Mighty, Meditative, Marvellous & Magical: Markeaton parkrun

Another Saturday, another parkrun.

Reet nice out.

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Where to go? I wasn’t entirely feeling the parkrun love this week. As my regular reader will know I’m struggling a bit with walking at parkrun, and these days always feel quite a bit of trepidation about whether and where to go in my quest to find a welcoming parkrun. Some times it just seems crazy to drive far, far away just to traipse round a park in pain for 5k in solitude. Then again, I might get lucky, find a new amazing park, see smiling welcoming high vis heroes, have a micro adventure, maybe see someone I know. You never regret a parkrun as the saying goes. What the hell…

I picked Markeaton parkrun for this week. It’s quite near to Sheffield, and honestly, I don’t really know why I’ve not spotted it before, it being a well established parkrun, yep, that’d do. It seemed to have all the tourist things, loos, car parking, a full roster in advance to give confidence it would be happening, yep, that’d do. It was a last minute decision, but you know what, ’twas a grand one too!

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The official |Markeaton parkrun blah de blah states:

Course Description
The course consists of two clock-wise laps on a mix of tarmac and limestone path. The start is located by the stone bridge at the top of the lake. The course follows the lake towards the east side of the park then curves round to the right just before the park boundary and heads back towards the centre of the park. The course then crosses the main path in the park and passes the front of the south car park. At this point the surface changes to a limestone path and heads up a hill towards the wooded section. Just before the exit of the park the course takes a sharp right-hand turn and heads downhill along the south boundary of the park.

After another sharp right-hand turn and a small hill downhill to the left the course follows the west boundary of the park, a left-hand turn leads back onto a gravelled tarmac path with a right-hand on to a straight path. Half way along this straight is a left-hand turn and the path passes behind the old stable building and back past the start where runners begin a second lap. On reaching the straight for a second time runners continue to the finish in front of the stone steps by the Orangery. The course will be well signed and marshalled where available.

Facilities
There is a small fee for car parking. Details can be found on the Derby City Council website.

Toilet facilities are available at the Craft Village and the Mundy Play Centre. Radar Key operated disabled toilets are available at both locations. Opening times vary according to season.

The park has many additional facilities including a children’s play area, boating lake, pitch and putt, light railway and fishing.

Getting there by road
There are two car parks – the main car park (nearest to the start of the run) is accessible from Markeaton Island on the A38 and A52. The SATNAV postcode is DE22 4AA. It has a 2m height restriction.

The other car park, near the Mundy Play Centre, is accessible from Markeaton Lane and the SATNAV postcode is DE22 3BG. There is a small charge for both car parks.

Post Run Coffee
Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in the Orangery Café – please come and join us!

And it looks like this –

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Which I think you can agree, is basically a badly drawn map of Australia, that either completely omits Tasmania, oops, or just pretends they didn’t and it’s actually the roundabout! So feel free to come do this course dressed as a koala or other marsupial of your choice. Personally I’m more wombat than kangaroo, but I’d definitely have improvised a hat with corks on a string hanging from it if I’d only thought of it in advance. Now you’ve had my tip off you can go prepared. The team will appreciate it. It’s a cheaper and greener way to become an international parkrun tourist, and what’s not to like about that?

I think they should rewrite their course description with reference to the various states of Australia, not only because this would amuse me, but also because that would be edutainment at it’s best. Be honest, how many of the states can you name, and, what’s the capital of Australia whilst we are about it?

Really? Are you sure? OK, you might be confident about that, but what year did Scott and Charlene get married? Eh? And how about, how many parkruns are there in Australia? Clue, more than you might think! And last question: is the Bungle Bungles a real place or an imaginary one? Photos on the internet prove nothing by the way, you mustn’t believe everything you see there, ask yourself rather, does that geological formation look plausible? Quite. I rest my case.

Where was I? Oh yes, en route to Markeaton. It wasn’t too long a drive this morning, but as always |I set off paranoically early. Climate change being what it is, it was an extraordinarily mild day. Leaving the house I saw that as well as my lobelia still being in flower (not a euphemism) now my lavender has bloomed again and is set off beautifully by a backdrop of geraniums and fuchsia. My garden looks fantastic, but it’s hard not to be discombobulated by these signs that indicate the end of time. Oh well, I had a parkrun to attend, mustn’t linger dwelling on our world imploding.

Lovely autumn colours lined the roads for a super easy drive from Sheffield. Only at the last point did I somehow get lost. I had input the satnav for Mundy carpark, but although it did take me there pretty much, I lost my nerve as it seemed to be miles and miles away from where the park was and I didn’t think I’d manage to walk that distance back to the start. There were some runners around, but not obviously parkrunners, though I do always wonder why anyone would run around 9.00 on a Saturday morning at a parkrun location if not a parkrunner. I decided to head back and use the satnav for the other car park, which to be fair, was what I’d meant to do in the first place. Uh oh. Fail. The sat nav took me back to the big roundabout where there is an Esso petrol station and a massive McDonalds and an abundance of exit roads. Somehow, I ended up being directed off in another direction entirely, definitely no parkrun on the dual carriageway there. Reasoning the sat nav was off, I found a suitable place to turn around and went for a circuit of said roundabout. This time I saw huge ‘unmissable’ brown signs to Markeaton park, and an even huger ginormous one pointing to the main entrance to the park. I have no idea how I missed this first time round, but the moral is, be alert to your surroundings rather than slave to the satnav. I was glad I’d allowed some extra time to rock up there though.

Once I’d found the entrance, it was pretty straightforward. The car park was pretty spacious and there were helpful signs all over. There was a miniature railway, this seems to be a trend in some of the parkruns I’ve been to of late. Maybe I’m missing a trick in not taking advantage of them. There are loads of facilities, cafe, loos, sports courts. All the things. You do have to pay for parking (unless you have a blue badge) parkin was reasonable but the reference to ‘small fee’ made me think it might just be a pound say, whereas I think it was more like £1.60 for an hour and then going up in increments depending on how long you stay. So fair enough, but more than I was expecting. You can either go quietly insane trying to find the right app, downloading it etc, or just pay with cash (no change given) but the good news is that there was loads of space. There was also a growing number of arriving parkrunners with tourist buffs and slightly confused expressions as they tried to get their bearings, and some regulars, marching purposefully out of the carpark in the direction of the muster for the start.

Markeaton park is truly spectacular! I was amazed at the size and maturity of some of the trees looking stunning in their autumn colours. The sun came out – a bit too much to be honest, it was more than my camera could cope with, but I was astonished to find such a huge and lovely park next to the unpromising roundabout populated by two of my least favourite businesses. I think beyond the park I could see building from the University of Derby, but if you looked the other direction the green space seemed to go on to infinity. There were periodic public art bits and bobs, maps, lots of water all very lovely, thank you for asking.

I followed the people who looked like the knew where they were going. We’ve been through this before, it slightly concerns me how readily I’ll follow people who look confident, this is how you end up joining cults but hey ho, as cults go, parkrun is a pretty benign one. Oh, and there were these clusters of fairy toadstools too. It was a gorgeous green space. As per, the photos don’t really do it justice, you’ll just have to use your imagination. I really liked the figures pointing in opposite directions, though you do have to hope the marshals will be a bit clearer with their directional pointing (spoiler alert, they were). I guess the fun thing to do would be to poke your heads through the slots and get a picture, but my arms weren’t long enough for me to achieve the necessary contortions to make it so. To be fair, they still aren’t now, but maybe you could give it a go, especially if you have journeyed there with a friend. Go on, you know you want to.

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After a bit, the ‘craft village’ came into view. Oh my! It’s a full on historic building – Markeaton Hall, complete with blue plaque for the Mundy Family. ‘Who?’ I hear you cry. Worry not dear reader, let me google that for you. Oh, turns out there is quite a lot, and I don’t want to go full on parkrunpedia on you, the basics are:

Francis Mundy (bapt. 29 Aug 1771 – 6 May 1837) was an English landowner, Member of Parliament for the Derbyshire constituency and, in 1820, Sheriff of Derbyshire.

Poor Francis only got to inherit the one estate, Markeaton Hall, but fortunately, it was and is a jolly nice one, so not exactly roughing it. Oh wait, hang on, that mahoosive building isn’t even the hall, that fell into disrepair, it is just the orangery which is all that is left. Wowsers, how massive must that hall have been. Nightmare to heat. Oh wait, this is properly interesting, I’ll do a cut and paste for you and hope it’s true!

The manor of Markeaton was held by the Tuchet family from the 13th century. Sir John Tuchet (b.1327) married Joan, daughter of James Audley, 2nd Lord Audley and heiress of his brother Nicholas Audley, 3rd Lord Audley of Heleigh Castle, Staffordshire, and in due course their son became the 4th Lord Audley.

Sir John Audley of Markeaton fought for Richard III of England at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

The Audleys sold the manor in 1516 to Sir John Mundy, Lord Mayor of London in 1522. The Mundys replaced the old manor house with a new mansion in about 1750.

Sir John Mundy’s descendants included a number of High Sheriffs of Derbyshire including Francis Noel Clarke Mundy who commissioned paintings from Joseph Wright of Derby to decorate his home and record the hunts that took place at Markeaton.

In 1929, the Markeaton Hall and twenty acres (81,000 m²) of its gardens were given to the Corporation by the Reverend Clarke Maxwell who had inherited the estate from the late Mrs Mundy, on condition that the whole area would be used as a public park and that the mansion would be maintained for cultural purposes, for example a museum or and art gallery. Unfortunately the hall was used by the Army during World War II and allowed to fall into disrepair after the war.

The Hall was eventually declared to be unsafe and was demolished in 1964, leaving standing only the Orangery, a Grade II listed building

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Fair play, that’s a lot of history.

Looked impressive too. Now the ‘mere’ orangery is still standing and still breath taking. What a backdrop for a parkrun. There was a whole courtyard behind, which I now know you could take a shortcut through to get to the start if you didn’t want to listen to the run briefing. Please do that instead of just talking through it, it does my head in that people do that. There were loos that were open and reasonable. They had the weirdest inside design though. The sinks being one side of the door way and the hand driers the other, so as there was a queue in the ladies there was a constant circulation of folk moving from one side to the other, or going with the frantic handwaving or the failsafe wiping washed hands on your leggings rather than barging back through the queue. No idea what the gents was like, but I’m going to guess that as usual they don’t have to queue and had no such formation dancing going on whilst having their comfort breaks and performing any necessary ablutions.

