Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Neil Davies

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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!

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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.

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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!

 

Highbury Fields park runner profile – Erika Orsagova

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Erika Orsagova is a familiar face not only around Highbury Fields but around the UK and overseas. She has run a total of 268 parkruns and completed 40 volunteer tasks at 36 parkrun events. She's even bumped in Paul Sinton-Hewitt along the way! Here's her story....

What prompted you to join parkrun?

One of my hobbies is playing chess. I played a game and as is often the case you have a social drink in a pub with your opponent after the game. We got chatting and my opponent mentioned he had being doing parkrun since March 2006. This opponent and now long-time friend was Neil Davies, who has done an impressive 566 parkruns and has also been a regular visitor to Highbury Fields parkrun over the years. My first parkrun was 3 weeks later as I wanted to use it as training for a 10k charity run I was about to do. Since then parkrun has become a healthy addiction.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

My first ever parkrun was on 28th June 2014 on Hampstead Heath. I was very impressed as to how friendly and welcoming everyone was. It was exactly how Neil had described it. I got hooked.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

It is difficult to narrow it down to one as I have run 268 parkruns in total so far, in 111 different locations across the UK and abroad. Some stand out for different reasons, for example very muddy or extremely difficult weather. Here's the most memorable of my parkruns:

Highbury Fields. To my surprise, I won best costume, dressed as a pirate. This encouraged me to dress up for future running occasions.

Mile End. A pleasant surprise as I met the parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt.

Fulham Palace. My 250th parkrun where many friends from all corners turned up to celebrate my special day.

Castle Park parkrun. This was on parkrun World Tourist Day.

Newport parkrun. I met Nick Davies (bus driver) and the following week he came for a parkrun at Bushy Park with his family and I introduced him to my biggest parkrun inspiration, Neil Davies (no relation!).

Krakow parkrun. My first parkrun abroad. Since then my journeys abroad have been and will be planned around parkrun locations!

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What do you like most about parkrun?

So many things! Through parkrun I have met a number of wonderful people who have become friends - I would never have met them otherwise.

The concept of the parkrun is amazing! I like the fact that you can recognise fellow parkrunners from a distance by what they are wearing and then start a conversation. It is a community that keeps each other in good spirits not just in a good times. It inspires and encourages people with health issues to change their habits to improve their physical and mental health.

It has become part of my training for longer distance runs, so much so that I have completed a few half marathons and a marathon.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I initially volunteered at parkrun when I was injured, I felt that I should give back to the community. My favourite volunteer roles have been as tail walker and running as a buddy with a blind partner. My pregnancy did not stop me from running and jogging at parkrun and in the later stages I continued walking and volunteering.

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How are you coping without parkrun?

Never in a million years did I think that I would have such a long break from my favourite morning. It has not been easy without parkrun but as parkrunners do not give up, they created an unofficial parkrun instead – (not)parkrun.

I have to admit that since then my biggest inspiration for running is my little buddy runner, my son, who enjoys being pushed in the stroller but lately wants to run alongside mummy.

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Any other thoughts?

Covid has highlighted the potential for parkrun’s very important role in the community. Highbury Fields parkrun has always been a great leader in this respect, both with their foodbank events in prior years and recently their vaccination volunteering activities.

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Rachel Day

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Rachel Day has run 56 of her 93 parkruns around Highbury Fields but sadly (for us) moved to Norfolk (pre-pandemic) before reaching the 100 parkrun milestone.

She has also completed 53 volunteering tasks at 44 events, all but one of them being at Highbury Fields parkrun or Highbury Fields junior parkrun (the 'one' was at Catton parkrun in Norfolk).

Rachel's infectious smile and happy demeanour is remembered as fondly as her hotdog and mustard fancy dress outfit.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I signed up for parkrun and got myself a barcode long before I finally made it to Highbury Fields parkrun many years later in September 2016. A friend of mine talked about her local parkrun and it sounded like a way to motivate me back into running.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I was amazed that such a well-run event was happening every week led completely by volunteers. The friendly welcoming atmosphere could be felt as soon as I arrived.

