Pitchcroft parkrun – 69th Edition – 10 November 2018

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.

 

Stand-Out Individuals

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.

 

Stand-Up Groups

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.’

 

 

Parkrun report, 13 October 2018

Windy.

If you were looking for one word to sum up today’s parkrun that would be it.

The reason was Storm Callum doing a bit of parkrun tourism, and blowing a gale with gusts of wind of around 40mph. In theory this should have helped on the back straight along the river, but I’m not sure many runners felt that it made up for the long slog into a headwind that they had to deal with.

In spite of the conditions, twenty runners managed a PB from a field of 196, including Samuel Lea finishing second in 18:26.

Rachel Brown reached the milestone of her 50th parkrun.

Dai Morris, our Run Director, told us that last week saw the 5 millionth person sign up to parkrun, which is an astonishing number. Apparently over the 14 years of the parkrun story so far the average time has gone up, which is a good thing in that it shows the growth in numbers has also been a growth in diversity of people taking part. parkrun is not just for people who already think of themselves as runners, it’s for everyone which is why we love it!

Part of that diversity is in the age range, and this week we had three runners in their 70s, 6 in their 60s, 17 in their 50s and 20 in their 40s. The rest we can categorise as officially being “young”!

Thanks to Dai and all of the volunteers for braving the wind and the rain to make it all happen, and doing it with a smile.

 

Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun #54 – 28th July 2018

Run Report – Written by Imogen Gunson

The morning started well with a break from the heatwave, cool and breezy to start which was refreshing for a run. After a deceptively long walk from the car park we had our first timer and tourist briefing by David – with the wind now picking up making hearing much speech difficult it is fortunate the route is fairly straight forward, almost being the boundaries of the racetrack. We had a spectrum of tourists today from neighbouring parkruns through to Bushy the home of parkrun, and even an international visitor from Russia! We then had the run directors welcome, with Sam highlight that 99.2% of parkrun events in the UK have an AED, of which Pitchcroft is one, which is a fantastic achievement.

We then started the run, a lovely start area with plenty of space rather than congestion as some events can be! Battling the wind, we headed down one of the straights, but shortly crossed the course thinking we would have the wind behind for a bit of a speed boost – however having thick tree cover we were protected from all elements, so could at least run comfortably even if not assisted by the wind.

The course had plenty of marshal’s around it, all of whom were supportive throughout with particularly oomph in the cheers on the second lap. As the event was drawing to a close we had a welcome rain shower, I’m sure in a few months we won’t be so keen on them again. At the finish line the volunteers on timing, tokens, and scanning were all friendly and as chatty as you can without distracting from their roles. When touristing it’s always lovely to speak to people both runners and volunteers who really make it – with warm recollections I’m sure to visit again, once I’ve reached my ‘regionnaire’ of West Midlands.

In total 203 parkrunners walked, jogged or ran of whom 34 achieved new PBs so a massive well done all, particularly given the head on wind for half the course!

Milestones was achieved by 3 into the ’50 club’ – I’m sure they’ll be looking forward to proudly wearing their red shirts before long.

I always enjoy meeting people at their first parkrun and seeing the smiles at the finish which hopefully means they’ll be back! The first achievement is just getting to your first parkrun, I remember being nervous before my first thinking it would be an elite running club, little did I know every event is a family both in itself and within the wider international parkrun family where all are welcome. Today we were joined by 15 first timers who hopefully enjoyed themselves so much they’ll return and maybe even catch the tourist bug, as I was one of 35 tourists.

Final note has to be the thank you to the high vis heroes of which we had 18 volunteers today, we really couldn’t enjoy our run without you!

parkrun run report - 54

 

Event #5

This week’s parkrun began with our Event Director, and so called ‘leader’, showing his true student colours by oversleeping his alarm and rocking up some 30 minutes late for the agreed 7:30am set up time. It should also be noted that it is he who holds the keys to the equipment cupboard, and so his tardiness left the rest of the team helplessly waiting for him to clamber out of bed and cycle down to Pitchcroft Pavilion… Some leader! The offending student, who may or may not be the author of this news report, would publicly like to apologise for this rookie mistake!

Set Up parkrun

Unflustered by this setback and determined not to be late for the universal start time of 9:00am (briefing at 8:45am), the core team hastily dispersed to different corners of Pitchcroft park carrying various ‘CAUTION RUNNER’ and ‘KEEP RIGHT’ signs. A true testament to their abilities; and by 8:30am the course and newly altered finish funnel were set up and ready to go - leaving plenty of time for us to assign the 25 brilliant volunteers to their vital roles. And a ‘right on the money’ 9:00am start time.

The run itself appeared to run like clockwork. Beaming sunshine lead to equivalently bright smiles from most of the participants; the rest looked like they were trying to smile but favoured a full inhale of oxygen instead. As requested by our natural first time Run Director John Drew, runners seemed to politely navigate their way around the non-participant park users, throwing a cheery “good morning” as they did so. Thanks a lot for that as it really helps us avoid negative encounters.

Although Pitchcroft parkrun is, and will always be for everyone, it is the triumphant stories from first timers who make it all worthwhile for us. Stories like the blond lady wearing a plain black vest (sorry we didn’t catch your name) who finished somewhere inside 49 minutes despite just 8 weeks ago not being able to complete the 5k distance.

Or the other tale of a lady, new to the immersive world of running, who has wound up with a charity entry into none other than the London Marathon. Welcome to parkrun and we would love to hear how your training goes as the weeks progress.

Kudos goes to all those who reluctantly missed / delayed their viewing of the apparently quite significant rugby game that clashed with our start time. Our resident Welshman on the Lead Bike included in this category. Hope you enjoyed the game that you all presumably recorded.

As efficiently as it was set up, soon after the father and son team of the Baily family came across the line as our Tail Walkers, the course was packed away into the storage cupboard from whence it came.

It wasn’t until we processed the results at the Pump House Environmental Café afterwards that we realised the, surely record-breakingly low, number of forgotten barcodes… Just 3 out of the 226 runners. That deserves a clink of the team's coffee mugs for sure.

Once again, thank you to all who participated, supported, or volunteered this week and we look forward to seeing you once again soon. Although not next week remember as Pitchcroft parkrun is cancelled to allow for the operation of Cancer Research UK’s Race For Life / Pretty Muddy events. Good luck to all participating.

On the subject of brilliant charity events, Steve Jones is heading up the Sanlam GoDadRun event on Sunday the 23rd July – held on Pitchcroft. There is a 5k and a 10k event where the lads are issued big blue pants to raise money for 5 wonderful charities that support Prostate Cancer.

Colin Jackson CBE states….

“I’m excited to announce that Go Dad Run will be returning to the Worcester Racecourse on Sunday 23rd July to host our third annual 5K and 10K races! 

This year we’ve teamed up with local charity, St. Richards Hospice, who do some incredible work to support the local community.

Over the last few years our runners have helped raise thousands of pounds for our charity partners however we want to make this year the biggest and best yet, but we can’t do it without your help. So please sign-up to participate and join us and hundreds of men and boys on July 23rd!

See you there"  

Entries are still open, as is our parkrun the day before on the 22nd… Who’s got the legs to do both?

As always, email the following address to volunteer... worcesterpitchcrofthelpers@parkrun.com. All our roles are dead simple and offering up your services really does make the parkrun world go round.

Why not drag a non parkrunning friend to our next event on the 22nd July. As you already know, they can register via the following link... http://www.parkrun.org.uk/register/

 

A parkrun Lesson in Statistics:

Three Data Points for a Trend - or Get Out and Enjoy the Sunshine.

Among the many attractions of parkrun is the browsable data it throws up each week, along with the plethora of searchable statistics that accumulate over time.

Here’s a stat that everyone can enjoy:

Of Saturday’s 89 runners who were taking part in Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun for at least the second time, 69 achieved course PBs.

That’s truly a sunny statistic.

Four data points.
The received wisdom of statistical theory is that it requires a minimum of three data points to identify a trend.

Whatever the factual merits of that assertion, with Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun enjoying its fourth edition this weekend, trends might be emerging.

Achieved or bettered
Talking with Richard Ralphs (who many will recognise as ‘Il Capo’ of Worcester Countryside Centre parkrun – “The Original”) on Saturday afternoon, Pitchcroft certainly seems to have eased the pressure-of-numbers that the original event had been beginning to feel.

This weekend, between the two locations, more than 600 people completed a free, timed 5km run in Worcester, with in excess of 60 volunteers giving up their time to ensure smoothness of operations. And those participation levels have been achieved or bettered each Saturday morning since the launch of the city-centre version of the event.

It pleases us greatly that there were plenty of people this week recorded as running Worcester Pitchcroft for the first time; 102 people to be precise. That’s 102 out of a total of 191 runners.

Cause-and-effect
Now mix in again the opening statistic that, of the 89 runners who were taking part at the Pitchcroft for at least the second time, 69 achieved course PBs, and a cause-and-effect correlation can surely be linked to the high frequency of smiling (or are they grimacing?) faces at the finish line.

Jennifer Cashmore’s second successive appearance as first female to finish, and setting (again) the female course best time to boot, does not yet qualify as a trend - though it could become one next week …

And, maybe three data points for a trend are not enough, almost certainly not enough where the analysis is of a phenomenon with as many human and other variables as parkrun.

Sub-optimal
One such variable outside the organisers’ control, is what might be termed ‘sub-optimal interactions with members of the general public’ - otherwise referred to as… ‘we haven’t cheesed anybody off today have we?’

This was a major concern for the core team during the planning phase. There are many, equally important, non-running members of the public using Pitchcroft each and every Saturday morning - and it remains our priority to ensure we do not ‘cheese them off’ with our event.

