Autumn light

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
21 September 2019
Event no 266

Run report by Richard Woodfield

Conditions overhead and underfoot made for an ideal early autumn parkrun. Cool, sunny weather and firm, but not bone hard, ground. A good many of our regulars were taking part in the Hospice in the Weald 10k/5k/ Run the following day, and so were either taking things a little easier than usual on their parkrun or were volunteering. So the total of 81 personal bests (out of 284 parkrunners taking part) was particularly impressive.

A neat circle of first timers and parkrun tourists listens to Robin's pre run briefing
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Tail walkers setting off
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Autumn in Dunorlan Park often offers plenty of photography opportunities and, as I too was resting up before the Hospice Run, I took the opportunity to take some action shots on the gentle uphill section just before Heartbreak Hill. The shafts of low autumn sunlight bursting through the deep shade made for some colourful compositions.
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Many thanks to all 32 volunteers who made this event possible.

Onwards and upwards. Maybe only another five or six parkruns to go until we pass the landmark of 50,000 individual parkruns completed at our event!

 

10 and 17 August updates

10 August: we had been keeping under review whether this week's parkrun was possible in the light of the planned Cinema in the Park in the events field. We are pleased to confirm that we plan to go ahead.

17 August - we have a double billing!

In the morning it's our parkrun - usual time, usual place.

Then it's parkFunday! From 1300 to 1500. All welcome ... parkrunners, volunteers and their friends and families. Bring your own picnic. We'll be having a fun mini sports day. Nothing too serious - and running ability optional!

 

Helping others to experience parkrun

As we continue our introduction to regular faces at RTW parkrun, we thought we’d share another golden girl from our volunteering team, meet Lizzie.

Having joined parkrun in 2017 as a Duke of Edinburgh Bronze volunteer, Lizzie Miller has continued to help out as she progressed through the achievements, and is now working towards her Gold Award.

Lizzie

Already a runner with Tonbridge AC, Lizzie had visited our parkrun before and loved the friendly, relaxed atmosphere in Dunorlan Park. When it came to choosing somewhere to volunteer it made her decision an easy one.

“I loved the sense of achievement when I crossed the finish,” says Lizzie, “and I wanted to give something back so that other people would have the chance to experience the same thing.”

Admirable reasons for choosing to volunteer!

In her two years since joining our volunteer team, Lizzie has helped out with barcode scanning, finish tokens and support, timekeeping, marshalling and tail walking. She says her favourite roles are timing or finish token support.

It’s a busy time for Lizzie as she works towards her A-levels, but she still loves coming to parkrun on Saturday mornings.

One final word, her advice to anyone considering volunteering or trying out the 5k route: “If your’e thinking of doing parkrun I say go for it! It’s so much fun, kick-starts your Saturday morning and is a great way to meet new people.”

Wise words from Lizzie and we’re grateful to have her as part of the team.

Lizzie scanning

 

We’re buzzing…

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
18 May 2019
Event #250

Run report/pics by Richard Woodfield

As it was our 250th parkrun I thought I'd better check how many times we'd exceeded 250 parkrunners at our event. Here's the answer:

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That number (45) represents remarkable growth considering that when we started there were just four other parkruns within 20 miles of us, whereas there are now 10! Those six additions are Malling, Lullingstone, Bedgebury Pinetum, East Grinstead, Uckfield, Kingdom.

It was no ordinary parkrun - even as the day's 31 volunteers were assembling to collect their hi vis and to be briefed on their duties intelligence arrived of a very large swarm of bees hanging right over the path just past the wooden bridge.

Can you beelieve it!
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A new volunteer role - bee marshal - was hastily created and Jessica and Stephanie assigned the role of steering parkrunners to avoid this, hopefully, temporary hazard.

Today's Run Director, Mark, briefed the assembled throng of 313 parkrunners. As ever he was succinct in his briefing - no droning on or waxing lyrical about matters parkrun! We were soon away, swarming down past the lake.

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The unusual hazard!
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Stephanie and Jessica efficiently steered the parkrunners a few yards off the main path, and so away from the bee hazard.

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Up in the fields...
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Making a beeline for the scanners
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Hive of activity... [That's enough bee puns - Ed]
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This week's volunteers were:
Alasdair SHUTT • Alison BEARD • Andrew DENNETT • Annie DE'ATH • Callum BENSON • Colin RATCLIFFE • Coral SADLER • Elizabeth MILLER • Gloria RICHARDS • Huw JONES • J B • Jane FENTIMAN • Joanna CAMERON • Jonathan HAWKER • Juanita MCFARLIN • Judy GUEST • Julie CHANDLER • Mark DENNISON • Mark SCOTT • Martin BRICE • Meredith BOCHMANN • Noeline SIMS • Oliver GAINES • Oliver MCCARTHY • Rachel SADLER • Richard NASH • Richard WOODFIELD • Robin BARWICK • Stephanie GROOT • Steve BARNFIELD • Vicky DENNETT

 

End of an era

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
30 March 2019
Event No 243

Run report by Richard Woodfield. Pictures by Nick Fitzgerald

Everything came together brilliantly for Joe's farewell parkrun as Event Director:

* our highest ever attendance - 331 parkrunners & 37 volunteers came to give Joe a great send off.
* it was the ideal spring morning - sunny and mild - for a special occasion
* heartful tributes were paid to Joe and to all that had been achieved under his leadership of our parkrun
* astonishingly, as if to underline the point, there was a century of personal best times achieved.