In the courtyard was the largest ornamental urn thingy I’ve ever seen, and towering around its edges were ornamental railings. I don’t really know what function this might serve, but it was definitely impressive and now I want one too. Even though I’d have to demolish part of my house to accommodate it in my garden, that would be but a small price to pay for such an astonishing bit of garden sculpture, though Markeaton Park authorities might not be keen to part with it. I got an early sighting of some of the volunteers, I thought they were just chatting, but now I’ve see them in action, I’m pretty confident these two were just working out the bell ringing synchronicity to make sure it was perfect from the off. Spoiler alert, they nailed it.

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After a bit of milling about, there was a call out for first timers to gather for the first timers’ welcome. This was thorough and genuine, though being told ‘just ignore any references to cardiac hill’ was somewhat mischievous. A couple of tourists were sporting 500 tees, don’t see too many of the in the wild, so that was exciting too.

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First timers’ welcome over, time to mill about and do some sign posing before the RD briefing.

One of the excellent features of the venue, is that the raised courtyard area has steps leading down to the finish funnel, which is the area where parkrunners gather for the Run Director’s briefing, so they can stand atop the steps and be clearly seen and heard which is great. The Run Briefing was extremely good. There was a Couch to 5k group that was doing their graduation parkrun. They were warmly welcomed. A volunteer with a milestone volunteer got an extra round of applause. Tourists were welcomed from near and far ‘from Leeds? Never mind’. There was a shout out for someone who was doing 7k every day for 7 days in a sort of relay I think, with someone else taking over next week. I didn’t quite catch what that was about to be honest, but the point is, I felt like this is a mature parkrun community. People know one another, care about one another and share each others achievements. The park walker was particularly identified as someone to walk around with and gave a friendly and vigorous wave, so that was lovely. I felt the welcome for parkwalkers was completely genuine. It was all very impressive. And yes, there was a noisy cohort chatting throughout, but at least they stayed towards the back. I’m definitely getting more intolerant in my old age.

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Run briefing over, there was a mass migration to the start area. I wasn’t expecting this relocation so was possibly disproportionately excited by the micro adventure of following the throng along the outside wall of the orangery and round the corner where there was a sawn laden water feature with it’s own feature bridge, and the backs of a mass of parkunners ready for off.

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It was only when we were all mustered at the start, that I fully appreciated how many people were gathered. It’s a large field, and the venue is such it could take still more. We were urged to keep left if walking so faster runners could overtake, but it never felt congested.

I watched the off, and then joined the pack towards the back. The first two marshals were busy bell ringing and cheering with great enthusiasm. All marshals are lovely obvs, but I do have a special place in my heart for marshals who accessorise appropriately and noisily to help not only get the party started but keep the party spirit alive. Hurrah for jingly marshals!

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I tried to put on a bit of a wiggle, my aim was to stay ahead of the tail walker, and I started off with a degree of confidence, but very quickly the field pulled away and my leg started playing up and I realised, alas, I’m not magically cured. It is so frustrating that my body just won’t do what my head wants it to. On the plus side, the route was absolutely gorgeous. It was a great sight to see the colourful stream of runners curving ahead like a string of prayer flags caught in the wind. All shapes and speeds and sizes. Some with pushchairs, some walking companionably with others. A group clustered with the very jolly parkwalker. There was even a tailwalker with an actual tail. A tail-wagger if you like, though strictly speaking I didn’t see them until the very end.

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I was my usual stop start taking photos as a way to pause and rest every so often. I tried to photograph as many marshals as I could, but it was harder than you might think. They were all really friendly and welcoming. It felt like a particularly positive parkrun community, with lots of shouting encouragement to participants by name. The two lap element giving lots of scope for interactions. It just felt relaxed and friendly. One marshal team near the car park included a young man holding a huge tin of sweets by way of refreshments on the way round. I resisted the temptation on lap one, but paused at lap two to say hello, and enquire what the was the occasion to merit such bounty. Well, get this dear reader. He has them EVERY WEEK, well every week he marshals that is. Isn’t that great? I took an opal fruit joyfully, although actually turns out this is now a starburst. Honestly, you’ll be telling me marathons aren’t a thing any more next! What an astonishingly photogenic lot they all are though, each marshal more decorative than the one before! An abundance of loveliness indeed. There is something about the high vis that makes all who wear it a joy to behold. Inner and outer delightfulness made manifest through the reflective power of the high vis.

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There were lots of things to look at on the way round. The mature trees were magnificent, but there were also random sculptures of wood, wire baskety things that looked like they might be for making beacons except they were too near trees and not especially high up so I couldn’t really fathom them. I was a bit taken aback by one carving that was of a miniature wooden tank. It just seemed in very poor taste as a piece of public ‘art’ or play equipment. I don’t know if there is a story behind it, but in the light of all that is going on in the world now particularly it jarred. On the other hand, there was another carving of a squirrel and periodically little houselets, fairy dwellings? Much to see and wonder at.

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As I walked I slowed, and got further and further back. The parkwalker and her merry band overtook me with cheery waves. They were a jolly sight indeed. I really wish my photos did them justice, they lifted spirits just by being there.

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From then on I was walking on my own, which is fine, but it was a little unsettling that there was no-one in sight. I could see neither the parkwalker ahead nor the tailwalker behind, this is why we need more people to walk at parkrun, to fill that gap at the back. I do long to be at a parkrun event where I don’t end up being quite such an outlier. But unless I relocate to South Africa where I understand there is more of a walking culture at parkrun, I think this is my parkrun reality now. I’d be lying if I tried to pretend it doesn’t profoundly depress me at times, but it is what it is. One day I’ll get to South Africa and in my head that means I’ll stroll through dusty trails espying journeys of giraffes on the horizon and watching jolly warthog families cavorting alongside. Whilst not South Africa, and therefore having fewer rhinos, and not Australia, so having fewer wallabies ths was nevertheless a really nice parkrun. It was friendly, picturesque and really well organised, but ultimately it was a bit lonely out there doing a lap alone, who wants to be stuck with their own thoughts really? Existential angst ever present. Fortunately, I could be distracted by the scenery and I was grateful to the marshals who stayed in place to over encouragement as well as cheered by the sight of runners passing me on their way through to the finish.

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As I finally came round towards the finish for the second time, I saw ‘my’ departing bell jingling marshals, who gave me a bespoke cheer as I was approaching the last few hundred yards, it was much appreciated. The finish funnel was still up and resplendent, and by the look of things every one still in place, so I did get to experience the same finish as all the other participants, which isn’t a given. That was nice.

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Oh wait, there was one teensy distinction, as it was just me, I was allowed not to complete the entire snake of the finish funnel and allowed instead to break through – or at least politely duck under – the parkrun tape. Do not brand me as a funnel ducker dear reader, this was absolutely consensual on all sides. It must be quite some finish though at it’s busier, as it was a long and impressive queue barrier. Think airport terminals or that sequence in Shrek where creatures are queueing to enter the theme park.

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I was scanned and then directed to pop my finish token in one of the little buckets on a faraway table. This was something I’ve not seen before but clearly actual genius! It seemed at first quite high risk to send people off with tokens, but there was not only a huge sign warning you not to pass that point without checking you’d surrendered your token, but also a little group of buckets each labelled for a different section of 100. This means that the token sorters can start their busy task earlier on, and grouping this tokens just makes that whole process a bit easier to manage. Actual genius. Why doesn’t every parkrun do this? I guess some do – now I thin of it Bushy parkrun has different containers for different numbers, but that’s huge. This is a respectable 3-400 parkrunners and the system seemed to work really well.

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I deposited my token, got a flat white from the orangery, and then, since everyone had waited for me, waited to cheer in the final couple of participants. It was a nice chilled and relaxed atmosphere, unhurried. In due course the tail walker and accompanying tail waggers were welcomed home.

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Final finisher safely home, the team busied themselves with course close down, and me and Red Ted weaved our way out of the park. He insisted on a photo op, and who can blame him. It’s a cool thing to do 🙂 I would have tried to recline in the circle too if I thought I’ve had had a sporting chance of squeezing in, but little point really as Red Ted can’t operate the camera either. Maybe next time.

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and that was that.

Time to leave the autumn colours of Markeaton park behind.

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Thank you lovely Markeaton parkrun team, your event is truly an asset to the parkrun family. A lovely venue and a welcoming parkrun indeed. Yay to all of you.

Oh and for triangulation purposes, the official run report for event 378 is here ‘You Ad Me At Hello‘ Loving the run report branding, plus it has a squirrel! Yay, what’s not to like. Oh and that Markeaton Park sign, it’s actually there, in the park, but my photo didn’t really capture it with the same pizzazz. Oh well, I tried, and it makes me happy that they have nailed it, so I get to share the image too. 🙂 Walk, Jog, Run, Read indeed!

If you have the stamina, don’t forget you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. Otherwise, bye for now, see you next time.

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Off with a Bang at Buxton! Welcoming Pavilion Gardens parkrun to the fold.

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I don’t care if it’s a cliché, this was a banger of a parkrun!

There was always a slight worry in my mind that the launch of this event might for me be an anti climax. No reflection on my confidence in the team at Buxton, more a worry that a near lifetime of waiting for this moment would have a hard job living up to my hopes if not expectations. Was the launch of Pavilion Gardens parkrun at Buxton to be like the grand finale for the firework display that fails to ignite? Would I rock(et) up, only to plod round a proverbial damp squib of an event, questioning my life choices, indeed the whole trajectory of my cultural interests from childhood, or would I experience a cracker of an event. Dear reader, I need not have worried, for I can truthfully report that there was no misfiring here, rather, this was more like the firework display that set off everything at once. You know, like the Big Bay Boom 2012 in case you are wondering. It was glorious, although over before you knew it. Except not really, because rumour has it, it’ll be happening all over again next Saturday, and the Saturday after that, forever and ever. Free, weekly timed, parkrun free, for everyone, forever. Barring global meltdown which obvs. is a terrifying reality, but on balance unlikely to prevent Pavilion Gardens parkrun from happening next week. Check before heading off though. If you see nothing but burnt landscapes and smokey orange skies, and hear nothing but radioactive ash softly falling from the sky then probably best to stay local, and if you are stuck on the roof due to flooding, that could be a challenge too, unless you are on the banks of the River Wye which goes through the Pavilion Gardens, so maybe you could take a dinghy down and offer to help with the course set up just in case the regular volunteers might not have been able to make it down. It would be the right thing to do. Anyway, that’s the future, let’s focus on this firecracker of a day. There’s plenty of opportunity to dwell on the end of the world and other fundamental existential crises another time. Let’s think about Buxton instead. The Pavilion Gardens are properly lovely, even without a parkrun, but obvs way way better now that they have that too!

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Properly lovely, but also really hard to capture in a photo. Still, it’s the thought that counts, and anyways, it’s much better if you just go and check it all out for yourself.

I had been waiting for this day for over fifty years. No really I had. I mean, granted, for eons this was at a subconscious level. I probably didn’t quite understand how influential that particular moment in time was as it happened, but it’s funny how sometimes we are able to pinpoint a moment where our lives were set off on a particular trajectory, and all that unfollowed subsequently was a consequence of this. That’s the thing about hindsight though, you can’t always tell until later on, when you suddenly see a pattern as you trace backwards from a particular destination. Just ask Shrek, that’s why giving one day away that he couldn’t even remember turned out to be a terrible idea, the day he was born offered up, he actually ceased to exist. Only, spoiler alert, he didn’t because there was some get out cause or other. Are you following? The point I’m trying to make, is that for me Buxton has always had a particular resonance, it’s just I didn’t know that it’s true power and influence would only become fully apparent as the parkrun planets aligned to deliver a new and shiny Pavilion Gardens parkrun in Buxton this weekend, and now, finally, and perhaps belatedly, my life experiences suddenly seem to make sense. Hurrah!

Childhood experiences can enter your DNA. In my case – and I do concede this might be considered to be somewhat niche – I really, really remember going to see ‘Dougal and the Blue Cat‘ when I was really tiny. About seven or so, when the film came out. My dad took me, taking me to see a film wasn’t something I remember him ever doing before or since, but I do remember this trip, and this film, because it properly blue blew my impressionable mind. So much so, that I even had the vinyl record which I played endlessly on a loop for months afterwards. I have no idea what happened to the original record, perhaps it was too much of a torment for others in the house, because at some point it disappeared. For me though, the story and the drama was amazing. One key character in it, was the villainous Blue Cat, who at the pinnacle of seizing power and exercising tyranny over the magic roundabout populace sung a terrifying number about becoming ‘King Buxton The First!’ If you want to know how people end up joining cults, you should watch this film. The irresistible draw of a strong leader is as horrifying as it is compelling. We should thank the world that ultimately the Blue Cat sees the errors of this ways and eventually appeals to those around him ‘I was a victim of a false doctrine, I am now changed. May I be your friend? Your true friend?’ All’s well that ends well eh?

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Buxton sounded to me like the most extraordinary of names. What brave new world was this? Any place so named must be equally extraordinary, a place of wonder indeed. From that moment on, I was surely destined to one day find the actual Buxton and experience it for myself. Of course way back in the day I had no idea what lay ahead half a century in the future but I do now know that the lure of the new Pavilion Gardens parkrun for me is /was very much based to no small degree on the Buxton location. A place of wonder and mystery. Not least, because the first time I went to visit it, heading out on a lovely sunny day from Sheffield, I arrived to find it blanketed in deep mist, it was like trying to enter Brigadoon, a place with literally as well as metaphorically hidden wonders, its very own micro-climate and no doubt it’s own cultural peculiarities, all the best places have them. As of this weekend though, The Pavilion Gardens in particular and Buxton in general now have their very own splendid parkrun, its wondrous work is done, it has reached the pinnacle of all that is possible in parkrun terms (well it will, as soon as a junior parkrun is started up as well, but I have patience, I will wait it out).

It wasn’t just me though, waiting for Buxton to deliver its parkrun. This event seems to have been many years in the gestation. I’ve heard whispers of it starting up ever since I relocated to Sheffield, rumours floating by on the breezes as you take part at Bakewell/ Monsal Trail parkrun, stories of a mythical parkrun location waiting in the wings somewhere in the region. If I remember correctly, which granted is highly unlikely, it was first mooted some time before the lockdown. And even got quite far in the planning. A local running club was in the habit of holding a 5k event in the Pavilion Gardens on a monthly basis anyway, so there was already the enthusiasm and support for a weekly event. It was pretty much on the horizon and then BOOM, lock down. No parkruns anywhere. Only notparkruns which are all well and good, but hardly the same thing. Kudos to those that kept them up though. However, all was not lost, it seems that there is a Venn diagram where characteristics of the Pavilion Gardens parkrun start up team and the tammar Wallaby overlap because – you’ve guessed it, both have the ability to diapause! I know, handy. That is, at the risk of stating the obvious, to extend gestation periods by putting everything on pause until it’s safe to launch new life into the world. Clever eh? So post lockdown, in May this year, things started hotting up, an appeal went out, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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Fast forward to this weekend, and takeover event at Monsal Trail done, trail event done (in torrential rain apparently, but we’ll close over that) and finally inaugural day dawned, and what a cracker of an event it turned out to be.

Can I just say, bit defensively, I hadn’t intended to go to the inaugural, although it’s not a rule as such, it’s considered better etiquette to wait for events to settle in a bit before rocking up to avoid overwhelming them, unless it is actually your local. I’d spotted the takeover at Monsal Trail and assumed they’d start the following week, not taking into account the trial event, so thought I’d be rocking up at week 2. Oh well, seems it was the worst kept secret ever anyway, and as it’s my nendy – or was (nearest event not yet done/ not done yet) and feels local because I did so much of my London Marathon training on the Monsal Trail which is out in that direction from Sheffield. I wondered if I should do a blog post about this first event because of that breach of protocol and then I thought: a) who am I trying to kid, since you dear reader are pretty much my only dedicated follower, with respect, my attendance is hardly going to create a tidal wave of parkrun inaugural chasers who now feel emboldened by my behaviour to go storming round new first events in my wake. If only I had that degree of influence I’d use it to promote world peace and get them to make an apricot coloured thermal parkrun mug. Why isn’t that a thing yet? Makes no sense at all. And b) well I did go, so bit hypocritical to pretend otherwise, and it would seem a shame not to capture impressions of the first event. So sorry, not sorry. Well a bit sorry, but not so sorry that once I’d realised it would be the inaugural I changed all my plans. I’ll try not to do it again.

Where was I, oh yes, fantasising about one day attending a parkrun at Buxton, hopefully in the presence of a multitude of fancy dress blue cats – or better yet REAL ones. As it was, although there were many fun guys out and about, it was inexplicably a bit thin on the cobalt cat front.

I pulled up the info on the website the day before, just to check details. The official blah de blah for Pavilion Gardens parkrun describes the course thus:

Course Description
Three laps on permanent paths round the Pavilion Gardens, starting and finishing on Broad Walk.
Unfortunately dogs are not allowed at this event.

Facilities
Toilets at the car park, swimming pool and by the boating lake. Park amenities include children’s play areas, an outdoor gym, a swimming pool, indoor gym, cafe and many other seasonal attractions.

Location of start
The event starts on Broad Walk. The Pavilion Gardens lie adjacent to the A53 St John’s Road. The nearest postcode to the start is on Burlington Road – SK17 9AL

Parking is free on Burlington Road, Hartington Road and surrounding streets. The Pavilion Gardens has a pay and display car park off Burlington Road (SK17 9AR) and there is further paid parking by the Old Hall Hotel.

Post Run Coffee
Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee at Pavilion Gardens Café – please come and join us!

fair enough.

And it looks like this:

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Just look at all those exciting things! A miniature railway is always a win, an actual river running through and an actual opera house with a dome and everything, that’s pretty special. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a sponsor of the arts. I recently loaned a Pyrex bowl to the Sheffield Theatres for use in their production of On the Beach, one of two linked plays that together make up The Contingency Plan. They were very good, but not gonna lie, without my last minute contribution they’d probably have had to pull the whole show. As it was, my Pyrex did great. Pyrex is on a bit of a roll at the moment, getting mentions in reviews all over the place,, well Keswick anyway. Never underestimate the importance of your bakeware, it could yet become more famous than you are. Just saying.

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I’m enjoying having closer links to the Sheffield Theatres now I am a theatrical landlady. I’ve bought a hat and feather boa especially so I can look the part when answering the door to my ever changing cycle of lodgers. On the whole it’s been great hosting people, I’ve only had one bad experience with an arrival who revealed themselves to be an absolutely freak of nature by declaring they don’t drink tea – or indeed any hot drinks! Not even Yorkshire Tea! I know! I was reeling. How I managed to keep my composure whilst inwardly processing the enormity of this disclosure I have no idea, but we did somehow muddle through our time together. It’s so important to be accepting and non judgemental in the capacity of host, and being exposed to different ways of doing and being is probably a good thing. It’s all about inclusion and community at the end of the day, just like parkrun. Inclusion and acceptance makes the world a better place, and anyway, if they won’t drink tea, all the more for me! Everyone’s a winner! Mrs Doyle would have had an actual melt down though. Fact.

Anyway, stop distracting me by asking me about my claims to fame, many and manifest though they may be, where was I? Oh, yes, parkrun weekend. It really was a cracker! An absolute blast. There were a few historical parkrun things coinciding this Guy Fawkes Saturday. There was the registering of the 8 millionth parkrun barcode. Oh my, how amazing it would be to get that number, I do hope it’s someone who actually completes a parkrun:

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Then there was the massive influx of parkrunners to Gunpowder parkrun because if it was ever on your hit list, what better day to take part in it than on the one time November 5th falls on a Saturday. This won’t happen again until 2033 I think, assuming my google search was correct, so next time that comes around I’ll be nearly 70, I wonder if I’ll still be alive then and if I am if I’ll be doing parkrun and if I am doing that if Gunpowder will still be a thing. I guess if I can wait 50 years to do a parkrun at Buxton I can wait 11 to get to Gunpowder on Guy Fawkes day. Anyway, Gunpowder parkrun had not only triple their usual number of parkrunners, but three lots of run report one, two, three – as a poem, to mark the occasion. Yes, all excellent, but best thing about it was this fancy dress offering! I wonder what bright spark came up with the idea, nailed it though.

