Volunteering – with a difference

As a parkrun we are hugely fortunate to have the beautiful and wonderfully varied surroundings of Dunorlan Park as the setting - week by week - for our event. Have you ever thought that you'd like to show your appreciation of those who work so hard to protect and maintain the park? If so, here's one way in which you could make a very practical contribution and "give something back".

Kasia, Parks Technical Officer at TWBC, writes:

"Monday Volunteers meet at Dunorlan Park nearly every Monday near the café at 9.30am. We undertake various gardening and conservation tasks in the park. In winter it would be coppicing vegetation around the lake, removal of invasive laurel, some planting and pruning, weaving of playground willow tunnel and feeding of the waterfowl. In spring and summer we help with the upkeep of the beds – weeding, tidying up. We finish work at 12.30pm, with a tea/coffee and biscuits break at 11am. TWBC provide tools, gloves, volunteers t-shirts and fleece jackets. Sturdy boots are required."

For more information please contact parks@tunbridgewells.gov.uk or call Kasia on 07500 050892.

We aim to post information periodically on the work of the Monday Volunteers. In the meantime, here's some pics of the volunteers in action.

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summer bedding planting June18 (2)

Duck feed Nov19 (3)

 

Join us for International Women’s Day

On Saturday, 7th March, our parkrun will be joining in with others around the world to celebrate International Women’s Day.

As you all know, parkrun is for everyone, what people don’t know is that the figures for participation are a little unbalanced. Research shows that across the world women are less likely than men to take part in parkrun – and that’s despite females making up 54% of registrations!

That’s why we’re celebrating International Women’s Day and the This Girl Can initiative to encourage more women to come along and discover what it is to be a part of parkrun.

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Do you know a woman who’s nervous of coming last? Doesn’t want to be seen in public in lycra? Thinks the hills will be horrendous? Invite her along so she can meet the tail walker, realise lycra is Definitely Not Mandatory, or see how much we support each other up the park’s gentle slopes.

Or maybe she’d like to be involved but five kilometers really isn’t her thing? An introduction to our volunteering team could be the perfect start to a new Saturday morning hobby.

We’ve all been there and know the first visit to parkrun can be a tough one to build up to, then you arrive and wonder why you were ever worried.

So please, invite your sister, mother, daughter, grandmother, neighbour, work mate, mother-in-law, or any other ladies in your life to join us on 7th March – taking part together can make that first step so much more reassuring.

Also, you won’t be singled out, you’ll simply be helping us to balance out the equality of our 100% inclusive event.

 

Welcome 5k Your Way

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event number 285
25th January 2020

Run report by Benny Fiddimore

This week 333 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 54 were first timers and 23 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 24 different clubs took part. The event was made possible by 36 volunteers.

Our run report is written by Benny Fiddimore who is taking part in his Bronze DofE award.

Today, the weather in Dunorlan Park was not the greatest. It was cold, grey and misty. However, that miserable atmosphere was soon changed. Firstly, I had a quick talk with Sonja King, who is celebrating joining the parkrun 100 club! Since August 2014, Sonja has clocked up 64 parkruns here at Dunorlan, with the majority of the rest completed in Croydon. RTW parkrun is extra special for Sonja, because it started the day after her son was born! Congratulations on all the hard work put into reaching 100 parkruns Sonja!

lake view
The weather at parkrun was cold, grey and misty.

Just before the event was about to begin, Run Director Mark was joined by a very special guest for today’s pre-parkrun briefing. Dame Kelly Holmes was here to talk about 5K Your Way. This is a charity which supports and encourages people living with and beyond cancer to get out and get active. She said the point of the charity was to help people get active in a "supportive, friendly environment".

Following her speech, Mark went over a few health and safety announcements before the run commenced.

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And they’re off! Following Mark’s health and safety announcements, the parkrun commenced!

With the event now in action, I decided to walk around the course to motivate our new 5K Your Way participants. I was very happy to see that 5K Your Way is for all abilities, whether you’re a runner, jogger or walker. After all, it’s about getting out in the fresh air and getting some exercise, not about how fast you are.

I spoke to some people who were walking the course. One of these people was a nurse. They had been walking with some of their patients and said to me: "It was great to get some fresh air, and be out helping their patients get active".

As well as speaking to the amazing 5K Your Way participants, I met one of our parkrun regulars. She told me that “today was very difficult for me, but then I saw Dame Kelly Holmes, who gave me a high five, that really inspired me to finish the run”.

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Some of our new 5K Your Way runners, we also had joggers and walkers.


Also after the run, I spoke to the Kent Ambassador for 5K Your Way, Dr Rema Jyothirmayi. I asked her why she decided to bring 5K Your Way to the area. She wanted to encourage her patients living with and beyond cancer to get active. She also told me that the 5K Your Way group planned to meet up on the last Saturday of every month for parkrun! We look forward to welcoming them back in February.

Thank You to Dame Kelly Holmes for inspiring our participants to finish the parkrun today by cheering them on towards the finish line!

RTW parkrun will return next Saturday at 9am.

 

Move against cancer and do 5k your way

Here at RTW parkrun – and indeed every other parkrun around the world – our focus is on inclusivity and the encouragement to get involved no matter what your ability.

Following on from this belief, on Saturday, 25th January, we will be visited by an initiative called 5k Your Way, Move Against Cancer. The group, which has a branch in Tunbridge Wells, is a way of encouraging people living with and beyond cancer, and their friends and family, to get active. Organisers hope to make this a regular occurrence.

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Physical activity has been shown to have a number of important benefits for people living with cancer, including reducing cancer-related fatigue, helping to preserve heart and lung function and muscular fitness and improving psychological well-being. With this in mind, 5k Your Way invites anyone with a current or previous diagnosis of cancer, their friends, families and those working in cancer services to join their support group and then come along to walk, jog, run, cheer or volunteer at our parkrun.

People attending as part of 5k Your Way will still have to register with parkrun in the usual way and bring their printed barcode to ensure they get a time. Briefings for parkrun begin at 8.50am, with 5k Your Way aiming to gather at 8.45am to say hello to each other first.

As added incentive on 25th January, it’s hoped Dame Kelly Holmes will be able to come along to celebrate this positive health initiative!

 

parkrunning in winter

After a wet autumn some sections of our 2 lap 5k route around lovely Dunorlan Park are distinctly muddy and squelchy. During the winter months we recommend use of trail shoes to help give you better grip.

The main thing is to enjoy yourself and get round the course safely - so you might want to ease back on the pace a little in the muddy sections to give yourself the best chance of remaining upright on any slidey surfaces!

 

Coming back for more…

Sheila Wilson is just a few parkruns away from gaining her 100 parkruns t shirt and so is a familiar figure at our parkrun. She’s also one of our relatively few regular parkrunners in the VW65-69 age category. We thought it would be interesting to find out a bit more about her experience and so we dispatched Richard from our Comms team to pose her a few questions.

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How did you come to take up running?

It was 5 years ago, when I was 61. A work colleague wanted to try out a local beginners running club (Sarah’s Runners) and wanted me to go with her for a bit of moral support. I needed a lot of persuading because I had never done any sort of running before, but finally I did go with her, but fully intended that it was to be a ‘one off’. The friendship, encouragement and helpful running tips I received there, meant that what was to be my one and only visit, kept getting extended and I still enjoy a weekly run with them when I can.

And what about parkrun?

I first heard about parkrun from several people at Sarah’s Runners, but it was a while before I actually got around to getting there. That first run was tough going though. It was cold and muddy and ‘Heartbreak Hill’ was just about the final straw for me. (I’ve never done hills well and still don’t). While plodding up that final stretch I decided that this definitely would be a one time attendance only. As soon as I’d finished, several other runners came over and spoke to me, one of whom was Zena Hassell. It was her friendly words of encouragement and advice to try it again, that persuaded me to return the following week - so “thank you, Zena!”.

What do you most enjoy about parkrun?

I’ve met some lovely people since starting parkrun and it is this friendliness and the taking part in a community event that keeps me coming. I am also so impressed by that faithful core team of volunteers who are there week after week, regardless of whatever the weather throws at them.

Still smiling - even after last Saturday's mudfest!
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What would you say to someone who says that over 60s are too old to be running?

It came as a huge surprise to me to discover in my 60’s that I could run a bit and more importantly that I actually enjoyed it. It is so true that you never know what you can do until you actually try it.

The only word of caution I would say, is that if you are in the older age bracket and have never run before, it is probably advisable to build up your running gradually. You could join a beginners running club, such as Sarah’s Runners’ or do one of the excellent on-line apps such as NHS couch to 5K. Or, as many do, you could do a mixture at parkrun itself – for example, jogging the downhills and walking the uphills and so allow your body to get used to parkrunning. Going straight into trying to run the full 5k parkrun distance, without having had any previous running experience, for some older runners could be off putting and possibly medically unwise.

Summer, sunny, downhill - that's the way to enjoy parkrun!
Sheila W

If you could be a parkrun tourist at any event you liked, which would you choose and why?

I’ve tried a few other parkruns, mainly when the Dunorlan event has been cancelled and have been to the Tonbridge, Bedgebury and Penshurst runs. My favourite though has to be Hastings. It’s by the sea, it’s all on the flat (yippee!) and there’s no mud, but it does entail a ridiculously early start.

On a scale of 1 (“I really don’t mind at all”) to 10 (“I’m an obsessive!”) how much attention to you pay to your finish times? Has that changed during the period you’ve been parkrunning?

At one time I would always have said that I was very uncompetitive. When I first started parkrun, it was often half way through the week, before I looked up my timing. (Ed: we think that probably counts as a “2”!) That gradually changed though and now I often find myself looking at the on-line results as soon as they come through! I’m not in the least bothered about where I come on the table, or if I’ve run slower or faster than anyone else. It’s just a challenge on myself to try and keep up a reasonable time.

Corny though it sounds, it really is the taking part that matters. Recently, when the weather conditions were particularly poor, I ‘achieved’ a personal worst, but I was that pleased to have got round the course in one piece that it really didn’t matter!

What’s the most difficult part of the course in winter:
• muddy stretch on path through bushes about 50 metres after the memorial?
• Quagmire Corner?
• Heartbreak Hill?

I still find ‘Heartbreak Hill’ a real trial and am filled with admiration at those who manage a sprint finish on it.

That's Heartbreak Hill beaten for another week
Sheila W2

And, to sum up?

Running is now a real positive in my life and parkrun is a big part of that. I am still not keen on all that winter mud, but the friendliness, banter and encouragement between fellow runners more than compensates for that.

 

John Dyson

RTW parkrun regulars will be very sorry to hear the news that John Dyson passed away at the end of October. Invariably arriving by bike which he parked under the big tree, John became a familiar figure at our parkrun. He ran the first of his 125 parkruns in Dunorlan Park back in the autumn of 2014. John most recently ran with us in July this summer. He also completed another 30 parkruns at East Grinstead.

John was a softly spoken, gentle man, always ready with a friendly word. During 2017 and 2018 he also became one of our stellar volunteers, regularly arriving early to help set up our course for parkrun. (He helped with set up on no less than 44 occasions during this period.)

Core volunteer Noeline has fond memories of John. She recalls: "He used to arrive really early every Saturday, because he hated the thought of me carrying the orange cones. He would then take them up to the events field and lay them out, no fuss or bother! I remember him drawing me a little map to show exactly where he placed each cone - just in case he didn't turn up one Saturday."

We have found several pictures of John in action (taken by Charles and Zena). In the picture of the starting line up John is on the far right, which if we recall correctly was his regular and favourite starting position!

We send our condolences to John's family and friends.

Below we include just a few of the many tributes that have been paid to John since we received news of his passing.

"John was an extremely fast downhiller, often overtaking whole groups of runners on the way down to Quagmire Corner."

"Really sad news. Many a run behind him with me thinking I could catch up with him on the hill... But rarely did!"
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"When I first started running and was struggling a bit, he was so supportive to me and encouraging."

"He inspired me to get running each week, as he was 20 years older than me and a true inspiration to me personally. RIP John" (Comment from an East Grinstead parkrunner)
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"John was always a friendly and familiar face every Saturday morning. He will be greatly missed."

"I was especially fond of John for all his athlete's advice on recovering from my broken ankle. In particular he gently persuaded me to be patient. He was a gentleman."
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"We were very fond of him, he was such a lovely man. He was an inspiration - cycling to Dunorlan, then doing the 5k and cycling back home again. Sometimes I would see him warming up before the race.

"John was a long-standing member of the TW Harriers & a familiar sight on his bike. He will be missed by many."
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RTW’s first 250 parkrunner – Mark Scott

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.

Mark leading the pack

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.

Mark as a volunteer

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!
Mark in the cafe

 

A minute’s applause – years of memories

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
24 August 2019
Event #262

Run report by Erica Jones and Richard Woodfield (pictures by various)

Paying tribute to Steve - a minute's applause
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The morning's event was a mixture of joy and sadness as we held a minute's applause to celebrate the memory of our good friend, fellow parkrunner and volunteer Steve Barnfield. Run Director Colin led the applause, with friends and family participating, including a group from the Tunbridge Wells Harriers, Steve's running club.

Pacers, volunteers and parkrunners join in the applause
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Tunbridge Wells Harriers gather in tribute
TW Harries Steve Barnfield tribute

As today was the Nation's Biggest Sports Day we put on an event to be proud of, celebrating sport with a large roster of pacers. This must surely have had an impact on the impressive 42 PBs in a field of 312 - well done all!

We also had 34 first timers and a superb total of 52 volunteers. All of our participants and helpers make parkrun the special event it is, so thank you all.

Steve always appreciated interesting or encouraging statistics - and so it was fitting that this tribute event saw our highest ever parkrun attendance in August, and also our second highest ever total of volunteers. Steve himself had, remarkably, volunteered at no less than 219 out of 260 events.

It was also lovely to see Dame Kelly Holmes put in an appearance, with many of us grateful for her encouragement as she ran back around the course after completing her 5k.

Dame Kelly with tailwalker, Den
Kelly Holmes tailwalker

After the parkrun, very welcome food was provided by Sofia's Columbian Kitchen
Sohpias Kitchen Steve tribute

We conclude with a few pictures from our archives showing Steve in parkrun action.

Steve, as pacer, running with his son David
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Timekeeping duties
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Results processing - a role which Steve performed well over 100 times
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Run Director - calm and inspiring confidence
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Thank you, Steve, for all your service to parkrun
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Steve Barnfield

We are very sorry to inform you that our good friend Steve Barnfield has passed away. Steve was a loyal and highly committed member of our RTW parkrun community who was with us right from the start back in 2014. He was the kind of team player on which every successful volunteer based organisation depends.

As his illness progressed Steve bravely and determinedly continued to volunteer with us. Indeed, after he received diagnosis that his illness would be terminal, Steve told us that he valued parkrun more than ever as it offered several hours of normality, distracting him from dwelling on his illness. At his last parkrun, just a few weeks ago, the scanners failed in the wet weather. The results had to be entered manually – a long and arduous task which Steve willingly carried through to completion.

Joe Watts, who was our Event Director up until this spring, has paid this tribute to Steve:

“I met Steve when he volunteered at the test event for Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun and from that day forward until his untimely passing, Steve was ever-present and formed part of the core volunteer team, volunteering on a total number of 219 occasions. Steve will not only be remembered for his enthusiasm for running and volunteering, but also for his love of statistics. He would often impress me with his knowledge of the year-on-year event attendance growth and he was always keen to process and analyse the results - a role that he conducted on over 100 occasions, most recently in July 2019.

Steve was also a very quick runner himself, posting a parkrun PB of 21:33 at Tonbridge in September 2018, with a best ever time at his home event (RTW parkrun) of 21:52 in July 2017. Not only quick over the shorter distances, Steve also had an impressive record over the longer distances. So much so, that he holds two current Tunbridge Wells Harriers club records for the M60-64 category over 20 miles and the marathon distance – the latter being a very swift 3:21.27. I’m sure he would be smiling at my analysis of his performances!

Steve battled through his melanoma with quiet dignity and never displayed any signs of fear or weakness.

He will be sorely missed, yet remembered fondly by all those who had the fortune to be part of his life.”

We send our condolences to Steve’s family, including to his son, David, and daughter, Laura, who are both regular RTW parkrunners. If you would wish to have information on the funeral arrangements please email royaltunbridgewells@parkrun.com.

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Steve is pictured here during one of his many appearances as Run Director at RTW parkrun. We aim in the next few days to publish on our Facebook page a compilation of pictures of Steve in action at parkrun.

Steve pictured here on one of his many appearances as Run Director at RTW parkrun
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