There was a weird atmosphere at parkrun on Saturday morning. On the one hand, it was a parkrun like any other: the day dawned relatively dry and bright, with just a hint of moisture in the air at times after a wetter week than the first week of March, and we had over 100 people head down to Witton, as is becoming the norm, for their weekly parkrun fix. On the other hand, however, the impending spectre of the COVID-19 coronavirus loomed large in the thoughts and discussions of those attending, as we faced the real possibility that this could be our last parkrun for quite some time.
Anyway, more on that shortly, let’s start with business as usual and first to cross the line this weekend was regular Wittoner Glen Goodwin in 19:11. This was Accrington Road Runner Glen’s 63rd parkrun and 32 of those have come with us at Witton, over half his total parkruns. Glen has now been first finisher on 5 of his last 6 visits to Witton, going back to April last year, having previously managed it just once in his first 26 visits! This has been helped by a consistently improving personal best, earning three PBs in his last 5 runs here, including knocking another 8 seconds off yesterday from his best of 19:19 from October last year. Great running, Glen!
Second to finish was Blackburn Harrier Nicholas Smith in 19:37. This was Nick’s 28th parkrun and 17th at Witton, with 7 of his last 10 parkruns coming at Durham parkrun, where he studies. It was the 11th time Nick has been on the Witton podium, having managed to be first finisher on three previous occasions. Welcome back, Nick!
Third place went to Chorley Athletic and Triathlon Club’s Jack Lamb in 19:40. This was junior Jack’s 9th parkrun and 6th at Witton and his first parkrun of 2020. He is making great progress at parkrun and despite this being his worst Witton finishing position since his first ever parkrun, when he was also third finisher on this same weekend two years ago, he still set a new Witton PB, his third with us, knocking 8 seconds off his time from Event #194 in November last year! Well done, Jack!
First female this week was Blackburn Harrier Katie Buckingham in 6th position in 21:52. This was Katie’s 12th parkrun and second at Witton, after making her parkrun debut with us way back at Event #18 in January 2016 – our first ever run on the Beast! She ran just 24:02 that day, meaning she’s set a new PB by 2 minutes and 10 seconds and earning her first Witton podium, having previously been first female at Beeston parkrun in Nottingham (twice), Thetford parkrun in Norfolk and Hagley parkrun in Christchurch, New Zealand! Katie also becomes the 5th consecutive different first female finisher, just one off the 6 we’ve had twice since October, but still a little way off the record of 10 we had between Events #152 and #161 between December 2018 and February 2019! Welcome back, Katie, we hope to see you a little more over the next 4 years!
Second female this week was Witton 50 Club member Jane Magee in 11th position in 23:06. This was Jane’s 83rd parkrun and 65th at Witton and marked her third time as second female in her past 4 visits, after a run of 4 Witton first female finishes in a row to start 2020. Jane acted as Liam Bennison’s responsible adult on Saturday, which definitely kept her on her toes – thanks, Jane!
Third female this week was new Wittoner Diane Dudgeon in 20th position in 24:19. This was Diane’s third parkrun overall, all three in the past 3 weeks and all three at Witton. She has improved every time too, running 25:42 on her first appearance and 24:45 on her second, before setting another new PB this weekend of 24:19, knocking nearly another half a minute off! Diane has also set an unusual parkrun record this weekend, which was first brought to my attention by Witton 50 Club member John Kearney: Diane was first female on her first parkrun a fortnight ago, then last week was bested by Jane to be second female on her second parkrun. This week, she was behind Katie and Jane, to be third female on her third parkrun! Three parkruns in and she’s already got the podium completed! I’m not aware of any other Wittoners who have managed this feat, so if anyone does know of someone, please let me know – and well done, Diane!