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as if this wasn’t enough, there was the Walk with Joe thingy kicking off too. Maidenhead parkrun having a whopping 77 volunteers and 965 parkrunners, wowsers! That’s insane! Check out the stage and sound system though, that’s one way to get yourself heard during the run briefing!

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and it’s lovely that there were all these things happening in the parkrun world. However, maybe they were just trying a bit too hard. The real magic happens at the birth of a new parkrun, and it was Pavilion Gardens parkrun that stole the heart of all of us that were there, no regrets about missing Joe at Maidenhead parkrun, or joining the firework display at Gunpowder parkrun – maybe a slight stab of jealousy at not getting the 8,000,000 number on my barcode, but then if I had, I’ve have missed out on all my previous parkrun adventures to date, and that seems way too high a price to pay. Nope, Buxton Bound, and Garden Pavilion parkrun it would be, huzzah! Whatever that actually means, it sounds suitably theatrical and as an excitement generating exclamation seems most apt for the day.

So here are my PG tips – with thanks to Team Burrelli for making this awesome connection! Genius at work there. 🙂 I am shameless in borrowing from him, it’s not plagiarism when acknowledged, rather it’s a compliment… Bravo Burrelli!

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Well it might be more stream of consciousness rambling, than concise tips, but hey ho, you get the gist.

Buxton is pretty local to me really, though I’ve rarely been. It’s not too far from Sheffield which is a boon as my health is compromising what I can do at the minute, long drives are really painful, and I’m really not great at the minute. parkrun tonic was very much needed. It wasn’t too early a start, and I’m pleased to report, that after the biblical rain of last weekend, this Saturday was damp yes, but not to an apocalyptic extent, so that was good. The drive over was actually lovely, gorgeous autumn colours of bronze and gold, and the light caught the brown bracken and it looked spectacular. The grey and cloudy sky set off some of the rock formation of the edges as I drove through, and it was all generally splendid. a good start.

The Pavilion Gardens parkrun website postcode satnav took me straight to the edge of the park. You drive through a pretty residential area of gorgeous stone buildings, and I saw some parkrunners (presumably) jogging in the direction I was travelling, it was great to behold. All that anticipatory excitement as people started to descend on the venue. The road alongside the gardens was fairly full of parked vehicles of the early arrivals. Parking there is free and there is no reason not to park there, but for me it made more sense to go the pay and display carpark. There was loads of parking, and whilst there is a charge, it’s free for blue badge holders and quite possibly reformed blue cats too, and I don’t begrudge paying for facilities I use at a parkrun location. You are right next to well maintained loos, the main entrance of the park, and straight off get a view of the amazing domed Buxton Opera House or whatever it’s called. Few things I noticed, wow they like their signs! I have never seen so many different signs explaining confusingly how to pay for parking and insisting that you absolutely must. The modern multi-storey car park and associated leisure centre is juxtaposed beside the lovely Victorian garden railings and building. It’s just a bit weird, not bad as such, but striking. There is good signage for the park, but that sign could do with a bit of a wipe. The car park was full with confused looking new arrivals, seeking loos or heading off for a quick warm up lap of the gardens. There were already some directional arrows up, and there was no doubt you are in the right place. Hurrah! Red Ted found a sign that would dictate our speed around the course for today, so that was fine. I do think you are winning at life if you find your colour scheme matches that of the instructional signage at your chosen event.

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So once I’d finished inputting all the signs into my i-spy book of car park accessories, I headed off into the Pavilion Gardens. Dear Reader, they are a delight. Mature planting, little bridges over the river, fountains, a miniature railway, little water falls up and over bits and down under bits. Sort of like a miniaturised Huddersfield parkrun in places in that respect. And ducks, and you must now by now that I do luvva duck!

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Gorgeous mature trees, and there, in the distance, and on the horizon the vision of loveliness which is the sight of a gathering of parkrunners and the associated high vis heores resplendent in their new shiny high viz. The parkrun flag was a flying and all was well in the parkrun world. By the way, my camera has pretty much gone down the quiet quitting route. It goes through the motions, but it’s pictures are basically terrible, so I’ve freely borrowed from the Pavilion Gardens parkrun photo pool on flickr and done a bit of googling for other images too. Thanks to all that have let me use their pics, I tried to ask permission where I could, apologies if I’ve missed anyone. Happy to remove pics on request if required. You can easily spot which are my photos as they are the ones with the dodgy composition and lighting, just remember dear reader, it is the thought that counts. The Pavilion Gardens parkrun Facebook page is just going live as I type, so maybe some more pics will turn up there too. Go check it out, give it a like and see what lands. That’s what I’m going to do 🙂

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It gets me every time. That assembling of a parkrun community, coming together to propagate fun times. There was a good natured buzz. I saw some familiar faces in the throng. The famous ‘We Love park run’ Cassells couple who have amazing paired customised t-shirts that, together with their prolific touristing (372 different events and counting, and more if you count discontinued events which you really should) has made them parkrun legends. There were Barnsley Harriers present, I like them, they are officially lovely – met some at The Trunce years ago, and noticed how they looked out for one another. Familiar face from Glossop parkrun also way back in the olden days before Covid and Zoom were actual things; and did I espy Buxton runners aplenty, with familiar faces from fell races past, all of which I was final finisher in, but with style.

I always have a wave of paranoia before entering a pre-event fold, but it was all good humoured enough. There were some extra awesome bits about this start line though.

The way the Gardens are designed there are actual houses right on the start line. Not near the start, but literally people breakfasting in their front rooms were serenaded by the merry chatter of excited parkrunners gathered together. I hope they like parkrun. To my extreme delight, there is an actual guest house just metres from the start line, I don’t imagine there is a parkrun anywhere in the world where you could stay any closer. The location was nearer the start than the finish line. If you are a tourist check out Roseleigh Guest House, Buxton overlooking the lake and set within the Pavilion Gardens. That would be properly awesome! The view from the dining room looks across where parkrunners set off. So that sight would either ruin the view or make it, depending on your parkrun passions.

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Of course, if you are a proper parkrun passionista, you can do better than an over night stay. There was/is a flat for sale that’s even closer to the start line if that’s possible to believe, in the adjacent property. What’s more – and this is parkrun gold – the estate agency marketing the property is Wright Marshall. I know, what could possibly be more apt! Hang on, let me go look at right move details. So, it’s a snip at £400,000 and from there you can see the whole parkrun route pretty much, it’s a shame parkrun marshals can’t collect any financial contributions, or they could have a whip round for the event director to live there with selected members of the core team, tied accommodation like the residents of Number Ten only with more integrity. Wouldn’t that be splendid? Rhetorical question, yes it would! It’s already 4 bedrooms, and the rooms look huge so you could always cosy up. Squidging up would be perfect, room for all at a parkrun, inclusion is everything remember.

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nice, isn’t it. And here are the properties significantly improved by the addition of perky parkrnners:

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and frankly, who wouldn’t want to cosy up with these latest members of the parkrun family. Don’t they look lovely and cuddlesome (get permission first) and welcoming, all get set and ready to go on the morning of their inaugural, the calm before the storm. I’m not sure what was in the Waitrose bag. If it was me doing the RD stint on an occasion such as this I’d probably bring a paper bag to breathe into, but a plastic bag with some emergency snacks is still a good shout. Check out the attaché case with parkrun essentials, and gaze in delight at the new powder blue high vis for the park walkers, now a staple part of all parkruns. Hurrah!

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Lovely pic! Oh, and wait, incoming photos alert, turns out Frank Golden Sports Photos was covering the event, there could be a LOT of photos to capture the occasion, that’s great obvs, but how to choose? Have a gander here, and ooh and aah and marvel at the spectacle unfolding before you. Relive it if you were there, and feel like you were there if you weren’t. Everyone’s a winner, all eventualities well and truly catered for!

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Right, where was I? Oh, are you still here? Thanks for sticking with me, I appreciate I’m not really concise dear reader, but then again, reading is not compulsory. You can always just scroll down to look at the pictures, that’s probably what I’d do to be fair. Yet, I like the idea of recording here my experiences of the day, it sort of helps to cement the memories, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll look back on it all once again and wish I’d done a crowdfunder for that lovely flat. Still, life is too short for regrets, let’s not dwell on that, let’s crack on instead. We are all fired up at arriving at the start and seeing those houses right on the start line.

There was quite a buzz from the assembled gathering. As I approached, I saw some of the marshals leave their huddle and go marching off to their spots. I wonder how they were feeling. Personally I sometimes get confused between terror and excitement. There shouldn’t be anything to worry about at a parkrun, but there must have been that collective willing it all to go well. Loads of us were snapping photos to try to capture it all. Some with more success than others it has to be said. Yep, I’m not proud of my offerings, but they are the best I’ve got. Lucky I used my resource gathering skills to find some better ones. Have a browse, see if you can spot anyone you know.

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After deployment of the marshals, there was a shout out for the first timers’ welcome. Strictly speaking this was everyone, though some possibly had done the trial event and/or previous 5k runs in the gardens. A semi circle gathered around the inaugural welcome. It was thorough, going over the course as well as parkrun protocols. Pleasingly, there were 19 brand new parkrunners. Yep, that’s right, people doing their first ever, ever, ever parkrun. What a one to choose. I hope it will be but the first of many. The gathering for this was respectful and quiet. The natural bank created a bit of an amphitheatre, and strategic use of the loudhailer helped get people’s attention, so that was good.

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Then there was a bit more faffing and chatting and warming up, and catching up and a growing sense of anticipation. The RD then started to address the gathering. Depressingly, there was not a respectful silence for this. At first, I think some people genuinely didn’t realise they had started their welcome, but even after a bit of shushing from others a few just continued noisily chatting away with complete disregard for the host team, other parkrunners and the significance of it being an inaugural event. I found that hugely disappointing. I tried to tell myself maybe that discourteous few had other issues going on and it wasn’t necessarily just that they were all total bell ends. That’s possible I suppose. Also, and this is important, you can’t always change a situation, but you can choose how to react to it. This is why I nearly spat out my tea (and we’ve already established how sacred a mug of tea can be) when this email popped into my inbox the other week…

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Hilarious! Laugh? I thought my knickers would never dry! I was sort of hoping this was someone quiet quitting their job, but it seems algorithms suggest alternatives, even so, a packer could override a technical glitch if it pleased them. Anyway, properly funny. I don’t even have a cat, and since I’m vegetarian wouldn’t even turn to the cat food in an emergency either. Expensive though isn’t it, cat food? Makes me feel better about the amount I spend on bird and squirrel stuff. Oooh, shall we have some gratuitous squirrel pics? It’s been a while. Hang on:

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Despite the best efforts of those who noisily talked over the entire run briefing, the RD did a great job thanking those involved in getting the parkrun set up, clapping volunteers and going through the basics too. No dogs for example at this parkrun. It’s a three lapper, tarmac, but with autumn leaves making it slippery in places. It was a great way to start things off.

