A tourist eye view of Guildford parkrun

A huge thank you to Fran Light from Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun for this week's run report (with photos added in by us!)

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From my pre-run conversations today I know that quite a few visitors were in Guildford to tick ‘G’ on their parkrun A-Z. I managed to do that today too, but more importantly, I also ticked off my first G in the Stayin’ Alive Challenge (3 ‘B’s and 3 ‘G’s). I love a park run challenge!

I parked in the Guildford College car park which turned out to be quite a bit further from the start than the Spectrum car park. It took me 10 minutes to get to the start; those with a better sense of direction could probably walk it in 5 minutes! Luckily a fellow runner pointed me in roughly the right direction and when I came across a row of conspicuous orange cones I just followed them to the start.

As the meeting point came into sight over the crest of a hill, I was struck by the number of people streaming across the grass from the Spectrum car park and realised there was going to be a very big turn-out. I introduced myself to the Run Director, Tamara and offered to do the run report that you are now reading. It was a big day for Tamara as it was her first time as run director, but she obviously had everything in hand and seemed very relaxed.

There are toilets at the start (which is always a relief, sometimes quite literally!) and the pre-run briefing is done via a P.A system to ensure that nobody misses important safety information. During the briefing Tamara gave shout-outs to Keith who was doing his 250th parkrun and to ex-Event Director Linda, who is leaving Guildford and heading off on a new adventure in the Peak District. Linda was the driving force behind setting up Guildford parkrun in 2012, and Tamara pointed out that without her, there might not be a Guildford parkrun. Linda, very fittingly, was wearing a special gold ‘parkrun queen’ sash. We were told to look out for her on the course and give her a wave. I was there when she came across the finish - to the biggest round of applause of the day!

The starting format was a new one on me. Everyone lined up 60 to 70 people abreast and charged across the grass like a lycra-clad army launching an attack! After about 300 metres everyone filtered, very tidily, back on to the path and from there-on, we were six abreast, at most and it was all very ordered and civilised. The scenery was a typical city park mix of wild and urban. Turning one corner we were greeted by a blanket of yellow flowers under some trees, around another corner we looked down on the busy skate park. The scenery may have been pretty, but it was the many marshals who smiled, cheered, hollered and gave much needed words of encouragement and praise who made the event really memorable.

I’ve done lots of parkruns with laps, but Guildford definitely takes my award for ‘best end of first lap applause’. As we passed the start, the run director and many of the supporters were lined up watching and cheering, and they didn’t just cheer their loved ones, they cheered everyone. I rounded the big tree that signalled the start of lap 2 with their applause still ringing in my ears and a huge grin on my face!

I was very impressed by Guildford parkrun, and in particular by the ‘extra touches’ that the core team had obviously introduced to ensure the event runs extra smoothly and is as inclusive and welcoming as possible, The first such touch, was the presence of a sign language interpreter during the first-timers briefing. The second was the fact that when the volunteers were thanked during the pre-run briefing, all their names were read out. This was mentioned in a Guildford run report a few weeks ago, but I think it warrants a fresh mention as it is something I have never seen done before, and it is such an awesome thing to do!  The third was the sign in the finish funnel that read (something along the lines of) ‘hold out right hand, palm up, to receive finish token’ – a simple but effective way to keep the funnel queue moving!

Thanks Guildford parkrun team; I had a great parkrun and really loved the course and the camaraderie. I’m only sorry that I couldn’t stay for a post-run coffee and snack at the Wey Valley Bowls Club, but I definitely will next time!

By Fran Light

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