Never has there been so much uncertainty. Never has so much time been spent checking BBC weather reports, looking for updates on a parkrun FB page, refreshing the parkrun cancellations site, debating whether there was another parkrun close enough to be a plan B. And then, in black and white there it was. Late last night. “Dennis, the Menace can’t stop Marlborough Common parkrun”. Not entirely out of the woods yet but looking more hopeful, as across the country other parkruns continued to post their cancellations. Fortunately we were aiming for a parkrun with just one tree! And not a very big one at that.
In the event, our one hour drive through the beautiful Wiltshire countryside to the old market town of Marlborough was more than worth it. Not one single Dennis turned up, not to run, not to volunteer or even to drench us. Perhaps more breezy than usual on the Common (I’d been reliably informed that the Common attracts a refreshing breeze in all seasons) but other than a brief threat at 9am, nothing. Dennis didn’t show up.
Thankfully 28 volunteers did. And we couldn’t be more grateful. Greeted at the edge of the Common by a car park marshal (that’s so cool) we were directed to the grassed area in the middle of the course (completely novel and rather fun) and just a few steps to the start (oh dear, I should have done a warm up). Will, Run Director, gave a very brief briefing as, for a moment there, it seemed the rain may have arrived, (though nothing came of it) and in 3, 2, 1, an intimate crowd of 112 (including the car park marshal who had managed to remove the ‘standing still’ layers and was ready with the ‘run’ layers but still laughing) were keen to get started.
I was immediately curious as to how many dogs there were (a noticeably large number) and I had to ask the question. However, no volunteer dog counter! There were dogs of every make, colour, size and shape. And we had Sky, an adorable Border Terrier, a very experienced parkdog with an impressive 22 tourist parkruns already to her name. She loves them. She loves the travelling, she loves her neck scarf, she loves the excitement, she is happy to run in the winter, summer, autumn or spring. But, it turns out she doesn’t like running in the wind. Half way round she looked longingly at a marshal in the hope she could just stay sheltered there until the finish.
Somehow the forecast of impending doom did not deter the 14 genuine first timers to parkrun (though why anyone would pick this weekend to try their first run can only be described as impressive). So an enormous well done to you all and we really hope you come back for your second.
There were also a fair number of first timers who were tourists; Catterick, Poole, Ashton Court, Salisbury. Part way round I chatted to a lady from Abingdon. Most of the Oxfordshire parkruns had fallen victim to Dennis. I think we all agreed that, Marlborough Common is pretty awesome even in this weather so we all want to come back when there isn’t an imminent storm.
The course is lovely. I sense there were quite a few upward turns. There must have been some downs but I firmly believed the ups came with the headwind. There were moments that were seriously hard work, there were corners with a serious amount of mud, but there were views and a vast expanse of sky, a feeling of space and a lot of fresh air. There were wonderfully stoic and enthusiastic marshals at points variously known as Flag, Rugby, Tree, Golf, Beacon. The flags on the golf course were almost blown sideways, we ran around the football pitch where young children were being coached and rather uniquely, we ran around our cars, parked neatly in the centre.
Since we also, variously passed runners going in the other direction, I got to see the front runners moving decidedly faster than I was, towards the finish. Simon Rawlins was first finisher in a very respectable 20.40. It was also his 154th run and his 54th birthday. Great statistics there. And Happy Birthday.
I’m guessing it was an exciting finish too as Sam Wigan was only 7 seconds behind. 3rd finisher was Matthew Wragg in 21.32.
First lady home was Lisa O’Neill in 22.45, followed by Vicky Henderson in a new course pb of 24.06. Amy Clewley was the third lady home in 24.37.
For anyone reading this who has just completed their first parkrun please don’t think this is a race or all about those at the front. Parkrun is full of statistics and you can explore the results page for all sorts of surprising facts. Lesley Green did a personal best this morning on her second ever parkrun, knocking more than 2 minutes off her time from last week. That’s seriously awesome. Lesley was one of only 3 pbs this morning (not surprising in this weather). 2 have already been mentioned, Judith Hine was the third, also doing her second run and also nearly taking 2 minutes off her time. There were other awesome stats. So, for instance, I was second in my age group. Absolutely thrilled. (Apparently there were only 2 of us in my age group). Anna (one of my travelling companions) did her 18th different location and her 147th parkrun, Sky, our parkdog did her 23rd tourist location and Jo Finch our driver and most experienced tourist of us all, earned herself a ‘top of the table’ place as the parkrunner with the most parkruns, today, making her total 280. She wasn’t wearing her wonderful green 250 milestone T-shirt, she was wearing her Southwick Country parkrun apricot Tee, but like the rest of us, all these hard earned treasures were hidden under neon running jackets to fend off the gentle gale.
This morning, many chose the opportune moment once their barcode was scanned, to get home before Dennis arrived. We however, took our chances and joined the events team at the Golf Club for hot drinks and a bit of parkrun faffing. The Golf Club did not allow dogs or muddy shoes, but did have the most amazing ladies toilets furnished with showers, an alarming number of books in a bookcase, comfortable chairs, flowers, mirrors and even pink hairdryers. What more could you want after parkrun. A day out in Marlborough that’s what.
To Will and Clare and all the amazing volunteer team, thank you. You went above and beyond to ensure we could all run. We really look forward to seeing you again soon.