Saturday Monday provided an opportunity to do something parkrun related that I had never experienced from the perspective of a Run Director. In 2013 I was starting to parkrun more frequently, I didn't know the Christmas Day parkrun. 2014 heralded a conversion, I was now definitely a parkrunner & when Great Notley started up, I soon became a volunteer for the first time. In 2014 Great Notley decided against holding a Christmas Day event, something Event Director Len regretted afterwards, I found myself enjoying the experience at Chelmsford, an hour of light in a time of darkness for me.
By Christmas 2015 we had our own parkrun community, Hatfield Forest. Unfortunately though, the opportunity to hold a Christmas Day event never materialised as the National Trust closes for one day a year, we couldn't hold an event with the forest being closed. So for 2015 & 2016 we encouraged our runners to spread their wings, to experience a Christmas Day parkrun elsewhere. In both 2015 & 2016 my Christmas Day parkrun brought me to Great Notley, with 2016 also seeing the entire family out for a run. Even as I wondered how sensible I really was for offering to piggyback Callum up the Hill of Doom, I knew this was a special day, grateful for the experience.
2017 brought a change in circumstance & an opportunity to do something different. I approached East Herts & Bishop's Stortford councils about the possibility of holding additional festive events & received a resounding yes! I had just enough volunteers to safely hold an event, no idea if anyone would actually show up, but it didn't matter, we would have our own Christmas Day parkrun.
Christmas Day parkrun
The name parkrun is misleading at times, it focuses on the activity rather than everything else that surrounds the event. Every Saturday we create a pop up community, one where everyone might happen to walk, jog or run a 5k, but in truth the physical activity is largely irrelevant. We could all do that in our own time after all. Even the milestones, they are a nice feature of parkrun, but we don't really turn up week in, week out to tick a box. Whether you walk, jog, run or volunteer, what brings people back to parkrun is the community. Everyone takes part on a level playing field (unless you go to Tring, that's more of an unlevel, hill based parkrun), everyone has achieved the same at the end of their run, walk or jog.
When planning for our first Christmas event, conversation in the Holt household had been what would constitute a successful Christmas Day parkrun. At first I surmised on 100 participants, then realising I was potentially missing the point entirely. A successful Christmas Day event would be one that provided an hour of joy for those who attended and participated. parkrun is escapism, a chance to step away from the real world for an hour or so. Whether you were just escaping the turkey in the oven for an hour, thinking of family at this time of year, taking some respite from the deluge of wrapping paper, or just wanting to see your extended parkrun family, we wanted to be there for you on Christmas Day morning.
What constituted a success? 154 runners was an exceptional number, beyond anything we had expected. But more importantly, the smiles, the thank yous, the enjoyment, the high fives, the well dones as people crossed the finish line, the fancy dress, the snowlady appearing on the course to guide and encourage runners. That made it all worthwhile.
41 people were new to Castle Park parkrun on Saturday, including three who were enjoying their first ever parkrun! What a day to pick for your first, welcome to parkrun! 11 people decided that Christmas was the perfect day to record a personal best! A number of experienced parkrun tourists also joined us, making trips from south London, Yorkshire, Ilford & St Albans. Former Hatfield Forest course record holder Malcolm Muir led the field home. Two of our participants, James Bosher & Joe Spraggins arrived having already run 23.1 miles on Christmas morning, the parkrun completing their marathon for the day!
The full results for the day can be found here
Our Christmas Day event was a lean affair. We had just enough people to fill our mandatory marshal points & our most important funnel roles. Some pre run appealing to anyone not running on the day also meant we had a few more people to assist with time keeping & barcode scanning. Our faster runners also assisted with bolstering the finish area once they'd completed their two laps.
