If parkrun had been around in 1974-9, Lloyd parkrun would have been my local venue. When I was four, we moved to a semi on Addiscombe Road, almost opposite Trinity School, next to the bus stop; people used constantly to chuck their crisp packets and sweet wrappers over our hedge, which irritated our garden-loving but easily irritated father a great deal. It was the era of Bazooka Joe chewing gum, square crisps and - the latest fad – Smurfs merchandise from the petrol station. Even in the era before Health and Safety, playing cricket in the small garden, where sixes were regularly hit over the garage and over the road, requiring the fielder to dash across the busy A232 to retrieve the ball, even then that struck my parents as a tad dangerous and so my older brother and I used to be packed off to Lloyd Park to play there (there was a lot of sunshine in 1976 and Big Bob Willis was the man). Sadly, we moved away when I was nine and I’ve barely been back since.
I wasn’t supposed to be at Lloyd parkrun this morning either, I was supposed to be at Beckenham Place parkrun where I was meeting a friend. However, after leaving my home, 10 miles north of Oxford, at 06.40, the fog was so heavy and visibility so poor on the motorway that I was delayed. At quarter to nine I was crossing the tram tracks at Sandilands and I realized my Beckenham plan was doomed. What followed was the parkrun tourist’s equivalent of a white-knuckle ride. I dug deep into the memories of my early childhood to navigate myself to the car park of Lloyd, followed likely apricot-shirted parkrun suspects to what was evidently the start and joined the first timers briefing half-way through. Thrills and spills and I hadn’t even started running! The fog was still thick when we gathered at the start and made the home-made signs with phrases like ‘silence please’ and ‘beware the tree roots’ seem almost biblical, as they were held aloft in the mist. Since tree roots are my running nemesis, I took this one particularly seriously. I have cracked a rib and concussed myself in various tree root trips and, at Gnoll parkrun near Swansea, I managed to fall over the very tree root section that we had been warned to avoid, thinking, as I flew through the air, ‘ah yes, they told us about this, what an idiot’, before crashing to the ground, ripping my hand, needing the first aid kit and achieving my parkrun Personal Worst time of 53.41 (because, of course, I still had to finish).
Lloyd parkrun is a nice size at just under 200 people, not too crowded but not too lonely either. The course is definitely undulating; I always tell myself when puffing uphill, that this means there will be lovely downhill sections and, in a two lapper, I’ll get to enjoy them twice (let’s gloss over the fact that the hilly bits must be toiled up twice also). The volunteers were not only very friendly, it was great to be able to see them with their hi-viz jackets in the mist and it was good to see several of the aforementioned tree roots were painted pink also. I managed not to fall over, despite not having time to change into my trail shoes in my sprint to the start. Had a great time, thank you Lloyd parkrun team; I was lucky that there was a 30-minute pacer, which (though I couldn’t keep up with him, I need a longer tarmac section to get sub 30 at the moment) was an orange blob in the distance to keep me motivated.
But, of course, this is just one person’s parkrun moment. Much more importantly, there was the usual inspiring crowd of parkrun milestone and volunteer t-shirts of all ages, all shapes and sizes and all speeds but with one shared enjoyment. James Lyne ran his 100th parkrun and celebrated in style by bagging a PB and his first sub-17 time at Lloyd (one of only 15 men to have gone sub-17 at Lloyd) Rosie Stevens ran her 100th today as well, after being Run Director last week, and Vanessa Wheeler ran in the London Marathon shirt she earned last week (she was pointed out to me by Run Director, Debra Bourne at the end, and I was impressed at how she still looked full of energy). Speaking of Debra, when we got talking, I discovered that she wrote ‘parkrun: Much more than just a run in the park’ – a book I’ve read and really enjoyed – I was about to ask her to sign my barcode when I remembered I had to dash on to the café at Beckenham Place Park to meet the friend I hadn’t run with after all. Later, as I drove home, past the site of the old Ashburton Library that I used to walk to every Saturday and the Shirley Park shops where my mother and I once stood next to Ronnie Corbett and his wife at the deli, it seemed only right that Pick of the Pops on Radio 2 had selected 1977 to play tunes from this week, and that my favourite band aged 8, Abba, was at Number 1 with ‘Dancing Queen’. I’m not one of those, but at least I wasn’t a root tripper in my run down memory lane.
Now for the stats bits:
There were 188 people who ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 24 were first timers and 29 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 16 different clubs took part.
James Lyne (South London Harriers) led the pack home in a PB of 16:56, followed by clubmate George Ogden in 17:28 and Oliver Hayward in 19:36 in his first parkrun!
Zoha Jetha led the women home in a PB of 22:22, followed by Leanne Moore (Croydon Harriers) in 23:26 and Cindy Woo (Striders of Croydon) in 24:34.
Matthew Stone had the highest age-graded percentage, 79:37%, followed by George Ogden (77.29%) and James Lyne (76.18%), with Graham Hansen, Zoha Jetha and Maximilian Lorke all at just under 70%.
The event was made possible by 24 volunteers: Stephen Allport, Eleanor Bailey, Abi Blood, Debra Bourne, Aidan Dixon, Maria Emmett, Marguerite Ewen, Robert Ewen, Tim Fahey, Nick Fiander, Mark Harman, Michelle Klein, Louise Lauder, Jennifer Little, Colin Lynch, Olivia Lynch, James Lyne, Eliane Martini, Geoffrey Rowan Pennells, Nadine Pryce, Stephen Rhys-Davies, Matthew Stone, Stephen Tyler, and Peter Whiteley.
Next week, Event Director Debra Bourne is away running 100 miles. Rosey Stevens will be Run Director and all volunteering positions other than Tail Walker are available, so please sign up! (Email Lloyd@parkrun.com to volunteer).