A big thank you to Sheringham Parkrun
We're about to relocate to London for work. Today was my last Sheringham Parkrun as a local. Here's a short note to sign off.
Cliff Vincent was a PE teacher at my old school - teaching me many life lessons on windswept north Norfolk playing fields. There was all the stuff about competitiveness, but he seemed to focus more on testing yourself, the wider benefits of exercise and the value of teamwork. Cliff is sadly no longer with us, but he was a special teacher - both able to spot a child's enthusiasm (for running in my case) and willing to nurture it too. That enthusiasm progressively waned over the next 4 decades as life (work, family, etc.) took precedence.
Then, in 2013, we moved back to Norfolk and my brother introduced me to the wonders of Sheringham Parkrun. After several years of limited exercise, I turned up to my first run on 1 November 2014. I expected everyone to be club-running serious athletes and that I'd feel like an outsider. I was wrong. Fellow runners stopped to ask if I was OK (I was gasping for breath after about half a mile!), I was overtaken by an Egyptian mummy and several superheroes (it was fancy dress week - I think...) and at the end everyone was clapped over the line. I was shattered. I could barely move. I was hooked.
Over the course of the next 158 runs at Sheringham Parkrun I've realised how special this event is. Whether it's the drive and determination to create the event in the first place (thanks to Karl, the Council, National Trust and co.); the team of run Directors and army of volunteers who make the event tick each week and make it so welcoming (thanks all); or the diverse range of people who turn up each week. Veterans, babies in prams, dogs, runners in all shapes and sizes - all revelling in the shared Saturday morning communion of Parkrun. And what a Parkrun it is: a single circuit that's stunning at any time of year and the only course I'm aware of where the route has to be modified for cattle and toads - and where your run can be interrupted by deer and adders. Our unique milestones make it extra special: the cattle grid; Acott Corner; muddy corner and the infamous heart-attack hill (who said Norfolk was flat?!).
But it's the individual stories that make it particularly special. Regular runners will all know someone who has benefited from Sheringham Parkrun: weight loss; improved mental health, new friendships and a sense of community camaraderie and belonging - and more: take your pick. To me it often seems like a window into the best parts of the human spirit: people stopping to help someone they've never met before who's struggling or fallen over; voluntarily running with someone who wants pacing or just some company; David's Run. For me it's helped stem the tide a little against middle-aged spread, enabled me to meet some lovely new friends and helped me recover from a couple of health issues.
Last Saturday morning I ran with one of my 10-year-old daughters. No coercion was necessary: she voluntarily bounced out of bed, pushed herself around the course and determinedly ploughed up heart attack hill without stopping - one of dozens of youngsters willingly doing the same thing. I looked at the smile of satisfaction on her face as she crossed the line. Priceless. Cliff Vincent would have enjoyed watching it too.
Thank you Sheringham Parkrun. Yours is a very special event.