On Saturday 2nd October 2004, 13 runners and 5 volunteers turned up at the first ever parkrun. Over those 17 years parkrun has increased massively from one event to over 2000 events in 23 countries around the world. Results moved from being handwritten times and runners names found on a spreadsheet and manually input into a laptop at the end of the run - yes, even in the snow and rain! - to all parkrunners bringing a barcode to be quickly scanned and times being tapped both now on mobile phones! But the core element has remained the same… A weekly free 5km run where everyone is welcome to walk, jog or run or a combination of all three. Some events around the world can have over 2000 parkrunners, others just a handful. But the model is the same and all you need to record your participation in the run is your barcode.
I registered in 2010 but it took me nearly a year to build up the confidence to take part… and a few years more to regularly run and then bring my family with me. It was my family that started me on my tourism journey, so much so that now I am a compulsive parkrun tourist…and by extension so are my family as they get bundled out of the bed before dawn and driven to a new parkrun. Since my daughter started university in London our tourism has become even more purposeful as now we combine a parkrun with a swapping of clean washing for dirty, washing, deliver toilet rolls and take her for breakfast so we know that she has eaten at least one good meal a week!
To allow more time in bed for my son and wife we picked parkrun Sunny Hill, as it was in North London, just down the A1 so it would be a relatively easy drive down from the Midlands, it was accessible by public transport for my daughter to meet us and it had a space on the Volunteer Roster for a role that involved minimal walking as my wife is on a running ban from her physio! An email to email@example.com soon had her grabbing the roster spot as time keeper! A role my wife said she would never dare do but which has now become her favourite role of all!
As I parked up at 8am, I realised that the Telford rule to arrive at a new event by 8:20 latest so you can find the start! (in 2013 my son and I arrived at 8:50 and struggled to find the start and had to play catch the tail runner so we could get a time) had become family doctrine as my daughter arrived from her train, tube & bus journey in the park at 8:10!
It was great to have the whole family at the same parkrun at the same time… Last week, we all took part in parkrun but one in London, one in Wales and two at Stratford upon Avon. It is a real treat that everyone in a family can all take part in an event.
As my wife got herself into the #HiVizHeroesCape - Pink parkrun tabards, I grabbed a quick picture of some of the volunteers that made today’s run possible so I could post a thank you on Facebook or Twitter but as it turns out it will be useful for my run report!
The useful website created by a tourist for parkrunners to find how far away their nearest events are (you can even miss out events you have done!) https://touristtool.mybluemix.net/ helped me select Sunny Hill parkrun but hadn’t prepared me for anything else! I had no knowledge of the toilet situation - which after a long drive was fairly critical. Don’t worry, arriving nearly an hour early meant a quick trip to the BP garage 900m away provided relief and a warm up! Or the course. Which can all be found on Sunny Hill parkrun’s webpage but I didn’t read it!
Thankfully the great first timers briefing explained all about the course to the 15 first timers to Sunny Hill parkrun and to Hemang Nathwani who used his barcode for the first time so a huge Welcome to the parkrun family. I do hope you enjoyed your first parkrun and you will return to a parkrun again soon.
With a small lap and then a two lap figure of 8 loop route the course sounded complicated but at my current pace I knew I would always have someone to follow. With amazing marshals on the route and careful placement of cones it was actually really easy to follow - which was lucky because as soon as ‘G’ of Go signalled the beeps of GPS devices and the start of the parkrun, runners streamed away from me!
On the long drive home, I wondered if I went off too fast or the route got hilly quickly! My garmin trace confirmed it when I got home… I went far too fast for my post lockdown chonk-body and lack of training and even the small lap had a cheeky slope! So much so I had to take a strategic walk break. As I had to mix up the pace all the way round parkrun today just to make it around, I am going to call it a Fartlek run as good training plans say you should include those!
Running past the finish funnel for the first time the first real hill hit me! I walked… the last few milestone t-shirts disappeared into the distances as I trudged up the hill towards the centre of the figure of 8! To be greeted by a lovely smiling marshal encouraging me on, to enjoy the downhill before I faced the beast!
As I turned the corner on the path disappointingly rather than a three headed dog with giant fangs…the beast was a long uphill stretch…that just when it appeared to finish had a sneaky little extra! I think I would have rather faced Cerberus! But again at the top was a cheery marshal to send me on my way running back to the centre of the figure of 8 and the other loop back to the finish funnel, thankfully mainly downhill.
