The mud lakes of January. Nobody likes a brown carpet. Nobody likes a wet brown carpet. Luckily for the 411 runners who arrived at the 233rd Bournemouth parkrun, none of them have to invite friends home or host parties in Kings Park and explain the interesting choice of colour for their flooring. As I watched the herd gather like penguins huddled together to bathe in one another’s body heat amidst the customary January chill, I saw a similar look of “I didn’t think to bring my trail shoes” stricken across faces. The expression was infectious. One runner in particular, Richard Wade bouncing and bounding to keep warm as he approached me with a ghostly panicked face to tell me how he wasn’t sure if his forefoot technique would hold up in such conditions. He reminded me of a man who has just walked out the front door on bin collection morning to put out the bins in nothing but a dressing gown and suddenly hears the wind slam the door shut separating him from his house keys. I know not if this is something Richard Wade has experienced, but he could have fooled me. Alas, it was now too late for a wardrobe change for our characters, the hour of 0900 approached and the show was about to begin. Our scene was set. The shades of sleet grade sky merging into a dark green skyline plummeting into a dark brown canvas. Enter: Hooter
A smart cautious start followed the bellowing hooter, or so the onlooking audience assumed. From the west a small dark figure rocketing along dragging in its dust what appeared to be a man desperately trying to match the four legged sprinter like the Wily E. Coyote forever chasing the Road Runner but forever just out of reach. They joined the pack. The runners were now complete. The first lap played out to be a cautious affair, toes splaying to carefully feel the surface underneath, aware at any minute of a slip or trip or the fear of Jonathon Woods sneaky camera work as he marshalled the “wood chipings”. Runners not wanting to over commit in the first half as they learnt their surroundings gave us spectators a viewing experience of the tactical sprint track cycling event where opponents ride a slow tactical first lap to jockey for position by pushing their opponent high onto the velodrome wall or feinting their opponent into an early move. Not that there are any “opponents” at parkrun..
Once the physical positioning, mind games and intelligence gathering of the first half had played out its course we entered a different second half. This saw runners legs open up and push the boundaries of the course as they sought to make their mark on the morning. As the halfway point hit, a flurry of hats and gloves were discarded with menacingly pinpoint accurately. I’m not sure if the Harlem Globetrotters have ever visited Boscombe, but if they had this must have been what it looked like as their three point shots landed through the baskets. Helen Gilbert in particular gave me a flashback to Michael Jordon’s glory days of the 90’s as he lead his Chicago Bulls team to title after title as her gloves found their target with an effortless marksmanship. With runners getting hot and heavy breathing abound, the temperature of Kings Park then proceeded to plummet to a level of coldness that wouldn’t be amiss from a J.K. Rowling novel with Dementors setting upon the park. I’m sure worse things have set upon Boscombe..
The closing curtain started to descend and runners made their final dash for the finish funnel and Steve Shuck’s familiar voice. It was plain that runners had enjoyed leaving their cosy duvets, central heating and Saturday Kitchen viewing at home to brave the brisk morning and sweat out forgotten toxins from the festive celebrations of 2017. A big thank you has to go the yellow army (not Torquay United!) but the volunteers who ensure that parkrun can take place every Saturday morning. I don’t know how there were 19 PB’s in such slow conditions and post a month of binging but clearly Lauren East, Matthew Wallace, Marcus Watton, Leonardo Hancock, Louise Hendes, Peter Coates, Samuel Bradford, Andrew Calver, Anna Baker, Tom Quay, Matthew Smith, David Smith, Matthew Low, Wennyi Ding, Ellie Cupit, Peatra Gumbi, Rebecca Klobucher, Brian Klobucher, Peter Wilson have some tactical knowledge of how to avoid the pitfalls of December vices. I envy their discipline as I’m still unable to say no to a bottle of mulled wine. Or two.