Today, I made the worst mistake ever as a parkrun tourist.
No I didn't forget my barcode; I always have a spare under the sole of my shoe just in case I misplace the ones in my phone case, parkrun shorts and the two in my car!
I didn't arrive late and have to play catch the tail walker… although with the amazing pink 5km run route signs, getting lost would be hard (however the hilly route would make for a frantic and tough start if I had to make up 10 minutes!).
Even picking one of the toughest and the hilliest parkrun in the UK to 'run' with Achilles issues and under physio instructions to walk up any hills - I walked a lot today - wasn't that big an error.
The error was bringing my wife with me to run Whinlatter Forest parkrun!
I have been a totally disorganised parkrun tourist now for over three years. Thankfully my super-kind, report proofreading wife humours me in my parkrun adventures; travelling with some sufferance to far-flung places around the UK as I go to yet another new, different event, always questioning me… 'Why are we travelling so far to run a free 5km event?'
This week after dropping my son off at the World Scout Jamboree catch-up camp, we kept heading up the M6 to parkrun in the North! Only when we set off we had no hotel booked and I had no idea where we were going to run. All my wife said was, "I want to parkrun somewhere with trees."
Although we stopped at a Travelodge just off the M6 by Lancaster with 50 parkruns that I hadn't run very close, by the demand (to get it past the proof reader it did originally say request!) for trees was still fresh in my mind as I fell asleep last night. Having seen fellow parkrun tourist's pictures of Whinlatter Forest I had an idea… It did mean another early Saturday start but my long-suffering other half is now used to that!
As we drove along the final stretch of our journey, ears popping along the A66, the sight of soaring hills and tree-covered slopes vindicated my selection. This was a run would earn me star-husband points, of which, after leaving my smelly parkrun kit in a warm car for 5 days last week, I was in much need of. I do know how to use the washing machine but after a slight error washing a shower gel bottle with bubbles foaming out of the powder drawer, I am rarely allowed. And never unsupervised!
As well as running lots of different parkrun events I love to write the run report. So on arrival I quickly sought out this week's RD, Sonia DRYDEN to grab the chance to write the report. Thankfully for me she said "Yes.". although after reading my stream of consciousness both you and her might just regret it!
At the run briefing Sonia advised all of how tough the course was… 3 times harder than you had been told! She wasn't lying. I recorded a personal worst time at a parkrun while running on my own (my only other slower times were when I was running with my young children or as a tail walker).
My wife and I walked together to the start and 91 other runners. Normally we self-seed - as I have the accolade of being the fastest in the family, I normally start a head of my wife - however since my injury I have been relegated from the number one spot! So we started together.
With the countdown from 3 starting the parkrun, the gentle downhill start led me into a false sense of security - surely this wasn't going to be quite as bad as it had been made out?
During the first half kilometre I matched my wife step for step. Well actually two steps of mine to every three of hers as she has shorter legs. My gentle easy pace, nicely matching her hard efforts, this wasn't going to be so bad I felt - until the hills started.
Without a care in the world my wife ran off and left me in the middle of the woods as she gracefully glided up the hill. I resorted to a walk, definitely under physio advice.
As I watched my wife ran off into the distance I noticed a stream of runners zigzagging up a huge great hill.
From the run briefing I knew that Rachel was waiting at the top of the hill and she marked the halfway point and finally a downhill section - I could run again.
As I passed Rachel fast runners shot past me - I was being lapped by speedy runners before I was even halfway! In fact I didn't even see today's first finisher, Kieran COOPER (SM18-19) because he was so far ahead of me, finishing in 19:05! Great running.
As I approached Lyn holding her hi-vis lap arrows, for a millisecond I was tempted to sneak behind Striders of Croydon AC's Jodie GRAY (SW30-34) who finished in 25:09, 14th place and first lady. But knew that I was only cheating myself and if my wife hadn't seen me overtake her it would be the only topic of conversation on the four + hour drive home!
So I turned to face the technical woody section that we had been warned about on the run briefing. Taking care to lift my feet, I followed the path and weaved between the trees, enjoying the downhill for all 200m before again the path went up. And UP!
Passing Rachel for the second time I gasped out my thanks. This was especially heartfelt as she pointed me in the right way!
One of the reasons that I like to offer to write the run report is that it gives me a record of my travels and the other is to offer thanks to the marshals who make these events possible. As just like today my shouts of thanks to the marshals on course are lost as all the effort goes into breathing as I move. So a huge thank you to:- Kate BAIRD, Brendan CARLIN, Sonia DRYDEN, Carol HARVEY, Rory HODGKISS, Rachel JONES, Hannah Elizabeth METCALFE, David SANDERSON, Jessica SMITH & Lyn THOMPSON; today's team who made this event possible for all us 93 runners. As with parkruns around the world if you fancy giving scanning a go, fancy being the time keeper, marshalling and encouraging others or are happy to help out in any role please look on the roster and e-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org Don’t worry if you are unsure what to do, there is always someone on hand to talk you through the role. You can even write the run report. I promise they don’t all have to be this long!
As I started the road section for the second and final time I spotted the orange hi-vis of the tail walker. With a light run, jog and a bit of brisk walking I soon caught them up. As the route again turned slightly uphill I had a chat. I would love to mention the lady's name as it was her first ever parkrun, as her daughter had bought her along. But scanning the results I noticed she was down as an unknown so I am going to guess she didn't have a barcode. What a shame. But the great thing is there are parkruns on all over the country every Saturday at 9am so don't worry, register and you can parkrun again next week either here at Whinlatter Forest or at any other parkrun. I'm sure most will be a lot easier than this one, although not many as scenic.
Passing Lynn and her yellow signs for the second time I remembered the run briefing - it was 200m all downhill and I could look like a god.
I would like to think I ran in like a bronzed Hermes, messenger of the gods, winged trainers flying across the ground however my wife tells me I was more like Dionysus, the god of wine and entertainment after a heavy night staggering out of a taverna. A dreadful look for teetotaller.
Collecting my token I was greeted by my wife, the lady who has proofread over 100 run reports and who has turned my inarticulate prose into English of a decent standard, spotting my typos, spelling mistakes and lack of punctuation within seconds of scanning a report. Even highlighting parts in red as nonsensical rubbish with, "That's the bestest parkrun ever!". High praise indeed from someone who has run 92 different events. Even FabbyAbbey (Fountains Abbey!)
Although the elevation across the course made it a bit of a beast, the amazing views down the Valley with the low-level autumn sun shimmering off the lake, the giant pines stretching skywards made it an absolute beauty.
As has now become a tradition, a great parkrun tour always involves a trip to the café for a chat over coffee. And at Siskins you get a parkrun special! So as the team packed up, we scoffed egg sandwiches and tea.
By the time the team arrived in the café to sort tokens and process results we had started on cake and coffee! Maybe my injury isn't the only reason my running is getting slower!
Chatting to the team I was pulled up by Rachel on my comment. The first time I saw her on course she said, 'You're halfway.' I checked my watch, only to respond, 'We are definitely not halfway!'
My wife wants my result expunged from the official results for arguing… as she knows this means I would have to break my 3 year streak of new parkruns by visiting again! As she said if she lived closer she would be running here every week and the hills would be amazing training.
As the core team packed up to leave the café we took the chance to explore more of the Forest, especially the Gruffalo trail. What a wonderful natural area to enjoy and lots of amazing playgrounds for youngsters and a GoApe for those a little older and a mass of mountain biking trails.
Getting in the car my wife's final words as we drove away were, "You've really raised the bar on parkruns this week… How are you going to top it next week?'
Thank you for a superb parkrun today.