I was recently asked by someone unfamiliar with Ashton Court’s parkrun course how to describe it. I felt it fair to say its wasn’t the kind of parkrun you’d want your daughter to bring home for tea. A big burly thing, with a brute of a hill and at times an unforgiving headwind to battle through. Not like some of the others I’d seen, gentle flat things that would scarcely have you break a bead of sweat. Indisputably a proper parkrun.
The first-timers' briefing on the right, with everyone else milling around, getting ready to parkrun (photo: Pete Davey)
So this was officially the 443rd of Ashton Court’s parkruns. But thanks to some exhaustive historical research it seems Ashton Court could quite legitimately claim to be the first parrun ever. Pre-dating Bushy Park by the small matter of 130 odd years, Ashton Court resident Sir Greville Smyth did, with typical mid-Victorian zeal, establish a “park perambulation” around the 1870’s. He sought to “invigorate the bodies and nourish the souls” of the workers on the estate, their families and local villagers by taking weekly “vigorous” exercise around the estate. Indeed the 24-furlong course followed much the same path as the modern day course we enjoy so much each week. Sir Greville Smyth did also boast to have completed the course in the fastest time ever. Astonishingly in a time well under 10 minutes. Although the fact that this was in fact completed on horseback was quietly ignored by polite society at the time.
Leading the way here, with her pink rain jacket around her waist, is Chela Pieruz, who having run 274 parkruns elsewhere (most of them at her home event of Workington parkrun) takes away this week's "What took you so long" award (no prize, it's just for fun) (photo: Pete Davey)
So fast forward some 150 years or so and this week’s run director Mike “Megaphone” McBeth (as he has never before been known) gave one of the finest examples of loud hailer usage in some time and was quick to point out that February could potentially provide us with the opportunity for no less than five parkruns. Furnished with this knowledge the throng were sent on their way dizzy with expectation.
Here's Lissie (in pale pink) and Gabbie Rand (in green), who both ran their first-ever parkrun here last week. 8 of last week's first-timers returned as soon as possible, and we hope Lissie and Gabbie's pbs (improving by 4:12 and 3:14 respectively) will encourage them to keep on coming back (photo: Pete Davey)
Our roving reporter on the course met up with of the runners along the way. Nick Orchard whose home parkrun is Somerdale Pavilion was running for the first time with his wonderfully intemperately named dog “Merlot”. A beautifully full bodied and roundly crafted finishing time of 25:00 minutes is one they should both be most proud of. Cheers!
Did you notice a running race took place shortly after we finished? There was a 5k and a 10k, and 5 of our finishers took part in the 5k, and 4 more, plus 1 of our volunteers, ran the 10k! On the left here is Kate Hoffen, our 11th female finisher with a time of 24:02, just 22 seconds shy of her pb, and then finished 5th overall and 2nd female in the Winter Warmer 5k in 25:36! Wow! Alongside Kate is Matthew Bambery, running his 38th parkrun and finishing 1 second quicker than last week, missing his pb by 6 seconds (photo: Pete Davey)
Such is the heady nature of parkrun these days scarcely an eyebrow is raised when it is your 60th birthday and three members of your family jet in from Ireland to join you to help celebrate. So, Many (slightly belated) Happy Returns to Vanessa Redmond who completed her 332nd parkrun and first as a sexagenarian. She was joined by her cousins Pauline Blair and Bernie Donahue. Although tragically Bernie forgot to bring her barcode and joins the very short list of people who have travelled from one country to another to run a parkrun and don’t have their event recorded for posterity.
Happy Birthday sweet sixteee! Vanessa Redmond's been with us since day 1 when she volunteered at our 1st event. Bet she never imagined then that she'd've run 331 parkruns before she was 60! (photo: Pete Davey)
Along the course I met the winner of this week’s award for most obedient dog which went to Bailey who trotted along most obligingly for owners Emma and Ed. Having run on several occasions with a far less ruly hound and one that is highly prone to enjoying performing roly-polys at the top of the hill I looked on quite enviously.
We don't see Helen Clark often enough at Ashton Court parkrun, this being her 14th run here since she first came along in April 2017. So it was great to see her achieve her highest female finish position of 3rd, and reduce her pb by 85 seconds to get below both 23 and 22 minutes on our course for the first time, finishing in 21:57! (photo: Pete Davey)
Heading up to the turn I caught up with eight-year-old Brennon Elphick, his Mum Jennifer and their dog Richard. Brennon has completed an impressive 15 parkruns, 10 of which are Ashton Courters and an eye watering 57 junior parkruns. A strong headwind put pay to his quest for a sub 30 minute run this week but I won’t be betting against him achieving this goal very soon indeed.
Always a warm welcome at a parkrun finish line (photo: Pete Davey)
parkunners may not be aware that there is a weekly award for “Marshall of the Week”. Virtually every week this is handed to Bill Lawrence for the several hundred high-fives he manages to provide for runners on the downhill stretch. But quite remarkably this week this most prestigious award goes to Hugo Stramrood who fulfilled the role of “loneliest marshal” at the turn. Not unlike Alan Tracey in Thunderbird 5 who in every episode of Thunderbirds was stuck out in space all on his own for months on end, Hugo was marooned some 2½ kms away from the start and the rest of civilisation but took up his role with gusto. We must ask ourselves where would we all have ended up without Hugo’s vital assistance in making sure everyone turned around and went back down the hill?
No sign of Steve Zodiac but here's
Alan Tracey Hugo Stramrood stationed at the end of the world! (photo: Pete Davey)
I then had the pleasure of meeting Martin Kay from Cheddar. Now I made a point of talking to Martin mainly because he was wearing a very heavyweight woollen hat which although not completely unseasonal must have raised the temperature inside his hat to an uncomfortable level. But this didn’t seem to perturb Martin who then proclaimed this was his 50th parkrun. He travelled all the way up from Cheddar to run today and was this week's sole representative of the Lonely Goat Running Club. I was slightly disappointed to learn that this club didn’t consist solely of people who each owned a single goat. It is actually an affiliated running club for those who don’t necessarily have the time to join an organised running group but still wish to be part of a thriving community. Praise be to them.
It doesn't seem so long since Lorraine Cromwell ran her 50th parkrun, and yet this was her 70th! Close behind is Lonely Goat Martin Kay (photo: Pete Davey)
Now every runner it seems has a parkrun story. Mary Ryan completed her 179th Parkrun and she gleefully informed me that she has Uppsala parkrun in Sweden on her cv. Surely not a claim that could be made by any other runners at Ashton Court. She finished in a very commendable 30th place that day, 513 places higher than she did today. Uppsala, Uppsala and away!
Uppsala, Uppsala and away! It's Mary Ryan! (photo: Pete Davey)
The other man called Martin who ran today, one Martin Riddiford, now has 319 park runs to his name. Today he crossed the line in 49:13. There is not a parkrun I can recall where I fail to notice Martin steadily making his way round. I liken him to the ravens at the Tower and the apes at Gibraltar, no Martin at parkrun and surely the Empire would crumble. Martin’s story is actually quite incredible and I hope he won’t mind me sharing this with you all. Back in 2003 he suffered a brain haemorrhage and had to learn how to walk again after months in a wheelchair. Up until that point in his life he was a bit of a marathon runner. In Martin’s words parkrun gave me the opportunity to run again and that is why I’m always at the back enjoying the fact that I out there running! Sorry to all the marshals!”
Martin Riddiford - now we know why he's almost always smiling (photo: Pete Davey)
Also I cannot conclude without a mention to the Thomas family who had three generations running today; David, Andrew and Lucy all ran as part of Andrew’s 50th Birthday celebrations.
David, Andrew and Lucy ~ 3 generations of the Thomas family, celebrating Andrew's 50th birthday! (photo: Pete Davey)
As you know parkrun is always a delicious feast for numerophiles and thanks to Rich for providing these great numerological nuggets;
We celebrated a number of milestones today and our new marvellous milestone parkrun club members came across the finish line in the following order:
Peter Kennaugh-Gallacher was first, crossing the line in position 103 to complete his 50th parkrun. Peter’s approximately the 730th one of us from Ashton Court to have run 50 parkruns.
We’re unsure how often Bryan Walsh has pushed his child and buggy up and down the hill but the 3 of them crossed the line in 190th place, at the end of Bryan’s 100th parkrun. Bryan’s our 314th member of the 100 parkrun club.
Bryan Walsh hangs on to that buggy in the wind (photo: Pete Davey)
Next in was a junior – Ruby Thorn in 305th place, who in 15 weeks has gone from not running a parkrun to having finished 10 of them and is the 131st of our juniors to achieve this.
In the red is Rita Davies, on her way to her 200th parkrun and her 100th here at home. Hannah Susorney, cheerful as ever, is alongside (photo: Pete Davey)
And in 449th position was Rita Davies, who simultaneously finished her 200th parkrun anywhere and her 100th parkrun at Ashton Court. Rita’s the 87th to achieve the 1st milestone and the 176th to achieve the 2nd. Which leads us nicely to the morning’s other Ashton Court only landmarks:
Finishing 62nd was Andy Young, who became the 77th one of us to have run here 150 times.
The 144th finisher was Trevor Johnson, just ahead of James Holbrook in 153rd place, the 419th and 420th to have completed 50 Ashton Court parkruns.
Rowland Monk became the 78th of us to finish 150 parkrun here when he finished in 222nd place.
Finally, 489th over the line, Roy Baker was the 177th one of us to finish 100 parkruns here at home.
Congratulations on your wonderful parkrun achievements, you should be very proud of yourselves! Some of you have qualified for new parkrun club t-shirts and the rest of us are looking forward to seeing you showing them off when the weather improves!
A cheerful wave from report writer David Milne (photo: Pete Davey)
Report by David Milne, p352
Many thanks to the fabulous team of volunteers who made this week's event happen. Although our parkrun has a great crowd of enthusiastic volunteers we're always looking out for more people to join the team and spread the load, and if you'd like to sign up as a volunteer, we'd love to have you. Please opt in to receive volunteer emails (via "manage my profile" on any result or newsletter email) and contact AshtonCourtHelpers@parkrun.com to offer help.
Don't forget to follow us on these news pages, on Twitter (@ashtonctparkrun) or on Facebook (Ashton Court parkrun) for the latest news and information. You can also find us on Instagram too, where we try to post something a little different from time to time.
This week’s full results are at the top of the table here with links to all our age group records and heaps of other statty stuff.
Once again Pete Davey took some great photos of today's parkrun as he ran around the course with you all. You'll find them here on our Google Photos pages. We also have a library of our parkrun photos here in our Flickr group.