Milestone time!!! And after last week’s milestone fest, it’s another busy week with two more t-shirts being handed out on Saturday plus a double ton up for a Witton regular! First to get a mention is Blackburn Road Runner Richard Slater, who on Saturday ran his 100th parkrun with us to earn a black milestone t-shirt from parkrun HQ! Rick’s parkrun journey started on the other side of the world, running his first two parkruns at Cronulla parkrun on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia on New Year’s Eve 2016 and the first Saturday of January 2017, setting a new PB of 23:50 on his return. He only completed two more parkruns in the UK during 2017, running at Burnley parkrun in August and Hyndburn parkrun just before Christmas, but in 2018 his parkrunning exploded with no less than 39 during the course of the calendar year. The majority of these (20) came at Hyndburn parkrun in Accrington, where he set 4 PBs during the early part of the year to get a best of 22:54, while also running 7 times at his home parkrun of Witton for the first time, setting 3 new PBs in November and December to end the year with a Witton best of 22:53. A frequent parkrun tourist, his remaining 12 parkruns of 2018 came at Clitheroe Castle and Cuerden Valley parkruns (twice) and Pendle, Haigh Woodland, Watergrove, Worsley Woods, Preston, Bolton and Lytham Hall parkruns (once). This included running at 10 different parkrun venues on consecutive Saturdays between the end of June and the start of September and running his first Christmas Day parkrun at Witton in December! 2019 got underway at Hyndburn on the first Saturday in January and consisted of another 45 parkruns during the year, including his milestone 50th at Witton at Event #163 in February. His tourism took him all over the place during last year, running just 8 times at Hyndburn and just 4 times at Witton in total and racking up no less than 21 new parkrun venues, perhaps in part due to the Road Runners’ alphabet challenge of last year! These took him to Armley in Leeds, Cairns and Campbelltown parkruns (both in Australia!) Centre Vale parkrun in Todmorden, Dewsbury, Ellesmere Port, Finsbury Park parkrun in London, Glossop, Isabel Trail parkrun in Stafford, Jersey Farm parkrun in St Albans, Kew Woods parkrun in Southport (twice!), Morecambe Prom, Northwich, Ormskirk, Queen’s parkrun in Glasgow, Rothwell parkrun near Leeds, Skipton, The Wammy parkrun in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Upton Court parkrun in Slough, Victoria parkrun in Glasgow, Wexford Racecourse parkrun in the Republic of Ireland and York, ticking off 20 letters of the alphabet across the year, in addition to return visits to Burnley (three times), Preston (twice) and Lytham Hall meaning he ticked off all 24 letters of the alphabet possible in the UK (minus X and Z) during the year. If we include Witton instead of Wexford too, with his run at Centre Vale, he completed them all within UK borders too! Finally, for 2019, while in Australia, he paid a return visit to Cronulla parkrun, the site of his very first parkrun nearly 3 years earlier. He ran a second Christmas Day parkrun in December and started 2020 off for the first time with a New Year’s Day parkrun at Witton, enjoying it so much he made it a double at Hyndburn later in the morning! His 2019 odyssey clearly developed a taste for tourism and since New Year’s Day, he has visited 9 more new parkruns this year, from North West runs at Blackpool, Southport, Fletcher Moss, Oldham and Lancaster to Delamere in Cheshire, Princes parkrun in Liverpool, Roundhay parkrun on the outskirts of Leeds and Bowling Park parkrun, Bradford’s inaugural in January! Those set up his century, which he decided to come home for, joining us at Witton as he did for his 50th and running his fastest time with us since 2018. In total, Rick’s 100 parkruns have come at 44 different venues across 3 different countries, with Hyndburn his most visited venue with 31 and Witton his only other venue in double figures on 13. Congratulations Rick, you’ve been on quite a journey – I wonder what the road to 250 has in store?!
