With all the festivities over the Christmas period and parkruns every 4 days for 2 weeks, getting run reports out on time with the right amount of detail has proved difficult. With that in mind, on the suggestion of Michelle, I am going to attempt to combine reports of our annual Christmas Day run with our final parkrun of 2018 on the following Saturday, so please bear with me, I’m sure we’ll get there in the end!
Despite lots of weather reports of a ‘wet Christmas’, Christmas Day itself dawned dry, encouraging 137 people to kick off the big day with a spot of festive parkrunning. Christmas Day parkrun has been a staple part of Witton’s calendar since the very beginning, with this our 4th such event since our start in August 2015, with 2018 marking a third consecutive increase in our Christmas Day attendance, up from 127 twelve months ago.
First to cross the line was Joshua Boyle in a speedy 17:27. This was Cambuslang Harrier Josh’s second visit to Witton, both this December, and although he matched his finishing position from Event #152, he was 26 seconds slower than on his previous visit, which still marked the 5th fastest time ever seen on the Beast and 12th fastest time ever run at Witton – great work, Josh! Second across the line was returning Wittoner Joe Gebbie in 18:37. Blackburn Harrier Joe is one of a select group of parkrunners to have done more than 10 events who have run all their parkruns at Witton, with this his 28th outing on the Beast. It was his first visit since August, when he ran a PB and although he was nearly a minute slower on Christmas Day, it was his third fastest parkrun ever – well done, Joe! Third went to a Witton first timer: Joe Chubb in 19:26. This was Joe’s 33rd parkrun, with 10 of those coming at South Oxhey parkrun in Watford, while Witton was his 18th parkrun venue – close to earning your cow cowl now, Joe!
First female was down in 20th position this week, Katherine Baines in 23:34. This was Katherine’s second run at Witton, with her first coming two years ago, again on Christmas Day and how she has improved in those two years, with her time marking a near-14 minute improvement from 2016 – wowee, Katherine! She has completed 237 parkruns total, with 169 of those coming with our neighbours at Bolton parkrun. Second was Witton regular Jane Magee in 24th position in 23:44. This was Jane’s 26th run at Witton and 35th parkrun total and marked a 4th personal best in 5 parkruns, taking 8 seconds off her time from 10 days earlier. More on Jane shortly… Speaking of personal bests, third female was Darwen Dasher Karen Shackleton in 33rd position in 24:46. Aided by Kyla the dog, this marked an improvement of 10 seconds on their last visit to Witton in September – well done ladies!
Ordinarily, I’d be moving on to milestones now, but instead I’ll try and give the headlines from our final event of 2018… There was an unexpected amount of wind swirling as I opened the front door to head to parkrun on Saturday. I anticipated a tough run, but surprisingly the course seemed well sheltered and even on the exposed parts the headwind was nowhere near as bad as might be feared or has been experienced before. Our healthy Christmas numbers continued, with 96 people coming down to run, jog and walk the Beast with us for the final time in 2018.
First across the line was Witton first timer James Titmuss in 18:52. Even more impressively, this was Horwich RMI Harrier James’ first parkrun ever and we’re glad he picked Witton to do it! We hope to see you back again soon to start lowering that PB, James! Second to finish was Blackburn Road Runner David Birtwistle in 20:05. This was David’s 21st parkrun, with 15 of those coming at Witton and was only his second parkrun of 2018, with his first coming with us at Event #118 in February, and he was faster this weekend than he managed that day. Third man home was fellow Blackburn Road Runner James Rippingale in 20:25. This was Jason’s 72nd parkrun, with 26 of those coming with us at Witton, more than any other venue. His time this weekend was the third fastest he’s ever run at Witton, and just two seconds off his personal best on our Beast course – great effort, Jason!
First female was Blackburn Harrier Carly Edwards in 10th position in 22:17. This was Carly's 39th parkrun and 9th at Witton and her first with us for exactly a year. It marked a huge Beast PB, with only her runs at the first two Witton parkruns on the old course faster than she managed this weekend – brilliant job, Carly! Second female was once again Witton regular Jane Magee, except this week Jane excelled herself, knocking no less than 24 seconds off her time from Christmas Day to set a new PB in 15th position of 23:20 – amazing work, Jane!!! Third female was another Witton first timer in the shape of Burnden Road Runner Isaline Elizabeth Kneale in 20th position in 23:43. This was Isaline’s 42nd parkrun, with 19 of those coming at Worsley Woods and 11 at Bolton and marks an 11th new parkrun venue. Well done to all our speedy men and women in Christmas week!
Milestone time and the festive season is always a popular point for people to work towards their yearly goals and, as a result, our Christmas Day parkrun was laden with notable milestones, so many that Michelle forgot to mention some of them! By comparison, our next event was a more sedate affair, with just a single red milestone t-shirt awarded so let’s delve into it…
Let’s start with the biggest official milestone of the week: Blackburn Road Runner and Witton 50 Club member Ian Goodliffe ran his 100th parkrun at our Christmas Day event! This means Ian will soon be able to order a black milestone t-shirt from parkrun HQ to recognise his achievements. Many of you are aware of Ian’s running history, starting with Couch 2 5k, and derailed by a massive heart attack soon after. Mercifully, he recovered better than ever and has this year celebrated 3 years of his ‘second life’ post-attack. Ian first joined us at Witton for parkrun in September 2016 at Event #49, just after our first birthday. Since then, he has been a regular face, running 82 of his 100 runs with us and achieving no fewer than 21 personal bests on the Beast, reducing his initial time of 46:11 to an amazing 31:47 in September this year. Aside from Witton, he has run at 14 other venues including Haigh Woodland (3), Preston (2), Cuerden Valley (2) and single outings at Clitheroe Castle, Keswick, Bolton, York, Ormskirk, Huddersfield, Hyndburn, Skipton, Burnley, Brighouse parkrun in Bradford and has even joined the international parkrunner club with a run at parkrun Wroclaw in Poland! Congratulations Ian, you are a true inspiration and we look forward to “The Continuing Adventures of Papa G” into 2019 and beyond!
Onto our other milestone t-shirts awarded and we have had no less than 4 new red t-shirt milestones reached at Witton over the past two events, unusually with none of them by regular Wittoners! First to finish was Dylan Grindley of Chorley Triathlon and Athletic Club. Christmas Day was Dylan’s 5th run at Witton, all since December last year, and he was very much looking forward to running his 50th with us at what he describes as one of his favourite local parkruns – thanks, Dylan! A frequent tourist, Dylan has run at 22 different parkrun venues, with only 11 runs at Cuerden Valley and 7 runs at Hyndburn besting his 5 outings at Witton. The rest of his parkruns are spread across the North West, from Whinlatter Forest in Cumbria, all the way down to Wythenshawe parkrun in South Manchester to Southport parkrun on the west coast – you get about, Dylan! Congratulations on your achievement and we hope to see you again in 2019!
Christmas Day also saw a very special celebration for mother and daughter Jan and Hannah Taylor, with the Darwen Dashers both running their 50th parkruns with us at Witton. Junior Hannah has run all her 50 parkruns since May last year, when she made her parkrun debut at Bolton. In September, she ran her second parkrun at Blackpool and hasn’t looked back since! In total, 12 of her runs have come at Blackpool, with another 7 coming at Fleetwood Promenade parkrun. 4 runs at Bolton and 2 with us at Witton are her only other multiple events, while she has completed a further 26 events on a single occasion. This marked her first return to Witton after making her debut in June for our very special Run for Norm and she celebrated her milestone by knocking over 6 minutes off her time from that day! Mum Jan’s parkrun journey is very similar. She began in September 2017 at Bolton parkrun and has run most weeks at the same event to Hannah, with 12 runs at Blackpool, 6 at Fleetwood Promenade and 3 at Bolton joining her two visits to Witton, alongside a further 28 single visits to parkrun events. Like Hannah, she first joined us for our Run for Norm in June and also bested her original time on Christmas Day, although by the more modest margin of 15 seconds – brilliant achievement ladies, and we hope to see more of you in 2019!
Not wishing to be left out, another milestone was reached on Saturday: Darwen Dasher Gareth Taylor (no relation) achieved his own 50 t-shirt, with a second Witton run in 4 days. Gareth’s parkrun journey actually pre-dates Witton, with his debut coming at Preston parkrun in April 2014. He ran 26 times at Preston before Witton started, and attended our inaugural event in August 2015. Since then, he has only run a handful of parkruns each year, with 35 of his runs now coming at Preston and 13 at Witton. The remaining two were tourist runs, once at Conwy parkrun on the North Wales coast, and one at Mile End parkrun in London. He did not celebrate his milestone with a new PB, but a time of 21:34 in 7th position is pretty impressive nonetheless – congratulations, Gareth, hopefully we’ll see more of you in 2019!
