2018: A year in the life of Tring parkrun

 

Thank you for another amazing Tring parkrun year

What a fantastic year 2018 was for the Tring parkrun community: 54 parkrun events, 12296 individual parkruns, 1352 volunteer roles filled, an immeasurable number of new friendships forged, and many wonderful memories created.

It's been quite a journey, these last twelve months.

  • We've endured the extremes of the seasons - mud, snow, rain, wind, heat and parched earth.
  • We've run four different versions of our weekly 5k course.
  • We've witnessed multiple milestones being set and records falling a plenty.
  • We've had cake, dressing-up, musical marshals, bovine antics, special occasions and more cake.
  • We avoided being embroiled in egg-gate but couldn't avoid cow-magedon.

 

snow summer heat and flowers
Tring parkrunners turned out every single weekend without fail, regardless of the weather.

We've continued to grow and involve more people of all ages and abilities throughout the year. Even in the depths of winter our lowest number was 139 (see the March write-up) and our maximum was an amazing 353 reached on the very first day of the year!

 

Tring parkrun 2018 as seen by the amazing stat-o-matic (part 1)

Throughout the year Event Director Andy Evans' trusty PC has whirred and chugged and fascinated us with the most obscure of stats, facts and figures. We can therefore add a bit of colour to the attendance numbers above.

In the table below you can see our growth over the last full four years. Last year we grew by 10% and averaged an amazing 228 parkrunners each week. This is all the more impressive considering that wonderful Wendover parkrun, just a few km away, has started during this period too.

Total numbers compared

Looking at the age profile for the barcoded runners in a typical week, the numbers for those aged under 40 have stayed broadly the same whereas the over-40s have increased by 20% (see table below). We see much the same with parkrun-club/T-shirts that our runners qualified for, with the proportion of new runners staying much the same whilst the average proportion of 50 and particularly 100-club members continues to grow.

age profiles compared

Perhaps not surprisingly our average run time continues to increase (a trend seen across parkrun as a whole) - which is good. In 2015 the average time was 29:25, it rose to 30:03 and further to 30:42 in 2016/17 and last year grew to 30:47. As an aside this is 2 minutes 16 seconds slower than the UK parkrun average - a reflection of the effort required to tackle our hills.

Further evidence of our growing maturity is that the number of new runners, visitors and PBs are all quite static but the growth is in regular running without the elusive PB.

maturity compared

And while we are on the topic of PBs.....where, during the year, were they earned?

PB distribution

Early summer and September were (as is usually the case) the best PB months. December did not see much of a drop-off in part because our temporary winter course is a bit faster and also because compared to previous years most of December has been quite dry. (2019 is likely be very different because of the dry conditions experienced so far - in fact we equalled the total number of 2018 January PBs in one week alone).

 

Month by month, season by season.

The following is a quick whizz through the year. You can click on the title of each month for a shortcut to the actual run write-ups.

January - a BIG start to the year.
We had a 10:30 start on January 1st and were joined by an amazing 353 parkrunners (our second highest number ever). Many were "doing the double" from Aylesbury (96), Gadebridge (46), Ellenbrook (2) and Cassiobury (1).

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It was muddy but many seemed to quite like that - Lucy and William being two fine examples!

Apart from that January was generally wet and muddy and a real trial for many a New Year resolution! Amazingly we had quite a lot of visitors join us because it was muddy. Seasoned XC runners loved it, the kids loved it, actually it wasn't too bad.

However not everyone agreed entirely, as words from the RD's write-ups showed. From Wes: “Wow, what a morning. Now I quite like volunteering, but even the most diehard of hi-vis wearing hero was probably thinking ‘It’s pretty wet and cold out here mind'". And from Anna: "I am sure I speak for lots of us when I say thank goodness for the end of January"!
 
February - Mother Nature has a laugh.
Frankly February didn’t start much better, although later in the month we had some very pleasant mornings, pleasant enough for the dreaded, fate-tempting "maybe it'll be a short winter after all" thoughts to spring to mind!!

27993103_2459629587595787_986870832041515588_o
Our milestone runners on run 181 were feeling the temperatures rising, and their hopes of the end of winter with it - wrong!!!

There's not much more to be said about February than that, really!
 
March - Did somebody say “British Summer Time?”
Blam!!
The "Beast from the East" arrived dramatically at the start of the month and the vast majority (almost 90%) of parkruns in the UK were cancelled. An intrepid advance party (Richard, Ken, Andy C and John Manning) braved the elements on the evening of Friday March 2nd and again on Saturday morning with the conclusion "it's OK - let's do it"!

Unfortunately many roads were impassable and thwarted the efforts of dozens to get to Tring Park. 139 runners and 20 volunteers did make it and - although hard going in places where the snow was deep - they were rewarded with a parkrun in the most magical, snowy landscape.

KCR in the snow
King Charles Ride in the snow.

Of course all of the melting snow (on top of a layer of iced ground) then turned to even more mud. The path from Gate 1 to King Charles Ride shamed even the toughest of Tough Mudder obstacles.

tree assist windmill hands
March was a muddy experience - but still fun!

By the end of the month we got British Summer Time. It sure didn't feel like it.
 
April - When RDs become Weather Gods.
April saw the most amazing transition. Winter vanished, flowers blossomed (tentatively at first) and by the end of the month the fabled 2018 heatwave had started - a meteorological occurrence that Chris Millar took full responsibility for in his mid April run report. And I quote: "it’s 6 months since I was run director and it feels like just as long since we had weather this nice at Tring parkrun. Coincidence? I think not." LOL!

IMG_3833
Spring flowers appeared within sight of the start line.

Temperatures were way above seasonal norms. No one was complaining. The park really started to come to life and before we knew it T-shirts and shorts were broken out for the first time in months, even for the relatively static finish line volunteers.

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It was great to see volunteers and runners alike in shorts and T-shirts and Tring Park blossoming fast.

May - A new course
May was stunning! The headline for the first run report was simply "Scorchio". Spring was in the air and the park was a delight. A week before the Royal Wedding we had our own special event - the coronation of our new course. To comply with a request from the land owners we moved the start/finish away from the Lime Tree Avenue. The reward was an even hillier Tring parkrun, dropping first into the valley before a long, long climb. The volunteers did a great job both of managing the new route and a new herd of young and very inquisitive cattle.

spring leaves
A fast blossoming Tring Park was looking stunning in the Spring sunshine.

brilliant sunny start
The start line on the Lime Tree Avenue looked brilliant.

At the end of May the cows had got used to us (or bored by us), we were used to the new course and even a (now uncharacteristic) shower did nothing to dampen another great month in Tring Park.

temporary rain shelter
We discovered a new use for our trusty blue tarps during late May showers

 
June - Events, Milestones and Celebrations.
June was a big month for events: we joined the NHS70 celebrations, marked "This Girl Can" weekend, celebrated our 200th run and also the 250th parkrun of Run Director Harry Bryant.

The NHS run saw many outstanding costumes (including a buggy converted into a hospital bed, complete with IV drip - read/see more here) and was great fun.

We then marked "This Girl Can" with an almost entirely female volunteer team and a guest write-up from regular Tring parkrunner Philippa Storr. I love her introduction...
 
This girl didn’t think she could...
...even get to the finish line when I had to be dragged, crying, up Heartbreak Hill on my first ever parkrun.
...ever go sub-30 minutes.
…ever truly, hand on heart, say she enjoyed the first kilometre.
…ever get to 100 parkruns.
…ever be made to feel so welcomed and encouraged by such a great bunch of people.
But this girl, just an ordinary girl, can!

Thank you Philippa.
 

Congratulations to Harry
It was fantastic to see Harry, flanked by friends and family, complete his 200th parkrun.

Our own milestone was to hold our 200th parkrun. We ran the course in reverse to make the occasion. We also experienced a bit of cross-parkrun love. Great Notely parkrun created an MDF 200 sign for their own a few weeks before, since then it has travelled all over the UK and Ireland to other 200 anniversaries.

Katie 200
Run Director Katie with the "wandering 200 sign"

You know we like our stats on this page and one from that 200th anniversary deserves special mention. Chris PARKER was at our 200th to run his 7th parkrun - and finished with a time of 20.07. How cool is that?
 
July - Cowmagedon, was it the heat?
July was HOT. We had our warmest ever parkruns - more than once finishing in temperatures nearer 30 than 20 by just 10am. The Park started to look more like the African savannah. Cows and volunteers alike were actively seeking shade by the end of several events.

At the start of the month (run 201, 7th July) Tring parkrun was honoured by an air force team from Halton carrying the RAF100 Baton as it neared the end of a relay round the UK to mark their centenary.

RAF baton team
The RAF team joined on the hottest parkrun ever at Tring

Looking African
Tring Park looking more like African Savannah

We had our own "fake moos" incident too. After weeks of staying well clear the Tring Park cattle decided that the 28th July was the day to "play" with our brand new poles and markers! They got shouted at!! Have you ever seen a herd of cows look sheepish?

cowmagedon

 
August - Clubs and YOPA visit.
The heat abated in August, but it was still warm and the Park still parched. The month got off to a flying start with Pacer week that coincided with Tring Running Club using us as part of their Off Road Championships and we were also visited by groups from both the Harpenden Arrows and Garden City Runners, so numbers were relatively high for the vacation season.

August Pacers
A great Pacer team, sporting our lovely new blue pacer bibs

During the year we were visited my several members of local councils, who have been very supportive of us and parkrun in general. Towards the end of the month the mascot of Hertfordshire's "Year of Physical Activity" (YOPA) paid us a visit and was great fun.

YOPA visits
YOPA donned a hi-viz vest and joined the week's brilliant volunteers.

 
September - Families, cake and a new course record.
With the kids back at school and the weather being "PB friendly" we saw lots of families out running together and lot's of new records too. Run 213 at the end of the month saw 48 PBs and an amazing new course record of just 16:21 set by Kristian JONES (and, yes, on the flat he's nearly 2 minutes faster than that!).

Millie PB
A great start to "PB month".
Millie, just ahead of proud mum, ran a PB time that improved by almost 3 mins

Looking back through the run reports it's notable how often cake gets a mention and the 22nd of Sep was a fine example. Lynda Hembury (our course age-category record holder) completed her 100th parkrun and her daughter baked special cakes to celebrate. They looked too good to eat, but we did eat them - and they tasted even better!

Cake - parkrun loves cake
Lynda Hembury's daughter, Hannah, baked the most wonderful cakes for everyone to enjoy

 
October - Our world of Interpretive Dance.
We’ve had many great run reports including Andy Evan's April 1st classics, write-ups featuring Winnie the Pooh, Star Wars, Spaced out Bovines and more. We've even had a report written by Andy Colling's Dog. Wes Ball however upped the bar not once but twice during the month.

Video run report
Click on the image to see Wes' great video run write-up

"National Album Day" (who knew?) coincided with parkrun 215 and Wes brilliantly incorporated the titles of his favourite 47 albums into the write-up "What's the story?".

In jest we challenged him to do the next as "a video run report in the form of interpretive dance". And he did!!!!!!! Fantastic stuff!

Halloween
The end of October brings Halloween and, as usual, we had a spooktacular array of fancy dress.

 
November - 4th birthday and Autumnal days.
At the start of the month we celebrated our 4th birthday with prize giving and (surprise) more cake! There was a lot to celebrate this month and of special note was Ron Yaxley reaching his 100th parkrun. He only came along one week to keep his granddaughter company when her parents were away.....and has been a regular attendee ever since.

team Yaxley/Bladen
The youngest member of the Bladen family with grandfather Ron Yaxley.
He completed his 100th on the same day they reached a collective 500!

Tring Park was also in the process of hunkering down for winter and looked spectacular in its autumnal colours. Of course winter brings mud and (as you saw in the March section above) the prospect of a challenge up through the trees above "Gate 1".

