Storm Stands Down as Window Opens
Worcester Pitchcroft’s Saturday ‘parkrun window’ is renowned for more frequently providing half-decent weather conditions than the Faithful City’s typical meteorology might otherwise suggest.
And today was no exception, with the overnight storm standing down to allow 286 parkrunners and 25 volunteers to enjoy in sunshine and a light breeze the weekly, life-affirming event that is Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun.
Among a great mix of regular and occasional Pitchcrofters, along with visitors and new faces, James Thomas from Cirencester (who seems to variously circulate around a range of about ten different parkrun locations) crossed the line as first to complete the two-loop course.
Jennifer Cashmore, a respected Pitchcroft frequent flyer, was the first female participant over the line, and registered the highest age-graded performance of the day.
Jennifer was closely followed by JM11-15 category runner Elliott Beard who, avoiding a back-marker-induced collision with a stout lime tree on the home turn, improved his already sub-20 PB by a notable ten full seconds.
Crossing the line ahead of Elliott, and in higher-but-nonetheless-junior age categories, were Worcester runners Sam Davey, Samuel Lea and Ben Harle, occupying three of the top five finishing places.
We welcomed another Couch-to-5K graduation group, all of whom were being carefully monitored by their coach and mentor Claire. Their trepidation at tackling 5km was truly discernible in the minutes heading up to the start, but all completed, and did so with only a few short stretches taken at walking pace.
The (now ex) Couchers were joined by a group of runners from Cleobury Mortimer Running Club (pronounced ‘Klibbry’ to those who know) whose regular parkrun is Wyre Forest.
[Pitchcroft should enter into a twinning arrangement with Wyre Forest, as each is truly the topographical antidote to the other, with the warm, appreciative vibe being the reassuring constant.]
We also had a representation of Poppy Appeal runners whose presence was most welcome as Europe marks the centennial of the end of the Great War.
And we could go on and on dissecting the data and drawing due attention to noteworthy performances, but those were the ones that caught the eye today.
Runs, Damned Runs and Statistics
The stats, the percentages, the placings, the numbers, the trends that parkrun throws up every week provide a mine of data for every participant, to the extent that no matter how you might think you’ve under-performed or not done yourself justice, there’s almost always some small personal indicator that can put a smile on your face.
Look carefully at the results sheet: there’s always something that shows you’re achieving something.
- 41 Personal Bests were recorded this week.
- The spread between the first finisher and the tail walker’s time of 32 minutes and 47 seconds.
- 42 people took part in Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun for the first time.
- 18 were taking on a parkrun for the first time ever.
- 17 participants crossed the line, but for various reasons appear as ‘Unknown’ in our results.
I’m not sure what these numbers tell us, if they tell us anything at all.
What I do know is that by 10:04am everything was put away, the pavilion door was locked and no casual observer would know that more than 300 people had given themselves a great start to their Saturday.
And they will likely do something similar next Saturday.
Soap-box moment: Integrity of the Result
That 32-or-so minute spell from first finisher to tail-walker crossing the line is where the our finish-zone volunteers are tested to deliver as accurate a result as we can for our participants.
Our timekeepers, funnel managers, finish-token handlers, number checkers, ‘naughty-book’ scribes and barcode scanners are all focused on fulfilling their part of the event to the utmost efficiency to ensure the integrity of our results.
But when parkrun individual human behaviours are the variable in which you deal, there will inevitably be occasions when an error slips through.
And that’s where our results processing gurus come in, making sense of what has been logged in the stopwatches in relation to the finish tokens that have been dished out, the number checking jottings and the problematic barcodes written down.
This Saturday’s reconciliation, happily, was fairly straightforward.
A couple of weeks ago it was less so, with Jonathan Phillips seemingly sweating pure coffee to work out something equivalent to a prize Sudoku without having the benefit of knowing what the numbers were.
The appeal goes out for the following parkrun human behaviours.
- Cross the finish line once and once only.
- If you cross the finish line, stay in the tunnel all the way to the finish-token handlers and take the finish-token you’re given.
- If you have forgotten your parkrun barcode and have crossed the finish line, stay in the tunnel all the way to the finish-token handlers and take the finish-token you’re given. Then hand it to the barcode scanners (who will simply put it in the collection box).
- If you are not registered with parkrun (which makes it highly unlikely that you will reading this!) and cross the finish line, stay in the tunnel all the way to the finish-token handlers and take the finish-token you’re given. And then hand it to the barcode scanners to put in the collection box.
OK. That’s this week’s soap-box moment.
And the (miniscule) readership of this diatribe are almost certainly the people least likely to be the alleged offenders.
And ultimately participant-induced parkrun event stats errors truly are a First World problem.
There are plenty of bigger problems facing humanity. Some of which, happily though, parkrun seeks to play its part in tackling.
Battle of Gheluvelt Remembered:
The pre-event briefing faced its usual slightly impolite indifference from the large bunch of parkrunners who prefer to talk amongst themselves just prior to the start of the event rather than actually take part in the spirit of parkrun by tuning in just for those couple of moments it takes to welcome visitors, thank those who volunteer their time to allow the event to take place safely and efficiently, and to pay tribute to the achievements of others. It’s a free world.
Today though, as Run Director Dai Morris changed tack to talk briefly about the 1914 Battle of Gheluvelt, most people did seem to stop chatting and listen.
Dai speaking afterwards indicated his gratitude and surprise that in the post-event finish-line mingle a number of parkrunners took the trouble to thank him for talking about that battle so important to Worcester, and for linking our parkrun event to the greater occasion of the centennial of the Armistice.
For those who did not catch his words, Dai reminded everyone that Pitchcroft parkrun has its ‘office’ in the cafe in Gheluvelt Park, a public space established to commemorate the Gheluvelt action in which the Worcester Regiment lost 187 out of 370 men.
Yes, the losses were heavy, but this counter-attack in the large-scale Battle of Ypres closed a critical gap in the British and French defensive lines which otherwise would have given the advancing German army an unfettered route to the Channel ports.
Dai said that in reading about Gheluvelt he had learned that the decision of the commanding officer to runthe troops across exposed open ground below Gheluvelt village, and the speed with which they crossed this stretch, was what caught out the German army occupants, allowing the Worcestershires to re-take this strategic position and close the gap.
Securing the high ground, the Worcestershires also relieved the remnants of the South Wales Borderers, coincidentally the regiment based in Dai’s home town of Brecon.
Dai connected these courageous soldiers running towards enemy positions with what we as parkrunners do at liberty, every Saturday, whenever it takes our fancy, as a given part of our freedom.
‘Whatever your own speed of progress across the open ground of Pitchcroft parkrun today’, said Dai in the briefing, ‘on the day before the 100th marking of the Armistice, please take a moment to think of all those people who have given their lives in the name in too many conflicts down too many years to protect the freedoms we enjoy.’