Then the event ambassador gave a wave and stepped up to add her thanks to today’s RD especially who seems to have been a tour de force in making it so. There was lots of appreciative clapping and all was good in the world. Hurrah!

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and then, finally, the moment we’d all been waiting for. Go!

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Be thankful dear reader for a proper photographer being on hand to capture these moments in time. Great shots aren’t they? Rhetorical question, yes they are! I’m always in awe of the courage of photographers who get these centre front photos, they must be pretty nippy on their feet too, to avoid being trampled into the tarmac. Has to be quite an adrenalin rush being in the path of such a force of parkrun power.

I hope you enjoyed these start photos, because my shots en route are erm, well, how can I put it? Sub optimum? They say it’s the thought that counts though, and as a parkwalker these days, I did try to take some mid parkrun shots, though my camera just isn’t coping, I might have to abandon attempting this in future. For now though, albeit mu camera seems to be in its death throes, I will reveal a few of the least terrible taken today, a last gasp of usefulness before inevitable retirement perhaps.

Off everyone went. Some with a bit more of a bounce than others! I tucked in pretty near the back. I felt quite perky to begin with, aiming to stay ahead of the tail, maybe buddy up with the parkwalkers. Didn’t happen. As is always the way, early optimism gave way to pretty high pain levels. It feels unfair. I can potter around pretty well at the moment, and it makes me wonder if I’m imagining my disability, or if it’s more to do with general unfitness and loss of condition from being so very ill last year. However, once again a few hundred metres into parkrun and my leg has turned to lead, except lead that experiences pain and pins and needles and just like it’s not my own. With one leg doing that and my other foot refusing to weight bare it’s a grim experience. I could feel myself getting slower and slower. It was hard not to feel miserable about it. I guess it is what it is, and just as it’s best to just laugh if you get cat food instead of bin liners in your grocery shop I tried to see the silver lining of my slow pace and needing to keep stopping as an opportunity to interact with the volunteers a bit more and take some pictures.

Volunteers are properly lovely though aren’t they? This is a three lap course so you get to enjoy them three times, AND you get to pass the finish twice too. That means as a slower participant there is lots of support and lots of interest. Faster runners come and lap you, but then you get the sense of still being amongst a field of participants instead of just crawling in on your own for the whole of the event. I love that you pass the finish so see faster runners sprinting in. The three laps give you a chance to appreciate the gardens too. It was looking gorgeous. Apparently last week was torrential rain, but astonishingly it stayed dry today. The leaves were slippery but covered the paths with autumn bronze and gold. You get to see the Victorian buildings inside and outside the park. Other users were sat on benches taking it all in, or walking dogs, it all seemed pretty good natured. I’m coming round to multi lap courses as they are highly social, and as a walker I think less lonely than my previously favoured single lap routes. I am the slowest participant by a country mile though, and that’s hard. I wonder if this is it for me now, I hope not. I can cope with never being fast – I never was before, but I’d love to just blend in at a parkrun, not carry the worry of being a burden to an event, and sometimes just to do it in my own way and own time. It’s hard not to feel pressure to speed up at the back, not at this event from the tail, but I’ve had a string of poor experiences that has weakened my resolve. Still, this week was fine and dandy, thank you for asking. I offer up my en route photographic efforts by way of evidence of parkrun camaraderie and cheer. The fact they are terrible should simply encourage you to go check it all out for yourself, it’s the only way to fully appreciate it!

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fortunately, I wasn’t the only one taking photos!

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After the first lap or so, one of the tail walkers came to keep me company which was appreciated. We chatted running stories and compared injuries, and I got a bit more background to the event. Oh, and I found out that one of the other tail walkers knows my next door neighbour so that was exciting. Small world and all that. As we finished the second lap, there were a lot of people milling around the finish, and I really appreciated someone shouting out to people to keep the course clear for those of us still limping round. It’s a little thing, but it makes a huge difference, and people were happy to shifty, thanks to those that did. Great finish funnel location. If you’d rather live at the finish line than the start, check out Derby House Buxton. As elegant and contemporary as Garden Pavilion parkrun itself!

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Derby House used to be a residential care home. There is still another care home along the Broad Walk, you pass it three times so the residents can in theory see you from the windows as you pass. I wonder/hope in time that residents might be encouraged to come along and enjoy watching the runners, maybe even get involved as volunteers. That’s how my mum got adopted by Bushy parkrun after all.

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I still feel quite emotional and choked up about that how that all unfolded. It made such a difference to my mum and me for her to be properly part of the parkrun family, even more so at such an iconic destination. Sigh. I’d love for others to experience that too. If only for the enrichment of seeing it unfold outside. There is a parkrun somewhere where the person who is behind the Walking at parkrun Facebook page proactively built a relationship with the care home on the course route for his home parkrun. The residents apparently get involved every week as marshals and supporters alongside carers. I’d love to visit that parkrun one day. Note to self, I need to find out where it is.

Meanwhile, I was walking round with the tailwalker, walking and talking which is how it should be.

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Well, it’s how it should be if you are walking it. If you are fleeter of foot, you may be flying round, and if you are really lucky, there will be a volunteer photographer on hand to capture your running prowess in perpetuity. Immortalised with flying feet. There were an astonishing amount of airborne participants today, superb photos, here are just some. Gaze on in wonder. These days I’d only get flying feet if dangling my legs whilst perched on a slightly too high bench, but it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the light footedness of others! Mind you, I can’t help thinking so many were suspended in the air, one strong gust of wind and they’d have all ended up in the lake but mercifully that did not come to pass. Just as well, not sure it would have been covered in the standard risk assessments for a new parkrun. Or maybe it was? They seemed to have got most of the details spot on.

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With the walking and talking, the final lap went quickly, even though I wondered if we had it pretty much to ourselves. I was grateful to find as I neared the finish funnel that it was still up and attended in all it’s glory, so I mustered a sort of sprint finish. I say sprint finish, but wait, no, I mean a shuffle finish! But finish I did. A tantalising 2 seconds off my final parkrun bingo number. Oh well. I’m beginning to think that challenge will forever elude me. Token scanned, and bucketed, and that was that.

The volunteer team busied themselves with course close down, and uploading of results.

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There didn’t seem to be any actual participants still around, I presume they’d scattered to the nearest café. I had planned on joining the post parkrun faffing but I wasn’t sure where the café was and felt suddenly awkward if I’m honest, and I was in quite a lot of pain too to be honest so decided maybe best to get off, but took a bit of meander through the gardens as I departed. There is much to see and appreciate. Well worth allowing a bit of extra time for.

As I left, I paused at the commemorative pebbles sunk into cement as a tribute to the NHS and other key workers during the pandemic. It was a curious sort of memorial, and quite touching in a way. I don’t know why Dr Who Tom Baker era featured, but why not. Then I checked out the amazing wooden tree carving and tried to find the goose with a wonky wing. Like I said, plenty to do even without a post parkrun breakfast stop.

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and that was pretty much that. Oh, but in case you are interested in the details, and why wouldn’t you be? The auto generated summary run report from the parkrun wiki journo report tells us that at Pavilion Gardens parkrun, Event number 1 on 5th November 2022:

278 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 275 were first timers and 0 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 56 different clubs took part.

The event was made possible by 31 extraordinarily photogenic volunteers:

Karen WEIR • Beverley ALI • Robert WHITE • Paul MARKALL • Jane POULTER • Frank GOLDEN • Peter BAILEY • Sheila BRADLEY • Rachel DOWLE • Chris HALLWORTH • Mark WHELAN • Elizabeth NOCTON • Jocelyn GRANGER • Stefan LEDIN • Kate LEDIN • Katie ROLFE • Joanne CUDAHY • Tim ROLFE • Jessica MURRAY • Justin HOLMES • Rebecca DAY • Gill THOMPSON • Diane BARKER • Nichola SARGEANT • Rob MCNEIL • Zoe HEMMINGWAY • Colin BALDWIN • Kristian WHITE • Beth WHITE • Jenny BIRCHETT • Ian DALTON

Today’s full results and a complete event history can be found on the Pavilion Gardens parkrun Results Page.

The female record is held by Sophie WOOD who recorded a time of 17:56 on 5th November 2022 (event number 1).
The male record is held by Caleb WINFIELD who recorded a time of 16:36 on 5th November 2022 (event number 1).
The Age Grade course record is held by Pat GOODALL who recorded 83.97% (25:16) on 5th November 2022 (event number 1).

Pavilion Gardens parkrun started on 5th November 2022. Since then 276 participants have completed 278 parkruns covering a total distance of 1,390 km, including 0 new Personal Bests. A total of 31 individuals have volunteered 31 times. Good to know.

They could have added, that the runniest runners were: Robert Andrew Jones (499); Lynn Newman (489); John Cassells (443); Joanna Cassells (440); Kate Adkins (418) and Paul Amro Robison (391). You’ve got to admit, that is a great deal of parkrunning around!

and the average age was 45 for both men and women, which is cool, though makes me feel old as well as slow.

I love how for this very first event you get a total distance of 1,390 km, that’s a loooooooooooooooooooong way. Almost 864 miles in old money. When you consider the first ever parkrun was the Bushy Park Time Trial and that had just the thirteen parkrun pioneers and now we have hundreds here at Buxton. It’s astonishing.

There was one Cath(erine) Saunders wheeling round, three actual dragons providing the fire and great guys marshalling and time keeping and doing all the things to ensure a sparkling event was enjoyed by all.

The guys did grand!

Before I go though, can we have a special shout out to those who made the extra effort to have some November 5th themed active wear. Your efforts were noted and appreciated. Yay you! You all know who you are.

And of course I particularly love those people who see the photographer and become joy manifest. This is type one fun, fun in the moment, none of this ‘I’ll only enjoy it when it’s over’ nonsense, oh no sorreee, parkrun fun at it’s best. #loveparkrun So many happy smiley people! This lot were certainly giving Pavilion Gardens parkrun the literal as well as figurative thumbs up. Smiles all round, and one or two caught with slightly panicked mid-scream expressions, but we get the idea, and it’s fabulous!

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Oh, and for those of you who like to triangulate your event information, there is a run report for this first event on the newly launched facebook page right here. Spoiler alert, they had a grand time too! 🙂 I think we can all agree, the event did good. Happy parkrunner, a grand day out. So grand in fact, let’s do it all again next week!

So there we go. Brilliance at Buxton. Go experience it for yourself. It won’t disappoint. ‘Til next time, bye bye Buxton. You did grand. Here’s to positive parkrun communities that generate their own magic. I’m sure King Buxton would have come good a lot earlier if he’d had access to a parkrun to make him feel included… Thank you all at brilliant Buxton, for creating a magical experience. You are bright sparks and superstars indeed. Yay you. 🙂

Sorry I snuck into your inaugural event. Oops.

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There we have it. Remember, remember this fifth of November, when parkrunners assembled a lot. I see no reason why this firework season should ever be forgot. For on this day, down Buxton way, Pavilion Gardens parkrun sparkled into life. It was their intent, to create an event, of marshals and runners and joy. And you know what, they did just that! Isn’t it grand. #loveparkrun Congratulations to the whole team! You only bloomin’ did it! Huzzah indeed!

Incidentally, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer by reading all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads. 

Thanks for staying the distance. Same time next week? Hoping so. 🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Wonders of Woodbank parkrun – Fabulous Fibonacci numbers working their magic!

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Well, well, welcome to Woodbank. Hosting a Fibonacci numbered parkrun in it’s two-park venue on the day the circus came to town! You have to love a parkrun that has its own sunglass wearing giraffe to welcome you on arrival. This is the parkrun that thought of everything! I should never have left Geronimo in the car, she’d have been right at home!

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I’ve neither read the book nor seen the film ‘When the Circus Came to Town‘ but accordingtotheinternetsoitmustbetrue the book by Yep is ‘Bolstered by themes of compassion, community and tolerance‘ so that seems an apt way to think about a parkrun. Also, actual circuses (not the horrid ones with performing animals and terrifying clowns, but the nice ones with acrobats and environmentally friendly sequinned hats) include much jollity and leaping about. Pretty much EXACTLY what Woodbank parkrun was all about. Never seen so many people jumping for joy on the way around. Hardly anyone had their feet on the ground all morning if the photos are anything to go by! Gotta love a parkrun with an abundance of smiles!

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Oh, and some parkrun magic too, what with it being a magic number event, so yep, a good one. Why has it taken me so long to seek Woodbank parkrun out? The film ‘when the circus came to town’ seems to have little to do with the book, but then again I’ve never seen it. Oh and actually, it may be that the made for tv drama came first? The book sounds better. Aaargh, really confused now. Oh well.

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Oh, properly confused now. Look, how about we agree to let’s not get neurotic about the actuality of the details here, and just enjoy going along with the tenuous linking of the helpful themes can we? Everyone can relax then, and focus on the event itself? Cheers. Knew you’d see sense!

The important thing is that there was a circus hanging out at the Woodbank parkrun venue this week, the team hosted their Fibonacci numbered event 610 with mood enhancing magic alongside the customary compassion, community and tolerance. So that’s good.

Why Woodbank parkrun this week then? Well, I am getting ever more frantic in my quest to find parkruns that won’t find me a burden, and still feeling a bit bruised by the vitriol unleashed on social media when parkwalk was announced. I’m already acutely aware I’m a slow walker, so I try to pick events that for whatever reason are likely to be walker friendly or at least tolerant, week by week. It had come on to my parkrun radar that on this day Woodbank parkrun would be hosting its event number 610. This, dear reader, is one in the Fibonacci sequence, and since some parkrunners are trying to collect a series of these to complete an online challenge, I knew it likely there would be an influx of parkrunners. More people usually means more people likely to be lingering post the event anyway with milestones and running challenge finales various celebrated. Also, a greater likelihood of encountering friendly parkrunners who I already know to some extent, who being aware of my situation are predisposed to be supportive and give some sense of solidarity. Some do this intuitively, and maybe don’t even realise the difference they make, some put themselves out to do so, both approaches are massively appreciated. I do however long for the day I could just rock up at a parkrun like everyone else without having to second guess how I’ll be viewed. No-one likes to think of themselves of being the cause of every heart sinking as they are spotted arriving at a parkrun, or anywhere else for that matter.

It’s always angsty, choosing where to go of late. Sometimes I give myself a talking to and tell myself it’s just my paranoia and nobody minds, and other days those messages online flash up in my mind and I don’t even want to leave the house. This week though, all good. The Fibonacci number would work its magic, and I need not be alone! Which was just as well, since it turns out I massively overdid it the weekend before with a long drive down to London from Sheffield for Charlton parkrun and standing to cheer marathon runners. I paid for it with considerable exhaustion and pain in the aftermath, this is getting so boring, I feel like my body just given up on me some days. Still, I was determined to get out, parkrun is often the only activity I get to do in a week, and if I stop going then I wonder if I’d leave the house at all. Junior parkrun often gives me an injection of optimism that sustains me for a bit, but the 5k has lost some of its potency in that regard. The continuing online ‘debate’ about parkwalk has reduced me to tears. A lot. It’s not even a debate, it’s all negative, where are the voices of people who would welcome walkers? Probably too scared to put their heads above the proverbial parapet. I know I’ve had people just double down on me when I’ve tried to give a different perspective. All this ‘parkwalk will drive away volunteers‘ I AM a volunteer, I volunteer pretty much every week, usually twice, and kept a not a run report going for 30 weeks or so during lockdown in an attempt to keep my local parkrun community together. I did it and do it because I wanted to. Yet, I’m the one being driven away from parkrun – not by the parkwalk initiative, but by people being so vocal in expressing their hatred for walkers. Wow! Such toxicity, and such a flood of people who really don’t want me at their events it seems. Or if they say ‘not you, the other walkers‘ then what does that mean exactly. We have deserving and undeserving walkers? You’ll be telling me some of your best friends are walkers next, don’t delude yourself. Of course those events will particularly struggle for volunteers, they aren’t offering a welcoming and inclusive environment. I am wondering increasingly if my participation in parkrun might be coming to an end. I don’t want to step away, but the onslaught of negativity is definitely taking its toll. Still, this was not the week to walk away. Anyway, we’ve already established walking is painful for me most of the time, so I really don’t want to walk more than I have to. The upshot this was certainly one of my more painful outings, but you know what, it’s a wonderful parkrun. Woodbank restored a bit of faith that there can still be welcoming parkrun communities, and for that I’m very grateful. Gorgeous venue and a super friendly RD who was proactively lovely as opposed to ‘just’ intrinsically and generically lovely which as we all know is a given for RDs and marshals at parkruns across the world! This RD though was extra specially smiley and welcoming. More of that later though.

First off, the Woodbank parkrun official website blah de blah:

The event takes place at Woodbank Memorial Park, Turncroft Lane, Stockport SK1 4JR.

Course Description
The course starts by heading around Woodbank Memorial Park in a clockwise direction. The route then continues with two figure-of-eight loops through Vernon and Woodbank Memorial Parks – with each section in an anti-clockwise direction. The finish is on the left of the path heading back towards Vernon Park.

Most of the course is paved, but it includes one short muddy path connecting the two parks, and a steep cobbled section in Vernon Park. In winter, we sometimes use an alternative course that avoids the hill.

Facilities
There are toilets available in the Vernon Park Café, but this usually opens at about 10am. Other nearby facilities are in the nearby Tesco Extra, which is 1 mile from Woodbank Memorial Park

and it looks like this:

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There are two carparks. I did that really annoying thing of sleeping really, really badly because I’m an insomniac at the best of times, but was also kept awake by pain ‘all night’ and then was so sound asleep when my alarm went off I ended up over sleeping. Mad dash out the door, and I arrived not late exactly, but later than intended. I made my way to the smaller of the two carparks which I now know to be very near the finish, and given the choice the better of the two options if you have limited mobility. There were some super impressive stone gates at the entrance. Wowsers! No mistaking you’ve arrived. The parkrun route actually takes you past these, and the lovely marshal who redirected me earlier too, but that delight was still to come! Sorry my camera takes such rubbish photos, it’s getting to the point I may have to admit defeat and actually retire it, but then again, you get the gist. That’s worth something surely. You can at least see what I mean about those gates. Quite something aren’t they. Enough to intimidate peasants enough to keep away in days of yore.

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It was already full, but a cheery marshal redirected me back along the road to carpark two. I was worried there might not be spaces left, but actually there were loads. The test was the incredibly narrow looking entrance. Constructed deliberately to slow cars down and prevent larger vehicles using it, it works, I felt like even my dinky little car had to breathe in to squeeze through. The car park is a bit offset from the main park, and as I exited hopefully from the far end it wasn’t immediately obvious where to head. No panic though, inevitably you see other parkrunners and so I just trailed in behind them. I’m getting rather too used to just tagging along at the back.

Instantly though you get the sense of this being a splendid park. In fact it’s more than one, but I hadn’t quite got the hang of that at this stage. Some cones and marshals were already in place, and there was a big top as the circus had indeed just come to town. Mature trees were already turning autumn gold, some spectators were seated on benches in anticipation of romping parkrunners, and a great migration of people wearing multi coloured tees were seemingly being pulled together to a central assembly point as if by an invisible force.

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I’d like to think I scampered to the start as I was definitely pushing it for time, others were putting on more than a half hearted jog to get there, I was offering up more of a well intentioned shuffle. Still, this even number 610 had gathered quite a crowd, so others were also somewhat tardy arrivals at the Fibonacci ball.

You know what a Fibonacci number is right? I’m sure we’ve been through this before. Sigh. Well, in case not, the thing you need to know is that some keen parkrunners collect them. I inadvertently found I’d collected one myself at Millhouses parkrun #55 earlier in the year, they’d not really been on my radar much before if I’m honest.

