Do you remember the first time?

Basingstoke parkrun #564, 8th December 2018, Run Report by Sarah Govind.

Saturday 8 December was a dry and fairly warm morning in Basingstoke, a relief after last week’s downpour, but muddy and squelchy underfoot as a result of the rain over the course of the week. 433 runners and walkers, no doubt encouraged by the better weather, came along to War Memorial Park for their Saturday morning parkrun.

For the first time in 3 months, I was amongst them, pushing my small son, soon to be 4, along in our running buggy, all wrapped up against the cold in a warm blanket. For once my mind was not completely on the 5k ahead of me. I was thinking ahead to the following weekend when as part of the celebrations to mark his birthday, he will be taking part in junior parkrun. I wondered how he would enjoy taking part in his first ever organised run and what his memories would be. This had also got me thinking about the adults around me and their own initial experiences of doing parkrun. What could have motivated them to participate? What were their expectations as they arrived at their first ever run?


I decided that this would be a good topic for my run report and that a great place to start collecting these stories would be at the first timers’ briefing. I walked over to where Tom Ferguson, the volunteer in charge, was standing. Huddled around him were some of the 7 first timers new to parkrun and 8 runners and walkers new to our Basingstoke course. After his welcome and briefing about the course, he very kindly asked if anyone would be willing to tell their stories to me. Ty Gould, completely new to parkrun, and Michael Dunbar, a parkrun tourist, came forward to speak to me. But more on them later.


After listening to Run Director Lisa Hedderly give the main runners’ briefing, it was time to make our way over to the start of our winter course, for me the first time of the year since moving from the summer course. Along the way it was lovely to see so many familiar faces, some of whom had noticed my absence over the past few months. One of these faces was Andy Goddard, perhaps also familiar to many of you as he has been coming along to Basingstoke parkrun since 2009. He first took part at the suggestion of the current Basingstoke parkrun event director Avi Govind, who had heard from his mother that there were people running around the park each Saturday morning! They both decided that they had better give this a try and signed up together. After a few years, both were regular participants. Andy is very glad he was persuaded to as it very effectively launched his amateur running career.


Going back to the present day, not long after 9am, we began our anti-clockwise journey around the park. I had positioned myself and my buggy at the back of the group as I had decided to half run and half walk my way around the course and would be starting off with a stretch of fast walking. From my position at the back, I could see the bunch of runners spread out quickly, with those in front shooting off into the distance. Fast forward 17 minutes and 35 seconds and Tom Harding passed into the funnel as first finisher for the fourth consecutive week. Not far behind him, with a time of 20.54, and in 24th place, was Matthew Pillinger.

Matt is no stranger to parkrun. He attended his first in 2011, on the 6th August to be precise. He had never heard of parkrun until a friend of his took part in the Eastleigh event the week beforehand and recommended it to him. He arrived at Basingstoke parkrun the following weekend at 8.15, thinking that it would be better to turn up early than late, but found that he was the only person there! Luckily, he didn’t have long to wait until the core team of volunteers arrived. As a first timer, he found it hard going and after one kilometre, he was absolutely exhausted. But it didn’t stop him from coming back and a string of PBs followed. Today, he completed the distance in 20.54, a significant improvement from his time 7 years ago.


Almost 3 minutes after Matt finished his run, Michael Dunbar was there to join him near the barcode scanners with a time of 23.46 and in 74th place. As you might have guessed from his attendance at the first timers briefing, Michael is new to Basingstoke but is no stranger to parkrun. He describes himself as a parkrun tourist, and was here with us in War Memorial Park for his 26th run. He didn’t have far to come as his home event is Frimley, the parkrun closest to where he lives. Amazingly, in his 25 previous runs, he has visited 17 parkruns and has never been to one more than 3 times. Hopefully he can keep this up!

The other runner that I spoke to at the briefing, Ty Gould, finished his first ever parkrun in 32.06 and in 305th place. Ty has just started running again recently after some health problems and was inspired to start doing parkrun by his wife, who has been taking part for 18 months. He enjoys the experience of running in a group and this particularly appeals about parkrun.


