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.”

 

“…..And so I volunteered. The rest is history.”

There have been over 200,000 parkrun kilometers run, jogged and walked at RTW parkrun. Through all of them Joe Watts has been our Events Director. We took the opportunity of his stepping down to ask him to reflect on his time in the role.

When did you first hear about parkrun?

​I first heard of parkrun back in 2013 from a clubmate who mentioned a free, timed 5km event which takes place each Saturday over in Orpington - something called parkrun. I went along for a few times over the summer of 2013 and then another parkrun event opened up in Maidstone later that year; Tonbridge followed the year after.

Tell us how it was you became Event Director at RTW parkrun?

I came across a post on Facebook to say that a parkrun event was set up and ready to go in Tunbridge Wells but that an Event Director and volunteer team was required in order to get it up and running and so I volunteered my services. The rest is history.

Joe - on Run Director duties
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Did you ever think "I wish they'd told me X before I agreed to become Event Director"?

Not at all. The parkrun team were very helpful every step of the way and I was fortunate to have a good support network in the way of Jacky MacDonald, then Whitstable parkrun Event Director and Kent parkrun ambassador who provided ongoing support, training and advice, as well as the ED's at the other Kent parkruns. I was able to shadow a few different event teams leading up to our test event and inaugural event and so I was familiar with how things worked when it came to the event becoming a weekly fixture in Tunbridge Wells.

Can we have a couple of highlights from your time as Event Director?

There are many, however, I think when the event was nominated for and won the "best group" award at the TWBC Love Where We Live Awards, that has to be right up there.

What have you learned from your time as Event Director? What has given you greatest satisfaction?

I have learned a lot from my time as ED and feel that the role has allowed me to grow as a person and apply my knowledge, experience and leadership skills to my employed role. The greatest satisfaction is getting to meet and volunteer with other individuals from a variety of different backgrounds who, without parkrun, I would never have had the pleasure of engaging with.

Apart from Event Director, what's your favourite volunteering role and why?

My favourite non-running role is photographer and my favourite role which allows me to have a (fast) run, would be barcode scanning!

Joe surging through "The Shoewash" (a feature thankfully much improved since drainage works in Spring 2018!)
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Many voluntary organizations these days struggle to get enough volunteers - what do you think is the secret of parkrun's success?

I think the fact that it is so accessible to all ages and abilities. The fact that anyone from any background can participate and volunteer in the event at no cost is a huge positive and I'm sure this is one of the main reasons why parkrun has grown so quickly over its short tenure.

Joe and volunteers assembled for photoshoot with Dame Kelly
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What do you like best about Dunorlan Park as a venue for parkrun?

How it changes through the seasons and how no two consecutive weeks are ever the same in terms of weather conditions and how the park looks. Also the location of the park - it's near the middle of Tunbridge Wells but is so tranquil - you wouldn't think that there is a busy, bustling town centre less than a mile away as well as a main road!

Dunorlan Park through the seasons....
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What's your favourite parkrun course (excluding Dunorlan Park)?

I've been fortunate to run at a number of difference parkrun courses, both in the UK and abroad. My favourite course in this country would have to be Mount Edgcumbe in Cornwall, which although is one of the hilliest available, is set in such a beautiful location. It's also one of the only events that I know you can visit by ferry (from Plymouth). My favourite international parkrun event would have to be Crissy Field in San Francisco which has the Golden Gate bridge for a backdrop on the way out and Alcatraz in the distance on the return leg. It's also one of the flattest courses that I have run!

Any tips for a parkrunner struggling to keep on running up Heartbreak Hill as they approach the finish?

I see so many runners struggling up the hills, my tips would be to keep your chest up, reduce your stride length, pick up your knees and smile!

What are you going to do with all that spare time now that you're relinquishing the role of Event Director?

Part of my decision for relinquishing the role of ED is that I have far less spare time than I once did at the start of my parkrun journey due to other commitments. In the time that I have been ED I have started up my own running group, qualified as a Personal Trainer, progressed in my job and moved house! I feel that now is the right time for someone else to take on the role in order to breathe new life into the event and continue to take it forward.

What could parkrunners do that would most help your successor to enjoy his time as Event Director?

* Register with parkrun and remember to bring along a printed copy of your barcode every week.
* Listen and pay full attention to the pre-event safety briefing and announcements.
* Once across the finish line, stay in order and move swiftly through the funnel, collect a finish token and hand this to the barcode scanning volunteers.
* Smile and enjoy yourself!

Pictures by Zena, Charles and Richard - who between them have run over 500 parkruns at RTW parkrun while Joe has been Event Director.

 

Spring 2019 – change at the helm and upcoming events

Here's what we've got lined up for you at RTW parkrun through the Spring.

There are currently no planned cancellations of our event during the remainder of March and April.

Saturday 30 March - change at the helm! As we approach our 5th anniversary Joe Watts has decided the time is right to step down as overall Event Director of RTW parkrun. This will be Joe's last parkrun as Event Director, and he will also be Run Director on that day. We'd love to give Joe a great send off to thank him for the service he has given in setting up and leading our parkrun. During his time at the helm around 6,500 different parkrunners have, between them, completed over 40,000 parkruns on our course, achieving around 7,000 Personal Best times! And, equally impressive, around 425 different people have volunteered to don the yellow hi vis volunteer jacket at our event. As we know, every local parkrun is built on teamwork, but we owe Joe an especially big debt of gratitude for leading and committing an enormous amount of time and energy to the success of our parkrun. Colin Ratcliffe has kindly agreed to take on the role of Event Director.

It would be lovely to have a great turnout on 30 March to help make the day memorable for Joe. Also we'd like to suggest that all parkrunners and volunteers who have earned a parkrun tee shirt for volunteering or completing a given number of parkruns could wear their parkrun top on that day as a very visible reminder of how much parkrunners have achieved under Joe's stewardship of the event.

To add to the occasion we are planning to have pacers. (Although the course is rather muddy and slippery in places at the moment the forecasters are, encouragingly, suggesting there will be a fair amount of dry and mild weather through the rest of March.) The volunteer roster is currently open for pacer volunteers for that day.

Joe on cake cutting duties at our 4th Anniversary ...... Colin making sure our numbers add up
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Saturday 20 April - Easter parkrun We'll be marking Easter (ok - a day early as we're keen!) with some treats for parkrunners and volunteers around the barcode scanning area. Chocolate may feature! If you've got family or friends visiting for the holiday weekend it's always nice to have an outing with them at parkrun. Dunorlan Park is likely to be full of spring colours by then.

Saturday 27 April - 5th anniversary parkrun It's amazing to think we've been going that long! The event will be a good opportunity to thank the many people who've contributed so much to the success of our parkrun during the last year. It will also be a pacer day.

We'll also be having a raffle with prizes on offer, and so would welcome donations, in advance, of raffle prizes. It would be most helpful if any raffle prizes donated could be given to Judy by the previous parkrun (20 April) at the latest so that we know what other raffle prizes we may need to buy in to complete a suitable range. If you'd rather make a small financial donation towards raffle prizes this has to be done on-line via the website. (See "more" then "about us" buttons at top right corner of our home page)

 

Coral’s golden

Our parkrun couldn’t happen without the kind help of volunteers, and so this week – as part of what we hope will become a series of profiles of parkrun participants of all kinds – we’re introducing a Run Director of the future, Coral Sadler.

Coral

Okay, so we may be looking ahead a little when we’re touting her as a Run Director, but having volunteered at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun for the last six months, Coral certainly knows what’s going on when it comes to ensuring our event runs smoothly. Her experience includes barcode scanning, finish token support, funnel manager, marshal, timekeeper, token sorting… we could go on… and her favourite role (for now, while she eyes up the RD vest) is number checker.

As Coral says: “I love helping things run smoothly and I enjoy solving any problems that may arise within that role!” (Editor’s note, from people accidentally entering the finish funnel twice to missing tokens, a *lot* can go wrong between passing the stop watches and receiving your emailed finish time.)

Coral volunteers Coral at the finish funnel

Coral, who is working towards her gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, explains why she chose to volunteer with us: “My Mum has been taking part for a little while and she suggested it was a good idea, now every Saturday we turn up together and it’s a good way to get the weekend started.” We applaud this sentiment.

While volunteering is her preferred start to the weekend Coral has also participated in the 5k a couple of times, to try it out with her Mum: “I really enjoyed it, everyone is very friendly and the marshals are super motivational! A nice hot coffee and veggie sausage sandwich afterwards always won me over too.”

A few highlights from her time with us – so far – include volunteering on Christmas day, when everyone was in good spirits, including lots of Santa hats and treats, and the week an entire bridal party (complete with bride and groom) took part.

Coral adds: “I really enjoy my time at parkrun and can see myself staying on after I have completed my DofE. I thoroughly enjoy my Saturday mornings and would be lost without them.”

A politics and international relations student at Royal Holloway University, Coral is currently training her chocolate Labrador so he can join her at parkrun.

 

Winter events at RTW parkrun

Here's what we've got lined up for you over the next couple of months or so at RTW parkrun. Our usual Saturday parkruns continue through the winter. If there's snow and (especially) ice around do keep an eye on our website and social media (Twitter or Facebook) for news of course inspections and possible weather related cancellations.

Christmas Day We have an extra parkrun (Yay!) laid on for you this Christmas Day. It will be at the usual time of 09:00. Many thanks to all those who've already volunteered. It would be great to enter the festive spirit with an outbreak of santa hats, antlers and such like. Remember to give a massive thank you to all the volunteers on the day!

Saturday 19 January - RTW parkrun New Year social It would be great to make a New Year resolution of getting to know other parkrunners and volunteers that bit better. We'll be holding an evening get-togther at 20:00 in The Guinea on Calverley Road – an area has been reserved to the side of the bar.

Saturday 16 February - our Valentine themed parkrun. Bring a loved one along and it'll be a red themed parkrun.

Pacer days: due to the current gloopy and rather slippery condition of the course we've decided not to hold a pacer day in December. We reckon that when conditions are really squelchy the majority of parkrunners are probably just concentrating on getting round the course in reasonable shape rather than looking to achieve a target time. We may potentially hold pacer days on 26 January and 23 February, but we'll keep an eye on course conditions and aim to let you know in good time whether we're going ahead with these.

 

Christmas Day parkrun in Dunorlan Park

Every year, UK 5km parkrun events are given the option of providing two additional parkrun events - one on Christmas Day and another on New Year's Day.

As with last year, we have decided to provide an additional parkrun event on Christmas Day but NOT on New Year's Day.

This decision has only been made possible thanks to the good number of people who have volunteered to help out with the running of this event on Christmas Day, so a very BIG thank you.

We invite you (and your friends and family) to join us as we celebrate Christmas in style in Dunorlan Park at the usual start time of 9am. This additional event means that we shall be offering 6 free parkrun events throughout the month of December.

Please note that the cafe will NOT be open for business on Christmas Day, however, we invite you to bring along drinks and food to share with fellow parkrunners and volunteers!

If you would like to volunteer on Christmas Day, we have roles available before (setting up the course), during (marshalling, help around the finish funnel) and after the event (collecting course markers & finish token sorting). Please e-mail our volunteer coordinator Judy at the following address: royaltunbridgewellshelpers@parkrun.com

 

Autumn events at RTW parkrun

We have a number of special events taking place over the Autumn months at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun in Dunorlan Park as follows:

6th October - International parkrun day.
Join us as we celebrate the 14th anniversary of parkrun. It all started on Saturday 2nd October 2004 as Bushy Time Trial where 13 runners completed a 5km distance, supported by 5 volunteers. The event was eventually renamed as "parkrun" and has grown a little over the years.

27th October - Halloween Spooktacular pacer day.
We invite you to dress up in something ghoulish (well, more so than usual) as we celebrate Halloween in Dunorlan Park. There will be some tricks and possibly some treats as you exit the finish funnel...
Our volunteer pacers will be on hand to see you safely around the course, but beware of the ghostly tail walker!

3rd November - Advance warning
Please note that Dunorlan Park will be much busier than usual on this date as the Round Table and helpers will be setting up for the Fireworks and festivities which will be taking place in the evening. Car parking will be even more limited than usual and we would advise avoiding the Pembury Road car park where possible.

10th November - Social evening.
Join us from 8pm in the Mount Edgcumbe (located on Tunbridge Wells Common) for a lemonade or two and get to know fellow runners and our volunteer team a little better.

24th November - Pacer day.
Our team of volunteer runners return once more as they look to help you along to a new Personal Best time.

If you would like to volunteer in any capacity (including as a pacer) for any of our events, please e-mail the team at: royaltunbridgewellshelpers@parkrun.com with your parkrun barcode number and the date(s) you wish to volunteer. If you would like to volunteer as a pacer, please also let us know the time that you would like to pace. Please note that no previous experience of pacing is required, however, we would advise pacing a time that you are comfortable completing (i.e. 2-3 minutes slower than your average finish time on our course) as well as wearing a sports watch!

 

Donations towards mobile broadband costs

We are currently seeking donations towards the cost of purchasing a new mobile broadband plan for the purposes of the results processing which we do each week post-event in the comfort of Dunorlan Park cafe. Unfortunately, our allowance ran out whilst we were processing the results this week, hence the delay in results being submitted!

We are looking to purchase a new plan at a cost of £45 for 24gb which will see us through for the next 12-18 months.

We currently have £14.64 available in our donations pot and therefore require a little over £30 to help us to this milestone.

If you wish to donate towards this cost, please visit the "more" and "about us" section of our website where you can find a link which will allow you to donate to parkrun. Please note that we can only accept donations in this way and cannot accept cash or cheque as each event does not have their own bank account. Rest assured that 100% of your donation will go straight to our event funds.

Thank you in advance for your kind assistance.

Best regards

Joe Watts
Event Director

 

Jemima Yeats-Brown to volunteer as tail walker at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun on Saturday 18th August 2018

Jemima Yeats-Brown (judo bronze medallist at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth games) is set to attend Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun on Saturday 18th August 2018, a free 5k community event that takes place every Saturday at Dunorlan Park and is open to walkers and runners of all ages and abilities.

Jemima Yeats-Brown will be one of around 250 National Lottery funded athletes who will be attending a parkrun event between 18 August and 9 September as part of #teamparkrun, an initiative that invites Britain’s top athletes to volunteer as Tail Walkers at parkruns and junior parkruns across the country. Each of parkrun’s 800 events across the UK have volunteer Tail Walkers who provide support and encouragement for people who choose to walk the event, as well as ensuring that nobody finishes last at a parkrun.

#teamparkrun is backed by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales, Sport Northern Ireland, the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association, along with a number of national governing bodies.

Joe Watts, Event Director at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun, said: “I expect that the most common reason for someone registering with parkrun and not participating is that they don’t feel confident of running 5k, so #teamparkrun provides a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate how inclusive parkruns are and how warmly we welcome walkers. I would encourage anyone to come along to our event and see for themselves - walk, jog, run, volunteer or simply watch. parkrun is a socially-focused event that is all about encouraging the local community to get out in the fresh air and to enjoy our open spaces.”

parkrun registration is free, please visit: www.parkrun.org.uk/register

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun takes place at 9:00am with the start and finish located close to the café in Dunorlan Park. A new runners briefing takes place at 8:50am which explains exactly how parkrun works.

 

Summer events at RTW parkrun

We have a number of special events taking place over the summer months at Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun as well as a couple of cancellations to warn you about.

9th June - NHS 70 celebration event. This special event sees parkrun events up and down the country teaming up with their local NHS Trust in order to encourage new participants, including NHS staff and volunteers, to come along to their local parkrun to recognise the contribution that the National Health Service has made to the health of the nation over the past 70 years.

16th June - Event cancelled due to another event taking place in Dunorlan Park

23rd June - Social evening. Join us from 8pm in the Mount Edgcumbe (located on Tunbridge Wells Common) for a lemonade or two and get to know fellow runners and our volunteer team a little better.

30th June - Pacer day. The first in our trio of Summer pacer days, as our team of volunteer runners look to help you along to a new Personal Best time.

7th July - Event cancelled due to another event taking place in Dunorlan Park

28th July - Pacer day. Our team of volunteer runners return as they look to help you along to a new Personal Best time.

4th August - A new era in World sport gets underway in August as Glasgow and Berlin host the inaugural European Championships between 2nd and 12th August – an exciting new multi-sport event bringing together a collection of the continent’s leading sports. We show our support for Team GB and invite you to show your true colours by turning out in your red, white and blue attire.

18th August - Social evening. Join us from 8pm in the Mount Edgcumbe (located on Tunbridge Wells Common) for a lemonade or two and get to know fellow runners and our volunteer team a little better.

25th August - Pacer day. Our team of volunteer runners return once more as they look to help you along to a new Personal Best time.

If you would like to volunteer in any capacity (including as a pacer) for any of our events, please e-mail the team at: royaltunbridgewellshelpers@parkrun.com with your parkrun barcode number and the date(s) you wish to volunteer. If you would like to volunteer as a pacer, please also let us know the time that you would like to pace. Please note that no previous experience of pacing is required, however, we would advise pacing a time that you are comfortable completing (i.e. 2-3 minutes slower than your average finish time on our course) as well as wearing a sports watch!

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