Our other t-shirt is a volunteering one, so I’ll speak about that shortly, but in addition to Rick’s century on Saturday, a Witton regular was doing her double hundred – step forward Red Rose Road Runner Sarah Watkins! Sarah has been hovering on 199 parkruns since near the end of February so it was good to see her back this week to earn her milestone! Sarah’s parkrunning goes back far further than Witton, starting at Burnley parkrun back in August 2012, just a day before the closing ceremony of the London Olympics! She ran 4 times during the year, all at Burnley, followed by another 5 in 2013, with 3 coming at Cuerden Valley, another at Burnley and a first visit to Plymvalley parkrun in Devon. 2014 saw 15 parkruns in total, all but one coming at Cuerden Valley, including 3 PBs for a best of 30:24 in August, and a single outing at Cheltenham parkrun in September. 2015 saw her double her parkrun total from the previous year, running 30 times in total, running another 21 times at Cuerden Valley, including her milestone 50th parkrun at their 113th event in October, alongside two returns to Plymvalley, a single outing at Lydiard parkrun near Swindon and one at Strathclyde parkrun in Scotland. Most importantly for us, it also saw her first run at Witton, attending our inaugural event in August 2015, before returning 4 more times before the end of the year! 2016 saw 20 more parkruns, with another 14 coming at Cuerden Valley, alongside 5 more with us at Witton and a very special Christmas Day run at Plymvalley. It was in early 2017 that Sarah’s parkrunning took a turn: after two runs at Cuerden Valley and one at Witton in January her next 11 parkruns between February and April all came at Witton and there were just two more runs at Cuerden Valley in the rest of 2017. These were joined by another 19 at Witton (31 in total for the year), 2 at Druridge Bay parkrun in the North East, one at Burgess parkrun in London, another at Eastleigh parkrun near Southampton and a visit to Roosevelt Island DC parkrun in the USA – a total of 40 for the year! These included celebrating her 100th parkrun with us at Witton in August 2017, joining us a week later for our second birthday, taking part in our 100th parkrun in October and running a third Christmas Day parkrun at Plymvalley! 2018 saw more of the same, another 31 parkruns completed in total, 24 of them at Witton, plus first visits to Clitheroe Castle, Killerton, near Exeter, Bakewell in Derbyshire, Preston (twice!) and return visits to Druridge Bay and Plymvalley. Her Witton runs included joining the Witton 50 Club at Event #121 in March and running our 3rd birthday parkrun in August. 2019 saw a staggering 45 parkruns completed, and while 25 of them came with us at Witton, the other 20 saw a definite variety in Sarah’s locations, with runs recorded at Clitheroe Castle (8 times), Preston (4 times), Plymvalley (twice) and single outings at The Pastures parkrun in Alnwick, Fountains Abbey, Hyndburn and Parke parkrun near Dartmoor, plus returns to Bakewell and Burnley. These included our 4th birthday parkrun and another Christmas Day parkrun at Plymvalley, while for the first time ever she started her New Year in 2020 with a parkrun, running at Clitheroe Castle after volunteering at Witton beforehand. That was the first of 9 parkruns so far this year, with a return to Hyndburn joining 7 runs at Witton so far and earning her a 200th parkrun this weekend. She is also now on 97 Witton parkruns, so will soon become the newest member of the Witton 100 Club, a club her husband Jon Carberry is about to join, as he currently sits on 99 Wittons, having run his own 200th parkrun with us at Event #195 in November. Congratulations, Sarah – 50 more for a new t-shirt!
Others celebrating notable milestones on Saturday included:
- Julie Price – 130 runs
- Tim Keely – 90 runs
- Christine Duckworth – 60 runs
- Dale Wilson – 25 runs
- Paul Gallagher (Accrington Road Runners) – 1 run
- Abigail Bradshaw – 1 run
- Glynn Hammond (Blackburn Road Runners) – 1 run
- Millie Chaloner – 1 run
- Tanzeel Hussain – 1 run
- Sean Martin – 1 run
- Haleemah Valli – 1 run
- Zoe Makin – 1 run
- Codie Elise Beck – 1 run
Another 9 people took their first parkrun steps at Witton on Saturday! These included Accrington Road Runner Paul Gallagher, who ran his first parkrun with us and ran under 21 minutes, impressively finishing just off the Witton podium and junior Codie Beck, who finished her first parkrun in just over 57 minutes – parkrun truly is for everyone! Excitingly, we have now had 101 people run their first parkrun at Witton in 2020, taking just 11 events and 2 and a half months to reach this milestone. Thanks to everyone who has run for the first time at Witton this year, there’ll be more stats later in this report!
Others on the cusp of a milestone include:
- Liam Bennison (Blackburn Harriers) – 69 runs
- Cathy Hatch (Blackburn Road Runners) – 59 runs
- Nicola Halsall (Blackburn Road Runners) – 29 runs
- Daniel McCombs (Community Church Blackburn) – 24 runs
- Fred Lynch (Red Rose Road Runners) – 19 runs
- Jack Lamb (Chorley Athletic and Triathlon Club) – 9 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)
- Andrew Foy – 9 runs
- Ibrar Ahmed – 9 runs
- Debbie Clucas (Blackburn Road Runners) – 9 runs
Another volunteering week, another 24 names on the roster! This is the 10th successive week we’ve had over 20 volunteers on the roster and amazingly we could declare a full house for Saturday by Wednesday night! It makes such a difference not to be scrabbling around for volunteers on a Friday night, allowing everybody to relax and look forward to Saturday. This week’s hi-vis heroes were:
Michelle SEARBY • Bryan SEARBY • Gail BAMBER • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • Claire TAYLOR • Lynda VERNON • Gemma MCAULEY • Alan VERNON • Ian GOODLIFFE • Debbie ASHTON • Dean HOWARD • Fiona LYNCH • Kian LYNCH • Matt LYNCH • Harold EASTHAM • Karen RISHTON • Shiobhan ROGERS • Niamh ROGERS • Aoife ROGERS • Caelainn ROGERS • Scott DINGLE • Niamh ROBERTSON • Emma HAYES
Among their number were a quite simply astonishing 8 first-time volunteers: fully one third of all our team had never donned the hi-vis for us before! These included 6-year-old Caelainn Rogers, who, not wanting to miss out, asked mum Shiobhann if she could join big sisters Aoife and Niamh on volunteering duty for the first time! We were also joined by ‘Team Lynch’ of Matt, Fiona and Kian and their fellow Blackburn Road Runners Harold Eastham, Gemma McAuley, Claire Taylor and Gail Bamber! Our thanks to you all. This is the most first-time volunteers we’ve had at an event since way back at Event #14 in December 2015, when we had 12! Truly amazing figures.
It was among our volunteers that our other milestone t-shirt came too, and it was a very special day for part of the Witton Cheer Team as Scott Dingle became the latest person to earn his purple 25 volunteering days t-shirt this weekend! Scott first came to Witton for Event #179 in July last year, a few months after mum Erica Doyle had started coming and a couple of weeks after friend Charlotte Kit had volunteered for the first time. As a junior, as well as someone with Special Educational Needs, Scott needed to be placed with another volunteer and he and Charlotte often teamed up with one of their four parents to form a little marshalling team, most often seen at the top of the small hill, where their whoops and cheers of encouragement could be heard for miles around! They’ve become a very popular and much commented on part of the Witton route, providing a valuable boost at a point when we’re very much in need of it! This weekend, he was on his own, as Charlotte and her dad, Rob, weren’t at parkrun, so for a change he was positioned with my dad halfway down the Beast and still doing his usual best of encouraging people around the course. In total, he has marshalled on 20 occasions and helped out with finish tokens twice. His remaining three volunteering credits have been as tail walker, while he has also managed to take part in parkrun twice aside from tail walking, first on Christmas Day, when the Dingle-Doyles and the Kits helped Charlotte to complete her first ever parkrun, and then again on New Year’s Day, when running on his own, he managed a big PB of 39:25! Congratulations on your achievement, Scott, you can be very proud of that purple t-shirt!
We’re already looking good for next Saturday’s volunteering roster, even if we end up with no event to hold! But as is becoming the norm at the moment, plenty of volunteers are stepping forward even before the weekend is over which makes all our lives much easier when planning for the weekend. If you’ve never done it before but would like to get involved, there’s no obligation and you can volunteer as little or as much as you like. You’ll be given any advice or training before you start and there’s very little that can’t be fixed so don’t worry about getting something wrong – we all do from time to time! If you want to join the team one week, just get in touch with us either via our Facebook page (Witton parkrun) or via firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you on the roster!
