As a slower runner, I'm no stranger to completing a parkrun next to a friendly volunteer in a bright orange vest. However, up until recently, that was something that had always happened by accident rather than design. Having been temporarily banned from running by my physio, I decided to walk the entire course from start to finish. After all, I had already committed to my travel arrangements and walking at parkrun is something that parkrun HQ have started promoting more and more. But what was it really like at the back of the field?
Well, it felt very strange walking as soon as the timekeepers had started the stopwatches - usually, rightly or wrongly, it's a bit of a mad sprint until I fall into my natural pace. Walking is something I had only ever done reluctantly and always as part of a doggedly determined run/walk combo. The runners immediately began disappearing into the distance and I wasn't chasing after them. However, as we all know, parkrun is a run, not a race...
Walking at the back, oh, it's definitely not a race. You know from the second the stopwatches start ticking, you have no hope of taking P001. Whilst you might not be a top-10 runner, whenever you start running, there's always a little voice inside who believes it's a real possibility, no matter how distant. When you walk? That voice meekly shuts up. Walking reframes parkrun in a very different way.
"They" say you should always run at a pace at which you're comfortable talking - I've not sure who "they" are, but I've never quite managed that. Walking though, it's easy to have a natter with the person next to you. And as well as merrily chatting to another parkrunner, you have time to take in the view. Let's not forget how gorgeous the green spaces of Durham are, and how lucky we are to share the use of them. Taking it easy lets you gaze at the beautiful scenery and really appreciate it.
You also have time to say thank you to the wonderful marshals for supporting you - let's face it, usually when running at full pelt, the best most of us can manage is a sort of half-wave and mumble. Although the marshals always know what we mean, I'm sure sometimes it's nice to hear the actual words in our heads verbalised properly - "thank you, marshal." Walking at parkrun certainly gives you a different perspective and I'm glad I came along despite the injury!
At the opposite end of the results table, well done to local tourist Ryan WILLIAMS from Newcastle for finishing in first place with a fantastic PB of 18:21 on his first return visit to Durham parkrun. There were another 56 other runners to achieve PBs including Emma PIASECKI, who crept under 30 minutes for the first time with a fantastic time of 29:40 and her 6th consecutive PB. Ellie WICKS also managed the elusive first-time sub-30 with a PB of 28:50, knocking a whopping 2:37 off her previous time. Another shout out goes to Rachel BOAL who achieved an all-time PB with 24:50 - sub-25, very well done, Rachel!
Congratulations to Laura JENNINGS and Karl EDMENSON for completing their 100th parkrun - fantastic achievement. David ARNOTT ran his 200th - not an official milestone, but definitely one worth celebrating too. Terrific work.
And let's not forget the 47 other first-timers at Durham parkrun, (I was number 48!) including the 18 individuals who joined the parkrun family by completing their first ever adult parkrun. The difference in age between the youngest and oldest first-timer was more than five decades, proving parkrun is for everyone. You're all amazing! We hope you come back next week now you know how much fun it is.
28 other volunteers helped make this event happen:
Andy BIGGS • Colin EVERSON • John HUTCHINSON • Audrey CHRISTIE • Ken BRADSHAW • Conrad WHITE • Yvonne COLLINGHAM • Richard JACKSON • John ROBSON • Carla CLARKE • Isabelle BRADSHAW • Michael WADE • Simon GRAHAM • Steve FARROW • Gary COULTER • Harriet PRITCHARD • Lesley HAMILL • Jill YOUNG • Janet TELFORD • Peter TELFORD • Deborah TAYLOR • Georgette CLARKE • Andrew CAREY • Felicity BREET • Jacob HIOM • Annie LOPEZ • John CRAGGS • Alex LATHAM
Not included in that list is Billy the barkrunner, who deserves an honourable mention for keeping Rosemary FINN and me company at the back with Felicity BREET. Is there anything better than a tail walker with an actual tail? I think not. Many thanks, Billy!
If you want to help make the magic happen next week, or indeed in any future week, (dog optional!) just let the event team know by emailing email@example.com details of when you're free and your athlete number (the number on your personal barcode). It's lots of fun, really easy and a great way to ensure that Durham parkrun continues to successfully take place each week.
Many thanks for the warm welcome, Durham. From London with love!