The Calm Before The Storm: by Michelle Pearson

As the weekend approached storm Dennis seemed to be mentioned every time I turned on the TV or radio, warnings of biblical storms and requests to tie down our trampolines. This was taken very seriously in the South West parkrun community and with run after run cancelled options for my Saturday morning fix became more and more limited.
Friday evening was spent studying various weather apps and the conclusion was to travel east and try to outrun Dennis. A quick cross reference with runs on the ‘to do’ list and up popped Southwick Country Park, I had run here a couple of years ago but not very quickly, so a PB was a good possibility. My companions were looking for a ‘south’ for their running challenges and whilst it looked like we would get wet, we should complete before Dennis could do his worst.
We set out from Bristol at 07:30, storm chasers in reverse, keeping a close eye on Facebook all the way, half expecting to see a last minute cancellation. We needn’t have worried, the team at Southwick proved more than a match for Dennis and preparations for the run were in full flow as we parked up. As we walked across to the toilets at the café and slithered back for the first timers brief I was slightly concerned we had made a mistake but this proved to be the only grass we encountered.
At the brief we were asked where runners had travelled from, unsurprisingly in the conditions, Bristol proved to be the farthest and the runner who shouted this was asked if he wanted to wear the tourist T Shirt. I didn’t know there was such a thing, why hadn’t I shouted up first, I came from Bristol, I would have loved to wear the tourist T Shirt, tourism is my thing……ah well maybe next time.
At the start the run director walked us through the final safety announcements and at this point the weather was dry and really quite pleasant, would it last, could we outrun Dennis?
As we set off it was quite congested and whilst wet under foot in places, the paths were firm. We had been warned not to wander off the paths and a quick glance down explained why with standing water and boggy grass on either side. It was not too difficult to puddle dodge and I soon became lulled into a false sense of security that my feet would stay dry throughout, rookie mistake. After the next bend I was met with a particularly spectacular lake to get through…OK maybe lake is a slight exaggeration, it was however deep enough to come over the top of my shoes and ensure damp feet from then on.
The marshal just past the ‘lake’ quickly took my mind off the damp however as he encouraged us onward against a background of music playing from his ghetto blaster. This was at least something to look forward to as we had to traverse the ‘lake’ twice more on the run. It was also a nice touch to see the volunteers at the finish funnel on the first lap, standing arms outstretched, taking jackets from runners and placing them on a tarp for collection at the end.
Despite the threat of a downpour it was a great event, well organised and friendly. Thank you to all the volunteers standing around in puddles or mud and not seeming to mind one bit. In the end the weather held for the run but as a volunteer you never know, you just put your name down and hope for the best. I salute you all.
Afterward we headed off to the café, nice atmosphere, friendly staff and amazing cakes. As we left the warmth of the café the heavens opened and we got drenched on the short walk back to the car. Dennis got the last laugh after all.