What’s your most memorable parkrun? 

One of my most memorable may have been tail walking in the rain while very inappropriately dressed in 70s gear, made all the more pleasant by a lovely chat with regular parkrunner Manal. The editors think that the parkrun when Rachel was dressed as a hot dog with mustard was pretty memorable too!

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What do you like most about parkrun?

The people of course! When I decided to leave London, I knew that one thing I would miss the most would be rolling out of bed on a Saturday, hungover or not, with the knowledge that I'd be spending the next hour or so in great company while getting in some good exercise, breakfast and coffee!

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I love volunteering as much as I do running at parkrun (sometimes more!). It's a great way to feel more involved and get to know people better. I loved learning how it all worked and I was genuinely flattered when I was asked if I would join the core team! Editor’s note: any time you want to make a guest appearance back in the core team you’ll be welcomed with socially distanced open arms!

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How are you coping without parkrun?

I miss the smug feeling you get after a Saturday morning parkrun and running alone or in small groups is just not as much fun!

 

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Paul Kelland

This week’s featured parkrunner is Paul Kelland. He started parkrunning at Finsbury Park in 2011 but has done the vast majority of his 295 parkruns at Highbury Fields. 
A long time runner, he tells us how parkrun has added to his running life and about the joys of age-grading as you get older.

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Roll through the decades of running mostly by myself and competing in the few races that were about. The early London marathons were really wonderful, as was the first unified Berlin marathon. No shoe chips to contend with, you just had to get near the front to get a good time.

My first parkrun was Finsbury Park and it felt like the very first cross country schoolboy race I ever did. A few weekends later, on 3rd December 2011, I joined Dave Mason at the 4th Highbury Fields parkrun, with 22 of us going round and round and round and round and round and a bit.

The field of runners back then was so small I even came in first a few times. 
It wasn’t long before I realised that the age graded % was a thing - this is a way of measuring a runner’s performance taking into account their age. The higher the percentage, the more impressive their running ability. I know it’s a niche market but for some of us it allows competition across all ages and genders. Aged 50 it only gets better if you keep running! Editor's note: Paul’s age grading stands at well over 80%!!

The post-run coffee in a local cafe is also a way of talking running when my whole household got bored of that decades ago.

I think that parkrun is such a brilliant idea. It allows all types of runners to participate and on behalf of the overly competitive ageing man gang I am allowed to get on with it.

Over the years I have run all over the country. The most beautiful parkrun I have done is Mount Edgecombe in Plymouth which you get to by ferry. 

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Through parkrun a speed training splinter group has developed, which has also nourished several quick young runners. 

We also have a long run Sunday group that goes all over London searching out historical sights and sounds. I now have a whole group of parkrun friends and a real highlight of this year was helping some of them in the virtual marathon. 

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It is not overstating it to say parkrun and its spinoffs have kept me sane through the pandemic. My work as a GP in Hackney has been so challenging and these runs have allowed me some respite from the stress. Some of my patients now participate in parkrun as we are a prescribing practice.

Whilst I know that competition is now officially frowned on, segment sniping on Strava is a real thing, and I can't wait to get 500 parkruns done – and more.

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Jen Glassford

 

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Jen Glassford is a parkrunner at home and overseas, a HighburyFields parkrun volunteer, a HighburyFields junior parkrun volunteer, an international parkrun volunteer, a Mama Mermaid, a member of the #hackneyvaxpack and all round bundle of happiness and positivity.

She tells us how, for her, like so many others, parkrun is so much more than a 5k run on a Saturday morning.

When & where did you start parkrunning? 

My first parkrun was at Highbury Fields in October 2014. I arrived nervously and early at the start line as I had never participated in an organised run. A friend had told me about this free community run but I thought I must have misunderstood as no one was there.  I was so relieved when I realised that people congregate at the finish line and only arrive at the start a couple of minutes before 9. It was so exciting to see more than a 100 people arriving for a morning run.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I was never a runner - it was always something that other people did...until my husband bought me an amazing book 'Running like a girl'. I loved Alexandra Heminsley's story of learning to love running and it encouraged me to give it a try. A year later (I am a slow learner), I bought running shoes and slowly started to run around my neighbourhood. I started to enjoy myself but I also knew that I needed some structure and goals in order for it to become a routine. My friend Andy, a very keen runner, was the one who recommended parkrun.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I was amazed that I had finished 5k and that I wasn't the slowest person there. Even though I didn't know anyone I felt this wonderful feeling of achievement and fun. There was also the atmosphere of welcome and encouragement which made me want to go back. So before I knew it, no matter how many other activities we were doing as a family, Saturday always started with parkrun.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

Like most people I have many memorable parkruns - getting my 1st milestone shirt, those 1st PBs, parkrun tourism in Montreal, Vancouver, Perth, WA and especially the girls weekend at Jersey parkrun - the list is wonderfully long. If I have to choose a specific run though I would select the New Year's Day Double - 9:00am Highbury Fields followed by 10:30am at Southwark. Even though I am not a huge fan of New Year's Eve there is this wonderful sense of optimism and new possibilities on January 1st. The idea of going for a run with my parkrun family is so uplifting and then the sense of adventure mixed with a little craziness as we all rush to catch the train to get to Southwark to do it all over again. I can honestly say it was one of the best ways to start a year.

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What do you like most about parkrun?

For me, parkrun is all about the people. I joined this community event in order to develop a consistent, healthy running routine and ended up forming lasting friendships with an amazing group of people. Although I have lived in London for more than 30 years, I can definitely say that the simple act of joining parkrun has transformed my sense of belonging. I know that every Saturday, whether running or volunteering, I will get to catch-up with some friends, meet new people and contribute to the parkrun experience.  At the end of every parkrun I leave with a smile in anticipation of the next parkrun event.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

For me volunteering is the best part of parkrun!

In the beginning, volunteering was simply my way of giving a little back and making sure that the event could happen every week. I decided that I would try to volunteer after every 10 runs. I found that I really enjoyed parkrun even more as a volunteer, as I got to meet new people and I was able to contribute to the welcoming and fun atmosphere. It turns out that my extroverted Canadian (loud) voice works well for cheering & funnel management.  I particularly love being the funnel manager (cheering with a little bit of traffic management) or handing out finish tokens in which you can congratulate everyone for achieving another (or a 1st) parkrun.

Volunteering soon became a family affair, as my son Felix started volunteering as part of his Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) program. He started volunteering on Sundays at Highbury Fields Junior parkrun and by the time he was doing his Gold Award he had joined the Highbury Fields parkrun core volunteer team and his sister Ruby had started her Bronze Award. I injured my foot in 2019 so volunteering at parkrun turned into a family event that culminated in post-event breakfast & token sorting.

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How are you coping without parkrun?

Like most people, I really miss my parkrun routine, whether this was running or volunteering, I loved starting my weekend surrounded by my parkrun community. My family and many friends are in Canada and Australia, so not being able to travel has been a real shock to my system.

Even though we have not been able to take part in our regular events, I can't imagine what life would be like for me without my parkrun friends. At the start of the pandemic it was the simple joy of bumping into parkrun friends on the street as we adapted to local lockdowns. As we realised that the pandemic was here for more than a couple of weeks, we adjusted our routine so that we cycled, walked or swam in small groups. Big shout out to our #FridayWalkTalk group - 6 of us walking the co-editor of these profiles, Jo Hislop, to school on a Friday morning and #SwimmingFeminists - 4 of us who 'discovered' the Amazing West Reservoir and continued swimming until Jan 1st and a water temperature of 4 degrees! I can't wait for swimming to re-open and to be allowed to be with 6 people again.

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More recently the kids and I have joined several other Highbury Field parkrunners (Alex Chase, Deb, John, Colleen, Anthony, Marina, Adrienne, Lizzy P to name just a few) by volunteering at Volunteer Centre Hackney. Once or twice a week we have the opportunity to use our parkrun skills of greeting people, briefing & marshalling them as they make their way through the vaccine process. After months of working from home, it has been such a joy to see people again and to be able to support and help, as well as to cheer the amazing NHS staff. So a big shout out and thank you to Alex Chase for getting the job coordinating the volunteers for Volunteer Centre Hackney and giving us an opportunity to give back and be there for our community until parkrun returns.

