Guest run report – Saturday 8th September, by Anita Watkins

What a lovely warm welcome I got from Darlington South Park parkrun this morning!

I’m visiting from the south coast for the Great North Run tomorrow.  I was born in Sedgefield, and it has been a great opportunity to catch up with family but I couldn’t miss my regular parkrun fix.  First impressions were that South Park is very pretty and much bigger than my local Hotham Park in Bognor Regis.  I exchanged good mornings with a few before joining the parade for the first timers briefing.  All of the important points were very clearly explained, including where to leave my sweatshirt during the run.  I was only slightly worried at the mention of Squirrel Hill.

I’d arrived planning a very gentle outing, maybe run/walking to stretch my legs after a long drive and too many hours on motorways, then Lee’s run brief mentioned that there was a 35 minute pacer today.  Just for context I haven’t run a 35 minuteparkrun for AGES!  ‘Just one lap with the pacer’, I thought to myself – then I’ll take it easy ready for tomorrow.

I set off with pacer Michael’s entourage and managed to avoid my usual trick of losing my pacer within the first 30 seconds!  Running past the aviary brought back some childhood memories, and the railway tracks are much more impressive than our miniature railway in Hotham Park.  Then there was the lovely slightly, but definitely, downhill stretch to ease into.  Then after a straight came Squirrel Hill.  It may not be long, but it is a bit vicious!

At the end of the first lap I was pleased to see I was still keeping pace with Michael, just a little bit further then - I won’t be able to keep up for much longer!  It was nice hearing times called out by one lovely marshal on the course.  Michael explained that that was the halfway mark for each lap, and his encouragement meant that I did not drop my pace as I’d expected.  He was telling me about his experience of the Great North Run, and because I wanted to hear more I stuck with him a bit further.

At the end of the second lap I was still on 35 minute pace.  When we got round the corner to the downhill stretch I decided that I was now committed to seeing this pacing lark through to the end.  I stepped out a little bit to take advantage of the extra gravity and pulled a bit ahead of pacer Michael.  My thinking was if I can get a bit ahead I might be able to hang on up Squirrel Hill!

Every step of the last half lap I expected to see Michael coming past me, but I managed to hang in there up Squirrel Hill and past the monument, then into the finish funnel for my fastest 5K in quite a while.

I pottered around for a while taking pictures and chatting to a few fellow parkrunners over coffee and a well earned bacon roll, it turns out there are a few of us running GNR tomorrow (who’d have thought it!!