Home Sweet Home
It was the Bushy parkrun 13th anniversary Run Report which sparked it all off for us… 80 parkrunners making the trip from Ireland to the spiritual home of parkrun this weekend. We had shared the said run report on our Tralee parkrun Facebook page at the time and it was read by Caroline Lynch, Event Director here in Tralee for our junior parkrun event. Late one Friday night Caroline read it, got a "light bulb moment", which was followed by an excited message to me (Siobhán) “How about we make the trip to Bushy parkrun in London?” went the message... needless to say it wasn’t hard to twist my arm.
The word quickly spread, most people couldn’t resist the temptation, Michael O'Leary came on board offering us great deals on flights, the Travelodge in Teddington was recommended to us by the very helpful Bushy parkrun core team and before you could say “don’t forget your barcode” we had lots and lots of our Tralee parkrunners signed up and raring to go.
Here they come!
And so eighty of us from Tralee, joined by more from Bere Island parkrun and other good friends we have made along the way, lined up at the monumental Bushy parkrun start line. As we walked to the start line with Don & Sue, who we adopted as our hosts for the trip, a volunteer remarked it was like a scene from the Olympics, with Michael Nix draped in the tricolour!
We were joined by a thousand or so other parkrunners but of course this event like every other parkrun event in the world could not go ahead without the outstanding team of volunteers who brought it all together, and what a massive team it takes to make Bushy parkrun tick over every week!
What struck us about the organisation of today's event was the calm, no fuss approach from early this morning when we arrived in the park at 8.30am to declare our presence as volunteers to write the report, to the well planned funnels that make up the Bushy parkrun finish area, to the way they involved all in the café for token sorting (including some of our own from Tralee).
So huge thanks to the following 71 (!) volunteers, they can all take a bow:
Alan NOLAN-DAVIES - Alex TICKELL - Alish MARCHANT - Amy ROBERTSON - Andrew HOWARTH - Andrew John WINGATE - Anna SAVILL - Belinda BATEMAN - Carolyn COOPER-BURROWS - Carolyn FOSTER - Catelin LE FRANC - Dave ELLIS - Denise MITCHELL - Diane MULLEN - Dominic HALLAHAN - Edie PROUD - Ellie WALLWORK - Emer LARDNER - Emma HAWKEY - Emma WINGATE - Ethan MULLEN - Ethan SCOTT - Fiona MCANENA - Freya MORRISON - Hannah ROBERTSON - Ivor HUGHES - Jack KENNEDY - John P WOODS - Jonathan DICKINSON - Joseph MILLS - Jude BENNETT - Julie SMITH - Ken PEARSON - Krysia SMITH - Lorraine DILLAMORE - Louise ATKINSON - Luca DEACON - Lucy KATESMARK - Lydia PIEROS - Madeline THOMAS - Malcolm J TAYLOR - Matt PARKER - Mila BOKONJIC - Minnie KENNEDY - Niamh ALLERTON - Niamh LYONS - Nicole RIEHL - Octavie VARGAS - Pablo URDIALES ANTELO - Phil BLUER - Philip J MARSH - Ray FRANKS - Rebecca SAVAGE - Rebecca THOMAS - Richard BULKLEY - Richard MATTHEWS - Robert MOREY - Rosie VAUGHAN - Sam CHAU - Sharon LYONS - Simon R - Siobhan KEARNEY - Susan HOWARTH - Tabitha WODDIS - Tim BOWDEN - Timothy JACOB - Tony HIGGINS - Tracey LENTHALL - Verity RIDING - Wendy STOKES - Zoe Alison FAIZ
Like all parkruns Bushy parkrun are always recruiting for volunteers. Volunteering at parkrun is the best way of meeting lots of people and making new friends. All jobs are straight forward and full training is given on the morning at 8.30am. You can contact the lovely Pat McGrath at firstname.lastname@example.org and he’ll add you to the parkrun volunteer roster.
