Age? It’s no barrier!

Basingstoke parkrun #616, 30th November 2019, Run Report by Sarah Govind

As I made my way to parkrun on Saturday morning, I wondered how many people would be joining me on such a cold and frosty morning. It seemed quite an achievement to be out of bed. Leaves covered the pathways and although it was dry, the park was shrouded in mist.

Once in the middle of the park, from my viewpoint outside Totally Tennis, it appeared that only the team of committed volunteers, plus a few hardy souls, had made it to the football pitches. But by 9am, seemingly out of nowhere, 483 parkrunners had arrived to take part in the last parkrun of November. Numbers had dropped somewhat over the month, but considering the weather conditions, this was a good turnout and a significantly larger one than this time last year. I wondered what had inspired them all to get out of house on such a chilly morning.

As it was the last Saturday of the month, Basingstoke 5k Your Way, Move Against Cancer were back again. As well as volunteering as run report writer, I was at parkrun as an ambassador for the group, wearing my distinctive blue top. There were an impressive 20 of us participating plus two canine friends. We made our way down to the field and joined our fellow parkrunners. Standing next to me at the run briefing was Izzie Pound, another group member, who was raring to go, and had this to say about the initiative, which could definitely apply o parkrun itself:

“It’s there for anyone who wants to join in and it doesn’t matter how fit you are. Whether you walk or run, it doesn’t matter. Everybody is so supportive and it’s really inclusive”.

5k Your Way received a warm welcome for their third ever outing from run director Grant Hodgson as did the 8 first timers and 11 parkrun tourists who were ready to discover our Basingstoke course. The run briefing also celebrated the parkrunners achieving milestones. James Hancock and Sharon Evans were about to start their 50th runs and Jane Hope was there for her 250th. Unofficial milestones were on the cards for Chris Clifton, Neil Hollingshead and Kamal Gurung, all about to set off on their 150th runs and also for Colin Jenkins, ready to complete his 200th. An amazing achievement for all of them, I’m sure you’ll agree.

In my role as ambassador for 5k Your Way, I was walking with one of our new recruits, Angela Bennett, 76, who is the founder of the Basingstoke Breast Cancer Self Help Group and was taking part for the first time. As we walked the two laps round War Memorial Park, we chatted about parkrun and how it can be so beneficial to those who have received a cancer diagnosis. She had this to say to anyone in that position.

“I would really stress that people who are recovering from cancer, no matter how long ago it was, should put on their tracksuit bottoms and their trainers and come out. It’s such fun! You will make new friends and it will open up your life”.

Angela is not one to let the cold weather hold her back and would advise people with doubts about exercising at this time of year to turn the central heating off and get out!

“It’s going to do you more good getting out, filling your lungs with fresh air and exercising your body. Really, you will go back home and feel better. Its been thoroughly enjoyable and the day has been frosty, but it’s been lovely and dry.”

By the time Angela and I had completed our two circuits, the majority of the 483 runners and walkers had finished. Tom Harding had finished first place for the men in a time of 17:34. Alison James led the women in 33rd place overall with a time of 21:31. She also had the highest female age grading, with 78.85%. The runner with the highest male age grading was Tim Ellis with 82.08% and a time of 19:23. By the time the last walker had passed through the finish funnel, 44 personal bests had been achieved.

Angela and I completed our two laps in a time of 1:03:41, a few minutes ahead of the tailwalker and several minutes behind Luxmi Govind, also known as Lucy, who finished in a time of 56:30. Lucy, like Angela, is 76 years old. She will be familiar to many of you as she has been taking part in our event for over 4 years now and earlier in the year, completed an impressive 100 parkruns. She told me what inspires her to turn up on War Memorial Park week after week, despite the weather conditions and the way she is feeling.

“Well, every Saturday, I normally go to the park to walk or to run. When I get up in the morning, I am motivated by looking out of the window and seeing the weather. And if it’s raining or frosty, I decide against going, but once I’m dressed, I make up my mind and just go, and once I get to the park, I see so many people there and that inspires me to carry on, whether I’m tired, achy or lazy. Because I’ve been doing it for so many months, my mind is conditioned on a Saturday. It becomes part of my routine for the whole year, I think”.

Speaking to these ladies made me wonder how many of our parkrunners today were in the 75-79 age bracket. Looking at the results, the answer is 14, with Angela who came without a barcode as an unofficial number 15. Dave Hope led the men in a time of 24:18 and Elizabeth Hopkins was first for the ladies with 37:44. Well done to all of them, whether they were walking, running or a combination of the two.

As the remaining volunteers, 5k Your Way group members were gathering as a community in Totally Tennis, enjoying a hot drink and some delicious healthy cake and taking the chance to get to know each other and share stories. Carla Woolnough, 75, was amongst them and had her own inspirational story to tell. Carla has lung cancer and had come to parkrun after a tough week which included a session of chemotherapy. She feels that neither age nor cancer are barriers to her and have not stopped her from doing anything, including coming along to parkrun.

“I’m a regular walker, but I like to jog. I just believe that we should keep fit really, especially through cancer. It’s so important!”

She feels exhilarated when she takes part in parkrun and so much better for it physically. It’s a brilliant experience for her to be surrounded by supportive and encouraging people.

"I think 5k Your Way, Move Against Cancer is lovely. I wonder it hasn’t been thought of much before because you sort of tag onto the end of a 5k run and it’s just the camaraderie. It helps, doesn’t it!"

Well done to her for joining us this week - an amazing achievement! The Basingstoke 5K Your Way community will return to parkrun on 28 December for our next event. We welcome anyone affected by cancer whether they are awaiting diagnosis, undergoing treatment or in remission. Relatives and medical professionals are also a vital part of the group and are invited to come along. If you are interested in participating, please contact the group via ourr Facebook page.

And it goes without saying that Basingstoke parkrun will be back in War Memorial Park on Saturday 7 December come rain or shine. Hope to see you there! My last few words go to our wonderful volunteers who came out in the frost and cold to help our event run smoothly and safely. Thank you so much to them!