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Embrace the Endorphins at Parkrun!

Parkrun is a fitness phenomenon which has been sweeping the world since 2004, with millions congregating at their local parks every Saturday morning to complete a free 5k run, in the company of others and a super positive atmosphere.

Here our editor, Louise Steel, reveals her pick of the top parkruns around Leicestershire – tried and tested…

Watermead Country Park Parkrun, Syston

This course is one which is very familiar to me. I have completed it over 50 times, due to the location (being close
to me in Birstall).

But Watermead is also one of those which attracts runners from across the country, with many travelling far and wide to experience the unique charm and beauty of this scenic 5k course. Watermead requires runners to navigate tranquil lakes and woodland walkways as they make their way towards the finish line (and the popular Bada Bean coffee van!)

But there’s also another reason why they’re so keen to give Watermead a go. The course is credited with being one of the flattest (and fastest) in the country, making it popular for those in pursuit of a quick time – or more importantly – a coveted parkrun PB!

Abbey Park Parkrun, Leicester

Relatively new to the city’s park-running scene, this is a great course and one which is growing in popularity.
Abbey Park is a wonderful spot in Leicester, with plenty of interesting fixtures; lakes, woodland and historical features all woven in, giving it plenty of character.

The course is relatively flat, despite requiring participants to run over the park’s iconic bridge (twice). It takes runners past some intriguing features, including ruins (the remains of St Mary’s Abbey), a quirky miniature railway and scenic gardens.

The course boasts wide paths, (which are perfect if you’re in the mood for overtaking) and like all great parkruns, there is a lovely little cafe on site – perfect for a caffeinated catch up or a post run chat.

Beacon Hill Country Park Parkrun, Loughborough

If you’re looking for a more challenging run, which is close to home, look no further than Beacon Hill. The clue to its
difficulty is (of course) in the name. In fact this is in the top 5% of the most difficult parkruns in the country, owing to its gruelling 110 metre elevation.

From the start of the course, you are running uphill and although it’s a pretty gentle ascent, it’s also pretty relentless.

However, the hard work pays off and the fun starts once you reach the top. Gravity really is your best friend throughout the remainder of the course, and I found myself freewheeling almost effortlessly and making up some good time during these scenic sections.

There are also plenty of interesting wooden sculptures to look at as you plod along, and again, a lovely little cafe waiting at the end of the course. Perfect…

Braunstone Parkrun

Of the three park runs in Leicester, Braunstone has been going the longest and every Saturday hundreds of devoted runners take on this popular 5K course with gusto. It is one of the only parkruns in the area to host an event on both Christmas and New Years Day, giving participants the opportunity to double up on endorphins! (And work off a minced pie or two during the festive season).

The course is good if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge and takes in landmarks such as the city’s elegant Winstanley House.

Although it’s mostly flat, around half way in there’s a tricky woodland section, which requires runners to tackle a steady incline for around 400 metres. However, encouragement is on hand in big way, and there’s usually a volunteer waiting in the wings armed with a ghetto blaster and an array of motivational tunes to get you through!
‘Eye of the Tiger’ – come on!

Conkers Parkrun, Moira

This is officially the most popular parkrun in Leicestershire, with almost 500 people turning out every week.
Established in 2011, running fanatics rave about the atmosphere at Conkers, and after going along one Saturday, it’s fair to say that it definitely lives up to the hype!

I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but the positive vibes hanging around the course were second to none.
One thing that really stood out (and spurred me on), were the array of quirky motivational signs, all held by lovely, smiley volunteers.

One warned us of the ‘cheeky hill’ at around the 2k mark, and another congratulated us once we’d ‘Conkered’ it! Another motivational sign reminded us that we were ‘lapping everyone on the sofa!’ (and those still in bed of course).

As at all parkruns, there is plenty of encouragement from other runners and a real community feel. You feel like an
Olympian as you approach the finish, especially if you find the strength to sprint – a truly amazing buzz.

Even if you’re not really ‘a runner,’ I’d encourage you to give parkrun a go! But be warned, it can become addictive!

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