You may be wondering how I was doing on the course and what my own first time experience of parkrun was. Over the years I had watched my husband take part many times but had never given in to his efforts to persuade me to join in. I was worried that I’d become too competitive and wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy it. However, many things happened to change this. In the years leading up to my first parkrun in May 2016, my life was turned on its head. I had become a mother but not only that, I had been been diagnosed with a serious illness, non Hodgkin lymphoma. Once I had gone into remission, I decided I wanted to regain a normal level of fitness. My doctor advised me to take regular exercise to get my heart rate up and after building up my walking speed, I decided it was time to walk my first ever parkrun! The desire to compete had flown out of the window. I knew that parkrun wasn’t just for runners but still felt a little nervous as I positioned myself at the back. I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly and welcoming the tailwalker and the marshals were to me and how encouraging the runners were as they passed me by. I completed the course in 56.19 and felt very pleased and proud of myself. And of course, I’ve been back many times since! Today I passed into the finish funnel in 411th place after 43.36 minutes of alternately running and walking.


By the time all of the 433 runners and walkers had made their way around the course, 5 new milestone runs (Amie Webb, Tony Corper and Simon Davenport having completed 50runs each; Gary Hurry and Dave Rawlins 100 runs each) and one unofficial milestone (Andy Vaughan 150 runs) had been achieved - well done to all concerned. There were still a few runners, joggers and walkers standing around and chatting plus the volunteers going about their business of post event closedown. As I cooled down and chatted to some of those around me, Michael Dunbar sought me out. He wanted to assure me that he would definitely return to Basingstoke parkrun, perhaps not until the summer, but come back he would!

Standing not too far away was the familiar face of Tina Larcombe, who I recognised as one of our marshals from today. She had been out in the course with her daughter and I had felt cheered on by her encouraging words as I moved past them on my way to the woods. Not wanting to leave out the volunteers from this report, I moved across to speak to her to find out about her first time experience. Our chat took us back 10 years, to a 2008 parkrun at Bushy Park, which she went along to as a way of training for the London marathon, the one and only marathon she has completed, an experience that she described as "hard going"! She discovered our local parkrun in 2012 after she met her husband who was living in Basingstoke and asked him if there was one here. After taking a break when her daughter was born, she got back into running after hearing about the parkrun last year which targetted mothers that run. An interesting fact about Tina is that each of the 3 parkruns she has attended have begun with B (Bedfont Lakes being the other).


As well as Tina, today there were 39 volunteers helping to make parkrun a smooth running event! Thank you to all of them for their help. If you have never volunteered and would like to join their ranks for the first time, email As run director Lisa Hedderly said today in her run briefing, “we’re a nice bunch, we do not bite!”.

Our final word goes to Frankie Wellings, a member of the Basingstoke parkrun core team. She was unable to take part on Saturday and so is contributing from her hospital bed where she is recovering from an operation. Frankie's first ever parkrun took place at Crabtree in July 2012, which unknown to her at the time was Basingstoke parkrun’s 4th birthday. She remembers arriving expecting to be asked to sign in and was surprised at the relaxed and accepting atmosphere that awaited her. For no particular reason, she didn’t attend again until September of that year and for a few years afterwards her attendance was sporadic, but now she never misses our Saturday morning run whether that be as a volunteer or participant. Apart from when she’s in hospital of course - and we wish her a speedy recovery so she can be back with us again in the park on a Saturday morning. And she can safely say, like many of the rest of us, that she is addicted, of course in a good and healthy way!


And now I’m back to wondering what my soon to be 4 year old will make of his very first junior parkrun experience. After several years of being pushed around the park, observing his parents run, I’m sure he is raring to go. When he sees the other children racing off, he probably won’t be able to resist running after them. I am sure as a friendly soul, he’ll enjoy the feeling of camaraderie and community that comes with it. And like Frankie and many of the other people I spoke to, hopefully he will get drawn in and not being able to stop coming back for more. In the years to come, with any luck, he’ll be joining us as we make our way round War Memorial Park on a Saturday morning.

