Event #147 – More than just a run! (special guest report by Daniel Connolly)

Today I am going to dedicate my parkrun report to Sue FITZPATRICK who before today I had never met.  Actually I barely spoke but a couple of sentences to her and in all likely hood I will never see her again.  In fact, I wouldn't even recognise her even if she wore the same pink top as today.  But her words to me as she ran passed a little after I had started to walk on the gentle uphill in the last 500m of this morning's parkrun really helped me.

To be quite honest, I hadn't planned to be at Rushmere parkrun this morning.  I woke the family in the expectation that I would be stood at the start of Westmill parkrun – hunting down a Compass Point for a challenge badge on the Chrome Extension.  But my son put pay to that with a rather leisurely start to the day, even though I did try and encouraged him with a vocal rendition of Baby Shark!

Seeing the huge pine trees soaring skyward as I drove into Rushmere Country Park, I knew that my wife would be happy with this morning's parkrun venue as she loves a trail parkrun in the woods.  Parking up and seeing a large café, I knew my daughter would be pleased – especially if it had a good range of cakes or a bacon sandwich.  I was already happy as I was adding to my tally of new parkrun venues.  Hearing the snoring from my son in the back, I realised that no matter what you can't always please everyone!

After my first total failure to capture a picture of the volunteer team at my last parkrun outing at Wimpole Estate I was determined to succeed this week.  It was a close call as rather than being at the start (like most other parkruns), Kerry GARFITT, this week's Run Director, was briefing marshals by the car park near the paddock area.  Just before the #HiVizHeroes disappeared into the woods to get to their location on the course I managed to get a snap in my homemade picture frame.  I also got lucky and managed to grab the Report Writer role for this week.

Over this year the writing of the week's Run Report has become something of a mission.  If I know where I plan to be on a Monday I e-mail in a volunteer request or like today I need to ask the RD at the last minute thankfully they normally say yes so my so my record of run reports keeps on rolling – 29 out of 30.

Thanks to a dodgy achillies over the last 8 weeks I have had to cancel marathon after marathon.  Luckily my physiotherapist has allowed me to have one gentle fairly flat run a week – parkrun.

Normally when the bleep of the GPS devices that signal the start of parkruns around the world, and the pack runners start I feel like a wildebeest in the herd on the Serengeti that has suddenly been spooked by a lion – I run off wildly.  I then try and maintain this pace as much as possible.  However over the last few weeks slow and steady has been the name of the game, but not today.  This week I have been allowed a little training, I have been allowed to increase the pace, I have been allowed hill; this week would be fun!

Fiona TOWELL gave the first timers briefing wearing a plastic support boot (get well soon) warning all the first timers of tree roots hopefully the boot wasn't a result of these roots during a parkrun! And it was a very busy first timers briefing today as there were 29 first time tourists... some from nearby Milton Keynes... but making an appearance were 3 of the top 30 most toured parkrunners in the world Rex Troop 384 parkruns (224 different venues) Stephen Tarrant 316 parkruns (262 different venues) Dave Tarrant 256 parkruns (236 venues).  With 112 different venues I am but a mere amateur!

As well as some very experienced parkrunners, this week Rushmere parkrun welcomed 13 brand new parkrunners and as Fiona put it so well in her briefing your Saturday's will never be the same.  So a huge welcome to:- Tamasin NORRIS, James NORRIS, Oliver JOHNSON, Sorcha BUCKINGHAM, Zoe CROCKER, Jen JENNER, Julie WOOLLARD, Max JOHNSTON, Eve FORBES, Martin BROWN, Emily JOHNSON, Ian JOHNSTON & Thomas JOHNSTON.  I hope you had as much fun as I did during the run and you will return soon to use your barcode either at Rushmere or at any other of the 1000+ parkruns around the world.

As the run started 183 runners started their free weekly timed 5km in a beautiful woodland setting.  Amongst the towering frees runners passed a giants chair a massive stag beetle and a few observant runners may have even noticed a few doors in the trees for the gnomes!  In my case it took a slower walk after parkrun to be spotted as I was focused on the need for speed.

The singing of Baby Shark to wake my son up in the morning had a few effects.  One was to make us late the other was that the tune stuck in my head - a real ear worm.  As runners spread out along the course, I had my own little space on the path surrounded by the trees so I started singing and performing the actions.

It wasn't ever going to end well...

Thankfully for others within earshot of my singing my lack of running over the last 8 weeks and a penchant for delicious post parkrun cakes and bacon sandwiches at the café made itself painfully known.  Soon my singing started to wain and I started to puff and pant up the gentle undulation.

I didn't even manage to thank every marshal I passed even on the first lap.  Even after the assistance of the steep downhill to keep my speed and regain a little puff I could only manage a thumbs up to a few.

One benefit of writing the run report is that despite failing to thank all the marshals I pass, the timing team and scanners or even those working behind the scenes setting up the course.  I can offer my thanks and the thanks of the other 182 runners to those volunteers today.  So a huge THANK YOU to :- Christine AYERS, James BASSIL, Eddie COOK, Douglas COOK, Kerry GARFITT, Jennifer GARNER, Holly HATT-LIPSCOMB, Hugh HATT-LIPSCOMB, Kirsten LANGRIDGE, Christopher RICKARD, Fiona TOWELL, Carrie TYAS, Fiona WEEKES who made this event possible.  As with all parkruns around the world Rushmere relies on people volunteering their time so if you want to give timing a go, scan tokens or marshal please sign up.  Just contact rushmerehelpers@parkrun.com don't worry as each role is simple to do and the RD will give you any help you need.

Running passed the finish funnel the first time I delighted to myself that I hadn't at least been lapped on my come back 'run' that some residual fitness remained.

The words of wisdom of an experienced Rushmere parkrunner given before the start came back to me, 'It doesn't feel like a hill on the first lap but the second time around... Ohhh it gets you!'  How right he was.

As I pushed myself on Leighton Buzzard AC's Stuart READ (VM35-39) was crossing the line in 19:36 as first finisher.  Not far behind Emily ROTHERY (SW20-24) added to her tally of first lady home finishing 8th overall in a time of 22:39 again as first lady. Andrew HEALE (VM50-54) from Leighton Fun Runners crossed the line in 4th place with a time of 21:20 with the highest age grading of 70.23% this week.  Well done to you all.

As always a full set of today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Rushmere parkrun Results Page.

Grimacing as I started the long last climb... my legs started to burn and I gave in and dropped to a walk with just a few hundred metres to go!

Not everyone showed my weakness, 22 runners dug in deep and earned the right to ring that PB gong at the end.  So well done to:- Andy BELL, Sean RUMBLE, David PLUMTREE, Steve YATES, Justin AUSTIN, Zoe JENKINS, Tommy DAVIES, Catherine BOWNES, Oscar PHILLIPS, Len HOLLAND, James MEADER, Harrison LEVEY, Chris DIMMOCK, Madeleine FAYSSE, Dominique KOUBOVEC, Don NISBET, Vicki WILLIS, Dean ARNOLD, Chris JONES, Tony HARDY, Jo HOGG & Theresa WARREN.

As I walked a few runners started to pass; dad and son running together, man with shorts that had a nice yellow panel and Sue.  As the next tree approach and as she soon effortlessly drifted off up the path my legs started to run again.  No as fast as before as there wasn't much left.  No sprint finish that energy had been used up much earlier.  But left then right.  Step after Step.

Until I got to the line and with a, 'Well done Coventry.' from a timer. I crossed the line.  As I was handed a token at the end of the funnel I was asked, 'Did you enjoy that?'

Thankfully at that moment, a face that resembled Tomato head in Fortnite, and sweat still running from me I had no breath to answer – 'NO!' Everything ached and my heartfelt like it was going to burst from my chest.

Ask me now and the answer is –"YES!  IT WAS AMAZING." Okay the time for me isn't anything to write home but it is so great get out and run properly on uneven ground and up hills and go for it leave nothing in the tank for later!  To test myself.  And know that next week I can do it all again... for free!

After seeing the rest of my family home the next phase of parkrun started, the café.   Thankfully as my children have grown up my parkrun tourism has evolved away from a popular fast food venue for breakfast and now almost always involves a trip to the Café that the core team use for a breakfast.  And what a stunning café Rushmere has, not just great food but an amazing view from the terrace!

Leaving the café my daughter observed, 'My favourite part of parkrun is the café.'  I made a comment that she always likes good food to which I got that teenage look followed by a stern, 'No!  We get to talk to so many interesting people that you wouldn't normally get to talk too.  All sharing how much we enjoy parkrun!'

So as my family cheerfully munched on bacon sandwiches and my son finally smiled as some egg dropped onto his shirt, I went to say thank you to the team as they sat sorting tokens and processing the results.

I had a superb time visiting your parkrun today.  It was great to catch up with parkrun tourist friends and friendly runners I have never met before.  Thank you for being so friendly and welcoming.  If you have been running at Rushmere a while and not yet ventured into the café maybe you should give it a try.


Happy parkrunning.

Daniel Connolly


In case you have read this far and were wondering what Sue said...


"You have been my motivation all run so keep going. You can do it."