Run Report #191 – 21st April

Muggy Marathon Eve


Saturday was the perfect example of a warm spell in England: muggy, then a shower, then sunshine, then a cloud from every garden in the land erupting into barbeque flames!

Although we had dry and still conditions for our run at Exeter Riverside, it was very humid. I'm sure many of us were pleased to grab a cold drink when we finished. Spare a thought for the thousands of runners doing Sunday’s London Marathon in what could be a record high temperature. They'll be running about 8.5 parkruns back-to-back! Best wishes to all the participants, supporters and volunteers - especially those from Exeter and Devon.

I had the pleasure of being the 30 minute pacer today (on my 50th time around our course). It was great to have a good-sized group running around me and to see them push-on to finish ahead of me: several first timers and Personal Best times. It was also nice to see several of our regular volunteers getting to run today. Thank you to all of our volunteers, especially those who've recently come forward. The more of us who've volunteered and tried different roles, the more secure our weekly event becomes. This is especially important at peak holiday times when we can struggle to put together a full roster. Please help where you can.

Our scanners noticed quite a few tired looking barcodes, some of which were a bit damp with runner sweat.  This can result in barcodes not scanning and can affect the efficiency of the scanning process.  If runners can cover their paper barcode with clear plastic, the barcode will last for ages and will scan much better.

This week we had 299 finishers. The mid-point time this week based on finishing position was 27:45; half of today's runners finished before this time and half after. This is remarkably consistent over the weeks: the mid-point last week was just 6 seconds quicker!

The first male finisher and first finisher overall was Peter Monaghan in 17:15. Sophie Auster was the first female finisher in 19:41 (a PB time for our course). 49 people joined Sophie in securing a PB time.

5 people achieved an age-grading over 75% including Peter 87.63%, Karen Cook 84.47% and Langdon Williams 80.02%.

50 people were running our course for the first time of which 25 were doing their first ever parkrun anywhere; thank you for coming. Our 'international' visitors this week came from Wales.

3 people reached parkrun milestones today: Lucy-Anne Sargeant and Thomas Atkins both reached their junior 10 run milestones. Rory Henderson reached his 50 run milestone. Congratulations to you all.


Run Report #190 – 14th April

Soft going and no water jumps on Grand National day


After a seemingly endless winter, we finally managed to return to our out-and-back summer course that takes-in the University playing fields. Going was definitely soft but at least we avoided the water jumps that have been a regular feature of our course for the past couple of months.

A big 'thank you' to today's team of volunteers. The amount of effort that goes into organising the weekly run is not always visible. Behind the scenes, volunteers are liaising with parkrun HQ, dealing with queries, organising volunteer rosters, inspecting the course, preparing kit, managing social media, and setting-up the course. Then the visible work begins: pre-run briefings, marshalling, pacing, timing, giving-out the time tokens, and time recording. After the run everything needs to be checked and packed away, results processed and notifications sent, finishing tokens sorted, photographs uploaded and a run report written. Then we go again!

We are so lucky to have a core team of people who regularly volunteer, often picking-up two or three roles to fill the gaps, but we always need new volunteers. It makes us more resilient and means that  the regular volunteers get the opportunity to have a run too. If you haven't volunteered before or for a while please check-out our future roster for available roles over the next few weeks and put your name forward for a couple of slots. Six of today's finishers have passed both their 100 parkrun and 25 volunteer milestones. That's the sort of ratio we'd love to see replicated more widely.

Although our volunteers do a great job, we rely on our parkrunners to help make the run operate smoothly.  Today there were a few issues that we’d like to tell you about, and hopefully you can make sure that they don’t apply to you:

  1. Only go through the finish once and only if you have run the whole parkrun.  Our timekeepers record a time for all runners crossing the finish line on the basis that they have completed the run.  This can create problems for our finish funnel team and can result in inaccurate results being processed if runners pass through the finish who shouldn’t
  2. If you want a time, you have to cross the finish line.  A runner did not cross the finish so did not get a time recorded and wanted a finish token.  Again this caused a headache for our funnel team and the results processing
  3. We can only accept paper barcodes or authorised tags and wristbands.  Barcodes on phone screens are not allowed.  This is a parkrun rule which our barcode scanners have to apply consistently across all runners.  If you haven’t brought your printed barcode, please do not ask our volunteers to bend this rule for you

Lastly a special mention for two of our core volunteers: today's Run Director Paul and this week's Volunteer Co-ordinator Becci who today celebrated not only 'parkrun day' together but their Wedding Anniversary too; congratulations.  Congratulations also go to Lynne Patricia Hughes and Gordon Nicholls who both reached their 50 run milestones today with Gordon throwing-in a Personal Best time too.