Thanks to all who allowed me to interview them today. To those of you reading this, what was your first ever experience of parkrun? It would be great to hear your experiences...


Who said “it never rains on parkrun day”?

Basingstoke parkrun #563 1st December 2018 Run Report by Peter Chiverton.

"Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary".
(From The Rainy Day by Henry Longfellow).

As we entered the final month of 2018, the dark and dreary day seemed to be sending gloom rather than a welcome to Basingstoke’s parkrunners as we returned to the winter course. A good job that decision was made – with the amount of rain this week, let alone this morning, the grass would have been very cut up by all those footmarks digging deep. Although Basingstoke parkrun has been taking place since 2008 we’ve only been using the three lap winter course since 16th January 2016. My personal opinion is that with our typical attendances now between 450 – 550 each week, using the summer course through the winter is just not an option – the lovely park grass would take such a long time to recover for the summer – so it’s great we have this alternative for the colder and wetter part of the year. As it was, the paths on the winter course were in part turned into ponds.


This was reflected by the reduced number of just 292 - not surprising with the conditions in the couple of hours approaching time for the run. Today's hardy parkrunners must be congratulated as they opened the first doors on their Advent calendars, headed out of their own front doors, shuddered as they almost headed back inside but had instead braved the conditions and met with their parkrun buddies in War Memorial Park, complaining to one another “who said it never rains on parkrun day?”. The lack of rain on parkrun day truism of course only applies during the event itself and not in the time leading up to the run. If you were one of those who decided “Duvet 1, 5k run 0” today, you may not be best pleased to hear that the rain ceased (of course) at about the time as we set off around the park from in front of the Council offices on the three and a bit laps anticlockwise round our familiar War Memorial Park.


David Picton was Run Director today – this year he has to deal with course reorganization complexities galore when he has been in charge, but today he had no chilli festivals or steam fairs to engineer a modified course through. But if you think you need to be pretty hardcore to drag yourself to the park to run on a day like today, I hope you’ll have called out plenty of “thank you”s to the volunteers who each had to stand out in today’s weather to marshal, scan, hand out tokens that stuck together in the wet, click buttons to record times and all that without the chance of moving around the park to keep warm. I echo those thanks to all those who made yet another parkrun happen. At this time of year it would be wonderful if we could all consider giving some of our time to volunteer and make a parkrun happen for others as an Advent gift. Just have a look at the rota for the upcoming weeks at and then email to let us know when you can help. You don’t need to wait to the last minute to volunteer – those who volunteer a few weeks ahead makes the life of the volunteer co-ordinator so much happier!


So what happened at today’s three and a bit lap run?

As we have already said, 292 parkrunners completed the course today. Seven of those braved today’s conditions to do their first parkrun anywhere, so well done to David Summers, John Huitson, Louise Pierce, Martin Matthewson, Chahat Vijay, Catherine Morgan and Melissa Poulter – we hope you enjoyed your first parkrun today and also hope that you come and join us again very soon, to experience the park in different conditions! We also had ten first time visitors to our parkrun today, and it’s great to see where they have come from to get to Basingstoke – welcome to Helen Poole from Newbury, Joseph Brown (Andover), Nicola and Jack Hudson (Reading), Natalie and Sebastian Latacz (Bromley), Sarah Davis (Orpington), Matt Wright (Alice Holt), Bradley Scholtz, who has done most of his parkruns at the splendidly named Piggly Wiggly parkrun in South Africa, and finally Lewis Rendell who has run all his four parkruns at different locations, so not sure where he counts as his home parkrun! We hope you’ll come back again to run with us very soon. The conditions today contributed to just 14 PBs being achieved so a huge well done if you were one of those people.


First finishers today were Tom Harding for the men and Kate Towerton for the women.

Congratulations to those who reached milestone parkruns today: Adam Hallgarth and Gyan Gurung both achieved their 50th parkruns and Chris Pearson and Sam Hidson completed their 100th parkruns.


Mini stats section.

