What am I doing here? Thoughts of a Conkers parkrun non-runner

Conkers parkrun #441 was a pleasantly cool one, after a number of rather warm ones recently. This week 563 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 57 were first timers and 85 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 33 different clubs took part. Seran Bradley was your Run Director.

This week’s fastest male runner was Richard Martin, with a time of 18 minutes and 14 seconds, followed by Alex Benfield, with a time of 18 minutes and 24 seconds.We had a number of milestones this week. Nikki Reeves completed her 250th event, timed with her 100th volunteer - she paced 25mins; a fantastic double achievement, Nikki. Ross Ballinger marked off his 200th run, and Jessica Sturgess and Ross Clarke marked his 100th. Deb Holmes, and Megan Mcerleon completed their 50th. We also had juniors completing their 10th event.  Lilia Beresford (marking hers with a new PB), Joseph Moloney and Lewis Weinman. Well done to everyone.

This week’s fastest female runner was Sally Higgs with a new PB of 19 minutes and 36 seconds. Hollie Elliot, completing the Conkers parkrun for the very first time, was second female home with a time of 20 minutes and 47 seconds,

No PB for me today, but I was absurdly thrilled to complete the course in 36 minutes and one second, after a few weeks walking while recovering from illness. It’s still minutes faster than the first time I ran the course. A few weeks ago, during the friendly chitchat before the parkrun started, a lady asked me “How long have you been running for?” I looked at her blankly and said “Oh, I don’t run”.  That is not strictly true-I actually do run if I might just catch the 07.34 train to Birmingham New Street, when the alternative is waiting for the 07:50 train. But otherwise the only time I move with any degree of rapidity is the Conkers parkrun. So that got me to thinking, why do people come to Conkers parkrun for the first time? And what keeps them coming?

I’d always assumed parkrun was for people who run-after all the clue is in the name. I came for the first time on Christmas Day 2018 because my daughter needed a lift. It was too cold to sit in my car. Perfectly logical-but why did I come back? I was pleased to find out that I could jog 5K, wondered if I could improve on my time, and was totally blown away by the amazing community atmosphere, the marshals who told me (with apparent sincerity) that I was doing well, the military organisation, and the fact that everyone was having fun at this fabulous, completely free event. I still thought that everyone else was probably a runner though.  So, for this week’s run report, I thought I’d ask around. Here’s what I found out (apologies for any and all mis-spelled names).

Penny

Penny is one of this week’s High Viz heroes, providing the briefing for new runners. Thank you, Penny! Penny first went to a parkrun because she was staying with a friend who did it and thought she might as well go along. She walked that first time and then decided to come locally. She prefers Conkers parkrun to any other because it is so friendly.

Jen

Everyone knows Jen-queen of the volunteer roster, making sure week after week that everyone else has an enjoyable, safe, impeccably organised run. This week she was also one of our two timekeepers (this looks like a horrifyingly responsible role-but I’m assured that if you would like to try it, you will be given full support and training). Jen first went on a parkrun because her Facebook friend regularly posted parkrun pictures. Intrigued, she googled parkrun, found the parkrun website, discovered Conkers parkrun was on her doorstep and started coming. Sadly, Jen cannot run anymore because of a knee injury but she comes as Volunteer in Chief because she loves the community spirit. And, apparently, because she feels she is skiving if she isn’t here on a Saturday morning. Jen is always looking out for more volunteers to fill her rota, especially over the summer. There are even roles which mean you can still run (like writing the run report. Why not give it a go!). A huge thank you to Jen!

Ken

Ken held up the 35 minutes plus sign for the run today. Thank you, Ken! I was excited to hear that Ken, like me, had hated running as a child, and also sometimes asks himself “What am I doing here?”. He first came to Conkers parkrun because running 5K was on his bucket list. He keeps coming because of the community spirit and because he feels there is something very special about Conkers parkrun.

Claire and daughter Catherine (aged 2.5 years)

Claire is one of those runners that I look at every week in awe-because they run not only with a buggy but also with a child in that buggy-no mean feat up Cheeky Hill! Claire first came to parkrun because she liked the fact that there was a route with a measured, specified distance. She keeps coming because Catherine loves it and urges her on.

Paul and son Adam (aged 10)

Adam started doing the parkrun with Mum, Sarah. But then he found his pace a little, ahem, restrictive, (this is no slight to Sarah as Adam’s PB is an enviable 21 minutes and 40 seconds) and asked his Dad Paul to step up. Paul keeps coming because Adam wants to keep coming. But when pressed, he admitted that he would probably keep coming anyway when Adam hits the magic age of 11 because he wants to keep improving his PB. Oh, and because of the community atmosphere of course.

(Another) Penny

Penny first came to Conkers parkrun because she joined a Couch to 5K group who did the parkrun as the culmination of their training. She keeps coming because she loves Conkers parkrun because of the atmosphere, wants to chip time off her PB and to feel good.

(Fun fact: before I started coming to parkrun, I hadn’t seen Penny, a friend of a friend, since we graduated from Cardiff University in 1991. Despite the intervening years we still recognised each other).

Nikki

Nikki was celebrating a tremendous double milestone of 250 runs and 100 volunteers-an inspiration to all of us. Thank you, Nikki!  Nikki started coming to parkrun in 2011 because she had just started running and thought she’d give it a try. She made friends, joined South Derbyshire runners, and started running marathons. Nikki keeps coming to parkrun for the general friendliness, and because it’s better than lying in bed on a Saturday morning.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing and shoes

Nikki on her 250th parkrun/100th Volunteer!

Conclusion

There you have it, folks-there are lots of reasons why people come to parkrun for the first time; some even come by accident like me. But without exception, everyone keeps coming back to Conkers parkrun because of the friendly, community atmosphere. See you all next week.

A big thank you to this week’s 35 volunteers:

Steve EDGAR • Janet POTTER • Nikki Aka Tigger REEVES • Chris OSBORNE • Douglas COURTNEY • Jenny COURTNEY • Laurence KINGSCOTT • Jennifer CROSS • Seran Catherine BRADLEY • Lyndsey HILL • Chris HANMAN • Mary SHARP • Ollie THURBON • Karl PHILLIPSON • Tracy EDGAR • Thomas HILL • Chris POTTS • Steve PICKERING • Iris STURDY • Clare PICKERING • Nigel PICKEN • Penny MARSDEN • Ruth BOAM • Mic STEPHENSON • Katie DENNIS • Chris ELSEGOOD • Sarah BOWEN • Maureen DANVERS • Marie CHAPMAN • Matt CHAPMAN • Sam CHAPMAN • Kenneth ASHTON • Naomi EARL • Richard SMITH • Mark SMITH • Fraser CRICHTON