Fortunately, the lovely RD knew all about them. As I approached the start, I heard him asking if anyone had joined them because of the event number. A veritable Mexican Wave of jazz hands went up in spirited acknowledgement that this was indeed the lure!

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In case anyone didn’t know, he gave a great account of what they are, which I didn’t write down or memorise at the time (my bad) but have subsequently googled so you don’t have to:

Fibonacci numbers appear unexpectedly often in mathematics, so much so that there is an entire journal dedicated to their study, the Fibonacci Quarterly. Applications of Fibonacci numbers include computer algorithms such as the Fibonacci search technique and the Fibonacci heap data structure, and graphs called Fibonacci cubes used for interconnecting parallel and distributed systems. They also appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruit sprouts of a pineapple, the flowering of an artichoke, an uncurling fern, and the arrangement of a pine cone’s bracts.

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Also, if you are interested in embarking on various parkrun number challenges and there are a squintillion of them, which is almost as many challenges as there are parkruns and people that do them. That isn’t even a lie once you include things like name badge challenges (spell your name with the first letters of parkruns attended) although I begrudgingly concede I’m not quite sure where my number offering sits in our Hindu-Arabic numerical sequence. Still, if a squintillion isn’t yet a number it should be. Remember dear reader, you heard it hear first.

Anyway, you are distracting me with your picky questions. The point is, if you’d like to know a parkrun number, there is a brilliant online toy to help you do this, and predict where a particular number might show up one day too. This genius Google Spreadsheet global parkrun event number predictor development was put together by parkrun passionista Keith Bennet, an absolute hero. Go spoil yourself, dive in, discover not only Fibonacci numbers, but the Nelson Index, prime numbers and everything in between. You will disappear into a time vortex as you get absorbed in checking out infinite possibilities as you undertake your voyage of numerical exploration and discovery of course, but it is so worth it. It will definitely keep you busy for a while. You have been warned. Remember though, sometimes parkrun home is best, fun as parkrun tourism can undoubtedly be. Thanks to the dedicated few who create these parkrun related fun spin offs. The running challenges team and Elliott Line Stats being but two more who bring added value to the parkrun party week in week out.

It’s because of Elliott that we know the parkrun Attendance and Milestone Stats for 8 and 9 October 2022. Specifically worldwide there were 1,775 parkruns plus 388 junior parkruns, and the worldwide parkrun population was 249,735 parkrunners and 36,365 volunteers. But there is so much more stuff you didn’t know you needed to know until you go have a gander. For example, in Malaysia there were 4 parkrunners per million this weekend, whereas in the UK this week there were 1977 parkrunners per million people in the general population. Spookily, 1977 was the year Concorde first flew, and it’s flight path took it over Bushy Park (probably, I’m not absolutely sure, it certainly set of sonic booms over Bushy Park with regularity) and Bushy Park was where parkrun was to first start back in 2004. Oh, and FYI running was apparently invented in by Thomas Running in 1748 when he tried to walk twice at the same time. Google tells me everyone knows this but it isn’t true. I’m astonished, because I had never heard this but now as sure as the earth is flat sounds plausible enough to me. Good to know.

On the subject of believing unlikely things, I’ve decide to temporarily become a believer in Angel numbers! I gather 610 is one, (as in one of those numbers, not as in number one, that would be ridiculous and mathematically extremely unlikely) and as a consequence lots of lovely things align, who wouldn’t want to believe in that!

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I am in need of positive changes so I’ll take that, and I’m pathetic in my desire to seek validation from the approval of others, so knowing my angels ‘fully approve of my life choices and decisions’ is clearly splendid. Although I do have a slight concern I may be hanging out with the wrong crowd of approving angels just now as it’s not been working out for me all that well at times, still, the occasional waiver and wobble is understandable is it not, I’ll still take that. One things for sure, a crowd of angels did sterling work as volunteers at Woodbank parkrun today, and many in fine voice too!

Right, where was I? Oh yes, back to lovely Woodbank parkrun

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And event 610 was lovely almost instantly, because apart from being a sunny day and a lovely park, I espied a familiar face in the crowd, hurrah, last seen at Huddersfield parkrun #500, a micro reunion! And look! There’s a 250 voluntouring hero, all ready to scan and on an outing from Burnage parkrun. Yay to lovely people and shared hugs and smiles! Definitely lifted my spirits to see some friendly faces and get a warm welcome. Thank you! Love you guys 🙂

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So I was a little late to the party, having missed the first timers’ welcome, sorry about that, but slotted in at the back to join the throng as it set off on it’s migration route through the park.

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The weather was gorgeous, and the park looked lovely. You can’t really see in the photos, but you got a great view of faster parkrunners heading off over the other side of the park. Again, this was a good course because the looping about lapping nature of it, meant you did get to see other parkrunners speeding by. Many throwing words of support and encouragement my way which was friendly. Unusually, there was another parkwalker who was a bit slower than me so with the tail. That meant for the first time in weeks I felt unhurried. Although I was on my own it was quite nice. I could swap cheery exchanges with marshals, take in the view, snap a few pictures. It was good. There was a photographer on the course, who took way better photos than me. I’ll do a mix and match, but I’m guessing you may well be able to spot when I was behind the lens and when it was someone else. It’s the thought that counts dear reader. Loving all the aeroplane arms, these are parkrunners who are pros at living their best parkrun lives.

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Notable things on the course. Erm, well seeing those amazing gates was quite something. My research for parkrunpedia tells me that:

Woodbank Park has lots of wide open spaces and is ideal for a leisurely stroll. (or indeed parkrun) It’s also situated close to Vernon Park. The park connects with the River Goyt and the Goyt Way. Footpaths can lead you through Poise Brook or towards Otterspool and Bredbury. The Midshires Way and the Fred Perry Way also pass through. A nature trail, that had been lost for years, has been restored by the Friends of Woodbank Park group. This trail links many of the heritage features of the park that many people do not know exists

and

Vernon Park opened in 1858 and is Stockport’s oldest public park lying just east of the town centre. It’s an exceptional Victorian/Edwardian asset to both the local community and the North West region. Once known as ‘Pinch Belly Park’ or the ‘People’s Park’, it was built by Stockport Corporation on land donated by George John Warren (Lord Vernon). It was an instant success with mill workers helping to construct park features. The park received a £1.6 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant to give it a new lease of life and to restore it to its former splendour. The park is well used by schools for historical and environmental studies. (and parkrun) It provides unique areas for traditional pastimes such as crown green bowls and has beautifully restored areas of formal and informal parkland. The site also boasts a mature woodland along the river which is sensitively managed whilst maintaining public access.

A place I could easily have spent more time if I had the stamina.

Excitingly, there is another – to me unexpected bit – where you go up a cobbled hill. It’s a bit unexpected, and at the intersection of the two parks. I wonder how many other parkruns go through multiple parks? There are a few I think, it must make things a bit trickier with permissions and admin, but it all went smoothly here. I don’t know absolutely for certain, but this is probably the steepest cobbled street in the UK and the one used for the Hovis ads.

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Hovis Hill was free of people delivering bread today, and instead populated entirely by parkrunners, some posing some panting some pacing some in the intersection of a venn diagram and doing all these things simultaneously.

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I was quite relieved to have to make no pretence at running. It was nice to take it all in, and to see the path named after Fred Perry signposted through. Fred Perry Way is a 14 mile walking route which spans the borough from Woodford in the south to Reddish in the north. The route combines rural footpaths, quiet lanes and river valleys with urban landscapes and parklands. Sounds very nice actually. Disappointingly however, Fred Perry has nothing to do with PERRY HALL parkrun, but rather ‘Fred Perry is one of Stockport’s most famous sons and was born in Portwood in 1909. He won the men’s singles at Wimbledon in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He was the last English men’s tennis player to win the title. Fred Perry was also a member of Britain’s winning Davis Cup team from 1933 to 1936. He was made a freeman of Stockport in 1934‘ So now you know.

I enjoyed the first lap, and took the opportunity to talk to some of the marshals going round. One admired my sticks and we shared some stories of our experiences as parkwalkers through circumstance. It was a relief really, to talk to someone who gets it. Who recommended a virtual 5k through a group where you don’t have to do the 5k all in one go if that’s too hard. Also, we shared the guilty secret, that it would be really lovely to be able to participate without angst at any parkrun rather than have to default to volunteering in order to be welcome as a walker. I feel very conflicted. parkrun is really important to me, or has been at any rate. I don’t want my honesty about my parkwalk experiences to deter anyone from coming. What we need is more walkers, not fewer. I really believe a critical mass of walkers would make for a better event for everyone. Better atmosphere, a bigger pool of participants and therefore volunteers that might help things pick up again. Post covid numbers are down and often getting volunteers nears mission critical! Talking to someone else who gets that is ok. I’ve felt quite stung recently when I’ve mentioned some parkruns aren’t accessible to me because of the terrain and told ‘oh well just come and volunteer’ but I volunteer all the time, I want to be able to join in and complete a parkrun without judgement too. Volunteering is great, and I’m happy to do it, but want to enjoy parkrun as a parkwalker as well. I think parkwalkers are a long way off having ‘the same experience’ as other participants, though I hope that once all the critical voices are flushed out, the apparent resolve of parkrun to make walking at parkrun truly acceptable will come good. I can but hope. I’m still in bracing myself before a parkrun mode at present, but I hope this time too will pass. Meantime, Woodbank was very fine.

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One thing that was exceedingly impressive about these particular high vis heroes, was the high number of them who were accessorised in some way. So we had tamborines with jingly bells, a sound system and a cow bell giving good service as well as the cheery shout outs and clapping on the way round. Good job.

Oh, and here I am at the finish – though still with another lap to go. I liked seeing the buzz of the faster parkrunners finishing. It can be a bit like the deck of the Mary Celeste by the time I make it round to the finish at some parkruns these days. Only with less sea water (unless it’s a seaside parkrun) and less rigging (unless they have a particularly ambitious finish funnel – see Bushy parkrun). Here are some random photos by way of illustration, and also to provide a photodump of shots I want to include but don’t know quite wear to shove them (no, don’t tell me, I can work it out for myself).

