FREE running! WHETHER YOU'RE NEW TO RUNNING OR LOOKING TO BEAT YOR PB PARKRUN COULD BE FOR YOU. JANE TYLER REPORTS.
IT'S free, it's good for you and is set to be one of the fastest-growing exercise activities in 2019. What is it? Parkrun! The free running event which is held in thousands of parks across the UK every week.
Every Saturday at 9am, tens of thousands of runners line up and run, walk or jog the 5k (3 mile) course. Without paying a penny. If you're a regular runner and fancy a change, or are new to running and looking to start, then parkrun is for you - you have the option to walk.
Since it started in 2004, parkrun has spread to 1,222 locations in the UK, and is held in 20 other countries. There are currently 29 locations in the West Midlands, with more planned. Most parkruns welcome babies in buggies, and there are some where they have special Junior parkruns for four to 14-year-olds.
Here are the nine parkruns nearest to Birmingham, and the two closest trail parkruns, if you fancy going off-road.
| Cannon Hill Park, Edgbaston, Birmingham The start is on the main path opposite the Garden Tea Rooms. The nearest entrances are from Edgbaston Road, opposite the cricket ground, or Russell Road. There are plenty of bus services serving the park. There are several large car parks, but since spring 2017 all now charge fees. Afterwards runners meet at either the Midland Arts Centre or the Garden Tea Rooms. Dogs and buggies welcome. Average number of runners: 432 | Brueton Park, Warwick Road, Solihull B91 3HW Confusingly, the event starts next to the tennis courts in Malvern Park, which is a stone's throw from Brueton Park. There are regular bus and train services to Solihull, and there is parking in Brueton Park, as well as surrounding side roads. There is also free parking for parkrun participants in the grounds of Solihull Sixth Form College in Widney Manor Road, as long as you leave a parkrun barcode in your car window and have left by 10.30am. People are welcome for a post-run coffee at the Parkridge Centre in Brueton Park. Dogs and buggies are welcome. Average number of runners every week: 284.
| The Dell Stadium, Bryce Road, Pensnett, Brierley Hill, DY5 4NE. A welcome return to this popular Black Country course, which had to be suspended for a while in 2017 and the early part of 2018 due to building work at the Dell Stadium. Unlike other urban courses, it is a mixture of running track, paths, canal towpaths and trail and can get muddy. The nearest train stations are Lye and Stourbridge Town and buses run close to the stadium. There is a car park with 120 spaces, and an extra overspill car park. Runners gather at a local cafe for a post-run coffee. Because of the narrow section along the canal towpath, no dogs or buggies are allowed. Average number of runners: 214 | Kingsbury Water Park, Bodymoor Heath, Sutton Coldfield, B76 0DY The race starts close to the cafe and the Echills Wood Miniature Railway Station. Buses serve the park, and the village of Kingsbury is nearby. On-site parking is available at a significantly discounted rate for parkrunners displaying their barcode and arriving between 8.15am and 8.50am. Outside these times, the standard parking rate applies. Other parking is available in Kingsbury with access on foot into the park a short walk (or jog!) away. A post-run coffee is held in The Old Barn Cafe. Dogs and buggies welcome. Average number of runners: 303.
| Perry Hall Park, Perry Avenue, Perry Barr, Birmingham, B42 1RS The run starts by the moat area near the main gates. Buses run past the park, and Hamstead is the nearest train station. Car parking is available through the main gates on Perry Avenue, and there are toilets. Runners gather for a coffee afterwards in Goodfillas in Walsall Road. Dogs and buggies welcome. Average number of runners: 108.
| Sandwell Park Farm, Salters Lane, West Bromwich, B71 4BG This is the second newest member of the parkrun family in the West Midlands, only starting in summer 2017. It starts within Sandwell Valley Showground and Midland Metro stations Kenrick Park and Smethwick Galton Bridge are just over a mile away. There are also buses serving nearby roads. Car parking is in the main car park at 40p per hour. A post-run coffee is at Sandwell Park Farm. No dogs or buggies. Average number of runners: 113.
| Sutton Park, Monmouth Drive, Sutton Coldfield, B73 6JX.
The newest parkrun in the West Midlands, finally starting up in the summer of 2018 after a long campaign by Sutton Coldfield runners. It starts at Banners Gate and goes along paths and some trails, past the Jamboree Stone, before finishing at Longmoor Pool. There are plenty of buses serving the park, and the train station is a 2.2 mile walk away. Car parking is free and available at Boldmere Gate (B73 6LH), also in side roads and at Banners Gate. Dogs and buggies are welcome. The post-run coffee is at Communitea Cafe, in Boldmere Road, a three-minute drive away. Average number of runners: 244.
| Walsall Arboretum, Arboretum Road, Walsall, WS1 2QG It starts at the Sons of Rest building, close to the main entrance. It is about a mile from Walsall train station, buses run nearby. Free parking is available at the Grange car park off Broadway North Road, along with roadside parking. Runners gather for a cup of tea afterwards at the cafe in the new Arboretum Visitor Centre. Dogs and buggies welcome. Average number of runners: 262.
| West Park, Wolverhampton, WV1 4PN The run starts beside the bandstand. There are plenty of bus services, and Wolverhampton Train Station is nearby. Parking is available around the outside of the park. A post-run coffee is held in the park's Tea Rooms. Dogs and buggies are welcome. Average number of runners every week: 218.
And if you fancy getting muddy and embracing nature, here are two trail parkruns...
| Cannock Chase, Marquis Drive, WS12 4PW.
The run starts at Cannock Chase Visitor Centre and the course takes you along trails and paths. Access by public transport is limited to the No 63 bus from Cannock or Rugeley stations. There is plenty of pay and display parking at the visitor centre, and a limited amount of free parking. Dogs and buggies are welcome. A post-run coffee is available at the Cannock Chase Visitor Centre Cafe. Average number of runners every week: 391.
| Wyre Forest, Callow Hill, Bewdley, Worcestershire, DY14 9XQ.
The run starts near the visitor centre and follows some of the forest's marked trails, doing one lap in a loop, finishing back at the visitor centre. There is plenty of parking at the visitor centre. The cost is PS3 for one hour, PS4 for 2-4 hours and PS5 all day. If you're planning to go regularly you could buy an annual Discovery Pass (around PS30 a year) which supports the forest and includes free parking. Dogs and buggies welcome.Public transport is buses, with the Nos 2L and 291 stopping at the visitor centre. A post-run coffee is held in the Forest Cafe. Average number of runners every week: 173.
| You have to register first on the parkrun website www.parkrun.org.uk. Then print off a barcode, take it along to the event, get it scanned and off you go! When you cross the finish line your barcode will be scanned and your time will be either emailed or texted to you later. You also get details of how fast you are in your age group.
Parkrun at Cannon Hill Park