where could they acquire a cow cowl just like the one which I was wearing. Such friendly people, genuinely interested to make our acquaintance and eager that we should enjoy the parkrun experience.
Whether it was the warmth of the hospitality of our hosts, or the rain had in fact eased off a little, or perhaps a combination of both, by the time the RD called us to follow him to the beach, we were eager to step out from under the eaves and make our way to the start line.
Plenty of space here for a socially distanced ensemble to listen to the briefest of run briefings. And then we were off on the first section of the run, along the sands southwards in the direction of Liverpool docks. This was a new sensation, running in the soft sand of the foreshore en masse (the tide was well out at this point, perhaps only just starting to come in). Whether by design or mutual subconscious consent the middle pack started to vear outwards towards the waterline! What’s going on, I thought! Instead of being at a parkrun had we unwittingly gate-crashed the local triathlon training group and were about to switch to swimming!
As it turns out the “herd” instinct prompted us to make for the flatter-wetter sand which offered the better traction even at the “expense” of a few extra metres over and above the statutory 5k. Soon we were running roughly parallel to the water line once more, heading for the first turn-around point. The turn-around point sent us back along the coast heading towards the start of the promenade. This next bit along the softer sand was the hardest, yet enjoyable, part of the course. I especially appreciated the thoughtful placing of the particular volunteer Marshall along this section who really engaged with the track-side cheering (think London 2012 home crowd passion). If there was an award in the Sports Personality Of The Year (SPOTY) for parkrun Marshall (and I really think there ought to be), then this particular Marshall would certainly get my vote.
As I crossed the threshold from sand to (promenade) tarmac, I recognised the same smiling hi viz hero who had greeted Cathy and I at the pre-run gathering. The recognition was mutual. “What do you think of it so far?”, she shouted as I passed. All I could think to say was, with a smile, “Terra firma at last !”. I hoped that she had understood the allusion and had not misheard me to have said “terrible” which, thinking about it later, would have been the old Morecambe and Wise gag (for those of my readers who can remember back that far).
Anyway.. on to the next section along the promenade facing the wind and the rain and glancing out to sea where Antony Gormley’s Iron Men resolutely turned their backs on us as I (somewhere towards the back of the mid-pack by now ) ran on towards the next turn-around point at the other end of the prom. This was fun! Type-2 fun, admittedly, but still fun. As I was running into the wind, I was reminded of the times when I was a kid, running into the wind on a gusty day. That sense of elation! Oh the simple pleasures in life, of which running is certainly one of them. I was not bothered about the time, I just wanted to keep going, and look around me and enjoy the surroundings. Which I did.
3.5k successfully behind me and it was time for the final turn at the end of the prom, through the car park there, and then onto the grassland behind the sand dunes. I now had the wind on my back assisting me as I ran the final mile to the finish funnel. A cheeky adrenaline-fuelled sprint for the last 100m took me over the finish line. With outstretched arm and palm upwards (COVID rules apply), I duly accepted my finish token and exited the finish funnel to see, once more, the same smiley Marshall who asked me “Was that harder or easier than Tring?” I was not sure how to answer that one. The Crosby course is flat, (whereas Tring is far from flat) so it should have felt easier today, except of course for the small matter of the shifting sands…and the wind…and the rain! “Was it fun?” Yes, definitely!
Post run…Later that day we were walking round Liverpool, doing the obligatory Beatles things…
As you can see I was wearing a parkrun hoody. I actually got a “Dolly or Bev” shout out as we were walking around the Albert Docks.
Well, that’s about it, as far as our trip to Crosby Beach and Liverpool is concerned. Cathy and I are still in tourist mode, whilst we await the fate of our home parkrun in Tring Country Park. Since Crosby, we have done two more parkruns: one in Osterley, and one in Aviemore. (Watch this space…)
 These spectacular sculptures by Antony Gormley are on Crosby beach. Another Place consists of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures spread out along three kilometres of the foreshore, stretching almost one kilometre out to sea. [‘Another Place’ by Antony Gormley – VisitLiverpool ]