As increasing parts of northern England settle into Tier 3 restrictions for the foreseeable future and cases continue to rise across the country, it’s safe to say that the UK is firmly underway with a second wave of coronavirus and as we head towards winter, with the clocks going back at the weekend, difficult and uncertain times lie ahead. There’s lots of noise and competing arguments about the best way through this crisis, but all we mere mortals can do is follow the agreed upon guidelines of ‘Hands, Face, Space’ – washing our hands regularly, covering our face in public settings and keeping social distance from others wherever possible.
The government advice is fairly straightforward and vital if we’re going to keep local cases down
In the parkrun world, while events in the UK are postponed indefinitely, events are slowly returning elsewhere, with parkruns in Western Australia and Japan this week joining others in other parts of Australia, New Zealand and the Falkland Islands which have previously restarted. In total, there were 87 parkruns this week, nearly twice as many as last week, welcoming 8543 parkrunners and 886 volunteers, also both almost twice the previous week’s total. 11 events in Japan and 28 events in Western Australia took place, with the state containing the major population centre of Perth joining the Northern Territory and Tasmania in reopening in recent weeks, albeit in a more limited manner as some lifting of restrictions has been delayed. This coming Saturday should see parkruns in a fourth part of Australia, the Australian Capital Territory (containing the nation’s capital, Canberra), reopen, alongside the first parkruns close to the UK mainland, Nobles parkrun on the Isle of Man and Guernsey parkrun in the Channel Islands. These two events are returning initially on a four-week pilot basis, to see how they operate under UK restrictions and whether they become overwhelmed by visitors from other parkruns in the UK (something that is discouraged but unpoliceable) and if concerns are raised then the decision to reopen these specific events may be swiftly reversed.
Tsujido Kaihin parkrun, about 20 miles from Yokohama in Japan, finally held their first event on Saturday, many months after was previously intended – a good time was had by all!
Although I profess to some trepidation on this topic, perhaps informed by my proximity to the epicentre of the current ongoing crisis, which centres on our part of the country, parkrun last week released results of a survey they conducted of 2,000 parkrunners regarding the effects of lockdown and the absence of parkrun on their mental and physical health. The results are, unsurprisingly, quite depressing, with 62% of respondents reporting a negative impact on their mental health from the COVID-19 restrictions and 70% saying their links to their community had been weakened. 38% said they were less physically active than prior to lockdown, while considering the doomsday scenario that parkrun could never return, 55% thought their health and wellbeing would be negatively impacted if parkruns ceased to operate, a figure I’m sure many Wittoners would agree with. While these statistics clearly demonstrate the importance of parkrun to its participants’ physical and mental wellbeing, something I think we all recognise and appreciate, there still remains significant barriers to a return for parkrun at Witton any time in the near future, and I think Tom Williams’ suggestion last week that Spring seemed most likely rings very true. You can read the full findings of parkrun’s survey here: https://blog.parkrun.com/uk/2020/10/20/losing-connection-and-quality-of-life/
We’re all missing our shared parkrun experience at the moment and can’t wait to get back as soon as it’s safe
In more positive news, we received a message this week from Kathryn Townsend with the latest shots of our much-missed home, as she ran on Saturday alongside husband Simon and friend Craig. Kath said she was missing us all and parkruns generally (she tours frequently and is on the core team at Worden Park junior parkrun in Leyland). Kath has nevertheless kept up with her physical activity, telling us she’s done either a walk or run every day since lockdown began and has successfully kept it up after returning to work. Consequently, on the virtual Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge, she has reached Carlisle! Just Scotland to go now, Kath!
Kath sent us these two photos from her run – husband Simon is in black and friend Craig in blue – it’s nice to see the course, Kath, thanks for sending them!
