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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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MAZ_2319 MAZ_2424 MAZ_2474 MAZ_2488 MAZ_2543 MAZ_2478 MAZ_2493 MAZ_2392 MAZ_2482

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

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We are back!

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event no 292
24th July 2021

Run report by Benny Fiddimore, pictures by Richard Woodfield

After a long 70 weeks without parkrun, today finally saw the return of events up and down the country. Today we saw 157 runners, joggers and walkers turn out to our Dunorlan Park course, supported by 28 volunteers.

Over the last 16 months, whilst we have been able to take part in quizzes on Saturday mornings with Vassos, or complete a not parkrun (3,678 have currently been completed by RTW parkrunners), nothing compares to the actual event itself, and today was the day we returned.

parkrunners assembling once again...
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and they're away...
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A number of changes have been made to parkrun, most noticeably the fact that us volunteers now wear bright pink hi-vis. We have also had to adapt to new technology, using an app on our phones instead of using timers and scanners. Luckily, the technology worked, and results processing went smoothly. Fingers crossed the tech remains working for all future parkruns!

The tech worked smoothly...
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However, what remains the same is the community parkrun spirit, people gathering to engage in physical exercise, as well as engaging in social contact once again. After the 16 months that we have all experienced, this was incredibly lovely to see, and it's great that so many people have returned.

All that remains to say is... Bring on next Saturday!

Colour co-ordination?
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Testing …. Testing….

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Report by Robin Barwick & Richard Woodfield


It's been a LONG, LONG time with no parkruns to brighten our Saturday mornings. But now the target date for restart of 5k parkruns in England (24th July) is fast approaching.

We'd love the restart to go smoothly. So - time for a small trial event, early evening Tuesday, to test out the new technology / systems for time keeping and scanning. Just as important, this was an opportunity to unveil the new volunteer pink!

Breaking News: Pink is the new Yellow!
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Robin briefs the trial volunteer runners

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It might not have been the real thing but a willing field of 24 runners (numbers of which we had to limit), boosted by a team of 14 volunteers, certainly gave the feeling of a parkrun as the evening sunshine lit up Dunorlan Park.

After a showery day, our favourite park in the low evening sun
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A strong sense of renewal was boosted by crisp pink, high-vis volunteer vests, unsullied bright orange marker cones, and high-tech timekeeping and scanning carried out via parkrun's new Virtual Volunteer app. But what really gave the small event a buzz was the enthusiasm of everyone there.

Time keeping practice...
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New style scanning
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And, for an added touch of realism, a tailwalker
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Just for the day, the route was little short, probably around 4.9k, as we diverted in front of where Pub in the Park was being set up in the Events Field. But that was no bad thing when some of us were trying to break ourselves back in quite gently.

The results (screen shot of a screen shot!)
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Thank you to everyone who contributed to the trial event and we are delighted to confirm that the processing of results, with streamlined data delivery via the app, was completed without a hitch.

So now we need to keep fingers crossed that parkrun can return as planned on Saturday, July 24. Please keep an eye on Facebook and Twitter for news and announcements.

 

United in enjoyment of the feel-good factor

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event number 291
14th March 2020

Run report by Jasmine Quinney

This week 123 people ran, jogged, walked and squelched their way around Dunorlan Park for the 291st edition of Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun. We lined up ready for the run brief to be told to expect a muddy course and it certainly lived up to expectations!

There were 20 first timers today, three of whom recorded their first ever parkrun result today - welcome Nathan, Shanti and Kerry and I hope you managed to enjoy the muddy, wet experience! This number also included many tourists, from places as far away as Melbourne, Australia.

A fantastic seven people managed to record new Personal Bests in the conditions and representatives of 15 different clubs took part. The first finisher was James Sarre, and first female over the line was Amelia Ireson who also recorded a PB today. A shoutout also goes to Sheila Wilson, who achieved the highest age graded score of 70.21%.

A special well done to Timothy Radley who joined the 100 club today, with 94 of these runs being at Royal Tunbridge Wells!
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Briefing time

I was one of the first timers here, and today was a special one for me as it was the last course I had left to have done all 22 parkruns in Kent. This was a challenge I set myself in around October last year (I learnt the hard way that this probably would have been more appropriate for the summer months), and have been steadily ticking off all the runs the county has to offer since.