Unfortunately the rain may have curtailed some of you from donning your running shoes, however it could not dampen the spirits of the 1070 walkers, joggers and runners who did turn up to run the one lap that makes up Bushy parkrun. After the briefing from Run Director Andy, we took off. Running in Bushy was a new experience for both of us run report writers, we were among the 179 first-timers - including 40 who had never completed a parkrun before.
Another Tralee parkunner commented how much she liked it; the muck from the recent rain, the unexpected terrain, the mole hills, the sightings of the deer and even some squirrels, were all enjoyed.
We were lucky today to have pacers on board with us. I (Siobhán) ran with the 27 minute pacer who gave a running commentary on the route, our pace and generally helpful advice about the run. I also enjoyed chatting to those around me including a lady whose daughter was volunteering at the finish line.
Sam was minding Elisabeth's place this week
The pacer also showed us the tree underneath which the now famous Elisabeth sits and marshals, but sadly for us Tralee tourists Elisabeth was nowhere to be found in the park this weekend (more on that later!) Sam had taken her marshalling spot number five this week!
The pacers also helpfully pointed out the "4k tree", a sight for sore eyes (sore legs!) for those of us (Tony!) at the back of the big pack.
Over a hundred runners recorded personal best times this week. Of course, the Tralee and Bere Island runners were all first-timers, but this run is worth remembering as the first sub-20 minute run for two of our juniors, Luke O'Callaghan and Oisin Murray. Notable too was 10 year old Darragh Cahill's performance, he finished the run in an astonishing time of 22.02 achieving an impressive age grade of 74.21%. 80 different clubs were represented today.
First men home were Jonathan Cornish, Callum Gillett and Andrius Jakesevicius and first women home, Poppy Craig McFeely, Rosy Gross, and Isabel Livesey. Scoring the magical 80%-plus age-grade were and Andrius Jakesevicius, Justin Reid, and Patrick McDougall. All the detailed results can be seen here.
Our trip included a contingent of our friends from Bere Island, who have made us welcome on several occasions, and a smattering of other honorary TPOTs (that’s Tralee parkrunners On Tour). To all the Bushy regulars - if (when?) you're coming to Ireland you know you will be made very welcome to visit us at Tralee parkrun, why not extend your stay to take in the iconic off-shore Bere Island parkrun too (Edel's baking skills rival those of Carol and Ann!)
We had Don and Sue Esslemont, who were even wearing Tralee apricot shirts, from nearby Banstead Woods parkrun. Don and Sue had visited us last year while on holiday in Kerry and greeted us when we arrived in Teddington. They were our hosts for this trip and ensured we made it to Bushy parkrun in plenty of time on Saturday morning as well as being on hand at all times to help out and assist in any way they could to help make our trip go according to plan.
Sharon Boland, a renowned parkrun tourist, who has visited Tralee several times on her tour of nearly 100 different parkruns. She brought along a few of her fellow Rebel Runners.
And Jurgen Foley, who loves parkrun but lives in (as yet uncolonised) Switzerland. Jurgen is half-Swiss, half-Irish, but all parkrun, and we met him recently when he was home in his native Newcastle West. A chat over post-parkrun coffee enticed him (with is wife Rasia) to travel all the way from Switzerland to London - on his birthday - to join us on this pilgrimage. He would love to be involved in bringing parkrun to his home country! And we had other friends and relatives who travelled from other parts of the UK and Ireland, including Tony's sister Ann and her husband Cathal, who joined us with their children Hugh & Siobhán from Griffeen parkrun in Dublin.
Of course, we were not the only tourists in Bushy this week, a visit to parkrun Mecca is a must for every dedicated parkrunner.
What an amazing welcome we received from all the team at Bushy from those who sought us out and welcomed us personally to the wonderful bakers who delighted us with the truly delicious Irish-themed cupcakes and biscuits all happily polished off by us at the finish line as we chatted and mingled with our fellow parkrunners.
There were the most amazing Shamrock Shortbread and Celtic Cupcakes. There was an ovation at the briefing.
And there was a mention of our own Monica Dillane, who denied herself the pleasure of running at our parkrun for the last month (she volunteered instead) to celebrate her 50th run today.
Monica was Tralee’s only official milestone runner today, but we did have two doing an equally significant milestone, their first parkrun! Annamarie O’Flaherty has been watching her children doing parkruns and junior parkruns for the last year or more, and finally took the plunge herself today. And Sophie Mulgrew, age 6, was our youngest TPOT, she has been watching her parents and older sisters doing the same and has now joined their ranks!
We are not used to seeing "250" T-shirts in Tralee, just wearing one guarantees celebrity status in our Town Park! And so imagine how awed we were to see the huge number of "500" and "250" shirts adorning the Bushy runners - and over 250 runners were somewhere between their 100th and 250th runs, so black "100" shirts were positively common! Three were hitting the century this week - Keith Allchurch, Jessica Hart and Emma Hazou. Jessica and Emma are Bushy regulars, Emma a "passionista" having done all her runs here. Keith, like Monica, picked a very special parkrun for a special milestone!
And there were three more celebrating the half-century, Anri Cohen, Matthew Hirschler and Kay Kapsalis.
We were entertained all the way by our fellow runners, but we brought our own entertainment as well, in the imposing shape of our travelling juggler, Malachy Kelly! It was the first time Malachy has juggled on a course he does't know, no mean feat with all the other runners and the muddy terrain! Sometimes Malachy does our parkrun on stilts - but never juggling and stilts together... yet!
Every one of our runners had a story to tell, someone they ran alongside who welcomed or encouraged them. A story about Bushy park, or about the parkrun, or a question about our parkrun. Here's just a few personal stories from some of our parkrunners about their experiences at Bushy...
"People were so lovely, on our way round lots of people talked to us... a lovely runner with a 250 T-shirt (maybe Tracy?) told us about the historical connection to Dwight D. Eisenhower - she showed us the spot where he planned the D-Day Landings, another runner told us about the parakeets which my son Hugh spotted, and Kirsty (wearing her 500 T-shirt!) showed us the famous Bushy parkrun Tree, and showed us her engagement ring which was cast on a twig from the tree ... the lady who made the ring was just in front of us in the finish chute too !! We scoffed the delicious shamrock cookies and cakes made for us and felt so welcome... my daughter Siobhán got a pb !
I was very impressed that a run so large could have such a feeling of community... I never imagined that it could be so personal."
"What a blast!!!! What an event!!!! The encouragement and camaraderie was phenomenal. I loved the slipping and sliding in the muck. (Not!). Huge congrats to Luke for being first Tralee runner home and to Oisín for also achieving a PB. No better place to achieve it. Five Tralee runners under 20 mins. Fantastic achievement. And... yes... Bushy parkrun provided me with not one but three tree stumps to rest my weary limbs. And for once nobody managed to get a photo of me. We certainly left our mark on a wonderful occasion. All the locals were totally aware of who we were. Many many thanks to everybody who got involved (too many to mention)."
"Seany and I also met a woman sorting the tokens at the end and she had entered the Rose of Tralee heats years ago... she would love to come to Tralee... we told her that we would have the sash ready!"
"On behalf of the Bere Island group we would like to thank all the Bushy parkrunners for their great welcome for us and for their friendliness to all of us yesterday and today. We all enjoyed the trip and meeting Paul is always great. It was fantastic to see how the biggest parkrun in the world works its funnels and token system. It was amazing. Everyone was buzzing at the end. parkrun is definitely not just about running but it is about bringing people together. The group that travelled from Bere Island are all friends because of parkrun and it was fantastic to travel with them all and enjoy a meal last night together. On the start line I met a man who saw our Bere Island T-shirts and told us that his grandmother is buried on Bere Island and he wants to go there to find her grave. Small world."
"The Cahills, Emer and I were looking for the cafe after the run, when a guy who was getting on his bike, overheard us and offered to walk us there. He walked us over, pushing his bike, offering tips to the Cahills on what to do for the rest of the weekend. He didn't even come in for the coffee. His good deed for the day."
"33 min pacer & his daughter were fabulous! Had a lovely chat with them going round. He was very curious about all the Irish gang & was very welcoming!
Great day, thanks for organising."
"Thanks to everyone for the pilgrimage to the Mecca of parkrun... it was great day with a lot of highlights... excellent organization and military precision... special thanks to Don and Bushy parkrun team for the warm welcome and nice cupcakes."
- ME (and he's been to the real Mecca!)
Run report writers Tony and Siobhan .. enjoying the treats from the wonderful
Bushy parkrun volunteers. Thanks guys.
"Our Pat" meets "Your Pat" - two parkrun legends!
After the parkrun was over and even after all the delicious home baking, we still made our way escorted by Pat McGrath, to the Pheasantry café for chat, and some hot drinks to warm us all up.
If you’re a Kerryman or woman living in Tralee, it’s easy to meet your heroes. You might meet them walking down the street or behind the counter in the bank. You’ll certainly meet a few at our parkrun most weeks.
Not so easy if you’re a Corkman living in Kerry, still worse if you hail all the way from Donegal!
At this stage in our lives, it’s unlikely we'll meet Kevin Keegan, Billy Connolly or Mo Farah. What chance have we of meeting real heroes?
In October 2015 we both had the good fortune to meet Paul Sinton-Hewitt at the inaugural Tramore Valley parkrun in Cork. We were still relatively new at this parkrun game, less than a year on the go in Tralee, but we still knew he was a hero to us.
In the last few years, it has become even more apparent to us how much of an effect PSH and parkrun have had on our lives, as he has on countless others', physically, socially and mentally.
And so it was a great privilege for us to meet him again in Bushy Park, the home of parkrun. Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to come meet us, for joining us for coffee afterwards, for the friendly words and the photos. All way above the call of duty and greatly appreciated by each and every one of us from Tralee and Bere Island and beyond.
At some stage in most Run Reports there’s a bit of "number crunching". We have been doing a bit of analysis and we have come to a conclusion. Paul, you’ve a big problem.
Well over four million people have now signed up for parkrun. For one reason or another, some of those never actually do a parkrun. And unbelievably, a good chunk of those who do their first parkrun don’t come back for another. But of the rest, we are pretty sure that everyone, like the 100 from Tralee and Bere Island today, would love to buy PSH a pint. That’s, say, an even million pints. We don’t know how old Paul is, we just know that last week Tony joined him in his parkrun age-category, which is all that really matters. He’s in better shape than Tony (Tonys words!), so let’s assume he’s going to be around for another 50 years. Paul, that’s 55 pints a day, seven days a week! How do you keep running?
There were very few disappointments in Bushy park, but we couldn’t help being disappointed to have missed out on meeting Elisabeth at Marshal Point 5 at the Sandy Lane gate. Of course we all knew about her, thanks to Paul Killick’s lovely tribute (we met him too, in his lovely "500" shirt!). Not to be deterred, we brazenly called to see her - the attendant at the Care Home might have been taken aback, but Elisabeth certainly wasn't and took it all in her stride! We were delighted to be granted an audience with this parkrun hero. What a beautiful person.
We got a very warm welcome from Bushy parkrun honorary marshal Elisabeth.
I’m sorry Mr. Sinton-Hewitt CBE, but this is our favourite of the many hundreds of photographs of this memorable weekend. And we will not easily forget the moment when an 80-something year old lady asked us: "Can we get a quick selfie?"
There is an old adage, often quoted. They say "Never meet your heroes. You might be disappointed." The old proverb could not be more wrong. Bushy is not just the home of parkrun, it is its very heart.
Happy parkrunning everyone until next time.
Siobhán Kearney ( Event Director) & Tony Higgins (parkrun Ambassador)