In A Rut – parkrun #203, 7 December 2019

I promised my son an early Christmas present, Rutland Water giving us both an R for the Pirates Challenge! I’m now a fully-fledged parkrun pirate having run seven Cs (Catton, Chelmsford Central, Clacton Seafront, Clare Castle, Colchester Castle, Coldham’s Common and Colney Lane) and the all-important R. On a breezy but mild morning, 245 athletes assembled at this panoramic parkrun in the smallest English county.

The stunning start point for the parkrun is dominated by Normanton Church and its classical architecture. The lonely building, protected from the reservoir by rocks, dominates the runner’s imagination. Along the flat and fast route are some of the 26 volunteers which have made this parkrun possible, and a legion of sheep and their slippery excretions on the heights of the dam. The three-line haiku poems that follow are inspired by birds which could be seen during the run and one that wasn’t.


wings splayed

in dry sunlight

 Runners wind past hedgerows and onto the high dam. It’s here where the apparent speed of our efforts are laid bare as the eventual first finisher passes on the other side of the path having already sling-shot around the cone at the half-way point. The dam is a barren wasteland for those that have run the first mile too quickly, dotted as it is with precariously placed piles of sheep dung. It’s almost like they know how much it annoys us!

 carrion crow…

we pick the flesh

off this run

 The fact that we are near Bugtopia is enough of a distraction for an entomologist like me, my pace inevitably drops with thoughts of a giant stick insect. Stretched out on the homeward leg of the dam in single file like leaf cutter ants, the church is our target.


crested grebe…

ducking for the cone

a marshal bobs up

The church takes longer to reach than you might think, but we make it nonetheless despite the resistant breeze. This morning 98 athletes ‘beat the poet’ (time: 26:05), including my son Joseph who ran an all-time pb of 25:38. Megan Richardson joined the 50 Club, and Susan Kidd achieved entry to the sought after 100 Club. Emma Herd came back especially to Rutland Water to complete her 100, as an ex parkrun Event Director I know how much the team were happy to see her make her way over the line for the 100th time.

An impressive 25 pbs were recorded, congratulations to all achievers! It’s a shame that Mr Rutland, a male osprey introduced to England in 1997, left the reservoir in 2015 and never returned. His migration of 160,000 km puts our efforts in the shade.

young oak…

Mr Rutland

Mr Absent

This week, I was in particular awe of the Rutland Nordic Walk-it group, their first finisher Mick Coogan recording a rapid 37:15 with the poles, followed by Heather Sharpe (40:55). As an occasional speed walker myself, I would encourage others to follow in the footsteps (sorry!) of Mick and Heather. It’s great exercise as you should be out of breath and it’s easier on your knees; an ideal recovery activity if injured! It’s also fun reeling in and overtaking a runner at the back of the pack without raising both feet off the ground! Go on, get that bottom wiggling…

Poetry Corner #2

This week’s corner introduces an excellent running book by poet Helen Mort, herself a speedy parkrunner, award winning writer (of poetry and novels) and author of a guide ‘Lake District Trail Running’ which was published in 2016 by Vertebrate Graphics. Check this out if Whinlatter Forest is your favourite parkrun! We finish on the first half of Helen’s poem ‘Rain Twice’ published in the Poetry Society Review (2018):

Rain in a headtorch

drifts sideways through the beam,
slicks across a lemon moon

and makes the woods a mystery
of dog-scent, winter mulch.

Pre-dawn, when Sharrow Vale
and Psalter Lane lie down to weep

proud as a grandmother
and not your grandmother

but mine – tears that never fall,
caught by the landscape of her face,

tears a lifted hand could wipe away
and so I raise mine to the silver trees

and pause and look and run again
until I run like horizontal rain, run

with just my failing light
and this false gravity.

We hope to return to Rutland, combining it with a trip to nearby Adrenaline Alley, a massive indoor skate park in Corby. Rutland Water is a must-run event, with beautiful views from the start and the sheep-strewn heights of the dam.

Tim and Joseph Gardiner
aka the parkrun poets
twitter: @parkrunpoetry