Basingstoke parkrun #601, 17th August 2019, Run Report by Penny Metcalf (with assistance from Andrew Little)
This is my parkrun story and how it led to a wedding that started with a parkrun
It all started when I announced that I had started running and could run one whole mile. My friend, Andy Mason, said, ‘When you can run 5k let me know and I will take you to parkrun.’ I had no idea what parkrun was, so he told me. I thought it sounded nice so a few weeks later I proudly announced that I could now run 5k. The next week it turned out I had to have an operation and couldn’t run for weeks. Eventually my body healed and I clawed my fitness back and was ready to start again. He came and picked me up and showed me the ropes. He introduced me to his parkrun friends and it felt like they adopted me, unquestioningly. I was younger and slower than all of them and not able to come very often because my children were small. I felt like the little sister of the group but they were always pleased to see me and warmly congratulated every mini PB along the way.
A few months later some people were talking about doing a 10k race. They were standing in a group, all taller and faster than me and I pulled on my friend’s sleeve, feeling like a small child and asked quietly, ‘Can I come too? Do you think I could do that?’. He told me to increase the distance I ran slowly each week, no more than 10% each week, and that it should be fine. I did what I was told. (That doesn’t happen often).
I entered the race and he ran the first 5k with me giving me tips about starting at the back and overtaking people rather than being near the front and getting flattened by the fast runners. At 5k he said, ‘Now just run like it’s parkrun’, and I ran the second 5k on my own. I came over the line with Andy Wyeth and my new friends were waiting for me at the finish with my then-husband and two children. I hadn’t even known that running races existed outside school sports day. The little people were delighted with their kids’ race medals and it was a very happy day.
The friends belonged to Chineham Park Running Club, so I joined up and made some more new friends. I found that I could rarely get there due to childcare so I stopped going but kept running. When Basingstoke started up its own half marathon, I trained to do that, just because it was there and a lot of people were doing it for the first time too. Mark Hodkin and Andrew Little accompanied me on my first ever attempt at 13 miles.
Then I kept running parkrun, 10ks and half marathons. My children started running parkrun and junior parkrun and are now doing cross country races and running for the school. parkrun has undoubtedly had a very formative role in their lives and from it, running has become an important part of both their identities.
Over the years my friends at parkrun have seen me through separation and divorce and the ups and downs of new relationships and redundancies career changes and the children growing up. They have forgiven me long absences due to injury, football matches and general chaos. Friendships have developed and Malcolm Brown has become a surrogate father and grandfather to me and my children respectively. When I come to parkrun I feel nurtured by conversations with the people I know well, and small interactions with people I only ever see at parkrun. I have often been touched by the words of my fellow parkrunners, whether it was the time I fell over, or Mikey had his asthma attack, and just on general days where people stop to chat about something. I have felt surrounded and buoyed up by the community spirit and the collective kindness which is embodied by parkrun.
Then one day some people in Hook held a meeting to see if there was enough interest for a running a club and there wasn’t enough space for the amount of people who turned up. We set up Hook Runners. We only had one coach so I did the Leadership in Running Fitness Course to help her out. Hook Runners turned into a bigger thing than anyone expected but one run was especially important to me.
On January 1st 2017 I met Alastair Bridgman on a Sunday morning run with Hook Runners. He talked a lot and said that a six mile run that week at my pace would just fit in with his training schedule. (I am not sure that that was strictly true. It has never been on the schedule since.) He came to my yoga class. It nearly killed him. He hasn’t been back. He said he thought we would be great together. I told him off for being cheeky. He asked me out. I said no. He tried again. See, very cheeky.
A few weeks later my daughter Ania, aged 9, announced that she thought I should go out with him, ‘because he is very nice, and gentle, and a bit like Mikey’ (her big brother). So I did and he was, and she was right. Ania is a footballer and she would like everyone to know that she claims the assist.
I took him to parkrun and introduced him to my friends. They accepted him unquestioningly. They have adopted him and he has adopted parkrun into that training schedule, and as part of our life together.
Today we are getting married and we are starting the day with a parkrun because running has played such a vital part in our lives and in bringing us together.
This is a thank you to parkrun and to everyone who I have met there over the past few years. Thank you to everyone who volunteers, including the 45 who made today’s run possible (including coping with finding a cricket match happening in the usual starting area when they arrived in the park!), and everyone who says hello and who encourages the people running past them or cheers people at the finish or does any small thing that contributes to the wonderful world of parkrun.
Apart from starting our wedding day, what else happened today at Basingstoke parkrun?
There were 627 runners, the largest field since early May and the seventh largest we've ever had. There were 62 PBs, 30 running their first ever parkrun and 30 first time visitors to Basingstoke – well done to all concerned.
Today’s first three male finishers were: Tom Harding in 17:24, Cameron Coveney in 18:06 and Matthew Wray in 18:36; and the first three female finsihers were: Lisa Gottwald in 20:59, Alison James in 21:37 and Becky Wilson in 22:24.
Official (T-shirt earning) milestones:
50 : Ian Keeley
100 : James Bate, Isabel Gardner, and Gail Tyson
Unofficial (non T-shirt earning but still worth celebrating) milestones
150 : Sally Blanc
200 : David Matthews and Damon Hope
Congratulations to all of you.
Despite the forecasts earlier in the week, the weather behaved itself with the sun shining complemented by a lovely breeze to add to the occasion and made it a perfect start to a perfect day.
See you all next week.