Neil is a parkrunner from the early days when barcodes weren't a thing and parkrun tourism was just a dream. Oh how things have changed!
When & where did you start parkrunning?
I started in March 2006, in the BBC (before barcode) days of shivering after the finishing line waiting for them to find your name on the printouts!
What prompted you to join parkrun?
My friend Chris Read had been on the second ever parkrun and told me about it. But in those days you had to get up early on Saturday & register in person at Bushy before your first parkrun..... my love of Saturday morning lie-ins meant I didn’t make it to Bushy parkrun for 17 months, parkrun number 78!
What did you think after your first parkrun?
I felt slow & unfit! The proportion of serious runners was much higher in those days - I finished 82 out of 116, with a time of 24.01. I struggle to beat 30 minutes nowadays but my relative position has hardly changed. But it is when barcodes came in and new parkruns such as Wimbledon Common started that it really took off and started to appeal to a much wider range of runners and parkrun became the phenomenon it is today.
What’s your most memorable parkrun?
Difficult to say, there have been so many happy memories, I love the Christmas Day runs particularly, but pacing on my 500th run at Fulham Palace Park in February 2019 with parkrun friends from over the years was the most memorable day. It's sad that with 566 runs under my belt, the next milestone is now about 9 years away!
What do you like most about parkrun?
I love the fact that wherever you are it is a reassuringly familiar format, with great organisational teams & friendly local runners who are always happy to chat. I've not been a serious parkrun tourist like last week's profiled parkrunner, my good friend Erika Orsagova. In pre-Covid days I preferred having a shortlist of six or seven London parkruns and seeing which one I felt like running on the day. Particularly high on the shortlist are the ones closest to Central London - Fulham Palace, Highbury Fields, Southwark, Burgess which all feel like an oasis of calm on a busy Saturday morning in London.
Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?
I love pacing at Highbury Fields parkrun when my visits coincide, as the the 5 lap format is ideal. I miss the post-parkrun breakfast & chatting too! But my most memorable volunteering event was marshalling at Bushy; it is really difficult not to get your spirits lifted by having 1,000+ runners saying a cheery thanks & good morning as they go past.
How are you coping without parkrun?
I'm really sorry to do this to you all but I have actually run some parkruns during the pandemic! I have been working on the Isle of Man for the last two years & with my regular trips back to London impossible, I have been living here full-time, so have been very fortunate to have run at least another extra four months of parkrun than I would have done in London! The Isle of Man is back in lockdown now but I was privileged enough to be able to parkrun there between October 2020 & January 2021. A massive thanks to the Great Nobles parkrun team who made it happen. If any Highbury Fields parkrunners want to visit when the borders lift, please let me know!
Any other thoughts?
Just that I can't wait for travel restrictions to lift and parkrun to restart in London. I will be cursing the Highbury slope the six times I have to run up it but it will be well worthwhile!