WITTON PARKRUN EVENT #202 – 11th January 2020

Witton’s first Saturday parkrun of 2020 took place in good weather. Despite impending forecasted rain, Saturday dawned dry and bright and relatively mild, with the temperature only dipping due to the cold, swirling wind, which featured strong gusts that caused headwinds in certain areas of the course. Nevertheless, conditions underfoot were very good, with the largely dry start to the year meaning firm mud and little slippage for the brilliant 140 of you who came to run, jog and walk the Beast this weekend, with an amazing 16 of you joining us for the first ever time!

First to cross the line was Blackburn Harrier Joe Gebbie in 18:24. This was Joe’s 40th parkrun and 36 of those have been at Witton, with this being his 9th time as Witton first finisher. This puts him up to joint-4th in the most male first finishes at Witton, behind James McLeod (21), Josh Crowther (17), Unknown (11) and level with Stephen Hall (9). It was also Joe’s fastest time at Witton since August 2018, when he ran 17:45 – 17 months but only 9 visits ago! This marked Joe’s third-fastest time ever at Witton – brilliant start to the year, Joe!

More significantly, Joe’s time marked the 100th sub-19 finishing time ever on the Beast! I consider sub-19 to be the benchmark at Witton for very fast times and the fact it has taken 185 events to achieve 100 sub-19 times would seem to back that up. The Beast is a fearsome opponent! A couple of stats for this: a total of 39 people have contributed times towards the 100, with 20 parkrunners achieving this mark on a single occasion to date. Only 19 people have run sub-19 on the Beast on more than one occasion. They are: Joshua Crowther (15), Stephen Hall (10), Joe Gebbie (6), James McLeod (6), Nick Gaskell (4), Phil Marsden, David Birtwistle, Jacob Boyle and Ben Walmsley (all 3) and Joshua Boyle, Nick Leigh, Rodger Wilkins, Sam Exton, Martin Rutter, Anthony Valentine, Christopher Davies, Louisa Powell-Smith, Jacob Watson and Simon Smith (all twice). Only 3 females have achieved this feat, most recently course record holder Eleanor Bolton last month, our Unknown Female at Event #95 and Louisa Powell-Smith on two occasions, while in addition to our Unknown Female, 4 male unknowns have recorded times sub-19 as first finishers at Witton. The first person to run under 19 minutes on our Beast course (which was first used for Event #18 in January 2016), was Sam Exton, who ran 18:22 at Event #26 in March 2016, following it up a week later with 17:58: his only two runs on that course. The Beast record belongs to Horwich RMI Harrier Chris Farrell, who ran 16:25 at Event #78 in April 2017: his second and, to date, last parkrun. To put that time into context, the closest anyone has got since has been fellow Horwich RMI Harrier Phil Marsden, who ran 16:58 at Event #171 in April 2019, the second of his three visits to date. Well done to all the speedy men and women who have achieved this feat over the years!

Back to this week and second finisher was Blackburn Harrier Nicholas Smith in 19:07. This was Nicholas’s 24th parkrun and 16 of those have come at Witton. It was his 5th fastest time at Witton, just 4 seconds behind his last visit in September and just 14 seconds off the personal best he set at Event #100 in October 2017 – well done, Nicholas!

Third place went to James Wisdom in 21:13. This was James’s 11th parkrun and 4th at Witton, since he made his parkrun debut with us in October 2018. It was James’s second time on the Witton podium, after he finished second on his debut, while this was his fastest time at Witton since that first parkrun, with a further half a minute to make up to set a new PB – is 2020 the year, James?!

First female was Witton 50 Club Jane Magee in 15th position in 23:18. Jane has run 58 times at Witton and 76 times in total, and this marked her 29th time as first finisher at Witton, returning to a 50% first finishing record. It is the first time since Event #197 in mid-December that Jane has been Witton first finisher, her longest drought since September-November last year. Jane extends her own record for most first finishes at Witton, now holding a 16-run lead over Joanne Nelson, while she is 8 ahead of James McLeod’s male record too. Incredible as ever, Jane!

Second female was Blackburn Harrier, Hannah Cookson in 22nd position in 23:59. This was Hannah’s 69th parkrun and 31st at Witton and only her second anywhere since the end of November. Hannah was also second female on her last visit to Witton, as well as at her single parkrun in between, at Sheffield Hallam parkrun in Yorkshire. Impressively, it was her fastest run at Witton since March last year – well done, Hannah!

Third female was a Witton first timer: Eva Ramsey in 25th position in 24:25. This was Eva’s 25th parkrun, with 20 of those coming at her home parkrun of Stevenage in Bedfordshire. Eva is a member of Fairlands Valley Spartans RC, based in Stevenage, and becomes the second member of that club to run at Witton, after Jane Whitrow for Event #38 in June 2016! Eva is used to parkrun podium finishes and has been first female at her home run as well as elsewhere – great running, Eva and welcome to Witton!

Milestone time!!! And we had another new t-shirt awarded at Witton on Saturday and it went to Jared Potter who finished in 8th position in 21:48! Jared was running his 100th parkrun, thus earning himself a black milestone t-shirt from parkrun HQ, but this was only his 5th parkrun at Witton. There was good reason for his visit, however, as Jared made his parkrun debut with us at Witton in October 2017 at our 100th event. He visited throughout October that year, running 4 consecutive Saturdays, before running at nearby Hyndburn the week after (Hyndburn had just started and we went en masse for our November 2017 bonfire cancellation!) and a fortnight later, he ran at Sale Water parkrun on the outskirts of Manchester for the first time. He ran 3 times in total at Sale Water before the year was out and finished his year with 2 visits to another parkrun near there, Worsley Woods. He ran an astonishing 48 parkruns in 2018, not missing a parkrun between mid-February and early September and running his milestone 50th parkrun at Stretford parkrun, again in Manchester, in November 2018, while on Christmas Day, he ran at parkrun for the first time at Worsley Woods. His parkrunning continued in 2019, with another 41 completed to set up his first run of 2020 as his 100th parkrun and a nostalgic return to where it all began at Witton. His 5 runs at Witton still make it his 4th most-visited venue, a long way behind Sale Water, where he has run 70 times in total but not far behind Worsley Woods (8) and Stretford (7), while his total is completed by 2 runs at Cheadle Hulme and single outings at Hyndburn, Fletcher Moss, Lyme Park, Bolton, Wilmslow, Pennington Flash, Alexandra parkrun, Moss Side and Wythenshawe parkruns respectively. The fact that the vast majority of these runs are in and around the Manchester area suggests that the biggest reason for Jared’s disappearance from Witton was a change of location, and we are pleased he has found plenty of other courses to satisfy his parkrun needs. Congratulations on your t-shirt, Jared, it’s wonderful that you chose to return to Witton for your milestone and we’re happy to have you whenever you fancy a visit. At your current rate, it won’t be too long before you hit your next t-shirt in 3 years!

Others celebrating notable milestones at Witton on Saturday included:

  • Kate Pomfret (Blackburn Road Runners) – 130 runs
  • John Cookson (Blackburn Harriers) – 125 runs
  • Daniel Hamilton (Blackburn Road Runners) – 80 runs
  • Oliver Thompson – 75 runs
  • Karl Gordon (Deestriders RC) – 60 runs
  • Joe Gebbie (Blackburn Harriers) – 40 runs
  • John Randall – 40 runs
  • David Morris (Blackburn Road Runners) – 40 runs – David was also running for the 30th time at Witton!
  • Eva Ramsey (Fairlands Valley Spartans RC) – 25 runs
  • Lisa Kit – 25 runs
  • Daniel McCombs (Community Church Blackburn) – 20 runs
  • Ahmed Karolia – 10 runs
  • Andrea Cottam – 10 runs
  • Mark Schooling – 1 run
  • Paula Bateson – 1 run
  • Graeme Dawson – 1 run
  • Nina Draj – 1 run
  • Amy Caton – 1 run
  • Carol Hassan – 1 run
  • Anne-Marie Burns – 1 run
  • Karen Green – 1 run
  • Emma Holden – 1 run
  • Sheila Aspinall – 1 run
  • Myra Gazdula – 1 run
  • Kelly Wrightson – 1 run
  • Jacqueline Haywood – 1 run
  • Zoe Topping – 1 run
  • Nicola Fanshawe – 1 run
  • Isobel Cordingley – 1 run

A phenomenal 16 of you ran your first ever parkrun at Witton on Saturday! This is the highest number of new parkrunners we’ve had since Event #169 in April last year, when we also had 16, while you have to go back to our first Run for Norman, Event #131 in June 2018 for that number to be exceeded (17)! Welcome to parkrun! We hope you enjoyed your first experience at Witton and come back for more in the coming months and years. Hopefully you’ve now realised it really is as friendly and unpressured as you’ve heard, and it really doesn’t matter if you’re an 18-minute runner or a 58-minute runner. You can take as long as you need and the more you come, the faster you’ll get! First timer Sheila Aspinall contacted us via our Facebook page to share how much she, her sister and brother-in-law had loved their first runs and commented on how welcoming and supportive everybody had been. Thanks Sheila, congratulations on your first parkruns and it won’t be long before you’re earning PBs and t-shirts galore if you keep coming!

Those on the cusp of a milestone include:

  • Aimie Wormald (Darwen Running Group) – 219 runs
  • Lynda Vernon – 169 runs
  • Peter Toogood – 129 runs
  • Miriam Hamilton (Blackburn Road Runners) – 79 runs
  • Hannah Cookson (Blackburn Harriers) – 69 runs
  • Andrew Wisdom – 59 runs
  • Andrew Stewart – 29 runs
  • Paul Snape – 19 runs
  • Ady Gray – 9 runs
  • Raymond Lapa – 9 runs

Unusually, I get to mention myself in the milestones as it turns out that, on Saturday, I ran my 150th parkrun on our Beast route! I am the first Wittoner to reach this mark and it probably explains why I’m so tired! For those who don’t know, our first 17 events took place on a different course before the Boxing Day floods of 2015 damaged one of the bridges across the river in the park and required us to change our route while they were fixed. The Beast, while tough, got plenty of good responses and so it stayed! I love our course: the mixture of surfaces, the variety of challenges and the fact you get rewarded, with the same amount of downhill as there is uphill! It’s technically demanding, but great training for visiting other parkruns, as proven by the fact that my 10 fastest parkruns have come away from Witton, culminating in a time nearly 2 minutes quicker than my Witton PB at Ormskirk parkrun. My Witton PB, meanwhile, regardless of course, has improved every year, to 26:38 in May 2018 and then 26:32 in March 2019, so I suppose my main aim for 2020 has to be to try and get a sub-26:30 on the Beast! Onwards to 200! In case you’re wondering, the full top 10 is:

  • Matthew Vernon – 150 runs
  • Anwar Khan – 146 runs
  • Lynda Vernon – 140 runs
  • Scott Smith – 136 runs
  • Pat Procter – 125 runs
  • Aimie Wormald – 119 runs
  • Ian Goodliffe – 112 runs
  • Tony Duckworth – 111 runs
  • Diane Harrison-Leeming – 110 runs
  • Suzanne Ferrandino – 110 runs

It appears lots of you have made New Year’s Resolutions to volunteer more at parkrun and we gratefully received offers from 5 first-time volunteers to help fill this week’s roster on the remarkably early day of Thursday. The numbers were enormous, with 28 volunteers getting a credit, the highest number since Event #179 in July when we had 30. The crucial thing is that we keep the roster full every week and it is pointless having too many marshals one week and not enough the next, so if you’d like to help on a particular week, then get your requests in in good time, else why not consider running that week and then volunteering the week after when your help may be more important? Brilliantly, we’ve already nearly filled our core roles for the next month, which means we’re only a few volunteers away from being able to host our next 4 or 5 events! Can you help? If you want to be involved, get in touch via our Facebook page (Witton parkrun) or via wittonhelpers@parkrun.com with your name, barcode number and the date you’d like to volunteer and we’ll get you on the roster! The added bonus is that you get the eternal gratitude of your fellow parkrunners and you get your name in lights. To prove the point, this week’s hi-vis heroes were:

Jamie DOWDALL • Sandra SNAPE • Sue DUCKWORTH • Hayley DUCKWORTH • Calvin FERGUSON • Michelle SEARBY • Bryan SEARBY • Diane HARRISON-LEEMING • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • Antony DUCKWORTH • Lynda VERNON • Alan VERNON • Wayne RUSHWORTH • Ian GOODLIFFE • Claire BREWER • Dean HOWARD • Karen RISHTON • Lucy EASTWOOD • Clare EASTWOOD • Niamh ROGERS • Alexander CURRAN • Rob KIT • Charlotte KIT • Scott DINGLE • Niamh ROBERTSON • Emma HAYES • Denise BROGDEN

Our total of 5 first-time volunteers was the highest number in a single week since Event #177 in June 2019, when we had 6. Alongside regular runner Karen Rishton and recent runner Alexander Curran were parkrun newcomers Claire Brewer and Denise Brogden, as well as Niamh Rogers, who is our latest Duke of Edinburgh recruit. Niamh has run a couple of times at Witton and was shown the ropes on Saturday by barcode scanning, under the watchful eye of fellow DofE-er Emma Hayes. It seems she enjoyed it and she did a good job, with only 2 barcodes needing to be written down and she’s already signed up for the next few weeks! Welcome to the team, Niamh. Unusually, it does mean we’ve got two “Niamh R”s doing Duke of Edinburgh at the same time, so Michelle has christened our most recent recruit “New Niamh” to avoid confusion! What could possibly go wrong..?!

It was a significant milestone for one of our volunteers on Saturday too, namely Run Director Bryan Searby, who officially volunteered at Witton for the 200th time! Bryan has only not received credits at Event #40 in June 2016 and Event #88 in July 2017 but as wife and Event Director Michelle Searby says, she has no idea where he was those weeks. However, since she writes the roster, I’m assuming there was a reason! Bryan is an integral part of Witton’s team and having largely given up running due to various personal reasons, he has become our regular timer, ensuring all parkrunners get clicked over the line and training up a variety of fellow timers in the workings of the stopwatch. He has been a timekeeper on 123 occasions and marshalled 35 times, mostly at the bottom of the Beast on what, for a time, was known as ‘Bryan’s Bend’! He’s helped setup on countless occasions but been officially credited at 20 events, along with 17 times as Run Director. His remaining credits have come from tail walking (5 times), pacing (3 times), number checker – a role involved with the finish tokens in our early days of huge attendances (twice) and once in the mysterious ‘Other’ role – who knows what he did that week! 206 credits at 200 events: a phenomenal achievement, Bryan, well done from all of us at Witton and thanks for everything you do!

Last couple of bits from Event #202 now and our attendance of 140 was another stellar week for Witton, the joint-19th highest attendance ever from our 202 events and the fourth new entry into the top 20 in a row. It follows totals of 173 on Christmas Day, 150 for our 200th event and 206 on New Year’s Day, giving a total for the 4 events of 669 parkrunners, the highest cumulative total for 4 runs since Events 7-10 in October 2015, when we had 670 – just one more!

This rapid increase in attendance has seen us quickly rise past 19,000 completed runs at Witton and our 19,000th finisher came this week in the shape of Blackburn Road Runner Cathy Hatch in 106th position! Congratulations, Cathy! A little slice of Witton history. It has taken just 8 events since Witton regular Andrew Wisdom became our 18,000th finisher at Event #194 to reach 19,000 and this is the quickest 1000 runs we’ve recorded since we jumped from 1000 runs at Event #5 to 2000 runs at Event #11 in November 2015 – just 6 events! Long may this continue.

Just one event after Robert Taylor became the latest name to appear twice at Witton, another one joined the party. When my stats threw up the fact that Lewis Smith had visited us for the first time on Saturday, just 6 events since he made his first appearance, I assumed we had an example of someone running under two different barcodes having lost his previous one or something. But upon further investigation, this is definitely not the case! Lewis Smith 1 joined us for Event #196 at the end of November. He is a VM50-54 who was running his 217th parkrun, with half of those coming at Marple parkrun in Stockport. Lewis Smith 2, who joined us on Saturday, was an SM25-29 who was running just his third parkrun, with previous runs at Cuerden Valley and Preston parkruns to his name! The 6 events between Lewis Smith 1 and Lewis Smith 2 joining us is the shortest it has taken a name to be repeated since we had two Mark Butlers in 3 events for Events #152 and #155 respectively! Lewis joins Daniel and David as Smiths with repeat visits to Witton, while we’ve had not two but three Richard Smiths and three Andy Smiths too! We have now had 41 repeat names and 30 of those have been men. Welcome, Lewis!

And with that, we’re just about done. An early heads up for our next significant parkrun: our next celebration will be a very special parkrunning day: February 29th, the first time a Saturday has fallen on Leap Day in parkrun’s relatively short history! At Witton, we are combining this with a special event for Witton 50 Club member and recent Run Director recruit Lorna Pickup, who will be celebrating her 40th birthday that day, a birthday she only truly gets to celebrate every 4 years – so really, she’s only 10! In honour of the decade of her birth, Witton’s 209th event (assuming no unexpected cancellations) will be an 80s fancy dress special, so dust off your leg warmers, shell suits and shoulder pads and come on down to Witton for a trip back to the future!

Until then, we’re on as normal, so I’ll see you down by the pavilion around 8.45am for Event #203!

Have a great week,

Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun