HAPPY 1st BIRTHDAY LETCHWORTH PARKRUN.
Over the last three year I have constantly strayed from my home parkrun of Coventry. As long as I have that joyous slip of paper, my athlete's barcode, I can rock up at parks all over the world on a Saturday at 9am (nb times vary in different countries) and enjoy a fabulous free 5km run in good company. All parkrun asks is #DFYB (Don't forget your barcode!)
Letchworth was a parkrun surprise for me this morning. After the last two weeks of alphabet hunting 'I' - Isobel Trail and a 'J' – Jersey Farm and being ultra organised and even getting on the roster in advance to write the run report, normality returned. A total lack of planning, much to the disgust of my wife and daughter!
So upon waking I picked a parkrun based on how long it would take to wake up a sleeping wife and teenage daughter based on an estimated google maps travel time with an arrival at around 8:20. Like a plane spotter, after seeing different types of aircraft, I have been collecting different parkrun venues in sets – East and West Midland Regions :D, Alphabetter (Only Y and Z left with plans afoot) I have moved to collecting parkruns in my childhood county – Hertfordshire. I am aiming to be a 'King of Herts!' So from my the list of 4 left I randomly selected Letchworth.
One of the stresses of a perpetual parkrun tourist is being late for the start... and having to chase down and overtake a tail walker. Having done it once I never want a repeat of that so I always plan to arrive before 8:20. This means that there is always time to find the start from the carpark.
Today was going to be a day of stress as, for the first time in 132 venues, the traffic caused issues... The M1 came to a dead stop at Junction 14! Slowly the arrival time ticked up closer and closer to 9... As we sat my wife and daughter googled nearer alternatives – But having run so many close to home I had already run them... I didn't want a repeat. Luckily as the estimated 8:47 arrival time popped up the traffic cleared as quickly as it arrived so I decided to risk it and stick with my initial decision.
Following the postcode for parking we arrived exactly on time but the course page on the website said, 'Small carpark.' It didn't lie... it was full. So dropping my wife and daughter I drove to park and then jogged over just in time.
Last year my New Year's Resolution was to write the run report for every event I visited, after writing 43 from 44... I said I wasn't writing any more but after having checked the roster to ensure the run was on I had seen a space and habits form over time so I asked if I could do the report. BOOM. Hence this week you have the rambling report of a daft parkrun tourist. After volunteering as run report writer, I popped over to hear Dennis ALDER give the first timers' briefing to describe the course – however I need not have worried as a course bake was on the table. We had turned up on the birthday run... My spidey senses must have been working over time when I picked Letchworth as I love cake. That is probably why the cake map was completed with model runners based on my physique - jelly babies!
Dennis had a busy job at the first timers' briefing as 23 first time tourists arrived (maybe they like cake as much as I do!) and 12 brand new parkrunners. So a huge welcome to:- Tom POWELL, Julie KEYMER, Nick KEYMER, Kirsten MORLEY, Glyn HOLT, Alfie LAWRENCE, Heidi CAMERON, John BRIANT, Nikki HART, Lucy ALLARD, Parveen DHANDA, Shanika TROTMAN, Ivan HOLM, Tara BELCHER & Victoria PHILLIPS. Whilst I can't promise cake at the end of every parkrun you attend in future I can guarantee a friendly welcome from all. So I hope you enjoyed your run, jog or walk (or combination of them all) and I hope that you will return to use your barcode again at a parkrun shortly.
Despite the course being familiar to most today it would be a little different for all as for the birthday it had been reversed! So 187 runners passed the restrictive gates to make their way to the start... or is that normally the finish?
It wasn't long before the cry of go and massed beeping of running watches signalled the start to the parkrun.
Letchworth parkrun isn't totally a parkrun; it is part farmrun as the course loops round farm fields and gravel / stone paths. As the course description had advised trail shoes when wet, as the course could be muddy I wore mine to give me extra grip.
However they failed!
As the compacted gravel/earth bridal way gave over to grass path, like Bambi on ice I took a slip! One tumble and a commando roll and I was back up on my feet - just facing the wrong way! But once this minor error was corrected I started to run again. A few close by runners checked I was okay – a little muddy but unscathed we all continued our parkrun – gently downhill towards Carnage Corner!
After my early tumble on the flat I was nervous as the slope got a little steeper and muddier. I tried to trim off speed but I obviously lack the skill to do this effectively; however a kind grab and redirect from a superb #HiVizHero and I was back off up the farm track to dodge puddles. Okay, I may have splashed in a few but that was just to get rid of some mud!
Then a turn back up the recreation ground, along the tree line path to do it all again!
I was ready for a second bite of the cake now the mud had dried on my hands. I thought I was more cautious as I turned back down onto the grass track however I clearly wasn't as somehow I ended up on the floor again – I would have realised that the cake map wasn't chocolate for taste but to represent the slippery mud! I slipped over getting up thankfully I didn't quite require the offers of help from the runners who stopped and marshal who came over.
As I was happily rolling in the mud for the second time on the run, North Herts RRC's Paul JACKSON(VM40-44) must have been charging over the line in 18:54 to become first finisher this week. And as I was heading towards Carnage Corner for the second time, Carnethy Hill RC's Rachel NEWSTEAD (SW30-34) crossed the line in 7th overall in 20:44 to be the first female finisher. Impressive running!
Determined not to plunge into the hedge or require marshal assistance as I tried to trim speed – however my legs had other ideas of which way to go. Somehow I styled it out and managed to stay on my feet, cheerly recognised by a runner who passed me. You have to love how supportive parkrunners are to each other. I did ask if he hoped I had slipped for comedy value but was told, 'No I was cheering you on to stay upright!'
My initial reason for trying to write the weekly report wasn't to keep a record of my travels but to offer thanks to the #HiVizHeroes that made today's run possible. Like many I do try and do this as I run but going off too fast, sneaky inclines having to concentrate to stay on my feet means that at times this week I was panting badly and barely managed a to grunt a thanks to any marshal on course. So my report is a huge THANK YOU to: - Dennis ALDER, Jennifer ALDER, Andrew BAKER, Lynda BARBATO, Larry BARBATO, Lee CAINE, Izzy COLLETT, Caroline CRAWFORD, Daisy DONCASTER, Mark EDWARDS, Ruth EDWARDS, Ian HAMILTON, Liz HAMILTON, Amanda HARMAN, Laura KEMP, Peter MALES, Ann-Marie MANNING, Billy MINGO & Derek OLDHAM on behalf of all the runners as without you parkrun just couldn't happen. As with parkruns around the country if you fancy giving scanning a go, fancy being the time keeper, marshalling and encouraging others or are happy to help out in any role please look on the roster and e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
Puffing and panting up the last hill (at a walk!) I was soon enough on the tree lined path with the finish funnel was in sight. I am not sure why or even where it came from but I even managed a little sprint finish to cross the line just ahead of two other runners.
While I waited for the rest of the family to finish I contemplated if the course would have been easier or harder when run the 'correct'? normal way around. Checking the results 14 runners set new PB but of these 9 are in the early stages of their parkrun careers, having only run a few parkruns so hopefully by attending every week they can and as the course dries out this week's PB will only last a short while. The three other runners ran similar times to what they normally do so maybe the lure of making sure they got the pick of the wonderful cakes on offer spurred them on a few seconds faster? So well done to:- Moira MORLEY, Sean MORLEY, Alastair PENMAN, Dan NAISH, Michael OVER, Barney BRIANT, Enfys BRADFORD, David JORDAN, Kelly WALKER, Christopher BURD, Luke THOMPSON, Lucy HURLEY, Michael FLETCHER & Jillian BOYS. Enjoy that PB feeling and I hope you celebrated with some cake.
As probably can be seen from my report I was desperate for a slice of the beautiful homemade chocolate cake treat but with hands coated in mud I had to wait. I wasn't worried about eating mud myself (I imagine I had after my tumble already) but I didn't want others to have to have added mud. So until my daughter had finished so she could cut and feed me a chunk, I chatted to other runners (mainly about being so muddy!)
Thank you to everyone at Letchworth for being so welcoming. Happy parkrunning.
Ohh and for the record the cake was delicious, well worth the mud bath.