#247 – The Tring parkrun detective agency

detective agency
The dark and mysterious case of the missing runners


When I finally caught up with Andy, he was drinking strong coffee with a renegade RD named ‘Running Boy’ Collings in a ramshackle joint just off the A41, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring morning.

Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

In a shadowy corner I caught a glimmer of alarm from the Bladen gang. My gut tightened. I slunk off to the dusty old table piled with Finish Tokens and grasped my double jack-on-the-rocks (or was it a mint tea?) like a lucky talisman.

“I’m gonna hunt them down, every last man-jack of ‘em” snapped Andy, his words engraved indelibly on the tense silence of the Akeman.

“No” pleaded Ann-Marie, her pretty brown eyes misting with emotion. She knew how much work this would be, but she also knew his mind was made up.



It was a morning like any other, or so it seemed. The volunteer team knew what they were doing - it was, after all, their 247th time. The cows sniffed around at first and then paid no attention. Walkie-talkies crackled into life, bar code scanners and timers hummed in readiness, and an array of plastic triangles and arrows soon ringed Tring Park. 

RD Collings donned his blue and white hi-viz. This was his territory, his patch, and he knew it better than most. (Legend has it that he once ran Tring parkrun’s course 20 times without stopping - and maybe, just maybe that could be true). Marshals away, cow marshals away, briefings done and 213 parkrunners set off oblivious to the drama that would soon touch so many of them.

The location of the Start sign was almost equally mysterious.

Among these, 12 were tackling their first ever event, and 5 first time visitors also discovered the glories of Tring Park. Tring Scouts turned out in force for a special run but sadly didn’t build a camp-fire and didn’t cook us all sausages.

Vicky Lea (after a few false starts in recent weeks) had the honour of wearing the “my 100th parkrun” tabard, and Sam Meldrum was making sure of his 50th. Apparently it’s not a “thing”, but impressively “arbitrary” - Louise and Steve Bladen were clocking up their 200th parkruns. Amazingly they only started at Tring in 2015 and last year completed more than 50 parkruns alone!

So far - so good.



An hour later and still things were going well. PBs abounded, the cows behaved (in part thanks to Matty’s posse), parkrunners from four to seventy-four smiled. RD Collings waved his hand, the kit vanished and no evidence of our wonderful weekly event was left to be seen in the park. Alas no evidence of another sort was to be found either - but more of that later!

We learned that 32 people recorded PB times (and will trust this had nothing to do with the “run round me" sign being generously located this week!) great work by all. Of these Mike Holdroyd made it 7 PBs in a row (and 13 PBs in 14 runs at Tring!). How long can he keep this up? Also a hat-tip to Rob Jones in our most senior age category this week (70-74) who also booked a PB. At the other end of the age scale Eilidh MacKenzie and Paige Walker both got PBs in the under 10 category. Congratulations.

Jess Gray, Anna Fryer and Katie Van de Linde were our first female finishers and Sam Burnell, John Mayock and Craig Fines-Allin were our first males (all booking PB times).

IMG_8601 IMG_8611
Vicky and Sam - our two milestone runners this week. Well done.


The Reckoning

In the Akeman RD Collings and ‘Gumshoe’ Evans command special respect. They have a table. No one else sits at that table - it’s their territory, hallowed ground. From there they have God-like dominion over volunteer rosters, Facebook and Twitter accounts, and - of course - the results.

Everyone wants to see their name on those results. But if your barcode and finish token do not get registered, suddenly you’re no longer a name - you’re an “unknown”. You’ve vanished, you don’t exist. People avoid you, mention you in whispers only….if you’re lucky!

Normally this only happens either because the mantra of #DFYB ("Don't Forget Your Barcode") has been, well, forgotten or a barcode has been miss-scanned (very rare). Not this week though!!!

On their results computer the Stopwatch files loaded OK (as they should), the first and second Scanner files played the game too. But the third……

Only 1 pair of scanned barcodes were found on that scanner. 100 were missing. That meant 100+ “unknowns”.

That’s when Andy said what he said!

Some say it was pride, some say it was a ‘sense of duty’, some say it was bull-headed stubbornness. Whatever it was, it meant a whole shed-load of detective work, listening to their snitches, piecing together clues, and many hours of toil.


Did the cows have something to do with it? They were suspiciously quiet!


The Hunt

“Listen” said Andy (to the other Andy) - “I’m gonna have to put the word on the street! But in the meantime we play it cool. We publish the few results we’ve got, drop a few emails in the right places….then sit back and see what unfolds”.

But that wasn’t all. “Hey, wasn’t Stuart ‘the Lense’ Page there today?”, “Sure, I saw his impressive telephoto sticking out of a bush near the finish”. “Good - I need his SD card, plus a positive ID and time on every runner crossing the line”.

This was results processing on steroids. Needle in a haystack came to mind. (We even had someone email in with details that caused confusion - turned out that person had run at Wendover and not Tring!!! LOL)

But I’m here to tell you that he did it (with help from Ann-Marie) and will be remembered forever more in the Facebook “parkrun results processing group” (yes, one really does exist, and has 1.1k members!).

So there you have it.......another great Saturday morning parkrun and a truly brilliant effort by Andy and co to piece together everyone's results.

See you next week (and please don't forget to take a look at the volunteer roster for the weeks ahead).


The Tring parkrun team



You can find out more about Tring parkrun and see all of our photographs and videos on our Facebook page here.

You can see our current volunteer roster here.

We encourage all parkrunners to volunteer a few times a year. If you can help on any future date, or would like to find out more about our volunteer and helper roles, please email us at tringhelpers@parkrun.com.

There are two excellent parkrun podcasts available each week. "Free Weekly Timed" is the official parkrun podcast with Vassos Alexander and Louise Ayling. We also have "With Me Now" with Danny Norman and Nicola Forwood which is an independent parkrun-based podcast.