THE TEST RUN
How to run a parkrun
Turn up. Run. Stay for a coffee and a chat afterwards [optional].
How to set up a parkrun
Friday. Two days to go. Volunteers’ meeting at Crew Club.
Laminated cards are attached to lanyards, roles are allocated, they learn to spell parkrun (alllowercaseoneword) and repeat with religious fervour “it’s a run, not a race”. They check the to-do list and write it again. Marshals are posted in bold, biro’d dots on the route map. Collision Corner gets a little dotty as they wonder at the myriad directions and speeds real runners might take. They talk numbers and wikis and barcodes. And weather and children and dogs. They imagine potholes and mudslides and low hanging trees. And eventually this:
“What do we do if a helicopter lands in the park?”
“Is that likely?”
“Nah. Let’s not worry about for now then.”
Saturday. One day to go. Various locations across Brighton.
At 9am two anoraked people wander across EB Park in the rain. Occasionally they run, or slide or hop repeatedly across puddles as though testing the very ground for worthiness.
At home a lone man scans his barcode obsessively. On three different scanners. There can be no room for error.
Across town a laptop charges, soon to be the precious holder of run results. Finish tokens are threaded on a bespoke, wire hook. Kit boxes are purchased. Briefings are practiced and a loud hailer readied.
In an unknown location a secret cupboard is unlocked and a dozen, real-live parkrunners are activated. They are instructed to be at EB Park for a 2pm start the following day.
The volunteers are ready. But despite their best efforts they sleep fitfully that night.
Sunday. The Test Run (or should that be testrun?). EB Park.
A helicopter lands on the football pitch.
Re-measuring the route they discover the park has shrunk. As runners arrive the finish line is hastily moved to the other side of the cricket pitch.
Plastic stakes needed to mark the route prove impossible to separate. Scissors hide from view.
Five minutes before the start a low, damp mist falls across the park. And a ranger arrives to trim the trees, parking his van – right on the junction of Collison Corner. But the run must go on.
We are ready: the volunteers, the runners and the park.
Three … Two … One … Go!
Nobody (really nobody!) knows where we might finish. But we have begun.