Event 300!

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event no 300
18th September 2021

Run report by Benny Fiddimore. Pictures by Judy Guest.

It has taken a while, but this weekend RTW parkrun managed to reach the milestone of 300 events! Since April 2014, 8,367 people have copmleted the course, and altogether they have managed to finish 55,857 times! Wow, that's a lot of running, walking and jogging. Over the last 300 events, those runners, walkers and joggers have been assisted by a fantastic 554 volunteers.

The start of the 5k.

Today we had a strong 204 finishers, who were assisted by 48 volunteers, one of whom was Joe Watts. It's great to see him as a regular participant in Dunorlan Park, because it was down to Joe's hard work that RTW parkrun began. Without him, there's no way we would have reached 300 events.

joe in his 100
We promise this is Joe in his 100 t-shirt!

It was also great to see so many people wearing their parkrun milestone t-shirts, summing up our achievements over the last 300 events, and providing a lovely colourful scene of white, lilac, red, black and apricot, and even a few of the dark green 250 shirts!

little girl joined her dad to motivate him
This little girl joined her Dad for Heartbreak Hill - the place where we all need a little extra encouragement!

For me, it has been a privilege to have been part of the parkrun volunteering team since December 2019, and as one of the RDs since July, and I look forward to playing a role in the next 300 events. I was speaking to today's RD Jane, who alongside volunteer co-ordinator Judy, has been here since the start of RTW parkrun. She told me how the first event only had six volunteers. We have grown so much in 300 events, and I look forward to seeing how much we grow in the next 300!

William used to tail walk in a carrier on his dad’s back and now runs 5k
Another long-"running" participant, William's first experiences of parkrun were in a carrier on his Dad's back as a tailwalker, now the youngster completes the course himself (with Dad's supervision).


300 Not Out!

A compilation of memories from the first three hundred Royal Tunbridge Wells parkruns.
Words by Richard Woodfield. Pictures by numerous contributors from our parkrun archives...

Following months of preparations RTW parkrun was launched in April 2014 by a team of volunteers led by our first Event Director, Joe Watts. In those early days numbers of parkrunners and volunteers were often quite small. (There were just 53 intrepid parkrunners and 11 volunteers on this snowy day in February 2015.)

But the team persevered and the parkrun has grown and prospered. And of course we have continued to parkrun in almost all weathers. Come sun, frost, snow, torrential rain... we've kept on going!
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We did, however, have to admit temporary defeat during the icy Beast from the East when tobogganing seemed the safer option!
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Come rain, come shine, whether clad in yellow or in pink, the hi vis heroes have never been less than awesome!

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A remarkable total of 550 people have volunteered with RTW parkrun. These have included successive cohorts of Duke of Edinburgh award students.
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We love fabulous Dunorlan Park!
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Ok - we can maybe overlook the occasional drainage issue! This section came to be known affectionately as The Shoe Wash.

Then - from time to time - we've had the odd patch of mud to contend with!
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Heartbreak Hill has always posed a challenge to parkrunners nearing the end of the 5k course. In March 2018 unexpected help was at hand in the unlikely form of a homemade "tap for power" sign. Judging by the feedfback on Facebook and Twitter afterwards it proved remarkably effective! Sadly the initiative would probably not be Covid compliant just at the moment.
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Since our launch a total of over 8300 different parkrunners have somehow tapped into a source of power to achieve a collective total of over 8800 personal best times at our event! Week by week these totals continue to rise...

We've had some memorable festive Christmas parkruns.

Special occasions, including pre-wedding parkruns, have featured. Here the groom had the best of things, wearing shorts, while the bride ran the course in a long wedding dress and the "vicar" perspired liberally as he toiled up Heartbreak Hill clad in a heavy cassock.

RTW parkrun anniversary events have been an annual highlight. Here's a barcode cake - one of Zena's wonderful creations, made for our 3rd anniversary in 2017. And over the years we've had some superb catering from Team Baguley!

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We won an award for "Best Group" at the Tunbridge Wells Love Where We Live awards evening in 2016. Joe, as the then Event Director, received the award on behalf of our community of parkrunners and volunteers.

In 2018 we welcomed the founder of parkrun Paul Sinton-Hewitt who ran the course before, characteristically, returning to encourage weary parkrunners at the foot of Heartbreak Hill.

Also in 2018, a swarm of bees hanging low over the path caused us to create a new role of bee marshal, to supervise a temporary diversion in the route.
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Joe, Louise and Judy update RTW parkrunners about our Love Where We Live award.

We've had the fancy dress .... We've welcomed a dinosaur, listening open mouthed to Mark's first timer's briefing.
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A highlight for many was our parkrun to mark the NHS 70th birthday, with the visit of Dame Kelly Holmes.


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The Dunorlan Park Cafe has featured large in our collective memory - whether as an impromptu office to process results and sort finishing tokens, or as place to meet old and new parkrun friends...
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We've had a good number of social occasions too outside our usual parkrun hours.... parkrun itself is not of course a race, but the egg and spoon race one summer Saturday afternoon most certainly was as competitive as they come!
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Winding down after another sunny, warm parkrun...

No review of our "first 300" would be complete without the curious incident of the gang of surly ducks! In December 2016 under the command of their "ring" leader the wildfowl bided their time, loitering with intent on the waste bin, before launching a series of systematic attacks on passing runners, causing several - including local MP Greg Clark - to take rapid evasive action.
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After the long, long suspension resulting from the Covid19 pandemic it was so good to be back up and running, jogging, walking and volunteering again these last few weeks.

First the pilot event, led by current Event Director, Robin, to test out the new Covid-compliant arrangements. Here Robin, makes friends with tail walker Helen's dog. And we tried out the new scanning arrangements.
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Then "the real thing" - actual parkrunning!
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Finally, we recall that over these 300 parkruns our RTW parkrun community has experienced some sad times as we have lost several very good friends of parkrun. Here, in August 2019, we paused for respectful applause as we remembered Steve Barnfield who contributed so much during the early years of our parkrun.

As we move into another autumn season of parkrunning in Dunorlan Park, here's to the next 100 parkruns!


My royal return to parkrun

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event no 297
28th August 2021

Run report by Kieran Woolmer. Pictures by Amélie Forrest.

This week's run report is provided by a parkrun tourist who chose our event for his return after the parkrun pause. We think you'll agree he's captured the spirit of the parkrun community here.

Every year as a child I used to watch the London Marathon in my parent’s bed. I used to love watching all these people tackling the 26.2 miles through London. I remember marvelling (once I got some context of just how far it was) at the physical challenge these people had undertaken and achieved. However, since undertaking that distance, it has become clear that I wasn’t watching the thousands of people running miles upon miles for hours and hours. No, I was watching a journey of months of training, sacrifice, tears, success and failure. Yet today it has never been more apparent that what I now see upon watching a marathon isn’t confined to the distance of 26.2 miles but can be seen every week at parkrun.

My story has been a long time coming, my first parkrun since the initial lockdown in 2020. I have been marathon training since parkrun went on hiatus and have admittedly neglected the shorter distances, though never forgetting where it all began. I got my wristband out of the bathroom cabinet, dusted it off and put it on before bed, as had always been my ritual since getting one. I checked my watch, it was low on battery, I put it on charge for the night and set my alarm early enough to make my journey across Kent in time with visions of using my months of marathon training to crack a new personal best and maybe even finally getting under 22 minutes. (After all the route showed a waterside run, surely it was flat?!)

I arrived having realised I forgot my watch (no electronic pacing for me today), theoretically with plenty of time, though completely losing my sense of direction and just finding a parking space in time. I parked up and realised my chosen spot involved running up a gargantuan hill in order to get to the gate, ‘just a warm up,’ I thought, ‘after all, the route must be pretty flat’.

The start of the 5k.