Notes on the week now, and once again we had an attendance in excess of 100, for the 12th time in 13 events. Our subtle but definite growth is both exciting and humbling to all of us connected to Witton parkrun. To illustrate this even more, we’ve now had 14 events with attendances above 100 since our 4th birthday in August: that is as many as we had in the entirety of our 4th year – and we’ve still got 5 months to go! Thanks to everyone who comes every week: it really wouldn’t be the same without you.
Included among their number are lots of people who have completed their first ever parkrun with us over the past few months and this weekend we hit a notable milestone as we’ve now had 101 first timers through the Witton finish funnel in 2020! This has taken just 11 events, at an average of just over 9 first timers every week. We’ve actually had double figures in terms of numbers of first timers on no less than 5 occasions already this calendar year, compared to 6 times in total in the whole of 2019. To have achieved 100 first timers by mid-March after 11 events is quite astonishing, as we can see by just taking a look back. In 2019, it took 17 events and until early May to hit that number, while in 2018, it took no less than 20 events and until the first parkrun in June to reach a century. For completion, 2017 took 14 events up to the back end of April and in our first full calendar year, in 2016, we managed it in early April after 12 events, which makes 2020 the fastest we’ve ever reached a ton of first timers and is the first time we’ve ever hit that total in March!
And it’s all well and good coming down and taking your first steps in parkrun, but we all know it’s equally tough in many cases to face up to doing it again and again and making it part of your weekly routine, not just a couple of times in January, but long-term. Already in 2020, 40 of our first timers have completed at least one other parkrun and 36 of them have run more than once at Witton! The highest number of parkruns completed by a Witton first timer so far this year is the 7 completed by Myra Gazdula, an attendance rate of 70% since making her debut at Event #202! Close behind are Graeme Dawson and David Hurn, who’ve both already completed 6 parkruns, all at Witton (and David having run 6 times in the last 7 events!), alongside Julie Keys, who has run 3 times at Witton and 3 times at Pendle, and John Bradshaw, who has run 4 times at Witton and twice at Cuerden Valley to both also total 6. Nicole Fanshawe has already run 5 (3 at Witton and 2 at Newborough Forest on Anglesey) and a whole host of people are on 4, including Lian Frankland (from 6 possible events), James Farrar (from 7), Ethan Potter and Rakia Hameed (from 9) and Sheila Aspinall (from 10). Currently, our highest 100% attendance comes from female podium finisher Diane Dudgeon, who has run 3 out of 3 from her first run with us a few weeks ago, though as I mentioned before David Hurn is just behind her with 6 from 7 events, attendance of nearly 86%! Excitingly, 6 people who joined us for our International Women’s Day event a week ago returned for a second go just 7 days later. In total, our 101 first timers so far in 2020 have completed 182 parkruns overall and 170 of those have been at Witton! Well done to all of you, it’s always great to see new parkrunners progressing and becoming regular visitors and you’ll be amazed how much you improve if you keep it up!
Witton also celebrated its latest milestone this weekend, as we saw our 20,000th finisher across the line on Saturday! Having stood on 19,993 after Event #201, it took only 7 finishers on Saturday to hit this milestone, and that was? Junior Blackburn Harrier Daniel Smith in 7th position in 22:39! Daniel was running his 11th parkrun and 3rd at Witton – well done, Daniel! Strangely enough, our 10,000th finisher came at Event #105, which means our second 10,000 have taken almost an identical amount of time! We are now 830 named finishers away from hitting the same milestone for barcodes scanned at Witton, so that should come by the end of the year (normal rules permitting!)
Now a little curio: Our first female this weekend, Blackburn Harrier Katie Buckingham finished in 6th position in a new PB of 21:52 at Event #211 on March 14th, 2020, the second Saturday of the third month. 3 years ago, this very weekend, first female was Chorley Athletic and Triathlon Club’s Lynne Clough, who finished in 6th position, in a new PB of 21:52, at Event #72 on March 11th, 2017, the second Saturday of the third month. Same weekend, same finishing position, same time and both a PB. What a peculiar coincidence!
After two new repeat names last weekend, we had another name join the list this weekend, when Blackburn Road Runner Samantha Edwards crossed the line at Witton for the first time in 33rd position in 26:58. This Samantha Edwards is a VW50-54, who was running her second parkrun, but she is not the first Samantha Edwards to run at Witton! Our other Samantha Edwards is a SW30-34 Red Rose Road Runner, who has run 84 parkruns in total including 3 times at Witton, including twice being first female! Samantha Edwards becomes the 51st name to be repeated at Witton and the 18th female name – welcome to the club!
Finally, notices, and first on a positive, last Sunday was the quarterly Witton parkrun meal, held at the Ocean Palace Chinese restaurant in Darwen. A party of around 14 were there and a good time, as always, was had by all, although discussion was centred on the disruption currently being experienced in every walk of life due to the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. Which brings me to my other notice…
it was only last week that I suggested that after a few special events in a row, parkrun would be getting back to normal for the next few weeks – how wrong I was. Events over the past month have moved faster than any of us could imagine and none of us could have predicted the unprecedented position we now find ourselves in, not just at parkrun but across all aspects of our day-to-day lives. As many of you will be aware, restrictions have been placed on daily movements in countries across the world, in many cases before this weekend’s parkruns, in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus that is currently causing great concern to people and governments worldwide. Consequently, all parkruns in Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and the United States were cancelled on Saturday. Following the announcement from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday requesting an end to non-essential contact and a limit on any kind of mass gatherings, there was only ever going to be one outcome for parkrun here, and on Wednesday, the announcement came from parkrun HQ that all parkruns in the UK would be cancelled this coming Saturday and provisionally, for now, until the end of March. Not only that, similar confirmations came from Australia, New Zealand, Russia and South Africa (including their associated runs in Namibia and Eswatini) cancelling all parkruns in their countries too, which means that Saturday 21st March 2020 will be the first Saturday since September 25th 2004 that there will be no parkrun events taking place anywhere in the world, a staggering, and in many ways frightening, statistic.
We all know the impact that Paul Sinton-Hewitt’s brainchild has had not only on our physical health but on our mental wellbeing too, creating new communities and an inclusive and supportive environment for all comers. For many people, parkrun has been a key part of the weekly routine and one that will be hugely missed over the next few weeks and possibly months. During this time, we are likely to face many personal challenges, with sizable disruption to our daily lives. Self-isolation may become commonplace and for many this could be a distressing or scary experience. We are aware that among the Witton parkrun community we have many older participants, as well as those who suffer from various mental health issues. It is vital that we look out for one another during this difficult time and remember and keep an eye on our parkrun friends in the months ahead. We will endeavour to be available during the shutdown in whatever way we can possibly be useful while our physical presence is missing. I will try and think of some sort of content I could be producing to make us all still feel part of something if this goes on for some time (any ideas welcome), while if any of you have any questions you want answering or news you want to share, then we’d like you to get in touch. The parkrun community have a huge array of skills, backgrounds and experiences to draw on and someone is bound to be able to offer advice or help, whatever your problem may be, during this time. You can contact us in the usual ways, either via our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/wittonparkrun/ or email us via: email@example.com. During this time, we’ll try to keep you regularly updated with any news and announcements we get from HQ, while you may also be interested in the following letter from parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt to try to keep our spirits up during this difficult time: https://blog.parkrun.com/uk/2016/03/18/we-will-get-through-this-together/.
It already feels incredibly strange not to have parkrun to go to on Saturday morning and I think over the coming months lots of us will realise just how big a part parkrun has become of our lives. At parkrun HQ, they’re looking at ways they can support us in being active and staying healthy, both physically and mentally, while adhering to the government’s guidelines, in order to mitigate the effects of our enforced absence.
In the meantime, stay safe, listen to the government advice, limit your contact with other people and protect the most vulnerable members of your community and family.
We will see each other again soon.
Matthew Vernon (and the whole Witton parkrun Core Team)
#loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun #backstronger