I can’t compete with Matt Pillinger in terms of statistical analysis of aspects of our run, but I have been interested to see what’s happened to our parkrun’s growth over the years (especially when we get a day with a reduced attendance like today). The graph below shows average attendance at our parkrun for each quarter it has been operating. This shows that our attendance has continued generally to climb from the start, with notable drops when comparing Jan-Mar 2012 to the same quarter 2013 (prolonged bad weather occurred in the latter of these) and the same pattern comparing Jan-Mar 2017 to Jan-Mar 2018 (ditto). There was also a very large increase comparing Apr-Jun 2016 to Apr-Jun 2017 – the latter saw the course attendance record beaten four times including our highest attendance ever – and the same quarter in 2018 didn’t reach the same heights (maybe because of a mixture of first unseasonably cold followed by amazingly hot weather in 2018?).

quarterly stats

Meet the parkrunner – Vicky Hamblin.

Another chance to get to know one of your fellow parkrunners better!
Vicky is a member of Chineham Park Running Club and has completed 198 parkruns including 55 at Basingstoke.

Vicky (right) in 80s themed costume at Queen Elizabeth parkrun

Tell us a bit about your running history?
I decided to start running back in 2013 as a way to keep fit over the summer and did Couch to 5k. I was doing this on the treadmill at the gym having not run outside since I was at school. As I got towards the end of the plan I thought I had better find a 5k to run and started going to parkrun. I joined Chineham Park Running Club a couple of months later.

How did you find out about parkrun?
A friend of mine is a regular runner and volunteer at Coventry parkrun. When I was looking for a 5k to do I thought maybe Basingstoke had one too and sure enough it did!

When and how did you start parkrunning, and what did you think of it at that first run?
My first parkrun was in June 2013 and was the same day that the 2 Andrews did their 250s! I remember thinking I would never do that many and how busy it was as well as being in awe of all the people with milestone T shirts! (Editor note: Andrew Mason and Andrew Wyeth who are Basingstoke’s most prolific parkrunners, have both now done well over 500 runs; Andrew Wyeth has done all his runs at Basingstoke – the individual who has run the most parkruns all at a single event anywhere in the world!)

What is your favourite thing about parkrun?
That I can turn up at any parkrun in the world and run for free with no strings attached

Has parkrun changed your running and if so, how?
I found my running club and have also met some great friends through parkrun.

Any memorable or funny parkrun moments you’d like to share?
Running Wormwood Scrubs parkrun in cops and robbers fancy dress for Kerry Monaghan’s 50th parkrun, doing Bushy parkrun on the 10th anniversary, my 40th birthday on Valentines Day at Valentine parkrun and Basingstoke parkrun in the snow earlier this year are a few of the really memorable ones.

What is your favourite volunteer role?
Barcode scanning or finish tokens – I get to say well done to everyone at the end!

Are there any volunteer roles you haven’t yet tried that you would like to have a go at?
No – I’ve done most roles, even timekeeper that I had always been too scared to try until an Event Director ‘friend’ put me down for it!

You seem to like visiting different parkruns (you did 20 different parkruns in just over a year when you started parkrunning and you’ve now run at 126 different parkruns). What’s the attraction of touring to different events?
I’ve got a great group of parkrun friends - my parkrun family - and we always have a giggle on our trips to different events! I like that each event is different yet has the same routine and I’ve run at some lovely venues because of parkrun.
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Vicky and Basingstoke parkrun friends on tour at Bushy Park parkrun

What running do you do outside of parkrun?
I run 3-4 times a week depending on what I’m training for. I’m on the Coaching Team at CPRC and am currently the parkrun Representative for the club so organise trips to different events as well as the volunteer takeover at Basingstoke parkrun the club has done.

What are your running highlights so far?
For parkrun, doing my Cowell (100th different parkrun – named after Basingstoke event’s Chris Cowell who was the first parkrunner to achieve this feat) at Cassiobury parkrun last November with lots of my parkrun friends. Other than parkrun I love trail running, the South Downs Way 50 has to be my highlight so far!

