A two-hour round-trip for a 5k run isn't perhaps the most efficient use of time and petrol but this morning, I was really excited about the chance to run Cheltenham parkrun. My home parkrun, Marlborough Common, was cancelled whilst the circus is in town. As a member of the core team, I volunteer most weeks so I was thrilled to take the opportunity to do some parkrun touristing. My dad grew up in Cheltenham and his side of the family still live there. This weekend was my aunt's birthday, so the timing was perfect!
Right from the start, I was struck at how friendly Cheltenham parkrun is. It also has loos, which automatically endears a run location to my heart (and my bowels). I introduced myself to the jolly Run Director, listened to the first-timer briefing and then followed the crowd to the start. With 582 runners today, the field was over three times the size of our little event, but I was struck at the sense of community. The Run Director briefing was fast and funny (I shall be stealing many of his lines for the next time I'm let loose on the microphone). Visitors were welcomed from near and far (York and Washington DC being the furthest). The epic Rachel Fargher celebrated her 250th parkrun by being crammed into a silly hat for a photo. Fabulous stuff. And then, without further ado, we all lined up, got counted down and we were off.
I thoroughly enjoyed running the Cheltenham course. Pittville Park is pretty and I loved the mix of grass, trail and pavement. We'd been warned that the start would be crowded and it was indeed, but that stopped me dashing off too fast and dying in the final mile. The marshals were friendly and encouraging and the weather was pretty much perfection!
The thing I most loved was the kids out running this morning. A little boy in a buggy chanted 'Go. Faster. Go. Faster' as his dad ran as hard as he could behind him. A young girl ran strongly along in a fabulous running outfit that I was a bit jealous of. A boy politely thanked every marshal as he ran past. A little girl skipped gaily along, hand in hand with her dad. One of the things I most love about parkrun is the way it encourages children to get active and to embrace running, and the magic of parkrun was in full force this morning.
I was pretty chuffed with my (unremarkable) finish time even if I didn't get to ring the PB bell. And, having quickly changed my clothes and dried my hair under a hand-dryer so as to not scare my elegant aunt, I headed over to see my family, drink coffee and eat shortbread.
If you want some stats, there were 582 parkrunners this morning. There were 109 PBs, 62 first-timers and 39 fabulous volunteers. As a regular volunteer, I promise that volunteering can be even more joyful than running, so if you've never volunteered, I'd really recommend you give it a go. Speak to any volunteer next week for more information.
I thoroughly enjoyed my parkrun at Cheltenham this morning. Thanks so much for having me! Please do come and visit us any time at Marlborough, we'd love to see you.