Witton parkrun is cancelled on 30 May 2020: COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

WITTON PARKRUN CORONAVIRUS CHECK-IN – 5th May 2020 (51 days since our last parkrun)

Hello! How are you? How’s the kids? The parents? The grandparents? The husband? The wife? The significant other? The brother? The sister? The cousins? I hope you’re all staying safe and well in this unprecedentedly strange and difficult time and I’m sorry I’ve been so quiet on the parkrun front. I did have plans at the start of this to do something of some sort but I was short on the ideas front and have been somewhat lacking in motivation to tell you the truth.

It’s a difficult time for all of us, whether we’re furloughed, working from home, between jobs or retired, and whether we’re living alone or in a house full. We’re worried about our family and our friends: our livelihoods and our way of life. I don’t know about you, but I’m missing my weekly trips to the cinema, my constant supply of live sporting action, including our trips to the Rovers every fortnight and, of course, my weekly dose of parkrun. I’m even missing school, not least due to the painful process of trying to teach from home – I sympathise with all my fellow teachers in similar situations and all those parents trying to pick up the slack from home!

I’m sure, like me, many of you will have been considering the things are important in your life and some of you may well be looking on parkrun with new eyes in recent weeks. We always knew that parkrun consisted of so much more than some physical fitness – there’s a reason the parkrun book is called ‘Much more than a run in the park’ – but in its absence, I find my mind constantly drifting to the friends I usually see every Saturday morning. I miss the laughs, the celebrations, the catchups, and the cake (oh, Jane, how I miss your cake!) Luckily, I’m Facebook friends with a number of Witton regulars, so am able to keep an eye on them and we can get in touch when necessary. The Witton core team have had a couple of conversations about this and that, but there’s really not much to say.

Group Shot

Witton parkrun in happier times

I’ll be honest: I thought we’d be back or nearly back by now: I don’t think any of us realised just how long this absence was going to be when the lockdown began. As you are probably aware, parkrun is currently cancelled worldwide, with no restart date yet known. With social distancing measures looking likely to remain in place for the considerable future and lots of talk of a ‘new normal’ to get things moving again, it is difficult to see how parkrun, where many events get upwards of 500 attendees every week (and even Witton saw consistent attendance of above 100 during early 2020) and when the interaction both during the run and particularly post-run – when exhausted runners, sweating, coughing and, in some cases, spitting are then having direct contact both with the finish token giver and the barcode scanner – is considerable, can get back up and running again anytime soon. HQ are providing weekly updates, that you can read here: https://blog.parkrun.com/uk/category/news/. The latest news is that, as you are probably aware, parkrun is cancelled throughout the month of May and from the sounds of things this is likely to continue through June and possibly July – and for the UK, perhaps, much longer.


And repeat for the foreseeable future...

Parkrun are doing their best to keep people interested and involved: their YouTube page started just before lockdown and is posting regular videos about parkrun and running. It is also hosting regular editions of the ‘Great Big Parkrun Quiz’ (usually on Saturdays at 9am, can’t think why…) and if you’ve little parkrunners in the house, then the ‘School of parkrun’, which is also found on the YouTube channel, provides some short, fun parkrun-themed activities linked to English, Maths, Science, Geography and Art to keep them interested and engaged – it might help to break up the day! You can find all this and much more at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtcIcjW5VMQdoqqcMGdrgkw/featured

School of Parkrun

School + Parkrun = Fun!

The start of April also marked a significant parkrun milestone: Junior parkrun turned 10! The brainchild of parkrunner Paul Graham, junior parkrun started like its big brother at Bushy Park in London on Sunday April 4th, 2010 when nine pioneering children, accompanied by parents and volunteers, completed the first 2k parkrun event in the world. Like Saturday parkrun, Sunday parkrun has grown exponentially: over 350, 000 juniors have taken part over the 10 years and there are goodies for continued participation: wristbands and certificates rather than t-shirts in this case, with events now taking place in the UK, Ireland and – more recently – Australia, with more events in the pipeline once lockdown is over! You can read the whole history of junior parkrun here: https://blog.parkrun.com/uk/2020/04/03/celebrating-10-years-of-junior-parkrun/


Happy birthday Junior parkrun!

As for Witton news, there are only a few things to report. The first Saturday of the parkrun shutdown (before the nationwide lockdown was announced), the Witton Core Team went down to the park to inform anybody unaware who had turned up for the parkrun of our indefinite cancellation and, while there, do a bit of course maintenance. It was a good turnout: Michelle and Bryan Searby, Dan and Miriam Hamilton, Diane Harrison-Leeming and Suzanne Ferrandino, Lorna Pickup, Scott Smith and Clan Vernon. We cleaned the directional signage around the course and cut back any overhanging branches and roots in an attempt to keep the course ship-shape – whilst maintaining social distancing measures of course. Obviously, with the cancellation lasting longer than we initially thought, this may seem futile, but we’ll be in a position to refresh our efforts before we return, I’m sure! We had the added pleasure of seeing Witton regulars Pat Proctor, Terry Gray and Hazel Baxter, all out doing some individual running in the park!


Dan and Miriam helped make our signs super clean!

I must confess that during lockdown I have hardly run at all. The lockdown rules mean we should keep trips out to a minimum and living at home with mum and dad, we tend to all go out together for our daily walk and varying this up with running is difficult with dad. I am itching to get going again, but I’m not sure how much my times will suffer in the meantime – to think I did the Ron Hill 10K on March 1st!

Ron Hill

This was only two months ago!

Others are being much more productive. Blackburn Road Runner Matt Chester has visited the Beast during his lockdown running and said that the old girl was looking in good shape, just ‘missing some friendly faces’. Fellow Road Runner Kate Pomfret performed the monumental task of running a minimum of 3 miles every single day in the month of April, completing a total of 112 miles over the 30 days – phenomenal work, Kate and hopefully it makes up a little for the cancelled Liverpool marathon. On a similar theme, Road Runner Ian Goodliffe ran 5 kilometres every day in March for a very personal reason: the month marked 5 years since his life-threatening heart attack, which completely changed his life and made him the running machine he is today – congratulations, Ian, we look forward to welcoming you back to Witton for many more years to come!


Matt Chester visiting the Beast on his daily run

The Darwen Dashers have been doing a series of Lockdown relays, where a Dasher runs from one place to another, waves to a fellow Dasher, who then runs from that place to somewhere else and so on – it’s good that you’re staying in touch guys! There are also virtual races taking place both within running clubs and other groups, some of which can enable you to earn medals, so if you are keeping up your miles, why not get something for it and/or, better still, raise some money for charity! I’m sure lots of you are sad at races being cancelled or postponed, not least those of you planning on doing the big marathons of Manchester and London, which were both due to take place in April and are currently postponed until October. Any of us planning to do some of Cannonball’s fine events, such as the Aquathon, Canalathons and Trailblaster have also been left disappointed, but obviously public health comes first and it will just make us appreciate these things all the more when we can do them!

As many of you may have guessed, and some of you may have been wondering, Witton 100 Club member Aimie Wormald has now had her second child! Aimie was still parkrunning at Witton until she was 8-months pregnant and baby Thomas Christopher was born on March 24th, weighing a healthy 8lb 7oz! He’s already six weeks old and mum Aimie is already back running short distances – the cancellation has worked in her favour and she’s hardly missed any parkruns during her maternity leave!


Mum and son are both doing great - congratulations, Aimie!

I’m sure many of you will have been taking part in the annual Thursday ‘Clap for Carers’ at 8pm and watching the footage on BBC1 a few weeks ago, I was surprised and delighted to see regular Witton first finisher Josh Crowther standing on a submarine leading their applause! A video of that can be found on our Facebook page.


Josh on duty - on BBC1!

Finally, the real reason I’m posting today: tonight, Blackburn Rovers broadcast a replay of the promotion party held at Ewood Park two years ago today at the end of the final game of Season 2017-18. It was a special day all-round, with a blue-and-white themed parkrun in the morning and then the football match and celebration in the afternoon. But the day is forever tinged with sadness, as only a few hours after running at Witton in the morning, Darwen Dasher Norman Walsh collapsed as he enjoyed himself before the match with his family. Tragically, he never regained consciousness. Norman’s loss affected everyone connected at Witton: his memorial parkrun in June 2018 saw our third-highest attendance ever, bettered only by our inaugural two events and was a hugely emotional event bedecked in the ebony and gold colours of the Darwen Dashers. I’m sure Wittoners everywhere will want to pass on their thoughts and good wishes today to Norman’s daughter Viki, partner Anne-Marie, and the entire Walsh family for a man whose absence is still regularly mentioned at Witton today. He’d be going stir-crazy in lockdown though! Cheers, Norman!


Rest in Peace, Normy

Right, that’ll do. As usual, this has gone on longer than expected but I did have seven weeks to make up for! (And since this has been surprisingly stats-light, I’ll confirm that this is the longest continuous cancellation Witton has ever had, surpassing our 4-in-a-row last summer due to events in the park!)

Continue to stay safe, follow the government advice and, in the words of parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt: we’ll get through this, together.

Much love,

Matthew Vernon

#loveparkrun #lovewittonparkrun

#staysafe #thankyouNHS #thankyoucarers #thankyoukeyworkers

Thank You

A great big thank you from Witton Park!


WITTON PARKRUN EVENT #211 – 14th March 2020

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 wittonhelpers@parkrun.com 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: witton@parkrun.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.

Take care,

Matthew Vernon (and the whole Witton parkrun Core Team)

#loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun #backstronger


WITTON PARKRUN EVENT #210 – 7th March 2020 #ThisGirlCan

What a wonderful day Saturday was. Having said goodbye to the wettest February on record, the first week of March was the driest of the year so far, with very little rain falling all week and a real feeling of Spring in the air. Saturday dawned bright and relatively warm, certainly once the run was underway, as we celebrated another special parkrun, welcoming 66 women among our field of 126 who came to run, jog and walk the Beast on the weekend of International Women’s Day, when parkrun proclaimed ‘This Girl Can’, as it tried to encourage more women and girls to make parkrun part of their weekend routine!

At the start

Witton's first IWD parkrun is about to get underway!

So, with a nod to the day, a little mix-up at the top of the report, as we deal with our speedy females first up! And first female this weekend was a return to form for Witton 50 Club member Jane Magee, who finished in 8th position in 23:15. This was Jane’s 82nd parkrun and 64th at Witton and marked the 33rd occasion on which she has been first female at Witton, extending her own record and creating a 20-event buffer to second-placed Joanne Nelson. This was Jane’s highest Witton finishing position overall since Event #187 in September, when she finished 7th but, paradoxically, she was half a minute slower that day! Well done Jane!


Jane on her way to another first place on Saturday!

Second female was last week’s first female: Diane Dudgeon in 13th position in 24:45. Some of you may remember Diane from last week’s report, where I mentioned that last week was her first ever parkrun, as she became only the 6th woman to be first female at Witton on their first ever parkrun. This week, she couldn’t quite make it two in a row with Jane’s return, but second place is still incredibly impressive and, better still, Diane scored a big new PB, knocking 57 seconds off her inaugural time last weekend now she knows the course a little better! Another impressive run, Diane – you’d best watch out, Jane!


Witton's newest star, Diane Dudgeon!

Third female was teenager Ruby Cain in 17th position in 25:19. This was Ruby’s 6th parkrun and all 6 have been at Witton, while this marked her second appearance in the Witton top 3, matching her performance at Event #204 in January. This marked a second successive PB for Ruby, following on from her previous visit for Event #205 at the start of February, and she looks to have been doing some work in the past month as she knocked an impressive 1 and a half minutes off her previous best to go under 26 minutes for the first time. This also led to her highest ever overall finishing position at parkrun of 17th, far outstripping her previous best of 31st at Event #187 in September. Great improvements, Ruby!


Ruby Cain earned a second top 3 finish at Witton on Saturday!

First male this weekend, and first overall, was returning Witton 50 Club member James McLeod in 19:46. This was Accrington Road Runner James’s 135th parkrun and his 68th at Witton, keeping his record just above 50% at Witton and extending his record number of first finishes to 22, 5 clear of Blackburn Road Runner Josh Crowther’s second-placed total of 17. It’s always nice to see James back at Witton: 47 of his first 50 parkruns came at Witton, but shortly after that two events closer to home for him opened up, first Hyndburn parkrun in Accrington in October 2017 and then Clitheroe Castle parkrun in May 2018, meaning just 21 of his next 85 parkruns (just under 25%) have come at Witton, but despite this he’s still a regular first finisher when he returns and it’s nice he hasn’t completely forgotten us, with this his first run at Witton since New Year’s Day – another strong performance, James!


James finishes another Witton parkrun!

Second male and second to cross the line was young Ben Livesey in 21:08. This was Blackburn Harrier Ben’s 42nd run at Witton and his milestone 50th overall, meaning he’s going to get another mention in this report shortly, and he was clearly keen to make this a day to remember as he recorded a first Witton podium finish, smashing his 5th placed best from Event #204 in January, and setting a huge new PB too, knocking 1 minute and 11 seconds off his previous best, also set at Event #204 in January. Brilliant running, Ben!


Ben Livesey on his way to a first top 3 finish!

Third finisher this week was unknown, meaning third male was our fourth finisher this weekend, and that – for the first time – was young Liam Bennison in 21:58! We all knew this day would come sooner or later and, sure enough, this was the week when the little Blackburn Harrier finally made it onto the Witton podium, at his 68th parkrun and 66th with us at Witton. A reminder that Liam is just 9 years old and, consequently, needs a willing responsible adult to allow him to fulfil his potential each week. This week, it was the turn of Darwen Dasher and Witton 50 Club member Bruce Elliott, who enabled Liam to run just 8 seconds off his PB set on Christmas Day 2019 – it feels like another one is just around the corner, Liam!


No front-on photos of Liam (in the Messi top) this week, but a great rear-view shot on his way to a first top 3 finish, followed by Bruce Elliot (50 shirt)!

Well done to all our speedy women and men this week!

Milestone time!!! And, goodness, you lot have kept me busy this week, with a stonking 3 new t-shirts earned this week, the most at a single event since Event #197 in December, not to mention the 59th person to join the Witton 50 Club!

Christine and first timers

Witton regular Christine Duckworth leads first-time parkrunners Stuart and Ella Flynn on Saturday!

First, to our podium finisher: he’s already had a mention but crossing the line in second place at his 50th parkrun was Blackburn Harrier Benjamin Livesey! Ben ran his first parkrun in September 2017, at our 96th Event, the week after our second birthday. As a JM10, he ran alongside dad John, who also ran his first parkrun that day, finishing it in a respectable 32:40. He ran 13 times at parkrun in total during the last 4 months of 2017, racking up his first tourist event at Hyndburn parkrun in December, and taking part in our 100th event in October and our 3rd Christmas Day parkrun. He also managed to record an impressive 6 personal bests during those initial months, including three in a row in December to take his time down to 25:38 at the start of 2018. After a second run at Hyndburn and another Witton PB of 25:14 in January 2018, Ben turned 11 in late February/early March, meaning he could now run on his own at parkrun. In total, he ran 24 times in 2018, with 18 of those coming at Witton, alongside 4 runs at Hyndburn and first appearances at Clitheroe Castle and Penrith parkruns. He managed another 4 Witton PBs during the course of the year, ending with a best of 22:32, while he recorded two PBs at Hyndburn parkrun, reducing his best there to 22:58. 2019 saw just 9 more appearances at parkrun from Ben, with all but the first coming at Witton, having started the year with a fifth appearance at Hyndburn parkrun, while he managed just one more PB during the year at Witton, running 22:31 at Event #169 in April to knock a single second off his previous best! Already in 2020, Ben has recorded 3 parkruns, all at Witton, and has managed 2 PBs already this year, culminating this weekend in a first podium placing of 2nd and a new PB of 21:08. Having just turned 13, Ben still has plenty of growing to do, so it will be fascinating to see how much more he progresses if he keeps parkrunning at Witton. Congratulations on your achievement, Ben, here’s to the next 50 and another t-shirt!

Ben 2

Two photos in one run report - it doesn't happen often, Ben!

Our second milestone t-shirt awarded on the day was the one that should’ve happened last week, as Witton 50 Club and core team member Lorna Pickup finished in 81st position in 36:19 to finally complete her 100th parkrun and earn her black milestone t-shirt from parkrun HQ! Lorna ran her first parkrun at Witton’s Event #30 in April 2016, recording a benchmark of 33:30. She returned 3 weeks later and smashed a new PB of 3 minutes to finish in 30:25. That was the first of 6 personal bests she recorded in her first 10 visits, culminating in a run of 27:46 at Event #46 in early August 2016. This was followed by a first tourist run, at Burnley parkrun, where she recorded a new parkrun PB of 27:02. In total, she managed 24 parkruns during 2016, with further tourist runs at Pendle parkrun, Crystal Palace parkrun and Heaton parkrun joining her 20 runs at Witton, and outstripping her August Witton PB and even her parkrun PB at Burnley, first at Crystal Palace in November (running 25:46 that day) and then at Heaton parkrun in early December (recording an amazing 24:47). A frequent traveller and having a job that often requires long and late hours, she recorded just a further 22 parkruns during 2017, including first visits to Cuerden Valley parkrun in January and the brand new Hyndburn parkrun in November, alongside appearances at Witton’s 100th event and our third Christmas Day event. 2018 saw a further 23 parkruns completed, 15 at Witton and 8 tourist runs, including returns to Cuerden Valley and Crystal Palace parkruns, a new Burnley PB of 26:34, and first appearances at Clitheroe Castle and Bolton parkruns (recording times of 27:50 and 27:10 respectively) and a first 3 visits to Preston parkrun, setting an initial best of 26:24, unbeaten in her next 2 visits, with all 3 Preston runs becoming her 3rd, 5th and 6th fastest parkruns ever. At Witton, she took part in our first Run for Norman in June and completed her 50th parkrun at our Event #115 in January. 2019 saw a further 25 parkruns completed, starting with her first New Year’s Day Double at Witton and Burnley parkruns and running 15 times in total at her home event. The remaining 10 saw lots of tourism, particularly during our summer hiatus, where we were cancelled for 5 events in 6 weeks, with Lorna running somewhere different on all 5 occasions, including 3 parkrun venues for the first time. She made 2 further visits during the year to Preston parkrun and a second visit to Hyndburn parkrun, alongside her New Year return to Burnley, with new venues recorded at nearby Haigh Woodland, Watergrove, Centre Vale and Fleetwood Promenade (somewhere she REALLY wanted to go for no apparent reason!), along with Jersey parkrun while on holiday and Dulwich parkrun visiting friends in London. That year saw just one PB recorded, her most recent to date, on her return to Hyndburn parkrun, she managed 29:49, knocking 20 seconds off her previous best. She made a return to Fleetwood Promenade for her first parkrun of 2020, before completing her 96th to 100th parkruns at her home venue, originally planning it to coincide with her birthday on Leap Day, but having to postpone for a week due to ill health a few weeks ago. In addition to her running, Lorna has been a regular and reliable volunteer for Witton, currently sitting on 99 volunteering days alongside her 100 runs. She has marshalled a wonderful 23 times at Witton, been a timekeeper on 9 occasions, shown a real eye with the camera on 5 occasions, done finish tokens on 4 occasions, barcode scanned 3 times and delivered the First Timers Briefing and processed the results once each. She’s also been credited once with post-event closedown but has done it on far more occasions than that! For a while, she received a credit as our Communications Person, overseeing our Twitter and Instagram accounts for Michelle and this wealth of experience in all the key roles made her an obvious choice among all the existing Run Directors to be approached to join the team, a role she has embraced after initial uncertainty, having done so on 2 occasions thus far. Well done Lorna, it’s about blimmin’ time and just another 25 to go to join the Witton 100 Club too!


Lorna was in great spirits as she finally earned her 100 t-shirt!

Now to this week’s birthday girl and after some very careful planning, Darwen Dasher Lisa Moran ran her 50th parkrun on the same day she turned 50 years old! Lisa is an occasional parkrunner, often grumbling about the early start, especially when she has to come face-to-face with the Beast once again, but she was actually one of the first 273 people to run at Witton, running her first parkrun at our inaugural event back in August 2015! She ran 30:51 that day and returned a week later to knock over a minute off in reducing her time to 29:37. In all, she ran 6 of our first 7 events and 8 of our first 11, sandwiching a first tourist parkrun at Ormskirk in mid-October. She’d completed 9 parkruns by the end of 2015 and set a total of 3 Witton PBs, ending the year with a best of 28:32 from Event #6 in October. That was all her parkrunning until March 2016, when she took on the Beast for the first time at Event #24, and she ran 5 times in 8 weeks between March and April, ticking off a further two visits to Witton, alongside first tourist runs at nearby Bolton and Burnley parkruns. There were just another 7 runs during the rest of 2016, however, including 2 at Witton and 3 more at Bolton and a first two visits to Preston parkrun. 2017 saw a further 14 parkruns completed, 8 of which came at Witton, plus 3 visits to Bolton, another visit to Preston and first visits to Haigh Woodland parkrun and the brand-new Hyndburn parkrun, alongside a host of other Witton faces, in November. Her 10 parkruns in 2018 included 3 return visits to Hyndburn, a return to Burnley, a first visit to Southport parkrun and a first international parkrun at Hasenheide parkrun in Berlin, Germany, alongside a further 4 runs at Witton, including at our poignant Event #131, where we celebrated the life of Norman Walsh and Lisa provided immense emotional support to her best friend, Norman’s daughter Viki. Lisa didn’t run a parkrun at all between September 2018 and December 2019, when she returned to Witton for our 198th event just before Christmas. That sparked a run of 5 parkruns over the next 3 months, 4 of which came at Witton, alongside a New Year’s Day visit to Hyndburn – I bet that took some effort, Lisa, even for a 10.30 start! In total, 29 of her 50 runs came at Witton, with Bolton her next most-visited venue on 7. Lisa ran at our second birthday and both our 100th and 200th events and has volunteered for us on 6 occasions, 4 times as tail walker and twice as a marshal. Congratulations, Lisa, let’s see if we can get you to 100 parkruns a little faster than you got to 50, but well done on some great planning and a very happy birthday!!!


Lisa (r) was all smiles running with best friend Viki Walsh on Saturday and brought an excellent cake to celebrate her birthday!

Last but not least, is the latest entrant into the Witton 50 Club: step forward recent regular Andrew Wisdom! Andrew ran his first parkrun at Chelmsford Central parkrun in September 2018, a venue he has visited a few times which suggests maybe a familial connection. Just one week later, he lined up at Witton for the first time and set a benchmark of 30:25, just under 2 minutes slower than his first outing at Chelmsford. He returned a further 6 times during the rest of 2018, setting a run of 5 consecutive PBs to reduce his time to 27:56. He ran at our 150th event in November 2018, and started his New Year at Witton, running with us on New Year’s Day 2019. That was the first of 34 visits to Witton last year for Andrew, alongside a further 12 runs elsewhere and the year was packed with milestones, including running at Witton’s 4th birthday in August, our 200th event in December, running his first Christmas Day parkrun and earning his first milestone t-shirt at Event #194 in November! 2020 started with a heavy duty first New Year’s Day Double, starting at Witton and then going all the way to Morecambe Prom for part 2 and he has not missed a parkrun yet this year, including 3 away from Witton and running the remaining 9 he needed to join the Witton 50 Club, becoming its 59th member. Andrew’s progress has been impressive, reaching the milestone in just 67 events from first running at Witton, the joint-11th fastest from 1-50 so far and the fastest since veteran Terry Gray joined in just 66 events at Event #195 in November! There are now 34 men and 25 women in the Witton 50 Club as Andrew becomes the 9th consecutive male to join the club, since Miriam Hamilton evened it up at 25-apiece at Event #192. Welcome to the club, Andrew!


The Witton 50 Club's latest member: Andrew Wisdom!

Others celebrating notable milestones this weekend include:
Cameron Ashton – 220 runs
Jez Turner (Darwen Dashers) – 210 runs
Richard Blake (Burnden Road Runners) – 80 runs
Chris Cooper (Darwen Dashers) – 80 runs
Lisa Kit – 30 runs
Stephen Crowe – 25 runs
Rona Ricioppo – 20 runs
Jenna McKinlay – 20 runs
Tracy Slater – 10 runs
Sheldon Southworth – 10 runs
Mark Fletcher – 1 run
Fawad Zaman – 1 run
Kerry Thwaites – 1 run
Peter Gazdula – 1 run
Jessica Duckett – 1 run
Rebecca Potter – 1 run
Ella Flynn – 1 run
Stuart Flynn – 1 run
Samantha Duff – 1 run
Ariane Hargreaves – 1 run
Susan Taylor – 1 run
Gemma Sanderson – 1 run
Bernadette Eastwood – 1 run
June Barrow – 1 run
Sabana Valli (Woking AC) – 1 run

Jenna and co

6 year-old Jenna McKinlay (centre) ran her 20th parkrun on Saturday!

A wonderful 15 people ran their first ever parkruns at Witton on Saturday, the most since Event #203 in January when we also had 15 and the third time in 2020 we’ve had 15 or more (equalling the number of times we’d had 15 or more between Events #51 and #200!). Fittingly, as we mark International Women’s Day, 11 of the 15 were women, joining the 35 other women to start their parkrun journey at Witton in 2020, making up exactly half of the 92 people we’ve welcomed to parkrun for the first time this year. All I can say is: welcome to parkrun! I hope you enjoyed your first experience; you picked a wonderful morning for it all-round and we hope to see you back again soon! I can promise you’ll always get a warm welcome and lots of encouragement at Witton and if you come regularly, you’ll get to know lots of new people and improve your wellbeing and fitness immensely – not to mention just watch the PB come down!

June and Bernie

June Barrow (l) and Bernadette Eastwood (r) were among our parkrun first-timers on Saturday!

Those on the cusp of a milestone include:
David Cooper (Ackworth Road Runners) – 174 runs
Julie Price – 129 runs
Stuart Farmer (Quays Running Club) – 99 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)
Tim Keely – 89 runs
Christine Duckworth – 59 runs
Denise Sykes – 49 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)
Katherine Jump (Blackburn Road Runners) – 29 runs
Vicky van den Biggelaar (Women on the Run) – 24 runs
Clare Eastwood – 24 runs
Molly Nicholls (Blackburn Harriers) – 9 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)
Christine Brown – 9 runs
Joyce Hill – 9 runs
Hannah Duxbury (Darwen Dashers) – 9 runs


Tim Keely will run his 90th parkrun next Saturday - here he is looking very happy in his Ron Hill 10K t-shirt!

We were truly filled to the brim with volunteers this week, with Anthony Furnell signing up a couple more Blackburn Road Runners to the roster and lots of others stepping forward too, so much so, that Michelle contacted me on Thursday night to ask if my dad fancied a week off and wanted to tail walk instead! In the end, 25 people got a volunteering credit on Saturday, the ninth consecutive event with over 20 volunteers and the highest weekly total since Event #204 when 25 people also got a credit. This week’s full list of hi-vis heroes is:
John CRELLIN • Michelle SEARBY • Donna MAZUR • Bryan SEARBY • Diane HARRISON-LEEMING • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • Bruce ELLIOTT • Helen READ • Alan VERNON • Ian GOODLIFFE • Debbie ASHTON • Claire BREWER • Kieran MCBRIDE • Dean HOWARD • Shiobhan ROGERS • Niamh ROGERS • Aoife ROGERS • Stephen LIVESEY • Rob KIT • Charlotte KIT • Anthony FURNELL • Scott DINGLE • Niamh ROBERTSON • Denise BROGDEN

Bryan and Niamh

Timekeepers Bryan Searby and Niamh Rogers all set on Saturday morning!

We welcomed three more first time volunteers to Witton this weekend, namely Blackburn Road Runners Donna Mazur, Kieran McBride and Stephen Livesey. They were all enthusiastic and smiley marshals around the course on Saturday and we thank them for their help and hope they come back again soon! If you’d like to follow their lead and get involved in helping parkrun go ahead every week then we want to hear from you! It takes upwards of 15 people to enable Witton parkrun to go ahead safely from start to finish, including at least 7 or 8 marshals and the 5 core positions of Run Director, barcode scanner, finish token giver and 2 timekeepers and the more people are part of the team that we can call on week to week, the more freedom everybody has to run or volunteer as they choose! So, if you’re preparing for a race, recovering from illness or injury, or just want to give something back or be involved in parkrun without running then get in touch and we can get you the roster! All we need is your name, parkrun barcode number and the week you’d like to be involved. There’s no pressure, you’ll get any advice or equipment you need before you start, and it really is great to see and encourage so many people doing something to make themselves healthier in body and mind every week. And parkrun volunteering itself has been found to improve mental wellbeing – a parkrun survey last year discovered 84% of volunteers said that volunteering at parkrun made them happier! So, what are you waiting for?! Get in touch with us via our Facebook page (Witton parkrun) or via wittonhelpers@parkrun.com and we’ll get you started! Amazingly, as of Wednesday night, we already had a full house for this coming Saturday! You lot are stars.


Blackburn Road Runner Donna Mazur was among our first time volunteers on Saturday!

The end of another sequence of 10 events means it’s an opportunity to examine the strength of our volunteering roster over recent weeks. Between Event #201 and Event #210, we had 235 volunteers, at an average of 23.5 per week. This is considerably above Witton’s all-time average of 21.6 volunteers per event and 235 is the highest 10-event cumulative total since Events #91-100 back in July-October 2017! This puts Events #201-210 as the third-highest 10-event cumulative total ever, behind Events #1-10 (when we had an extraordinary 310 volunteers over our first 10 events) and Events #91-100, when we had 245. It would appear our volunteering is in a similarly strong position to our attendance recently – long may it continue!


The stellar Witton cheer team were all smiles on Saturday: Scott Dingle (l), Charlotte Kit (seated) and Charlotte's dad Rob!

Time for the round-up now and there’s lots of little nuggets to tell you about this week! First, another word on attendance, and after last weekend’s disappointment at just missing out on equalling the record of 11 three-figure attendances in a row, we bounced back this week with a brilliant attendance of 126. This is our highest attendance since we had 130 in the last week of January and means but for 3 pesky people last weekend, we would have broken the record! Never mind, we’ll just have to see if we can’t have 100+ people for the next 11 weeks instead! I can tell you our cumulative totals, both for 2020 and for Year 5 of Witton parkrun (from our August birthday to the next birthday) are both looking incredibly healthy and are threatening to scale heights we’ve never seen before! Our thanks to everyone we’ve welcomed to parkrun over the past few months!

Crowd of familiar faces

The course was busy once again on Saturday, including mother and daughter regulars Sandra and Emily Snape and Clare and Lucy Eastwood!

Liam Bennison earned his first Witton podium on Saturday alongside Darwen Dasher and Witton 50 Club member Bruce Elliott. While Liam was just outside his Witton PB by 8 seconds, he does have a reputation for helping Wittoners to find unknown reserves of energy in their bids to keep up with him, helping Scott Smith to more than one new PB during their time together and enabling Anwar Khan to break his old course record from Event #7 in October 2015 no less than 121 events later at Event #128 in May 2018 – before repeating the feat 2 months later at Event #136 in July! Next on Liam’s list was Bruce, whose Witton PB stood at 22:09 from Event #15 in December 2015, just before the end of the old course on Boxing Day! At Event #128 in May 2018, Bruce got as close as he has ever got to breaking his old course PB on the Beast, running 22:19 that day, while his highest Witton finishing position came at Event #38 in June 2016, when he finished in 7th position overall. None of that phases young Liam, who tore round in 21:58, with Bruce following just a second behind to go sub-22 at Witton for the first time and break his PB by a full 10 seconds, also crossing the line in 5th position overall for good measure! Well done Bruce – and Liam!

Bruce and co

Bruce Elliott (back) earned a Witton PB as he came to celebrate fellow Dasher Lisa Moran's birthday parkrun!

This is an International Women’s Day special edition of the run report, so we should probably have some International Women’s Day stats shouldn’t we! Happily, for this special day, among our 126 attendees we had 66 women to 52 men (with 8 unknowns for good measure), which is only the 25th event in Witton’s 210-event history where we’ve had more women than men take part. Funnily enough, the 24th occasion was last weekend for Event #209, the first time we’ve had consecutive majority female weeks since Events #131 and #132 in June 2018! 66 women out of 126 attendees is a percentage of 52.4%, the highest percentage of the field to be female since Event #132 in June 2018, when women made up 54.1% of the field of 109. In addition, we had 66 women to 52 men, a discrepancy of 14 more women than men: this is the largest difference in the females’ favour since way back at Event #8 in October 2015, when we had 23 more women than men. Interestingly, although our inaugural event had more men than women, our next 7 events all had a majority in favour of the women, before men began to make up the majority over the next 10 events and beyond. Our all-time record stands at 180 events for the men, 25 events for the women and 5 occasions where we’ve had an even number of men and women. For all events, unknown athletes have been assigned no gender. In total, 105 of our 210 t-shirts (exactly half) have been awarded to women, although this is skewed slightly because 29 of our 45 purple volunteering t-shirts (64%) have been awarded to females, compared to 9 white t-shirts (out of 31 – 29%), 44 red t-shirts (out of 107 – 41%) and 22 black t-shirts (out of 46 – 48%), while – to date – tourist Vanya Ritchie is the only person to earn her green 250 t-shirt at Witton, giving women a 100% record in this regard. Meanwhile, in the Witton 50 Club, there are currently 34 men to 25 women (from a 25-25 even split after 50 entrants!), while the Witton 100 Club currently has 6 men to 8 women (with 4 of the next 6 in line to join also being female!) Finally, we have had just 4 occasions in Witton history when there has been a female first across the line, namely Event #28, when Elizabeth Greenwood was first home; Event #62, when Louisa Powell-Smith was first finisher; Event #74, when Blythe Fourie finished first and Event #95, when our Unknown Female was first on our second birthday. Since then, women have been second home on 4 occasions without being quite able to be first, most recently when Eleanor Bolton set the new female course record of 18:36 at Event #198 in December last year! There, I think that’s a pretty comprehensive round-up, don’t you?! What it definitely proves is yes, This Girl Can!

This Girl Can

The first Witton IWD parkrun was a huge success!

As I mentioned earlier during their respective first finisher reports, both James McLeod and Jane Magee hold Witton’s male and female records for first finishes at 22 in James’s case and 33 in Jane’s. This is the first time since Event #193 in November last year that they’ve both been first finisher in the same week and only the second time ever, as many of James’s first finishes came before Jane started her parkrun journey!

Ian and Chris

Ian Goodliffe (r) thoroughly enjoyed his parkrun on Saturday, seen here alongside Chris Cooper (l)!

We had our latest two examples of duplicate names crop up this week and they both belonged to some of our brand new parkrunners! I’m always slightly dubious when duplicate names appear from brand new parkrunners in case they’re just people who’ve lost their barcodes and signed up again, but in both cases, I am pleased to report that they’re just coincidences, and unusual ones at that! In 28th position was Mark Fletcher in 26:34. Mark is an SM30-34 and was completing his first ever parkrun with us on Saturday. But he is not the first Mark Fletcher to complete the Witton course – in fact, Mark Fletcher was one of the very first names to visit Witton, with a VM55-59 by that name running our very first event back in August 2015! Our first Mark Fletcher has yet to run a second parkrun, we hope to see our newest recruit again very soon!


The second Mark Fletcher to take on Witton!

