WITTON PARKRUN EVENT #205 – 1st February 2020

Well, it may be a new era for the nation, but some things never change, and Saturday means another parkrun at Witton as normal, and our first parkrun of February 2020 was a cold affair. Though there was some bright sunshine around creating some beautiful shadows in the woods, a chill wind gusted around, stifling runners’ progress and causing havoc in the finish area, with gusts causing finish tokens to make a break for freedom and anything unaffixed needing to be securely weighted down to have a chance of staying on the table. Nevertheless, over 120 of you made your way down to Witton for Event #205 to run, jog or walk the Beast and, though a few of you ran into some difficulties in completing your runs, we officially had 117 finishers, extending our run of event attendances above 100 to seven.

First to cross the line this week was Tri Preston’s Gareth Dixon in 19:14. This was Gareth’s 11th parkrun and 5th at Witton, all in his past 6 parkruns since July 2019. Witton is now level with Cuerden Valley as Gareth’s most visited venue, but this was his first visit and, indeed, first parkrun since November. He has now been first finisher on his past 4 visits to Witton, moving him up to joint-9th in the all-time Witton male finishing lists, and scored a big new Witton PB on Saturday, knocking 34 seconds off his previous best from Event #194 in November – well done, Gareth!

Second to finish was recent Wittoner Jared Potter in 20:23. This was Jared’s 103rd parkrun and 8th at Witton, also marking his 4th consecutive parkrun at Witton which equals his longest streak with us, after he ran his first 4 parkruns with us way back in October 2017. Jared has run most of his parkruns in the Manchester area, but returned to where it all began last month to run his milestone 100th parkrun, and it’s paying off, with a second successive 2nd place finish and his second fastest Witton parkrun so far – that’s a lot of twos! Great work, Jared!

Third place this week went to Adam Brayford in 20:46. This was Adam’s 17th parkrun and 5th at Witton, since first running with us in October. Adam’s Witton runs are just one behind his number at Burnley (6), where he ran last Saturday, and this was his first time on the parkrun podium, helped by the fact he ran a new PB, knocking nearly a minute off the time he set on Christmas Day – cracking running, Adam!

Our first female this week needs no introduction: that’s right, it’s Witton 50 Club member Jane Magee in 12th position in 23:04. This was Jane’s 78th parkrun and 60th at Witton and marked the 31st occasion on which she’s been first female at Witton, a superb record. This was her fastest run with us since the end of November, when she ran 2 seconds quicker – another excellent effort, Jane!

Second female was frequent Wittoner Becci McCarroll in 19th position in 23:44. This was Becci’s 81st parkrun and 16th at Witton and was her first visit to us of 2020, after last visiting on Christmas Day. Becci earned her best ever overall Witton finishing position, cracking the top 20 for the first time and earned her 1st second female finish after being third female on 3 previous occasions. No wonder either, as she was another person who boarded the PB Express this week, knocking an impressive 1 minute 37 seconds off her previous best from Event #196 in November, going not just sub-24 but sub-25 for the first time – wow, Becci!

Third female wasn’t too far behind Becci: Claire Dagg in 22nd position in 24:25. This was Claire’s 7th parkrun, all of which have been at Witton, since making her debut at Event #163 in February last year. This was Claire’s third time as third female at Witton, in addition to being second female on one occasion too and she also earned her first PB since April last year, knocking 44 seconds off her time from Event #170 – well done, Claire!

