WITTON IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS ISSUE 5 – 27th June 2020

A week of wildly contrasting weather started with the hottest days of the year so far, with temperatures approaching 20°C overnight and humidity through the roof, and ended with torrential downpours at any moment. We got caught out on Saturday evening: lulled into a false sense of security by the evening sunshine and the sense of calm, we popped out for a quick 30 minute, couple-of-mile walk around the local neighbourhood, just to stretch our legs and get some fresh air. No coats to speak of (it was dry when we left), we got thoroughly drenched as we made our way home, as the heavens opened once more!

Vernons

An ill-advised coatless walk last weekend for the Vernons!

The latest Coronavirus news is that, in the UK, plans are in place to reopen most non-essential activities on Monday, July 4th. These include pubs, restaurants and hair salons but not yet indoor gyms or swimming pools. Social distancing is still advised, with 2 metres still the recommended distance, but this has been reduced to 1 metre in settings where 2m is unfeasible, providing mitigating measures such as masks or screens are used instead. The rules on social interaction will be relaxed slightly to mean that any two households can intermingle at one time but larger gatherings of people from multiple different households are still limited to 6 individuals. All of this still means that parkrun is still not likely to restart in the UK anytime soon, although signs of hope come from our antipodean friends, where parkrun New Zealand is gearing up for its restart on Saturday! The latest information from parkrun HQ, which hints at light at the end of the tunnel, is available here: https://blog.parkrun.com/uk/2020/06/30/covid-19-coronavirus-update-30-june/

NZ-parkruns-map

The 30 parkruns of New Zealand are gearing up for a return on Saturday!

In the meantime, more of you have been engaging in (not)parkruns!

(not)parkruns

Our (not)parkrun attendance went up from 14 in Week 1 to 21 in Week 2, while the number of (not)parkruns submitted rose from 15 to 27. The Blackburn Road Runners, in particular, seem to have approved the (not)parkrun challenge, with 10 of our 21 participants this week identifying with the club. Fastest this week was BRR’s Adam BOOTH in a speedy 18:39. Adam has completed 14 parkruns, with one visit a year to Witton since 2016 his most visited venue. A little way behind Adam was fellow Road Runner, Witton Run Director Dan HAMILTON in 21:26. He was followed by wife, and fellow Witton 50 Club member, Miriam HAMILTON in 24:23, just ahead of another Road Runner, George BELL, in 24:47. George has run 78 parkruns in total and 5 at Witton, most recently joining us just before lockdown for Event #211.

Adam, Dan and Mim

Our (not)parkrun top 3 this week: Road Runners Adam Booth and Wittoners Dan and Miriam Hamilton!

Our next three Road Runners need little introduction to Wittoners: 50 Club member Andrew WiSDOM ran 25:26, regular Karen RiSHTON ran 26:32 and another regular, Matt CHESTER, ran 26:55, setting a new (not)parkrun PB by over 2 minutes! Then there was BRR’s Katherine JUMP, who ran 27:52, Witton 100 Club member Kate POMFRET who finished in 29:39, knocking 15 seconds off her previous best (not)parkrun time from last week and Ian BATESON, of Lions Running Community, who submitted a time of 29:50. Ian has only run 5 parkruns and, interestingly, has yet to make his Witton bow. Just 10 seconds behind Ian was Francesca BURY in exactly 30 minutes – bizarrely she ran exactly the same time last weekend: are you really doing these runs, Fran?!

Andrew, Karen, Kate

Witton regulars Andrew Wisdom, Karen Rishton and Kate Pomfret all submitted (not)parkrun times this week!

Three more regular Witton fellas come next, returning (not)parkrunner Cameron ASHTON ran 31:36, our final Blackburn Road Runner, Witton 100 Club member Ian GOODLIFFE did his first two (not)parkruns, finishing in a best of 31:38, while his mate, Witton 50 Club member, Ian BRODRICK finished in 31:58. They’re followed by two couples: Red Rose Road Runners and Witton Club members Jon CARBERRY and Sarah WATKINS finished in 37:12 and 37:18 respectively for their first (not)parkruns, while Lions Running Community’s Malcolm ALDERTON was joined by wife Fiona ALDERTON this week, with Fiona running 37:47 and Malcolm managing 38:22.

Ian, Jon, Sarah, Ian

Witton Club members Ian Brodrick, Jon Carberry, Sarah Watkins and Ian Goodliffe all ran their first (not)parkrun this week!

The last three for this week start with Sue NICHOLSON, who submitted 39:30 for her first (not)parkrun. Sue has completed 22 parkruns, but has never run at Witton: indeed, her last parkrun came way back in October 2013 at St Albans parkrun, with 19 of her runs coming at Reading parkrun! We hope you’ll visit us at Witton when we’re back, Sue! Witton 100 Club member and part of our Core Team, Diane HARRISON-LEEMING, submitted her first (not)parkrun time this week, recording a leisurely 46:58 and finally this week it’s Janice Parker, completing her second (not)parkrun in 53:59, 49 seconds faster than last week’s effort! Well done everyone! Overall, Kate, Adam and Sue ran their times on Monday, Andrew on Tuesday, Katherine and Diane on Thursday, Malcolm and Fiona on Friday, 7 more on the usual Saturday and another 6 on Sunday, with Kate and Malcolm running 3 (not)parkrun times this week and Ian and Karen twice. We had 6 returning (not)parkrunners from last week and 15 first timers! Remember, it’s just a bit of fun, these times don’t count for anything (believe it or not, there are suspicions of some people submitting false times at other parkruns: why would you bother?!) and anyone can record a (not)parkrun time by accessing their parkrun profile here: https://www.parkrun.com/signin/

Diane

Witton Run Director Diane (centre) ran her first (not)parkrun this week!

I’m going to have to pick and choose who I mention if many more of you get involved weekly!

parkrunniversaries

Believe it or not, not a single regular Wittoner that I’ve recorded has a parkrunniversary this week! An odd quirk, since there’s usually pretty good weather around this time of the year, but there we have it. More next week!

This Week in Witton parkrun…

2016

A quiet one as Witton approached its first birthday. Blackburn Harrier Chris Davies was first finisher in 18:38 – he returned exactly one year later and did it again! He’s only run 5 parkruns, most recently 3 at Witton, but hasn’t run a parkrun anywhere since Witton’s Event #86 in 2017. Time for a return, Chris?

Chris Davies

Chris Davies was Witton first finisher on this weekend in both 2016 and 2017!

2017

Event #86’s milestone belonged to Witton 100 Club member Tony Duckworth, who ran his 50th parkrun that day. The big story of the day, however, was the feat of endurance runner and friend of Witton Mark Lord, who undertook to run the entire Witton route (both laps) 22 times over the course of the day, to raise money for the victims of the Manchester Arena Bombing a month earlier. Mark started at 6am, ran the parkrun as normal with the rest of us at 9am and then continued throughout the day, supported by a variety of parkrunners and Michelle and Bryan, who were there until late into the evening.

Tony

Witton 100 Club member Tony Duckworth finishes his 50th parkrun on this weekend 3 years ago!

Mark fell around Lap 25, which damaged his knee, meaning his pace dropped but he was not giving up. His anticipated finishing time of 9.30pm came and went and myself, Scott Smith and Lorna Pickup took the spur-of-the-moment decision to head down to Witton to join him at 11.30pm on the final push. It was incredibly eerie walking up the driveway in the near-pitch darkness, following the floating lights of headtorches and the hubbub of noise from the small gang keeping Mark going and as we made our way around the course we met wildlife and even ran into a few people (we decided not to question what THEY were doing in a deserted park at midnight!) and as Mark crossed the line for the final time, around 2.30am, the car stereos blasted Queen’s “We are the Champions” for the whole of Blackburn to hear. Mark hoped to raise £500 with his efforts, and in the end raised over £700. An astonishing effort and one that deserves to be remembered in the Witton annals. Well done, Mark!

Mark (1)

Mark Lord's epic challenge started when the sun came up and finished long after it had gone back down!

2018

A trio of milestone t-shirts were awarded upon Witton’s return after a cancellation for Event #133. We had Witton 100 Club member Scott Smith’s 100th parkrun, earned on the same week he finally obtained his red 50 t-shirt! Then, there was Blackburn Harrier, Joanne Nelson, who earned her milestone 50 t-shirt following her third consecutive run at Witton since our Run for Norman earlier in the month. She was first female at Witton for the record 13th time that day, still her most recent run with us, and her record lasted until May 2019, when Jane Magee’s consistent attendance allowed her to overtake and stretch out an advantage in those stakes. Poignantly, our third milestone of the day was for tail walking Darwen Dasher Viki Walsh, who earned her 25th volunteering credit entitling her to her purple t-shirt from parkrun HQ. This put her one volunteering credit in front of her recently departed father Norman.

Scott, Joanne, Viki

Scott Smith (wearing his new red t-shirt) runs his 100th parkrun, Joanne Nelson ran her 50th and Viki Walsh is in good spirits in hi vis as she earns her purple t-shirt as tailwalker!

2019

The first week of Witton’s month-long hiatus occurred this week due to events taking place in Witton Park. The big local parkrun story of the week was at nearby Heaton Park in Manchester, who were celebrating their 10th birthday, one of the first 15 parkruns in the world to reach this milestone. A group of Witton regulars and core team members went along, not least as the Heaton team were hugely supportive of our efforts to get Witton parkrun off the ground, providing advice and training at earlier Heaton events. It was a great occasion, with an attendance of nearly 900 parkrunners jostling for space, a real sight to behold. There was cake, goodies and lots of speeches and celebrations, meaning the parkrun itself didn’t get underway until 9.15am!

Heaton 10 (1)

A celebratory morning at Heaton Park, with awards, cake and an awful lot of people!

With such a large number of cancellations in a row, Wittoners took the opportunity to tour and there were healthy numbers of Witton refugees at Hyndburn, Burnley, Cuerden Valley and Clitheroe Castle, with further representatives at Haigh Woodland, Dewsbury and Northwich parkruns. Then on Sunday, it was the quarterly Witton parkrun meal, held for the first time at the Ocean Palace Chinese restaurant in Darwen. It was a great turnout of around 20 for the usual fun, chat and food and, like everything else, is something I’m looking forward to once things get back to some sort of normality.

26. parkrun Meal

I'm looking forward to the return of these!

New Year’s Day Double: An Announcement

If you are signed up to the parkrun monthly volunteer update (or if you are a member of the various parkrun Facebook groups, or have parkrun friends on Facebook), you will likely have seen in the latest bulletin an announcement regarding the annual parkrun New Year’s Day Double. For those who aren’t aware, New Year’s Day is the only day in the parkrun calendar where the parkrun results systems are opened to accept two parkruns per parkrunner instead of the usual one (though rare, it would be possible, if you were so inclined, to be a superfast runner at one venue, travel to another venue nearby and catch the tail walker to be included in 2 sets of results, this is why the rule’s in place). To facilitate the possibility of a double, parkrun also grant event teams the leniency to set their own start time, between around 8am and 11am in half hour increments. Witton held our first New Year’s Day event in 2018, at 10.30am and at that point I had no idea that New Year’s Day doubles was a thing. Anwar did, though, and made the trek to Blackpool parkrun for 8.30am, ran there then headed over to Witton in time for his second parkrun of the morning! He was one of 4 visitors that day to complete a double (with most local events not holding parkruns on NYD). For 2019, many more events took up the New Year’s Day option and parkruns were encouraged to partner up with local neighbours. To help with this, Witton held our event at 8.30am, with a plan to head over to nearby Burnley for their event at 10am. In total, 109 of the 146 visitors that day went on to a second event, 75 of whom made it to Burnley. This year, we held our event at 8.30am again and then main destination for run #2 was near neighbours Hyndburn. This year saw 206 people cross the finish line at Witton, with a whopping 140+ then going on to a further venue.

Witton NYD

A sign of things to come? Queues for the ticket machine and a packed start area for our 2020 New Year's Day event - and this was a manageable number!

As you can see, the New Year’s Day Double has grown increasingly popular as social media has made information and planning more readily available. The first recorded double was Bushy to Banstead Woods (the first two parkruns in the world) in 2008 and the Double really grew in prominence by 2012, at which time there were now 105 parkruns worldwide to link up, but still just 216,983 registered parkrunners too. This quickly grew to 1 million by May 2012 and fast forward a little, having taken 10 years to go through the million barcodes issued mark, parkrun has grown exponentially, taking 18 months to make 2 million and less than a year to increase each further million so that now there are over 6 million parkrunners worldwide and over 700 events in the UK alone.

2019 was a portent of things to come: there were 150 attendance records set on New Year’s Day, with Hove Promenade parkrun’s total going from 443 to 787, an increase of 344 (nearly double!) Perry Hall parkrun in Birmingham saw its attendance record go up 152% from 223 to 561, while Whinlatter Forest in the Lake District saw 279 parkrunners: it’s average over 10 weeks was just 43. For 2020, I cannot find specific references for individual events, but the number of runs recorded on New Year’s Day this year was over 321,000, breaking the single-day record from January 12th 2019 of 320, 0446, the key different being January 12th was a normal Saturday, with 1,667 events but on NYD 2020, there was closer to 1,000 events, meaning much higher attendances everywhere, even though many of them are the same people. Locally, Hyndburn had 281 attendees, between 150 and 200 more than a usual Saturday. Pendle’s 300th parkrun broke its attendance record from its inaugural event 6 years earlier, 100 more than a regular Saturday, while I know from the core team that Haigh Woodland was under severe stress when its attendance record of 284 from April last year was smashed on New Year’s Day with 413 through the finish funnel. And these are on the manageable end of the scale. Huddersfield had 1008, upping its attendance record from 861 and 109% higher than its average attendance 481 and Gedling in Nottingham had 549 – it’s non-NYD record attendance is 257! Whinlatter Forest’s record of 279 from NYD 2019 went up to 421: their average remains similar to Witton’s at 97.3 per week.

Whinlatter (1)

On the left, a regular week at Whinlatter (100 or so attendees): on the right, New Year's Day 2020 with an attendance of 421!

With these things in mind, parkrun have announced that New Year’s Day Doubles will no longer take place and that January 2020 was the last year they will be possible. I understand this will come as a shock to many Wittoners and with a great deal of sadness too and, taking my Witton hat off for a moment, it does feel very much like a heart vs. head situation. In my heart, I enjoyed my experiences of two parkruns in a morning, sharing the New Year with so many people at two different locations and I’m sad that the endless possibilities of doubles will remain unexplored, but in my head, I know that if the decision wasn’t taken this year, it would be taken next year, or the year after, probably after something disastrous had happened (anything from injuries due to too many people to emergency services being hampered by overflowing parked traffic to event teams being overwhelmed and the event descending into chaos to a serious crash as someone hurtles down the motorway from one venue to another). The numbers just aren’t sustainable everywhere and whenever that’s the case, nationally (or in this case worldwide) there is only one fair outcome. Thus, New Year’s Day Doubles will join the Points Table and the ‘parkrunner of the Month’ award as things to fall by the wayside as parkrun continues its exceptional growth. Thankfully, for now, we still have Christmas Day parkruns and the milestone t-shirts are secure. We can also still hold individual New Year’s Day parkruns, too, so it’s not all doom-and-gloom!

To finish on a cheerier final note, looking back on the pictures, we seem to have always had good weather for this weekend of Witton parkrun. Earlier in the week, I assumed this year would have been the same, but I actually think we could have got soaked on Saturday, so perhaps we got lucky! That said, I’d take a soggy parkrun over no parkrun any day at the moment. We just have to be patient.

Until next week, stay safe, stay sane and follow the guidance.

Matthew Vernon #loveparkrun #loveWittonparkrun

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