A review of our first year
What is that rushing sound?
Is it the wind whistling in your ears as you hurtle down towards the finish tunnel in pursuit of a PB? Is it the heavy and desperate breathing of another parkrunner on your shoulder, desperate to snatch one position higher up?
Or is it the sound of time flying by?
Our first anniversary has come and gone, we’re already thinking ahead about year two, plotting and planning our routes to more PBs, the earning of milestone T-shirts and how to catch that guy or gal who always seems to finish about twenty yards ahead evenwhen we have a good run.
Let’s take a pause to look back at where we’ve come from and how we’ve got to where we are now.
Bramley parkrun’s origins are primarily down to Graham and Lisa Fisher, who pulled together a team largely compiled of runners they had met over many previous years, plus a bit of local word of mouth to gauge interest. My offer to help was based on a misunderstanding – when Graham said Bramley park, I thought he meant Bramley Fall Woods. Ideal for me, a five minute walk away, a parkrun on my doorstep. However, since I’d said I’d help, I couldn’t drop it just because it turned out to be further away. Now I feel disloyal at the thought of running elsewhere!
I have no idea how much work it took to get the parkrun in place. I should imagine a great deal. Liaison with Head Office, meetings with local Council for permission to use the park, sorting out volunteers, health and safety, risk assessments, getting all the equipment, (tape, poles, signs, cones, stopwatches, scanners, bar codes, not forgetting a shovel and wheelbarrow to clear up the course before each run), publicity and promotion. Glad all I offered to do was stand in the corner of a field, telling runners to keep going round the bend, and see you on the next lap. That’s how I started anyway…
So weeks of preparation and then the big day was upon us. Saturday 13th June was a rather wet day, not usual for summer perhaps, but a foretaste of things to come at Bramley.
Sighs of relief as the opening event attracted 230 runners, a figure not surpassed until the Mob Run (parkrun #47). Gregan Clarkson (Kingston upon Hull AC) set a time which has endured since, and he remains the only runner to go under 17 minutes (16’57”). Dawn Broom (Penistone Footpath Runners) was first lady back, in 22’ 25”. The ladies’ record was reset in Week 5 by Hannah Oldroyd (Airedale Dodgers), and that still stands at 18’ 48”. Oddly enough, all three runners mentioned have not been back since…
Connor Craig Jackson (Skyrac) threatened to break the record on a number of occasions, and can be credited with most times back first among the lads (4). But one lady has gone one better, with five first finishes, the redoubtable Tracey Howson (Horsforth Harriers) of whom more later.
For some, a parkrun has been their introduction to running. Others were already practitioners of putting one foot in front of another repeatedly at pace, in training, in races and often as members of a running club. Indeed, several local running clubs have taken over the event during the year, but one group deserves special mention, because it arose from Bramley parkrun. Bramley Breezers – you can’t miss them, they are there by the bucketload each and every week, bright yellow T-shirts like a shower of fireballs burning up the course. Collectively, the Breezers have done more Bramley parkruns than any other club, and they haven’t been in existence as long as Bramley parkrun.
We had a few club takeovers. Pudsey Pacers (#15, #51) did the first of them, followed by Pudsey & Bramley (#16), then Farsley Flyers (#17), Horsforth Harriers (#19, #47) and Pudsey Runners (#21, the Halloween one). If you look through the results for any given week, you will notice a sprinkling of runners attached to various clubs across the spectrum of finishing times. Which tells you that club runners are not all elite quickies, but whatever our pace, we find a local club helps us improve, and they are invariably exceedingly sociable.
There were also a few themed parkruns. At Halloween, there were many outstanding efforts at scary garb from the majority of runners and volunteers, and the photos, excellent though they were, could only give a sense of the fright fest atmosphere. Whereas the Christmas one was colourful and celebratory, where many discovered just how hot a Santa suit is to run in.
New Year’s Day saw a bonus parkrun and recently we had a ’What’s Your Name?’ theme, where many runners made themselves known to the volunteers (and possibly each other), so they could be cheered and encouraged personally to a PB – which worked for 37 runners. That event also got a shout out on Look North’s weather report the evening before, skilfully arranged by our guest Official Starter, presenter (and fine runner) Nicola Rees.
We’ve had runners from all the over shop – some who normally go to Woodhouse Moor or Bradford gave us a try (often more than once), others visiting or in the neighbourhood due to work, and they have hailed from Glasgow, Troon, Brighton, all parts north, east, south and west, and one chap with a beard and red suit said he’d come from the North Pole…
Parts of the course now have their own terminology – the starting Upwards Flat Section, then onto to Naughty Corner and at the top of the descent, Carol’s Corner. Commercial sponsorship of the remaining features is not available – as a Council in the southwest learned, we don’t do this for the money!
It’s not been all sweetness and light at Bramley, oh no. We had a couple of unfortunate last minute cancellations of the event as monsoons flooded the lower path. The top field has been a little challenging on occasion, even with route B.
According to the official statistics (on the Bramley parkrun homepage), 1,906 runners have graced the course, racking up 1,629 PBs out of 6,613 completions of the route. 71 different men and women have been first finisher, our average attendance has been 127 (from a low of 51 to a high of 289), 130 running clubs have been represented, and we’ve covered over 33,000 kms between us. That’s about as far as running to Sydney and back.
Celebrations of a successful year one culminated in a party, although technically it was billed as a prize giving. For all that the official line that parkrun is a run, not a race, and we don’t say who won, but rather who was first finisher, we all know we have friendly rivalries that induce a competitive element. We don’t totally eschew this aspect, there is official recognition of quantity of effort through the milestone T-shirts, but also quality with the end of year prize giving based on the points table. While I have never quite fathomed the points award system, I have worked out that the higher your finishing position, the more points you get. So a middling runner who turns up every week will outscore a fast runner who appears sporadically at Bramley.
More assurance of a prize is to be a swift runner who turns up exceedingly often (a spot or three of volunteering garners a good number of points too) All these factors figured in the success of our inaugural male and female champions – huge congratulations and cries of “We’re not worthy!” to:
David Semmence (Bramley Breezers) – 42 runs, 36 times a volunteer (and he’s gone round in under 20 minutes a remarkable seven times)
Tracey Howson (Horsforth Harriers) – 36 runs, 8 times a volunteer (and as mentioned before, 5 times first lady back)
Runners-up in the points tables were:
James Leach, the saluting Farsley Flyer (41 runs, 3 as volunteer)
Paul Bennett (Bramley Breezers) - unofficial running coach to many (46 runs, 40 as volunteer)
Rachel Feather (Bramley Breezers) - (34 runs, 4 as volunteer), as enthusiastic a runner as we have
Lisa Hutchinson, Bramley Breezers, (40 runs, the most female appearances, 1 as volunteer) – Lisa also went on to run her first 10k this year.
Councillor Kevin Ritchie did the honours in presenting all the awards, and made a fine (and short!) speech about the council’s enthusiastic support for, and initial investment in, Bramley parkrun. That support continues in Kevin’s frequent presence during parkrun and the occasional run of his council colleague Fiona Venner (of Chapel Allerton Runners – I’m sure she’s a potential Bramley Breezer). Kevin also surprised Graham and Lisa with a celebratory bottle of fizz in appreciation of their work.
Runners are essential to parkrun’s success, so thank you all for coming. But not a single parkrun would take place without the continued, selfless and unpaid contributions of the volunteers. Generally, recognition of their efforts is confined to thanks on the day from grateful runners (which is appreciated), mention in the weekly run reports, and the monthly Volunteer of the Month award.
The following all volunteered at Bramley this year at least 20 times – and those starred were shortlisted for the public vote for Volunteer of the Year:
Carol Ramsden* Jean Hollings* Gemma Rathbone* Lisa Fisher*
Graham Fisher Robin Smith* Paul Bennett* David Semmence*
Simon Cullingworth* David Sullivan Gareth Semmence Philip Ramsden
The votes were counted, scrutinised, verified and double-checked. There were a lot of them.
So drum roll please for the recipient of the magnificent trophy for Volunteer of the Year:
Carol Ramsden – a volunteer who has literally got the T-shirt, Carol has been there since Day 1, invariably at the eponymous corner, whatever the weather, clapping and exhorting runners for their fine efforts, whether they be quick, slow or somewhere in the middle. Carol is a pretty swift runner in her own right, but injured since last November, she continues to put something back into her sport and enjoy the efforts of the rest of us. Awesome!
Many thanks to all those who voted. I must admit, I voted for Carol, but I’m biased.
Junior Runner of the Year had some strong contenders, but there is no doubt that Luke Cullingworth is the worthy winner of the award. It is fair to say Luke is not a fan of early morning starts (if he thinks 9 am is early, wait until he starts working!), but when he does turn up (22 runs), he commits himself entirely, frequently hanging on to everyone’s favourite unofficial pacemaker, Paul Bennett, who himself can take great satisfaction in Luke’s progress.
Pacer of the Year award went to Mike Bradshaw, of Pudsey Pacers, who has been metronomic in his ability to finish within a few seconds of his target time.
Finally, an almost impossible task to decide the Most Improved Runner of the Year. You might think it’s just about who has knocked off most minutes from their time, and that is obviously a key factor. But when you’re a relative youngster, you have great potential for improvement, and that diminishes over the years. PBs come thick and fast in your twenties, less often later in life. So, for not just improving his PB by 16’ 48” minutes in the last year, but for also notching up 7 PBs in 30 runs, and with consistent performance and attendance, despite both knees strapped up, the award goes to our very own ‘Go Granpda’, Tim Lyles.
Apparently there are no prizes for Shirt of the Year (me) or Pose of the Year (Will Cullingworth, so unconcerned about losing a few seconds off his time, he danced his way to the line)…
One other person possibly taken for granted who adds much to the parkrun experience is Simon Cullingworth, our valued photographer. I estimate Simon has published around 12,000 images this past year, some of which have graced the national parkrun pages, and also the Leeds Face photographic exhibition. Few of us will have escaped the attention of his lens and it is an encouragement to smile, wave or attempt to levitate whenever we come into range. Great work, Simon!
Thanks to everyone who has supported the Bramley parkrun one way or another – the volunteers, the runners, those who spread the word, those who support the runners by giving them a lift or time to run, and Head Office. I hope the wind is forever at your back and you all get PBs next year.
And don’t forget your bar code!
Philip & Team Bramley