It was my first stint as Run Director at Leeds parkrun. I was already in full OCD mode, checking everything I’d just checked, just in case, in those 30 or so elapsed seconds, the entire contents of the parkrun bag, complete with scanners, laptop, timers and an old banana, had mysteriously disappeared. They hadn’t. But I checked again anyhow, hoping that the banana at least had gone. It hadn’t.
I soon got into full bossyboots mode, handing out tasks to the volunteers who’d got out of bed early on a Saturday morning to make sure that the weekly 5km timed run happened for 350 or so runners when a gruff voice demanded to know the course record. The voice belonged to an older gentleman who announced he was coach to a young lad along who was going to break it. Fair enough, I thought, before checking the bag again to make sure that the timer which would capture this record hadn’t disappeared. Phew, it was still there.
Nineteen-year-old Tesfaye Debele, who’s moved to Yorkshire from East Africa, then proceeded to wow us all with his pace and style, and that was just walking to the start line. He was off like a shot, no-one could catch him, so when he took a wrong turn, there was no-one to point him in the right direction, well there was, as marshalls were all over the course, he just didn’t hear their calls.
He came in first, but of course he hadn’t run the same course as the rest, so no records were broken. He was impressive nonetheless and didn’t look as if he had broken into a sweat, doing the 5km in less than 15 minutes. Noel predicted that we’d see him winning the Leeds 10km the following week. And so it turned out to be, doing it 30 minutes 41 seconds.
He was beautiful to watch, as if his feet never touched the ground, we’ll be seeing him with gold medals around his neck before long. But as a parkrunaholic, I have to say that those who impress me most are the ones who turn up on a Saturday and run the best they can, they’re all ages, abilities, shapes and sizes and they are all stars. It’s a privilege to be a part of it.
Now, as I’m doing my second stint as run director next week I just have to go check the bag….I wonder if the banana is still there…..