Thanks for your message, and if you’re running or walking 5K, why not submit a (not)parkrun time? Speaking of which…
(not)parkrun – Week 19
A hit-or-miss week weatherwise, with plenty of wet weather though not always raining. Over the weekend, the persistent rain that fell for most of Saturday surprisingly gave way to a cool Sunday filled with bright sunshine and largely cloudless skies. This week saw 19 (not)parkrunners record a total of 29 (not)parkruns and first to finish this week was Blackburn Road Runner Andrew WISDOM in 23:35. Andrew ran 3 (not)parkruns this week and retook the lead for most first finishes (7) from fellow Road Runner Dan Hamilton, celebrating by knocking 5 seconds off his PB from Week 14 – great work, Andrew! Second to finish, and first female, was Miriam HAMILTON in 24:29. This was Miriam’s 9th (not)parkrun and the first time she’s recorded a time when husband Dan has not. Although not a PB, it was her highest (not)parkrun finishing position and the highest by any female since Kate Pomfret was first finisher in Week 3 – well done, Miriam! Just behind Miriam was fellow Road Runner Karen RISHTON in 24:33. Karen recorded 3 more (not)parkruns to get to 37 in total, and she knocked 3 seconds off her PB from Week 15, to end up just 4 seconds behind Miriam in the battle to be first female – keep going, Karen!
Miriam – here in a rare shot in BRR gear – was first female for the 8th time at (not)parkrun!
Fourth finisher was friend of Witton Cameron ASHTON in 27:05. Cameron recorded 2 (not)parkruns this week, setting a massive new PB by a minute and a quarter from Week 15 in recording his highest ever (not)parkrun finishing position – brilliant, Cameron! A fourth PB in the top 5 is next, in the form of Long Distance Walkers Assocation’s Brian FISHER in 27:50! This was Brian’s 12th (not)parkrun and he improved for a 4th consecutive visit, knocking a single second off his time from last week – they all count, Brian! 6th was Witton 50 Club member Robert CROMPTON in 27:52. This was Robert’s 20th (not)parkrun in total, one of only 6 people to reach that total to date.
Cameron recorded a new PB for the first time in 4 weeks this week!
Next up is Blackburn Road Runner Kate POMFRET in 29:06. Kate ran 3 (not)parkruns this week, her most for 4 weeks, and reached 31 (not)parkruns in total, just the third person to hit 30 overall. One of the other two is Darwen Dasher Chris COOPER, who comes next, in 29:25. Chris ran 3 more (not)parkruns this week to take his total to 37, the joint-highest number of any Wittoner. 9th place went to Witton 50 Club member John KEARNEY in 29:48. John ran 2 (not)parkruns this week to take his total to 8 overall across the past 6 weeks.
Chris Cooper has the joint-highest number of (not)parkruns at Witton, with 37!
Another Road Runner up now and it’s Cathy HATCH in 31:56. Cathy only started (not)parkrunning in Week 8, but has now recorded 14 runs in total, the 9th-highest total among Wittoners. Next is friend of Witton Isobel HOLLINGS in 32:42. This was Isobel’s 10th (not)parkrun recorded across 10 separate weeks since Week 3. Then it was a returning (not)parkrunner, South East Lancs Orienteering Club’s Paul BOOTH, in 35:18. Paul recorded his 12th (not)parkrun in total and first since he recorded his 5th PB in a row 4 weeks ago – great to see you back, Paul! I follow next, Matthew VERNON in 35:26. Faster than last week, slower than the week before’s PB and my 6th (not)parkrun in total.
Blackburn Road Runner Cathy Hatch recorded her 14th (not)parkrun this week!
Our last Blackburn Road Runner this week is Witton 100 Club member Ian GOODLIFFE in 37:14. Ian’s single run on Saturday took him to 17 overall. He was followed by fellow 100 Club member Pat PROCTER who ran 42:36 this week, a second successive (not)parkrun PB on her third run, knocking nearly 2 minutes off her time from last week – cracking progress, Pat! This put her half a minute in front of my mum, Lynda VERNON in 43:09. This was mum’s 5th (not)parkrun and the first time she has failed to improve, but still a solid time – it can’t be a PB every week, mum!
