Sunderland parkrun, Event number 462, 8th December 2018 A Tourists View from Stephen Wilson

Ever since I’d started doing a bit of parkrun tourism, I’d been looking forward to finally getting my original home town Sunderland’s parkrun done. I’d ticked off nearby Durham, Riverside, South Shields, Whitley Bay, and Newcastle - but not Sunderland for various logistical reasons.  As a child, Silksworth Ski Slope had been a landmark visible from the car when visiting my grandparents, almost on a par with Penshaw Monument, but I’d never actually been to the sports complex or to the ski slope.
So my wife and I came up from York on Friday, visited family in Sunderland and Penshaw and checked into the Grand Hotel at Seaburn ‪on Friday night‬. I left the hotel just ‪before 7:30am Saturday morning‬ with my wife still sleeping, and jogged along the sea front to the city centre. When I say jogged, in reality it was a very difficult battle against the wind which separated me from my running cap on a couple of occasions. Finally, Fawcett Street was reached and handily there was a bus to Silksworth just about to leave – the parkrun gods were on my side. After a relatively quick journey the driver told me where to get off, and I jogged up the path to the foot of the ski slope. I was a bit early so had a jog around and went to the top of the hill to get a view back to the sea. Hopefully I was in the right place, but not entirely sure at that point.
Then the run director arrived and I had an inner sigh of relief. I helped set up the funnel but the wind was constantly testing the tape’s strength and pulling at the poles. Then a few more volunteers and runners arrived, all commenting on the wind. I said at least it’s not raining, shortly followed by a mini shower!  Should have kept my mouth shut. I got to see where the Sunderland team go to do their results, and have a cuppa – it looked great, and I felt a bit sad I’d need to head back quickly after finishing rather than join in.
Lots more people started to arrive and chat now, the same thing happening in hundreds of parkruns around the country and indeed the world.  Warm ups, stretches, discussion of niggles and injuries.
Soon it was first timers briefing for those just joining the cult of parkrun and for the tourists. A nice lady gave us a warm welcome and the low down on the course and how parkrun works.
A man with a suitably loud voice gave the main briefing and the RD got the 149 runners underway with a 3 – 2 – 1 – GO!
It’s always a bit strange doing a course for the first time as you don’t really know what’s coming. So it was off to the right, along, round a tree and back. Then some down-hill, a bit more and another bit of down-hill! That was nice, happy with that all day long! A longer, flat stretch and then we arrived at the lake, I knew from the briefing we had to go around twice, so took the first lap steady and then tried to speed up a little bit on the second one. Once the second lap was done I though right time to speed up a bit more and see if you can catch up with one or two runners further ahead.  It was feeling relatively comfortable but then I could see a man up ahead who had slowed down to a walk. Hope he is okay! Then you realise why – it's hill time.  It felt like a long, long climb back to the finish. My legs were very heavy by now – battling gravity to get back to where we started. Then what a relief to finally enter the finish funnel and get a token. I needed a minute or two to recover before I could find the strength to get my barcode out for scanning!  Then you get scanned and the endorphins start to flow. What a great parkrun and what a way to start the weekend! Volunteers you are heroes, thank you!
The conditions made it tough, but 7 incredible runners achieved a PB, they all deserve a mention: Gavin Cowen, Claire Moss, James Ballantyne, Wah Tang, Tracy Cowans , Peter Simpson and Christine Cass-Evans.  There were a few milestones achieved. Roger Moore reached 300, now there is a man who deserves a P007 token. Sean Walton and Brian Charlton joined the 100 club. Congratulations to all 3.  First male finisher was Tim Field and first female finisher was Madeline Squires – incredible running from them.
I’m looking forward to coming back in the future and giving a better account of myself on that hill finish. If any of the Sunderland regulars fancy a flat PB course then I can strongly recommend York and Heslington (also in York) – no hills maybe just a speed bump or too!
A big thanks to all of the volunteers who organised and set up the event, briefed, started, marshalled, timed us, handed us a token, scanned us, and gave us a result:
Jane NIVEN • George William HURST • Stephen WILSON • Stephen SNOWBALL • Mark Andrew ROBINSON • Stephen BARRY • Martin BALDRIDGE • Linda DODSWORTH • Elizabeth COLEY • Jo DOWSETT • Peter LAWSON • Sophie SNOWBALL • Maisie ILEY
Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Sunderland parkrun Results Page.
The male record is held by Liam TAYLOR who recorded a time of 15:26 on 6th August 2011 (event number 90).
The female record is held by Aly DIXON who recorded a time of 16:46 on 9th February 2013 (event number 165).
The Age Grade course record is held by Aly DIXON who recorded 89.37% (‪16:56‬) on 2nd September 2017 (event number 403).
Sunderland parkrun started on 10th October 2009. Since then 6,355 participants have completed 63,331 parkruns covering a total distance of 316,655 km, including 10,092 new Personal Bests. A total of 515 individuals have volunteered 5,095 times.