Milestone time!!! And for the first time since Event #198 just before Christmas, there were absolutely no milestone t-shirts earned at Witton! That said, we did have a new member of a Witton Club, as Blackburn Road Runner Kate Pomfret ran at Witton once more to join the Witton 100 Club! Kate ran her first ever parkrun at Witton, at our 6th event in October 2015 and ran 6 consecutive events from the start of her parkrun career, before running just twice in the next 34 events, returning just in time to run the week before our first birthday and then attending our birthday event the following week. It was at this point that Kate became a much more regular parkrunner in our second year, running 33 times at Witton and earning her red milestone 50 t-shirt at our 100th event in October 2017. She joined the Witton 50 Club just 2 events later, becoming its 20th inductee and 10th female member, and has steadily risen the ranks since. 2018 started on New Year’s Day at Witton and saw 27 runs over the course of the year, culminating in her 100th parkrun at Event #154 just before Christmas. 2019 was a very different year for Kate: the Blackburn Road Runners alphabet challenge meant a large portion of her year was taken up visiting parkruns across the region to tick off different letters, meaning she was absent from many Witton runs. Additionally, taking up the challenge of cross-country races meant that she could often be found volunteering at Witton rather than running and in total she only recorded 11 runs during the year, her lowest ever Witton total for a full calendar year. She has already run 4 times at Witton in 2020 and she finally joins the Witton 100 Club this week, becoming its 13th member and restoring the female majority as its 7th member from the fairer sex. She has run our 1st, 2nd and 3rd birthday events, our 50th, 100th and 150th events, as well as our New Year’s Day events in 2018 and 2020 and a first Christmas Day parkrun in December last year. In total, she has also volunteered on 20 occasions at Witton, 19 times in a non-running capacity, with 13 marshalling credits to her name, another 6 as a timer and writing the run report just once. Perhaps 2020 will see Kate add her purple t-shirt to her 100 Club membership? I wouldn’t be surprised! Congratulations Kate and thanks for being a valuable member of the Witton community!

Others who earned notable milestones on Saturday included:

  • Jon Carberry (Red Rose Road Runners) – 210 runs
  • George Thompson (Darwen Dashers) – 180 runs
  • Rebecca Simms (Ramsbottom Running Club) – 75 runs
  • Terry Gray – 60 runs
  • David Hurn – 1 run
  • Darren Frith (Blackburn Road Runners) – 1 run
  • James Farrar – 1 run
  • Jackie Smith – 1 run
  • Daniel Gregory – 1 run
  • Joe Gazdula – 1 run
  • Eleanor Hibbert – 1 run
  • Millie Hall – 1 run
  • Ellie Hindle – 1 run
  • Jodey Hindle – 1 run
  • Adam Craig – 1 run
  • Edward Craig – 1 run

We had another 12 first-time parkrunners this week, the 4th time in 6 events that we’ve had more than 10 first-time parkrunners at a parkrun. This is the first time since Events #126 to #131, in April-June 2018, that we’ve had 10 or more first timers at 4 events out of 6. Welcome to parkrun! We hope you all enjoyed your first experience of parkrun and return for many more to come. You’re already one towards your first milestone t-shirt and I can promise if you keep coming, you’ll make new friends and get fitter and faster too! Already in 2020, we’ve seen 59 people begin their parkrun journeys, taking just 5 events since we started on New Year’s Day to hit 50. By comparison, it took 8 events last year to reach 50 and 11 events to exceed the 59 we’ve had already this year – that was at Event #165 in mid-March! It’s great that so many of you have decided to make parkrun part of your New Year’s plans and already 15 of you have completed more than one parkrun, with 6 of you quickly up to 3 events in just 5 runs, including 4 of you having run all 3 at Witton and 9 of you completing a second parkrun soon after the first, with 7 of you having done both at Witton! We all started on 1, many of us with no history of running, and we’re well in excess of 100 now!

Those on the cusp of a milestone include:

  • Matthew Vernon – 199 runs
  • Scott Smith – 179 runs
  • Diane Harrison-Leeming (Blackburn GroupRun) – 139 runs
  • Julie Price – 124 runs
  • Irene Slater (Blackburn GroupRun) – 124 runs (Irene is also on 99 Witton runs!!!)
  • Daisy Royle – 89 runs
  • Bill Dwyer – 89 runs
  • Adam Wright (#FriendsThatRun) – 79 runs
  • Paul Jenkins (Ramsbottom Running Club) – 49 runs (t-shirt alert!!!)
  • Erica Doyle – 39 runs
  • Paul Jeffries (Blackburn Harriers) – 29 runs
  • Tiyra Slaam – 29 runs
  • Julie Graves – 29 runs
  • Matt Lovick – 24 runs
  • Andrew Hopkinson – 19 runs
  • Daniel Smith (Blackburn Harriers) – 9 runs
  • Mark Paterson – 9 runs
  • Shiobhan Rogers – 9 runs
  • Joanne Cordingley (Darwen Running Group) – 9 runs
  • Amy McCombs – 9 runs

Another great volunteering effort from the Witton community with 24 people getting credits for helping make Event #205 a success. The marshals were kept busy with a few trips and slips to deal with but thankfully there was nothing too serious. Another 5 people earned their first volunteering credit at Witton, ranging from Blackburn Harrier Mark Almond, who was an emergency stand-in pacer for young Liam Bennison, tail walker and Witton first timer Tony Coyne, to Stacy Feeney, Ian Coote and Tracy Slater, who all marshalled for the first time, after previously running a combined 40 Wittons between them – thanks guys! This week’s full roster of hi-vis heroes was:

Mark ALMOND • Aimie WORMALD • Michelle SEARBY • Bryan SEARBY • Daniel HAMILTON • Diane HARRISON-LEEMING • Matthew VERNON • Scott SMITH • Lynda VERNON • Alan VERNON • Wayne RUSHWORTH • Peter NICHOLSON • Tony COYNE • Stacy FEENEY • Debbie ASHTON • Chris COOPER • Niamh ROGERS • Rob KIT • Charlotte KIT • Scott DINGLE • Ian COOTE • Tracy SLATER • Niamh ROBERTSON • Emma HAYES

We’ve already made a good start on next Saturday’s roster, with 3 marshals signed up, including one for the first time. Plenty more spots available though, so if you’d like to offer your services, we’d love to hear from you. Don’t worry if you’ve never done it before, it couldn’t be simpler to get involved and you’ll get any advice on what you need to do when you turn up. All we need is your parkrun barcode number to pop you on the roster, so to help out, just get in touch with us either via our Facebook page (Witton parkrun) or via wittonhelpers@parkrun.com and we’ll do the rest! Thank you!

Time for the Event #205 round-up now and there were plenty of talking points after Saturday’s run. As is traditional these days to start with, attendance was once again above 100, for the 7th consecutive event, extending a run not seen since our first 11 events in 2015. The total of 117 was the lowest total in the streak, but given the weather on Saturday, along with the major local event of the Winter Warmer taking place on Sunday, that itself was an impressive total. I keep waiting for the sub-100 weeks to return but, so far, so good! The last 7 events have seen over 1000 people take part in a Witton parkrun, 1078 to be exact, and this is more than the previous 13 events combined! You have to go back to Events 5-11 for a higher cumulative total from 7 events (1118). Thanks to everyone who has been during this spell!

Witton 100 Club member Scott Smith ran once again on Saturday, extending his run of consecutive appearances at Witton to 24 runs, just one away from equalling Bernie Johnson’s second-highest total of 25. He still has some way to go, though, to catch Witton’s most experienced campaigner, Anwar Khan, who ran the first 37 Witton parkruns without missing an event! Impressive consistency, Scott!

Meanwhile, on a similar theme, young Liam Bennison ran on Saturday for the 51st uninterrupted time at Witton. By this, I mean he has run at no other venues other than Witton to record his last 51 parkruns, since running his 14th parkrun at Cuerden Valley parkrun near Preston in July 2018! Naturally, one might expect this record to have been mentioned last week, but it turns out my stats were slightly out, and I thought this week marked 50! Oops! Liam was quite fortunate to earn his 51st in a row, with a little drama around his appearance. As usual, a call was made before Saturday’s run for a companion to little Liam around the 22-minute mark (to audible gasps from those of us further down the field!) and frequent Wittoner Craig Barton very kindly put his hand up. Unfortunately, however, Craig suffered a knee injury during the run trying to keep up with Liam and was forced to drop out with a little over one kilometre to go. Liam’s fellow Blackburn Harrier Mark Almond kindly took up the mantle and accompanied Liam to the finish and all was well. Thanks for offering Craig and get well soon! Liam is only the 4th person to have a run of 50 or more uninterrupted Witton parkruns, with 3 of those runs ongoing, headed by Witton 50 Club member Dorothy Myers, who has run all 83 of her parkruns at Witton! The others are Blackburn Harrier Ian Clarkson, who last weekend ran his 53rd uninterrupted Witton event since April 2016, and Robert Crompton, who ran his first 52 parkruns at Witton before a single visit to Hyndburn last summer ended his streak!

Speaking of Dorothy, she took part at Witton on Saturday for the 83rd time, extending her own record for most Witton events without ever visiting another parkrun, and took part for the first time since Event #198 just before Christmas, after a spell of ill health forced her absence. I’m pleased to report that she is fighting fit again now and celebrated her return with her fastest time since mid-October! Great to see you back, Dot!

Witton 50 Club member Bill Dwyer ran his 89th parkrun on Saturday and his first as a VM70-74! Bill becomes the 22nd VM70-74 to run at Witton and his time of 38:06 immediately moves him into 19th position for the fastest VM70-74 we’ve had. Happy birthday, Bill, from everyone at Witton!

Repeat names seems to be becoming a regular theme of these run reports and believe it or not we had 3 more new additions to this stat this weekend. First, we saw Ramsbottom Running Club’s Paul Jenkins join us for the first time on Saturday, his 49th parkrun overall. Paul’s parkruns have been varied among 21 different venues, with 9 at Bolton and 8 at Heaton Park his most visited venues. A VM40-44, Paul became the second person by his name to run at Witton after VM35-39 Paul Jenkins had previously run Events 70 and 75 in February and April 2017. Our previous Paul Jenkins was unaffiliated to any club and has run 20 parkruns in his career so far, most recently at Dinton Pastures parkrun near Reading in October. Though their ages could line up for the same person, I have confirmed they are different men, as both ran at different parkruns on the same day previously!

We also welcomed our second Jackie Smith to Witton on Saturday, after she had previously visited for Event #181 in August last year. Jackie Smith 1 was a VW50-54 who has run 46 parkruns in total, with all her other 45 coming at nearby Preston parkrun. Jackie Smith 2, who visited on Saturday, was a VW55-59, completing her first ever parkrun with us on Saturday! Once again, helpfully, I can confirm this isn’t a case of someone competing under different barcodes as Jackie Smith 1 ran at Preston this Saturday while Jackie Smith 2 was at Witton!

Astonishingly, however, these pale into insignificance compared to the appearance of VM60-64 Andy Smith, who made his Witton debut on Saturday, running his third parkrun overall after previous parkruns at Preston in 2018 and Hyndburn in December. His run at Witton on Saturday made him the 4th (that’s right FOURTH) Andy Smith to complete the Beast, the most of any name in Witton history, outstripping the 3 Richard Smiths and 3 Emma Taylors we’ve previously had! Our first Andy Smith was present at our very first event in August 2015. A VM45-49, Andy Smith 1 is a Darwen Dasher, who has run 25 times at Witton over the years, most recently at Event #202 last month. Andy Smith 2, a VM30-34, first visited for Event #23 in February 2016 and has run 18 times at Witton, but not since Event #140, our 3rd birthday, in August 2018. Both Andy Smith 1 and 2 ran at Event #27 in March 2016! All was quiet for a while then, until Event #179 in July last year, when Andy Smith 3 visited for the first and – to date – only time. A VM50-54, Witton marked his 59th parkrun and he has now completed 76 parkruns, 61 of which have come at Kingsbury Water parkrun in Birmingham! So, there we have it, four Andy Smiths now, whatever next? What’s more, judging from how close together Andy and Jackie’s barcode numbers are this week, I suspect they may be husband and wife too! And now both part of Witton history – thanks for coming, guys!

In total, we’ve now had 47 people run under the same parkrun name as another person at Witton, comprising 31 men’s names and 16 ladies’ names, of which 27 are almost certainly cases of different men and 8 are definitely different women!

This week also saw us pass 900 unknown runners crossing the line at Witton, with another 7 on Saturday taking us to 901 in total. I discussed the issue with unknown runners in last week’s report, so I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but our rate has certainly increased in recent weeks, with just 7 events needed to get from 850 unknowns to 900 unknowns, the shortest time it’s taken since the jump from 100 unknowns to 150 unknowns between Events 8 and 14 from October to December 2015 took just 6 events. Likewise, 800-900 unknowns has taken 25 events, from Event #180 to Event #205, the fastest since the jump from 600-700, between Events #125 and #148 in April-September 2018, took just 23 events. And simply because we did have a query at the finish area this week, let me remind everybody that in order to receive a time at Witton, we need you to present a physical barcode. Don’t worry if it doesn’t scan, we can sort that out, but we cannot accept barcodes on phones as it is against parkrun rules. There are a range of more permanent barcode solutions available through official parkrun channels, while the classic paper version can be printed off from your parkrun profile. If you’re having any trouble locating your barcodes, please let us know and we can point you in the right direction, while if you are having problems printing off your barcodes for any reason, then again get in touch and we can help you out and bring them to our next event! If you don’t have a barcode, the parkrun rules are quite clear: No Barcode, No Time, No Exceptions!