An autumnal shot of Pat Procter from around this time last year – she set another PB this week!
Final ones now, starting with a surprise name down here in Witton 50 Club member Peter NICHOLSON in 48:16. This is far slower than Peter’s usual time and, having investigated, Peter has revealed he has suffered a knee injury which may take some time to heal. In his own words: I was really disappointed on Saturday to miss my first Saturday morning 9am run since lockdown began. But I decided to do a (not)parkrun talk walk on Sunday – I’ve never actually done tail-walking! Get well soon, Peter! Next it Witton 50 Club member Dorothy MYERS in 49:42. Having first joined us last week, Dorothy recorded her third (not)parkrun this week and set a new PB, knocking nearly 2 minutes off her time – you never cease to amaze, Dot! Last, but certainly not least, is friend of Witton Janice PARKER, who ran her 8th (not)parkrun this week and recorded a new PB of 50:58, knocking nearly 2 minutes off her previous best from way back in Week 3 in July – brilliant work, Janice!
We hope that Peter Nicholson will be fighting fit and smiling again soon!
This week, Karen, Chris, Kate, and Andrew recorded 3 times and Cameron and John ran twice. Karen’s fastest run came on Monday, John’s came on Tuesday, the same day Cathy ran, Miriam ran on Wednesday, Paul ran on Thursday, Robert and Dot ran on Friday, an astonishing 8 of you ran on parkrunday despite the torrential conditions for much of the day, while Pat, Peter, me and mum ran on Sunday. Well done to this week’s (not)parkrunners and if you’re thinking of getting involved, it couldn’t be simpler, and we’d love to see you!
Fancy getting involved? Walk, jog or run 5K, log into your parkrun profile and record your time!
Three more Wittoners celebrate their parkrunniversaries this week, having all made their debut at Event #9 in our first year. But since then, they’ve all had quite different parkrun journeys to reach this point… We start with something of a hold-over from last week, where we discussed Janice Parker and daughter Isobel’s parkrunniversaries – well this week, we celebrate the parkrunniversary of Janice’s partner, friend of Witton and regular (not)parkrunner Cameron ASHTON! Cameron ran his first parkrun on October 24th, 2015 and came back regularly for the rest of the year, running 6 times before year's end, culminating in a run on Christmas Day. He set two PBs in that time, reducing his time to 31:38 in November and after running our first parkrun on the Beast course, Cameron joined Janice at Heaton Park a week later, his first tourist run. He ran twice more at Witton before month’s end, before finishing the month at Heaton. In total, he ran 46 parkruns during 2016, visiting 10 different venues, from Albert parkrun in Middlesbrough to nearby Bolton and Burnley, to Clermont Waterfront parkrun in Florida, where he ran twice in September. He also ran his 50th parkrun, at Worsley Woods near Manchester in December, earning his red milestone t-shirt. He ran 11 times with us at Witton, including at our first birthday and our second Christmas Day run, and, notably, in July broke his old course Witton PB by over a minute. In 2017, he reached 49 parkruns in a calendar year, adding 5 new venues to his total, all in the North West. He ran 9 times at Witton, including at our 2nd birthday and 100th event and, of course, on Christmas Day – an event that was made extra special by Cameron earning his black milestone t-shirt at Witton that day. 2018 dawned with a first New Year’s Day Double, at Sale Water and Stretford parkruns, and having got off to this start, Cameron managed a staggering 53 parkruns in the year, missing just two Saturdays during the course of the year, one in February, and one in October. These came at an impressive 31 venues, with no less than 21 of them being brand new venues, including running at parkrun’s spiritual home, Bushy Park in September. He ran 7 times at Witton, including for our first Run for Norman in June, our 3rd birthday in August, our 150th run in November and our 4th Christmas Day event. Last year, he matched the feat, running another 53 parkruns over the year, missing just two Saturdays, both in February. New Year’s Day events at Blackpool and Lytham Hall were the start of 36 different venues that year, 21 of them being brand new venues, from Conwy in Wales to Nidda in Frankfurt, Germany. In August, at Bradford parkrun, Cameron ran at his 50th different venue, which puts him at Half Cowell status, 50 more away from Full Cowell Club membership. He ran 9 times with us at Witton, including over Christmas at our Christmas Day event and our 200th parkrun 3 days later. Cameron had run a perfect 13 out of 13 parkruns in 2020 before our suspension, joining us at Witton most recently just one week earlier at Event #210 in early March for the first time this year. In total, he has run 221 parkruns, with his 43 appearances at Witton his most-visited venue – he keeps threatening to join the Witton 50 Club but hasn’t yet! His total of 221 is the highest by anybody who ran their first parkrun at Witton, and he has outstripped his home parkrun by 11 events so far, with Witton currently stuck on 211 events held. Another curio that emerged when I was checking these things out is that Cameron has completed stopwatch bingo, collecting a finishing time with every seconds number between :00 and :59. Statistically, this is likely to take a parkrunner 281 parkruns from their first run, but Cameron achieved the feat at Southport parkrun in November 2019, finishing in a PB of 26:44, at only his 202nd parkrun!* This puts him around the top 10% for the fastest parkrunners to achieve that feat, so well done, Cameron – and happy 5th parkrunniversary, what a 5 years it has been!
Cameron takes a more leisurely pace at the finish of his first parkrun – he’s now done more parkruns than anyone who started at Witton!
*Before you all accuse me of having far too much time on my hands (again!), these stats are available to all parkrunners using the Running Challenges browser extension, which works on Chrome and Firefox browsers. This automatically collates all your parkrun data when you are exploring your stats in detail and will generate a whole host of additional information about your parkrun achievements: it’s a proper rabbit hole! You can download the extension here: https://running-challenges.co.uk/ but remember it only works on Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox (all details can be found via the link). Enjoy!
Our next parkrunniversary belongs to a lesser known member of the Witton 50 Club, but one who has run most of his parkruns with us at Witton: it’s Paul GAVIN! Paul also joined us for Event #9 on October 24th, 2015 for his first run and recorded an impressive 25:27. He returned a week later, setting a PB by over half a minute but that was his last run on the old course as he next joined us in the New Year for our first run on the Beast. Nevertheless, the change of course didn’t seem to bother him, as Paul ran 11 times in the first half of 2016, before not joining us again between May and September. He returned at Event #51, and ran four more times before year's end, to end the year on 15 parkruns, all at Witton. A similar pattern in 2017 too, with 6 runs in the first half of the year, before a summer lull from April to August, returning one week before our second birthday in August. In total, he ran his first 27 parkruns at Witton, the joint-8th longest streak from the start of a parkrun career at Witton and the joint-14th longest unbroken streak at any point in Witton history. His streak ended when he joined the Witton on Tour party (an unofficial Witton event given there were around 50 of us trekked over there) to Hyndburn parkrun’s third ever event in November. He ran 6 more parkruns before year’s end, 4 at Witton, a return to Hyndburn and a first run at Burnley parkrun, for 17 in total, slightly more than a year earlier. Another modest improvement in 2018, saw 18 runs in total, with 13 of them coming with us at Witton, 2 at Preston and the remaining 3 returning to Hyndburn. Once more, there was a definite summer gap, with no runs between May and September, but Paul’s quiet accumulation added up and when he visited us at Event #149 in November 2018, he ran his 50th parkrun, to earn his red milestone t-shirt. There were no parkruns at all in the first half of 2019, but he returned in June, at nearby Hyndburn, during our summer hiatus, running 13 times before year’s end, 7 times at Witton and 6 times at Hyndburn. In August, he joined us for our 4th birthday, the first birthday parkrun he’s been a part of, and that day Paul also became the 47th member of the Witton 50 Club, the only member to join that birthday! In total, Paul has run 65 parkruns, with 51 of them coming with us at Witton – happy 5th parkrunniversary, Paul, we look forward to welcoming you back when we return!
