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!