As I descended into the park I saw the image I have missed so much in the distance - that stampede of runners leaving the starting line – I was late. I bolted down the hill to join at the back, starting Strava on my phone a few hundred meters in to the route and tried to get into my old rhythm. It was going well for most the first lap, and then I hit the climb I later learned is nicknamed Heartbreak Hill. My legs turned to lead and my efforts to thank those wonderful marshals en-route descended into a lifeless wave. I eventually hit Heartbreak Hill a final time and stumbled home not even close to my target time. I checked my Strava and saw 214ft of elevation, so much for my flat run.

Downhill descent.

So what did I learn from Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun? A tough but scenic route – I can deal with the elevation and I can deal with the changing surface underfoot (grass, dirt, path, grass, dirt path), but the combination made it a real challenge. The support from the marshals was great and it was particularly heart-warming to see all the volunteers clapping at the end of the first lap and the sense of community was clearly fantastic. Though mostly I learned how dependant I have become on my watch, and receiving an impressively quick text with my time gave me that rush I got when I first started.

Loop two begins.

Though in reality the story of my run is not what parkrun is about. Like my opening statement it is the stories that go with each runner. As I finished, got my breath back and my legs began to regain their coordination I sat and watched each runner cross the finish line. Each carrying their own story between the two timekeepers. Some looking as I had felt and some looking much more energetic, some crossing with others, clearly sacrificing their own time to support a friend or family member, though all with that sense of pride and achievement that made parkrun part of my pre-covid weekly routine.

The finish funnel.

As I sat on that grassy slope it made me proud to be part of a community that is so supportive, so welcoming and always there for people. Whatever brought all those people to that start line (or a few hundred meters from it in my case) on that warm, humid morning ultimately didn’t matter. Whether, like me, it was a precious break from taking the kids to their weekend clubs, being talked into it by a friend that claims ‘it’s only 5k’, putting the stamp on the end of the couch to 5k they started in lockdown or the desperation to finally break a time barrier, we all crossed that line and achieved something.

We all face different challenges during our 5k.

What really matters is that the fantastic volunteers gave up their time to make today a possibility and to make sure parkrun will always be there for those who need it, whatever their journey may have been in getting to running, jogging or walking those long five kilometres.

Thank you to all the volunteers.


Benny’s RD debut

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event no 296
21st August 2021

Run report and some pictures by Richard Woodfield. Other pictures by Marianne Taylor (MT)

A grey, overcast day marked Benny's debut as Run Director. 20210821_105010

Conditions were ideal for parkrunning - not too hot, and the going underfoot dry, but without the bone hard surface we can sometimes get towards the end of the summer. The event seemed to pass very smoothly and the results came out promptly - so it's a big well done to Benny!

Zena uses the new water tap while Benny briefs the team on the allocation of volunteer responsibilities
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Marianne Taylor was visiting parkrun today. Usually she likes to photograph wildlife, but today she took action shots of parkrunners. Here's a selection....

(Click on an individual picture to get the best view)

Down the grassy slope towards the wooden bridge... (MT)
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And a few more.... (MT)
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Finishing tokens and scanning....
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The day's vital statistics:
* 211 parkrunners completed the 5k course
* 30 awesome volunteers made the event possible
* 38 took part in parkrun for the first time on our course
* 42 achieved personal best times



Take Two

Royal Tunbridge Wells
Event 293
31 July 2021

Run report by Richard Woodfield

Our second parkrun back after the long absence saw a fine morning with a pleasant, cool breeze. Today's attendance of 184 parkrunners matched very closely our overall average (185.8) for all 293 parkruns. The total of 28 volunteers was the same as last week. There were 29 first timers - 17 completely new to parkrun, and another 12 taking part at our particular event for the first time.

Jane (at right) was doing her first solo stint as Run Director.

Coral's first timers' briefing was well attended

Within minutes of the start there is plenty of wide open space to be enjoyed...


Crossing the wooden bridge...



William's very first 5k parkrun...

Approaching Heartbreak Hill!...

parkrun is SO tiring when you're being carried...




Marshals around the course...
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Closedown team in action...

All quiet by the lake...


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