Paul Gavin works hard sprinting to the finish of his first parkrun – he’s now a member of the Witton 50 Club!
Our final parkrunniversary this week belongs to another veteran of Event #9, but someone who almost has two parkrunniversaries, having then not joined us again for a very long time! On October 24th, 2015, Blackburn GroupRun’s Terry KENNEDY ran his first parkrun! Terry recorded 48:37 that day but would not be seen at another Witton – or any other parkrun for that matter – for 3 and a third years – 40 months in total! His next parkrun came on February 23rd, 2019, and on our Beast course, Terry ran a new PB, knocking over 2 and a half minutes off his debut from years earlier. This time, he returned a week later, running 3 weekends in a row, and he ran 15 times in total during the course of last year, setting 3 more PBs to set a new mark of 37:48 in June. After a break from September to the end of the year, Terry returned to parkrun in January, running 5 times before our suspension, including our most recent run, Event #211 in March. In total, Terry has run 21 parkruns and they have all come at Witton. This is the joint-5th longest active streak among Wittoners from the start of their parkrun careers and the joint-15th including those who have since run elsewhere. It is also the joint-28th longest unbroken streak of runs at Witton at any point! Your loyalty is appreciated, Terry, and we’re pleased you finally came back – happy 5th parkrunniversary (sort of!)! Proof if some of you need it that it’s never too late to rekindle your parkrunning! Why not pay us a visit when we return?
Terry Kennedy completes his first parkrun, supported by the tail walkers – it would be over 3 years before he returned but he’s fairly regular these days!
This Week in Witton parkrun…
This year lines up exactly with the same dates as parkruns were held in our first year, so Saturday marked 5 years to the day since our 9th parkrun on 24th October 2015. Saturday was wild, wet, and windy and conditions were exactly the same for Event #9 five years ago, with the first truly horrid conditions for a Witton parkrun. Nevertheless, 163 hardy souls lined up for the off. It was a quiet affair overall, as Witton settled into the familiar pattern of running, scanning and mingling that is parkrun’s hallmark. One small milestone was reached, when visitor Gavin Finch became the 800th different person to cross the line at Witton – we’ve now had more than 4,400! In other news, following Mark A Jennings’ appearance at Event #1, he had held the record for the ‘Most parkruns Seen at Witton’ with his total that day of 298. 8 events later, we welcomed our second and third members of the 250 club in the form of Melvyn Burton of Crossgates Harriers and then Dave John Williamson of the UK parkrun tourists group, with Dave taking the record of most parkruns seen with his visit being run #318 – our first run by someone over 300 parkruns (Melvyn was running his 272nd parkrun that day – still a stonking number!). Meanwhile, in the quest to find the last man standing from our inaugural event, we had another casualty as Witton 100 Club member Peter Toogood became the latest person to miss an event, leaving just Anwar Khan and Michael McCarthy on a perfect record of 9 Witton parkruns out of a possible 9!
Gavin Finch became the 800th different person to cross the line at Witton (having lost out to son Thomas, who was 799th!), while Dave Williamson (wearing his old style 100 shirt!) took the record for most parkruns seen at Witton with 318, with Melvyn Burton slotting into 3rd with 272 runs!
Event #56 on October 22nd, 2016 was once again a temperate autumn run, quite a contrast from a year earlier. As Witton approached back-to-back cancellations, we welcomed 106 attendees to the Beast, our final three-figure attendance of the year. Another relatively quiet event, with just one milestone t-shirt awarded, when Darwen Dasher Kerry Elliott earned her red milestone t-shirt on her 50th parkrun, 41 of which had come at Witton, helping her to win the 2015-16 Points Competition. Meanwhile, Witton 50 Club member Justin Collighan was the last person to have run all our parkruns in our second year.
Kerry Elliott’s on her way to her red 50 t-shirt this week in 2016!