Even the practical nitty gritty contributed to the spirit of the occasion. The PA system was on its best behaviour. The mud situation was much improved. And the number of "unknown runners" without barcodes was just 15 out of 331. At less than 5%, this meant that Joe's final stint processessing results afterwards involved a lot less detective work than on many a previous parkrun!

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Reflecting on his experience Joe thanked all those who had contributed to the success of RTW parkrun, not forgetting those who had enabled the parkrun to use such a wonderful venue. Volunteers, parkrunners, TWBC and Friends of Dunorlan Park had all played their part. Joe recalled that he had been responsible for adding the "Royal" to "Tunbridge Wells parkrun". He had also changed the route originally envisaged - it had initially been planned to have the route start by going uphill towards the main carpark. There was one parkrun, back in the early days, when the event had been run by just six volunteers. This had been pretty fraught and had required substantial multi tasking across all the essential volunteer roles.

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Louise had been in at the start of RTW parkrun, so it was entirely fitting that she paid tribute to Joe:

"I first met Joe in early 2014 at Tonbridge parkrun where I had gone along to meet with the newly appointed Event Director for the soon-to-be-established RTW parkrun. I had heard about the event via a facebook appeal for volunteers and as an avid runner myself and keen to give something back to my local community, this seemed right up my street.

My first impression of Joe was of a cool, calm and collected guy, disciplined and clearly into fitness. I also thought he was quiet, until I got to know him a little better. This was just the sort of person I knew would carry out the Event Director role perfectly, and he has proven me right! Many of you will not be aware of the time-consuming hard work that goes on behind the scenes at parkrun each week, not only on a Saturday, but during the week – organising the volunteers, dealing with queries from participants, liaising with the local council and parkrun HQ, as well as helping out at the actual events on a Saturday morning. It is not an easy job to undertake, but one that Joe has done humbly.

Over the 5 years I have known Joe, he has faced everything thrown his way head on with diplomacy, with the best interests of parkrun and its participants at the forefront of his mind. No mountain has been too high for him to overcome, in his personal achievements as well as spearheading RTW parkrun. I have seen Joe go from a DJ when I first met him, to a fully qualified PT and Running Coach, leading running groups of all abilities as well as fitting in his own training, and all this outside his actual job, which he still continues to do.

It has been a pleasure to see RTW parkrun grow and flourish under Joe’s tutelage, from inception to winning Best Group at the Love Where You Love Awards and our imminent 5-year anniversary. It will now fall to our new Event Director, Colin Ratcliffe to tackle the role, which I have no doubt he will do with fervour and determination.

If you could please all join me in a round of applause to thank Joe for his hard work in making RTW parkrun what it is today."

Joe - surrounded by parkrun milestone tops as a reminder of all that parkrunning and volunteering!
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Judy - our volunteer co-ordinator - presented gifts and a card to Joe. Among the many messages in the card were: "You've been totally awesome - thanks for making me and hundreds/thousands of people get fit and passionate about running" ... "parkrun changed my life" ... "Great work, Joe. I hope you will always be proud of what you have achieved here, and your legacy. Thank you"

Let's leave the final word to Joe:

"It's been an absolute pleasure being involved with parkrun over the past 5+ years and wonderful to see how the event has grown and evolved over my tenure. I know that it is in safe hands with a core, experienced volunteer team as well as a core and faithful group of runners. Saturday was a wonderful send-off and I look forward to seeing the event continue to grow and succeed over the next 5 years and beyond. I fully intend to return as a runner and volunteer when I am available and always encourage my RTW runners to attend. My main aim in setting up the event was to inspire others to get involved in running, the same way in which I was inspired by the London 2012 Olympics and it's great to see so many at RTW parkrun who have gradually progressed and become more involved with the event, the sport and the community."

Medley of memories..... (RW)
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“…..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.

 

Snowed off….

With snow forecast for Thursday evening, Robin, our Run Director for Sat 2 February, decided to make an early morning course inspection on the Friday. Sadly, it did not take him long to decide that our event should be cancelled on safety grounds. In snowy weather it is nearly always ice that is likely to be the main threat to our event. There was a high likelihood that the hard paths near the lake would on parkrunday be covered in an unpleasant mixture of ice, compacted snow, slush and puddles. The safety of our parkrunners and volunteers is paramount at all times.

The forecast was for the temperature to remain at or just above freezing during Friday and overnight into Saturday. Rather than hang on until first thing on Saturday for only a very very small chance that the course might be safe to use it seemed better to make the call on Friday morning and so give our parkrunners and volunteers time to reschedule their parkrunday morning. Many thanks to all those who volunteered for the event.

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2018 – A Year in Review

Review by Erica Jones
Pictures by Charles Bowley, Zena Hassell and Richard Woodfield

Despite January being a rather dark and depressing month, there’s much to look forward to in 2019, especially for those of us who are able to drag ourselves out of bed and over to Dunorlan Park for 9am every Saturday morning. (Plaudits of course to those volunteers who are up even earlier to help set up the course!)

We may complain about the early start on a weekend but we all know we love parkrun, don’t we? At least, the figures indicate we do, with 2,592 people having taken part in our event in 2018. One of those, Mark Scott, is just a few events shy of his 200th at Royal Tunbridge Wells, and not far from his bottle green 250 parkrun top – the first to be earned by a current RTW participant!

Anyway, they say you can’t look to the future without understanding the past, so we’ve taken a look back at 2018 and picked out a few noteworthy moments, because who knows what new highlights 2019 will bring?

The year started rather coldly, with a few unwelcome Beast from the East related cancellations, but we’re parkrunners and wherever possible we won’t let a little cold weather stop us.

February - and the Beast from the East created opportunities for PB descents of the first hill!
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In February we were visited by a group of students from Kent College, who enjoyed the challenge of our hilly course. March saw a more sedate highlight in the form of two young children bearing a ‘Tap for Power’ banner. They may not have been taking part in the 5k, but they were very much helping the rest of us to ‘power’ around the course!

March - "Tap for Power" - a welcome, albeit temporary, new feature at the start of Heartbreak Hill!
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Volunteering stalwart/hero Judy also deserves a mention for March, as many of you wouldn’t know it but she stepped up as volunteer co-ordinator at the end of the month and later in the year volunteered at her 200th parkrun. Our helpers really do make all the difference to parkrun and we’re grateful to every one of the 178 of you who helped out in 2018.

April saw another highlight you might have missed, when a participant in a green 250 parkrun top ran the course. Christine Gibbons, chairman of parkrun Global, had popped by to try our course while visiting friends – it’s always great to meet tourists!

April - and The Beast from the East finally gives way to Spring...
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April - 4th anniversary celebrations. Run Director, Louise, backed by volunteer pacers, thanks regular volunteer Judy for another year of service
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In mid May, we started to use the alternative course. This incorporated a diversion to avoid two striking features - which had become known, graphically, as Quagmire Corner and The Shoewash. The revised route has evoked mixed reactions, with some enjoying the reduced encounters with mud while others were not so keen on the additional (relatively slight) uphill section (which is thankfully followed by a speedy downhill). Overall the route has still continued to see a high number of PBs achieved through the year. It remains to be seen how the revised course might stand up to the combined rigours of a long wet winter and lots of tramping parkrunner feet. So, we’ll have to watch this space for any further developments.

May - A revision to the course hopefully meant that scenes like this at The Shoewash have become a thing of the past!
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And here's Event Director, Joe, tackling The Shoewash - with some panache!
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Dame Kelly Holmes stopped by in June to help us celebrate 70 years of the NHS. She did a great job of inspiring the crowd but some may have missed her if they were distracted by Run Director Francis’ historic midwife get up. Top marks to him for fancy dress effort.

June - temporary midwife and Run Director, Francis, shares a joke with Dame Kelly
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Also in June, regular parkrunner Nick brought along a camera and filmed his 5k. Those of us at the more leisurely end of the timings blinked and missed him as he ran past, but it’s certainly a great way to view our event and beautifully shows off Dunorlan Park.

We got a new fastest female finisher in July, when Nicole Taylor beat the course record for women on a very hot day, achieving a time of 17.48. This may have prompted more than a few women to eye the record more closely. Could we end up with a battle for times in 2019?

In August our final finisher was much more remarkable, when Commonwealth Games judo medallist Jemima Yeats-Brown volunteered as tailwalker for the national Team parkrun event. It was great to have her join us and help emphasise that whether you run, jog or walk the taking part really is what counts.

It’s easy to forget now, but week after week through most of the summer we enjoyed warm parkrunning weather and unbroken blue skies. Many a post-parkrun sociable half hour was spent on the café balcony or relaxing on the grass near the finish funnel.

The long hot summer continues - post parkrun relaxation
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September had perhaps our most striking participants show up, when Lloyd and Suzannah brought their entire wedding party along to take part before their main event. Both wore appropriate clothing for the big day and Suzannah deserves special recognition for running 5k in a full-on wedding dress.

September - the wedding party!
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Summer gives way to autumn in lovely Dunorlan Park
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In December the other half of our duo of volunteer heroes gets a special mention because Noeline took part in her first ever parkrun when she stepped in as tailwalker at the last moment. For those of you who don’t know, Noeline is the other half of the Judy/Noeline volunteering duo, having clocked up well over 100 events as a volunteer.

Towards the end of the year a future parkrunner also entered the fold, when Run Director Louise and regular runner and volunteer, Nick, welcomed their first baby, Isabelle, into the world. Congratulations to the family!

Finally, the year ended on a high number, with Christmas Day parkrun smashing our event's previous record for participants, when 329 people came along to run, jog or walk the course before settling down to their turkey. Well done everyone!

December - Christmas parkrunners ready for action
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Christmas No 1

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Christmas Day 2018 parkrun
Event no 231

Run Report written by Judy Guest and Zena Hassell. Photos Richard Woodfield

On a beautiful crisp morning an event record for us of 329 runners, joggers, walkers, santas and herding reindeer joined in our 5k at Dunorlan Park.

The reward at the end was treats and Prosecco kindly donated by some of the runners and volunteers.

Run Director Joe Watts this week welcomed the large festive crowd, which included several tourists from Cardiff, Carlisle, Tonbridge and also from the warmer climes of Gozo and Sydney. Joe also mentioned that park runner Janet Bird (a regular at Tonbridge parkrun) had joined the unofficial 200 Club - very well done!

The path down from the cafe was slightly icy but a line of brave volunteers directed the participants around the ice. I (Judy) can personally let you know the sight of more than 300 people descending on you is not for the faint hearted! Overall, conditions underfoot included a selection box of patchy ice, puddles, squelch and mud, mud glorious mud ! It certainly adds to the challenge of RTW parkrun in the winter months. (Hooray for the days now getting longer...)

Many friends and families were there cheering everyone on but a big thank you to all 26 volunteers who gave up their time to ensure the event went smoothly. It really was a fabulous atmosphere.

By the response on social media it looks as though the Christmas parkrun was a great way to start the festive season.

"Doesn’t look like rain - dear"
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"Maybe just one more sip?"
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“Chin, chin – it’s a record attendance!"
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Peace and Goodwill to all...
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All present and correct in the finish funnel...
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Encouragement to the end...
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Pacing yourself for Christmas

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event no 230
22 December 2018

Run report by Richard Woodfield

Overhead conditions today were very pleasant - fairly mild and sunny. Underfoot, however, running conditions were certainly tough with enough slidey mud to keep even the most avid of mudlarks happy. Just six personal bests were achieved today among the 246 parkrunners.

Faceplant potential

There's a few parts on the course with considerable faceplant potential in muddy conditions. Currently, my top three are (in reverse order):

* the sharp left hand turn to go downhill after you've been along the top of the events field. My tactic is to veer slightly to the right some way before reaching the turn, thus allowing myself a very wide turning circle. (Probably not ideal if you're trying to achieve a PB - and I'm often overtaken at this point on muddy parkruns!) Today's faceplant potential 3/10

* the mini roller coaster section when the path leaves the Victoria Cross Grove area before passing through into the events field. I found that fairly manageable by keeping well to the left where the path, although very muddy, is less tilted at a slidey sort of angle! Today's faceplant potential 3.5/10.

* the U turn where, after running downhill beside the hedgerow along the last part of events field, you then turn sharp right to follow back uphill the other side of the same hedgerow. Very easy to find that, although your body obediently turns sharp right, your legs decide to carry straight on! Today's faceplant potential 7/10

Of course, the simplest way to reduce such scores to about 1/10 is to slow right down at the critical parts of the course - and, judging by the low number of PBs, that's probably what many parkrunners did today! To my mind this illustrates why it was sensible to skip having a December pacer day and to keep that situation under review for the next month or two.

Anyway, turnning from mud brown to much more festive colours like red, green and "antler brown"....

Here's a selection of festive gear on show today....
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A Happy Christmas to ALL our volunteers and parkrunners.

Today's 25 volunteers were:

Angela TYLER • Austin RUDMAN • Callum BENSON • Colin RATCLIFFE • Coral SADLER • Edward DENNETT • Emily MULLETT • Grace GOODWIN • Hannah CRAINE • Isobel WARREN • Jane FENTIMAN • John LOWDEN • Joseph WATTS • Judy GUEST • Julie CHANDLER • Laurence BUNNETT • Mark DENNISON • Molly SLOUGH • Richard WOODFIELD • Robin BARWICK • Sophia DENNETT • Steve BARNFIELD • Vicky DENNETT • Victoria MULLETT • William BENSON

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