As I started my descent… WHOOSH… Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers', Dylan MICHEL (JM15-17) shot past me to take the first finish token this week in 18:28 and then jumped on barcode scanning as well! Impressive running and volunteering!
Realising that I would have to put myself through another lap of the hills I tried to enjoy the downhill while it lasted and even sped up so I could just pass the finish funnel and not be lapped by second over the line, Lonely Goat RC’s, Sam WHITE (SM20-24) in 20:35. It wasn’t a wise idea as my lungs were bursting and my legs ached at this short sharp slope - colloquially know as ‘The B!tch’ for a very good reason!
As I forced myself ever upwards Vegan Runners’, Tracy MOROZ (VW35-39) crossed the line in 6th overall in a time of 22:39 to be first female finisher. Great running.
In my oxygen starved state I realised that the hills of Sunny Hill parkrun may put people off as there are other parkruns close by but if this was your regular parkrun or even training run it would be amazing; add in a warm up and cooldown loop and you would have an amazing 7km run route with loads of hill reps and a flatter parkrun would appear easy! The one advantage of a walk, despite not needing oxygen at the top of the park, was that I could give a proper, ‘Thank you marshal’ to all those in pink our #HiVizHeros but as I volunteer to write a run report I get to post a huge THANK YOU to :- Harry HARPER-WILKINSON, Penny HARPER-WILKINSON, Tamara HUTTON-BROWN, Dylan MICHEL, Paul SALMAN, Beth SAWYER, Micah SMITH, Simone SMITH who made this event possible.
As with parkruns around the world Sunny Hill parkrun relies on volunteers to happen and the forthcoming roster is looking a bit sparse. Don’t worry if you have never volunteered before or aren’t sure what to do, most roles are very simple but the RD of the day or volunteer coordinator will gladly show you what to do. Just to prove how easy one of the roles is, have a look at my son’s quick 5 minute how to be a barcode scanner Youtube film… https://youtu.be/6WZyewcyPYw It is great fun to be involved with parkrun but without getting sweaty and you can enjoy seeing others run (or walk) up the hills! So if you need a rest week, or you have picked up a niggle or an injury or you have a non running relative who will come along, just email in to firstname.lastname@example.org There are even a few roles you can combine with a run…one is barcode scanner! My aim is to be able to whizz around a parkrun, grab a Hi Viz, pull out my phone and jump on the scanning. Unfortunately I am just not quick enough yet!
After huffing and puffing around ‘The Beast’ (very aptly named) waiting at the centre point of the figure of 8 was my son. He might have been offering to run in with me if I needed support… but in reality I know he was taunting me as he now regularly runs parkrun far quicker than I can! People may say that parkrun is a run not a race… but in a family that saying goes out the window! If I am to regain my crown as fastest in the family I need to ditch the post run treats and start to train! And definitely not run any three lap parkruns with him so he can’t lap me as I would never hear the end of it!
Scanning the results table after the run I am really impressed that 11 runners nearly 20% of the field managed to get a PB! Great running:- Angie Urwin, Arancha Greene, Barbara Lenton, Barry Edwards, Dominic Easton, Laura Quick, Li Du, Paul Dickens, Pratima Dhana, Thomas Hall, Usha Devani. If you didn’t get a PB this week, just like the Sunny Hill course our running times have their ups and downs as well.
Crossing the finish line, I was a red faced sweaty mass as I collected my position token and got scanned. From my travels I have realised that parkrun is not just about the parkrun location, how quick you run that makes a parkrun enjoyable but about the chatting and socialising before, during or after a run.
And today was a GREAT parkrun morning as I had lovely chats after parkrun, about milestone t-shirts (unfortunately my 250 shirt is more of a compression outfit post lockdowns and if I wear it my family won’t parkrun with me!). Hopefully the option to be able to buy a replacement shirt and one that has a few more Xs in the label will be soon) and my report writing! One that I wrote as a poem!
Once the parkrun was packed up and finished we headed over to the cafe. Having been told that the food was delicious - and you were correct - we had a lovely late breakfast.
Once again thanks to everyone at Sunny Hill parkrun for a lovely parkrun and day out today. Happy parkrunning.