On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love sent to me…
12 marshals marshalling
11 directors directing
Ten juniors a jumping
Nine ladies squatting
Eight men a chatting
Seven first timers a briefed
Six scanners a scanning
Four timers keeping
Three Santa hats
Two tail walkers
And a buggy in a pinch point!
An astonishing 142 (yes, really!) parkrunners headed in force to Houghton Hall Park, Houghton Regis, for the very first official parkrun at Houghton Hall on the 23rd December! Run Director Adam Langford created a calm yet wonderfully jolly environment from start to finish with everything going according to plan, if he was a bit overwhelmed, you wouldn’t have known! There were turkey hats, fancy dress, high hopes, excitement all round and one buggy-dog runner!
The whole set up was smooth and orderly, everyone knew what they were doing from the runners to the 22 volunteers, bar few parkrun newbies but they had soon been rounded up, welcomed with open arms and given their first-timers briefing by Jeanette Eames, on this brisk, foggy morning.
For those who didn’t come for our first event, and those who are trying to find a PB course, look no more! A recent lottery funded boost gave this stunning park a lovely visitors centre, climbing frames for the children and stunningly kept gardens to the rear of the park and upgraded parking.
This two and a half lap course feels shorter than it is, starting from mid-way up the park under a canopy of trees. As you set off, you pass some climbing equipment, you’re then led out the park and meet with a six meter incline towards the back end of the course. No drama, until you meet it for the last time! Back in into the second pinch point, its flat again until you loop back, consisting of mud, gravel and tarmac paths, there’s no ‘ideal’ footwear, especially when it’s wet! Coming back through the top end of the park you pass the finish funnel for the first time, probably dropping off your jacket as you go! The tarmac path brings you through a shelter of trees, and towards the visitors center at the front of the park. Diverted then through the mud and/or gravel path be sure to duck and jump under tree branches and over the roots, it makes for a challenging but extra fun addition to the course, of approximately 800 meters over two laps. You exit the wooded area, not far from where you went in, almost wondering how you did so many meters in there as you fly through and make a sharp right to see where you started the course and repeat, going past the finish funnel a second time and then for the third time, sprinting to the finish you leave that greatly loved safety-blanket of grip from the gravel path for the slightly slippery, unnerving grass counterpart to receive your finish token with lots of applause and motivational love given at the end and throughout the course from all our wonderful hi-vis heroes.
There was just short of two minutes between the first male and female finishers. Jed Noblett came in as the first finisher with an incredible sprint finish almost cartoon-like spinning others as he came flying down the funnel in a very respectable 17 minutes and 38 seconds. Our first female finisher came soon after our second and third males with an equally respectable time of 19 minutes and 36 seconds. Another astonishing achievement was made by Margaret Dewinter snatching up the Age Grade record of 82.89% with a time of 24 minutes and 50 seconds. Our fastest and youngest finisher in the JM10 category, with a total parkrun experience of an astounding one run (haha!) was Samuel James in 23 minutes and 28 seconds, narrowly shadowed by Jake Langford and then Oliver Coombes. Our finisher with the most parkrun experience was Dave Thomas, clocking his 428th run in 30 minutes and 37 seconds.
Lastly, I would just like to give a humongous thanks and applaud to Tam Quinn for making this whole thing possible, the whole core team for coming together and getting set up so quickly. To all the volunteers, runners, those who took part in our trial giving us some important feedback, you’re all amazing.
I think I speak on behalf of everyone involved in saying it was a truly tremendous event, run impeccably well and we’re all so pleased that everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves (including getting a testimony from a tourist saying how well the event was run and what a beautiful course!) So congratulations to everyone and see you all again next week!
By Gwynneth Gordon
Pictures @ https://www.flickr.com/groups/houghtonhall-parkrun/