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!