Black Combe parkrun
A bit of an unusual one this week, as we visited HMP Haverigg, in Cumbria, for the first parkrun to be introduced within a prison. There was a little more planning involved this time, as we had to liaise with the Run Director in advance about requirements and availability. It was easier than we had expected though – we needed a DBS check, two forms of ID (one with photo), NI number and evidence that we are regular parkrunners. You may also have to undergo a pat down before you’re allowed in. Restrictions may tighten up over time though, especially if parkrun tourism catches on…. and we were told that there is already a waiting list of parkrunners itching to run Black Combe. You won’t be allowed to take in any technology whatsoever (no photos this week!), so do go expecting to run ‘naked’.
HMP Haverigg is a Category C male prison, which is one step up from an open prison. Some of the guys were very happy to chat and they all seemed really enthused about parkrun. Most indicated that parkrun has introduced a new element of fitness to their lives, as well as a bit of healthy competition. They enjoyed talking about one of their friends that had run Black Combe parkrun and then continued with parkrun elsewhere after his release. I definitely got the sense that it made them feel more connected to outside of the prison and that it was something familiar that they could look forward to engaging with in the future.
Black Combe parkrun started in November 2017, so it is quite well established now and seemed very organised. Unlike other parkruns, the start-time isn’t quite 9am…. expect to start more like 9.30am, as it takes time to gather the runners together. The course is 7.5 laps, in a figure-of-eight, of the recreation area within the prison. I had gone with the expectation that the course would be easy, but I think the repetition made it hard, as well as the uneven ground (mole hills). I was concerned about losing count of my laps, and rightly so, because I did! But they have a system in place where you take an elastic band on each lap, hand it back in at the end of the lap, then collect another on the next lap. As you hand in each band, you shout your name out and the Run Director ticks off your name and lets you know what lap you’re on. It’s simple, but effective.
There is, as you can imagine, not a lot to see here. Just the high walls/fences and your fellow parkrunners and volunteers. The terrain is about 60% grass and 40% concrete and the most difficult aspect (for faster runners, anyway) seemed to be the number of sharp corners to negotiate. The other difficulty is space for overlapping… the concrete path in particular is very narrow and, with so many laps, it’s hard to not get in each others’ way. But the very small runner numbers (usually under 30) takes the pressure off a bit.
Everyone was very encouraging, whether running or volunteering, and there was a sense of camaraderie amongst the group. If you have time afterwards, do stay and chat with the guys for a bit. This is encouraged by the prison staff and I think it helps build on the idea of parkrun as a community. Overall, a very positive experience at Black Combe parkrun.
Official Event Page: Black Combe parkrun
Nearby postcode: LA18 4NA
Hills: No data, but a very flat course
Subjective PB potential: 7/10