Rushmoor parkrun 16 February: Livin’ on a Prayer, reprise
As an orienteer, I like variety. My first four parkruns just happened to be all different: the local one, two connected with orienteering coaching, and a new even more local one in Didcot. I wondered whether I could reach 50 different ones, and also whether I could earn the purple 25-volunteer T-shirt at the same run as a red 50. In September 2016 I reached 25 at Maidenhead and wrote a run report Livin’ on a Prayer: like Bon Jovi, I thought that I was “halfway there”.
Someone then added me to the Facebook group UK parkrun tourists, where my eyes were opened to all sorts of bizarre tourist challenges. In amongst ‘Pirates’, ‘Stayin’ Alive’ and the ‘Alphabet Challenge’, I discovered that 100 different parkruns was a ‘Cowell’. I continued to pick up parkruns when I could combine them with something else: lots of low-key orienteering events, a visit to the Natural History Museum in Tring (recommended), journeys to Scotland. Injury meant that the volunteering stints, usually time-keeping at Didcot, outstripped the runs. The 50-run milestone was scheduled for Marlborough Downs (parkrun) and Copse Wood (orienteering) a fortnight ago, but the snow scuppered that. A more serious race last week meant no parkrun. So the query arose: what’s the closest parkrun not-yet-done to Berkshire Orienteers’ training event at Yateley Heath?
The answer was Rushmoor. It had been on the radar for a while, but a cursory look at the map suggested that it was just two laps of the playing fields: not very exciting. And the results suggested hordes of quick runners: in my recuperating state, I’d be way down! Pre-run study showed that I’d been mistaken. The multi-terrain run included canal towpath as well as the field, and the photos showed a lovely section through the woods. And with abundant parking and convenient toilets, Rushmoor ticked two important boxes for a car-borne visitor.
Hmm, Volunteer coordinator Kathryn Radford shares a surname with Run Director Stephanie. Wonder if they’re sisters? Kathryn had welcomed my emailed offer to write a report, so after a half-lap warm-up I reported to Stephanie to gather some background. I met Event Director Chris McWilliam, and learned that Rushmoor was very much a family affair — with Kathryn being Stephanie’s daughter (JW11-14: would never have guessed from her email reply!), and, for example, ‘Uncle Alex’ among the pacers. (Later, at Yateley Heath, I found that he has the wobbliest compass that I’ve ever seen.) I also learned that that Rushmoor has a friendly rivalry with nearby Frimley Lodge (different catchment area, faster course and fewer tree-roots); that a typical turnout was 500; and that the local authorities have their eyes set on reaching 1000 runners.
Touring parkruns has taught me that while courses vary, some things are always the same. The reassurance of seeing those hi-viz vests and knowing that you’re in the right place at the right time. The friendliness of the volunteers: even the one cycling to his marshal point, whom I’d silently caught when warming up, then startled by asking him a question about the course. Applause for the first-timers (19 of them today, well done all!) and the 28 volunteers. “Any tourists?” “Any under-11s?” Acknowledgement for all those achieving milestones — today Daisy Rae (50), Charles Savin (50), Ann Brady (50), Ross Connell (100). And for the first time, I was on the list too. Stephanie was generous about the 50 runs, 50 venues, and, courtesy of this run report, 51 volunteering days.
Another thing that’s always the same is that parkrun is whatever you want it to be. It can be a chance to get some exercise, to chat with friends, to cheer your fellow runners, to feel good about yourself, or to run a time trial to assess your fitness. For the rapid runner just ahead of me as we turned down to the canal for the first time, it was a chance to exercise the dog. Just as I was giving up hope of staying with them, the dog suddenly lunged for the canal. I dodged round them, but didn’t hear a splash; I guess it wanted a drink rather than a swim, but that did explain why the duo weren’t using a canicross harness. The run passed quickly, as I thought about what I’d write. Towpath, woods, avenue of trees; tarmac, gravel, tarmac, grass, tarmac, towpath, woods, avenue again… lad comes past me but fades slightly, can I catch him again? Try hard, but he sprints clear. Well done Oliver: PB today (alongside 93 other proud runners with shiny new Rushmoor PBs), if not quite sub-20. You’ll get there soon.
My only regret? That I didn’t get the chance to run the alternative course, scheduled for two weeks’ time, which sounds excellent. And the final thing that I learned today? That 2½ years on, I’m still only halfway there. Thank you Rushmoor, you’re a special milestone on my parkrun journey. Rock on, everyone.
Thanks for a great report Roger - and now your weekly run stats:
This week 461 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 38 were first timers and 94 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 37 different clubs took part.
The event was made possible by 28 volunteers:
Chris BALE • John KING • Gregory ALLIN • Steve TYLER • Beverley JENNINGS • Roger THETFORD • Alexander John RADFORD • Steph FORD • Alison SUMNER • Sam ROBINSON • Stephanie RADFORD • Kathryn RADFORD • Paul HURFORD • Evie HEARN • Bethany HEARN • Stephanie GREENWOOD • Kenton JENNINGS • James DUNCAN • Mark RANOLA • Alice HELLO • James EWING • Andy COOK • Chris KENNEDY • James GREENWOOD • Sara DAVISON • Marcia TOLFTS • Grace MCLEOD • Darpan SINGJALI MAGAR
Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Rushmoor parkrun Results Page.
The male record is held by Chris PARR who recorded a time of 15:22 on 14th October 2017 (event number 169).
The female record is held by Louise SMALL who recorded a time of 17:20 on 25th December 2018 (event number 226).
The Age Grade course record is held by Austin SOANE who recorded 91.24% (17:53) on 11th June 2016 (event number 104).
Rushmoor parkrun started on 3rd May 2014. Since then 9,636 participants have completed 69,235 parkruns covering a total distance of 346,175 km, including 12,280 new Personal Bests. A total of 713 individuals have volunteered 5,202 times.