Kent has a variety of parkrun courses – you can run in a park, country park or forest, on a canal towpath or heath, along the seafront or through a vineyard! Royal Tunbridge Wells was a great one to finish off because it offered some of the greatest hits of the Kent parkruns experienced before – lovely park paths like in Ashford or Dartford, stopping to wipe my glasses off because they’re covered in rain like in Tonbridge, squelchy shoes to rival Squerryes Winery or the feeling at the end of the first lap that I distinctly remember having at Lullingstone of “Do I really have to do that again?!”.

Despite their differences, one thing unites the parkruns in Kent and beyond, and that is the community and feel-good factor that’s there every Saturday morning. This morning was no different, and it was great to have a chat with people while navigating the course this morning, and feeling the buzz of parkrunners and volunteers in the café afterwards. A lovely woman started chatting to me on the second lap after a particularly muddy stretch - we were sharing experiences and she was reminding me just why I enjoy getting out on a Saturday morning. She couldn’t have timed it better as she caught me just at the moment when I had started walking and doubts were creeping in of my decision to wake up at 6:30am for this! So thank you to her and all those like her who manage to give us a bit more of a drive to keep going.

In the current climate when it can feel like everyone is getting increasingly panicked and shutting themselves off, it is so refreshing to come out, forget about everything and enjoy the feeling that parkrun gives you.

The event today was made possible by 29 volunteers:

Mark SCOTT • Jane FENTIMAN • Bernadette O'CONNOR • Judy GUEST • Alison BEARD • Dominic BEARD • Kitty MUYSKEN • Sara RIOLO • Mal MCKENZIE • Noeline SIMS • Huw JONES • Hugh STEPHENSON • Erica JONES • Louis COOMBS • Heloise SOUTH • Robin BARWICK • Juanita MCFARLIN • Mark DENNISON • Alasdair SHUTT • Imogen BURMAN-MITCHELL • Susie NORWOOD • Reuben BENSON • Quinton WOOD • Benny FIDDIMORE • Jasmine QUINNEY • Sarah MCFARLIN • Riya RANJAN • Liberty SMITH • Peter BALL

Thank you for your efforts today, for standing out in the rain and all your words of encouragement. The army of volunteers standing at the end of the first lap was especially appreciated, and helped a great deal with my aforementioned end of first lap feeling!

Finally, thanks to all at Royal Tunbridge Wells this morning for the warm welcome to my friends and I, and for another unforgettable parkrunday. I’m sure we’ll be back to tackle this parkrun again in the future, just maybe in the summer next time!

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun Results Page.

 

International Women’s Day

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event number 290
7th March 2020

Run report by Benny Fiddimore

This week 164 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 24 were first timers and 4 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 17 different clubs took part. The event was made possible by 37 volunteers: Of which 21 were female

Following last week’s unavoidable cancellation, we were all overjoyed to welcome back RTW parkrun to Dunorlan Park! After the horrendous weather on Wednesday and Thursday we must say a big thank you to TWBC, Sodexo and the Monday morning volunteers helping to maintain the park in this exceptionally wet weather.

Today was special event because it was our International Women’s Day parkrun. To celebrate, many participants were wearing a mixture of green, white and purple.

One of our volunteers, Noeline, could not find anything green, white or purple in her house, but that didn’t stop her from showing off the colours. She decided to use some of her purple broccoli from last night’s tea and attached it to her hat using a white ribbon!

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Noeline showing off her great creation made from broccoli!

Obviously, being our International Women’s Day event, it would be wrong not to celebrate the females that make our parkrun run smoothly.

First of all, there are our many female DofE volunteers, who perform multiple roles every week, ensuring the roster remains ‘healthy’. Massive thanks to them!

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Our DofE volunteers hard at work

Next up are our Run Directors. Today we didn’t have one female director, but TWO. Coral, as always, did a great job managing our run. It was also Jane’s debut at a Run Director, and based on her pre-run briefing, it is obvious that she’s a natural. We now have six Run Directors.

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Today’s great team of Run Directors Jane and Coral

Last but not least, are two of the RTW parkrun team's most valued volunteers. Week in, week out, Judy and Noeline ensure our event goes on without a hitch.

Each week, Noeline arrives at 6:30am on Saturday to set up the start funnel, which means we can start on time. She also helps with the clear down, washes the Hi Vis vests and is a great motivator for all our runners. I’m tired just writing that, it sounds like a hard week’s work, let alone in just one morning!

