Tuesday, 17 May 2011
Harrogate Spring Run - The Main Stray Loop
(This post was written originally about a month ago, just as the cherry blossoms began to bloom on the Stray Park in Harrogate, North Yorkshire)
I love to visit Harrogate’s Stray Park in the spring time. As far as running routes go, it is a pleasant enough spot year round, but in the spring, the paths of the park burst into color, lined with a succession of crocus, daffodil, and cherry blossom. These blooms are the first evidence that the long, dark North Yorkshire winter is finally coming to an end, and they hold the promise of warmer days with more light. In the weeks before the first bloom of the crocus, I find myself searching with desperation the parks, fields, lay-bys, and road sides of North Yorkshire for signs that their little heads are popping up from the soil. I keep thinking that, if I can just hold out for the flowers, those bright spots of color will carry me through ‘till summer. And so they do.
The Stray is a large green area bordered on the sides by tall trees. There are a few paved paths that you have to share with those walking their dogs or riding their bikes, but I like to run under the trees, where the grass cover is thin enough for regular running shoes, but more cushy and less crowded than the paved paths. Plus, the paths don’t really ring the entire park and are prone to pot-holes. My favorite time to go over to this area for a run is in the short period of time when the daffodils still have most of their blooms and the cherry blossoms on the trees lining two long sections of paths began to open up. So, for about a week or two, you have the lively yellow peering up from both sides of the paths and the pink blossoms drooping down over your head.
I like to start my run at one side of this part of the stray, running through the pink fluffy trees on my way to the main part of the park. The park loop doesn’t offer a long run, about 2.7 kms (1.7 miles) if you run a loop around the two largest sections, but I will start on the cherry blossom side, run down the path and cross the bridge over the train tracks, and run one or two loops around what I call the “main Stray loop.” I make sure and end my run with another pass through the second of the two cherry blossom lined paths, a sort of victory finish. For one, it is a slight downhill, which I enjoy for ending a run, and for two, I love coming back ‘round to the lovely pink foliage.
This year the week after the cherry blossoms first appeared was full of bright sunshine and warm mornings. It was glorious, truly it was. Running the gauntlet of cherry trees, I felt like I was in a fairy tale. The trees of Yorkshire tend to be blown into strange and leaning shapes, giving the plants a twisted and otherworldly appearance. The bright pink balls of blossoms contrasted against clear blue sky above and bright sunny yellow daffodils below, and the whole the whole view makes me think of a Dr. Seuss book, with impossibly vivid colors and comic shapes. I love it. The best part is the way the flower petals gently rain down on you as you make your way through. If I run this route early enough, pink flower petals cover the paths and the fluffy carpet of petals swirl around my feet as I run in the morning breeze. Pure heaven and as delightful a way to start and finish a run as I can think of.
Running through the flowers, I don’t think about slow or how short my runs are. I don’t worry about injuries or training schedules. I just feel genuinely happy to be outside and running. Unfortunately, the flowers don’t last long. After a full week away from the area, I returned for a jog and found the daffodils wilted and withered and the pink flowers replaced by green leaves. I think this is what makes me love the run more, knowing that I have to get out and run that route every day to take in the magical scenery before time runs out. After all, in the end, time runs out for all runs, doesn’t it?