Thank you to everybody for providing feedback on the course changes. As Event Directors, Phoenix, Mark and myself have given the changes a great deal of thought, time, and consideration. In particular we needed to consider the sale and development of Braunstone Hall and the effect on parkrun, as well as the growing number of runners.
The purpose of this is to outline why there was a need to change the course and how things will move forward.
Over recent weeks at what is now the old start, it had become increasingly congested with a large number of runners in a small space between the start line and the green gate posts. This has meant that when the run started, runners were spilling onto to grass verges and chopping and changing direction, at the same time as they were going uphill and round a bend. Clearly the safest place to run at the start is on the path, where you have got a reasonably smooth surface as oposed to uneven grass.
I have had a large number of runners comment to me that the start had become difficult to negotiate and then was congested for the first 3-400 metres.
In addition, we are about to enter a period where our numbers grow and this would only exacerbate the issue.
We discussed moving the start down the finish hill. However this would mean a sharp uphil turn within yards of the start and would make it unsafe.
We discussed moving the start further up the hill, however there would be a trade off with the finishing position.
We moved the start to the current location as there is a larger space to gather. I accept that the path is slightly narrower, however there is a trade off in that the path is better and flatter and allows for the front runners to get away quicker.
The path at the start is marked with posts and tape to encourage runners onto the path as opposed to the grass, we have also created boards so that people can position themselves according to their anticipated finish time prior to the start. I appreciate that for some of you that means it might take 10-15 seconds to cross the line, but this is parkrun not parkrace, and I would ask that you be patient, as this has been done for the safety of all of the participants of Braunstone parkrun.
The balance is between the congestion at the start against a flatter and smoother path which will in part compensate for the slower start.
The ideal finish would be to have a finish funnel.
Due to the location of the old finish and the drop off from the path to the grass verge it was unsafe to create a funnel. We were therefore left with the finish being on the path and marked by cones.
Despite our best efforts this meant that every week, we had runners crossing the line twice, runners not taking a token and runners not staying in their finishing position. This then causes a knock on effect in managing results and dealing with the correspondence that arises when runners feel their time does not reflect what is shown on their watch.
Again, with the anticipated increase in runners action was needed sooner rather than later.
The new start and route has meant that the finish is now in a position where we can have a finishing funnel. Hopefully this will address what I will call finishing token issues.
There may be problem in the winter when that area may get wet, however it will be no worse than the path at the top of the first hill, which does get muddy.
You are on the grass at the finish for about 10 yards of running and 5 yards of walking. As and when it gets wet we will look at it and we do have some flexibility, where we can push the start further forward a few yards and alter the finish accordingly.
I was not involved in the launch of Braunstone parkrun and cannot comment on how the old course was measured. From my own experience and from the feedback from other runners I was not totally convinced that it was the full 5k.
We have therefore measured the course with a surveyors wheel and are confident that it is 5k. We are also taking steps to have the course UKA certificated. For those of you who use a GPS device for running, (as I do) they are not 100% accurate as shown when we did a test run of the new route where we had about ten different distances.
Braunstone parkrun is run totally by volunteers, nobody receives a penny in expenses or otherwise to make sure your run happens every week. Of the 1800 or so people who have run at least once since September 2012, about 120 have volunteered once, with 7 people who have volunteered 20 or more times.
This means that you rely on a small group of people, and whilst your feedback is very welcome I would challenge you to volunteer and see what happens behind the scenes. Particularly if you are in posession of a 50 or 100 club t-shirt and have yet to volunteer.
The changes that we have made have not been done lightly, at every stage we have been very public about our intentions, we had a test run, and undertook course measuring and risk assessment to which everybody was welcome to attend. We also held a volunteers evening with free food to which 35 of the 3500 registered Braunstone parkrunners attended, where we also discussed the changes.
To paraphrase something I heard once, "the best laid plans do not survive contact with the enemy." No matter what we did we were always aware that further amendments would be necessary.
There will be a few weeks where the changes take time to bed in. Tweaks will always be made as we learn something new with every event. The start will remain as it is for at least a few weeks. This will allow us to properly evaluate all aspects of the start and the first 400 metres of the course and make considered changes as opposed to a knee-jerk reaction, which in turn causes further unseen problems.
I will leave you with one thought;
Where else can you get such a great event which is not only free but where you get free stuff?