That’s it for t-shirts but the milestones keep on coming! Witton regular Aimie Wormald became only the 5th person and 2nd female to join the Witton 100 Club on Christmas Day. Despite baby Jaymes arriving this year, Aimie has still been a regular face at Witton, and even managed an appearance on Christmas Day, at partner Chris’s urging. Impressively, given months of parkrun ‘maternity leave’, Aimie completed her 100 Wittons in 155 events, with her second 50 coming from 77 events, one LESS than she took to get to 50 at Event #78! There will be many more Witton 50 Club members joining the 100 Club in 2019 I am sure!
On a personal note, on Christmas Day, I achieved my 150th parkrun, a year and 2 days after running my 100th. I suspect my rate may slow down a little going forward as I take on more of a role in the Witton Core Team. I remember looking in awe at people on 150 parkruns as I started out in late 2015, but I can confirm it is definitely achievable, all it requires is that you keep coming back for more!
Uber tourist and parkrun legend Barry Shackleton was back again on Christmas Day, extending his record as Witton’s most experienced parkrunner by running his 395th event with us. More significantly, however, Christmas Day marked Barry’s 100th consecutive parkrun without any missed events. Fittingly, it ended where it started, beginning as it did in February 2017 at Witton and culminating on Christmas Day 2018 at the same venue. Darwen Dasher Barry is well known in parkrun circles for his touring and just before Christmas ran at the new Fletcher Moss parkrun in Manchester to join the elite Cowell Club of people who have run at 100 different parkrun events worldwide. And where should he finish on this momentous day? Position 100 of course!
Joined by wife Karen, she moved up to 7th in the most experienced parkrunners at Witton list, having now completed 337 runs, and fellow Darwen Dasher Brian Tull became the joint-11th most experienced parkrunner at Witton having completed 321 runs on his 5th visit to Witton. Just the 1053 parkruns between the 3 of them!
Others achieving milestone runs over our past two events were:
Anne Marie Rustidge (Darwen Dashers) – 120 runs
Lana Owens – 110 runs
Ann Butler (Ramsbottom Running Club) – 80 runs
Nigel Owens – 80 runs
Sean Procter (Blackburn Harriers) – 75 runs
Matt Chester (Blackburn Road Runners) – 70 runs
Karen Shorrock – 60 runs
Martin Snelling – 20 runs
Luke Townsend – 10 runs
Tom Kirkham – 1 run
Will Kerry – 1 run
Ellie Livingstone (Winchester and District AC) – 1 run
Stephen Alberts (Blackburn Harriers) – 1 run
Simon Maughan – 1 run
Irene Slater (Blackburn Road Runners) – 90 runs
Andrew Aspden – 30 runs
Matt Campbell – 30 runs
Christine Duckworth – 20 runs
Jeanette Baron (Blackburn Road Runners) – 20 runs
Liz Hopley (Burnden Road Runners) – 20 runs
Dave Almond (Blackburn Road Runners) – 20 runs
Vikas Gupta – 10 runs
Joe Campbell – 1 run
Anna Croll – 1 run
Emma Rushton – 1 run
Andrew Carruthers – 1 run
Gail Bamber (Blackburn Road Runners) – 1 run
Mark Sloan – 1 run
Danny McKinlay – 1 run
James Titmuss (Horwich RMI Harriers) – 1 run
We had no less than FIVE people complete their first parkrun on Christmas Day – that’s commitment! A further 8 joined us on Saturday, meaning over 1275 people have started their parkrun journeys at Witton. With New Year round the corner, will you be joining them? It will be one of the best decisions you ever make: runs are friendly, supportive, non-judgmental and free. Come once or come every week, it’s entirely up to you. We get a healthy dose of some of the fastest young athletes around, but the core of our community are people with no history of running, doing so for health and wellbeing reasons and enjoying the community atmosphere. Our Event Director, Michelle, has put a great post on our Facebook page about New Year’s Resolutions – if you’re tempted, why not check it out?!
