Run report this week thanks to Darren Williams, visiting from Rushcliffe PR in Nottingham many thanks Darren;
Back to the start
One weekend back in 2014, my wife Kirsty and I decided to take a trip from Nottingham to Bodmin to see a friend who’d recently relocated there.
“Bring some trainers,” he said innocently, “and we’ll go for a little run in the local park.”
So, I dutifully did and, come Saturday morning, we rose early, jumped in the car for a short hop to the nearby National Trust property and I found myself lining up with a hundred or so other runners for what they were calling a ‘parkrun’.
Among the volunteers that day was Eldred, preparing to walk the single-lap course as tail walker and ensure everyone got around safely.
Before the coffee had fully kicked in we were off: careering downhill towards the beautiful Lanhydrock house before veering left and up through the cover of trees.
“This all seems very nice and active,” I thought.
It was shortly before we hit the river I realised what I’d let myself in for and, having done zero running for a number of years, how truly unprepared I was for what lay ahead.
After a long time spent running downhill, I was soon greeted by an uphill section lasting pretty much the final third of the course. Needless to say there was quite a bit of walking involved in that part.
I recall the friend we were visiting – Stef Palmer, a Lanhydrock regular – grinning mischievously as he revealed afterwards that the course was among the UK’s toughest parkruns. And, at the time, I never would have thought the experience was the start of something…
Fast forward a year or so. Stef returned to Nottingham for a brief visit with his partner (Eldred’s daughter and regular run director, Beccy) and we agreed to try out our local parkrun, Rushcliffe.
Flatter, easier and so a bit faster, it was encouraging. And, though it took a little while to gestate, it became a place to which I’d return again and again.
Today, I’m well and truly bitten by the parkrun bug. The camaraderie of everyone who takes part, encouraging others around the course. The commitment of the hi-vis heroes who show up bright and early every Saturday so others can enjoy a nice run in the park. It’s infectious.
Kirsty’s hooked too – on the volunteering. We both dons the high-vis tabards, her at least every other week. She’s a trusted hand for timekeeping, barcoded scanning, funnel management and more.
In recent months, I’ve travelled around different parkruns. But there’s been one mountain that still needed conquering… an itch that needed scratching. So, this weekend, we were back.
It was a familiar sight lining up at the start. Lots of bright-eyed and eager runners in a multitude of bright colours that would have been perfect everyday wear in the 1980s but have since found their niche in the running world. Together, we’re luminous and proud.
This week, Eldred was completing his first solo stint as run director. And his wasn’t the only debut.
The starting line also welcomed 49 first timers to the course – including visitors from (alphabetically) Bude, Camberley, Derbyshire, France, Nottingham, Reading and St Albans.
This week’s other volunteers were Dave Anderson, Rebecca Bateman, Helen Gamlen, Nick Giles, Calvin Mudd, Mary Mullarkey, Kirsty Parnaby, Julie Reynolds, Ian Ringer, Nichola Sinclair, Dee Smith and Darren Williams.
If you haven’t tried it yet, there are lots of different volunteer roles to have a go at – see www.parkrun.org.uk/lanhydrock/volunteer for details.
When the timers ticked over a total of 180 runners and one tail walker sprung into life, once again taking off down the hill in the direction of the house, back into the trees, and along what struck me as one of the best-looking parkruns I’ve experienced.
It was all feeling pretty good until we arrived at the T junction I’m told is called Mary’s X-roads (with Mary in excellent voice cheering us on) for the second time and the dreaded uphill began. I may again have allowed myself a little walk here and there!
But then you reach the flat bit at the top of the park and suddenly, there’s a bit left in the tank for the downhill. That’s stoked by the timekeepers, funnel managers and more cheering you forward from the finish funnel (including Kirsty, handing out the finish tokens).
With their help I came in at 27:13 – shaving over 8 minutes off my first attempt. So I’ll count that as the mountain at least partially conquered!
The top three runners were scintillatingly fast as always, all coming in under the 20 minute mark – so well done to Benjamin SMITH (19:10), Phil Dawber (19:26) and Joe Hughes (19:54).
Congratulations to everyone who crossed the finish line, whether yours was one of the 28 new personal best times recorded for the course or you simply managed to get around one of the toughest parkrun courses I’ve known.
To me that achievement alone makes every one of us winners.