100 runs, 500km, lots of friends

100 parkruns, running with my friends
100 parkruns, running with my friends

I remember my first. It was a dull March day, Noel was away and my feet were itching to do more of this new-fangled running thing. At my age, I ask you. Still, we’d heard about this weekly event where you could turn up, do 5km in whatever style or speed suited, and get a proper time that didn’t come from an old Timex with no second hand. There was even the promise of coffee afterwards, what’s not to like?

So I turned up ridiculously early, wearing far too many clothes, including a woolly hat and gloves, carrying what in hindsight must have been a 50-litre pack with the usual assortment of essentials dangling from the gear loops and holding a giant bottle of Yorkshire’s finest tapwater. Soon it was like someone had opened a can of runners, they spurted, sprinted and trotted from everywhere. Some were dressed in nothing more than their skimpy vests and shortest of shorts, I remember thinking they’d catch their death.

As we started, I realised I was the one in danger of catching my death, from heat exhaustion, as layers and loads were peeled off to keep me cool. I was almost wishing I’d worn a vest. Almost. As I crossed the line, there was a chirpy bipping from the timer which set a whole train of high-tech happenings in motion resulting in me receiving an email later that afternoon telling me I’d run 5km in 32 minutes 19 seconds and had completed my first ever parkrun.

Three years later and I still turn up ridiculously early, though it’s to help set up the course, or warm up, before stripping down to my vest and shorts, though only if the sun’s shining. I run for all I’m worth, and have knocked four minutes off that first time. And, not that I’m competitive, you understand, I want to go faster and faster and faster and faster. Noel and I also get to direct the runs, which mean I do what I do best, which is shout, boss people around and show off, while Noel gets to do what he does best, which is sort of techie stuff and write the odd computer program to do clever stuff I can’t possibly understand, we’re an ideal team.

Today was special. Today, I ran my 100th parkrun and allowed myself to take my time and enjoy this fabulous phenomenon, surrounded by the many new friends I have made along the way, not forgetting rediscovering a couple of old pals too.

It’s great that I’ll receive a tee-shirt and that a lovely little icon now appears next to my name to show that I have run 100 parkruns, 500km, which is, incidentally, the distance from Leeds to the Cairngorms. But for me, the best of the best of the best of all are the friendships I’ve made. Friends from Eccleshill Road Runners came, and there were cheery greetings from fellow runners. Then at the end, Andy, an old friend and Stuart, a new one, flanked me to the finish line, where I picked up a token and a few hugs. Noel was of course waiting there, camera in hand, to record the event.

It’ll take some time to reach the next milestone, though I look forward to either running or volunteering every week. And who’s counting, eh? Not me, unless it’s chalking up lots more personal bests!

A fine way to spend a Saturday morning

My turn to do the shouting! Again!
My turn to do the shouting! Again! Photo: Ken Fox

The alarm’s invaded my deep slumber, the rain is hitting the conservatory roof so loud it sounds like frying bacon, it’s dark and, dammit, it’s weekend.  Before I know it, I’m in my running gear and ready to go. What the heck am I playing at?

It’s Saturday of course, parkrun day and whatever the weather, we’re off to run 5km along with 50,000 others, part of a growing community.  Obviously we’re not all in the same place, that would be a heck of a crush, we’re headed for Woodhouse Moor, Leeds, one of more than 300 runs throughout the country and an increasing number worldwide. And do you know what? We LOVE it!

Of late, Noel and I have been volunteering, these events wouldn’t happen without volunteers, plus given there’s opportunity to boss people around, and shout at everyone, in a supportive and encouraging kind of way, how can I resist it?  It’s an early start and we’ve to carry the kit  from the stores and set out the course, complete with finish funnel. Someone also has to sweep away the huge puddles and mud. I like to delegate that task!

Parkrun (always a quirky lower case ‘p’ unless at the start of a sentence) has enjoyed an explosion in popularity, each week there are more and more new runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities. The way it works is that runners register online, receive a barcode and that’s good for any parkrun anywhere. Run the run – it’s not a race, pick up a token at the end and the magic scanners and interweb do the rest. By the afternoon, there’s a text or email with details of time, place and the magic age-related grading which compares you with the best of the best at the same age. That way I can tell Noel I am as good as he is, even though I’m slower. I like that. I like it a lot.

We’ve been handling the magic electronic parkrun result things once a month, it’s all very scary when the scanner with all the results inside its little electronic head make a ‘peewwwwww’ noise as they are uploaded. I have visions of lots of numbers spilling on to the floor at Opposite Cafe, the post-race base and place for general banter and silliness. Thank goodness Noel is in charge of the technical things, though I do get to write the run reports, which use WordPress, my blogging platform of choice, so that’s a safe option, then.

I can honestly say that as well as clocking up the kilometres, we have made so many new friends, drunk so much good coffee and had so many laughs that I’d recommend parkrun to absolutely everyone. Even the Saturday morning alarm is welcome!

I’m just seven runs away from my 100th parkrun, when I’ll get another teeshirt to go with the once I got for doing 50 parkruns. I will most certainly wear that with pride.

Just one second each….

Race face and war paint

If the 25 of us had just pushed ourselves that little bit more, we would have won. All we needed was to run one second each faster and the prize would have been ours. We would have held high the red wellies (size two-and-a-half) and proudly paraded them in front of the losers. But we were the losers by just 19 seconds, we had to watch the parade. Damn.

Of course it was all a bit of fun, the girls entered the fourth annual girls against boys Red Welly Relay two-one up. Each runner had a 200m section of the 5km Leeds Hyde Park parkrun to sprint handing over the baton, one half of a pair of red wellies, in homage to the statue of the Duke of Wellington guarding the park entrance. Some wag had painted his greaves red and left him a traffic cone helmet set at a jaunty angle, the Traffic Cone Relay didn’t seem appropriate, so red wellies it was.

The race was handicapped. Using clever maths our parkrun times were added, multiplied and the number first thought of subtracted. The result was the girls set off four minutes before the boys. I was number 11, and by the time I took hold of the red welly and semi-sprinted, the boys were hot on my heels. They overtook round about number 23, I think, but I have been known to make things up!

I got back to witness the boys’ triumph, they won by 19 seconds. We congratulated them of course, promising that next year, we’d wop ’em… Personally, I’m starting my training programme now!