Secondly, in 87th position, we had Jessica Duckett in 37:55. Jessica is a SW30-34 and like Mark, this was Jessica’s first ever parkrun this weekend, but also like Mark, Jessica is not the first Jessica Duckett to run at Witton. Strange though it may seem, as it is not the most common name, we had a previous Jessica Duckett join us all the way back at Event #2 in September 2015, a JW15-17 who ran a total of 4 parkruns with us between Events #2 and #32 from September 2015 to April 2016. That Jessica hasn’t run a parkrun since, so let’s see if our second Jessica Duckett can break her namesakes record of 4 visits! Mark Fletcher is the 33rd repeat male name seen at Witton, while Jessica Duckett is the 17th repeat female name, bringing our total to 50 repeat names overall, of which 36 are definitely examples of two (or in some cases more!) different people running under the same parkrun name!

Kath and Philippa

I couldn't find a definitive picture of Jessica Duckett, so here's Katherine Jump and Philippa Kershaw bringing some colour to their first IWD parkrun!

It turns out that March 7th is a surprisingly notable birthday for Wittoners, as Lisa Moran wasn’t the only one celebrating on Saturday! In addition to Lisa’s 50th parkrun on her 50th birthday, Witton 100 Club member Scott Smith ran his first birthday parkrun on the day he turned 31, while Witton legend Dorothy Myers completed her first birthday parkrun too, as she turned a stupendous 75! Ever keen to keep a low profile, Dot wouldn’t let us make a fuss on the day, but it is a notable milestone, not just for Dot but for Witton, as on Saturday she became the first ever VW75-79 to run at Witton and only the 6th person aged 75 or over to run with us, most notably former regular John Minton and current regular Terry Gray, who is also the only VM80-84 to have ever run at Witton. You’re a pioneer, Dot! And a very happy birthday to all 3 of you!

Birthday crew

The birthday gang! Lisa Moran (l), Scott Smith (centre) and Dorothy Myers (r) celebrated a collective 156 years on Earth on Saturday - I'll let you do the maths!

Notices now and after a spate of significant events in quick succession, things get back to normal for a little while with a regular Saturday parkrun this coming weekend. This Saturday sees the latest quarterly Witton parkrun meal at the Ocean Palace Chinese restaurant in Darwen, which promises to be a great event so if you fancy some good food and great company then hurry up and register your interest with Michelle so she can let the restaurant know. It’s a great opportunity to get to know your fellow parkrunners better and spend a little more time with them than the 10 minutes after parkrun finishes! And with little else to mention, I’ll throw in an early heads up that Witton will next be cancelled on Saturday May 9th 2020 for an event in the park, so that’s your next tourism opportunity if you don’t want to miss a run at Witton!

Walking up to the Beast

A train of parkrunners climb the foothills of the Beast!

I should also mention the current focus of everyone’s minds, the ensuing Coronavirus outbreak that is sweeping the world. As many of you will be aware, the UK has now had several hundred confirmed cases and a handful of deaths to those with underlying health conditions. It is anticipated that the epidemic will worsen over the coming weeks and months and the government is already putting in place contingency plans to deal with that outcome. These could include bans on large public gatherings, the particular details of which are unknown. To date, parkruns in heavily affected countries and areas, such as Japan and Italy, have been cancelled where necessary and parkrun HQ have released a number of updates confirming they are monitoring the situation both in the UK and across the world but for the time being the message is that we largely continue as normal, with sensible precautions if you are planning to volunteer and feel unwell, particularly with flu-like symptoms. You can see the latest statement from parkrun here: https://www.parkrun.com/news/2020/03/12/covid-19 while the advice earlier this week can be seen in the image below. There is no guarantee that parkruns in the UK will ever be cancelled due to the virus, but as you’ve probably gathered from the news, nothing about this is certain. All I can say is: take care of yourselves and follow the government advice.

Parkrun Statement

parkrun's Coronavirus statement in full from earlier this week

Usually this would be the end of the run report, but if you’ll forgive me, I’d like to mention a significant personal milestone before we part, as this is actually the 100th parkrun run report I’ve ever written. I cannot believe it’s nearly 3 years since Michelle first suggested I give it a go back at Event #84 in June 2017! James McLeod was first finisher that day too! As some of the Witton veterans may remember, for much of our first 2 years, our Run Reports were written by the erstwhile Barry Shackleton, who deserves much of the credit for the basic format I still follow. However, Barry’s parkrun odyssey often meant he was writing run reports based the data, rather than his own experiences and he was keen that Wittoners take up the mantle of telling their own stories from their own perspectives. Various people gave it a go, often under duress and I confess I did quite fancy giving it a go, as I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I didn’t know where to begin! That first week, I was keen to get it written quickly, but didn’t want to seem too eager so took my time – which then meant it was barely ready in time for Friday, which earned me a telling off from Michelle! Nevertheless, my report went down well, and I wrote 11 reports in total during the rest of 2017. I don’t recall a specific conversation about me taking over the role on a more permanent basis, but with many Wittoners reluctant to give it a go, I’m happy enough to do it when required. I’m helped by my ever-extending spreadsheet, which is full to bursting with stats on almost anything you can think of counting relating to Witton, which is how I keep track of all your exploits (with occasional errors!) In total, 96 of my run reports have been written here at Witton, with tourist reports at Ormskirk, Worsley Woods, Clitheroe Castle and Bolton completing my century. Additionally, just for my own fun, and without earning a parkrun volunteering credit, I’ve also contributed a further 9 ‘Witton on Tour’ reports, 2 statistical round-ups (after our 150th and 200th events), a history of parkrun (for parkrun’s 15th birthday last year) and a special report on the test event for our reverse route ahead of our second birthday in August 2017! I’m somewhat astonished to discover that my 100 run reports have comprised of nearly 295,000 words and I apologise for making you read quite so much every week! Despite this, many of you have said very kind things over the years about my reports and I am genuinely touched by every comment and can only say I love writing about your achievements. Witton parkrun is a real community and you lot are what make it special – your triumphs, your struggles, your progress, your milestones. Thanks for allowing me to tell your stories and I’m happy to do continue to do so until you officially tell me to sling my hook – or the next Matthew comes along!

Holly, Jez, Peter and Robert

3 parkrun milestone t-shirts in one shot: Holly Turner (black), dad Jez (blue), Peter Nicholson (purple) and Robert Crompton (red)!

Now there’s a chilling thought! I’ll see you all on Saturday for Event #211.

Have a great week,

Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun #ThisGirlCan


What a blooming brilliant parkrun!


WITTON PARKRUN EVENT #209 – 29th February 2020 (Lorna’s Leap Day Birthday!)

Another wet week seemed to set the tone for our extra special Saturday parkrun, but actually the day dawned dry and stayed dry thankfully, meaning no issues for the 97 people who came to run, jog and walk the Beast this week, some dressed in all manner of 80s attire, as we held a big double celebration at Witton! First and foremost, this was the first time February 29th, aka ‘Leap Day’, has fallen on a Saturday since 1992, which also means it is the first Leap Day parkrun opportunity ever, and the next one won’t be until 2048, when we’ll all be the best part of 3 decades older! In addition, February 29th is a very special day in the calendar of Witton core team member Lorna Pickup, as it is her birthday, one she only gets to celebrate once every 4 years and – similarly – this was an ultra-rare opportunity to run a parkrun on her birthday, and it wasn’t any old birthday either: Lorna turned 40 (I know, I can hardly believe it either!) so in celebration, we went Back to the Future to host an 80s themed parkrun, complete with all the fashion horrors time had tried to erase!


A time-travelling parkrun begins to take shape!

First to cross the line was Red Rose Road Runner Simon Croft in 18:35. This was Simon’s 18th parkrun and first at Witton, which became his 14th different venue, with his last 12 parkruns going back to December 2017 coming at 12 different venues! Simon has been first finisher at 13 of his 18 parkruns and has only failed to achieve a first finish at Ormskirk as a venue. Witton constituted his slowest parkrun since his second ever outing, at Cuerden Valley parkrun in January 2016, backing up our reputation as one of the toughest parkruns around. That said, Simon’s time was the joint-58th fastest time ever on the Beast and the fastest time by a first finisher since Joe Gebbie’s 18:24 at Event #202 in early January. Simon becomes the 4th first-time first finisher in a row, with 3 of those 4 achieving the feat on their first appearance at Witton. Great debut, Simon!

We're off!

Another parkrun begins!

Second to finish was Ribble Valley Harrier Chris Barnes in 20:20. This was Chris’s 74th parkrun and 17th at Witton, having last visited us for Event #193 in November last year, his first visit in nearly 12 months. He matched his performance from that day too, finishing 2nd, with all but 2 of his visits to Witton leading to podium finishers. Good to see you back, Chris!

Julie and Stacy

A solid 80s effort from Julie Graves and Stacy Feeney!

Third place went to Blackburn Harrier John Cookson in 22:19. This was John’s 130th parkrun and 74th at Witton and marks his first podium finish since Event #178 in June 2019. Although it marked an improvement in position, it was actually John’s slowest parkrun at Witton since Event #202 in January, 5 visits ago, perhaps underlining the scarcity of club runners due to the weekend’s other race meetings. Nice job, John!

Heading Down

A rare shot looking down into the small woods!

First female this week was Witton first timer Diane Dudgeon in 16th position in 25:42. Astonishingly, this was not just Diane’s first Witton parkrun, it was her first parkrun ever – what a way to make your debut! This curiosity piqued my interest, so I did a bit of digging to see how unusual this feat was, and Diane has become only the 6th woman (which is still more than I thought I would find!) to be first female on her first ever parkrun at Witton, after Sharon Snape (at Event #34), Helen Leigh (Event #35), Fiona Olson (Event #81), Rachael Gavin and Louisa Powell-Smith. Helen and Fiona’s achievements came on their – to date – only official parkruns, while Rachael Gavin was actually first female on both her first two parkruns (both at Witton) at Events #32 and #33 in April/May 2016 and the phenomenal Louisa Powell-Smith was first finisher on all her first 3 of her 4 parkruns to date (all at Witton), going one step further on debut at Event #62 on Christmas Eve 2016 by finishing first overall! Impressive company, Diane!

John K

John Kearney goes 'old skool'!

Second female this week was Blackburn Road Runner Miriam Hamilton in 29th position in 29:18. This was Miriam’s 83rd parkrun and 58th at Witton and marked her highest ever Witton finishing position, eclipsing her female third place finishes from Events #139 and #192! Miriam seemed to be going all out for Leap Day, finishing the first 29/02 parkrun in history in 29th position, finishing in the 29th minute and being the 2nd female – nice commitment, Miriam!


A rare recent Witton visit for former Run Director Annika Halsall!

Third female was another Blackburn Road Runner, Deb Hanlon, in 32nd position in 29:59. This was Deb’s 7th parkrun and 3rd at Witton and marked her first appearance on the Witton podium. This is perhaps not a surprise, as Deb was running a new PB, knocking 19 seconds off her previous best from Event #195 in November. It also matches Karen Rishton’s time from Event #151 as the 6th slowest time to ever achieve a top 3 female placing at Witton – another sign that the faster runners were having a rest this weekend! Well done Deb!

Choose Life

Karen Rishton and Lynda Vernon channelled their inner George Michael on Saturday! (I promise you there was no pre-event coordination in their outfit choices!)

Milestone time!!! And still no t-shirts were awarded for the second successive week, but despite this there was another new inductee into the Witton 50 Club – although we failed to give him a shout-out on the day! Oops! Crossing the line in 5th position in 23:11 to record his 50th run at Witton was Blackburn Road Runner Daniel Hamilton! Dan ran his first parkruns at university back in South Manchester in 2015, with his first run at Witton coming in August 2017 at Event #94, his seventh parkrun overall. Witton quickly became his parkrun home, running 8 times with us in the final 4 months of 2017. 2018 saw 20 visits to Witton, interspersed with holidays, longer races on Sundays and visits to his family in the Lake District and wife Miriam’s family in Derby (both of which saw regular parkrun appearances at Penrith and Markeaton parkruns respectively!) and, having debuted at Event #94 with a time of 27:44, 6 PBs over the next 12 months saw a new PB set in June 2018 at Event #134 of 23:30. The same mix in 2019 saw a further 17 runs at Witton and two new PBs, reducing his time to an agonising 23:01 at Event #189 in October. He also joined our Run Director team during 2019, acting in the role for the first time at Event #187 in September and having done so on 4 occasions now, including for our New Year’s Day parkrun that kicked off 2020! 2020 has seen a further 6 runs at Witton so far, making Saturday his 50th run at Witton, in addition to a number of non-running volunteer visits. A sign of how many non-Witton runs Dan has managed on his travels is the fact he ran his 50th parkrun at Witton, way back at Event #160 in January 2019! He is now only 15 runs away from his 100 t-shirt, which should come at some point in 2020, even continuing to parkrun as he trains for the Manchester Marathon, sometimes running from his home 5 miles away to parkrun, running the parkrun and then running back again! Saturday’s 5th placed finish matched his highest ever finishing position at Witton, from Event #192 in October, while it was his second fastest Witton parkrun ever, just 10 seconds off his PB of 23:01 – and he was supposed to be taking it easy ahead of the Haweswater Half Marathon on Sunday! Dan joins wife Miriam in the Witton 50 Club, joining 17 events after her and becoming its 58th member (Miriam was member #50!), and they become the 4th husband and wife to both be members of the club, after Kerry and Bruce Elliott, Jon Carberry and Sarah Watkins, Bill and Jackie Dwyer and Julie and Ian Gaskell – well done, Dan, welcome to the club!


Both Hamiltons are now in the 50 Club - welcome, Dan!

Others celebrating notable milestones on Saturday included:

Aimie Wormald (Darwen Running Group) – 225 runs

Lynda Vernon – 175 runs

Pat Procter – 150 runs

Sandra Snape (Blackburn Road Runners) – 140 runs

John Cookson (Blackburn Harriers) – 130 runs

Gavin Campbell (Chorley Athletic and Triathlon Club) – 130 runs

Emily Snape – 90 runs

John Kearney – 70 runs

Dave Hales (Team DARKrun) – 60 runs

Heather Thorn (Women on the Run) – 30 runs

Graham Airey – 25 runs

Adam Brayford – 20 runs

Jane Pilkington – 10 runs

Nick Murphy – 1 run

Diane Dudgeon – 1 run

Brian Fisher – 1 run

Michael Biggs – 1 run


Veteran Wittoner Terry Gray finishes on Saturday!

And those on the cusp of a milestone include:

Ian Dempsey – 174 runs

Lorna Pickup – 99 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)

Chris Barnes (Ribble Valley Harriers) – 74 runs

David Eaves (Red Rose Road Runners) – 59 runs

Ian Clarkson (Blackburn Harriers) – 59 runs

Lisa Moran (Darwen Dashers) – 49 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)

Caroline Eyles (Penistone Footpath Runners AC) – 39 runs

Lisa Kit – 29 runs

Geoff Shanks (Community Church Blackburn) – 24 runs

Lesley Renshaw (Red Rose Road Runners) – 19 runs


Lots of smiles on display at Witton on Saturday!

Another great week on the volunteering front saw over 20 people get a volunteering credit for the 7th consecutive week. There was lots of support all around the course and, as always, we are really grateful to everyone who gives up their time to allow us all to take part every week! This week’s hi-vis heroes were:


The Cheer Team

The Witton Cheer Team of Scott Dingle (l), Charlotte Kit (c) and Rob Kit (r) were making their usual noise on Saturday!

Our thanks to you all, and remember, if you want to get involved with volunteering at Witton, we’re always looking for new people to help out so get in touch! The more volunteers we have, the less responsibility everyone has each week and the more we can all take part as we wish! There’s a variety of roles available, which you can look at on our future roster page (which you can find here: https://www.parkrun.org.uk/witton/futureroster/), where you can click on the roles for a description of what it entails, while it also displays the rosters for upcoming weeks so you can see which roles have already been filled! The most important role, and the thing we need most of, is marshals, who stand at strategic points around the course, making sure parkrunners know where they should be going and help deal with any on-course incidents, such as fallen runners. Your biggest job is giving vocal encouragement to weary parkrunners, usually helped by one of our various tambourines, bells and clappers – it really does make all the difference! If you’d like to get involved, then just get in touch with us, either via our Facebook page (Witton parkrun) or via wittonhelpers@parkrun.com with your name, parkrun barcode number and the week you’d like to volunteer and we’ll sort you out! If you’re brand new to parkrun and have never been before in any capacity, then we’d like you to sign up so that you get a volunteer credit and it’s easier for us to get in touch with you! You only need to sign up once, your barcode is valid for any parkrun event anywhere in the world and the best thing of all? It costs absolutely nothing! You can register for a parkrun barcode here: https://www.parkrun.org.uk/register/ For volunteering, we just need the number on your barcode to find you on the system and if you plan to also take part in the event, then you’ll need a printed barcode which you can get through your parkrun profile. If you’re having any issues, please get in touch with us and we’ll help however we can! We look forward to hearing from you!

Shiobhan and Niamh

Young DofE volunteer Niamh Rogers and mum Shiobhan entered into the 80s spirit - Niamh even let her mum crimp her hair!

The weekly round-up now, and first we need to talk about attendance, because we fell agonisingly short of equalling our record streak of 11 three-figure attendances in a row, with 97 people coming to run, jog and walk the Beast this week. This is by no means seen as a failure, however: there were so many races on on Sunday of varying distances that several regular Wittoners were missing in action, with Kate Pomfret, Peter Nicholson and Shelagh Brownlow all on volunteering duty ahead of races on Sunday, while Scott Smith’s consecutive streak ended as he visited Markeaton parkrun in Derby for the day due to attending a Leap Day wedding! In years gone by, we could have expected our attendance to be as low as 50 or 60, so to still fall just 3 short of a century confirms our recent growth.

Up the Beast

A great shot from the bottom of the Beast of a train of Wittoners on the ascent!

Congratulations to Witton 100 Club member Aimie Wormald, who tail walked this week for her 225th parkrun to achieve her target milestone run before giving birth to her second baby in the coming weeks! Aimie has always been a Witton regular and completed many parkruns before giving birth to baby Jaymes in 2018 and it has been the same in the run-up to baby #2, with the last few as tail walker, still recording times under 55 minutes most weeks despite being nearly 37 weeks pregnant at this stage! She will be taking a break shortly (obviously!) but is not ruling out a visit next week, so perhaps we could have our first ever parkrun baby born at Witton! Aimie is just 25 runs away from her green milestone t-shirt and we look forward to seeing her again soon, along with a first parkrun appearance from the latest bundle of joy! Good luck, Aimie!


It was too wet when Dot Myers (l) woke up to consider parkrunning - but she still came along to wish Lorna a happy birthday!

Now for the birthday girl! And it was a very special parkrun for Witton 50 Club and core team member Lorna Pickup, who ran her 99th parkrun on the day of her 40th birthday! Unlike the rest of us, who get another chance to run parkrun on our birthdays in a cycle of 6 years, 11 years, 6 years, 5 years (due to the impact of leap years), Lorna will, very optimistically, get just two more opportunities: in 2048, when she will be 68 and in 2076, when she would be 96! Lorna is a much loved member of the Witton family, having been a regular since making her parkrun debut at Event #30 in April 2016 and has also become a key member of the Witton volunteering team, regularly coming along when injured or busy to volunteer in a variety of roles, from marshal to photographer and – more recently – joining our core team as a Run Director, a role she has currently fulfilled twice. To celebrate her birthday, we held an 80s-themed parkrun, to celebrate Lorna’s first decade of life and plenty of Wittoners entered into the spirit, causing some peculiar looks by some of our last-minute refugees from the cancelled nearby Cuerden Valley parkrun! There were shell suits, leg warmers, tutus, pop song references, denim, crimped hair and dungarees all on display, in my opinion proving that 80s fashion is almost universally naff! But a good time was had by all and Lorna had a blast, taking it easy before her party in the evening and then the Ron Hill 10K on Sunday morning! And if anyone was wondering how Lorna ended up doing her 99th on her birthday and not her 100th, that’s not due to a lack of planning but simply the cruel hand of fate! A few weeks ago, Lorna was on 98 before her most recent stint at Run Director. With 2 weeks to go before her birthday, Lorna could only run once over the next 2 events in order to run her 100th on her birthday, so she volunteered the following week too to set it up. What happened last week? Lorna was full of a cold and spent the entire weekend in bed! The best laid plans of mice and men…she’ll run her 100th at our special event next Saturday instead! A very happy birthday, Lorna, from everyone at Witton, we hope you had a wonderful day, enjoyed your parkrun birthday card and are very proud of finally reaching double figures!


The birthday girl at the end of her first celebration of the day!

Before we end, I would be remiss not to mention the exploits of Witton 50 Club members Paul and Oliver Thompson on Saturday. I was slightly perplexed when I saw them standing at the side of the scrum on the start line, appearing to tie their left and right legs together as one would in a three-legged race! Surely not..? Surely yes! Paul and Oli took on the Beast (twice!) using three legs between the pair of them and, not only that, they finished in a very respectable 36:49 (expertly timed across the line by Bryan Searby to ensure they both got the same time credit!) to record the first three-legged parkrun certainly in Witton history, maybe…ever?! When I asked them about it afterwards, Paul simply shrugged and said, ‘It was Oli’s suggestion – he wanted to see if it could be done!’ The answer would appear to be: yes! Well done guys!

Three-legged parkrun

Paul and Oliver Thompson in action and recovering after Oli's madcap idea!

Notices, and just the one this week, another reminder that our next parkrun quarterly meal will be at the Ocean Palace Chinese restaurant in Darwen on Sunday 15th March at 4.30pm. These events are always great fun, with great food and great company and are open to all parkrunners who want to join. Just be sure to let us know ASAP if you’d like to come so we can let the restaurant know numbers!

Lorna's Corner

The week's rain had made the run down the Beast particularly slippery this week!

And that’s a wrap! As I said at the start of this report, the next Leap Day parkrun will be in 2048. I wonder if I’ll still be around and parkrunning to write about it. It will be interesting to compare notes!

Before that, though, we’ll be back for Event #210 on Saturday. I’ll see you there – and remember to bring a female friend or relative for International Women’s Day!

Have a great week,
Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun

The Vernon Fam

3 separate people told me I suited a mullet on Saturday! Oh dear!

Special thanks to visitors Jake Vincent and Brian Fisher for additional photos taken this week!


WITTON PARKRUN EVENT #208 – 22nd February 2020

After last week’s encounter with Storm Dennis, I was somewhat concerned by the seemingly unrelenting rain that hammered Blackburn over the course of Friday and the state it would leave the Witton course in, with nearby Cuerden Valley cancelling their event on Friday night and plenty of local parkruns facing on-the-morning course inspections before being given the A-OK. That said, I trusted in the weather app I checked earlier in the week which said it should be dry on Saturday morning, even though that same app had updated on Friday night to a forecast of “Light Rain Showers and Sunny Intervals” and a 49% of precipitation – gulp. As Saturday dawned however, I looked out the window and saw bright sunshine and the hint of blue sky and smiled: Witton parkrun would be going ahead, whatever the conditions underfoot but having got outside, it turned out our biggest opponent this week was wind!

Strong gusts were a constant menace on the walk up to the start line at Witton, removing any sense of warmth in the air and throwing a potential spanner into any ideas of PBs on Saturday. Conditions underfoot meanwhile revealed the previous week’s weather, with plenty of mud in all the usual places making the course a little slipperier than has been usual so far this winter and even a mini stream instead of a path in the small wood! The event was a little late getting underway, after Event Director Michelle had to make a last-minute dash home to recover the stopwatches…only to predictably discover they were at Witton after all, just not in their usual place! After the quickest briefing in Witton history, we got underway around 9.07am for Witton Event #208!

First to cross the line this week was Witton first timer Josh Bruney in 19:54. This was Josh’s 35th parkrun and first at Witton, with 28 of his parkruns (80%) coming at nearby Cuerden Valley, making Josh one of our Cuerden refugees for the day! Witton became the third parkrun venue he has been first finisher at, after Cuerden Valley and Blackpool parkruns and unusually Josh finished in exactly the same time as last week’s first finisher Alex Ogilvie, only the third time in Witton history that we’ve had identical first finishing times in consecutive weeks, after James McLeod recorded 19:34 at both Events 55 and 56 in October 2016, and Justin Collighan and Morgan Sewell both recorded 20:56 at Events 189 and 190 in October 2019 – well done, Josh! We hope you visit Witton again someday!

Second to finish was unknown this week so third finisher and second male was Adam Brayford in 21:31. This was Adam’s 19th parkrun and 6th at Witton, joining Burnley as his most-visited venue now. This was Adam’s second successive third place finish at Witton and, by virtue of our unknown finisher, marks his highest male finishing position at parkrun of second. Another great performance, Adam!

Third placed male was Chris Charnley in 4th position in 21:42. Chris, of Chorley Athletic and Triathlon Club, was running his 210th parkrun, 21 of which (exactly 10%) have come at Witton. This was Chris’s 5th visit to Witton since mid-November, having only visited 3 times in the rest of 2019 and was his highest overall finishing position since Event #195 in November when he was also 4th – and also 3rd male that day too thanks to an unknown! Another podium finish, Chris!

For the second week in a row, first female went to a Witton first timer, this week in the form of Ruth Mewis in 14th position in 23:27. This was Ruth’s whopping 230th parkrun, 70 of which have come at Lancaster parkrun. Curiously, her second-most visited venue, with 40 runs is York parkrun, meaning Ruth is waging her very own War of the Roses with her parkruns, which I’m pleased to say Lancaster currently has a healthy lead in! Witton became Ruth’s 78th different parkrun venue and the 64th she has run on a single occasion, while this was the 14th different venue that Ruth has achieved a first female finish at – great to have you with us, Ruth, we hope you enjoyed your visit!

Second female, for the second successive week, was Witton 50 Club member Jane Magee in 15th position in 23:33, just 6 seconds behind Ruth. When I saw Ruth and Jane coming out of the small wood on the second lap, Jane had a narrow lead, but clearly Ruth was able to get the advantage by the time they got to the finish! This was Jane’s 81st parkrun and 63rd at Witton and marks the 55th time Jane has been on the Witton podium – another successful day, Jane!

Third female was Becci McCarroll in 19th position in 24:18. This was Becci’s 83rd parkrun and 17th at Witton, her second-most visited venue behind Burnley with 29. It was Becci’s second visit to Witton of 2020, three weeks after her first, when she set a new Witton PB, a time she was around half a minute slower than this week. Despite this, for the second successive visit, both Becci and partner Adam were on the Witton podium – great work guys!

Milestone time!!! And this should be pretty short this week, with no new t-shirt earners for the second successive week and no new Witton Club members either! This doesn’t mean there were no milestones at all of course, and the following people were running notable numbers at Witton this weekend:

  • Ruth Mewis – 230 runs
  • Chris Charnley (Chorley Athletic and Triathlon Club) – 210 runs
  • Jason Kay (Blackburn Road Runners) – 90 runs
  • Erica Doyle – 40 runs
  • Ian Coote – 25 runs
  • Lucy Eastwood (Blackburn Harriers) – 20 runs
  • Terry Kennedy (Blackburn GroupRun) – 20 runs
  • Jordan Clarke – 1 run
  • Jack Davies – 1 run
  • Ben Campbell – 1 run

And those on the cusp of a milestone include:

  • Sarah Watkins (Red Rose Road Runners) – 199 runs
  • Lynda Vernon – 174 runs
  • Pat Procter – 149 runs
  • John Cookson (Blackburn Harriers) – 129 runs
  • Catherine Wormleighton – 124 runs
  • John Kearney – 69 runs
  • Aimee Grime (Red Rose Road Runners) – 59 runs
  • Louise Croft – 24 runs
  • Adam Brayford – 19 runs

Another excellent week on the volunteering front, with 21 people earning a credit this week. This was despite a last-minute change of tail walkers due to unforeseen circumstances and a marshal not turning up, but those who did come down provided plenty of support around the course. This week’s full list of hi-vis heroes is:

Michelle SEARBY • Sally HUPFIELD-SMITH • Bryan SEARBY • Suzanne FERRANDINO • Diane HARRISON-LEEMING • Julie PRICE • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • John SHORROCK • Lynda VERNON • Alan VERNON • Peter CRAINE • Ian GOODLIFFE • Angela SHANKS • Chris COOPER • Corinne SURKITT • Jeanette HINDLE • Niamh ROGERS • Scott DINGLE • Niamh ROBERTSON • Emma HAYES

Special thanks to John Shorrock, who accompanied Liam Bennison as his responsible adult this week, and to Diane Harrison-Leeming, who was planning to take part this week but kindly stepped up to provide plenty of vocal support at the top of the Beast when we found ourselves a marshal short – you’re a star, Diane! It was also great to see Peter Craine back at Witton, marshalling alongside Corinne Surkitt at the bottom of the Beast – Cozza’s Corner for the day shall we say! Unfortunately, Peter has been dealing with some personal issues recently but I’m sure all at Witton were pleased to see how well he looked and wish him well for the future – we hope to see you back at Witton soon, Peter!

We’re still looking for volunteers for the coming weeks so if you’d like to give up a couple of hours of your Saturday morning to help us make parkrun happen then please let us know! I know there are plenty of running events happening in the next few weeks so if you’re resting your legs for the weekend, why not come down to Witton in a different capacity on the Saturday? Don’t worry if you’ve never done it before, we’re always looking for new people to help out and you’ll be given any tips or advice you need before you’re deployed! All we need is your name, barcode number and the week you’d like to volunteer, and we can get you on the roster. You can contact us through our Facebook page, Witton parkrun, or via wittonhelpers@parkrun.com – we look forward to hearing from you!

Notes on Event #208 now and another test has been passed on our streak of 100+ attendances, with 105 people coming to run, jog and walk the Beast this week! This is the 10th consecutive event at Witton to have a three-figure attendance, just one off the all-time record set over our first 11 events from August to November 2015! With special events coming up over the next two Saturdays, perhaps we could break the record soon! The cumulative total over those 10 events now stands at 1406 attendees, the most over 10 consecutive events since Events 4-13 between September and November 2015, when we had 1492. Thanks to everyone who’s visited Witton over the past few months!

We have hit a significant milestone, too, with our attendees this week, with three of last week’s Witton first timers – Adam Latham, Julian Dunn and Sam Hunter – joining us again this week for a second round! Along with Lian Frankland, who previously joined us for Event #206 a fortnight ago, Nick Steenbergen, who joined us at Event # 202 in mid-January, John Lunt, whose first visit came for Event #180 in August last year and Christopher Cordingley, whose previous visit was way back at Event #132 in June 2018, these 6 return visits took us over 2,000 people who have run, jogged or walked at Witton on more than one occasion: in other words, they weren’t so traumatised with their visits that they refused to ever come back! Some are tourists just passing through, others are locals looking for a change of scenery and there’s plenty of us who are diehard Wittoners of different stripes!

We have now had 2,001 people run at Witton at least twice, so it seems a perfect time to revisit something I did a little while ago, where I told you where you sit at Witton if you’ve done a particular number of runs with us:

  • 4344 – number of individuals who have run at Witton at least once
  • 2001 – 2 runs or more
  • 1351 – 3+
  • 975 – 4+
  • 752 – 5+
  • 621 – 6+
  • 522 – 7+
  • 547 – 8+
  • 407 – 9+
  • 370 – 10+
  • 300 – 12+
  • 207 – 17+
  • 156 – 22+
  • 100 – 31+
  • 79 – 40+
  • 57 – 50+
  • 43 – 60+
  • 34 – 70+
  • 21 – 80+
  • 14 – 100+
  • 6 – 125+
  • 3 – 150+
  • The most runs completed at Witton is 166, by both Anwar Khan and Matthew Vernon!

We welcomed tourist Helen Paddon to Witton on Saturday. Helen was running her 317th parkrun with us this weekend, the 25th highest total we’ve ever seen from a parkrunner and the 18th highest by a Witton first timer. Helen was a long way from home, having run 164 of her parkruns at Aberdeen parkrun and a further 106 at Hazlehead parkrun, also in Aberdeen! Witton became her 43rd different parkrun venue, 7 short of completing her half-Cowell, while she has now completed 36 parkruns on a single occasion, Witton included, while she is burnishing her international parkrun credentials with single runs recorded in Poland, Germany, Norway and Italy and a whopping 5 different events done in the United States! Thanks for visiting Helen!

Notices now, and a few dates to make you aware of in the upcoming Witton calendar. As most of you are by now aware, next Saturday marks the first ever Leap Day parkrun in history as it is the first time since parkrun began in 2004 that the 29th February has fallen on a Saturday! This means 5 parkruns are possible this February and it won’t happen again until 2048 when we’ll all be considerably older! At Witton, this is a particularly special day as Witton core team member Lorna Pickup will be celebrating her 40th birthday, being able to celebrate on her actual birthdate for only the 10th time in her life! To celebrate this notable milestone, Witton is hosting an 80s-themed event to remember the decade of Lorna’s birth, so dig out your tutus, leg warmers and shell suits and come on down for a unique parkrun experience!

Then, just 7 days later, on March 7th, Witton is participating with parkruns up and down the country in celebrating International Women’s Day with a special parkrun under the banner of the ‘This Girl Can’ initiative. In keeping with the spirit of the day, we want to help increase female participation at parkrun and with this in mind we’re encouraging all parkrunners, whether you’re a regular, an occasional visitor or brand new yourself, to bring along a female friend or relative to introduce them to the parkrun experience. Did you know, in Witton history, there have only been 23 occasions in 208 events that women have outnumbered men, with just a further 5 parkruns having a 50-50 split? It would be great to see a healthy turnout of females on the day. We’ll have a special selfie frame for you to take pictures with both before and after your parkrun and a special welcome flag for the day, both courtesy of parkrun HQ! It promises to be a great morning and we can hope for some good weather too! So, if you’ve got that one person who’s been digging their heels in about coming and is worried that they’ll be too slow or too unfit, now is the time to encourage them to come down. Let them know they’ll never be last, as we’ve always got the tail walkers at the back. The clue in their name tells you that you’re absolutely fine to go at whatever pace you like: just because it’s called parkrun doesn’t mean you have to run it all or any of it if you don’t want to! You can walk it all, jog it, do a mixture of running and walking or try and tackle it all at a decent pace – it’s YOUR parkrun! Children are more than welcome to join you, so long as they’re aged 4 or over and if they’re under 11 they MUST remain with a responsible adult at all times within arm’s reach, regardless of how much faster they may be capable of going on their own. Dogs too are particularly welcome at Witton, where we have a tin of doggy treats for tired canines after their exercise, all we ask is that dogs are kept on a short lead and a maximum of one dog per runner please, for everyone’s safety! If you would like to be part of the day but don’t feel up to running it, for whatever reason, then don’t feel you have to miss out – come and volunteer! It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been before, we can show you what to do and you’ll get to see how parkrun works before (hopefully) getting your feet dirty yourself at a later date! Details on how to volunteer can be found higher in this report. We look forward to seeing you then!

Finally, the Witton quarterly get-together is pencilled in for Sunday March 15th at the Ocean Palace Chinese restaurant in Darwen. It’s very reasonably priced and the food was great the last time we went, with a really friendly atmosphere. The get-together happens around 4 times a year in a range of locations and anyone who comes to parkrun is welcome to join us. We’ve had upwards of 20 people at some of our meals and it’s a really good afternoon, with plenty of laughs and discussions and it’s great to see your fellow parkrunners in something other than their running gear at the end of a 5km encounter with the Beast! Some of us scrub up surprisingly well, you know! So if you’d like to join us and get to know some of us better, get in touch with us either at a parkrun or via the usual communications channels as Michelle needs numbers soon to let them know how many to expect!

And I think that’s about it! I’ll next see you all on Saturday when we go Back to the Future at parkrun for Lorna’s 40th on Leap Day! Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads! (A muddy trail will suffice!)

Have a great week,

Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun

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