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.

 

Love where we live

15th October 2016: Event #125

Run report written by Joe Watts & photos taken by Richard Woodfield

It was a dry and sunny morning with a slight chill in the air to remind us that we are in Autumn, however, dry conditions continue to prevail meaning that it is still rather firm underfoot. This week there were a few special announcements which began with me informing the crowd of our recent award win at the Council's "Love where we live" awards, where we were triumphant in the "Best group" category. Thanks were expressed to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council who provided the start-up funding for the event and of course permission to use the most scenic and tranquil part of Tunbridge Wells for our free, weekly event. Thanks also went to the cafe owner, Ian West, who provides our runners with post-run fuel and warm drinks all year round, despite the mud, sweat & tears (of joy) that we bring into the cafe! Finally, a massive thank you was extended to our fabulous volunteers, of which we have had over 200 different people volunteer in our 2 and a half year history. An interesting fact that I mentioned during the pre-run brief was that our 10 most regular volunteers had volunteered on average at 82 of our 124 events - a true display of their loyalty which has contributed to the success of this event.

Showing off our certificate and award for "Best group" from the Love Where We Live awards
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Following on from this I went on to request that due to the increase in numbers, we need to be mindful of our impact on the park and other park users. As we state during the pre-run brief each week, we do not have right of way in the park and this also applies to car parking. We ask that those who drive to our event make use of the Hall's Hole Rd car park on the other side of the lake. This car park is larger than the Pembury Road car park and is less well used. If we can make use of this car park as a priority then this will mean that there is space available for other park users in the smaller Pembury Road car park.

Runners set off at the start
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This week we welcomed 191 runners of whom 5 were parkrun tourists, 13 were first timers, 11 forgot their barcode (#DFYB) and of the retunring 162 there were a highly respectable 57 PB's. Two personal bests of note were achieved by a VW60-64 - Sheila Wilson who ran 25:59 and a VM60-64 - Stephen Graham who ran 23:52.

An interesting statistic for you to digest:
Average attendance (from 125 events) = 122
Autumn 2016 average attendance (from 6 events) = 192

Thanks to this week's team of 21 volunteers:
Alison BEARD • Charlie ATWOOD • Clare ROCHE • David HARMAN • Gabriela BAGULEY • Gabrielle RICHARDS • Gloria RICHARDS • Joseph WATTS • Judy GUEST • Julie CHANDLER • Kerry FRANCIS-WATTS • Louise FITZGERALD • Marian KEEP • Nick FITZGERALD • Noeline SIMS • Ralph GREEN • Richard WOODFIELD • Rob CAMPBELL • Simon JONES • Simon KEEP • Steve BARNFIELD

New runners briefing courtesy of Rob Campbell
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Full results of this week's event, plus a whole host of stats and a complete event history can be found on the Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun results page.

Noeline Sims was on hand to dish out the finish tokens to our runners
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Don't forget that you can follow us on Twitter and you can like us on Facebook.

Simon Jones & Steve Barnfield (left) concentrating hard as Louise (right) completes her 44th parkrun
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Autumn events at RTW parkrun:
Finally, a reminder that we shall be celebrating Halloween in style on 29th October, our next pacer day takes place on 5th November and the date of our next social evening is 12th November. Full details of these special events can be found on the notice board.

 

And the winner is…..

The whole ethos of parkrun is that it is a run and not a race, and there are no winners and losers. But for once we will allow ourselves to use the "win" word. For, on Tuesday 11th October 2016 during a glittering award ceremony at the Assembly Hall Theatre, Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun won the "Best Group" category in the Love Where We Live awards 2016.

Over 200 individuals and groups from across our Borough had been nominated for awards in the seven categories - ranging from "Charity of the Year" and "Ethical Business" to "Young Sports Achiever". The three finalists in each category were invited to the Oscar-style award ceremony. Guests in attendance included the Mayor, the Council Leader and Chief Executive as well as the various sponsors of the awards. Given the wide range of dedicated volunteer groups across the Borough it was a great honour for RTW parkrun even to achieve recognition as a finalist.

At the awards night we were represented by Event Director, Joe Watts, and four regular core volunteers - Run Directors Louise Fitzgerald & Rob Campbell, Scanning Queen Judy Guest and social media guru/photographer/run report writer & regular runner, Richard Woodfield. There was not long to wait as the "Best Group" award was first up, and almost before he knew it a rather surprised looking Joe was on stage accepting the award from the Mayor, David Neve. The Mayor had given the starters orders at our anniversary parkrun in April 2016 and remarked that, watching local MP Greg Clark steaming up the last hill, it was difficult sometimes to believe that parkrun was not competitive! Accepting the award Joe paid tribute to all the many people who contribute their time and energy to make our parkrun the event that it is.

The other finalists in our category were Compaid Volunteers, who work with hundreds of disabled and elderly people to help them overcome digital, social and financial limitations and Kent High Weald Partnership Volunteers, who work to involve the local community in preserving and enhancing our environment. Either group would also have been worthy winners.

Special guest at the Love Where We Live awards evening was paralympic gold medallist, Will Bayley. Will was brought up in Tunbridge Wells and played table tennis at Byng Hall (next to Skinners' School) in his teens. In addition to winning a table tennis gold medal at Rio, Will achieved further fame when he received a yellow card for climbing onto the table in celebration of his achievement! Will spoke about the determination needed to succeed against adversity - in his own case the many serious health difficulties he had faced. In a nice touch, when asked about which individual had most inspired him to achieve in sport, Will said that his real heroes were all those volunteers who had helped him behind the scenes. People like those who had regularly given him lifts to training and events as well as his coaches.

It's good on an occasion like this also to recognise the help and support that our event has received from Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. After all, it were they who provided the start-up funding which is required to set up a parkrun event as well as providing us with one of the most beautiful venues in Kent, Dunorlan Park.

Joe with our certificate and Louise with the glass trophy. Meanwhile Judy takes the (heart shaped) LWWL biscuit!
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Joe - and the trophy.
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