As you may have gathered from my reports on the podium places, there were an impressive number of PBs achieved on Saturday, 24 to be exact, the highest total since we had 30 on Christmas Day! This represented 20.5% of the field, the highest percentage since Event #194 in November last year, when 26% of the field of 88 earned a PB. In addition to the 4 podium finishers out of 6 to earn a new personal best, this included 7 people who have made their Witton debuts in 2020, among them sisters Sheila Aspinall and Myra Gazdula who both earned a second successive PB this weekend on their third parkruns, all at Witton this year – well done ladies! Tiny little Hugh Snape ran around with daddy Paul on Saturday for his 8th parkrun and 5th at Witton and earned a new PB, going sub-40 minutes for the first time at Witton – brilliant running, Hugh! Also among their numbers were Witton regulars Lisa Kit, who earned a first PB since October by 2 seconds and brothers Adam and Daniel McCombs of Community Church Blackburn, who earned PBs of 6 seconds from September last year and an impressive 43 seconds from last April to go sub-24 for the first time, respectively – well done, lads! The more Wittons you do, the harder earning a new PB can be, but two people who seem to be continuously bucking that trend are Witton 50 Club members Miriam Hamilton and John Kearney. On Saturday, Miriam earned her second PB in 6 Witton events, running sub-28 for the first time to knock 13 seconds off her previous best from November, while John earned a second PB of 2020 already, knocking an astonishing 1 minute and 12 seconds off his time from Event #202 last month to go sub-24 for the first time with a new best of 23:39 – brilliant work, guys! Incredibly, John has now earned 15 personal bests in 51 Witton visits, knocking 11 minutes and 33 seconds off his initial visit!

Of course, all this speed can come at a cost, and we had an astonishing 7 incidents on Saturday, the highest we can recall, with people rolling ankles or slipping or tripping over some of the uneven terrain around the course. Thankfully, there appeared to be no serious injuries, just a few cuts and bruises here and there but as a responsible parkrun, we record every incident when we upload the results to parkrun HQ, so please do let one of the core team know if you have had an issue during the run. Days like Saturday are the most common for potential injuries as the weather is relatively benign, but the terrain can still be quite challenging, with mud very much present in many areas of the course and people can get a little over-eager with their pace. A new PB is certainly not worth a serious injury that could put you out of action for many weeks, so please take care when you’re taking on the Beast, however good you may be feeling in yourself, and make sure to listen to the pre-run briefing when any particular areas of concern you need to be aware of will be mentioned. That said, we understand that, of course, accidents do happen, so look after yourselves and listen to your bodies! Here ends the safety announcement!

Onto notices, and a massive well done to all those connected to Witton who successfully Beat Buncer in the annual Blackburn Road Runners’ Winter Warmer 10K on Sunday. Always a well-supported event, an impressive number took part on the route which, while it begins and ends in Witton Park, does not comprise very much of the Witton parkrun course at all, but does involve a good few kilometres of climbing up the fearsome Buncer Lane, which although tough for anyone I imagine regular training on the Beast helps with! I know lots of you were completing the course for the first time, while those returning earned plenty of PBs. A good event all round it would seem!

Finally, the end of this month sees a very special parkrun held for the very first time on Leap Day! This year is the first time Leap Day has coincided with a Saturday since parkrun began in 2004 and it is even more special for Wittoners as 50 Club member and core team volunteer Lorna Pickup will be celebrating her birthday that very day – her 10th official birthday and 40th overall! In her honour, we’re holding a special 80s themed parkrun, so come down dressed to impress and let’s celebrate in style (or, from what I know of the 80s, a lack of style!)

And with that, we’re done.

See you Saturday for Event #206!

Have a great week,

Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun