SAGE words from our resident scientist.

Conkers parkrun non-run run report  -  October 10, 2020

Before I start, it would perhaps help to give some context to this report. Until this September I had spent the best part of forty years teaching science to generations of more or less reluctant students. One of the overriding messages that I tried to drum into them was the importance of precision; not only in terms of the measurements they made but also the language that they used and this has led to me being something of a sophist. I have no idea how many times I have to point out that you don’t “weigh” anything in grams or kilograms as they are measurements of mass. Mass is the amount of stuff (atoms and molecules) that something is made of and is constant throughout the universe. Weight is the effect of gravity on this mass which changes wherever you are. If you want to lose weight it’s easy, just take yourself to the moon or better still to outer space..,. This stickling for the correct use of words seeps into our family life. My daughter insists on asking for peppermint “tea”. I point out there is no such stuff; tea, be it black, green, white or oolong is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis not Mentha piperita, you wouldn’t ask for a herb coffee would you? They are infusions NOT tea.

So you may now be wondering what all this sophism has to do with my non parkrun report. Well last weekend we were watching the London Marathon and they kept breaking off from the race to talk to people who they claimed were some of the 45000 people doing a virtual London Marathon. Well I am sorry but if it is not in London it is not the London Marathon; If I booked a holiday to the Seychelles and had to cancel it because of Covid 19 restrictions and decided to go to Skegness instead, I wouldn’t claim it was a “Seychelles” break just because it was at the same time and I was wearing the same sunglasses and Bermuda shorts!. Now I am not trying to put down those people who got out there and ran. The most I have ever managed is 20 miles and the idea of doing another 6 on top was ludicrous. Not only that but I am sure running the distance on your own without the cheering crowds must have made it much tougher. So hats off to all of them and I am sure the good causes they supported and the people helped by them were doubly grateful when fund raising is so difficult at the moment, and charities are finding it hard to raise the funds they need just to keep going. However, they still did not run the London Marathon. Ah but you say they ran it virtually! Just adding the word virtual in front of something doesn’t make it real. Virtual can be defined as:
“Not physically existing as such but made by software to appear to do so”.

I bet their legs didn’t feel they were running virtually, after 26 miles I am sure it felt all too real. Perhaps if they had been on one of the treadmills they have in America where the screen shows you a POV of a route down the Grand Canyon or around New York as you run with a film of the London Marathon route then they could have run a virtual London Marathon (now there is an idea) but they didn’t.

Where is this all going? This is a non parkrun report and that is the point; it doesn’t matter if you are running 5k round the Conkers course or anywhere else and/or if you are doing it at nine o’clock on a Saturday morning it is still not parkrun and that is what I (and I am sure many others) really miss. Whether you do it for the social interactions; meeting your mates, making new friends etc. or for the health and fitness aspects both physical and mental, or perhaps you do it for the competitive element either against yourself or to beat that old bloke who you see every week and one day you are going to pass him! It may be like me, you just want that next free running top. Whatever the reason we all have a 5 km hole in our lives.

I am sure we were all disappointed with parkrun’s decision to call off their relaunch although I am certain we all understand that the optics just weren’t right. It might not have looked good to be restarting something when infection rates were rising but perhaps in this pause we need to reassess a lot of things. Now I am Male, sixty, have diabetes, high blood pressure, am overweight and have had one heart operation already so I understand what high risk groups are. These conditions also make me very conscious of my mortality and that our time on this planet is strictly limited. To me it is not about how long I live but what I do with the days I have, “Carpe Diem” should be a motto for us all and we seem to have forgotten how important it is.

Life is one big risk, when we go out of our front doors and get into our cars, climb on our bikes or put on our running shoes we don’t know if we are ever going to get home again but we still do it. We click in our seat belts, strap on our helmets and put on our high viz jackets and off we go.

With a vaccine unlikely for at least a year at best and then only available to no more than 50% of the population, we perhaps need to reconsider what our strategy for living with Covid 19 is. I for one would like to get my 500 vest before I “run out of road” and even if you don’t agree with everything I have said I would like you to consider the options. I want to be back at a socially distanced, Covid aware, parkrun as soon as possible because I think the physical, social and mental health benefits easily outweigh all the possible risks and so long as there are enough people ready to volunteer to run the event safely (and that includes mitigating all the risks there have always been) I think that perhaps I am old enough to make the decision to attend myself. I’d love to hear your thoughts, both for and against!

Happy and safe non parkrunning and I hope to see you all again soon.