Introducing Chris Peacock, the shy, retiring, straight-man of the 'dynamic duo' known as 'The Usual Suspects', a foil to the rather more outgoing and slightly faster Jerome Boughton Mills who we profiled last week.
Chris has completed 196 parkruns, 157 of which have been around Highbury Fields. He has also completed 181 volunteering tasks at 138 events, mostly carrying the event equipment to the Highbury Fields parkrun meeting area with Jerome.
When and where did you start parkrunning?
I first struggled to Highbury Fields on August 22nd 2015.
What prompted you to join?
The crucial attraction was that parkrun is simply at its core a non-judgemental inclusive run with a target to potentially complete five and a bit laps. All achieved without the need to call for the deployment of the recent innovation of defibrillation equipment, worth highlighting as it was introduced shortly after my debut (surprisingly, the sight of a portly elderly gentleman jogging tends to raise concerns).
The twin threats of weight and the accelerating swallow dive into middle/old age were also contributory factors. With impending retirement beckoning, I felt that I needed to create some new non-work related challenges. After some fifteen or so years of not engaging with running little did I know how this would pan out!
What did you think after your first parkrun?
1. That the appointment I had been putting off with my GP was probably more critical than I previously anticipated!
2. I had completed 5k but it felt further.
3. If I sit on the grass after running & scanning it might prove impossible to get up.
4. Highbury Fields has greater changes in altitude than are obvious from dog walking.
5. Following a hot bath I had aches in places I really didn’t know existed.
6. I experienced the recurrence of the 'runners high'.
7. I had met the first individuals in a now comprehensive group of very very close parkrun friends.
8. By attending regularly I could actually gain a free parkrun shirt. And if I hung around for some 10 years or so this might translate into an even more coveted green, blue or other multi-coloured shirt.
At this stage I didn't know about volunteering, tourism or the various challenges that comprise the parkrun lexicon e.g. Pirates, Regionnaire etc. I thought there was no way I would become a parkrun obsessive & there was no real need to improve performances to feature on Run Britain or other running websites never mind run in other events...how things have changed.
What do you like most about parkrun?
The friendships engendered by the events. I now have an eclectic group of individuals that I can call my close friends that I run with, eat and drink coffee with, resolve the world’s problems with and that I probably spend far too much time with (at least according to my wife!) We run around Highbury Fields, Covid guidelines permitting, regularly. We tour; travelling the country & internationally. We train together.
The knowledge that no matter where I am in the world that at 9:00 on a Saturday morning (with some variations) I will find a group, large or small, in a local park or similar venue, of individuals with whom I can spend a happy hour or so depending on the post parkrun breakfast venue.
The runs have provided a gateway to a whole range of adventures. Not just the regular training nights with Highbury Fields parkrunners but travelling to Iten in Kenya to train with the true elite of international running, where I acquired my own Kenyan name 'Kijana Mzee' from some of those African runners. In fact I would claim that 'Kijana Mzee' receives somewhat more recognition in Iten than Eliud Kipchoge. I can now also claim to have trained for track races and cross country series with SOAR Coach Matt Yates of England middle distance fame.
The adventures have increased exponentially but all lead back to that search for improved times and movement up the parkrun results page.
Volunteering at parkrun – your thoughts?
Contrary to the title - parkrun – you soon realise that to volunteer is one of the main drivers for actually participating. If you could bottle the ethos and practical results delivered by the volunteers it is my humble view that there would be no problems left in the universe.
As with Jerome, the initial decision was that if I ran a number of events it was only fair that I would then compensate by helping to ensure that the event could take place. I've tried a range of tasks...
I was asked to give out finishing tokens which I promptly dropped on the ground, necessitating a huge scramble by regulars prior to the start to ensure we were ready for action.
Next up was timekeeping which resulted in no sleep for days prior, due to the stress of potentially screwing up.
Finally the progression to Run Director where at my first attempt I was told by one parkrunner that my pre-run briefing had taken longer to complete than his average parkrun time.
The fundamental issue for anyone attracted to volunteering is that you become increasingly comfortable with all the roles as time goes on and there is nothing (well almost nothing) that can’t be recovered by a post-run conversation with a fellow volunteer.
It is also extremely satisfying to be an influencer for the first time in my life - thanks Gail for the name check in your November 2020 profile.
One of the huge benefits of volunteering has been my friendship with Jerome. The 2 of us decided to focus on the set-up & take-down element of Highbury Fields parkrun so that we could run but equally so we could ensure that the physical elements for a successful run would already be in place in time for the event to start.
For me, volunteering is also about Highbury Fields junior parkrun, Mini Mermaids and Young Tritons, the latter 2 being initiatives which utilise running to assist the personal development of young girls and boys.
Any other thoughts about your parkrun journey?
So, parkrun – an ongoing journey from 'hobby jogger' to complete athlete, no longer able to go to a parkrun without scanning the 'oldies' at the start line trying to decide who I need to ensure finishes behind me (yes I know it is a run not a race!). My expectations are more sensible now; I know I will always be lapped by a range of the fast youngsters (anyone age 55 or under) and yes probably three times by Seyfu.
My wish now is that we get over Covid as soon as possible! I am 54 runs away from a milestone green shirt and whilst (not)parkrun remains challenging, it is not the same as walking to Highbury Fields with Jerome & seeing our large group of friends, getting their news, running and finishing with post-run stories, all of which comprises my happy Saturday mornings. 'The Usual Suspects' need to be toting the ever-increasing amount of equipment (small grumble) down to the finish line, engaging with our community and transitioning to a post-run breakfast after our event.