A huge thank you to everyone who helped in some form on Christmas Day; Elisabeth HOUSE • Megan EVANS • Sarah MACKAY • Chris HOLT • Oliver LAST • Sue LAST • Scott CADZOW • Christopher CONNELL • Georgia HOLT • Holly HUDSON • Callum HUDSON • Claire CADZOW • Reg CLAYTON • Denise ALLSOPP • Stefan MILKOWSKI • Em WARRINGTON • Sally HOUSE • Amanda BROWN • Graham SMITH • Debbie FERGUSON • Rebecca SMITH • Sophie SMITH • Patrick ROBBIE • Simon JUDKINS
We return to normal parkrun service on Saturday 30th. Georgia will be your Run Director. She is currently looking for two funnel area roles to be filled & for one more marshal, perhaps even a photographer. A couple more helpers for setup & close down would also be very handy (these roles can be combined with running).
New Year's Day parkrun
The start of 2018 also brings another special parkrun day. New Year's Day is unique on the parkrun calendar, you can record two different runs. With that in mind, we will be starting at the early time of 0830. Once you've finished, you can then head to Barclay, Chelmsford, Harrow Lodge, Brentwood, Ellenbrook or Stevenage for a 1030 start time & that second parkrun. You could also volunteer at one & run at the other, or volunteer at both. The world is your oyster (within a safe driving distance).
If you are doing the double, please share your photos & experiences with us, we'd love to know where you head to.
Mark is your Run Director on New Year's Day. He'll have just run a NYE marathon & will apparently be a little bit fragile in the morning. It will also be Mark's final morning as a Run Director. Having been part of the core team since 2015, commitments outside of parkrun now mean his time is at a premium, so he's stepping away from the core team. Mark doesn't have a Christmas list, but as he's been a good boy for 2 years, for New Year's Day he'd really like 4 more marshals, two more finish area roles filled, a photographer & maybe some more assistance with setup & close down.
Thank You for 2017
And so, as this is my last stint as RD this year, time to say some thank yous.
Thank you to our core team, old & new for embracing all of the change this year. Not many parkrun events go through the amount of upheaval that we saw this year, I'm immensely proud of the hard work that was put into our move.
Thank you to both the National Trust as our former landlords & Bishop's Stortford Town Council, East Herts District Council & Hertfordshire County Council, our new landlords. The NT gave us time to plan, our new councils gave us the opportunity to move the event & worked with us to ensure that we could move from one week at the forest, to the next in the heart of Bishop's Stortford. To achieve this took a lot of work & a lot of understanding.
Thank you to parkrun UK. The team at HQ were in uncharted territory with our move. Little Stoke was still fresh in many minds. Between us all, we found a way forward & collaborated to make sure everything ticked for the move. They placed a lot of trust in our instincts locally & provided support throughout the process.
Thank you to our parkrun community. Whether you were a stalwart from the forest, or someone that found us after our move to Castle Park, thank you for being part of something that makes Saturday mornings special. You could suggest that our parkrun community is just a cut & paste exercise, with the surroundings changed. From an event perspective we can already see a change, an evolution in our community. In the summer, I stated that the venue doesn't make a parkrun, the people do. 14 events in to Castle Park & I stand by that remark, the encouragement as everyone enters the field for the final 400 metres, the atmosphere around the finish area, the shouting of bollards, that's what makes a parkrun.
And finally, a thank you to my wife, Georgia. We've had quite the year, getting married (including wedding day parkrun), a band of squatting yogaists at our wedding, a house move (again), redundancy, new jobs, changes to jobs, all manner of other commitments. On top of that we then had an unplanned new parkrun project. Yet throughout all of this, she's been there, living & experiencing every bit of the move. The kids also have to put up with the early starts, the plethora of parkrun equipment around the house, but it is Georgia who gets the joy of being a sounding board when I'm thinking all things parkrun. Thankfully she gets it, she understands why moving a marshal point, correcting a sign, or updating a course map for the 10th time matters to me.
2017 has been a truly unique year for our parkrun. Thank you for everyone who has joined us for the ride.
Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!