This week 267 people headed off into the mist and I'm delighted to say that we saw them all again in the winners' enclosure. 43 people were doing our course for the first time of which 15 were doing their first parkrun anywhere.

Today's first male finisher and first finisher overall was Tim Gordon in 17:04. Katherine Harris was the first female finisher in 19:51, and a new PB time for our course.  The mid-point time this week based on finishing position was 27:39; in other words, half of today's runners finished before this time and half after.

In addition to Gordon and Katherine, 36 people achieved PB times. Five people achieved an age-grading over 75% including Christine Sedman-Smith 86.92% (on her first run with us), Karen Cook 85.48% and Corinne McWilliams 83.05%. Well done to you all.

We had a volunteer photographer out on the course today; keep an eye on our photo collection.

See you next Saturday.


Run Report #186 – 17th March

Field of Dreams


If you arrived late for the briefing you may have wondered why today's Run Director, Dennis was in his PJs. It wasn't that he'd overslept; like most of our volunteers, he was one of the first to arrive, busy getting everything set-up from 8.15. The reason is that today is 'National Sleep-In day'. As part of Parkrun UK's sleep partnership with Millbrook Beds, runners and volunteers around the country have been invited to walk, jog, run or volunteer in their PJs and share photos after the event.  We had a couple of runners in PJs. I suspect we lost others who'd taken 'Sleep-in Day' too literally. And maybe the rest of you are either so keen on running that you actually wear your running clothes in bed, or you wear too little at night to brave a chilly start. Who knows. And I don't want to know!

The title of this week's report is a reference to the University playing fields. They form part of our 'usual' route. We thought the alternative course that we used today would be a temporary departure but we've been unable to use the playing fields for weeks now. As soon as the flood water subsides, the ice melts or the muddy ground firms-up and we think we'll be making a return, another prolonged downpour sets us back another week or two. It's strange to think that lots of today's runners may never have run on the fields or known anything other than today's 'temporary' two-lap course.

A big 'thank you' to today's volunteers. Although we probably had the 'warmest' couple of hours that we're going to get all weekend, it certainly wasn't tropical. And when you're not moving-about it can feel very cold. One of the consequences of the two-lap course is that we need a few extra marshals each week because of the more congested conditions. We need to avoid cyclists, dog walkers, independent runners and our runners ending up in a huge pile! if you've not volunteered before or for a while, please consider volunteering for a session or two so that we can put-on a run every Saturday. Check out our future roster for available roles over the next few weeks.

Despite the grey skies, stiff breeze and warnings of snow, 294 people completed today's Exeter Riverside parkrun, that's our 3rd highest turn-out in 2018. We had lots of visitors including one from Italy, a group from Essex and one from Killerton (who might have been able to see their house from our course!).

Several people were completing milestone runs this week including Edward Bidder who reached his 50 run milestone in a Personal Best (PB) time for our course, and James Rice who also joined the 50 run club. Well done to both of you. Congratulations also to regular runner and volunteer Paul Barter who completed his 50th run at Exeter Riverside (and 114th parkrun).

Today's first male finisher and first finisher overall was Oliver Thorogood in 17:30. Scarlett Livingstone (in the JW11-14 category!) was the first female finisher in 19:30, and a new PB time for our course. Five people achieved an age-grading over 75% including Scarlett 83.50%, Connie McWilliams 81.79% and Karen Cook 80.90%.

In addition to Edward and Scarlett, 28 people achieved PB times. That's lower than average which probably reflects the impact of the stiff breeze. I loved being the 30 minute pacer this week. Interesting pattern just behind me in the table: 1st, PB, 1st, PB, -, 1st, 1st, PB - all under 30:59.

The mid-point time this week based on finishing position was 28:06; in other words, half of today's runners finished before this time and half after. The mid-point in the previous 3 weeks was 27:11, 27:25 and 27:32. Remarkably consistent despite big differences in the number of runners - between 224 to 361 - and being another indicator of today's breezy conditions slowing most of us down a little.

50 people were doing our course for the first time of which 36 were doing their first parkrun anywhere. If you enjoyed it today, just think how great you'll feel doing the Exeter Riverside course in the sunshine!

Keep an eye on our photo collection which gets updated regularly. There are some great shots from last week's very wet run. A belated mention for James Rice and Fern Dymond who reached their 50 run milestone on that soggy occasion, and to Matt Bonne who joined the 100 club.

On the subject of milestones, here are a few for the next 2 weeks:

- next Tuesday is the first day of Spring (which may turn out to be just another spelling of Winter)

- next Sunday the clocks go to British Summer Time (another spelling of Winter)

- the following Sunday is Easter. If you gave up something for Lent, hang in there, it's not far away.

And, of course, there are two more parkruns!

Adrian Harding


Run Report #185 – 10th March



It’s a steep descent from the Cathedral to the Quay. Past the oldest Customs House in the country, the river is lapping the footpath in front of a public house. The snow that wiped out all but 97 of the 506 UK parkruns last weekend has melted and is well on its way to the sea.

Walking to the start, we pass various small sailing boats laid up for the winter. parkrun is inclusive, but if you’re over 6’6” wide, or 2.5 tons, you can’t cross the bridge to this one.

A red and white buoy denotes the briefing area, as it once marked the channel down river. After refastening my shoes, I spot Mike Feighan, a vastly experienced veteran, tall and gaunt, wearing the 25 minute pacer’s tabard. He’s trying to establish his global positioning system. I doubt I’ll stick with him, but it will help if I can track him through the early stages.


We’re nowhere near Iraq, but you could call this a mesopotamian parkrun. Normally it runs between two rivers, but today there are three. The flood-gates are open. River Exe melt-water is roaring, pouring over the barrier and spraying from openings within it. The capacity of Trew’s Flood Relief Channel was expanded in 2015 to a one in 100 year flood, rather than just one in 40. Its flooded valley forms the left-hand margin for much of our run.

From the start, we follow the right-hand waterway, which is placid by comparison. A two-man kayak paddles upstream towards the top lock of the Exeter Ship Canal. Begun by John Trew in 1563, it re-established the city’s port, by-passing weirs on the lower river. Across the cut, a terrace of four, small brick houses is inscribed ‘Exe View Cottages 1887’.

We fork left before the lone angler, diverging from the towpath at kayak marker 4. Passing a footbridge over the flood channel, I’m struggling for rhythm in a pack of runners.

‘Splash!’ I didn’t see the puddle in time. We’re on the right of two tarmac path-ways separated by a thin reservation of grass. National Cycle Route 34, a spur from Exeter onto Route 2 from St. Austell to Dover occupies the left track.


Three-storey houses with steep-sloping roofs are newly-built beyond the canal. Some have arches on their facades, others have rounded windows. Allotments to our right seem over-run by outsize milk churns, until I realise they’re plastic compost bins. A watering can dangles from the ‘arm’ of a sopping wet scarecrow. The ochre-coloured superstructure of a tug-boat appears incongruously above a hedge.


A right-hand curve reveals a junction of pathways and a footbridge beyond. The pacer is getting away. I surge past three women who have just overtaken me. Up ahead, runners are moving onto the cycleway to avoid puddles. I’m so soaked it won’t make much difference. I splash through three inches of water. A lady in blue, also undeterred, overtakes me on the right.

A blue sign points the main track right: ‘Exe Cycle Route Marsh Barton ½ Double Lock ½’. We follow a narrower path straight ahead. It’s heading for ‘St. Leonards ¾ Wonford 1’, but both are across the river.

I recall running cross-country at Wonford in Ludwell Valley Park, when the South-West Championships augmented a Westward League match. We ran fast along a flat string of playing fields beside Northbrook. Then the long, curving climb was worth it for the panoramic view of the city, with the sun dipping toward Dartmoor’s distant horizon. We waded through the stream before more playing fields completed the lap.

There are catkins in the left-hand bushes before brambles take over. Down the right, a rail fence separates us from a long paddock of tussocky grass. We’re keeping right of blue, hemispherical markers. It’s soon apparent why. The leading trio rush towards us. Our path climbs suddenly, sweeping left onto the footbridge. Shoulder-high, grey-brown metal railings separate us from the flood waters. It’s almost 100 paces across. Blossom and gorse adorn the far bank. A forest of plastic tubes protects a nursery of saplings.

There is no corresponding curve as we descend to an island of parkland. We run straight ahead with a line of ten oak trees on our left. On the other side, a ditch and barbed wire separates us from Duckes Meadow’s University hockey pitches and more distant Rugby posts. The preferred course would circle the playing fields, but this is forbidden until it dries out. The students are faring no better. A whiteboard showing the pitch allocation for 21st February suggests there’s been no play since.

A runner in front lurches suddenly left. Alerted, I call ‘Post!’ dodging the metal obstruction which bars the path to vehicles. Left turn puts us on a muddy lane, but it’s safe enough despite its slippery surface, Bushes now screen us from the little park. An arm of the river and the changing rooms beyond are masked by trees to our right.

After 100 yards, we emerge to a view of St. James’ Weir and the rushing river, with a distant spire dwarfed by a crane. Turning sharp left, a sign identifies Duckes Marsh. It’s a good place for ducks. Our path completes a wobbly triangle, winding back to the bridge via an artwork of four stepped tree trunks; several saplings and a pollarded tree.

The pacer has removed his orange hat. He’s 30 yards in front, climbing back over the river. The central pier of the bridge has black and white graffiti on a green background - the colours of the new Devon flag.

Back on land, I sneak a place, dodging back in quickly to avoid a runner coming the other way. Emerging from the narrow path, a sign advertises Phase Two of the Exeter Flood Defence Scheme with new barriers downstream from Cowley Bridge to Countess Wear.


We’ve run up-river as far as a marshal, then U-turned into the unwelcome headwind. Afterwards I discover the bench by the junction is dedicated to: ‘Professor W.G. Hoskins, 1908-92, Landscape Historian’. How would the author of ‘The Making of the English Landscape’ regard the re-sculpting of these channels?

Runners seem to be plodding stoically on. Enjoyment is in short supply. A young dark-haired man in a 50 Club shirt passes me on Duckes Marsh. I spurt past him descending from the bridge, but once out on the riverbank, he overtakes again. Shortly afterwards he’s joined by a black-shirted, blond youth. They’re set for a ding-dong battle. It’s a shame I can’t maintain contact.

The rain seems heavier. At least it’s a tail-wind now. I just miss lapping the tail-ender and her high-visibility marshal. It’s a long run-in, lonely as the gaps lengthen. The pacer must be 200 yards in front. If he’s on target, I’ll struggle to beat 26 minutes, though I’m running hard to make up lost time.

Across the channel the land is wooded. Weeping willows and evergreens provide a touch of colour in a dull landscape. There’s a modern clock tower in the middle distance; dark, green conifers on the skyline. I’ve run over there, into the city from Countess Wear, with early, autumnal mist along the river before spending a day in the county archives.

Two paths slant down the far side of the channel. Posts suggest there are bridges, but each is completely submerged, marked only by linear ripples in the fast-flowing, brown water.

Rising in the Blackdown Hills, across the Somerset border, the River Culm is one tributary to the Exe’s 800 square mile drainage basin. How much of its water has flowed down past Cullompton from Uffculme and Willand since 1844? It was an awful year for my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandmother, Martha Dunster. She wasn’t yet two years of age when she lost her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all within nine months.

I conjecture a teenager’s tension with her step-mother. Next I know for sure, Martha had become a servant in the household of a Devonport lieutenant-commander.


The river draws my gaze. Cream and ochre buildings suggest I’m heading for a fishing village. When I break its hypnotic spell, glancing further right reveals more. There’s a spire, then the twin towers of the cathedral squatting on the hill.

Did Sir Francis Drake really sail this way? I first saw his endorsement in a tavern just off the Cathedral green in 1975 when I came here on a student field trip.

Archaeologists have evidence of a trading port as early as 200 B.C..

The distinctive buoy is more visible than the finish. I’m closing in, but so is a young woman. I’ve worked hard to keep maintain this pace, but I can’t find any more. With 50 yards to go, she’s beaten me.

The base of the buoy quotes from The Exeter Book, an Anglo-Saxon anthology dated 965-975 A.D.. The poem tells how a sailor realises he prefers his hard, maritime life to an easier one on land. Today’s parkrunners may share his choice. Why are the runs that are most unpleasant at the time, the ones I look back on with greatest fondness?


Exeter Light and Power Station, built in 1903, has a long facade of red brick with concrete lintels. Two Greek goddesses recline on reliefs near the top, one holding an anachronistic light bulb. Rather like entering a mosque. I’m supposed to take my shoes off. Ironically, they’ve been cleaned by the puddles, whereas my socks are oozing muddy water at every step.


The hall which once powered the city has been rejuvenated as The Climbing Centre. It is busy. There are even tiny children, harnessed to the ceiling and ascending steep walls via tenuous hand- and foot-holds. Climbing the stairs to the scanning desk is enough for me. I restore myself for the descent with tea and apricot crumble.

Nigel Harding, Poole

Men: 1. Sam Hopton 17:08; 2. Oliver Thorogood (Aberystwyth AC) 17:13; 3. Unknown Runner

Women: 1. Cecily Day (Ranelagh Harriers) 21:10; 2 Jennifer Withers (Walton AC) 21:55; 3 Jo Pearce (South-West Road Runners) 21:59

Age Gradings: 1. Karen Cook (South-West Road Runners) W60 22:37 84.60%; 2. Mary Humphries (Tiverton Harriers) W65 25:58 81.71%; 3. Edward Pickering (South-West Road Runners) M45 18:41 75.91%


Event cancellation – 3rd March


Sadly as a result of the on-going severe weather conditions we have cancelled tomorrow’s parkrun due to the risk of injury to runners and volunteers both getting to and at the parkrun.

We note that all other parkruns in the area, Killerton, Exmouth, Trobay Velopark, Seaton and Parke have also cancelled on safety grounds.

Enjoy your Saturday morning lie in bed and we’ll see you down on the Quay on 10th March when we should be back to the usual course, incorporating the university field.

Exeter Riverside Core Team

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