#352 by Helen Rees

I’ve touristed to many places for parkrun, but this is the first time we’ve left the house at 6am to drive to the East Midlands to make it to the start line. We’re not completely unhinged though, I promise… we were visiting Northampton as part of a charity logistics mission, but it just so happened that I also needed a ‘North…’ parkrun to complete my Compass Challenge (a challenge where you can win an online ‘compass’ badge when you run parkrun events that have North, South, East and West in their titles), and I couldn’t NOT run a parkrun at all this weekend, as I’m trying to reach my 100th parkrun in my birthday month (May) so clearly this weekend’s journey was meant to be.

Just over a hundred miles and some good strong coffees later, we reached The Racecourse in plenty of time to get a coveted parking space, and I made my way across the park in the direction of some very smiley and welcoming hi-vis heroes, aka parkrun volunteers. Having met RD Matt, I was greeted enthusiastically by one of the marshals, Bryan, who just happens to know a friend of mine from home in Hampshire (our sons go to school together) and had noticed this friend-in-common connection as I had posted a comment in the event’s Facebook group during the week. Isn’t it an extraordinarily small world sometimes. But parkrun does that – it’s like extended family. Just brilliant. Obligatory selfie taken to send back to my friend to prove our small world coincidence, Bryan went off to take up his marshalling post in the far corner of the course, and the gathered runners (over 500 of us, Northampton is a popular and well-attended event) warmed up and made their way to the start. Lots of very friendly locals, words of encouragement, new acquaintances made and good friends sharing a Saturday morning together.

RD Matt briefed us all with the pre-parkrun announcements, and gave me a lovely shout-out for my touristing, Compass Challenge and this being my 25th volunteering duty (the product of which you’re reading right now…). He ended with “Thankyou for choosing us” before counting us down and sending us on our way of the 1-and-a-half-lap course. And that phrase stuck with me for the rest of the run. It reminded me of how parkrun has welcomed so many people, from all walks (or jogs, or runs) of life, of all ages and abilities, with dogs or children or buggies… all achieving great things, all taking part for the joy of taking part, at every level, up and down the country and around the world. Enjoying a common goal, completing 5k – at whatever speed or pace you can.

The Northampton course is great – all on tarmac paths, around the tree-lined park and relatively flat, except for a couple of inclines on the way around. There’s plenty of space for the 500+ runners to spread out and find a comfortable pace, and today there were pacer runners too, giving us a time to aim for, if we wished. I was happy to see the 30 minute pacer just ahead of me for most of the 5k (I will get sub-30 at some point this year, I promise…)

Lots of support from marshals and supporters around the course (thanks for the hi-fives, Bryan!) which is always a real boost, and at the end there were even more cheers of encouragement and support from volunteers and fellow runners alike. The

finish funnel is well-organised, with an orderly procession of finishers making their way to collect (and then scan) their finish tokens for the all-important results later.

I thoroughly enjoyed visiting Northampton; a very friendly, well-organised, well-supported parkrun with a lovely flat easily-navigable course. Thank you for the warm welcome and for reminding me of the value of the extended parkrun family. And to all the new runners starting their Saturday morning parkrun adventures at the moment, as well as the regulars – as Matt says – “Thank you for choosing us.”

I have been filming some of my recent parkruns on a GoPro, with timelapse footage, so that potential parkrun participants can see the various courses and terrains before they visit and get some idea of the variety of events. Here’s my GoPro timelapse from Northampton this morning: https://youtu.be/c_KJq4EN4EQ (and all the others I have uploaded are on the same playlist – do have a look).

This week 523 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 54 were first timers and 69 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 34 different clubs took part.

The event was made possible by 34 volunteers:

Alison POSTLETHWAITE • Mark Alan KENNEDY • Terry EGAN • Leigh BARKER • Bryan LEWIN • Helen REES • Gerald BILLIS • Michelle LEWIS • Trish LORIMER • Szabolcs MATE • Catriona DOYLE • Eric SYMONS • Vicky NICHOLAS • Matt BUSHELL • Craig RICHARDS • Sharon CONQUER • Lynett PILGRIM • Daniel GILLERT • Katherine MCFADIAN • David BUTLER • Elaine STARMER • Karen CLARK • Wayne CHALMERS • Paul ECCLES • Paul FRENCH • Julie FITZELL • Mark DEAN • Viv POOLE • Alfie STARMER • Joanne HAYMAN • Jamie CLARK • Chris BOHIN • Christine MCFADIAN • Tim LEAH

MILESTONES: Matthew EVERETT 150th, Glenn ROBERTSON and Alexander SAVKO on 100th and Martina MCLOUGHLIN 50th