From the beginning

Our latest parkrun person profile introduces Kelvin Desmoyers-Davis, a name many might recognise from its regular appearance near the top of the finishers list.

One of the participants in the first ever Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun, Kelvin has been taking part in parkruns since before ours existed.

“A colleague at work mentioned this ‘timed 5k event in Maidstone’ and my gut feeling was well that sounds interesting but a bit far to travel!” explained Kelvin. “Then through word of mouth and social media I discovered there was a parkrun starting at Tonbridge, so I went along to their inaugural event. Then – as I’m Tunbridge Wells born and bred – I heard about the then new Royal Tunbridge Wells event and I’ve been here ever since.”

Kelvin is front of the pack (he's the one on the left!)

Kelvin is front of the pack

When asked what made him keep coming back Kelvin said: “Different reasons at different stages. Originally I was determined to beat my PBs. Then to get into the 50 club. Now [not far off 250 parkruns] I see it as more than just a 5k and I enjoy the social aspects like catching up with fellow participants for a post parkrun coffee.”

Post-parkrun coffee

Post-parkrun coffee

His favourite thing about parkrun is entering the finish funnel, because that’s the moment when he feels like he’s achieved something: “Whether that’s helping someone get a PB if I’ve been a volunteer pacer, renewing my own PB or simply knowing I’m one run fewer away from the next milestone club!”

Having been a parkrunner for so long, Kelvin’s one of our faster participants but is often seen slowing down a little as a volunteer pacer [pacers always choose a time they feel comfortable with, rather than aiming for their own PB, so they can be sure their time is achievable on the day].

“It’s rewarding to know you may have helped someone achieve a PB. The pacer can help prevent runners from going too fast for their target time and so burning out before the end of the run. It’s often easier to just follow someone in front of you!”

Part of the pacer pack

Part of the pacer pack

His advice to others is taking part is: “If it’s a cold day, bring something warm to wear afterwards. If it’s hot, bring a bottle of water. The most important thing is to just try and enjoy taking part. Don’t set unrealistic goals, and avoid injuries by listening to your body.” Invaluable advice whether you’re a 20, 40 or 60 minute finisher!

Kelvin also shares his toughest part of the route: “I find the second lap between the bridge and the events field is the toughest part. Keep something in the tank for this section.” That said, of the 13 different parkruns he’s participated in he also says ours is one of – if not the most – picturesque. We always like to hear praise of our park!

To finish his profile we asked Kelvin to tell us something random about himself. He may be one of our faster participants now, but his response was to admit he used to smoke for more than 10 years. Which perhaps acts as reassurance to others thinking of quitting smoking and taking on a new challenge?

 

Helping others to experience parkrun

As we continue our introduction to regular faces at RTW parkrun, we thought we’d share another golden girl from our volunteering team, meet Lizzie.

Having joined parkrun in 2017 as a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze volunteer, Lizzie Miller has continued to help out as she progressed through the achievements, and is now working towards her Gold Award.

Lizzie

Already a runner with Tonbridge AC, Lizzie had visited our parkrun before and loved the friendly, relaxed atmosphere in Dunorlan Park. When it came to choosing somewhere to volunteer it made her decision an easy one.

“I loved the sense of achievement when I crossed the finish,” says Lizzie, “and I wanted to give something back so that other people would have the chance to experience the same thing.”

Admirable reasons for choosing to volunteer!

In her two years since joining our volunteer team, Lizzie has helped out with barcode scanning, finish tokens and support, timekeeping, marshalling and tail walking. She says her favourite roles are timing or finish token support.

It’s a busy time for Lizzie as she works towards her A-levels, but she still loves coming to parkrun on Saturday mornings.

One final word, her advice to anyone considering volunteering or trying out the 5k route: “If your’e thinking of doing parkrun I say go for it! It’s so much fun, kick-starts your Saturday morning and is a great way to meet new people.”

Wise words from Lizzie and we’re grateful to have her as part of the team.

Lizzie scanning

 

We’re buzzing…

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
18 May 2019
Event #250

Run report/pics by Richard Woodfield

As it was our 250th parkrun I thought I'd better check how many times we'd exceeded 250 parkrunners at our event. Here's the answer:

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That number (45) represents remarkable growth considering that when we started there were just four other parkruns within 20 miles of us, whereas there are now 10! Those six additions are Malling, Lullingstone, Bedgebury Pinetum, East Grinstead, Uckfield, Kingdom.

