Run Report #199 – 16th February 2019 by Lisa Campbell

It’s 06:25 and I wake up. My alarm, set for 06:30, hasn’t gone off yet. It takes me a few seconds to work out what day it is. Ah yes, Saturday... parkrun day! Then I remember... today is my first day as Run Director for Market Harborough parkrun. The nerves kick in. 

As I get ready, I mentally run through what I have to do, what I have to remember, what to say in the pre-run briefing etc. I feel sick. I feel dizzy. I don’t like this feeling! 

Simon helps me carry the two boxes of kit and the speaker downstairs, and load them into my car. The kit is all ready to go. Laptop, radios and barcode scanners are charged. 38 volunteer bibs are washed, dried and folded, paperwork for volunteers is attached to clipboards and a final check ensures the tokens are in order. Turns out being RD is a week-long role!

We leave home at 07:30, and arrive around 5 minutes later. The park is empty. I send Simon to the river to shovel the mud that has built up on the path out of the way, ensuring it’s not slippery for the runners. I can’t be dealing with a runner in the river on my first day as RD! Meanwhile I lay out all of the signs, posts etc. As volunteers and other members of the Core Team arrive I delegate sections of the course for them to set up. All is going to plan. 

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It’s around 08:30 when most volunteers start to arrive. I tick them off on my list and hand them their relevant equipment and tell the marshals where I’d like them to marshal. 

It’s 08:50 now and that means it’s time to head to the start. Simon’s gone on ahead to get the speaker from my car and set it up. Mark approaches me and tells me that it’s his wife, Alex’s 50th run. I make a note and head to the start. 

Roger climbs the stepladder first and introduces me. I am only half paying attention, half concentrating on taking deep breaths and telling myself that I just need to follow the script in my hand. People clap and Roger steps down. My hands start shaking. I climb up the stepladder, realising it’s much harder to stand on than I thought. I don’t make it to the top step as I’m worried I’ll fall; luckily I’m 6ft tall! 

The next three minutes are a blur. I just remember the barrage of self-conscious thoughts: “I’m talking too quickly”, “I’m taking too long”, “I’m shouting”, “can they all hear me?”, “I hate my voice”, and the worst one: “why does this run brief contain so many damn Rs!” (for those who haven’t noticed, pronouncing Rs is not my strong point!). 

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3-2-1-parkrun and their off! A wave of relief as the runners disappear around the corner. 

The next 18 minutes are fairly relaxed. Everyone is in place for when the first finishers cross the line. I spend most of my time near the funnel, checking that the timekeepers and finish tokens are on track with each other. Then something happens. I still don’t know exactly what, but next check of timekeepers and finish tokens shows that they’re one out from one another. Oops... Don’t panic. Nothing I can do about it now. I’ll deal with it afterwards. 

A couple of further issues arise; two people cross the finish line twice. But the funnel managers and finish token volunteers are on the ball and spot this and remedy it quickly and easily. Both people are given a second finish token and we explain that they must scan the first and pop the second in the tub without having it scanned. 

Around 10:15 and the last people cross the finish line, followed by the tail walkers. We pack up the rest of the finish and head back to the bowls pavilion. Meanwhile, various volunteers have packed up the rest of the course. We pack everything back into the kit boxes and head to the café. Bev has already set the laptop up for me. Time to process the results. 

I plug in the first barcode scanner. Then I see the message on the screen. ‘No OPN records found’. I don’t know what that means, but it certainly doesn’t sound good! Did I accidentally press the reset button on the scanner? If so, that’s 1/3 of the runners who won’t get their results! Bev tells me not to panic (I still do) and I unplug it and try again. Same message. I try another barcode scanner. That one works fine and the results from that one are uploaded. I try scanner number 3. That works fine too. This worries me even more because it tells me it’s the scanner, not the cable or laptop. I plug scanner number 1 back in and wait... Bev then says “if this doesn’t work I don’t know what to do”. Whaaaat??? I need you to tell me that this is a common issue that you have a remedy for! We both wait, nervous energy floating between us. Then... 202 records uploaded. Yes! Not sure what the issue was and frankly I don’t care. It’s working. Phew! 

I plug in and upload the stopwatch data. I then manually enter those whose barcodes wouldn’t scan. I remove the second result of those who crossed the line twice. I manage to work out that the discrepancy between the timekeepers and finish tokens occurred between runners 96 and 148. But that’s a fairly wide window. Not entirely sure what to do about this, so I ask Roger to help out. We work out what to do to fix this, and the results are good to go. I then finalise the volunteer roster, adding in those who turned up in the day to support, to ensure they get their volunteer credit and thank you email. 

I then hand the kit over to Nicola, who is RD this week, and do a final Facebook post for the week. Finally, I can relax! Overall it’s gone pretty well. Everyone is alive, and got their results. The support from The Core Team and the runners/volunteers was great! In a weird way, despite the stress and anxiety, I’m quite looking forward to my next stint as RD! 

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Run Report #198 – 9th February 2019 by Roger Pangbourne

 

I didn’t used to know anyone who was blind.

Or even anyone with any kind of what you would call a ‘visual impairment’.  But I still remember my first Run Director meeting when Brian (our original Event Director) raised the topic of ‘PROVE’ (parkrun; Running or Volunteering for Everyone) and whether anyone wanted to help investigate some training as a Visually Impaired (VI) Guide.

I’ve thought about it and I don’t really know why guiding a blind or visually impaired runner interested me, but it did.  Perhaps it was fascination.  Perhaps it was admiration.  Perhaps it was because I was used to pacing and this seemed something else new to try? It certainly wasn’t any thought that it could be such a rewarding activity.

Roll forward around 15 months and this weekend I was guiding for the 10th time.  In that time I’ve guided 4 different VI parkrunners, some completely blind and others with different visual impairments.  Three of these are now regulars at MH (Wiki, Vanessa and Jan) and the other was Haseeb, the blindfold ironman triathlon world record holder (thankfully he was coming back after an injury when we ran together as Haseeb is quiiiiick!).  2 of those 10 guiding experiences have been with First Timers (Haseeb and Jan) and I’ve hopefully had a hand in 4 PBs (Wiki x 2, Vanessa and Jan) – certainly more PBs than I’ve achieved on my own of late!!

Now pacing is rewarding and the thanks that those who finish just before or just after you is wonderful – all I’ve usually done is shouted at people (maybe not at them!) all the way around the course, but VI guiding is something else…

Guiding has delivered probably my most emotional parkrun experience:  I was guiding young Jan for her first parkrun experience.  Jan is in the ‘VW 65-69’ age category and following her instructions, we were fast-walking around the course.  It was our last lap and on the return from the Turnaround Trees I asked if she fancied a little jog.  We jogged for around 50 metres above the river stretch.  We returned to a walking pace before saying ‘hi’ to Austin again and Jan said to me:  “That’s the first time I’ve run … since school.”  !!!  Wow! It makes me well-up every time I tell the story.  We also jogged down the finish straight that day on our way to a time of 56:38.

Today should have been Jan’s 10th parkrun, but she had forgotten her barcode!  After a little period of illness Jan had once again given me the instruction to only walk, but this time we probably managed 6 or 7 jogs before finishing in 55:25.  A way off Jan’s current PB of 46:21, but she was delighted to still be quicker than her first outing – even if she won’t receive the run credit for today.  (#DFYB!)

Since our first VI guiding trials with blindfolded parkrunners, we have now welcomed 8 different VI runners and have a wonderful team of VI Guides.  Some have attended official training events (there’s an excellent ‘Sight Loss Awareness and Guide Running Workshop’ run by England Athletics) or we have trained many of our own local parkrunners.  Essentially once you have donned a blindfold yourself and run a few laps around Welland Park with a VI Guide, you are very well prepared to be a VI Guide yourself.  A number of our regular RDs are also trained VI guides so can answer any queries people may have and the VI Guide team is currently led by Jo Raine.

VI Guiding now, compared to my first time at MH is a wonderful thing.  Not only for all of the stuff I’ve mentioned above, but also because you wonderful parkrunners know only to overtake us on the right-hand side and it’s great when we hear a shout out of ‘passing on the right’ or something similar when you’re overtaking (we’re often too busy nattering to hear you coming otherwise!).  Market Harborough parkrun has truly embraced VI running and we thank all of you for helping make this happen.

My VI workshop was also attended by a blind runner called Netty.  She told us that she used to be casual runner and when she lost her sight, the biggest thing she missed was running.  So finding some people with whom she could run and act as VI Guides was life-changing for her.  I’d add it can not only be so rewarding for VI runners, but also for the VI Guides.

If you’re interested in joining our team of VI Guides, we’d love to hear from you – just pop us a note on Facebook, an email or come and chat to us at parkrun one day.

I now know several blind people and others who are visually impaired.  My life is warmer and fuller as a result.

 

Roger Pangbourne

 

 

Run Report #197 – 2nd February 2019 by Nicola Mirams

This run report threatened to be the shortest in parkrun history as icy weather meant a 7.30am course inspection had to take place, with the possibility of the parkrun being cancelled. Kudos to the core team who braved the cold conditions (it was 0C outside, with a ‘feels like’ temperature of -5C) to proudly declare that parkrun #197 was going ahead, in beautiful sunshine.

I headed to Welland Park early and spoke to some of the other volunteers for the first time. I am new to the area so I am slowly getting to know people. I chatted to Liz, who I had admired from afar for her cookie monster running leggings and festive trainers. She told me about an event she is taking place where participants get rewarded with chocolate depending on how far they run. Sounds like my kind of event! I also spoke to Alice – a friend of the family who I’d not seen for several years – and her guide.

I’d persuaded a friend to try the parkrun for the first time so we headed to the start line together for the usual announcements. Among the achievements this week was a gentleman volunteering for the 100th time (our very own RD - Kenny!!) – wow!!   In the first Harborough parkrun I’d run in January someone had come from Israel to take part – this time our most intrepid runner came from the wilds of Northampton!

We counted down to the start and it felt good to get moving and to start to defrost. Despite the weather and lures of a cup of tea in bed, 323 runners had turned up, with the marshals as usual providing great motivation and enthusiasm. A highlight of my lap is always a hi-five with Austin as you come back from along the river. As someone who is around the 30 minute mark, I inevitably get lapped by the faster runners.  I am giving it my all but they are something else - inspiring. During my lap two a man called Stewart ran past on his third lap – the lady in front and I encouraged him to find his second wind as he zoomed towards the finish.

I first encountered parkruns in 2013, when I ran the Braunstone parkrun three times. Six years later on the first Saturday in January I was sitting in the Commons car park just after 9am when I saw hundreds of runners – they just kept coming. I was cheering them on from the car. I knew it probably was the parkrun and then publicly said on the Facebook group I’d come the next week. I was nervous but I was so glad I did as I have been there every week since. It’s now become my priority on a Saturday. In that time I’ve gone from finishing 289th on 12 January 2019 to finishing 222nd on 2 February 2019, and I have cut my time down from 31:17 to 29:42. I’m unable to come next week and I’m already feeling sad about it.

My other target is to look happy in the parkrun photos. Currently the only parkrun photo is attached - I promise I was enjoying it more than I look! A fun fact is that in my first fun run for charity I dressed as a flamingo (it’s come out several times since then) - see second photo . Maybe it’ll grace a parkrun! Say hi if you see me.

I have also discovered that lots of Nicola’s do the Market Harborough parkrun. Having only encountered a couple in my life, there are often several on the results list and two on the core team!

The thing I love most about the parkrun aside from the friendly atmosphere is how good I feel after: on top of the world, with my mind and body nourished. What an amazing thing to have done before 9.30am on a Saturday. I don’t get this feeling running on my own so I relish every moment of it. I love reading so after the parkrun I always go to Market Harborough library, select my books for the week, and head home to read them alongside a cup of tea.

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Nicola Mirams

 

Run Report #196 – 26th January 2019 by Patricia Morris

Another great parkrun, a little warmer with no rain, ideal running conditions.

We have a three lap course winding around the perimeter/edge of Welland Park with the River Welland flowing through it. The course is challenging as it is narrow with a lot of runners, 384 this week, especially challenging for the visually impaired runners and their guides.

What’s good about parkrun is it gets reluctant runners like myself to take part. There is always fantastic encouragement from the volunteers and other runners. You don’t need to worry about being left behind or coming last as you have the support of the tail walkers.

I first heard about parkrun from my daughter Beth who started parkrun at university. She got her dad to take part in the Harborough parkrun when she come home during the holidays. I stayed at home as I was never very good at running at school.

My parkrun journey started December 2015 when Beth signed me up for Christmas day. I said I would only do the one, 104 parkruns later and I’ve definitely got the parkrun bug! I also love to volunteer and have earned my 25 volunteering shirt. You can still take part in parkrun if you cannot run, like I did while recovering from knee surgery. I helped by marshaling until I was able to walk slowly round the course.

Today, I walked parkrun, still recovering, and I came 12th in my age category, there was probably only 12 in VW 55-59, if anyone would like to check!

I have made some great friends along the way and it’s great to catch up in the cafe after parkrun. parkrun isn’t just about running, it’s the social and community atmosphere that make it feel like a family.

Many thanks and appreciation to all 38 of the core team and volunteers who made Market Harborough parkrun #196 possible this week.

Patricia Morris

 

Run Report #195 – 19th January 2019 by Katie Carnell

Run report 19th January 2019

Firstly, I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who communicated messages of support to me on Saturday (I was the one doing her 50th with the big balloon)! It made my 50th parkrun experience very special!

 

The things that I would like to focus on for this run report are times and personal bests. When I first joined parkrun, I thought that the most important thing about it was getting my time down and being the best runner in the world.

Turns out, it’s not (I know, shocker, right?!). The most important thing about parkrun is the fact that you get up early (on a SATURDAY) and make an effort to run, walk, hop, skip or jump 5km (or 3.1 miles)! Even if you don’t manage to get to parkrun every week, you are still getting out more than those who have never done one.

Some people may focus massively on their time every week, but I have decided not to. This weekend marked one year since my last personal best, since then I have not managed to get anywhere near it. It used to really bother me that I couldn’t get close to it, but after injuries, illnesses and an unbelievably hot summer, it dawned on me recently that I have done really well to have not given up and to have reached my 50th parkrun.

So, wherever you are in your parkrun journey, whether you come every week or as and when you can, you are doing an amazing thing for yourself and you will reach your milestones regardless of how long it takes and what times you get.

 

Katie Carnell