Adam Bird

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Monday, 11 July 2022

Warszawa-Praga parkrun - event 408

Warszawa-Praga parkrun

On the 9th July 2022 I ran the Warszawa-Praga parkun which was the 408th event held at the venue, my 86th parkrun and 21st different course I'd attended.

Being a parkrun obsessive means looking at any opportunity to fit in an event when there's a possibility to do so. In fact, having a parkrun event can be the difference between either going somewhere or not. In this case, we were fortunate because we had a choice between a number of cities who all had parkruns nearby.

Stephanie and I for a number of years have wanted to see Coldplay, who are one of my all time favourite bands. Absolutely everyone I know who has seen them have all said that they are supremely special live. So when tickets went on sale for their Music of the Spheres World Tour we jumped at the chance of securing our tickets.

The problem was, the tickets for Wembley were really expensive. By way of an experiment I compared prices for some of the other European cities on the tour and found that the prices were much more affordable. The idea of a cheeky weekend away was born!

Ultimately it came down to a choice between Berlin, Frankfurt or Warsaw. I was quite tempted by Frankfurt as I'd never been there and Steph hasn't visited Germany yet, but we decided upon Warsaw because we'd previously been to a wedding in Poznan and had such an amazing time we wanted to go back to Poland. It was the nostalgic choice that won through and that's how we found ourselves in Warsaw with another decision to make.

Warsaw has a number of parkrun events in the city with four that seemed to be reasonably accessible from the centre. We were staying at the Radisson Collection Hotel which was right in the town centre and so we had the pick of all four. I chose the Warszawa-Praga event in the end, purely because it was next to the national stadium where we were due to watch Coldplay the night before, and I figured that we would already be familiar with that area by that point - so wanted to make things as straightforward as possible for us on the morning after the night before.

As newbie's arriving into the city early on Friday morning we hadn't had an opportunity to navigate our way via public transport so we walked to the PGE Narodowy stadium via a couple of bars to stop off for drinks and rest our tired limbs. It took us a while to get to the stadium and after the concert getting out was the predictable manic throng of thousands of people making their way out and back into the city centre. We ended up walking all the way back to the hotel which took us over an hour. By the time we'd got back to the hotel at the other side of midnight and our step counts into the 30 thousands we flopped on our beds with parkrun the last things on our minds.

A quick note at this point about Coldplay. Wow! Everything everyone has ever said about them live in concert is true. What a stunning experience and one that Stephanie and I will will remember forever. The highlights for me were many, but the live performance of The Scientist was a bucket list moment that will live long in the memory. Stephanie was reduced to tears on a number of occasions, for different reasons. Nostalgia and music is a powerful combination. If Coldplay tour again we will most certainly be looking to go again!

Waking up on the Saturday morning, I nearly floundered. Stephanie was fast asleep and I could quite easily of rolled over and rejoined her. But the obsessive overruled once again and so it was, we made our way back past the PGE Narodowy to the Skaryszewski Park by taxi. The driver dropping us off right at the far end of the park so that by the time we got there we had a slightly anxious paced walk back around the park in an attempt to find the start.

Once there, in the nick of time - we joined a group of locals who were readying themselves to begin promptly at 9am. A man recognised that I was a tourist and introduced himself and I had my own personal first timers briefing where he showed me the outline of the course and where the starting point was.

The route was a two and a half anti-clockwise loops of the park, with the final part being a straight 400m path that bisects the route in half. If you think of a clock, the run starts at where the 7 would be. Two loops around the reverse of the clock, until you get to the 12 for the 3rd time. You then travel down the clock face straight to the 6. The route isn't a perfect circle, although it's not far off. My Strava recording made it look like a kidney bean.

The park itself was incredibly dense with an abundance of trees. I'd imagine as the seasons change there'd be some spectacular evolutions of colour. For the now, it was bright green hues and bright, sun-kissed branches.  I am convinced that in each of the trees lived a red squirrel because I lost count of the number I saw. As I ran by one in particular he was clinging to the tree upside down, eating something, completely oblivious to it's surroundings.

The paths were wide, and made of tarmac and it was virtually pancake flat. On another day the course would have masses of PB potential. With no elevation gain and a 400 meter sprint finish it could have been the fastest 5k I'd ever recorded. Sadly for me however, I was still feeling the effects of last week's calf injury at Lullingstone parkrun and so I'd made the choice before I'd started to take it easy. The exploits from the day/night before had also taken its toll, so I was far from my optimal condition. Naively I thought I'd be able to make it around the full 5k taking it slowly, but once I'd hit the 2k mark I'd felt my calf twinge and so I slowed to a walk. After another kilometre I tried to run again but the twinge nagged me again and so I walked almost the rest of the way.

As you go around the bottom of the course at the point on the clock where the 6 would be, you pass the finish area where Stephanie was waiting to cheer me on. There are no Marshall's on the course itself but at the finish there were a number of volunteers all cheering participants on. Each of them were clapping with tambourines in their hands or ringing cowbells which gave off a wonderful atmosphere and made me feel slightly bashful as I walked by on the final pass. It also made me think that a tambourine would make an essential piece of kit for any aspiring volunteer!

I managed to slowly jog the final kilometre including the last 400m straight where I wished I was going full beans in search of that elusive personal best time. But it wasn't to be. I finished 70th out of a field of 78 parkrunners in a time of 36:40.

After the event Stephanie and I got talking to some of the locals, including the chap who had given me my first timer briefing. Apparently I'd missed another runner from the UK. A lady had also been there from Scotland, she had also been to see Coldplay the night before. In fact, by the time we made our way back to the UK at the end of the weekend there were plenty of people who had made similar plans to our own.

As we left the park, heading towards the tram home, Stephanie said to me that whenever she's been to a parkrun event she always feels like there's this amazing sense of community. She couldn't have put it any better. It's exactly what parkrun is and why us obsessives keep going back for more, whichever country it might be, the language it's in, the recipe is all the same.

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