Unlike me, I'd somehow agreed to go away on a big family holiday, even though I'd already paid for a place for my fourth successive Great South Run... £31.00 down the drain, though every cloud has a silver lining, so they say.
I hadn't actually realised I'd 'double-booked' until less than a fortnight before and, like my wife said, the Great South Run is every year, whereas the chance of a lovely, long weekend away on the North Devon coast isn't... so onto the tourist tool it was, knowing we'd be staying in the picturesque village of Croyde; parkruns in this part of the country are nowhere near as abundant as ones in the county of Hampshire where I live.
It didn't take long to calculate that the two nearest ones, by quite a margin, were either Barnstaple or Bideford... I chose Barnstaple as it was the closer of the two, though it was still a 24-mile round trip.
I set off at just after 08:00 taking in the stunning views of both Croyde Bay and the equally impressive Saunton Sands. The early morning mist was lying low over the sand dunes and the early morning light was catching pockets of it, making it look like a scene from Lord of The Rings, or something just as spectacular. I was almost tempted to abandon the idea of running but told myself not to be so silly... it was a great opportunity for a spot of parkrun tourism, where I could bag my 168th run, my 61st different event and write another run report, which is a great way of adding yourself to the volunteer roster while still being able to run at a new event.
On the way from my car, I bumped into Stuart WHITE and his wife, Stuart being a fellow parkrunner, whose home event is Pegwell Bay in Kent. He was completing his 153rd parkrun at his 8th different event. We enjoyed a chat about parkrun and different events before we listened to the First-Timer's Briefing. The course was explained in detail and despite the parkrun website describing it as flat, there are four sharp, short ramps you have to contend with on the two-and-a-half lap course.
The course itself is lovely and today we were still running the summer course; it's moved during the winter, a conscious decision made by the core team, to save on the wear and tear of the grassland within Rock Park, where the parkrun is held. The course is predominantly on the banks of the River Taw and follows a sort of condensed Picasso-esque version of a figure of eight, run in an anti-clockwise direction.
Prior to this week's run, I'd looked at the previous week's results, just to gauge whether I may achieve my second ever first in age category, as well as work out where I may well finish overall... there were just 79 runners last week, so there could be every chance I'd finish in the top twenty, with an outside chance of my first ever top ten finish... more about that in a moment.
There were no fewer than an impressive nine first-timers to parkrun today [welcome to the family] one of which was Matt SLATER, clocking in at 20:52... crazy to think what improvements will be made when your first attempt as good as that. A big shout-out also to Iain HINDES who will be completing his 250th run at his next parkrun... presuming you may well have timed it for next week...
There were a few 'almosts' for me for this week's run... the first was that I was attending Barnstaple's 299th parkrun... what a shame, it would have been fantastic to have been part of their 300th event—hope you have a superb time next week, with an overdose of cake!
Secondly... I finished with a time of 23:14... had I been there a week earlier, I'd have finished in 10th place!
Running is clearly all about timing, in more ways than one!
In all the 61 different events I've been lucky enough to take part in, there were two excellent ideas I'd never come across before and will be poaching them for our core team when we set up a new parkrun in Hampshire over the coming months.
The first idea was they had a special 'superhero' cape for any junior parkrunners celebrating a milestone run; George THOMAS was celebrating his 10th parkrun and did it in style by setting a new PB of 19:55. What an awesome achievement! Tim LANE was also celebrating joining a milestone club, notching up his 100th parkrun today.
The second idea, one of which Run Director, Julie KEMISH-MILLS, unashamedly admitted to pinching from another event, and that was to have an A-Z of index cards, whereby regular parkrunners to Barnstaple parkrun could print off their bar code, attach it to larger card and store it in alphabetical order, should there ever be a time where they may accidentally forget to pick up their barcode one morning... what a simple, helpful and innovative idea!
Finally, I'd like to dedicate this run report to my father-in-law, John LOWE, who sadly passed away over our long weekend away. He always showed an interest in my running, so I therefore feel it fitting to give him a mention.