Next up in our series of Q&As with our regular runners are Katie and Len van de Linde.
Katie has now completed 129 parkruns in total. Katie’s first run at Tring was in December 2014, and Katie has now completed Tring parkrun on 107 occasions. Katie’s PB is a hugely impressive 22.35 (set back in October 2015). In her first 17 runs at Tring, Katie notched up a PB on 9 occasions! Katie has also volunteered at Tring on 31 separate occasions.
A selection of photos marking Katie's first 50 runs at Tring parkrun.
Len has completed 122 parkruns in total, of which 98 have been at Tring, his first coming in January 2015. Len’s PB is 25:50, which he set back in April 2018. Len has also volunteered at Tring on 37 occasions.
A selection of photos marking Len's first 50 runs at Tring parkrun
Katie and Len moved to Cheddington some 20 years ago, having moved from Latimer (near Chesham). Katie had grown up in the area, having spent her childhood years in the village of Wingrave. In their travels Katie and Len have visited a number of parkruns, including the intriguingly named Curl Curl parkrun in Sydney, Australia.
So let's hear from Katie and Len...…...
Other than parkrun, do you take part in any other organised running events?
We are both members of Tring Running Club and Katie has also recently joined the local ‘Run the Wild’ team as a guide. Trail running is our favourite form of running – and over any distance really. In November last year, we took part in the Druids’ Challenge, which involved running the length of the Ridgeway path – some 84 miles - over 3 days. We also enter a number of local road races each year such as the Berko half and Leighton 10k.
Given current restrictions, what are you doing to keep active?
We had a few events planned which have now all been cancelled. However, that has not stopped us enjoying runs locally – mostly in or around Cheddington with some longer ones taking us up to the Beacon and Pitstone Hill. With such amazing countryside and trail options on our doorstep, we’ve not yet found the need to have to venture further afield. Our weekly, themed virtual Parkruns are of course our favourite run!
What does Tring parkrun mean to you?
Tring just a brilliant parkrun – a great course and lovely people! And whilst this will sound like a ‘cliché’, for us Tring Parkrun is so much more than just a running event. Whilst it still motivates us to return each week to post a better time, we also enjoy the sense of community of Tring parkrun - we’ve met so many wonderful people and had some great times.
Why did you start parkrun? How did you hear about Tring parkrun? Did you come along with others?
Katie: I was made aware of Tring Parkrun by fellow Cheddingtonians, Kevin and Kirsty Dance. My first visit soon followed in late 2014 - accompanied by Kevin as well as her brother Rob Fletcher and his partner Allison Williment. I had just started to run again (after some years off) so it proved a perfect way to build strength and fitness.
Katie in action on Tring's hills
Len: I always preferred to play golf on a Saturday morning. But once Mentmore closed I swapped the fairways for the pastures of Tring Park (probably one of the best decisions I have made!).
Obviously Tring parkrun is your favourite parkrun, but what is your second favourite and why?
Based simply on stats, our next favourite is Houghton Hall parkrun – it offers a nice fast, flat course, friendly team, easy parking and convenient café/toilets on site. We are also huge fans of Rushmere (if only it didn’t cost so much to park there!).
Taking any of our courses, what is your favourite bit of the Tring parkrun course and why?
The finish is probably the best bit of any Parkrun, but at Tring we also enjoy approaching the far end of Kings Charles’ Drive (near to where the older routes used to join it) as this is where we start seeing the frontrunners making their way back. We will never run as fast as them but it is an impressive sight (some of them don’t even look as if they have built up a sweat!!).
What’s your favourite volunteer role?
We like them all but marshalling is probably our favourite. It gives you a great opportunity to encourage all the runners whilst at the same time experience the splendour of Tring Park. On the days we volunteer, we have often been accompanied by our daughter Ella and, in his younger years, our trusty German Short-haired pointer, Obi.
Len in his favourite volunteer role. Most people have a similar reaction when Ken Douglas appears, camera in hand.
What is your favourite / funniest parkrun memory?
Marshalling at gate 1 on a very snowy Parkrun day in March 2018 was awesome. This was when the ‘Beast from the East’ attended Tring parkrun and gave us some wonderful views of the runners making their way up the hill towards us through the snow and wind.
What parkrun would you like to do in the future and why?
Len: I'm Dutch, and so any parkrun in The Netherlands would be fun. The country’s inaugural parkrun events took place earlier this year but, as with the rest of the world, had to close down after just 2 weeks. When parkrun returns and travel restrictions ease, we hope to venture across the Channel to complete a Dutch parkrun (and have copious amounts of coffee and cake afterwards!!)
Len on the lookout for cake.
What’s your pre parkrun breakfast?
We often end up skipping breakfast as we often running late on a Saturday morning; our transport of choice to Tring parkrun is the Dance’s 7 seater mini-bus (dubbed the Cheddington bus) which leaves the village at 8:15am prompt. We are often late, and, thoughtfully, the driver checks that we have all brought our trainers and bar codes!!
Have you ever done any of our fancy dress parkruns, and if so, what did you come dressed as?
The fancy dress events are some of our favourites – we certainly wouldn’t miss the annual St Andrew’s and Christmas Day events … suitably attired. Over the years, it has become a Christmas Day tradition to sing Christmas carols very loudly en-route to Tring parkrun in the ‘Cheddington Bus’; it is a miracle that we then still have the energy to plod around the course.
Christmas 2015. Carols sung, it's time to don the festive hats!
Although none of us admit it, we all target someone or something we want to beat. Who or what is your target?
Katie: I still reminisce fondly of the days that I would tussle with Kevin Dance; more recently it has been Helen Tullie, Peter Leigh and Richard Murphy that I like to keep in my sights.
Len: I’m always on the lookout for the Cheddington contingent (notably Keith Stonestreet, Tamsin and David Leybourne) as well as RDs Ken Douglas and Katie Haines.
Of the two of you, who is the more competitive?
Len: That is an easy one – it’s Katie. In the last 5 parkruns before lockdown, the time gap between us narrowed but, inevitably, Katie always manages to finish just ahead of me. At our very last parkrun in March – in Perth, Scotland - I ran a lifetime PB (sub-25 mins). But with just 200 metres to the end, and having thought I'd done enough to keep Katie at bay … he went sailing by just at the very moment the finish funnel came into sight.
Katie: Me. In the last 5 parkruns before lockdown, the time gap between us narrowed. But I always manage to finish before Len!
More Scottish than Perth, Tring parkrun on St Andrew's Day.
Do you think you’ll ever get another PB at Tring?
Katie: No chance!
Len: Hopefully; my Tring parkrun PB dates back to 2018 but I have managed to get close a couple of times this year. What I need most is a more positive approach to the new course; that first climb always seems to take a lot out of you!