When it comes to parkrun, we all have characters we recognise: a particular pair of trainers we follow up Heartbreak Hill; the person in the red top who you stand next to in the starting funnel; the guy with the buggy; the marshal who gives you the extra boost to carry on around the course; and then there’s the tall smiley guy who often helps with set-up and is always seen running around the town.
This week Mark Scott, our official Smiling Running Man, was the first RTW parkrunner to reach the hallowed 250 milestone. To mark the occasion, Erica Jones asked him some questions about running, rivalry and the joy of parkrun.
When did you start running?
I was about 12 months old, but as an adult, when I moved Tunbridge Wells, in 2005.
What made you come along to the first parkrun?
By pure chance I saw it advertised in The Kent & Sussex Courier.
Is there anything you particularly like about our parkrun?
What’s not to like? The park is the best looking parkrun venue I have come across, plus I’ve made good friends over coffee. I’m sure all parkruns are friendly, but, for me, ours is special.
It's amazing to see how it has evolved from that first winter with only a few of us in the mud, to the great success it is today. Our core team of volunteers really are something else, especially those who don't even run, so, thank you to you all for helping me get to 250! [Mark has himself volunteered 68 times] I want to add I will be thinking of our friend Steve Barnfield on this day, a true parkrun legend and a thoroughly nice chap.
Any comments about different places you’ve run or other parkruns?
It’s always good to do a bit of parkrun tourism when on holiday. I did one in France which was fun. It was mainly UK tourists, and a few locals. Very friendly again, with a free coffee from a flask, as there was only about 12 of us! I also enjoyed our trip to Lullingstone, where Joe, Kelvin and a few others got lost and ended up running a few extra kms! (They still beat me though!)
If I remember right it’s since doing parkrun that you’ve started doing longer distances?
No, my first marathon was London 2007 – pay attention!
Oops, sorry! Is there anything you’d like to say about your longer runs?
I have managed a few marathons now, and one longer race, its certainly addictive and I like to have a few races lined up. I had a great time this summer with fellow parkrunners Kelvin and Hugh, taking on the UK's most northerly marathon on the beautiful Orkney Islands. We loved it so much, we may head back next year if you all fancy joining us? (RTW parkrun takeover?)
Is there anything you’d like to say about parkrun in general?
parkrun has become an important part of my life. The course is lovely, there's always a chance to push hard if you are feeling it, but it's just as enjoyable to jog round and have a catch up. In fact, sometimes, catching up and having a chat, the run gets in the way!
Many of us know you because of the 5k a day challenge you set yourself, if I remember correctly this was a bet with work?
Yes, six of us started out to see who could run 5km every day for the longest. I managed to come second.
How long did you keep doing 5k a day?
For 1,776 days. I hobbled the last one round parkrun – with you I believe – and took a break due to injury.
I remember that parkrun! I think you’re back on a new 5k a day streak? When did that begin?
On 11th July, just over 50 days ago, so just settling in...
Any advice to other people considering being as crazy as you and/or general running advice?
Enjoy it! Too many people see running as a fitness chore. If you find what works for you, it becomes addictively good fun. We are so lucky here in Tunbridge Wells, surrounded by hills, parks, woods, quiet lanes and not that far from the coast – so I like to try a few different runs each month.
Anything else you’d like to say about getting fitter/healthier/life improvements and becoming a vegan?
parkrun has been part of that process, giving me a boost to keep going when in those early days I was trying to get fitter – I did go vegan about three years ago, and it has helped a lot with my general fitness and overall health, but I'll leave that there... you don't want to get a vegan started!
And can I ask about your friendly rivalry with Kelvin?
He's too damn quick! He has encouraged me a lot, and we have run quite a few races together. Despite being very talented, he's always had time for a slow long run, or just a beer! I am always trying to persuade him to do strange challenges, but he refused to do Beachy Head Marathon as a pantomime cow... boring! I think we also discussed running the length of France, maybe next year! We are getting fellow runner Hugh involved too, but he's too fast too!
What does getting to 250 parkruns mean to you?
It’s a great thing to get there, but now the big challenge begins, can I hold off Kelvin in the race to 500!