Adam Bird

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Thursday, 16 June 2022

Bear Creek Greenbelt parkrun - event 63

Bear Creek Greenbelt parkrun

On the 26th March 2022 I ran the Bear Creek Greenbelt parkun which was the 63rd event held at the venue, my 71st parkrun and 9th different course I'd attended. It was also the first event that I had ran overseas.

When looking back at the other venues that I had ran at the time of writing this, there was only really one place to start when looking to write a retrospective. 

In 2020, I had a milestone birthday and as a gift Mum and Dad offered to take Stephanie and I to Texas so that we could watch the US Grand Prix in Austin. The original plan was to base ourselves out of San Antonio and drive up to the circuit on qualifying and race day.

However, the global pandemic put pay to that idea and despite attempts to reschedule we wasn't able to go in 2021 either. Due to the booking conditions of our accommodation in San Antonio we had to rebook by April 2022, so we did. Instead of a week of sporting tourism, we had a Texas roadtrip to look forward to instead.

As the itinerary changed and plans evolved we decided to head north for a few days to take in the sites of Dallas and Fort Worth. I'd already done a little bit of research. From San Antonio the two closest parkruns are Houston and Dallas, both in excess of four hours away. So seeing as we were planning to visit Dallas we simply had to take in the parkrun event hadn't we?

After five nights in San Antonio we drove up bright and early on the Friday morning (parkrun eve). It was an early start, hitting the road at 6am for the journey north. We arrived into Dallas by midday and took in the sights of Dealey Plaza where the American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. For the record, it was a strange experience walking around a location that has been part of so many books, film and documentaries growing up. Stephanie found the experience rather macabre, why would people visit a place where a man lost his life?

The main purpose of our drive north was to visit Fort Worth and the old cowboy town. Our accommodation was conveniently located for this purpose but for also getting to parkrun in the morning.

Our intention was to spend the afternoon and evening in Fort Worth, before meeting a long distance family relation in the evening. After a late lunch/early dinner we found a cocktail bar with live music where time accelerated and the effects of alcohol helped fuel a memorable evening.

As we hadn't made formal plans as such with our relation, plans were made very much on the fly. We headed for Billy Bob's Honky Tonk which lays claim to be the world's largest of its kind. Indeed it was a lot bigger than I anticipated and I'd recommend anyone visiting Fort Worth to make it part of your itinerary, even if your not a fan of the musical genre.

With the night getting ever later, our relation hadn't arrived yet. We hadn't quite realised, but she didn't finish work until late, and then had to drive an hour from Dallas to make her way across to us. So by the time she eventually did arrive it was knocking on 11:30pm and we were all ready to flop.

Not wanting to waste the journey our nearly introduced cousin had made, we decided to make the most of the night we had left. We had a night bus taking us back to the accommodation at 1:30am, so the last few hours were spent making new acquaintances and learning that peanut butter flavour whiskey is a new favourite.

So all in all a very long day. We ended up back in bed at 2am after getting up at 6am the day before. As parkrun starts at 8am in Dallas (due to the heat) we needed to leave for 7 o'clock to head to the venue and get ourselves ready for the run. Originally we had planned to all go, with Mum and I running and Dad and Stephanie either volunteering or cheering us on. As it was, we lost the two ladies to alcohol. They succumbed to the nights excesses and left me, the obsessive chaperoned by Dad who I am almost certain would have preferred to have stayed in bed!

We arrived at what we believed to be the venue in very good time, a whole 40 minutes prior to the start of the event. I don't mind this, it's always good to get to a new event earlier and scout the course and get a feel for the place. We walked around the park, saw plenty of runners, plenty of activity was taking place but we couldn't identify anything relating to parkrun. We asked a few people who pointed at a registration desk in the car park. It soon became clear that there was a whole other run event of some kind taking place, but it almost certainly wasn't parkrun. Those 40 minutes went by in an ever increasingly frustrating manner. We were evidently in the wrong place but due to a lack of easily accessible internet we couldn't get the digital assistance we needed. Eventually we found a carpark marshall and asked her if she was able to help. She suggested we travel west further along the road we had come. We got in the car at 8am in an all or nothing attempt to find the start of the Bear Creek Greenbelt parkun. Hoping desperately that we would reach it and it wouldn't be too far gone for me to try and run and catch-up.

