Although Dundee is my nearest city at just over half an hour away, I’ve never made the trip to Camperdown Parkrun until now. Montrose Parkrun is just so friendly, close by, and flat! I’d heard tales of a tough uphill climb, and a downhill that could be a little scary in frosty conditions, so hadn’t made the effort to check it out. I’ve been away for the past couple of weekends though (visiting a friend in Copenhagen one weekend, then attending the excellent inaugural Tabletop Scotland event in Perth the next weekend) and was itching to do a Parkrun. Montrose Parkrun was cancelled, for what I believe is the first time since the Beast from the East, leaving us bereft. They did suggest we head to Stonehaven for their second birthday party (which promised cake!). That was tempting, but I’ve been recovering from a foot injury and was supposed to be avoiding hills. As the general consensus was that the hill in Stonehaven was much tougher than the one in Camperdown (and has to be scaled not once but thrice), we opted for Camperdown.
Kate and I turned up at Camperdown just after 9:00am. We’d intended to have enough time to visit the facilities, since it’s a longer drive than to Montrose. There were already a few serious souls doing strides and drills as we slowly drove past on the long driveway to the car park. Camperdown country park is massive, and is a lovely location for a Parkrun. I wasn’t sure what we’d do for 25 minutes though, but it turned out the toilet facilities were about half a mile from the car park, in the opposite direction to the Start so it was a good job we’d given ourselves plenty of time. It also meant we got a nice warm up run.
Heading back to the car park (as Kate had left her bar code in the car) we bumped into Keith who was here on a family outing with his two children and young dog, so had a chat with them whilst heading over to the start point. We’d seen a few other folk we knew were regulars at Montrose, but not as many as I had expected. And it looked busier than Montrose, but not overwhelmingly so. There were around 25 of us at the first timer’s briefing. The lady delivering this was very encouraging and informative and showed us a map of the route. Because there were so many of us, not everyone got to see it close up, but the route was well marshalled and unless you went off right at the front it remained busy enough that it would be hard to get lost.
During the pre-race briefing we discovered that it was Pacers week. We hadn’t been expecting that as we thought it would have been the previous week, unaware that event had been cancelled for a Flower Show. Unlike at Montrose, they have a couple of pacers for times that end in 30 rather than 00. We were a few feet behind the 30 minute pacer as Kate wasn’t particularly confident about going sub-30 on an unknown (to us) hilly route with new non-trail shoes. Then when the pacers were mentioned we discovered she was standing right next to the 26:30 pacer. He gave us some good advice about sticking to the right along the bottom section heading out, since the left side can be a bit muddier. I queried the logic of him being further back than the 30 minute pacer, but he said he would overtake the man, and did so pretty quickly, expertly weaving his way through the starting crowd.
Having started nearer the back than the front, it took a few seconds to get across the start line, and though the trail was fairly wide, we were surrounded by other runners and it was hard to find a comfortable stride. As with Montrose though, the crowds thin out pretty quickly as people find their own pace. The first few hundred metres are downhill, which makes it easy for people to go off quickly and spread out, then it levels out for the remainder of the first kilometre. The steeper first part is under trees, then you take a right hand turn onto a trail that is also tree-lined but which takes you down near the bottom of the park and past an excellent play park. This was unusually quiet, and I fancied a go on what looked like it might be a zip line, but then I remembered I’m supposed to be a mature adult (though this is very debatable) and continued running.
The trail gently descends during the second kilometre, only to rise steeply in the third kilometre. We’d been warned about Camperdown’s “killer hill” in advance, and a lot of runners in front of us seemed to be finding it tough. Kate wasn’t as chatty heading up the hill, but she kept a steady pace and jumped forward a fair number of places, including passing a fellow Montrose runner near the top of the climb. I was glad I was recceing the route rather than trying to race it, but my breathing did get a bit laboured during this climb. The path is rather narrow, and it seems never-ending. In reality it’s not that big a climb, but Strava tells me that the gradient is very steep in places (with one tiny section at 21%) and running up it is unlikely to be the most pleasant 4 – 10 minutes of your morning.
The route then heads past the golf club, with a short section on road. Around this point we encountered the 30 minute pacer, who we ran with for a while. He was looking for the Tigers who were supposed to be following him. We had a chat about the differences between Camperdown and Montrose Parkrun, particularly if you are looking for a PB. He was a bit ahead of schedule at this point, but explained that he has learned from experience not to try and pace the kilometres equally otherwise he loses too many people on that 3rd kilometre climb. Then, on seeing a couple of runners slightly behind us whom he recognised, he headed back to encourage them, and Kate and I headed off through a lovely meadow. There were far fewer runners around us by this point and it felt more like being in the countryside than in a city. This section was also enjoyable thanks to a lack of climbing, and Kate was more able to chat, meaning she didn’t have to listen to as much of my waffling as she had whilst heading up the hill.
Unfortunately of course, what goes down must come up, and just before 4.5 kilometres you make a left hand turn and begin the final climb back to the finish. This is also under cover of trees, and I was pleased to see that it looked as if Kate was going to get a much better time than she had been expecting before the start of the run. The hill does get noticeably steeper in the last 100 metres or so, but we still managed something resembling a sprint finish, both finishing in a respectable 28:38.
It seems some naughty Parkrunner’s have been forgetting to return finish tokens, so my “token” was a piece of cardboard with 108 written on it. The barcode scanners directed me to a third volunteer who was taking a note of names, position numbers and barcode numbers for those whose tokens wouldn’t scan, and I appeared on the results page in the correct place.
The event was pretty friendly. The Run Director, perhaps recognising us as not being regulars, had a quick chat with Kate and I after we’d caught our breath, and we had a chat with one of Kate’s friends who finished slightly after us. We then bumped into Harry who I ran round Montrose Parkrun with earlier in the summer, and who provided some support during the Dundee Half DRAM from the comfort of his bike. He’s done over 250 Parkruns(!), and also volunteers fairly regularly. At the rate I get to Parkrun I’ll be lucky to get to 250 any time before my 50th birthday.
I’m not sure what Camperdown Parkrun would feel like if you were racing flat out, but I suspect there are easier ones out there if you really want a fast and flat route. However, if you’re looking for a well organised, Goldilocks-sized event with friendly runners and volunteers, and the chance to feel like you’ve escaped the hustle and bustle of the city for an hour or so, then I can’t think of many better things to do on a Saturday morning.