Others closing in on milestones at Witton this past week have been:
Martin Brady (Cardiac Athletes) – 279 (280 achieved at Pendle on Saturday)
Stephen Shackleton (Accrington Road Runners) – 159 (160 achieved at Burnley on Saturday)
Janice Parker – 149 (150 achieved at South Manchester on Saturday)
Helen Hyde (Great Britain Underwater Hockey) – 124
(125 achieved at Heaton Park on Saturday)
Emma Owens (CSSC Sports & Leisure) – 109 (110 achieved at parkrun Poznan (Poland!) on Saturday)
Tom Stratton – 89 (90 achieved at Pennington Flash on Saturday)
Viki Walsh (Darwen Dashers) – 79
Carol Life (Clayton-le-Moors Harriers) – 24
Amy Hasler (Darwen Dashers) – 19
Peter Craine (Blackburn GroupRun) – 19
Andrea Hopwood (Darwen Dashers) – 19
Anna Maciejkowicz – 19
Dominic Maskell (University of Southampton AC) – 19
Scott Smith – 124 runs
Lorna Pickup – 69 runs
Julie Gaskell – 59 runs
Carly Edwards (Blackburn Harriers) – 39 runs
Corinne Surkitt – 29 runs
Ben Kirkman (Rossendale Harriers) – 19 runs
David Morris (Blackburn Harriers) – 9 runs
Andrew Wisdom – 9 runs
The Christmas period is obvious a busy time for many people, but that didn’t stop many of you giving your time up for us to run this week, with 38 volunteers across our two events and 31 different people among their number. Parkrun really cannot happen without the volunteers so thank you to everyone who has helped out in 2018 and we hope to see lots of you again in 2019. Our Christmas Day hi-vis heroes were:
Karen SHACKLETON • Julia RUSHTON • Simon TOWNSEND • Michelle SEARBY • Bryan SEARBY • Alison CHANTREY • Joanne MCLEAN • Suzanne FERRANDINO • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • Rosie GEBBIE • Lynda VERNON • Alan VERNON • Clare GEBBIE • Debbie ASHTON • Jane MAGEE • Rachel AINSWORTH • Stephen SEARBY
At Event #156 on Saturday, our hi-vis heroes were:
Michelle SEARBY • Bryan SEARBY • Ian GASKELL • Julie GASKELL • Kate POMFRET • Suzanne FERRANDINO • Diane HARRISON-LEEMING • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • George WOODBURN • Amanda SLOAN • Lorna PICKUP • Lynda VERNON • Alan VERNON • Bernard JOHNSON • Peter CRAINE • Dorothy MYERS • Mick KIRKMAN • Lucy EASTWOOD • Clare EASTWOOD
Special mention to Witton regular Julie Gaskell, who a few weeks after joining the Witton 50 Club volunteered for the 50th time at Witton as Tail Walker! She becomes only the 15th person to achieve that milestone. Congratulations Julie, you’re a model parkrunner: running and volunteering in equal measure!
A couple of final pieces of trivia to round this off before we get to notices. Our Christmas Day parkrun threw up two oddities among its number: first, for only the fourth time in Witton history, we had two parkrunners with the same name run the same event! Andrew Taylor finished in 9th position…and then again in 68th position! Funnily enough, both men have run at Witton before, Andrew Taylor 1 on no less than 20 occasions and Andrew Taylor 2 on 3 occasions, but their paths have never crossed before. Both were mentioned when I did my round-up of duplicate names in my stats for the 150th event and now they’ve joined us on the same day, probably without knowing it! It is the first time it has happened at Witton since Event #113, our second run of 2018, when we had two Simon Moores join us, while it previously happened at Event #29 in April 2016 (Richard Smith) and at our very first event in August 2015 (Sarah Walsh)!
And on a very similar theme, Christmas Day also saw Mark Butler of Burnden Road Runners join us for the first time. Yet, three events earlier, at the start of December, Mark Butler also joined us for the first time – 2 different men within a month! Mark Butler 1 has run 162 parkruns, with 118 of them coming at Heaton Park in Manchester. Christmas Day Mark Butler (Mark Butler 2) has run 65 parkruns, with 40 of those coming at Bolton parkrun. It becomes the 18th genuine occurrence of the same name/different people running at Witton and will doubtless become ever more common as more and more people visit Witton. I wonder how long it will be before the 4 other Matthew Vernons signed up to parkrun rock up at Witton..?
I thought a good way to sign off the main report would be a quick round-up of those who visited us most often in 2018. Below is a list of the 10 highest Witton runners this year. While some are familiar names, some show new regular faces to visit us this year:
Lynda Vernon – 41 runs (out of 45)
Anwar Khan – 37 runs
Matthew Vernon – 37 runs
Pat Procter – 35 runs
Scott Smith – 35 runs
Tim Keely – 34 runs
Liam Bennison – 30 runs
Ian Goodliffe – 29 runs
Irene Slater – 29 runs
Kate Pomfret – 27 runs
Peter Nicholson – 27 runs
Sandra Snape – 27 runs
Jane Magee – 27 runs
Of course, some are regulars who volunteer a lot too. Attendance at the most Witton parkruns regardless of role this year are:
Bryan Searby – 45 events (out of 45)
Michelle Searby – 44 events (while Michelle has also volunteered at all 45 parkruns this calendar year, she did not appear in person at Event #136 while she was at Kendall Calling!)
Diane Harrison-Leeming – 43 events
Pat Procter – 43 events
Bernie Johnson – 43 events
Alan Vernon – 42 events
Anwar Khan – 42 events
Lynda Vernon – 42 events
Matthew Vernon – 41 events
Scott Smith – 37 events
Finally, onto a couple of notices. As most of you are by now aware, Witton parkrun is hosting a special event on New Year’s Day at the slightly earlier time of 8.30AM. This is due to the unique circumstances of New Year’s Day parkrun in that parkrun HQ allow not one but TWO runs to be recorded on this day only. This means neighbouring parkruns are encouraged to pair up with different start times to allow parkrunners time to get from one to the other. Witton has partnered up with our neighbours at Burnley parkrun, where things will get underway sometime around 10am. This should give all parkrunners enough time to complete their first parkrun at Witton and then, if they so wish, make the short trip down the M65 to Towneley Park for a second dose of parkrun! To ensure we can all make it in time, Michelle is being unusually strict in that Witton will SET OFF at 8.30am ON THE DOT. You are welcome to join if you’re a little late, but obviously your time will suffer and you will need to catch and overtake the tail walker to be counted. Then it’s pack away and head off to Burnley! They are expecting us, so don’t worry about missing the start, no need to speed down the motorway, I imagine they’ll be a little more generous about their start time! If you’ve never been before, Towneley is the perfect partner to Witton, in that it is virtually flat, with only a slight incline up to the hall. Having tackled the Beast, it will be a much gentler challenge to finish your day off with! If you don’t fancy Burnley, there are a few other events locally that may be of interest. You can check them all out on the parkrun Christmas Compendium, which can be accessed here: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/special-events/
Witton is CANCELLED on the first Saturday of January – the 5th, due to a cross country event in the park. While Michelle is having a day off from parkrun (she’ll be helping with the cross country instead), some of us are planning to head to Haigh Woodland parkrun in Wigan. It’s a friendly and popular course, about as old as Witton and consists of one out-and-back lap. The first 2.5km are largely downhill before you then start on the gradual climb back up the other side! It’s a picturesque route through woodland and well worth a visit if you’ve never been before. If you’re planning to go somewhere else, start planning! Witton will be back in business on the 12th January – we hope to see you there.
And Witton core team member Sean Procter is nearing the end of his mammoth effort to run 1000 miles in 15 weeks, which ends tomorrow (New Year’s Eve). Tomorrow, Sean must complete 9.04 miles to reach this milestone, a phenomenal achievement. He is raising money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which enables the families of seriously ill children to live close by and live as normal a life as possible in the process. Sean has raised over £200 now but it would be great if you could spare a few pounds at the end of this holiday season to support his efforts. If you want to find out more information about the Ronald McDonald House Charities or donate to Sean’s cause, you can visit his Just Giving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/sean-procter1
And that’s about it for a bumper Christmas edition. I’ll be back sometime after New Year’s Day with a round-up of our New Year’s doubling exploits so stay tuned for that and I’ll see some of you at Witton bright and early at 8.30am for the first part of the New Year’s celebrations!
See you then,
Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun