WITTON PARKRUN #204 – 25th January 2020

Event #204 was one of those rare beasts among Witton parkruns – one without an appearance from a certain Michelle Searby. Our esteemed Event Director was attending the National Running Show in Birmingham this weekend and, having set off early on Saturday morning, her involvement in this week’s run was in co-ordinating the volunteer roster during the week and ensuring all the electronic equipment was cleared and charged ahead of the weekend – so she still gets a volunteering credit! In her absence, I was somewhat dubiously left in charge. On a week when I was already down to Run Direct, I had to conduct the pre-run briefing and also perform the nerve-wracking task of processing the results – I even found time to take some photos along the way!


The usual pre-parkrun hubbub was in evidence on Saturday!

The run itself passed off without serious incident; the weather was mild with a bit of a chill for the volunteers standing still, but last week’s ice was a thing of the past, as was the fog which had hung over Blackburn for a large portion of the week. We welcomed another 130 people who came to run, jog and walk the Beast this weekend, continuing our excellent recent attendance record, with another 9 of you completing your first ever run with us this weekend!

First Timers

A healthy gathering for Peter Nicholson's First Timers Briefing!

First finisher this weekend was Accrington Road Runner Glen Goodwin in 19:32. This was Glen’s 62nd parkrun and exactly half of them (31) have been with us at Witton. This was Glen’s first parkrun of 2020 and his first visit to Witton since October, when he set his PB of 19:19. This was the 5th time Glen has been Witton’s first finisher and the 4th time in his past 5 visits. This moves him up to 8th place on his own among male first finishers at Witton, 2 behind RIbble Valley Harrier Chris Barnes in 7th. Great to see you back, Glen!


Flying feet for Glen as he sprints for the finish line!

Second to finish was returning Wittoner Jared Potter in 19:47. This was Jared’s 102nd parkrun and 7th at Witton and marks his debut on the Witton podium. Recent run report readers will remember that Jared joined us two events ago for his 100th parkrun, his first appearance at Witton since his first 4 parkruns, after running for much of the past few years in and around Manchester. He clearly enjoyed it, setting a new Witton PB that day before returning a week later for Event #203, where he very kindly offered to be junior Wittoner Liam Bennison’s speedy responsible adult for the day. Returning again this week, Jared showed a remarkable turn of speed, earning another new PB of 2 minutes and 1 second to run sub-20 at Witton for the first time. Well done, Jared!


Jared (black) duelled with Glen for much of Saturday's parkrun!

Third place went to Witton regular Matt Lovick in 21:03. This was Matt’s 23rd parkrun and 17th at Witton and this was his 5th time on the third step of the podium, while he also has a second place to his name. Matt spent a large portion of Saturday’s run locked in a close fight for 3rd before it was gifted to him when his rival had to slow down due to a stitch! Although he was happy with his run, he scoffed the suggestion that it could be a PB, saying his time that day had come as a surprise even to him and he wasn’t sure how long it would take him to get there again. Yet, come the results, and lo and behold, it was 21:03 – a new PB by a full 8 seconds! Matt has set himself goals of earning his red 50 t-shirt this year and running a sub-21 parkrun on the Beast: well, by the end of January he’s only 3 seconds off part 2 of that challenge! Great running, Matt!


Matt was in determined form on the way to a new PB

First female was Witton 50 Club member Jane Magee in 10th position in 23:25. This was Jane’s 77th parkrun and 59th at Witton and marked the 30th occasion she has been first finisher, extending her record once again. This was the highest overall finishing position Jane has had at Witton since she was also 10th at Events #195 and #196 in October last year. Another great run, Jane!


Another first place for Jane on Saturday!

Second female was recent Wittoner Elizabeth McElhinney in 32nd position in 26:50. This was Elizabeth’s 15th parkrun and her 8th at Witton, which are all her most recent 8 parkruns since November 2018. Elizabeth has often run with her son Daniel but her two most recent visits have been on her own and, having been 4th female a week ago, she went two steps better this week for her first parkrun podium. And it’s no wonder, with a second successive Witton PB, going sub-27 for the first time – well done, Elizabeth!


A first Witton podium for Elizabeth (blue) on Saturday!

Third female was teenager Ruby Cain in 38th position in 27:44. This was Ruby’s 4th parkrun and all 4 have come at Witton since she made her debut at our 4th birthday event in August last year. This was her first parkrun since the end of September and marked her first appearance on the Witton podium, bettering her 5th placed female finish when she earned her PB of 27:22 last time out at Event #187. Let’s hope we see much more of you in 2020, Ruby!


Ruby's first parkrun since September ended in a podium!

Milestone time!!! And this week there were 2 noteworthy running milestones including a new t-shirt owner and a new Witton club member! First, to our t-shirt earner: Blackburn Harrier Harry Wilkinson ran for the 10th time on Saturday and as a JM11-14, this means he has now earned his white junior milestone t-shirt from parkrun HQ! Harry ran his first parkrun at Event #106 in November 2017, at Witton, finishing in 36:26. A week later, he ran at nearby Hyndburn parkrun, and ran for the next 3 weeks he returned to Witton to be on 5 parkruns by the end of 2017. Just two runs, both at Witton, came in 2018, followed by a run at Whitley Bay parkrun in the North East in June 2019 and a return to Witton for Event #194 in November. 10 events later, and Harry returns to complete his 10th parkrun, ending up just 1 second off a new Witton PB, set back at Event #107 in December 2017. Congratulations on your achievement, Harry, we look forward to seeing you a little more regularly in the future as you make your way towards your red milestone t-shirt!


Harry will be wearing a different white t-shirt very soon!

Speaking of 50 milestones, Witton gained its 54th member of the Witton 50 Club in the form of regular Wittoner John Kearney in 18th position in 25:09. John ran his first parkrun at Burnley parkrun in July 2018, first running at Witton a week later, at Event #135. The cousin of another familiar Witton face, Paul Allen, he started regularly joining Paul, running 14 times at Witton in the second half of 2018, including on Christmas Day. 2019 started on New Year’s Day at Witton, one of 32 visits through the year, including a second Christmas Day run, and John earned his red 50 t-shirt alongside Cousin Paul at Event #189 in October. Paul has started a new job, which means Saturday mornings are not always possible and so John has now outstripped his cousin in both overall parkruns and visits to Witton. He has consistently improved his times too: from a first Witton run of 35:12, he set 3 PBs in his next 3 visits to come down to 30:32 and set 3 more PBs by the end of the year, culminating on Christmas Day of all days with a PB of a minute and a half from the Saturday 3 days earlier, to go into 2019 with a PB of 28:09. His improvements continued, with 3 more PBs before the end of March, reducing his time further still to 26:31. After a summer lull, the PBs returned in the autumn, with 4 PBs in 6 Witton visits to a superb new best of 25:02. That was it for 2019 and he has improved once already this year, going sub-25 for the first time for a new best of 24:51 – that’s an improvement of 10 minutes and 21 seconds in 50 visits over 18 months, astonishing progress, John! He has also volunteered for us on 4 occasions, 3 times as a marshal. John has achieved his 50 Wittons in just 70 events, an impressive rate of attendance of just over 71%. This is the fastest someone has achieved 50 Wittons since Terry Gray managed it in 66 events at Event #195 and the joint-13th fastest of anyone, a list headed by injured Wittoner Bernie Johnson, who achieved his first 50 Wittons in the astonishing quick time of 56 events. Welcome to the club, John!


A wave from the latest member of the Witton 50 Club, wearing his 50 t-shirt!

Others celebrating notable milestones this week included:

Peter Nicholson – 130 runs

Mark Almond (Blackburn Harriers) – 75 runs

Paul McKenna – 30 runs

Adam McCombs (Community Church Blackburn) – 25 runs

Zakariya Manjra – 25 runs

Michael Sinkinson – 20 runs

Raymond Lapa – 10 runs

John Quigley – 1 run

Curtis Garrett – 1 run

Paul Haywood – 1 run

Elliot Ivers – 1 run

Harry Quigley – 1 run

Victoria Birtwistle – 1 run

Ella Birtwistle – 1 run

Carole Griffin – 1 run

Susan Davies – 1 run

Adam Mc

Adam McCombs (waving) is halfway to his red milestone t-shirt!

Another 9 of you came along for your first ever experience of parkrun on Saturday! Well done on earning your first parkrun credit, we hope you enjoyed your first encounters with the Beast, and you return for more soon! Hopefully, you saw that it really is as friendly and supportive as you’ve heard, and you realise it’s OK to take it at your own pace! I can promise that if you keep coming back, you’ll improve your fitness and your speed and your PB will soon improve! Only 49 more to go for a free t-shirt too!


These lovely ladies were enjoying their parkrun on Saturday - and I believe one of them was Carole Griffin doing her first ever parkrun!

Those on the verge of a milestone include:

Jon Carberry (Red Rose Road Runners) – 209 runs

Rebecca Simms (Rossendale Triathlon Club) – 74 runs

Graeme Openshaw (Astley & Tyldesley Road Runners) – 69 runs

Julie Gaskell (CSSC Sports & Leisure) – 69 runs

Sarah Roberts (Trawden AC) – 59 runs

Terry Gray – 59 runs

Fiona Eaves (Red Rose Road Runners) – 39 runs

Richard Taylor (Blackburn Harriers) – 24 runs

Adam Macquarrie – 24 runs

Tracy Fielding-Martin (Ramsbottom Running Club) – 24 runs

Janet Greenhalgh (Darwen Dashers) – 24 runs

Stephen John Johnson (Riversway Roadrunners) – 9 runs

Harry Roberts (Barlick Fell Runners) – 9 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)

Adam Mac

Adam Macquarrie is one away from 25 parkruns!

Another strong week on the volunteering front, with 25 people getting a volunteering credit this week, including a few who turned up on the morning offering their services. Our full roster of hi-vis heroes was:

Michelle SEARBY • Bryan SEARBY • Daniel HAMILTON • Catherine FERRO • Diane HARRISON-LEEMING • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • Andrew PICKUP • Lynda VERNON • Alan VERNON • Wayne RUSHWORTH • Peter NICHOLSON • Debbie ASHTON • Paul THOMPSON • Claire BREWER • Miriam HAMILTON • Tina GLOVER • Lucy EASTWOOD • Clare EASTWOOD • Shiobhan ROGERS • Niamh ROGERS • Aoife ROGERS • Niamh ROBERTSON • Emma HAYES • Denise BROGDEN


Timers Bryan Searby and Niamh Rogers on duty on Saturday!

Special thanks to tail walker Catherine Ferro, regular Wittoner Tina Glover and New Niamh’s mum and younger sister, Shiobhan and Aoife Rogers for volunteering at Witton for the first time: the latter three all as marshals. It really does make so much difference having a packed roster, with support all around the course and eyes and ears for any incidents. January 2020 has already seen 13 parkrunners offer their help at Witton for the first time, compared to 10 by the end of January 2018 and just 5 at this time last year.

Catherine and Dan

Catherine Ferro seemed to enjoy her first stint of volunteering!

I can barely believe I’m saying this but we are pretty much sorted for next Saturday’s run already, with all the core roles filled, a tail walker in place and no less than 6 marshals already signed up, including 2 more first timers who have run at Witton on numerous occasions! That said, there are still spaces available, so get your volunteer requests in early to fill up the last few spots! We also have plenty of marshalling spots available for the remainder of February so if you’d like to give something back for the first time, please do get in touch with us, we’d be delighted to welcome you to the team! You’ll be given any training and support on the day, get to see parkrun from a completely different perspective and earn the gratitude of 100 parkrunners who can take part, all while doing your own mental health a world of good. In a parkrun survey conducted last year, 84% of those surveyed said that volunteering at parkrun had made them feel happier. So, what are you waiting for?! You can get yourself signed up by getting in touch via our Facebook page (Witton parkrun) or by emailing wittonhelpers@parkrun.com with your name, parkrun barcode number and date you’d like to volunteer for and we can get you on the roster!

D of E

Our D of E girls, New Niamh, Emma (facing the camera) and Niamh putting the cones out before the runners come through!

And just like the runners, the other perk to volunteering is your own exclusive parkrun t-shirt, available after earning volunteering credits on 25 separate occasions, a feat achieved this week by Witton regular Clare Eastwood, who became the 44th person to earn a purple t-shirt at Witton and the first since Ian Goodliffe on Christmas Day! Clare is a model parkrunner, who runs regularly but also gives something back at least once a month. Indeed, she has earned her 25 volunteering days t-shirt before she has even reached 25 parkruns completed, currently standing on 22 since she made her debut running at Event #151 in November 2018. What’s more, unusually, all but 2 of her 25 volunteering credits have come in non-running capacities, with two stints as tail walker being joined by 16 occasions as marshal, 4 as timekeeper, 2 as barcode scanner and once handing out the finish tokens! Congratulations on your achievement Clare and thanks for all your help over the past 15 months at Witton! Daughter Lucy won’t be far behind her either: she’s currently on 23 volunteering credits herself!


Clare will be sporting her purple volunteering t-shirt very soon, closely followed by daughter Lucy!

Meanwhile, it was a somewhat apt day for me to be responsible for so much of the smooth running of Witton’s 204th event, as it marked my 150th different volunteering day at Witton! Now, I am the first to point out that I am not some sort of volunteering saint: only 28 of my 150 volunteering days have been in non-running capacities, 11 times as Run Director, 10 times as a marshal, 4 times as Barcode Scanner and 3 times as Timekeeper, with the rest coming in roles that could be (but weren’t always) combined with earning a running credit. I’ve been tail walker 3 times, been credited as a pacer on two occasions, helped with post-event closedown on 25 occasions and delivered the First Timers Briefing 14 times. The remaining 78 times, I’ve been credited with writing this very Run Report, a role that is by no means crucial to the smooth operation of a Saturday parkrun, but I hope you’ll agree helps foster the strong community spirit present among the Witton parkrunning family. And while I do it for my own pleasure as much as for you lot to enjoy, it does take time and effort to produce each week, as I’m sure you’ll understand. There are other roles I’ve been credited with in addition to the ones listed above on certain days: I’ve taken photographs on more days than I’ve been credited for them, processed the results a few times (including this week) but usually alongside one of the core roles and been credited with token sorting on a few occasions too. I’ve become the 4th person to volunteer at 150 or more Witton events, after the Searbys and my dad, Alan Vernon.

Me and Bernie

You can't see my face, but here's me in a previous volunteering stint!

Last thoughts on Event #204 now and for the sixth successive event, we had an attendance in excess of 100, the first time this has happened since all our first 11 events had more than 100 participants for the novelty of a new venue, the last of these being in November 2015. The 130 people who took part on Saturday actually represented the lowest number in that streak, 10 lower than Event #202 a fortnight ago, so perhaps numbers are starting to return to their usual levels, but we shall wait and see! In the meantime, the 130 participants take our cumulative total over the past 6 events to 961, the highest we’ve had since Events 5-10 in September and October 2015, when we had 1004.


A chance to compare notes on each other's runs in the finishing area!

The recent attendance spike has also affected our year-on-year attendance tracking. Year 5, which started at our 4th birthday event at the end of August 2019, has now seen 2204 attendees as of the end of January. This is over 250 higher than Year 4 (1937) and second only to Year 1, when our first two attendances of 273 and 263 helped us to an end-of-January total of 2844. Meanwhile, in calendar year terms, at the end of January 2020, we have already seen 652 runs, jogs and walks on the Beast, smashing last year’s previous record of 411 by over 200! It will be interesting to see how this develops as the year goes on.

Parkrun Year GraphCalendar Year Graph

You'll forgive me a graph or two I'm sure: on top, an analysis of the cumulative attendance total for the parkrun year, with 2019-20 (the dark blue line) ahead of all but 2015-16 (the light blue line), meanwhile on the bottom the same information but for calendar years, with 2020 off to a strong start, even outstripping 2019 (yellow)!

Witton 100 Club member Scott Smith ran again this week, extending his consecutive streak to 23 in a row, 2 off Bernie Johnson’s 2nd place standing of 25. The next longest streaks currently among Wittoners are Pat Procter and Andrew Wisdom, both of whom have completed the last 8 Witton parkruns – some way to go yet for either of them!


Flying feet for Scott Smith as he completed a 23rd straight Witton parkrun!

Fellow 100 Club member Aimie Wormald of Darwen Running Group ran her 221st parkrun on Saturday. As many Wittoners will be aware, Aimie is around 7 months pregnant with her second child but, as was the case with baby Jaymes, has continued to parkrun for as long as possible. She has decided Saturday was her final ‘running’ parkrun before the big day, but she has still signed up to tail walk throughout February, aiming to get to at least 225 parkruns before she has to stop fully! Nearly there now, Aimie – you continue to astound us all!


Aimie (and bump!) en route to another completed parkrun!

No new names on the repeat names this week, but something interesting did happen with previous entrants: at Event #173 in May 2019, Trawden AC’s Sarah Roberts became the second person by that name to have run at Witton, after Darwen Running Group’s Sarah Roberts had first joined us at Event #19 in January 2016. Darwen’s Sarah has now run 28 times at Witton, but Trawden’s Sarah had never joined us again…until Saturday. Trawden Sarah ran for the second time with us, finishing in 66th position in 31:46…and just 6 seconds later, in 70th position, Darwen Sarah crossed the line in 31:52! Both Sarah Roberts ran at Witton on Saturday, finishing within 4 positions of each other! I wonder if they were aware of each other! This is the 7th time two people of the same parkrun name have run at the same Witton event, and the first time since both Andrew Taylors took part at Event #155 on Christmas Day 2018! And as an added niche quirk I’ve just noticed, Trawden Sarah has run 59 parkruns (mostly at Pendle parkrun): this is exactly half of Darwen Sarah’s 118 parkruns (where Witton remains her highest total!)

The Two Sarahs!

Picture Perfect: on the left (in black), Darwen Running Group's Sarah Roberts, on the right (in red), her namesake, Trawden AC's Sarah Roberts!

Notices now, and a few important things to discuss before we finish. We had a whopping 11 unknowns on Saturday, the most we’ve had since Event #137 in August 2018 when we also had 11. Indeed, it is the first time we’ve hit double figures since Event #148 in October 2018 and since then we’ve had 6 unknown-free events instead. Perhaps it is a symptom of our recent attendance spike, with 27 unknowns in the past 3 events alone, as many as in the previous 8 events, but it always makes me sad to see them, especially when there are so many. These are the stories of parkruns that aren’t told: journeys started, PBs earned, milestones getting closer. Some of you may be people who wanted to try it out for the first time to see what it was all about before you sign up: some of our 100 Club members have been part of that particular club, and if that’s the case we hope you enjoyed it and come back soon with your barcode in hand! Some of you may not be bothered about a time or credit, which is of course entirely your choice, but it really doesn’t take much to sign up and there are loads of perks to joining, including the free t-shirts every so often. Of course, some of you may have just mislaid or forgotten your barcode this week, such as Witton core team member Lorna’s husband Andy Pickup, who made a rare appearance at Witton this weekend but didn’t get credited for it (although, knowing Andy, maybe that was part of the plan!). This is always the most frustrating reason for being an unknown, and there are lots of tricks to making sure you never fall victim to the dreaded forgotten barcode. First, print off your barcodes and put them in lots of different places: pop one in your wallet or running pouch; make sure to put a couple in your car (maybe the glove compartment or the door), keep one tucked inside your phone or your shoe. At Witton, we’re more than happy for you to leave a copy in our box at the start/finish area, so you’re never at risk of forgetting it, and many regulars keep their barcodes in there for safekeeping. Parkrun also provide a range of more permanent barcodes for you to use, including a selection of wristbands (one of which I’ve recently bought and am very happy with), plus credit card-sized barcodes and tags that can be attached to your trainers. With so many methods available, you should be able to find something that works for you and, as a result, we are strict adherents to the rules from parkrun HQ: No Barcode, No Time, No Exceptions. Thankfully, I’m not aware of any issues with this on Saturday, but please do be aware of it. If you’ve lost your barcodes and need some new ones, please don’t re-sign up to parkrun, as it won’t recognise all the progress you may already have and confuses the statistics as we have two records for the same person! Instead, follow this link: https://support.parkrun.com/hc/en-us/articles/205632182-How-do-I-find-my-barcode- which will take you to all the advice you need for signing in to your parkrun profile, where you can print off a new set of 6 barcodes with little fuss. All you will need is your parkrun barcode number (the one beginning with A…) which you can find from various sources. If you’re really struggling to find it, let us know and we’ll see if we can help you out. If you are struggling for access to a printer, then again, get in touch with us and we’d be happy to sort you out and bring your barcodes to the next event ourselves! Let’s see if we can soon get back to unknown-free parkrunning at Witton!