Then of course there’s Judy. Since day one, Judy has been a really important volunteer for RTW parkrun. As well as scanning hundreds (probably thousands) of barcodes, she also manages the volunteer roster, organises the great Dofe volunteers, helps with the routine weekly administration. Without her fabulous organisation skills, parkrun’s volunteers would be a lot less well organised!

Thanks so much to Noeline and Judy for what they do.

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Judy and Noeline, the fairy godmothers behind parkrun!

While we are celebrating our great volunteers this week, it would be dishonorable if we didn’t speak about the female participants out in the fields, demonstrating that parkrun is great fun for males and females.

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Some of this week's participants posed for photos in our ‘This Girl Can’ frame

To summarise, it was another great weekend at Dunorlan Park. I completed the course myself this weekend, and while it was muddy it was great to do my first 5K since October. Now I know that the ‘This Girl Can’ was mainly for female runners, however I couldn’t resist taking part myself!

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Sonja’s story

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
1st February 2020
Event 286

Run report by Sonja King

As a very recent member of the 100 club I thought I would share my parkrun journey. My first ever parkrun was back in June 2011 at Lloyd parkrun in Croydon. At the time we lived about 1 minute’s walk away from the start and my husband encouraged me to give it a go, as we literally could roll out of bed at 8:45am and still make it to the start on time! I wasn’t much of a runner then, barely running at all but the bug bit me and I kept going back for more. I completed 18 parkruns in 5 months until we moved to Tunbridge Wells in December 2011.

My husband and I were very disappointed that there were no local parkruns at the time and we even contacted parkrun HQ to ask how we might establish one. At the time they suggested joining a local running club and so my husband and I joined the Tunbridge Wells Harriers which we are still members of 8 years later. I was very excited when Tonbridge started their parkrun in November 2013 but unfortunately I was pregnant with my first child and unable to participate. The inaugural Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun took place the day after my son was born and this year its 6th anniversary also coincides with his 6th birthday. We are very much a parkrun family with my husband and son also running. My husband particularly enjoys being a parkrun tourist. He has participated in 24 different parkruns including ones in the United States and Germany. My son often runs at the junior parkrun event in Tonbridge on a Sunday.

parkrunning led on to ... the London Marathon!
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I ran my first Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun on 23rd August 2014 event #14. I found the support and camaraderie amazing and it still is although it is a significantly bigger event now. After having a baby getting out and running really helped me cope with the demands of being a mum and gave me the opportunity to have some cherished time to myself. I have run 64 parkruns at Royal Tunbridge Wells and can claim the accolade of being 1st lady 3 times. I hope to run under 23 minutes there one day (my PB currently stands at 23:04)!

Sonja - far left - heading uphill at parkrun
Sonja parkrun

parkrun is a great way of socialising, keeping healthy and active and training for other, longer events. This year I will be running my 5th marathon, my 4th at Brighton. A weekly parkrun has helped me retain my fitness over the winter and I am now beginning my marathon training in earnest. If we have some better weather and the fields dry up a bit I may even incorporate parkrun into my marathon training. I’ll definitely be back in the Spring/Summer to try and get that elusive PB!

At the cross country
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This week 220 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 20 were first timers and 10 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 16 different clubs took part.

The event was made possible by 34 volunteers:
Mark SCOTT • Sonja KING • Jane FENTIMAN • Elizabeth MILLER • Judy GUEST • Alison BEARD • Dominic BEARD • Kitty MUYSKEN • Richard WOODFIELD • Coral SADLER • Mal MCKENZIE • Noeline SIMS • Huw JONES • Hugh STEPHENSON • Heloise SOUTH • Robin BARWICK • Victoria MULLETT • Emily MULLETT • Rose SAWYER • Adrian FERNANDEZ PAREJA • Juanita MCFARLIN • Julie MARCHANT • Mark DENNISON • Alasdair SHUTT • Julie ERXLEBEN • Jayne MEYERS • Imogen BURMAN

New group members are:
10 club - Marlowe Fraser and Alex Glencross
50 club - Gavin Rodney, Paul Truscott and Alasdair Shutt
100 club - Sonja King
200 club - Richard Nash

 

A week of celebrations

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
16 November 2019

Event No 274

Run report by Erica Jones

There’s always something to celebrate at parkrun, be it completing 5k, a personal best, a milestone, a friend’s milestone, volunteering and making a difference to others, or the simple fact you got up and out of the house before 9am on a Saturday. It’s no wonder so many of our photos show smiles on the faces of participants.

However some weeks there’s more to celebrate than others, and event 274 was one of those weeks.

The celebrations began on a sad note, as we held a minute’s applause in memory of former parkrunner John Dyson, but even in sadness there’s joy as many of us shared tributes, some of which can be seen in another news item on this site.

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Then we moved onto the happier news.

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Run Director ‘lite’ Lizzie Miller was given a round of applause as she loses the word ‘lite’ from her title. This week it’s her 18th birthday so she’ll be able to take on full RD responsibilities from now on. Lizzie is one of our valued Duke of Edinburgh volunteers, who is working towards her gold award.

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Next we have a few milestone achievements, with Kelvin Desmoyers-Davis becoming only the second RTW-registered participant to complete 250 5Ks. At the same time David Castle was here for his 100th parkrun, and Jason Horne his 50th. By the end of the morning we were also celebrating the achievements of 18 first-timers and 17 personal bests. Well done to all!

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Last but definitely not least is Judy Guest. Milestones are generally celebrated after the fact, so this week we surprised parkrun fairy godmother Judy by letting her know her 250th separate occasion of volunteering had not gone unnoticed.

A volunteer from day one, Judy is an invaluable member of the team who has almost certainly scanned your barcode at one time or another, as well as managing the volunteer roster and carrying out countless other roles to ensure our parkrun goes without a hitch – all without ever having completed the course.

All of us at RTW parkrun are grateful to Judy for her efforts, and she was presented with a box of chocolates and a personalised T-shirt by way of thanks.

As you can see, last week’s parkrun was definitely a day of celebrations.

 

50,000 and counting

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
9 November 2019

Event No 273

Run report by Richard Woodfield

A wonderful autumn morning with the mist dispersing to reveal brilliant sunshine.... today was certainly a big contrast to the battering we took last week from blustery gales and squally rain. Run Director, Mark, announced in the pre-run brief that the parkrun of today's 40th finisher would be the 50,000th to be completed on our course. It turned out that the honour fell to Dan (pictured) and he was awarded a special star to commemorate the occasion.

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It was a pacer day, and the pacer hi vis vests lined up ready for action always make a fine sight for parkrun early arrivals. There was plenty of squelchy ground to be found after the autumn rains and so it was not surprising that collectively we didn't chalk up a vast number of personal best times. But 20 PBs is still a more than respectable total for this time of year, so well done all.

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Many thanks to all today's 42 volunteers. It was also excellent to see the number of parkrunners bounce back up to 238 after several weeks of lower numbers (probably not unconnected to the rugby World Cup and last week's very unpleasant weather). Here's a few more pictures from the morning's event.

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Expected run time: 133 years!

Royal Tunbrige Wells
26 October 2019
Event no 271

Run report by Richard Woodfield

In common with many other parkruns our numbers were down a bit on the usual. Probably not unconnected with a certain sporting fixture kicking off at precisely 0900. But despite that, and the gloomy weather conditions, there was plenty to enjoy - not least with all the colourful and spooky gear on view.

Judy presents flowers to Coral to mark our appreciation of all that she has contributed to parkrun in volunteering 52 times, in many different roles, as part of her Duke of Edinburgh gold award.
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The good news is that Coral will continue to be involved with our parkrun whenever she can.

A striking addition to today's event was a visiting dinosaur. Leading to this classic exchange. Run Director: "Any parkrun tourists?" Several hands raised. "Where are you from?" "The Jurassic period."

So, what is the expected finishing time for a dinosaur? Let's assume that the dinosaur is a T Rex and so maybe around 70 million years old. With such a veteran status it's probably reasonable to assume that his parkrun finish times have lengthened on average by perhaps a minute each year. This would suggest an expected parkrun finish time of around 133 years! In fact, the dinosaur managed a very sprightly performance in the windy conditions, finishing in around 27 minutes.

All in a day's work for a touring dinosaur.... first timers' briefing.... starting at the back of the field ... collecting a finish token
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Plenty of spooky gear on view
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Possibly the yellowest tree in Dunorlan Park?
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Many thanks to all today's 27 volunteers who made the event possible.

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