Harrow Lodge parkrun number 363 28th March 2020
Today’s run set a number of records. In view of the Coronavirus situation it was only allowed by express permission of Right Hon John Cleese MP, CDM & bar, the Minister of Silly Walks and was in recognition that this is the nearest day to April 1st. The Event Director had decreed that the course should be run in reverse and also that it should be on a handicap basis. Any runners with a time of 29:59 or less on any parkrun would also need to run backwards.
We had a number of visitors today including the back four of West Ham United. This was unusual because they don’t normally all turn up on the same day. It was interesting that they all wore the same shirt number which was 17 and undertook a very strange warm up routine that was orchestrated by David Moyes in which they ran about, constantly changing directions and shouting “Karen says 18 is no good.” Most bizarre.
The course had dried out quite a lot with many parts of the course only 2-3 inches deep in mud. There was a good turn-out and as normal we saw just a few more runners than at Bushy Park.
The start was interesting to say the least. Joaquin Polo put his shirt on back to front and tried to suggest that meant that he didn’t need to run backwards. The pre-race briefing took a bit longer than normal as the West Ham lads didn’t understand what running backwards was, it needed John Rozee to show a video on his phone from Stamford Bridge. Eventually at a couple of minutes past 9 we were away. Another problem occurred at the first turning point where the marshal was Liz “bucket lady” Preston. She had been self-isolating indoors for the past 2 weeks and hadn’t been able to collect anything for “First Steps”. This created some serious withdrawal symptoms for her and never one to miss an opportunity she had produced a board saying “This way AFTER you have MADE a contribution”. Nobody was brave enough to try and rush past Liz so for most it was back to the start to get some cash.
Not everybody however was unprepared as our eventual winners, three runners from a club called “Queens Angels”, splashed the cash before going on to splash the mud. Having rounded the first turn point they were heard to say “it’s a marathon not a sprint” as they headed off, largely on their own, past the lake.
As they ran alongside the stream in a fairly muddy section one of the marshal’s had got into trouble in the mud and was standing on one leg with the other leg “bootless” and looking as if she was about to fall over. Despite the three runners being in the lead they stopped to help her and then were on their way with a cheery “that’s what we do”. They did pass another marshal midway round the course who was not bootless but legless after 2 weeks of self-isolation at home. Your secret is safe with me, Mel.
The marshals on the finish funnel were watching the three Queens Angels runners sprint toward the finish and were taking bets on who would be first but in another first for Harrow Lodge there was a triple dead heat. M Seacole, F Nightingale and P Aramedic went over the line together.
The West Ham runners finished in 18th, 20th, 22nd and 24th and as they crossed the line they were shouting “social distancing means 2 metres apart” which did however allow runners in between. As the players queued to register their time a lady had to be escorted away from the marshal’s table where she was trying to stop the players handing over their tokens and shouting “null and void”.
First visitor over the line was Eliud Kipchoge as he had to stop several times over the course as his Nike Vaporfly shoes were sucked off by the mud. The course at Harrow Lodge is a bit like life, in difficult times it is always a bit of a leveller. This was particularly bad around the new leisure centre where the contractors had planted an extensive border of spaghetti plants. Normally these take up a lot of water but it does not appear to have happened here.
There was only one personal best this week. Keith Bates [AKA Another Keith] managed to come in at 29:59 which is his first time under 30 minutes. [Note from proof reader. You running a time like this may mean people will think that this report is a complete work of fiction]
The team from Queens Angels were asked at the end how they were the only people running with money. They admitted that like many people they had seen the sign beforehand but unlike others they had understood what the sign meant and had taken time to prepare.
As normal there was cake at the end of the run but in another first there was also some loaves and fishes. When all of the runners had taken what they wanted there seemed to be loads left over and so Liz Preston stood up to the plate, in every sense, and agreed to take the left overs for First Steps. She also said that on average all runners had contributed a fiver a head to First Steps which was great because like most charities they had suffered a serious drop in income whilst also having to meet greater need.
Not sure when the next parkrun will be, but in the meantime, stay safe and be confident that when we do run the course will be drier.
PS. The pandemic is taking an enormous toll of those people dying from the virus and also an enormous economic cost. What is probably going to be a bigger issue in the medium and long is the effect on people’s mental health as they self-isolate and distance from other humans. Many people are on their own in flats with little access to outside space or cooped up with children who can’t [or won’t] understand the situation or in relationships that in practice may only be workable if the partners do not see each other for large parts of the day. Parkrun would normally provide this social interaction.
Now we have nothing.
But we only have nothing if we accept the situation. Over seven hundred thousand individuals have already volunteered to assist the NHS and this is still rising. Lots of individuals are doing their bit and in the parkrun family that is what we must all do. Becoming involved WILL help your mental wellbeing and it needn’t being anything large. Give people you know a phone call just to chat and ask if everything is OK, is there anything that you want? Put a note through a neighbour’s door [or several doors] and introduce yourself. This may be just what they needed as they were inching closer to some desperate action. Social distancing means that we cannot hug but a psychological hug by means of a phone call will be almost as good. Look out for each other and be assured that we will get through this and we will get through it better together. Stay safe.