What are your future running goals?
Improving my 10k and half marathon times

Do you have any running experiences you’d care to forget?
Newbury parkrun on New Year’s Day 2014! We had already got wet and cold at Basingstoke, it was raining and the wind was howling over Greenham Common and I thought I would never get warm again!
We also travelled to San Francisco a couple of weeks ago but Crissy Field parkrun (with views of the Golden Gate Bridge) was sadly cancelled due to the forest fires in California affecting the air quality. We still managed to get photos at the parkrun as the event team had set everything up in the hope they would be able to run but it wasn’t to be, we’ll just have to go back again!

What’s the most valuable piece of running advice you’ve ever been given?
Rest and recovery is just as important as the running!

What are your other interests?
Cooking & eating, skiing, reading when I get time

What is your occupation/where do you work?
I’m a project manager

Does your family share your enjoyment in running?
My Dad was a decent 800m (well 880 yards in his day) runner. Sadly I didn’t inherit the speedy gene! He was a coach and I can remember him taking his runners out on long muddy, hilly runs on a Sunday morning when I was little. Mum and Dad still go for a run together every Sunday but I don’t think they would ever do parkrun as they love the peace and quiet in the park they go to! My husband, one of my sisters and one of my nieces have done parkrun with me and I managed to persuade my boss to give it a go a couple of years ago. She’s now a regular at Salisbury. The in-laws all think I’m a bit nuts going off running all the time!

And finally – on this day in history – a quite interesting fact.
On 1st December 1990 (28 years ago today) the tunnels dug from England and France for the Channel Tunnel first met 40m below the sea bed. The Tunnel finally opened in 1994.

See you back at War Memorial Park next week - maybe for some improved weather!



Winter course update and special Christmas/ New Year arrangements

Winter Course Update - Saturday 1st December

Unless the grassy areas of the summer course dry significantly during this week, Basingstoke parkrun is likely to switch to the three and a bit laps paths-only "winter" course at War Memorial Park this Saturday 1st December. Once we have switched to the winter course then we will not return to using the summer course until some time in 2019.

Special arrangements for extra parkruns over the Christmas and New Year period.

Christmas Day parkrun.

We will be hosting a Christmas Day parkrun at Basingstoke War Memorial Park starting at 9am as usual, on Tuesday 25th December.

Basingstoke parkrun #513 Christmas Day 2017

Please feel free to come in fancy dress and join in the fun.

New Year's Day parkrun.

We will be hosting a parkrun at Basingstoke War Memorial Park at the usual 9am start time on New Year's Day (Tuesday 1st January).

What about Saturday 29th December?

parkrun will happen at the usual 9am start time on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year at Basingstoke War Memorial Park.

Note that volunteers will be needed for all of these parkruns so if you can help out at any of them please contact the Basingstoke parkrun office.

What if I am not in Basingstoke this Christmas?

There is a special page of Christmas and New Year parkrun arrangements at Some parkruns are happening on Christmas Day and New Year's Day and some are not, and in some cases times will be changed. The Special Events page will tell you which parkruns are happening and if they have changed their start time on either date. So if you are away from Basingstoke for Christmas or New Year, there may still be a parkrun you can experience.

Please note that any of these parkruns may cancel at short notice due to poor or dangerous weather conditions, so you are advised to check with individual parkruns that you plan to visit closer to the time, and think carefully before travelling long distances in winter for parkrun.

Note also on New Year's Day only, that because of varied start times of individual parkruns, it may be possible to run (a maximum of) two parkruns at different locations - if so, both will count in the table of completed runs. This is not the case on Christmas Day, even if logistically possible - only one run will be recorded.


Wet weather welcomes wrapped-up (w)runners

Basingstoke parkrun #562, 24th November 2018. Run report by Paul Johnston

It was wet, it was grey, it was cold, it was the sort of day that made snuggling under the duvet and watching a few box-sets more appealing than venturing outside. But there was a ray of sunshine to be found, a place where warmth, joy and happiness ran over the depths of autumn. That place was the War Memorial Park, where 441 participants gathered and made the most of the great outdoors.

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It was the sort of day where the bright spectrum of colours worn by many seemed more vibrant in the dull conditions. It was the sort of day when the smiles worn by those crossing the finishing line lit up the slate grey skies - they were a little brighter for the 16 who had completed parkrun for the first time. Well done to each one of you on this achievement, which was made all the more fulfilling given the weather - another hurdle successfully negotiated. We look forward to seeing you again next week. We also look forward to seeing the 9 Basingstoke first-timers again - we had visitors today as far afield as Cheltenham and Exeter - your presence brightening up our parkrun day further.

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It was the sort of day when the efforts of the volunteers were even more admirable than usual. Selflessly standing around in bleak conditions, trying to stave off the effects of the cold and possibly suffering the odd trickle of rain down the neck, getting past the the waterproofs. Our hi-viz heroes make the whole event possible for all of the others - thank you, for giving up your time. If you haven’t volunteered before, please give it a go, you will be appreciated by many.

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It was the sort of day when a claggy, soft surface made parkrunning a lot more slippery and slow. But not for 43 speed-merchants that made light of the mud, achieving a personal best. Well done to you all. The worsening conditions also mean that it is likely that this was the last time we will run on the summer course until next year. Therefore, the next time we run up Tennis Court Hill, it will be the sort of day when the days will be getting longer, the weather warmer and the joys of spring will be putting an extra spring in our steps.

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Finally, well done to milestone runners Molly Kirby doing her 10th run as a junior, Wayne Aylott, Philip York and Sarah Rejchrt for their 50th runs. Well done too to Debbie Cook, Mark Slaney and James Baulch who have all completed their 250th runs. Well done unofficial milestoners Tommy Millar (150) and Mark Brady (200). On the volunteer side congratulations David Bowman and Graham Wallace for each volunteering at your 25th events.

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parkrun turns purple

Basingstoke parkrun #561, 17th November 2018. Run report by Mike Pini

A steady stream of purple flowed through War Memorial Park on Saturday, 17th November. Among the runners, joggers and walkers who set off at 9am were around 25 who earlier in the week had deservedly completed their 10-week ‘couch to 5K’ course, known as the ABC (Absolute Beginners’ Course) with Hook Runners, and who proudly wore their shiny new purple club t-shirts.

By taking part in Basingstoke’s 561st parkrun, the ABC’ers completed their ‘graduation ceremony’ – perhaps the perfect way to gain some event experience, surrounded as they were by 587 supportive parkrunners and 34 encouraging volunteers. Completing 5km, or 3.1 miles in ‘old money’, is no mean feat if only 2 ½ months earlier some could run only 10 metres before needing to stop for air, as some of the ‘graduates’ had said. So let's put our hands together for a big round of applause. Well done, everybody!  

Basingstoke parkrun 561

Club runners, non-club runners, men pushing prams, men and women pulled by enthusiastic, energetic dogs, as well as one lady several months’ pregnant and another with her arm in a sling made up a small minority of the river of runners. Some familiar faces pushed themselves hard at the front of the summer route (yep, it’s mid-November and we’re still using the summer course) while 59, or just over 10% who turned up, comprised first timers – almost half from Hook Runners’ ABC. Congratulations to the fantastic four of Debbie DAVEY, Lesa DYSON, Julie HUGHES and Paul STRICKLAND who notched up their 50th parkruns. Ten folks clocked their tenth appearance, so kudos to Assunta BIBBO, Nicola DENLEY, Pip HARTLEY, Jim JARMAN, Kevin JELLEY, Ian LACK, Rob LATACZ, Gavin ROBERTS, John WHELAN and Connor WREY. Unusually for a Saturday morning, nobody gained their 100th, 150th, 200th or 250th parkrun badge. But can you believe that two guys who ran – both called Andrew – have now completed well over 500 parkruns? Now that’s dedication on Saturday mornings!

Basingstoke parkrun 561

Don’t forget that volunteering can be just as fun as running or walking, so please consider stepping forward to get involved in one or more of the roles required to make Basingstoke parkrun a reality every single Saturday. Find out more about volunteering at

See you all next week for more park fun!  


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