Post-Run Chat

Swapping tips: friends of Witton Stacy Feeney, Matt Hayes, Lewis Sinkinson and dad Michael compare notes after Saturday's run!

I also must mention a safety notice: before every parkrun, we remind everyone of the parkrun rules. There aren’t many and aside from ensuring the smooth running of events, some of them are legal requirements for everyone’s safety. One is the barcode rule I have mentioned before, another is to give way to other park users (as we do not have a monopoly on the paths) and then there’s the fact that dogs are permitted, but one per runner and on a short lead, to reduce any risks of trips and falls. Finally, and most seriously, is the rule that parkrunners under the age of 11, while permitted to take part in the full 5k parkruns, must be accompanied at all times by a responsible adult. This is for their own safety, especially on a course like Witton, where we are frequently running through woodland, out of the sight of marshals and other runners, where it is perfectly possible to go missing, get lost or fall and injure yourself. The responsible adult does not have to be a relative: indeed, our most frequent under-11 parkrunner, Liam Bennison, runs with a variety of people who he is not related to, but who have agreed to provide him with a chaperone as he runs his very fast parkruns. If under 11s are faster than relatives though, and no responsible adult has been sought or found, this does not mean they are permitted to run on their own anyway: they must either not run or must run at the speed of their relations further back. We don’t want to discourage any juniors who want to take part, but it really is for their own safety. People found to be breaking these rules can expect to be contacted by either the event team or by the parkrun HQ safeguarding team and are liable to have their results deleted from the event to discourage repeat offending. The minute they turn 11, they are free to run alone, as happened last year with regular Wittoner Oliver Thompson, who after years of running alongside dad Paul, is finally permitted to run by himself after celebrating his 11th birthday. I know lots of you are new to parkrun for the New Year and may not be fully aware of all the rules, but we have to do this for the safety of everybody, particularly the children concerned. I hope you all understand, and if you have any queries, please do contact us via the usual channels where we will be sure to answer your questions.

Dad and Kids

For many, parkrun is a family affair!

A cheerier note to end with, and Saturday 29th February will mark Witton’s first ever Leap Day parkrun, the first time, indeed. in parkrun history that Leap Day and parkrunday have coincided. At Witton, this day is even more special as it marks core team member Lorna Pickup’s 10th official birthday, or her actual 40th birthday, a special day that we at Witton would like to be part of. With that in mind, we are making Event #209 on Leap Day an 80s themed parkrun, so dig out your fancy dress or have a root in your cupboards for some of your old gear (for those of you old enough to have lived through it the first time!) and let’s have a retro parkrun in Lorna’s honour! I’m sure it will be a fun event and I’d encourage you all to enter into the spirit of it in whatever small way you can!


Lorna is jumping for joy at the thought of a parkrun in her honour!

Before that, though, comes Event #205 and our first February parkrun of 2020 – where does the time go?!

See you Saturday,

Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun


You've already had a picture of me in this report: here's Andy Pickup accidentally hiding wife Lorna from view in a lovely portrait of the pair on Saturday!