8:05 on a cool, fresh and breezy, but dry, Saturday morning, and I’m standing in Hotham Park, about 120 miles from my home town of Bedford, with 8 of my running friends. I’m wearing an Arsenal Football Scarf…. I support Luton Town…. This is my 114th parkrun and my second at Bognor….
Laura Bagnall (or “Baggers” as we called her) was my friend, and today I am at Bognor to take part in her tribute parkrun. I was last here on 8th December when I visited Laura for the last time, alongside her other “up north” running friends.
It is immediately clear that Laura was adored and respected by her running friends, as parkrunners dressed in Arsenal football kit and other red items of clothing start to appear in the park, in honour of Laura and her love of running, parkrun and the Gunners.
Our first stop is the lovely Hotham Park café for a quick cuppa, where we are greeted by Laura’s friend Wendy who proudly shows us the Arsenal muffins which will be sold at the cake sale in support of St Barnabas House Hospice, who cared for Laura so well at the end. Finish token ‘hander outer’ (technical term), Sylvia, also chats to us and takes some photos of us all. We are also paid a visit by fabulous marshal, Derek, who tells us that we will need to run past him 3 times during the course of the event. I believe the expression he uses is “3 Dereks and you’re almost done!”.
We then head to the start area where we are fondly greeted by some of Laura’s other running chums and the fabulous volunteers, amongst a growing sea of red-clad runners, walkers and joggers. We spot a Redway Runner from Milton Keynes (just up the road from Bedford!). Those Redways get EVERYWHERE!
Although this is my second visit to Bognor, I attend the first timers’ briefing (for research purposes, you understand) and Matthew does a fabulous job, clearly explaining the course for the benefit of tourists and parkrun ‘newbies’ alike and then goes on to explain how the finish tokens and barcodes work to those who are parkrunning for the very first time.
Then follows the event briefing for all attendees, in which Anita delivers a moving (and humorous) account of Laura’s life, illness and involvement with Bognor parkrun. This ends with an extended period of clapping by the whole crowd, in place of the more traditional minute’s silence. In my opinion, this is exactly how Laura would have wanted it.
We note that as well as the Bedford and MK contingents, there are visitors from London and Leicester, along with many, many attendees from Laura’s own Arunners Running Club, and a couple of Vegan Runners of course.
The run (or walk or jog) begins shortly after and I am awestruck by the large crowd of red heading off around the park. Between us we spot many parkrun 50 t-shirts, lots of Gooner shirts and scarves, RED January and British Heart Foundations t-shirts. One of our group even sees a Dalmation wearing a red t-shirt!
As we run around the park we love spotting the wonderful wooden sculptures and other attractive scenery. What a lovely park! The faster runners are so polite and friendly as they come past at impressive speeds, and the marshals are just awesome, particularly Derek who hurls friendly abuse at us to encourage us on our way! We absolutely love the Queen music being belted out by two of the crew…. If only we were fast enough to keep up with them to hear the end of ‘Radio Ga Ga’!
All too soon our run is over, and we receive perfect treatment at the finish line, in the funnel, and as our barcodes and tokens are scanned by Laura’s wonderful eldest son Tom. We then cheer on the rest of our crew and other runners and purchase delicious cakes from the cake sale which goes on to raise £295.50 for the hospice! How completely brilliant! We then head back to the café for more caffeine and a hug with Tom, before heading to Worthing seafront for lunch before the trip home to Bedford. Whilst in the café, we are treated to a glimpse of Run Director Keith’s red boxer shorts, purchased especially for the occasion… a huge honour, since Keith is a Chelsea fan!
Whilst eating lunch we receive our parkrun texts and are delighted to realise that all 9 of us from Bedford have improved on our times from December and we all have course PBs! I think we were all powered by Laura this morning!
We had a WONDERFUL time at Bognor parkrun today and every moment was a brilliant and fitting tribute to a fabulous lady who was kind, loving, generous, funny…. and more than a little bit feisty and opinionated at times! She has left a real mark on the world and will be remembered fondly and with huge respect by so many. Whilst we are devastated to have lost her, I know that she would have been so proud of everybody today and that everything was exactly right.
There were 428 parkrunners at Bognor today – a record turnout and 41 more than the previous record!
46 people ran, walked or jogged their first Bognor parkrun today, 29 of whom where completing their first EVER parkrun. Well done everyone! Please come back for more.
Huge congratulations to Darren Edwards who reached his 50th parkrun milestone today.
Massive thanks to all the volunteers who made today’s parkrun possible, as well as ensuring it was a perfect tribute to my brilliant friend Laura Bagnall. The Bedford runners will be back soon.
If you would like to donate to St Barnabas House Hospice in Worthing in Laura’s memory, please do so via this link: