Now here’s the problem with parkrun touring. You think you’re getting somewhere. You think you’re nearing the end of the list of parkruns in your area. Then new parkruns pop up and you realise you haven’t done all the runs in the southeast, or Berkshire, or even Reading!
I thought I had seen the last of Reading having visited Reading and Woodley parkruns but then a new one materialises on the western side of town and so back to Reading I go! Now I have told you all about the history of Reading on my two previous visits so instead I shall offer you ten amazing facts about this Berkshire town.
Reading is the largest town in the UK. Or to put it another way, it is the largest place that doesn’t qualify for city status. Population 318,000 and growing.
Jane Austen went to school in Reading. She attended the Abbey school. That building is long gone but the modern Abbey School retains the name.
Oscar Wilde went to prison in Reading. The experience inspired his epic poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”.
For a couple of years in the 13th century, the whole of England was ruled from Reading. Specifically Caversham Park, where William the Earl Marshall was temporarily ruling the country on behalf of the nine-year-old King Henry III.
Biscuits, specifically Huntley and Palmer, used to be so important to Reading that in the 19th century, Reading was nicknamed "biscuitopolis". Its prison was called the Biscuit Factory and the football team were the Biscuit Men.
There are five kinds of potato named after Reading - the Reading Abbey, Reading Hero, Reading Regent, Reading Ruby and Reading Russet.
Reading’s other great contribution to British cuisine - it was home to the first ever Little Chef restaurant opened in 1958 in Oxford Road.
Reading has a number of twinning arrangements including Düsseldorf in Germany, Clonmel in Ireland and a little town in Pennsylvania called .... Reading!
Reading hosts one of Britain’s top music festivals, indeed it’s coming up shortly. I looked at the line up for this year’s event and - a sign of my age here - I hardly recognised any names!
Reading also has its own Pride festival, coming up on September 1st. For today’s parkrun, the organisers were suggesting we show solidarity with Pride by dressing appropriately. For a moment I was worried that they might mean coming along as “the only gay in the village” but they only meant rainbow colours. I opted for my purple volunteer t-shirt.
Which brings us back to Prospect Park. The park is over on the western side of Reading towards the suburb of Calcot. It was originally part of the Calcot Estate. In the late eighteenth century it was acquired by John Liebenrood (German by birth) who built a fine mansion here. The estate passed down through the family until 1902 when it was sold off to Reading Borough Council who turned the grounds into a public park. The mansion is still there although nowadays it hosts a Harvester restaurant (how are the mighty fallen!)
Prospect Park has hosted a number of running events over the years - I have distant memories of taking part in a relay here - and a few months ago it became the host to Reading’s newest parkrun. The course consists of two laps around the perimeter of the park, fairly flat to gently undulating, all on grass. Looking out on the course, it seems like it might be reasonably fast, but then looking at the results, it suggests that it might be more testing than it appears. Only four people have achieved an age grading of over 80% (I just failed to be the fifth!)
Prospect has proved reasonably popular in the twelve weeks it has been going. It is averaging around 200 starters (slightly fewer today) It was a nice bright fresh morning, good for running. So off we went. My start is getting slower and slower these days - there seemed to be about thirty people ahead of me by the first corner. I gradually got going though and worked through to around ninth. I passed the end of the first lap in ten minutes and a few seconds. I maintained that sort of pace reasonably well into the second lap although by now I was running on my own. I wondered if I might just dip under twenty minutes but I just missed it. Ninth place in 20:14. That was okay. Actually I think that was quite good on that course. I quite enjoyed Prospect Park and would certainly come here more regularly if I lived in Reading.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 173. I was first in my age group, second overall on age graded scores and I managed another age category course best.
There was a guy there today who looked like a serious photographer so I might have some shots to show you later. In the meantime here are some pictures from a previous event.
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