Basingstoke parkrun 588, 18th May 2019, Run Report by Avi Govind
Now, as many of you will know, this isn’t my first run report. Other than (possibly) that first one, though, I think it’s going to be the most difficult to write.
That’s because I’m going to tackle a couple of topics - later on it’s the FA Cup Final, which as a Watford fan I am very excited about - first it’s something that it’s been difficult to avoid this week as it’s been all over the media: mental health.
It probably hasn’t escaped your attention that this is mental health awareness week - with a variety of public figures, media portals and people in general making an effort to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and the need to end the stigma of talking about it. The main theme of this week has been ‘body image’.
(Before I carry on, I must point out that I don’t profess to be an expert on mental health, but it’s obvious to me that the ‘body image’ theme can dovetail with parkrun hence this being part of the run report.)
The wonder of parkrun, as I point out to people all the time, is that it is open, welcoming and inclusive to all. If you want to come and run, jog or walk 5k in a friendly, supportive environment, you could do a lot worse than coming to Basingstoke parkrun. But I could bang on about this for ages to someone (and sometimes I do!) - and they may still be convinced that parkrun is the exclusive home of a bunch of finely-tuned athletes all striving to break world records. Thankfully it’s not - and is all the better for it - but even I was somewhat wary before I did my first parkrun in 2009.
We had a discussion at work this week about our own body images, which was fascinating. I think I’m quite lucky - while I wouldn’t mind being an inch or two taller, and haven’t got the most hair in the world, I’m pretty comfortable in and with my body. Or maybe I just don’t worry about it in the way that some people do. These are the people that parkrun can do wonders for if they can be reached - so I think it’s up to all of us to make an effort to encourage and support anyone brave enough to be at parkrun.
On the wider topic of mental health, another thing that takes a lot of bravery is someone opening up and talking honestly about tough times that they are experiencing. In this day and age it is all too easy to put on a front and pretend that everything is fine when actually it is not. Again, parkrun can help here as being in a community can give someone the confidence to be open and give someone else the privilege of an opportunity to help them.
I’ll leave this topic with something I wrote a couple of years ago that still resonates now, especially the need to be kind to people:
“So as we all carry on through life, try and remember that it’s not straightforward for everyone. The person who you think is lazy, disorganised, quiet, loud, unreliable, or whatever else you perceive as a negative trait may be facing battles you can’t even begin to comprehend. If you are having those battles yourself, try and find the courage to speak to someone, as hard as it might feel to do - a problem shared may not quite be a problem halved, but if you can find a listening ear it will undoubtedly help. I've benefitted from that in the recent past as well with people being patient enough to listen to my random ramblings about my thoughts and feelings.”
Onto today’s parkrun itself - and as Run Director I first have to say a massive thank you to the team of volunteers, and this week’s volunteer co-ordinator Grant Hodgson, who spent a lot of time sending appeals and dealing with late changes to the roster. There were also some more as we were in the park due to some volunteers needing to pull out due to illness, so I appreciated the flexibility of everyone who changed role. It’s my turn to be volunteer co-ordinator next week so hopefully it will be a bit smoother.
It’s been five months since I was Run Director and so it was good to not be running for a change and to speak to some volunteers and spectators while everyone was out on the course. I had an interesting discussion with a Notts County supporter lamenting their relegation out of the football league, as well as chatting to Shane Hedges - a tourist from Southampton who is trying to visit all the parkruns in Hampshire and who was very complimentary about our event.
Today’s fastest finisher was Tom Harding - with the main surprise being that this was the first time he’d been first for three weeks - with a time of 17:36, with the fastest female (recorded) finisher being Alison James in 21:05.
Unsurprisingly, the highest age grading went to Tony Watkins with 82.54%, and the highest female age grading was achieved by Alison again with 80.47% - for those of you who don’t know what the age grading is, it compare your time to the world record for your age and gender allowing comparisons between the times of any two people.
There were only a couple of milestone runners today - with the unofficial milestone of 300 runs being reached by 15 year-old Nicholas Mitchell. His Dad, Jeff, had rightly predicted that Nicholas would be reluctant to receive public acclaim, hence his decision to stand across the field while the pre-run brief took place. We also had an official milestone for Tony Kingham, who supplied us with some delicious cakes and biscuits on his 250th run. We had a milestone for our regular Tail Walker, Tommy Millar, doing his 150th volunteer stint today.
The observant among you may have noticed the Watford FC shirt that I was wearing under the Run Director hi-vis vest - as you are reading this it is quite possible that I will be on my way to Wembley to watch us take on Manchester City in the FA Cup Final. If not, I may be there or on my way home. Being realistic, there’s very little hope of us winning the cup, but stranger things have happened so I am hopeful.
Watching Watford and running are my two main hobbies - so, going back full circle to the start of this report, I’d say that getting the time and space to do both of those is the most important factor in maintaining my own mental health in what can be a busy life. Obviously I wouldn’t be able to do either without the support of my wife, so am appreciative of the help she gives me in this regard.
The reasons they help are that I enjoy both of these hobbies (being a football fan can be quite annoying at times though, as can running if you don’t get the results you expect!), they get me out into the fresh (sometimes very fresh!) air and I can identify with my own community at the same time while doing each of them.
That community is often 600 strong these days at Basingstoke, continues to grow, and I hope that parkrun is making some positive difference to the mental health of everyone in it.