It was no ordinary parkrun - even as the day's 31 volunteers were assembling to collect their hi vis and to be briefed on their duties intelligence arrived of a very large swarm of bees hanging right over the path just past the wooden bridge.

Can you beelieve it!
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A new volunteer role - bee marshal - was hastily created and Jessica and Stephanie assigned the role of steering parkrunners to avoid this, hopefully, temporary hazard.

Today's Run Director, Mark, briefed the assembled throng of 313 parkrunners. As ever he was succinct in his briefing - no droning on or waxing lyrical about matters parkrun! We were soon away, swarming down past the lake.

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The unusual hazard!
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Stephanie and Jessica efficiently steered the parkrunners a few yards off the main path, and so away from the bee hazard.

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Up in the fields...
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Making a beeline for the scanners
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Hive of activity... [That's enough bee puns - Ed]
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This week's volunteers were:
Alasdair SHUTT • Alison BEARD • Andrew DENNETT • Annie DE'ATH • Callum BENSON • Colin RATCLIFFE • Coral SADLER • Elizabeth MILLER • Gloria RICHARDS • Huw JONES • J B • Jane FENTIMAN • Joanna CAMERON • Jonathan HAWKER • Juanita MCFARLIN • Judy GUEST • Julie CHANDLER • Mark DENNISON • Mark SCOTT • Martin BRICE • Meredith BOCHMANN • Noeline SIMS • Oliver GAINES • Oliver MCCARTHY • Rachel SADLER • Richard NASH • Richard WOODFIELD • Robin BARWICK • Stephanie GROOT • Steve BARNFIELD • Vicky DENNETT

 

Five years of Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
27 April 2019
Event No 247

Run report by Erica Jones

The fifth birthday of Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun was such an exciting event that even Storm Hannah attempted to put in an appearance. Thankfully, she wasn’t quick enough, so apart from a little (a lot) of headwind the event was able to run without a hitch.

An impressive 310 participants and 46 volunteers turned up for the birthday event, which is certainly something to be proud of.

parkrun view

The day started with regular parkrunner and Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council William Benson saying a few words, before our new Event Director Colin Ratcliffe launched into the briefings. This included highlighting the Gazebo of Joy which was sheltering the raffle prizes as well as sweet and savoury treats (for human and four-legged runners). This year the raffle prizes were won by a “magic” finish token spot system, a speedier way of ensuring participants win prizes and recognising the efforts of a random assortment of finish times along the way (not forgetting a handy way of discouraging funnel duckers!).

The spot raffle was also a great way of directing people to the sweet and savoury treats and encouraging a few more conversations among those who like to loiter and relax in the park after their 5k effort.

Five years of RTW parkrun has led to many achievements to be proud of, on a collective scale 6,725 people have completed the 5k course, clocking up an incredible 42,858 runs, walks or jogs. This has led to a massive 7,307 personal bests being achieved during that time.

Adding up all the time participants have taken means a total of 2 years, 142 days, 1 hour, 22 minutes and 36 seconds have been spent parkrunning at Royal Tunbridge Wells, clocking up a distance of 214,290km around Dunorlan Park.

All of this supported by 438 different volunteers – our helpers really are heroes!

Over the last year our parkrun has grown in number, with record-breaking attendances occurring increasingly often and it’s great to see average finish times are actually getting slower as our numbers increase. We call it parkrun, but many of us do walk or jog, using the 5k event as the perfect opportunity to begin to get active, which is the best advice for anyone thinking of joining us at our next event.

Well done to everyone who’s taken part in our parkrun – it’s the joggers, runners, volunteers and walkers who make our event so special.

 

So much more than just a 5k run

Colin Ratcliffe recently took on the mantle of RTW parkrun Event Director, so we thought it timely to find out a bit more about what makes him tick and his thoughts on matters parkrun. Richard from our Comms Team met up with Colin to find our more…

How did how did the parkrunning begin? Colin took up running somewhat over three years ago after his wife bought him a Garmin watch for Christmas. When Colin noticed a colleague at work with the same watch the conversation went from running to parkrun. After a couple of training runs, Colin took the parkrun plunge in Feb 2016 (although he confesses that he forgot his barcode on his first attendance!). It was a very wet end to the winter – our numbers were quite low at that point and Quagmire Corner was at its worst. But, despite this, Colin was rapidly hooked. Why was that? “I really liked the welcoming atmosphere of the whole event, the friendliness of the regular volunteer team and the chance to relax over a coffee afterwards. I found there was so much more to parkrun than just a 5k run.”