As we sat at a set of traffic lights further up the road we had come, we saw activity on the side of another carpark ahead of us. We saw the parkrun flag and a gaggle of runners who looked poised to start. It was a huge relief! The lights went green at the intersection and Dad pulled into the carpark. I got out of the car, walked over to join the group and got my phone ready to start Runkeeper in order to track my run. No sooner had the app initiated the parkrun timekeeper shouted 'Go' and off we went! Talk about cutting it fine!

As always with parkrun events, I had done my prior research so was well acquainted with the course. It consists of an out and back to the east before following another out and back to the west. Both out and backs follow a tarmac path, are reasonably flat but very wavy, like a succession of 's'es. From the top-down view of the course on the event webpage you can see that the course is run through trees which is brought into reality on the ground. As it's Texas, the trees and and soil are fairly dry and leafless, not like the blooming greens of the UK.

I reached the first turnaround point very quickly, so much so that mentally I was already confused. If the other turnaround point was the same distance in the other direction this was going to be a very short parkrun! I followed the runners ahead of me, but wasn't able to keep up for as long as I would have liked. It was only a small field of runners, but the further west I ran the more I was expecting to see the front runners coming back towards me, but they never came.

Eventually the path ended and took a right hand turn into another area that was aside a main road. There was a path that meandered upwards onto the main road where arrows on the ground indicated I should follow. By this time I was in no man's land. There wasn't any runners in distance either ahead or behind me so I had to place my faith in the arrows drawn in chalk on the paths and hope that I didn't miss one and  get myself lost.

I ran across a bridge and viewed what I assumed was Bear Creek, the body of water where the area got it's name. Residential buildings passed by and I admired the peace and serenity that these homeowners lived in. All the while my growing anxiety on the route change, which I assumed had taken place due to the event that was taking place further up the road continued to unnerve me. Had we been on time and made the first timers briefing I would have been fully aware of the course change and been able to run fully assured.

Eventually I spotted another arrow, the path swung left, towards a lake and the path meandered around it, undulating gently as it did. I spotted Dad on the other side of the lake, and sighed a massive breath of relief! He took photos of me as I ran by alongside another lady who was also shouting encouragement and taking pictures which I'm glad to say I've not seen!

After I'd successively circumnavigated the lake the path took us back through the trees and the finish line was just ahead back alongside the carpark in which it had started.

I managed a half-hearted sprint finish but it had been a tough run. Hungover from too much peanut butter whiskey, a lack of energy from eating too early the following day as well as the emotional trauma and frustration of nearly missing the event entirely. Least of all the anxiety of getting lost and confusion of the unfamiliar route.

Just as I exited the finish funnel and been provided with my barcode (I had finished 26th in a time of 29:05) a lady stopped me and asked if I was the guy from England. She was very tall, slim and dare I say, very attractive. I was very much the guy from England and was very much happy to answer anything she might ask! 

I had known that the local mayor was attending the event as it was advertised on the events Facebook page. The lady who had accosted me was in fact the mayor's wife and was looking to introduce me to him. Dad had evidently gotten into conversation with people whilst I was out on the course and introduced us as the English parkrun tourists. I was introduced to the mayor who wasn't what I was expecting. I don't know why, but I was expecting an old white haired chap, not the young athletic looking guy I was introduced to. We had our photographs taken and we had a short conversation about the popularity of parkrun in the UK and how it compared to the US equivalent.

It was barely 8:30 in the morning and we'd already had a full days adventure. We set off back to hotel as we had to check out and faced a four hour drive down to Austin on the next leg of our Texas roadtrip.

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