Event #102 on October 21st, 2017 was a pleasant affair, with rain holding off for the 86 attendees, perhaps a slightly higher number than could be expected given it was the weekend our near-neighbours Hyndburn parkrun held their inaugural event. Our report that week was kindly provided by regular Peter Nicholson, and the major news of the day went to Blackburn Road Runner Kate Pomfret, who became the 20th member of the Witton 50 Club, 97 events after making her debut with us and 2 events after she earned her red milestone t-shirt at our 100th event!
A sepia shot of Kate Pomfret as she joined the Witton 50 Club this week in 2017!
Speaking of Kate, she was our run report writer this week in 2018, when Event #147 took place on October 20th. Cracking conditions at Witton saw 97 people come down for a run, with Blackburn Road Runner Josh Crowther first man home in his current Witton PB of 17:59, his first sub-18-minute run on the Beast and, at the time, the 13th quickest run ever seen on the Beast (it’s down to 21st now – there’s been some speed merchants in recent years!). Following up our mention of Dave Williamson in 2015, we were visited in 2018 by Peter Broadbent, who ran his 366th parkrun with us that day – one for every day of the year! This put Peter 5th in the all-time Witton list at the time, showing how things had changed since 2015, and further change can be shown by telling you he’s now 10th in the list! No milestones on the day either!
A cracking shot here of the run down to Tattersall Corner! Peter Broadbent (in black) was running his 366th parkrun, the 10th-highest total we’ve ever seen at Witton!
Event #191 took place on October 19th, 2019 in crisp autumnal conditions. The most notable run at the sharp end of the field came from visitor Jennifer Wetton of Central AC in Scotland. Jennifer finished in 4th position overall in 19:35, the 8th-fastest first female time in Witton history and 6th-fastest on the Beast. Her time would have been good enough to be first person home in exactly half of all our events last year, she just picked the wrong week! Meanwhile, first time Wittoner Sue O’Rorke, of Skipton parkrun, became the 17000th person to cross the line and have their barcode scanned (named runs). We also had a special visitor to Witton, in the form of a gold baton, part of the Big Community Relay to celebrate parkrun’s 15th birthday last October. The 15 batons were handed out at Woodhouse Moor parkrun in Leeds, the 4th-ever parkrun event in the world and Blackburn Road Runner Hayley Duckworth was fortunate enough to take possession of one at Preston parkrun the previous week. She brought it to Witton (where else?!) and handed it to fellow Road Runner Ian Goodliffe, who ran around the Beast with it, before taking it to Croxteth Hall parkrun in Liverpool for next week’s run! I’d love to be able to tell you where the gold baton has gone since then, but unfortunately once the initiative ended, they were no longer tracked and have dropped off the radar. There are parkrunners online hunting for them, though, so maybe we’ll see another one at some point! Finally, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council had completed some renovation works in Witton Park which greatly improved the back end of our course: the perimeter fence on the run away from Tattersall Corner had been repaired and improved, the 3 steps to the final avenue of trees had been reconstructed into 6 shallower steps (a significant adjustment to the average parkrunner's rhythm was required!) and, in part due to the increased use of the woods for music events, the forest floor in the final avenue of trees had been given a covering of tarmac, ending for the foreseeable the muddy bog parkrunners usually have to navigate in the winter months. Such a shame we won’t be feeling its benefit this winter, however!
Witton legend Ian Goodliffe was the lucky recipient of one of parkrun’s 15th anniversary batons, taking it on to Liverpool a week later – I’ve been trying to trace what happened to it with limited success!
And with that rather extensive account of last year’s event, I think we’re just about done! With the clocks going back this weekend, the nights will start to draw in and the mornings will be darker. The days will get shorter and colder and life is likely to feel quiet and lonely for many of us over the coming months. Look out for each other, and if you ever need anything please know that the parkrun community is still here, and we are always delighted to hear from you. We love you, and we miss you all.
We’re getting through this together.
Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun
An early shot of me from a soggy Event #9!