7th March 2020 – Medina parkrun 451 (West Wight Runners Takeover!)

Unlike most Saturdays this year, it wasn’t raining and it wasn’t windy for the impressive number of 354 finishers in parkrun 451. In a future report I’ll follow up the seasonal variation in parkrun numbers, explored by me and by Neil Cooper in our previous reports, but this weekend there are two more topical matters to discuss.

First, I declare a conflict of interest here but huge thanks and congratulations are due to West Wight Road Runners for supplying (almost) all the volunteers today, for the second time. The total membership of WWRR is 29, and only a few of them are parkrun regulars, but they still managed to provide 19 volunteers – thanks also to the ‘honorary members’ for the day, who filled a few gaps. Special thanks are due to Chris Amy, self-confessed parkrun and dressing-up addict, and member of the ‘Run Director’ team. Without her enthusiasm and commitment, today’s ‘takeover’ wouldn’t have happened. What a woman, which leads me on to ...

... tomorrow is International Women’s Day, and today has been designated International Women’s parkrun (always lower case) Day. Again Chris Amy led the way in dressing-up and providing music, to celebrate. Fun was had by many, but I’d like to make a serious point too. The theme of International Women’s Day 2020 is equality, and it seems to me that parkrun is a shining example of equality. Everyone who turns out to run, walk or volunteer is equal, regardless of gender (or indeed age, race, size, shape or speed). The only cloud on the horizon is that nearly every week the number of female finishers is fewer than the number of male finishers (149 against 192 today). Data supplied to me by Neil Cooper shows that in only 9 of our 451 parkruns have the female finishers outnumbered the males, and 3 of those were the first 3 Medina parkruns, back in 2011.

Running illustrates how unenlightened society was with regard to equality when I started, and how things have changed. What has happened since then is remarkable. Although there is still more to do, I think that parkrun is well ahead of the game. Looking at the history of (in)equality in running, in 1960, when I’d have been running school cross-country races, the Olympics included a women’s 800m for the first time since 1928 – until then it was deemed by the sports administrators to be too dangerous to let ‘frail’ women run that far. In the 1960s Ryde Harriers pioneered the inclusion of women in marathon races. Officially this was not possible until 1976, but by separating the handful of women from the men on the start line and pretending that two different events (only one officially sanctioned) were coincidentally happening at the same time, they got away with it. In 1964 Dale Greig set a ‘World Record’ on the Ryde course.

Until 1980 running was mostly limited to fairly serious ‘club runners’, with a regular calendar of races, mostly catering for teams of men under 40. I would argue that there were two main things that changed this dramatically in the UK, widening participation with an increasing proportion of women taking part. The first was the London marathon in 1981, which encouraged ‘ordinary’ runners of both sexes, and created an explosion of running events. I went abroad for a year soon after the first ‘London’ and when I came back the running scene was almost unrecognisable. There have been a number of things that have changed since then, such as the increased use of runs to raise money for charities, and more ‘commercially organised’ races, but I believe that the second major factor boosting wider, including female, participation has been parkrun. So, on International Women’s Day let’s celebrate the contribution of parkrun to equality, and aim for equality in numbers of participants before too long.

After that digression, what about today’s results? First home, for the third consecutive week and fourth time overall, was youngster Maisey Kent in 21.35, followed by Leela Dilkes-Hoffman (22.16) and Grace Coc (22.48). Maisey’s age-graded score (73.98%) was bettered by Alison Hughes (76.23%).

Oh yes, there were some blokes running too. The fastest of those was Callum Tanner of Hardley Runners, in 18.55. Interestingly (well it is to me), Callum has run exactly half of his 74 parkruns on one of our Medina courses, and half at other mainland parkruns. He was followed by Sean Williams (19.04), with an Unknown runner next. Sean had the second best age-graded score among the men (76.75%), just below David Waller (77.12%)

We had visitors from Andover, Bury St. Edmunds, Crane Park, Grantham, Guildford, Market Harborough, Wimbledon, Winchester and Yeovil. A warm welcome to you all.

Milestone t-shirts were earned today by our esteemed Event Director, John Hepworth (250), Mark Holbrooke (100), Chris Reddecliff (50), Alexandra Bright (50) and Maia Uren (10). Another milestone (300) was achieved by Julie Ray.

There were 18 first-timers to parkrun today. Too many to name you individually, but we very much hope to see you all again soon. A magnificent 48 parkrunners achieved pbs today, the most notable being Gareth Driscoll and Paul Seagrove, still improving after 55 and 38 parkruns

Ian J