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.

 

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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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

 

Dunorlan’s got talent

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event no 196
7 April 2018

Run report by Zena Hassell. Pictures by Zena (except where otherwise stated)

After all the Eggcitement of last weeks Chocolate Festivities, the weather couldn't quite stretch to Sunny Side Up for this week's parkrun tourists, from Greece, Jersey and Brighton. However 161 Parkrunners did manage to scramble their way through the infamous mud and puddles.

Mud Mud Glorious Mud!
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Run Director Noeline confessed her inner most thoughts about a dream she had had about parkrunners and cigarettes ! It all became clear that these were to stop us nattering inappropriately during the pre run briefing...WELL DONE NOELINE it worked! Please keep it up everybody, Tonbridge manage it with around 500 people.

Congratulations to all the Milestone Marvels this week: Molly Dawe (10 junior club runs) Gavin Hill (100 runs club), while Colin Ratcliffe and Stella Beard have both completed 25 Volunteer duties. The new Volunteer Icon on the results page is a great new recognition for all who have reached the magic 25 milestone.

'Viva La Volunteers' as demonstrated by Mary and Francis
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After having to look twice at last weeks photo of Graham Brooks(85) 'warming up' on the Victorian Stone Area, it was great to see this week that he was joined by another octogenarian - Richard Pitcairn-Knowles (85). It is amazing to think that when these two gentlemen were born, King George V was ruling over the Commonwealth, while deciding whether to try a new chocolate bar on the market....yes the Mars Bar was introduced, maybe Graham has had a Mars a day so he can WORK, REST AND PLAY?

'O is for Octogenarian'
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Thank you to Francis Eames for informing us that the lady in the 250 t-shirt and hat going through the shoe wash on Saturday was Christine Gibbons, who is the Chairman of parkrun Global. She was visiting incognito from Brighton with her husband Michael, but let slip this little nugget of information when they were chatting after the event!

Chairman of parkrun Global, Christine Gibbons, a veteran of 376 parkruns (RW)
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REMINDERS:
28th April 2018 - 4th Anniversary, bring a 1st timer or a volunteer, to show them what they are missing!
5th May 2018 - RTW Parkrun cancelled. Be ready for a little parkrun tourism - we have several other parkruns within reasonable driving distances. Newly started East Grinstead claims to be the 4th hardest in the UK! Now there's a Challenge...

This week 161 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 12 were first timers and 12 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 20 different clubs took part.

Run reporter, Zena, in black (RW)
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The event was made possible by 28 volunteers:

Joseph WATTS • Stella BEARD • Steve BARNFIELD • John DYSON • Judy GUEST • Zena HASSELL • Paul HOLLIS • Marian KEEP • Gloria RICHARDS • Nick FITZGERALD • Richard WOODFIELD • Francis EAMES • Mary P SCOTT • Noeline SIMS • Huw JONES • Erica JONES • Isabella SOUTH • Robin BARWICK • Wendy ANDERSON • Victoria MULLETT • Emily MULLETT • Bethan CHANDLER • Tom CHANDLER • Julia MATTHEWS • Victoria CAGLAR • Yolanda WITT • Adrian FERNANDEZ PAREJA • Mark DENNISON

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun website Results Page.

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