Run report #50 – away from the politics

Somerdale Pavilion parkrun
Event number 50 – question time
7th December 2019

A milestone parkrun being the 50th run at Somerdale Pavilion after an absence of two weeks. Interestingly the conditions were pretty much as good as could be hoped for, not too cold, no wind, dry and the course soft without being waterlogged. In the run-up to the General Election is it unkind to say the absence of aspiring parliamentarians was a blessing?

We had a total of 58 non-political participants together with 18 volunteers. As always, a really big thank you to everyone who came along to help and support; without you parkrun would not succeed.

Which got me thinking. 58 runners being the third lowest number at the Somerdale Pavilion parkrun. Does that matter? Should we worry and on a wider scale, is there an ideal number of runners. Having taken part at Bushy (1001) and Southampton (1225 participants) and the second ever at Ashton Court when there were just 86, I am still amazed by how much it has grown in participation and popularity. But with that growth come logistic and practical problems.

At Somerdale we are fortunate in having clear off road parking (albeit paying) which causes little if any impact on the local residents. It is within walking distance of buses and trains. We have access to a café afterwards and toilets before. Other parkruns are not so fortunate and yet the fact that some of the parkruns have been set up in relatively small urban parks where you could not imaging a 1k run let alone a 5k course, is a tribute to the ingenuity of the local teams. The variety is one of the strengths.

At Somerdale (and a number of other courses locally and beyond) dogs are not allowed. Normally this is because of the tightness of the course and/or narrowness of paths, particularly where there might be an out and back section, or as in our case, where the run takes place on private land. That said the thought of two dogs running round the curlywurly seems a recipe for disaster, particularly if the leads got crossed. So personally although I have done many of my runs with a dog, I fully support those parkruns who have taken the decision that dogs are not allowed.

So back to my initial question, namely is there an ideal number of participants or a point at which it is no longer viable? In terms of numbers does it matter if only a couple of dozen runners turn up? It seems to me that so long as volunteers are willing to continue to help the answer is ‘no’. But at what stage does parkrun become a victim of its success and the pressure on the course, locality and volunteers becomes too much? Obviously a lot depends on the nature and location of the individual course and my (very good) experience at Southampton and Bushy shows that the logistic difficulties can be overcome with goodwill, on the part of all. I shudder to think of processing that many runners, the majority of whom will probably finish in a five minute window. It also places a significant burden on the volunteers.

When reading forums people sometimes complain that they get impeded by slower runners, buggies and dogs. At the risk of being a bit controversial I wonder if (that) parkrun is the right event for those people who complain. At the end of the day it is a mass participation event for people at all levels of fitness and commitment run by volunteers. The average finishing time is getting slower which shows that the composition of participants is changing and long may this continue. For our part we will welcome you to Somerdale whether it is your first or fiftieth, and whatever your finishing time.

This week 58 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 12 were first timers and 10 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 13 different clubs took part.

The event was made possible by 18 volunteers:

John PEAKE • Ian MUSSELL • Isabella SANIGAR • Hugh BURCHARD • Gary COULTART • Sharon COULTART • Ian CONWAY • Mike KIMBER • Tina DURY • Joan GIBSON • Desmond CLEMENTS • Alistair FELTON • Nick BRAIN • Vanessa HAWKINS • Fiona BURCHARD • Sue DEVINE • Abbie DEVINE • Emma BARRETT

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Somerdale Pavilion parkrun Results Page.

The male record is held by David HUDSON who recorded a time of 16:39 on 14th September 2019 (event number 41).
The female record is held by Lucy RICHENS who recorded a time of 19:55 on 21st September 2019 (event number 42).
The Age Grade course record is held by Caroline LAVIS who recorded 87.52% (26:18) on 23rd March 2019 (event number 17).

Somerdale Pavilion parkrun started on 17th November 2018. Since then 2,954 participants have completed 5,953 parkruns covering a total distance of 29,765 km, including 1,057 new Personal Bests. A total of 289 individuals have volunteered 942 times.