WITTON PARKRUN EVENT #203 – 18th January 2020

Saturday dawned dry and bright but there was a definite nip in the air with temperatures hovering just above freezing as 9am came around. Nevertheless, a bit of cold never stopped a Witton parkrun, although technical gremlins threatened to, with Saturday’s run facing an uncertain fate when our access to the online platform where we process the parkrun results was temporarily down. This meant that while we could hold the run as normal, and compile all the necessary results data through timing, finish tokens and scanning, we had no idea when and, indeed, if we’d be able to process the results, so as Michelle said during the briefing “It’s just a run in the park with friends.” And so it proved to be, with a lovely atmosphere on Saturday between the 162 parkrunners who came to run, jog and walk the Beast this weekend, another stellar attendance in our streak of stellar attendances. The cold had left the small hill perilously slippery with a thin covering of surface ice, enough just to cause your treads to lose traction and threaten to put you down on your face! Most Wittoners sensibly took to the grass on either side but apart from that one area of minor concern the rest of the course was in fine fettle as ever.

First to cross the line was Witton first timer Andy Drugan in 20:57. This was Andy’s 5th parkrun but upon clicking on his results I discovered a peculiarity about his parkrunning: Saturday was his first parkrun for nearly 5 years! His previous parkruns were all at South Manchester parkrun, with 2 appearances in 2013, one in 2014 and his most recent one coming on the last day of January 2015. This was Andy’s first first finish at a parkrun and a great way to return after such a long time away! Well done Andy, we hope this isn’t the last we see of you at Witton!

Second to finish was Trawden AC’s Paul Brown in 21:20. Like Andy, this was Paul’s first time at Witton but his 113th parkrun overall. His time has been equally split between Burnley and Pendle parkruns, with 42 runs apiece and Witton became his 26th different parkrun venue. It is only the second time Paul has been on the podium at an event he has only visited once, having previously finished 3rd at Erdigg parkrun in Wrexham, while he has also managed 2nd at Burnley and been first finisher at Pendle. Great Witton debut, Paul!

Third place went to Witton regular Matt Lovick in 21:33. This was Matt’s 22nd parkrun and 16th at Witton and marked his first appearance on the Witton podium since he finished 2nd at Event #196 in November, while it was his 5th appearance on the podium at Witton overall. Welcome back, Matt, it’s great to see you getting back to your best!

First female was Red Rose Road Runner Samantha Edwards in 23:07. This was Samantha’s 79th parkrun and third at Witton, with nearby Preston her most-visited venue on 27. Samantha became the 33rd woman to be first female at Witton on more than one occasion, after previously being first female on her Witton debut at Event #129 in May 2018. Her other visit to Witton came that same year, for Event #150 in November so this was her first visit to Witton in over a year but speaking to her afterwards she had very warm words for Witton despite her long absence. She had good reason to celebrate too, earning a new Witton PB by exactly a minute from her Witton debut. We hope to see you again soon, Samantha!

Second female was Blackpool Freedom Runner Leah Hammond in 26:18. This was Leah’s 85th parkrun and second at Witton, after visiting last Saturday too. An impressive 77 of Leah’s parkruns have come at her home run of Blackpool, with Witton joining Lytham Hall (3), Fleetwood Promenade (2) and Burnley (1) parkruns as her only other venues so far. This is an even more impressive achievement for Leah when you factor in that none of her other venues have anything even remotely comparable to the Beast in terms of incline. And she improved on her return too, running a new PB, 8 seconds faster than last weekend – well done, Leah!

Third female was Blackburn Road Runner Reanna Evans in 27:19. This was Reanna’s 12th parkrun and third at Witton, matching Pennington Flash parkrun near Leigh as her most-visited venue, although all 3 of those runs came way back in 2015! Reanna is by no means a regular parkrunner, first running with those 3 runs at Pennington Flash in 2015, before running twice at Mile End parkrun in London in November 2017 and April 2018. She also ran at Preston parkrun and Conwy parkrun in Wales in 2018, as well as making her Witton debut on Christmas Day, while in 2019 she ran once at Witton, once at Conwy and also at Krakow parkrun in Poland! Prior to Saturday, her most recent run came at Conwy in July last year! Impressively, despite her occasional parkrunning, Reanna has been third female at Witton on both of her last two visits! Well done Reanna, we hope to see a bit more of you in 2020!

Milestone time!!! And we had yet another t-shirt earned on Saturday, when Mike Crowther crossed the line in 60th position to complete his 50th parkrun and earn his red milestone t-shirt from parkrun HQ! Mike’s parkrun journey began a long time ago, with his first run being completed at Preston parkrun in May 2012 – 2 months before the London 2012 Olympics got underway! He didn’t return until November 2014, again at Preston, and completed 20 runs there between November 2014 and May 2015 – all before Witton had begun in August that year! After another parkrun hiatus, Mike’s next appearance came in June 2017 at Blackpool parkrun, where he ran again in July, before running in August at Lytham Hall parkrun. A further 6 runs came in 2018, 5 at Blackpool and a first visit to Fleetwood Promenade parkrun, before 2019 saw 16 runs including 9 runs at Preston, 4 at Blackpool, 2 at Fleetwood and a single outing at new venue Fell Foot parkrun in the Lake District. He began 2020 with a first ever New Year’s Day parkrun at Lytham Hall and enjoyed it so much he made it a double later that morning at Blackpool! A run at Preston last Saturday brought up number 49 and Mike decided to mark it with a first ever visit to Witton, his 6th parkrun venue, with 31 of them coming at Preston and another 12 at Blackpool. Mike becomes the 10th person to earn their 50 t-shirt on their first ever appearance at Witton and the 20th person to earn a t-shirt of any colour on their first appearance at Witton! Congratulations on your achievement, Mike, it’s been a long time coming and we’re glad you chose to celebrate it at Witton. Here’s to a speedier route to your black 100 t-shirt!

Others celebrating notable milestones this weekend included:

  • Aimie Wormald (Darwen Running Group) – 220 runs
  • Lynda Vernon – 170 runs
  • Peter Toogood – 130 runs
  • Miriam Hamilton (Blackburn Road Runners) – 80 runs
  • Maria Tierney (Lytham St. Annes RRC) – 75 runs
  • Michael Blacklidge (Blackburn Harriers) – 70 runs
  • Janine Denney (Thornton Cleveleys) – 70 runs
  • Andrew Wisdom – 60 runs
  • Andrew Stewart – 30 runs
  • Paul Snape – 20 runs
  • Kathryn Barlow – 10 runs
  • Jordan Snape – 1 run
  • David Large (Tri Preston) – 1 run
  • Ethan Potter – 1 run
  • Saif Firfire – 1 run
  • Phillip Halliwell – 1 run
  • Maria James – 1 run
  • Jill Smith – 1 run
  • Olivia Bradshaw – 1 run
  • John Bradshaw – 1 run
  • Julie Keys (Rossendale Harriers) – 1 run
  • Emily Atyeo – 1 run
  • Lee Hodkinson – 1 run
  • Isobel Cordingley – 1 run
  • Hafsah Kashif – 1 run
  • Rakia Hameed – 1 run

Another 15 first time parkrunners joined us on Saturday! Welcome to parkrun! We hope you enjoyed you first experience and return for more soon! If you found it hard, don’t worry – we all do! But I promise you’ll improve if you stick at it: you’ll get faster, get to know more people and become a real part of the Witton parkrun family! We have now had 31 parkrun newcomers join us in the past 2 events, as many as the previous 8 events combined! This is the most “new parkrunners” we’ve had for two consecutive events since Events #45 and #46 in July and August 2016 when we had 35!

And those on the verge of a milestone include:

  • David Pollitt (Leigh Harriers) – 179 runs
  • Allan Sumner (Lancaster & Morecambe AC) – 149 runs
  • Peter Nicholson – 129 runs
  • Patricia McDonald (Red Rose Road Runners) – 99 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)
  • Samantha Edwards (Red Rose Road Runners) – 79 runs
  • Andy Whitlam (Thornton Cleveleys) – 59 runs
  • Ryan Walker (Ramsbottom Running Club) – 49 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)
  • Catherine MacLachlan – 49 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)
  • John Hickman (Thornton Cleveleys) – 39 runs
  • Bev Mason (Thornton Cleveleys) – 39 runs
  • Paul McKenna – 29 runs

We had another full roster on Saturday, continuing our excellent start to 2020 on the volunteering front. Indeed, our 25 hi-vis heroes was the highest since Event #187 in September last year, if we ignore last Saturday’s 28! It’s great that we’ve had such a strong start to the year, and really does make all the difference to the atmosphere when we’re well supported. We have plenty of marshalling spots in the coming weeks so if you want to help out, either again or for the first time, then please do get in touch with us, either via our Facebook page (Witton parkrun) or through wittonhelpers@parkrun.com. You’ll get plenty of support on the day and we’ll be very grateful! We had 4 more first time volunteers among our number on Saturday, including regular Blackburn Road Runner John Dey and Clayton-le-Moors Harrier Paul Thompson, who was volunteering to help enable son Oliver to catch him up at Witton ahead of them joining the Witton 50 Club soon! They both marshalled, offering support as we exited the first loop and then when we desperately needed it, in John’s case, at the top of the Beast! Our full list of hi-vis heroes was:

Hayley DUCKWORTH • Ben SMITHERS • Michelle SEARBY • Bryan SEARBY • Kathryn KINNEY • Diane HARRISON-LEEMING • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • John DEY • Lynda VERNON • Alan VERNON • Ian GOODLIFFE • Angela SHANKS • Paul THOMPSON • Chris COOPER • Jared POTTER • Clare EASTWOOD • Alice EASTWOOD • Niamh ROGERS • Erica DOYLE • Michelle HEYWOOD • Charlotte KIT • Scott DINGLE • Niamh ROBERTSON • Emma HAYES

Special mention to Blackburn Road Runner Kathryn Kinney, who volunteered at Witton for the second time ever, but a full 200 events after she previously helped us out! Kathryn first marshalled at Event #3 in September 2015 and as she’s currently injured, she decided to come and offer her support this weekend for the longest gap to date between volunteering stints! See? It’s never too late to return – thanks, Kathryn, don’t leave it so long next time!

Round-up time and our excellent recent attendance continued on Saturday, with another 162 parkrunners visiting Witton for Event #203. This is the fifth consecutive event that we’ve had more than 100 participants, the longest consecutive streak we’ve had since our first 11 events all had more than 100 in our infancy! 162 is the third-highest total in that run, behind our 206 on New Year’s Day and our 173 on Christmas Day, while our cumulative total for the past 5 events is 831, the highest total we’ve had since Events 6-10 in October 2015 – these numbers are truly phenomenal, long may they continue!

Witton 100 Club member Scott Smith ran his 22nd consecutive Witton parkrun without missing an event on Saturday, moving him further up the records list of this particular statistic. He has now overtaken Liam Bennison and Anwar Khan’s second longest ever streak of 21 to move into third place overall, behind only Bernie Johnson’s 25 and Anwar’s longest streak of 37! We continue to watch in anticipation!

Believe it or not, on Saturday, we had no fewer than four new names added to our repeat names list! One of these, young Isobel Cordingley, I suspect of being a case of the same person running under different barcodes, but incredibly the other three all appear to be different people who’ve run at Witton under the same name. First, was Karen Smith of Red Rose Road Runners who finished in 81st position in 31:27. Karen is a VW40-44 who was running her 27th parkrun, with Preston her most visited venue with 12 runs. However, Karen Smith 1 is a member of Rossendale Triathlon Club: also a VW40-44, she first visited us for Event #72 in March 2017 and most recently visited for the third time at Event #155 on Christmas Day 2018! And although both ladies are VW40-44s, I can confirm they are definitely different people as both have previously ran at different parkruns on the same day!

The next instance, I was truly astonished to discover was a repeat name and not a double barcoder as it is the very uncommon Bev Mason! Bev Mason 1 was a VW40-44 who ran three times at Witton between Event #150 and #153 in November and December 2018 as a member of Darwen Running Group and has run 13 parkruns in total. Bev Mason 2 is a VW50-54 who joined us for the first time on Saturday, her 39th parkrun in total and ran for Thornton Cleveleys running club. While it may not be the most unusual name in the world, for both women to go by ‘Bev’ and furthermore to sign up to parkrun by that name, rather than the more formal ‘Beverley’ is coincidental!

The final person to join this list was Emma Holden: perhaps the oddest of the bunch as this was the second Emma Holden in two weeks to visit Witton! Emma Holden 1 was an SW20-24 who ran her first ever parkrun at Witton just last Saturday at Event #202. Emma Holden 2, meanwhile, was an SW25-29 running her third parkrun after previous runs at Newtown parkrun in Wales. The fact that one of those runs came last weekend confirms that these two Emmas must be different people too! You wait 201 events for an Emma Holden to come to Witton and then 2 come along in successive weeks! The only occurrences of repeat names that can be quicker than Emma’s example are Simon Moore, both of whom came for the first time at Event #113 in January 2018 and Sarah Walsh, both of whom attended our inaugural event in August 2015! We have now had 45 repeated names appear at Witton, 15 of which have been female.

We were joined by large contingents from our nearby coastal parkruns on Saturday. 14 members of Thornton Cleveleys Running Club with over 800 parkruns between them joined us, 11 of them making their Witton debuts, while Roy Tomlinson, Phil Hayes and Steve Burgess were all joining us for the second time and marked their returns with new PBs, ranging from just 5 seconds for Roy to a whopping 4 minutes 22 seconds for Phil! Witton marked the first leg of their Club Championship and I was fortunate enough to chat to several of the members both during and after Saturday’s run and all enjoyed the challenge of Witton, despite it being substantially different to their usual parkrun locations of Blackpool, Lytham Hall and Fleetwood Promenade. Thanks for coming guys, and we hope to see you again soon!

We had 8 more visitors from Blackpool Freedom Runners too, including 6 first timers and returns for second female Leah Hammond, Chris Hammond and Mya Hammond who all visited last weekend too! Indeed, 7 of our 8 Freedom Runners had the surname Hammond, clearly very much a family affair! After their visit, we received a message from Chris, recommending we check out the write-up for their visit on the Freedom Runners Facebook page. Having sought it out, I can see exactly why – it was incredible! Andrea Hammond has managed to sum up the magic and challenge of Witton in one hilarious account, which we have asked permission to repeat here. Andrea was only too happy to share her views with the world, so here they are in all their glory:

Witton parkrun – for anyone that loves mountaineering, or jogging up Ben Nevis for fun, this is the course for you!

It starts off nice and flat, very scenic for a whole 30 seconds…. then, boom, the mother of all hills! At this point you think ‘right, let’s get this bad boy out of the way’.

Oh, no, no, no!

Oh, how wrong we were… This is the baby hill. Daddy hill is waiting around the corner!

On arriving at the top of the hill with full on altitude sickness, nosebleed, paramedic on standby, offering to sell my child for air, I thought bugger catching the parents – I can’t even catch my breath! Then, in the distance, there’s a downhill slope that goes on and on… I didn’t know if to moon walk, skip or roll down this little beauty… If you like mud, lumps of rock and swamps, roll down that bad boy like a hippo.

The course is nice and steady again for a while, mud up to your ears, happily pootling along when, all of a sudden, it goes cold and dark and you hear the distant sound of asthmatic wheezing runners… the echoing of crying victims… you look up… and boooom, your soul leaves your trainers!!

What the actual hell is that?!

That’s not a hill…hills finish? Why are there clouds near the top? There are no signs of life here, it’s that steep even the sheep have sacked it off – they are huddled in a corner, sniggering.

Brace yourselves, as this is one MO FO of a hill. Halfway up the Beast, through blurred eyes, no air to even inflate half a lung, crawling through the bodies of former runners…you spot…can it be? Oh my God, it’s a hi-vis hero in the distance! Slowly, you crawl to him, begging him to shoot you, trying to mouth… ‘water…help me hi-vis hero, help me’, giving him cash for a piggy back, offering a kidney – anything to be dragged the last metre up the hill!

You reach the top and see the run down…it’s all downhill…thank you, God… You dance down to the bottom like your Julie Andrews in a casting of the ‘Sound of Music’.

Then it’s over…the final torture has ended…or is it...?

The happy hi-vis hero man at the bottom of the hill, jangling his cow bells, grinning away, loving life says those immortal words: “It’s a two-lap course”!!

That man is now picking his teeth out of the mud, and that cow bell, although now inserted somewhere warm and dark, can still be heard jangling in the distance.

But apart from that, it’s a great run and I will do it again.

Andrea Hammond

As someone who has run 163 Witton parkruns and 151 times on the Beast, I can still relate to a surprising amount of Andrea’s account and I’m sure many other Wittoners will also recognise their own experiences on the Beast, especially their first encounters! The crucial bit is where Andrea says it’s a great run and that she plans to return. That’s great to hear, and far from putting her fellow Freedom Runners off a visit, the club is planning a mass visit in the summer months! We look forward to welcoming you back guys, thanks for coming and thanks for the kind words! Now find some hills to practise on in the next few months!!!

Time to wrap this up, but not before another reminder of our next special event at the end of February: for the first time in our history, Witton can hold a parkrun on Leap Day – February 29th, 2020 is a Saturday! And it’s even more special for us, as Run Director and Witton 50 Club member Lorna Pickup happens to celebrate her 40th birthday on that day, only the 10th she’s been able to celebrate on her actual birthday! To mark this milestone, Witton is hosting an 80s fancy dress-themed parkrun so dust off your 80s wardrobe and come on down! We look forward to celebrating Lorna’s birthday in style!

As for Saturday, I’m Run Director so I’ll see you all bright and early for what I hope is a relatively uneventful parkrun – at least on the non-running front!

See you then,

Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun