Running For Rory

Event 116: Saturday 6th August 2016
Run report written by Lizzie Wilkinson

For today’s parkrun we were greeted by a gorgeous blue sky and bright sunshine which glistened off the lake. For those who have not visited this event, the run is held in Dunorlan Park which was once a private landscaped garden, but is now a much-loved public park.

A little way out of town, the park is spacious and elegant with wild grassy slopes and magnificent views across the lake to the Weald. According to the ‘visittunbridgewells’ web page Dunorlan Park is famed for its amazing boating lake along with its ponds, play area, café, sculptures, and a variety of activities such as pond dipping, fishing, bird watching, tree trail and head gardener walks. On reading about the sculptures, I made a mental note to myself to look out for them at parkrun as not being the most observant of runners I couldn’t recall seeing them on my last visit. What the website doesn’t mention is how peaceful it is at the park – sitting on a bench overlooking the boats on the lake is so relaxing – it is easy to forget that we were actually here for a run. And not only just a run, but a very special run for several people running today.

Reaching a milestone run is always an achievement, but today we had Ben Sowden achieving a very significant and poignant one. For the past 10 parkruns, Ben has been running at 10 different venues with the first letters of each venue spelling out the name of his son “Rory Sowden”. Rory was born sleeping on 30 May 2015.

In completing his run today Ben not only achieved his 100th parkrun but also completed his Rory parkrun challenge to leave a permanent memorial within his parkrun stats. Now Rory is always able to run with his daddy.

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun was specially selected for the final part of this journey due to there being a local SANDs group (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity) and memorial garden which Ben and his wife (Jo) planned to visit after the run.

This challenge has enabled Ben to combine two things that he loves: his son Rory and parkrun. Several of his friends have joined him on his travels as he visited the 10 events, with Y posing the most logistically challenging - neither York nor Yeovil being that close to home. Ben brought a good contingent of friends and family with him today – all wanting to celebrate Ben’s achievement.

Well done Ben on your achievement! Rory will be very proud of his running daddy.

Ben’s results page showing Rory’s name:

Once I had heard about Ben’s challenge my husband, Kevan and I were determined to be there for Ben’s 100th parkrun. Originally Ben had been thinking of completing the challenge elsewhere (Riddlesdown) but then decided to change to Royal Tunbridge Wells when he found out about the local Sands group. I have to admit that I was secretly very pleased Ben had chosen Royal Tunbridge Wells as I visited this parkrun in June and fell in love with it: the park is very scenic and the people so very friendly – and best of all they do gluten free paninis in the café – yay. Finally somewhere that I and other coeliac runners can have a post run snack!

Having done my usual checks on the event website and facebook page (essential before planning any visit to another parkrun and writing the run report) I noticed a few interesting facts.

One of the big questions for this week’s parkrun was would it be a hat-trick of 183 runners, as for the past 2 weeks they have had 183 runners – could it be 3 weeks in a row!

How many would take up the challenge of dressing up in yellow and green (the national colours of Brazil) in order to create a carnival atmosphere to mark the start of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, as posted on the event Facebook page?

There was plenty of yellow & green on show:

I also took the opportunity to browse the previous weeks run reports – and several themes immediately stood out - the run report writers like to focus on interesting facts such as most popular minute to finish in and the most popular first name for parkrunners. – hmmm, ok, could be useful for this run report.

Kevan and I have a habit of getting to parkrun venues very early (just in case we get lost en-route) and today was no different heading into the car park just after 8am. However we weren’t the first as piping us into the car park was a familiar face, Gary Bignell greeting us with a big smile and equally pleased to have arrived at the right place. Gary usually runs at Dartford but was visiting Royal Tunbridge Wells in support of Ben. Several other friends soon arrived in the car park and we headed off for a lap of the lake before mingling at the start line and enjoying the atmosphere as more runners headed over.

Plenty of new faces at the new runners briefing:

The quote of the day was heard: “I have driven past this park so many times, but this is the first time I have been in it and am amazed how beautiful it is”. He was a local and parkrun had brought him to the park. An example of parkrun encouraging people to explore new environments, even if they are on their doorstep.

Run Director, Joe Watts, welcomed all runners to today’s parkrun. As well as Ben running his 100th parkrun (his second visit to Royal Tunbridge Wells), there was Dan Pickford also doing his 100th parkrun (40 at Royal Tunbridge Wells) and Bianca Hollis who was running her 100th different parkrun (232 parkruns in total). Well done all!

All parkrunners including several dogs quietened down and listened to Joe’s run briefing very intently, but as soon as he mentioned the words “heading to the START” several dogs started barking excitedly. They obviously recognised the word “start” and were keen to set off as were the timers, as hardly being given time to draw breath and we were all set off on our way. The run starts down a steep slope where a little care is needed before heading off on a path along the front of the lake, towards a wooden bridge and then up a grassy bank , a further hill and around a field (which fortunately today was bone dry but which I understand in winter can be a tad muddy!). Then there is a lovely downhill section before re-joining the tarmac path to finish going around the lake and back up towards the start – before doing a second lap. I was amused whilst setting off on the second lap to see the run director having to sprint from where he had been taking photos by the wooden bridge, across the grass to get back up towards the finish where I guess the first finisher was already heading to. I however still had a lap to go.

The lovely downhill section:

This course has a lot of variety – as well as being scenic, there is tarmac and grass – uphills but also lovely downhills! Still that uphill towards the finish line is a bit of a killer and I was pleased to reach the finish line.

The run director soon made another announcement that there was a course attendance record today with 251 runners crossing the finish line. All of whom had been cheered and clapped by today’s wonderful volunteers. A massive thank you to each and every one - from the pre-event set-up team, bar-code scanners, token sorters, time-keepers, funnel managers, marshals, and tail runners - you are all fabulous - for supporting, cheering, encouraging all our parkrunners, and staying right until the end to clap and cheer and support everyone to the finish line. We couldn’t have a parkrun without you!

Our heroes today were: Andrew DENNETT • Charlie ATWOOD • Colin RATCLIFFE • Gloria RICHARDS • Greg CLARK • James EVANS • Joseph WATTS • Judy GUEST • Kerry FRANCIS-WATTS • Louise FITZGERALD • Marian KEEP • Nick FITZGERALD • Sophia DENNETT • Steve BARNFIELD

We had a grand total of 45 PBs – with an amazing 8 of them in the top 10 runners – they had obviously been inspired by the thought of the cake that was awaiting them at the end.

Ben’s 100th parkrun cake made by Louise Pullen - picture taken by Ian Pullen:

Today’s parkrunners who are enjoying the parkrun PB glow of success are: Sara Barsley, Emilia Shaw, Dominic Frankel, Andrea Moore, Lizzie Wilkinson, Julie Miller, Donna Watts, Josie Jenkins, Holly Pennick, Rick Keeson, Michael Sussams, Carrie Barton, Suzanne Young, Jacquie Howe, Fiona Pearce, Glyn Delves, Neil Berry, Hannah White, See Why, Kevan Wilkinson, Vicky Dennett, Andrew Barton, Tim Garrett, Steven Barrett, Charlotte Richardson, Mary Scott, Richard Woodfield, Reuben Edwards, Elliott Chiles, Claire Young, Ian Butler, George Hopkins, Tommy Hine, Jamie Woolgar, Joe Hine, Austin Rudman, Tim Knapp, Saul Harris, Evan Hine, Alexander Holmes, James Sarre, Caleb Meier, Lester Hine, Colin Tricker.

Special mention goes to Mary Scott who was celebrating her 40th parkrun – she had told us that she had just missed out on a PB last week by 3 seconds which she had been disappointed with as she had felt like she still had a lot of energy towards the end, so I was telling her to go for it today. She however was unsure as she thought it would be too hot – however I was pleased to see that she did it!

Mention also goes to Ben Sowden who had hoped to get a PB today to celebrate his 100th parkrun – he first visited in February when he and his friend Ian Pullen had got bogged down in all the mud and hoped that with the sun shining, the going might be a bit firmer sadly he hadn’t taken account of the drag from two balloons he had been given to run with by his wife and missed out on a PB today by 5 seconds.

Still happy and smiling he wanted to know if I had achieved a PB – and yes I did!

The balloons were later released by Ben and his wife, Jo, in memory of Rory:

We had 50 runners running at Royal Tunbridge parkrun for the first time of whom 16 were trying parkrun for the very first time. Well done all. We hope you enjoyed it and will be back for more runs.

Those completing their first parkrun were: Simon Wyke; Joshua Pratt; Florence Hopkins; Shane Hickmott; Peter Knapp; Nancy Morris; Derek Johnson; Suzanne Martinez; Lorraine Harris; Nick Sheldon; Mary Yadsan; Maggie Pawlak; Jemma North; Neil North; Kathryn North and Claire North.

While at the other end of scale there were three parkrunners who have done over 250 parkruns including myself ( 280), “professional” parkrunner Steven Stockwell who is legendary locally for his parkrun blogs: and has clocked up 257 parkruns. Kevan Wilkinson (255 parkruns) wearing his 250th parkrun shirt for the first time in response to the theme of the week. This along with his luminous yellow socks fitted in perfectly with today’s Brazilian theme!

Today’s aesthetically pleasing times were achieved by Wim Mauritz (23:45); Mary Scott (24:24); Richard Nash (25:25) and Carrie Barton (28:28).

And to continue a trend from previous run reports – the most popular first names today were:
10 David’s
One Nicholas, 3 Nick’s and 2 Nicola’s
5 Andrew’s, one Andrea and one Andree
And finally 5 Ben’s (including of course Ben Sowden).

Finally I would like to finish off this run report with a quote from the Sands web page:
“A life may last for just a moment…. But memory can make that moment last forever”

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