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Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Charles Davie

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This week we feature a parkrunner who discovered Highbury Fields parkrun in the early days but then stepped away for a few years. His profile explains why.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

11th February 2012 - Highbury Fields event number 14. In some respects, I was an early adopter of parkrun, but after doing half a dozen in 2012, I had 4 years off before returning as a regular in 2016.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I’ve lived locally in Islington for over 15 years - there used to be a handy Sweatshop under the arches of Holloway Road station that opened in late 2011. One of the staff was keen to get a running community going and mentioned parkrun as being a good option for a running group. I decided to take the plunge only to find no one else turned up!

What did you think after your first parkrun?

It was pretty raw - there were around 40 runners, with most people being first time parkrunners. I hadn’t run something like this since school and it definitely felt like a fairly niche competitive event with only 14 minutes between first and last place. Definitely a runner's event rather than the social event I enjoy today. Nowadays it is as much about high-fiving some friends on a Saturday as it is about celebrating running.

I was fortunate enough to rediscover parkrun in 2016 with fellow parkrun regular Alex Tsirigotis, as part of our training for the Venice Marathon. Alex was fairly new to running at the time and parkrun provided the perfect platform for him to really step up - he was good enough to help me rediscover my love for it too. We’d struck up a friendship after cycling London to Paris together a summer earlier and can now be found most weekends enjoying a 5k at Highbury fields with our families. It’s definitely something to look forward to when parkrun opens again.

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What’s your most memorable parkrun?

I always enjoy running on my birthday weekend - parkrun is a great way to check your progress year on year and notice the changing of time. When I set my PB on my birthday in 2012, I never thought it would take 5 years to break it again! Hopefully I will run sub 20 this year for the first time as I’m feeling fitter than ever, but I have never quite hit that milestone.

What do you like most about parkrun?

The sense of occasion. Getting onto a start line at 9am on a Saturday is a heady experience, knowing that everyone is there to simply enjoy running is great. Personally, as a father of a young daughter, that window between getting my gear on, jogging to the start line and coming home is precious ‘me’ time - although I suspect she will try to join me once she’s old enough!

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

Shamefully I’ve never officially volunteered at parkrun, although I’ve been there to cheer on friends multiple times from the side-lines. I am constantly in awe of those who give their time up to build the community and make it accessible for all. I’m very much a clapper of volunteers as I run around, constantly thanking everyone - they’re simply amazing. Editor's note - you'd be a great addition our team of hi-viz heroes!

How are you coping without parkrun?

My running has massively increased since the pandemic hit. Like so many others, running has been my escape from lockdown. Living near the Emirates stadium I’ve amassed well over 1,000 laps of it in the past year, as well as enjoying the many green spaces Islington offers.

I am currently training for Round the Rock, an ultra-marathon around Jersey in August 2021 - I was down to run it in 2020, but Covid made it impossible to travel there so I deferred to this summer. In the meantime, I’m living out my ultra dreams through books; I can highly recommend Running Up That Hill by Vassos Alexander for anyone inspired to run that bit further.

I can't wait to get back to parkrun though, to see some old faces and finally overcome that sub-20-minute effort...maybe on my next birthday?

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Christina Hopkinson

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This week’s featured parkrunner is Christina Hopkinson. Like so many of us she always fancied herself a runner but didn’t do much about it until she came across parkrun.
She has completed 141 runs, most of them at Highbury Fields, and has the enviable achievement of getting a personal best each year - from 27-54 in 2015 to 25-14 in 2020. She got her 2020 PB nice and early, before lockdown might have scuppered her successful streak. Here she tells us about what parkrun means to her.

When and where did you start parkrunning

In February 2015 I did my first parkrun at, where else, Highbury Fields. I'm not sure I'd ever knowingly run 5k in one go before but every time I felt like stopping a small child would lap me so I carried on until the finish.