While experiencing an injury layoff Colin became increasing involved in the volunteering side of things, “I enjoyed helping out at an event that obviously meant so much to so many people.” Later, when he heard that Joe was stepping down, he decided to put his name forward for consideration.

What’s Colin’s favourite volunteering role? “I get a lot of satisfaction from being a pacer – it’s a good feeling if I can finish at or within a second or two of the time. Also I like number checking – the challenge here is trying to keep on top of any discrepancies between the number of clicks of the timers on the finish line and the number of finish tokens handed out at the other end of the finishing funnel.” Colin is keen to learn to keep Joe’s cool demeanour, staying calm and focussed when the numbers start diverging – for example when someone “ducks out” of the finish funnel before taking a token.

Colin enjoying his 5k - whatever the season
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Colin says he is happy parkrunning whatever the season, including when it’s muddy – although he’s not quite so keen if the mud is very sticky! “So far in 111 parkruns in Dunorlan Park I’ve never had to run in heavy rain”. When the heavens did open in September last year Colin was in Leeds, helping his daughter move into university halls.

"If on the day you're feeling a little green...." Fortunately, a slightly off-colour appearance was not enough to prevent Colin pacing 28 minutes at our Halloween 2017 pacer special day!
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Any practical tips for parkrunners? “Do be sensible about parkrunning. If on the day you’re feeling unwell consider something other than running. We can always find a volunteering role. Also from personal experience I can say that trying to keep running when you’re nursing a leg injury is probably not a good idea!” Who remembers Colin’s clear announcement when he tore a tendon at the finish line a few years ago because he tried a sprint finish after hobbling around most of the course?

If he could magically create a parkrun anywhere in the world he would choose to have one in Munich’s Ostpark (near where his in-laws live.) The paths there would make a perfect venue.

Anything particularly unusual that’s happened to him away from parkrun? “On honeymoon in 1992, we found ourselves acting as a human shield for Yasser Arafat, then leader of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) and wanted for supporting Sadam Hussain’s invasion of Kuwait. Without announcement our unmarked flight from Cairo to Amman was diverted to a military base in Jordan where King Hussain of Jordan was standing at the end of a red carpet to welcome the fugitive.” Also, while working as an auditor at the National Audit Office, in the wake of financial crash, he discovered evidence of £60 billion of secret loans from the Bank of England to HBOS and RBS. This information was not in the public domain at the time – and the story made the front page of the FT when news of the vast loans eventually came out in advance of Colin’s published report.

Ambitions for parkrun…

Colin is hoping that RTW parkrun can continue to promote a really inclusive approach drawing in anyone who could benefit from the parkrun experience. “It’s absolutely fine by me if our overall average finishing time gets slower. That’s likely to be an indication that we are appealing to a wide cross section of our community.” Likewise, he would love to see some local GP practices become designated as parkrun practices and linked to our parkrun to encourage patients - and staff - to experience both the physical and mental benefits of parkrun.

He’s particularly hoping we can widen our volunteer base. “There will be people who for health reasons wouldn’t necessarily be able to get round our 5k course. But it may well be they could be part of the volunteer team and experience the buzz of being involved and really be appreciated for their contribution.”

Attention to detail gets the numbers to add up...... Marshals ... "a reassuring presence"
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Warming to the theme, Colin says he would encourage all our parkrunners to think how we can each contribute to making parkrun safe, enjoyable and fun – and what we can do to be responsible users of Dunorlan Park. So he would encourage those who parkrun regularly to think whether they might have a week off from running (for example one week in ten) and volunteer for a non-running role such as marshalling. “I see the role of marshal as very important. Marshals not only cheer on runners but provide a valuable role in summoning help if there is an incident. Marshals also provide a reassuring presence to other park users, indicating that we are acting responsibly."

"Pull up a chair and join in" Colin (right) enjoying some post parkrun relaxation and happiness in the cafe
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Finally, a tip: “If you meet a first timer or a parkrun tourist why not arrange to meet up for a coffee afterwards. I’d love to see more parkrunners staying on afterwards for refreshments and a chat in the café. The social side is important. I’ve really enjoyed having a good group of parkrunners, who have become friends, to chat with after the run. It’s a great way to make new friends, even when they turn up at your house and spill red wine on your beige carpet. Just look out for us, pull up a chair and join in.”

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