Didcot parkrun Report #243, 25th December 2019 by Daniel Connolly
All I want for Christmas…
For two days a year parkrun HQ gives parkruns the chance to put on an additional run. So depending on park availability and very importantly VOLUNTEERS offering a little time to help out their parkrun family, Christmas Day and New Year's Day see extra parkruns.
Running a parkrun on Christmas Day has now become something of a family tradition (and it seems from all the attendance records and high numbers that it isn’t just my family that loves a parkrun start on Christmas Day) - in fact many years ago my wife ran her first ever 30 minute parkrun on Christmas Day (even when dressed as a Mrs Claus!). A free 5km parkrun is a great start to the holiday and as the parkrun tourist bug has really infected me since 2016 I had to run at a new event!
The problem being that after running well over a hundred different events, all local events have been completed so a good drive is required. Luckily, I had kept a couple of ‘nearby events’ as a back-up, saved for if I ever wake up late and still feel the burning desire for a new parkrun venue that is within an hour ish drive.
Unlike a normal parkrun day - where as a family we spend a long time after a parkrun chatting to runners and then enjoying a rather leisurely coffee (or even better full breakfast or cake - we aren't that fussy!) in the cafe afterwards - Christmas Day cafes are closed but then most need to be home fairly promptly to prepare or eat a Christmas Lunch. With the recent wet weather causing many course cancellations due to flooding and water logged courses, I was too nervous to risk my first parkrun option. Reading the excellent Facebook postings on resting the course for Christmas Day and the need for an extra marshal or two, Didcot became my venue of choice.
Popping the postcode into the SatNav we soon arrived at the carpark - just after 8am! I do like to arrive early just in case finding the start from the car parkring is tricky - no need to worry as a very kind volunteer had already attached the neon ‘To the start’ sign to the fence and a host of festive volunteers had gathered to collect the rest of the necessary equipment - my estimate of travel time made the night before obviously didn't account for less traffic!
A huge advantage of arriving so early was that I got to get a picture of most of the volunteer team - I am sure I will have missed someone from the picture so if I missed you I am very sorry! - and post my thanks onto Twitter. Whilst I may not have had time to chat at the end of the run I made up for it at the start. The bonus for me being that I even managed to grab my favourite volunteer role - Run Report Writer! All the while the rest of the family fully woke up having snored all the way down the M40 and A34; I am glad I didn’t want scintillating conversation!
A huge crowd gathered around this morning's Run Director, Stuart TURNER, to listen to the New Runners briefing as Didcot saw 70 first timers! In fact 9 used their barcode for the first time! Maybe trying to beat the New Year rush or persuaded by keen family parkrunners or maybe a little too much festive spirits on Christmas Eve but whatever the reason a huge WELCOME to:- Alex MARSHALL, Jack TILLING, Bianca GALUKANDE, Miguel LÓPEZ LERENA, Amelia CLARIDGE, Isabel LÓPEZ GARCIA, John WHEELER, Simon TAYLOR & Natalie HODGES, I hope that you enjoyed your first run and that we will see you at many more. I am sure that you will find out that parkrun becomes very addictive; even if you are away from home staying with family over a holiday (or you become a fanatical tourist) if a parkrun is nearby and you have your barcode you don't need to miss out; you can turn up and enjoy the fun.
At the start it was lovely to hear the announcement of milestones; three runners ran their 10th parkrun. For Jenny HEDGES and Laurel SYMONS unfortunately it is purely arbitrary; no special icon on the results or T-shirt - just a mention in my report; however for Ned CHARTRES as a junior it is his first milestone and maybe a white 10 t-shirt. Phillip MCBRIDE & Charlie MARTIN both ran their 50th parkrun so now have a red 50 icon and hopefully t-shirt e-mail on the way. And Sally CULLEN got to run in a black bib to celebrate her 100th parkrun. Well done for reaching those milestones; hopefully in the new year those new shirts will be able to be ordered and you will be able to wear them with pride.
Just after 9am the beep of GPS devices signalled the start of parkrun and 364 parkrunners, ran, jogged or walked the course - the 5th highest number of participants ever at Didcot.
Very quickly over the course of the initial first half lap the runners spread themselves out like brightly coloured tinsel decorating the park, our Hi Viz Heroes, rather than flash like Christmas lights, gave cheery words of encouragement as we passed.
I soon realized that my choice of running outfit - a rather fetching Santa Onsie that was recognised by another tourist from Bicester parkrun last Christmas - may have kept me delightfully warm at the start (despite the slight breeze) meant that it wasn't just the turkey that was being roasted. Faux fur, felt and cotton are not normally an athlete's first choice of clothing for good reason. I soon had rosy red cheeks just like the big man himself!
For many weeks now I have been on the injury bench, but have still taken part at parkrun - normally accompanying the tail walker around! However with my knee now on the mend I am building back up my running. Run 5mins, walk 2! Although way off my normal pace it is great to finally be returning to running rather than my Garmin putting events down as gentle cardio! Being lapped was very much to be expected as you run the 1km loop 3 times. I was barely starting my second lap when faster runners shot past - making the slippery conditions look easy. Resting the course on the previous Saturday proved to be very sensible as even with less rain it was definitely wet underfoot with the potential to churn up. Marshals placed at each of the turns gave cheery encouragement as well as warnings to take care where it was slippery.
My lack of running fitness from weeks of enforced rest made me glad I had got the run report so I could offer my heartfelt thanks to all those on the course as I could barely gasp at them let alone give a proper thank you - even when I lumbered past on one of my walk breaks!
So on behalf of myself, my family and the other 360 runners a huge THANK YOU to:- Anna SHANNON • Caja JENNINGS • Celia WILSON • Chris MARTIN • Claire SHORROCK • Karen SPACKMAN • Kath GREENWOOD • Naomi ACKROYD • Naomi CLARK • Neil SALMONS • Paul HOBBS • Rachel KENNEDY • Rachel SALMONS • Robert HILLS • Selina STILES • Simon JENNINGS • Stuart TURNER • Sue HENDERSON • Sue JENNINGS who made this event possible. As with parkruns around the world if you fancy giving scanning a go, fancy being the time keeper, marshalling and encouraging others or are happy to help out in any role please look on the roster and e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
As I slogged my way around the field for the 2nd time looking very much like Bambi on ice at the muddier points, Abingdon AC’s Jack SHAYLER (SM20-24) was hurtling along the other side of the hedge on the outward section to take the first finish token in 17:17. Trafford AC’s Vicki CRONIN (SW25-29) finished in 11th overall in a time of 19:11 to be first lady home. Another Abingdon AC runner Paul Matthew FERNANDEZ (VM45-49) finished in 7th, in a time of 18:16 but with this week’s highest age grading of 77.65%. Wow speedy running.
Despite this being a busy day for Didcot and a moist field 17 parkrunners saw those wonderful words on their results text today - New PB so well done:- Tosin AKINSOLA, Jun MCCAW, Callum STACEY, Christopher BOULTON, Samantha BORRETT, Laurel SYMONS, Philippa SAYERS, Amy PORTER, Lydia HOLMES, Chris MORGAN, Victoria SHEPHERD, Emma BAGHURST, Ciara WILDER, Stephen SADLER,Alan COWAN, Matthew LOCK & Pauline BRADLEY.
As the volunteers closed down the course and packed the course away ready for another week I directed my family back to the car for another nap as I drove home, pleased that my Christmas got off to such a lovely start. Thank you to everyone at Didcot for being so welcoming and friendly.
Daniel Connolly (A58845)