Where to start? What a surprise, pleasure, privilege it is to be able to write a (not) parkrun run report in the week Witney smashes the world records for both number of (not) parkrun’s run, walked or jogged and also the number of participants.
And, we should never get tired of saying, but it’s all because of the community that we’ve built together. And we should never take it for granted, and never stop nurturing it. It’s the people things. If anything, maybe the last seven months without Witney parkrun have shown us that the actual 5km are the least important part of parkrun. You know, those 5km that you’ve looked forward to through the week, maybe felt a teeny bit anxious about, possibly cruised through, probably grimaced and dug deep for - and then, only then, smiled the satisfaction, started the weekend.
Why? Because we’ve shown, typified by this past month of extraordinary exhortations of our Crabby, and the even more astounding response from the hundreds - hundreds! - registering (not) parkruns, that we’ve created a truly special community. And surely, aren’t the friendships forged, rekindled, nourished; the support we give to each other, aren’t they more important than the actual 5km?
Three years ago I walked the course for the first time with a determined, enthusiastic, dedicated bunch of dreamers - keen to bring parkrun to Witney but not sure how or where or when or if anyone would come... and if they did where would they park and what if it was flooded and what if the council said no and a million other what ifs and potential reasons why not.
That core group carefully worked through the what ifs and why nots and delivered for the rest of us, encouraged us, applauded us and in turn, in time, together we’ve built our special table topping community.
And really, again, does your time on the 5km actually matter? That muddy corner or slopes in the wood or first buds in spring. Maybe yes or maybe no, but what matters for me are ‘not on my watch’, ‘mind the wire’, ditch dancers, bubble blowing, volunteers, friends. The people things. And for me, those people things on our last parkrun before more floods, before the virus on 8th February. The previous day, the parkrun team, along with other community pillars Libfest and Witney Music Festival, came together to support my son Patrick’s Memorial Service. An unforgettable, immensely appreciated, very definite people thing.
So too right, Martin is spot on talking about what makes Witney parkrun special on the Free Weekly Timed podcast - it’s all of us and what we can give to each other - whether we’re running, jogging, walking through our gorgeous tree lined avenues or as it turns out, not.
Reflecting on that journey over three years, did any of that cheerily optimistic team trudging the proposed course three sunny Septembers ago envisage this? That such a special community could be built? Possibly not, and as a non runner at the time, it’s fair to say I didn’t entirely expect to be reflecting 400 runs later and as a parkrun regular. It’s fair to say too that I couldn’t imagine running a half marathon...
But for me, the culmination of everything that parkrun has given me, will be doing just that, because organised events have been cancelled, in and around our familiar West Witney fields this coming Saturday morning in aid of SeeSaw. Along the way, I’ll be joined and supported by some familiar parkrun faces, friends, my favourite people things.
Honestly, I can’t wait.
And I guess I’ll be logging my (not) parkrun.
Run Report: Liam Walsh