“♫ Oh, dear, what can the matter be!♫”

(Me: 42/171; Cathy 46/251)

Warning: this blog post is not for parkrun tourists of a nervous disposition.

parkrun touristing can be a stressful thing. It is not, (I rush to add), the rocking up at a new parkrun of “strangers” that can prove challenging, far from it, but it is the actual getting there that can sometimes be fraught with difficulty…disaster even. The disaster being: getting there late…or not getting there at all!

We really couldn’t have been any more prepared for this particular tourist destination…or so we thought. We had arrived in Pwllheli from Anglesey the night before, checking into an air BnB. We had gone to the beach to check it out, we knew where we were going to park, and even checked tide times (!). That evening, we laid out our running kit before going to bed.

We awoke early the next morning as per plan, so we had more than enough time to have a shower, don our running gear, check out of the AirBnB and jump into the car for a 4 minute (yes, I’d timed it already) to the nearest (and free) car park to the parkrun start. What could possibly go wrong?

I had a shower first, then started to get dressed whilst Cathy took her turn in the bathroom, pulling the door shut behind her.

A few minutes later I heard Cathy shout for help. (♫ Oh dear what can the matter be.. ♫)

Cathy couldn’t open the bathroom door! It wasn’t that it was locked: the door didn’t actually have a lock. It appeared that the handle just wasn’t connecting to the latch any more! Furthermore I could not open the door from my side either. Cathy was trapped; and so all of our best laid plans to getting to our next tourist parkrun were in jeopardy!!!

(♫ My darling wife is stuck in the lavatory, I hope she’ll be free for parkrun on Saturday…I do hope that we will be there…♫)

I rang the BnB owner who, it transpired, lived at least an hour away by road. It was now 7.15am. Argh, so near and yet so far: a stuck door between us and parkrun!

Cathy tried to mentally prepare for the worst, telling herself that she “didn’t really want to do Hafan Pwllheli parkrun anyway, as running on sand is far too difficult” (remembering that North Yarmouth Beach is supposedly the most difficult parkrun ever), but she wasn’t really convincing herself. Of course she wanted to do it, as did I!

And the other worry, besides whether or not we’d make it to parkrun in time, was that (please look away now!) Cathy had no clothes on and a strange man was arriving (hopefully soon) to release her from captivity!

At about 8.30am (T minus 30 minutes and counting…), the owner, Steve, arrived and set to work to spring my soulmate from her lavatorial confinement. I was quick to reassure him that Cathy was, by this point, no longer naked. I elucidated how I had managed, whilst waiting for Steve to arrive, to thread each item of Cathy’s clothing (except for her trainers!) to her the under the (snug-fitting-over-deep-carpet-pile) door. Steve was incredulous that any clothing could have been passed under the 1mm gap under the door, commenting “I don’t know how you managed that, unless she’s wearing all lycra!”

“Um, well, actually ….. yes, she is!.” I said, as I explained about wearing lycra for parkrun and that’s why we were in a bit of a hurry. Steve clearly hadn’t noticed that I was also dressed in lycra ( or perhaps he had noticed, but didn’t like to ask!)

(T minus 25 and counting…).

Initial attempts to gain access to the door mechanism (by removing the door handle fascia) and using pliers to turn the spindle, proved unsuccessful. Diagnosis: the latch spring inside the rebated door mechanism must have failed.

(T minus 20…).

Quick phone call by Steve to the builders (of newly renovated bathroom suite!) prompted more drastic action.

(T minus 15…)

Armed with a chisel, and brute force, Steve proceeded to attempt to prise the door open. Finally, the door was opened: Cathy ran out, now fully clothed (as previously advised) and parkrun-ready, except for trainers!

We hurriedly said “thank you and goodbye” to Steve, and headed off to the car. [1]

(T minus 10…)

Thanks to our recce the night before we knew exactly where we were going, where to park and were on the beach in time for the RD briefing. Hooray!

I suppose you might be expecting me to say that, after all the excitement that had preceded our arrival on the beech, the actual parkrun itself was an anti-climax (?). Well I am glad, and not surprised, to report that, although uneventful, Hafan Pwllheli parkrun did not disappoint.

We were joined by just 42 other friendly parkrunners and 8 enthusiastic volunteers on an otherwise deserted beach. ( Can’t quite explain why but, I think that there is something “special” about the smaller, attendance-wise, parkrun events).

The weather was set fair for a dry, yet moderately breezy, run out and back along the foreshore of Abererch, with the mountains of Snowdonia majestically providing a backdrop in the middle-distance. It all looked nice and relatively flat. A good course for a PB, one might think.

Photo: courtesy of Hafan Pwllheli parkrun

Yet that proved to be a little deceptive, as I soon found out after we had set off. The first thing to say is that the, allbeit gentle, gradient running perpendicular to the running line somehow conspires to make keeping to a steady pace a bit of a challenge. Also, the apparently firm sand was a bit squashy in places under the pounding of runners’ feet, and in other places the shingle meant having to watch the footfalls carefully to avoid slipping. Nobody, myself included, seemed to be deterred. Each parkrun has its own characteristics and challenges: that is part of the appeal of parkrun touristing. Loved the novelty….loved the challenge…loved this event.

The serenity of being out there by the shoreline, the (inevitable) conjuring up, in one’s imagination of the “Chariots of Fire” musical score [2], and the mountains in the distance: What’s not to like?!

Due to the “enjoyable” challenges of the terrain it seemed to take a long time getting to the turn-around point. The return leg seemed to take a shorter time, and all too soon it was time for the obligatory sprint to the finish funnel. Once the again the deceptively “innocent” terrain of the final 50m seemed to rob me of a sense of increased momentum as I (thought I ) broke into a sprint. The only digging deeper that occurred was less of the metaphorical and more of the actual sinking into the ground 😉 Nonetheless, with a smile on my face, tinged perhaps with a grimace, I passed the time keepers, greeted by their whoops and shouts of “Da iawn ti” (“Well done you!”). There is no true celebration without a preceding challenge.

Another intra-national parkrun done and dusted, and another one ticked off my bucket (and spade) list.

Diolch to all of the friendly volunteers who made the event happen.

Footnotes: (or should that read footprints?)

  1. Got to say…that Steve was really embarrassed, and suitably concerned about Cathy’s “ordeal by bathroom”. Long story short, after we spoke later on the phone, Steve subsequently offered us free accommodation on our next visit to his establishment. We might just take him up on the offer as, credit where due, it was otherwise an excellent overnight stay, ideally placed for Hafan Pwellheli parkrun. (Happy to recommend said accommodation…details available on request by private message – no commission involved)
  2. (Here it is on you tube – you’re welcome!),

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