This is an area of Special Scientific Interest and until such time as they can figure out what to do with that path in the winter the Woodland trust asked us to not run there. So we devised a temporary "out and back" route along the ancient Ridgeway with a killer first hill! It would get its first airing earlier than expected after the days of heavy rain at the end of the month.

tring park autumn
Yet again Tring Park was looking glorious, with our pregnant cows softly munching on the autumnal hillside.

 
December - Hoots and routes.
The first week of December was a bit miserable weather wise - it coincided with our first use of our temporary winter course and our mad celebration of St Andrews Day - the "Tring kilted parkrun". It was great to see so many regular Tring parkrunners and visitors decked in tartan and anything else vaguely Scottish (inflatable bagpipes even!!)

Och 1 Och 2
Just two great examples of the effort so many went to for the kilted parkrun. Thank you Kevin and Len.

Later in December, of course, we had our festive runs, including our extra on Christmas Day itself. As with other special events the turn out of runners in fancy dress and costumes was a wonder to behold.

 

Tring parkrun 2018 as seen by the amazing stat-o-matic (part 2)

Let's finish off with another rummage in Tring parkrun's databanks. We've seen (in part 1 above) how our numbers have grown and changed over 4 years. The following table and chart show the proportion that, through the year as a whole, completed 5,10, 20, 30, 40 or more parkruns at Tring.

How many how often

While the numbers running 30+ times stayed static we saw a large growth in those running 10-30 times. Given that our numbers are rising steadily what could be the reasons for this? We're not quite sure but it's likely that "parkrun tourism" might have something to do with it.....we see more people, with Tring as their "home run", travelling to and enjoying parkruns elsewhere in the UK and the world!

How many how often chart

There was a time when running clubs weren't quite sure what to make of parkrun. Now most clubs have seen their numbers grow as parkrunners have "got the running bug" and/or want the opportunity to run with others mid week. We have a great relationship with the very friendly and welcoming Tring Running Club (TRC). They, in turn, now included Tring parkrun as part of their annual "offroad championship" series of runs in 2018 and have their own parkrun tourism group too.

clubs compared

The table above shows how many parkruns were run by each club. On the Run Aylesbury jumped from 8th to 4th, Bearbrook entered the top 3 and Shires Triers and DofE were new entries to the Top10.
A weekly stat-o-matic favourite is the names-game!

Looking first at surnames - it was the first year that Evans hasn't topped the table with an overtaking manoeuvre by Bladen on the last parkrun of the year. New names to enter the Top 10 include Williams, Roberts, Hanson and Storr.

names compared

For Male first names it's Paul that has taken the lead and James replaces Richard in the top 3. Mark and Tom are new entries into the Top10.

Male first names

For females, Helen has just overtaken Sarah and Isobel has replaced Louise in the top 3. New entries into the Top10 include Lucy, Charlotte and Emma.

female first names

With Claire becoming a mum at the end of 2018, Scarlett took over with the highest number of fastest runs. Chris being away at uni meant that it was a close lead for Tom and Matthew. As for Age Grade % Lynda had an impressive lead.

Speedy times

 

Stopwatch Bingo has become "a thing" with the followers of parkrun's unofficial challenges. How many different seconds did you tick off in 2018? See the tables below for the top results at Tring in 2018 and previous years.

stopwatch bingo 2018 stopwatch bingo all years
On the left: seconds "earned" in 2018,
on the right the seconds recorded across all years

We're quite impressed by these. It takes on average 281 parkruns to complete StopWatch Bingo. Louise is seriously challenging the laws of probability - she has only 1 to go and had completed "only" 182 parkruns at the end of 2018. Will she be the first to see all 60? Or will she have to wait 2 years for the elusive missing second!!
 
Onto "Steady Eddies", those who ran 20 or more in the year and have the least variance in their times compared to their 2018 average pace. The Lower the % the more consistent the times. We're impressed by these too - well done to all.

steady eddies

 

And so that brings us to the end of our review of 2018.
 
What a great year, thank you all for helping make Tring parkrun a happy place on Saturday mornings.

 
The Tring parkrun team