Each morning, our wonderful Run Directors remind participants that “we do not have exclusive access to the park” which, to the credit of the parkrun community, is always received by smiling appreciative runners who are more than willing to slightly adapt their course to ensure ‘cheesing off’ is kept to a minimum.
Thank you so much to every runner who has done this… and additional points go to those who throw a cheery “good morning” to other park users too. It really helps everybody out.

Dog in the manger

Excluding the off-the-leash Jack Russell which forced a number runners to pull off impressive evasive maneuvers during the first 10 yards of last Saturday’s event, happily, negative occurrences involving non-parkrunners so far appear to be few.

So, that instance apart, the aim of establishing the reputation of being a good neighbour seems to have started on the right foot for Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun.

Even that bloke on the bike each week, careering through the field against the flow of runners wearing a high vis bib, shouting out “Runners keep to your right”, even adds “Please” and the occasional “Thank you”. [Does anybody know who the heck he is? Answers on a postcard …]

Back to the stats

Chinese revolutionary leader Zhou Enlai, when asked in 1972 about the impact of the 1789 French Revolution, reputedly responded that it was ‘too early to say’.

This story is in reality complete bunkum. Confused by the translation, Zhou had mistakenly thought that he was being asked about the May 1968 civil unrest that had swept across France. The tale though, is used to emphasise the need for organisations to look far beyond the short-term. And parkrun as a now global organisation, though some said it would never last, has been now growing for more than twelve years.

Four weeks in, what is the impact of Pitchcroft parkrun? Statistically - not to mention historically and socially - it is ‘too early to say’. But we are certainly having a lot of fun.

 

Known Unknowns & Unknown Unknowns

 

All the runners just startingIt’s either parkrun first-timers or parkrun tourists who tend to be the early-birds at these community events.

At Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun’s third edition, by 8.20am only the volunteers were in evidence, basking as they were in another course set-up completed efficiently, in probably record time, albeit beginning at 7.30am.

The first participant to show was indeed a parkrun first-timer - but a first-timer without her barcode.

Known Unknown

Which is such a shame for Hannah (as she is named), as for her first-ever parkrun, Hannah will always be ‘Unknown’, but in this case, to steal from the global lexicon that is Donald Rumsfeld, a ‘Known Unknown’.

And Hannah "only lives five minutes away, around the corner" from the Pitchcroft parkrun start.

As such an early arrival, she could have nipped home and printed off the barcode.

That is, if she owned a printer.

In the end, Hannah wrote her finish position on her hand in biro, and can enjoy identifying her time and performance as she scans through the online result table.

parkrun ‘Regionnaire’

Close behind Hannah arriving was Lesley Pymm, a parkrun tourist, wearing the green technical tee-shirt denoting 250-plus parkruns completed.

Return train-ticket in her rucksack, Lesley had travelled to Worcester to cross off another new event, thus completing her West Midlands parkrun set.

This, it turns out, makes her a ‘parkrun regionnaire’, which is someone who has completed all the parkruns in a region.

And there are, remarkably, 38 parkruns presently operating in the West Midlands region, something that makes becoming and remaining a ‘parkrun regionnaire’ not a pursuit for those without a steely determination.

(Photo credit for the above goes to Simon Fall-Taylor from FT Images - One of the many helpful volunteers / runners here at Pitchcroft.)

Known Known

In due time, volunteers, friends and family supporting today’s 219 parkrunners rolled up - and mostly on time, as people become familiar with the location and the urban logistics.

In sunshine and a stiff breeze, the course record was re-set by the Known Known (yes, back to that) who is Ian Radford, a local runner of some repute, not least for his now-overcome affection for nicotine.

His 2017 London Marathon time of 2-40-56 is not to be puffed at.

And the number of shouts from fellow parkrunners of "C’mon Radders", as he hairpinned back down the course with a commanding gap on those behind him, attest to his being, locally, a Known Known.

Anonymity: the Opposite of Community

But, of course, parkrun isn’t a race, or even a run: it’s a community event, within which there’s a place for absolutely everyone - be it as a runner, volunteer or supporter - to play a part.

The opposite of ‘community’ is, possibly, ‘anonymity’.

Happily, just 16 ‘Unknowns’ appear on this week’s results table, which is quite a healthily low percentage.

Indeed, among those 16 Unknowns, some are Known Unknowns (yes, back to that again), and some of the Unknown Unknowns will regrettably be down to occasional technical glitches with the scanners (which in good weather conditions, like today’s, seem to be less prevalent).

Freewheelin’ Democracy/Zerocracy

But there are some participants who simply seem to prefer Unknown Unknown status.

And in the freewheelin’ democracy/zerocracy that is parkrun, there is no compulsion on anyone to submit their barcode or even register online.

But, whilst parkrun is an organised, free, weekly, timed 5km run, open to anybody and everybody, the individual and collective benefit is maximised by having as few Unknown Unknowns as possible.

And in a freewheelin’, zerocratic and democratic way, all of the above amounts to an appeal to people to register with parkrun, if you haven’t done so already, and then remember to bring along your barcode …

A big thank you to Dai Morris (a member of the core volunteer team) for writing this report too.

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