What prompted you to join parkrun? 
All my life I've fancied myself a runner without ever actually doing much running. Every time I'd try, I'd go off too fast and wonder to myself why anyone would run when walking and cycling exist. There was a gulf between my fantasy of being the sort of person who gets high from sprinting along holiday beaches and the reality of a pounding heart by the first lamppost. I wish I'd realised sooner that just because running feels hard, doesn't mean you can't do it.

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How did you feel after your first parkrun?
Elated. Having people around me allowed me to switch off the voice in my head that always told me to stop. Highbury might not be the prettiest parkrun in Britain (Editor's question - anyone else crying about this comment?), but having five (and a bit) laps means it's easy to work out exactly how far through you are. I then got a couple more PBs and plateaued for 18 months. My lovely son bought me a digital watch and I immediately smashed that stubborn record - I'd been relying on instinct and listening to Radio 4 previously, which is not something I imagine Mo Farrah recommends on race day. Since then I've managed a PB every year.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?
Sizewell in Suffolk at Christmas-time - look one way and you've got the great grey expanse of sea, look the other and the nuclear power station looms over you. Another was Huntingdon the day after my mother-in-law's funeral. I was sad and hungover, but I sweated out the wine and the tears enough to be able to reflect on what a great celebration we'd had of her life.

What do you like most about parkrun?
It's all that's good in the world - like a sort of anti-Trump, it's egalitarian, altruistic and good for your mental and physical health. I'm the sort who cries during the medal ceremonies at the Olympics and in a way parkrun is like a little weekly Olympics for normal people. Walking, jogging, running, sprinting - every participant is a high achiever however they get round. A lot of my life I'm a grumpy curmudgeon, but my cynicism evaporates for it - I even sing the special song at the Weymouth parkrun with gusto.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?
I'm in awe of the run directors and those that turn up week in and week out to put on parkrun for us to enjoy. I try to volunteer once for every ten runs. I've just checked and I'm almost spot on with 14 volunteering sessions for 141 runs. At first I did it begrudgingly out of a sense of duty, but the team are every bit as lovely as you'd expect and I find it just as satisfying as running. As I get older, I seem to be injuring myself more frequently so no doubt I'll be able to help more often.

Editor's note - the photo below was taken a year ago when Christina was tail-walker, ably assisted by her dog Matty

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How are you coping without parkrun? 
It's very high on my list of things that I miss most in lockdown. Seeing so many friends first thing on a Saturday morning sets me up for the weekend and time feels oddly formless without it. I run, with a friend when we're allowed, but it's not the same. I'm not religious, so in a way parkrun is my weekly ritual surrounded by kindred spirits.

Any other thoughts?
There has been much that has been grim during lockdown but I've been heartened by the volunteering, the care and generosity that have been shown by so many throughout the crisis. I didn't surprise me, though, as it's very much the spirit that I'd seen every week at parkrun. I hope that when it returns, there will be many newcomers to enjoy the mental and physical benefits it brings.

 

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Kate Slotover

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Kate Slotover loves Highbury Fields parkrun so much that 70 out of the 72 parkruns that she has run have been around Highbury Fields. All of her volunteering has also been at Highbury Fields parkrun. In this week's profile she tells us what makes it so appealing.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

I had to look it up! It seems my first one was on 27th May 2018 and I see I set the very impressive time of 00:15:50 – but I remember that’s because I got confused (or exhausted) and only ran three laps. Oops!

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I’d done Couch to 5k but was finding it boring running on my own. I was looking to try something new.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I liked it but I remember feeling really shy, not a proper runner at all and I don’t think I talked to anyone at that first run except for smiling at the person who scanned my barcode.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

I remember one where Dr. Paul and his band came and played for someone’s birthday. I didn’t know them but I thought it was the most wonderful thing. Since I got braver and started talking to people I have lots of lovely memories of their stories and sharing running experiences. I have made some new friends. I miss my good friend parkrunner Jenny McCullough who has now moved back to Ireland but we still keep in touch. I was always so inspired by her running (she runs marathons) and we bonded over chats about books in the pub afterwards. I host a literary podcast and she came to be a guest on one of the episodes to talk about Anna Burns' novel Milkman. Editor's note: Jenny has also featured in our parkrunner profile series - if you missed it you can read her story here

What do you like most about parkrun?

Haha – so many things! I love running with other people but I know that I’m quite slow so I would be a bit intimidated running one-to-one with someone. When I tried parkrun I realised it was perfect as I got to run with lots of people, from the amazing athletes who really do whiz round in 15 minutes, to all the mid-range runners trying to go that few seconds faster for a PB, to the people who just come to jog round slowly and let their thoughts float away (that's me quite often). Either way, everyone runs at their own pace but we’re all running together and I really, really love (and miss) that.

I also really like how friendly everyone is – something you really find out once you start volunteering. And sorting tokens afterwards – my favourite activity!

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I found volunteering a really nice way to connect with people. I love barcode scanning because then you get to meet everyone, from the people who finish first to the last. And everyone always has such a huge smile...unless they’ve forgotten their barcode! I also love cheering people home towards the finishing funnel. It has also been nice to take on new volunteering challenges - I was Run Director once which I was super nervous about. But that feeling when you get to say ‘3, 2 ,1 go' and then watch 250+ people run off up a hill on your command is one of the best ever!

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How are you coping without parkrun?

Ah, I miss it so much. Running for me has always been a bit of a sideline – I mainly get my kicks from aerobic workouts at the gym. I think that parkrun has given me that extra nudge to carve out time on a Saturday to get to the park & run. Even if I didn’t feel like it, I knew afterwards I would feel amazing. As it is I have a zombie app and have been running round Highbury Fields to that. It’s quite immersive. Every so often you get chased by zombies, which makes you do a bit of interval training. But it’s not nearly as joyful...especially when they catch me and I get eaten!

Any other thoughts?

It’s such a shame that something that was so good for all of us has been curtailed by the virus. It seems obvious that it’s going to be a while until it comes back but in the meantime I have that sense of community and running as a joyful thing that parkrun taught me. And if anyone out there wants something book-related to listen to while they get their run in, I'd love to suggest The Book Club Review podcast for lively discussions of everything from the latest releases to forgotten gems from the backlist. We haven’t done any shows on running books but in Episode 40 I did manage to work in one of my favourites, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (a delight, if you haven’t yet read it). Follow @bookclubreviewpodcast on Facebook for regular book recommendations.

Ok, shameless plug over! I hope to see you all on Highbury Fields some time soon.

 

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Rosie Millard

This week we introduce you to Rosie Millard. A keen runner, Rosie has notched up an impressive array of marathons and half marathons, and added parkruns into the mix during training. She has completed 47 parkruns, 42 of those at Highbury Fields. Here she tells us about how parkrun fits into her running life, and how running helped her recovery from brain surgery.

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When and where did you start parkrunning? 

I started parkrunning on the FIRST Highbury Fields parkrun! It was a total fluke, I was out training for a marathon (I try to do one every year) and came round Highbury Fields in the middle of a training run at about 0900 on a Saturday morning. So I joined in. There were only 30 or so runners and I think I actually was the first woman in! That has never happened since and there were only about 4 other ladies in the field, but even so, it was a bit of a thrill. [Editor’s note - as Rosie stumbled upon parkrun unexpectedly and didn’t have a barcode with her, her finish time and position were not recorded in the results table] 

What prompted you to join parkrun? 

I usually, well, always, train on my own and it was quite exciting and enjoyable to be running amongst others. I also think it sort of eats up the miles without you having to think about it. I like to add on a parkrun after, say, a 10 mile run because then you have done a half marathon without actually factoring the trudge of a half marathon into your consciousness.

What did you think after your first parkrun? 

I thought, well that was fun but I bet it never happens again. Ha ha.

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What’s your most memorable parkrun? 

There are two. One is the parkrun which I did six days before having a large tumour removed from my brain. The second is the one I did after recovering from brain surgery when I volunteered on the finish funnel. The Run Director that day had told the entire field that I had just come out of hospital. As they finished, every single runner congratulated me and smiled, and someone gave me cake. I was so moved, I will never forget it. Incidentally when the surgeon opened up my brain to remove the (benign) meningioma, he said "I could see from the amazing condition of your brain that you are a runner." It's really good for you!! Not brain surgery, but running.

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What do you like most about parkrun?  

The thing I like most about parkrun is the last 10 seconds. Finishing is GREAT. I have done 10 marathons, including all the Majors and the Great Wall of China, and about 40 Half marathons, 20 milers etc. My marathon PB is 3.48. I am a good runner. However, I always get a bit nervous before a parkrun. I know that sounds mad. It is mad.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts? 

See above for my most memorable parkrun. Sort of says it all about the volunteering and community spirit of parkrun. One time I hugged a chap who walked mostly but made it round even though he didn't think he could. On another occasion I was guarding some pothole to stop runners tripping in it but after my volunteering stint I was told I had guarded the wrong hole! Anyway, nobody fell in. [Editor's note - regulars at the Fields will be familiar with our famous sunken drain, guarded weekly by one of our lovely volunteers]

How are you coping without parkrun? 

It's more 'how are you coping without any races at all' for me. I have had two marathons cancelled. All the other runs, the half marathons and the parkruns which I would have done as part of my training regime have also been cancelled. Without any goals at all I am finding it very hard to remain motivated. I am a trustee of Opera North and we all have been doing a virtual parkrun on Saturday mornings, which I have done along the Regent's Canal, but it is still hard to remain motivated. Particularly as I was about to get my 50 T-shirt. I know, it's not a huge number but I'll be proud to eventually claim it!

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Alberto Pose

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As a newcomer to the UK, Alberto Pose found parkrun offered him more than just a 5k run every week. Since then, he has completed 98 parkruns, 96 of which have been running around Highbury Fields. He has also completed 13 volunteer tasks at 12 events, all at Highbury Fields, where else?

When & where did you start parkrunning?

My first registered parkrun was on 8th April 2017 at Highbury Fields. I had recently moved from Argentina and I was intrigued by why people were running on a Saturday around the park. I recall searching on Google something like 'Highbury Fields 9.00am run' or something similar which brought me to the parkrun page.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I enjoy running and being able to run with people. In addition, being able to run a proper time-tracked event every weekend was something that I have never imagined doing before moving to the UK. Having moved from a country that doesn't host parkruns (yet), I was quite surprised by the idea of a small number of volunteers organising an event with 300 people or more running.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I was glad about being able to complete the run but I wasn't expecting to discover a group of friends among the organisers and regulars. I think that the atmosphere not only made me improve my 5k time but made me feel welcome while starting to live in a new city and country.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

I think everyone recalls quite vividly the occasions where they broke their Personal Best (PB). In my case, I quite enjoyed the pacing runs since I find matching a target time challenging in a subtle way. There was one particular pacing event I did in February 2020 before the lockdown that I managed to pace 27 minutes & was only 10 seconds off!

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What do you like most about parkrun?

The community around it. I see people from different backgrounds and skill levels together having a great time, challenging themselves and helping others. From another perspective, it has kept me motivated and improved my overall 5k time. It paved the way for taking other more ambitious challenges and sticking to a running training schedule.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I love volunteering! I find it quite refreshing. After several Saturdays, I discovered that it was better to take some time off and not to run at parkrun every week. In addition, given how many runs I had and how positive the change was for me, I thought it was a good idea to give something back.

How are you coping without parkrun?

I have been trying to adapt and focus more on my own training. I find it really hard to give 100% while running alone. I train thinking that whenever this is over, I hope to be better than when all this started.

Any other thoughts?

2020 was such a difficult year but I have been really lucky. I miss the sense of community even if I'm still in touch virtually with multiple friends I made while running. I'm quite grateful since I haven't been directly affected by all the terrible events unfolding. I really hope that we will get back to normal or to a certain degree of normality where we would be able to have parkruns.

 

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