It’s a parkrun, not a marathon…

Basingstoke parkrun #645, 9th October 2021
Run Report by Avi Govind

A number of you reading this report will know that, last Sunday, I was lucky enough to take part in the London marathon.

As I reached the 23 mile point, I heard a couple of people make the iconic shout that I often hear towards the end of a long run or race:

“Just a parkrun to go!”

Immediately, a guy running next to me remarked that a marathon was nothing like a parkrun. I was too tired at this point to disagree with him (and he was also running faster than me!), but, in the vague possibility that he is reading this run report, I’d like to argue that, in many ways, a marathon is very much like a parkrun:

It is inclusive to a range of abilities

While a marathon is obviously more than eight times longer than a parkrun, there is still a massive range of people taking part. The London marathon was won by Sisay Lemma in 2:04, which equates to a 15:30 parkrun, nearly equal to the course record at Basingstoke. And, in a new innovation this year, the London marathon had tail walkers who helped accompany people who took over seven hours.

In fact, there were a number of people who took over eight hours, equivalent to the typical pace of our tail walkers at Basingstoke - and I have walked two marathons in that sort of time before.

It wouldn’t happen without a lot of volunteers

The tail walkers at the marathon perform just one of a multitude of roles - many of which we don’t need at parkrun (for example we don’t give out drinks on the course or space blankets after we finish - although sometimes they would be appreciated - and conversely there’s no barcode scanning or finish tokens in a marathon).

But the course still needs to be set-up, everything has to be checked for safety, there’s a lot of communication with participants and effort at the finish to make sure everything has gone smoothly.

As I thanked the baggage volunteer on Sunday for opening my drop bag (my fingers had temporarily gone a bit numb due to dehydration), she said that she loved volunteering and being appreciated by the runners made her proud to help. Hopefully that’s the same for volunteers at Basingstoke parkrun, and you can help make sure that it is by thanking our volunteers when you see them around War Memorial Park.

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Landmarks - and me!


They have their own landmarks

The London marathon goes past Cutty Sark (I was actually seen on BBC TV running round it!), across Tower Bridge, past Canary Wharf and The Houses of Parliament and pretty much finishes at Buckingham Palace.

Basingstoke parkrun has Tennis Court Hill. Everyone who has done Basingstoke parkrun knows Tennis Court Hill.

Enough said.

Everyone has different aims

At London, many participants are out to get a personal best time, and they relentlessly follow the blue line painted on the road that promises the best and quickest route. I was certainly one of those people! While we can’t offer that service at Basingstoke parkrun, there is a similarity in that I had to be constantly mindful of others around me - some hadn’t realised they were straying onto the blue line, I overtook thousands of people during the race and was overtaken by a number as well.

We would all do well to ensure that we are aware of what is going on around us at parkrun, too, whether we are about to overtake or be overtaken, when we are on narrow sections where it is best to be in single file, or going round corners. We all hopefully know that parkrun is a run and isn’t a race, but a little more understanding by everyone will help avoid some of the incidents we have had in recent weeks with people being clipped, shouted at or obstructed.

All of this can be avoided by people looking out for each other - not darting through gaps that are not really there, not walking across the whole path when there could be people coming up to you, and certainly not shouting abuse at people.

Many other people in the marathon, and in parkrun, have other aims - whether it’s to get some exercise in the fresh air, to do something with friends, to get fitter, get some bling, to increase the number of events or places they have seen, or just to finish. Their achievements may not be seen as much but should still be celebrated.

It takes some preparation

Most people would find it reasonably easy to go out and walk a parkrun. But most would find it reasonably hard to go out and continuously run a parkrun, hence the popularity of programs like Couch to 5k for those who decide to train for the event.

Most people would find it impossible to run a marathon without a decent amount of training - and it was the programme I followed with my club that I credit with getting me to the start line on Sunday in sufficient shape to beat my personal best by 12 minutes.

The beauty of parkrun is that all you really need to take part is to bring a barcode - and not even that if you are a volunteer - and you don’t have to enter months in advance or go through ballots to get a place.

It’s a talking point and something you have in common with people

A joke I have heard a few times goes along the lines of ‘How can you tell if someone you know is running a marathon soon? You don’t need to - they’ll tell you.’

But parkrun is also a talking point for many people - finishing a parkrun is something that each participant has in common with over 4 million other people. Most people I speak to have at least heard of parkrun even if they haven’t done one, and more people are willing to give parkrun a go than offering themselves up to do a marathon!

It’s all about what you make of it

I had a great time in London on Sunday.

Obviously it was good to get a personal best, but the experience was great, the support on the course wonderful, and the company of friends before the race in the build-up, after the race for food and drink, and also fleetingly during the race was fantastic.

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Friends

On other occasions I would have had more time or inclination to soak up the atmosphere, take more note of the many sights I passed, or acknowledge the crowd more, but that may happen another time.

It’s the same for parkrun. Even since the return in July I have had different experiences, including volunteering three times, doing an inaugural parkrun, running at the end of a long training run and tail walking last week. Each of those experiences was very different, and the variety and community is what makes me keep coming back.

It’s possible to do it virtually

Last year, in response to the Covid pandemic, the London marathon went all virtual (unless you were an elite runner), and allowed 50,000 people to do a marathon distance on the day that the elite marathon took place in October.

It was such a success that, this year, the virtual London marathon took place again alongside the actual one.

Last year, in response to the Covid pandemic, parkrun started the (not) parkrun initiative, and allowed anyone to do a 5k walk, jog or run at any time, on any day of the week.

It was such a success that, this year, (not) parkrun continues to take place alongside the actual one.

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A misty morning

Anyway, I’m sure that’s enough marathon talk from me for everyone - let’s get on to what happened at today’s parkrun.

It was a misty and quite chilly War Memorial Park that was waiting for the 470 people that took part in the event - more than double our attendance from last week’s visit to Crabtree.

Among them, we had 18 people doing their first-ever parkrun - so a warm welcome to:

Kate Hatton, Kirsty Anthony, Saffron Lacey, Leah Rogers, Freddie Killick, Nikki Le Roux, Jasmine Lacey, Daryl Blair, Stevie Chadwick, Matthew Girle, Kirstie Mallaney, Christopher Ward, Emily Battershall, Sarah Parker, Rochelle Bray, Rudi Medhurst, Charlie Phipps and Simon Ernest.

Also, 17 people visited Basingstoke for the first time - we hope you liked us and return soon:

Craig Bickerton, Joan Buitendag, Ashley Webb, Elise Williams, Paul King, Archie Murdoch, Neville Insley, Tom Williams, Sophie Berard, Peter Barnett, Barney Crook, Mark Gibson, Nick Hamer, Chris Dalton, Alex Burton, Jack Dundas and Paul Bessant.

I’m not typing out the 52 people who got PBs, but congratulations to all of you - the most ‘experienced’ person to get a PB was Ryan Firth in his 160th parkrun.

Our first finisher was Tom Harding, in 17:34, with his 67th first-finish in his 134th Basingstoke parkrun (a rate of exactly 50%). Second home was Hari Bakhem in his 39th Basingstoke parkrun, and third finisher was Oliver Delve, whose only two previous parkruns were on New Year’s Day in 2019 and 2020.

First female finisher was Chrisi Halls, who set a new PB of 20:35 in her 40th parkrun at Basingstoke but first since July 2019. Hannah Bliss was second female finisher in her 20th Basingstoke parkrun but first since July 2018 (there’s a pattern here!). Hayley Randell was third female finisher, but she breaks the pattern having run here last month - it was her 28th Basingstoke parkrun in total.

I’m going to claim the position of ‘first marathoner’, as named by one of the marshals standing in the bandstand - although to be honest I was only the first person wearing a London marathon t-shirt to finish, as Michal Bursak (whose t-shirt for the virtual London marathon hadn’t arrived yet), was seven places ahead of me.

Our highest age-grading today was from Chris Furness, who achieved 79.29%. For those of you who don’t know what the age grading is, it compares your time to the world record for your age and gender allowing comparisons between the times of any two people.

Second highest age-grading was from John McElroy (76.79%) and third highest was from Tilbikram Sambahangphe (75.77%). Highest female age grading went to Chrisi Halls with 72.87%.

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Before the start

We also had a number of milestone runners this morning.

The only person doing their 10th run as a junior was Giovanni Bahia, who is now eligible to buy a white milestone t-shirt. There’s also now a new milestone club for reaching 25 runs - which Julie Ward and Pietro Ferizolla did today - and that earns them the opportunity to buy a purple t-shirt.

Nigel McCarthy did his 50th run, and can get a red t-shirt, while Tina Larkham with her 100th run is able to get a black t-shirt. There were unofficial milestones for David Ansdell and Hannah Beaven, reaching 200 runs or 1,000km each around parks.

Topping them all, though, is Bethan Mason, who today did her 250th despite being only 13 years old. She comes from a parkrunning family - dad Andrew has done a hefty 624 parkruns - but getting to 250 shows impressive dedication.

One of Bethan’s friends, whose birthday it is today, writes:

“She’s been running since such a young age and so consistently. She had a year of plantar fascitis and just plodded round when she could. Now she's on the mend and running with me. She might have quite a few volunteer points as well.” (36, in fact, including once processing the results for Basingstoke parkrun alongside me.)

As we get near the end of the report, a word for our volunteers. There were 39 today, led by Run Director Mark Norris. Impressively, Mark notched up his 300th volunteering stint at Basingstoke today. At the other end of the spectrum, Jane Bradbury, Janeine May and Heather Pascoe volunteered for the first time. We owe them, as well as the other 35, a huge thank you for giving their time to ensure that Basingstoke parkrun can operate.

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300th volunteering stint

If you would like to volunteer, then get in touch with the core team at basingstoke@parkrun.com - or, as the volunteer roster can never be full, you can simply come to the park on the day. But getting in touch early will ensure you can do your preferred role. There’s no pressure and you can discuss which roles may be best for you - so just give it a try!

One of the roles we are looking to fill for the near future is run report writer - especially as a number of our regular reporters are taking a break for a while. Reports don’t have to be as long as the one you are currently reading, we can guide you through the key elements if you like.

To close - another bit of marathon talk. The ballot for the 2022 London marathon closed yesterday, and I have entered once again - so maybe in a year’s time you’ll be reading a similar report from me…

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