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Just after I passed the finish for the first time, the tail walking team caught up with me. |I did have a bit of a wobble at this point, as a departing parkrunner shouted out to the tail walkers with a definite tone of incredulity ‘so you’ve got another WHOLE lap still to go, a WHOLE lap?’ That was a rough moment. I wondered if I should offer to finish at that point, but stayed quiet. It’s just another example of people being thoughtless, I am slow, and acutely aware of not being regarded by some as a ‘proper’ parkrunner, whatever that is. I doubt she gave a moment’s thought to how I might feel hearing that. The person the tail walkers had been accompanying had dropped out after one lap. I noticed she like me had been walking with a stick. I hope she wasn’t feeling hurried and that she gets to complete a full 5k before too much longer assuming that is her goal. I have found rehab to be really hard and more than a tad dispiriting so I feel for those maybe at a different stage on that path, I felt for me too. Was it ok to be taking so long? The tail walkers reassured me there was no hurry and they were just establishing who was the final participant, but psychologically, I did start to feel the pressure a lot more at this point. I tried to speed up a bit, with mixed success. A bit further on, good news, a faster parkrunner who had finished (literally) flying round, came to keep me company for a bit. He’s done this previously at other parkruns and is a patient, non- pressurising parkrun buddy, for which I am grateful. I was a bit miserable at this point as feeling the pain, so it was good to be distracted. Also, he facilitated some selfies with marshals, always a win AND, he had picked up a celebratory cup cake. This is THE BEST idea I’ve seen EVER for someone wanting to share their 100th different parkrun celebrations. What he did, was make 100 different cakes, and give each one its own label corresponding to each of the different parkruns he’s completed. This is clearly genius, and ought to become a thing at every parkrun across the world. You can always stick the flags in grapes if you want a healthier option, or even just give out the flags, because flags are fun are they not?

What’s more, in a very pleasing moment of either fate or chance depending on your point of view, this Burbage parkrunner just by pure happenstance picked the cake that was labelled for Burbage! I know, how very brilliant is that. In an act of selfless charity, he donated it to one of the marshals who was happy to have the sustenance to keep him fuelled until the tailwalker came back around. They had been right behind me, but delayed by course dismantling en route. It was good to have some non judgemental walk and talk company for the final kilometre.

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‘Suddenly’ it was back to the finish where a jolly funnel full of volunteers and many a parkrunner were still very much present. And there was my Burbage voluntourist buddy ready to do her magic with the scanning volunteer app. It got quite emotional thanking all the volunteers at the end!

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And that was that, timed in, barcode scanned and Woodbank parkrun done.

There was a certain amount of parkfaffery, but low key. Mandatory photo posing, oh, and I acquired a parkrun magazine which is VERY EXCITING there was a box available for people to help themselves, and someone picked one up for me. Thank you Team Burrelli! People were dispersing to different cafes and I wasn’t feeling great so opted to just head off. Walking back to the car I was able to appreciate the autumn colours a bit more and exiting towards the larger carpark there was one of the moto coffee vans where I got an excellent coffee from a friendly pair serving. Never found the loos though.

The sun shone, turning autumn leaves gold. Not a bad closing image from Woodbank parkrun.

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Thank you Woodbank team for welcoming the Fibonacci number chasers, and thank you RD for being welcoming – I noticed he made a point of personally thanking the voluntourists before departing, which was a nice touch, thank you tail walkers for not piling the pressure on and thank you parkrun buddies for meeting and greeting me and keeping me company on the way round. This is a properly gorgeous parkun venue, with loads of extra things to explore if you allow yourself a bit more time. I have no idea why it’s taken me such a while to seek it out. Well met dear parkrun, well met indeed. 🙂

’til next time then? Happy parkrunning and parkwalking and voluntouring in the meantime.

Best foot forward eh – or least worse one anyway in my case!

You can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Go Random Stranger, Go! Motivating Marathoners, London 2022

Me and my EWFM got to cheer every, single, marathon runner at London this year. Isn’t that grand.

I already knew she was a keeper obvs, an EWFM (Erstwhile Flat Mate) being for life not just for Christmas and all, but just in case you need a bit of triangulation in your evidence base because you consider me too close to the research to retain any objectivity, how many people do you know who would relocate from the North of the Country to London and find a house on the actual route of the London Marathon entirely for your benefit, to enable you to have a more manageable marathon watching experience post illness a few years down the line? Hang on let me guess! Oh, that’s right, none at all! Only me! I have the best EWFM ever. A while ago I was contemplating that, in a dark world, I am grateful for my BFF/EWFM. Something I heard on the radio about the importance and rarity of friendship perhaps struck a chord anyways, it led me to resolve that next time I saw her, I’d make a point of telling her that I feel really lucky to have found such a friendship in my life. Well dear reader, you can just imagine the look on her face when I announced to her on arrival that ‘I really don’t what I was thinking of when I reflect on us becoming friends’. Her look was an absolute picture. I can only assume she feels the same. Another rare and precious memory shared. Lucky us. Isn’t that touching?

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Anyway, fast forward from our first meeting 39 years ago, to this London Marathon weekend 2022.

In an irony wasted on neither of us, our weekend activities revolved entirely around running related rollicking good fun. We were not noticeably running enthusiasts back in the day – unless you count putting on a bit of wiggle to get home in time for early evening neighbours now and again. Oh, and maybe running a bath (not an ice one) from time to time. Yet here we are, four decades on, and it was all about feeling the running love. We’d been to her local Charlton parkrun to join their first birthday celebrations on the Saturday. Did I mention she’d also arranged a birthday party parkrun at Charlton and ordered in a new pale blue parkwalk high vis especially for me too? No? Well she did. Like I said, a rare and precious find indeed. Also, whilst on the subject of extraordinary things, finally a parkrun high vis that I can fit into, hurrah for all the good things happening! This clothing option might even be borderline flattering, though to be fair, I’ve cheated a bit by having my best side photographed and distracting your gaze with a helium balloon. This are just tricks of the trade I’ve picked up in my film and tv career. Works for me. Look on in wonder and learn.

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Yes, I parkwalked, I know. I only said ‘running related‘ I didn’t commit to us actually running anywhere. I can’t at the minute anyway as perhaps you know dear reader, but I can dream and enjoy celebrating the running aspirations and achievements of others. In further running related activity-ness we may also have done some sofa sitting and extensive planning to ensure our marathon watching experience would be optimal. In preparation for the 42,000 odd people who’d be trailing past her front door on London Marathon day on Sunday. It was going to be amazing. To clarify and to be fair, they may not all have been completely odd, but a fair proportion must be to embark on a marathon at all. This is not a bad thing, au contraire, individuality is what makes people interesting and there were certainly some classic individuals pounding the London streets this marathon day. It lifts the heart to see them.

We would cheer each and every one.

Clearly, we needed to tool up. Cheering ‘each and every one’ is fine in theory, but requires some planning. This was after all a marathon not a sprint, we couldn’t just rock up unprepared and expect to be able to maintain our energy and focus without some forward planning. For starters, to achieve this aim in practise we obviously required some generic signs, but then we would also need some person specific ones for particular friends we’d said we’d be looking out for. It was only fair they looked out for us too, but we recognised they might need a bit of help in spotting us. Fortuitously, the nice people at the London Marathon had put the 4 mile marker pretty much directly outside our house. Well, my EWFM’s house, and my residence for the weekend. Hurrah! Disappointingly, it wasn’t an actual arch across the road with balloons as in previous years, but it was still definitely a mile marker, shouldn’t be too hard to spot. And the four mile marker is early enough in the event that passing marathoners hopefully wouldn’t yet be bleeding from the eyes so much they could no longer make out any details smaller than Tower Bridge. It would be grand. We’d be to the left of it, high up, looking down on the road from some railings. We could make this work.

Saturday afternoon became an extended craft activity. Granted, I did take on more of a hands off supervisory role at times, because my EWFM has patience, a creative talent and an eye for the aesthetic, well, two eyes to be fair. I mainly did sticking things down, being trusted to go outside with an aerosol of glue where there was better ventilation and a reduced possibility of me sticking random household items together never again to be parted. I also did some colouring in of letters with a marker pen AND some drawing round the stuck out letters so they stuck out more. So pretty busy in fact. Oh, and I also did google some sign ideas and show some enthusiasm, which I think we can all agree is also tremendously important, helps to keep teams motivated. Besides, giving a creative genius the necessary space to do their thing was actually exceedingly insightful of me. I was not only a motivator but enabler too. The signs would have been nothing without me. Sign building was a great activity as it provided a cover for us basically sitting about and drinking industrial quantities of tea, which are two of my favourite things. Doing so in the company of my EWFM not seen in too many months being the icing on the actual cake, and we may have had some of that too. All needs catered for.

Look at the sign making factory though – you have to grant we did good!

Gin? I see no gin. It’s just a decorative bottle.

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Like I said, I was mainly supervising. Quality control, that sort of busy and importantness. Also, I was extremely good at keeping out of the way*. As a wise old woman once said: ‘I be old, and I be wise, and it isn’t helpful unless you are helping‘. Wise she was indeed!

So sign wise, we had the generic ‘go stranger, go!’; person specific ‘go Mark, go’; because we were cheering someone called Mark; person specific ‘go Arif, go’; because were also cheering someone called Arif (I know, spooky telepathic communication if you guessed that already) and generic ‘You run better than the government’; (made us laugh) another ‘Only 7 1/2 parkruns to go!’ (too cruel as well as not mathematically completely accurate?) and last but not least a huge ‘Hello Mum’ sign. Well, if we did make it onto the telly, it would be too good an opportunity to miss. Any besides, somebody’s mum would be running out there and might think it was for them, and that would be grand too.

We didn’t stop at the signs though. Oh nosy no. We also had excellent noise making things. I had come tooled up. Having acquired a football rattle from my gifted neighbour over the road in Sheffield. He actually made it himself, as a noise-creating asset to contribute to the ‘clap for carers’ during the pandemic. Do you remember that? When we clapped NHS and other staff so they wouldn’t notice the daily trauma of being trapped in PPE and feeling helpless as they worked long shifts trying to support desperately ill people who were unable to see loved ones and not being paid properly and parties at number 10? He made it back then. There’s not a lot of cheering and clapping going on for such front line workers anymore, but ill wind and all that, it meant I got free rein with a bespoke football rattle to cheer random strangers at the London Marathon, so I hope the crumbling NHS structures and the exhausted people working in the caring professions will take comfort in that. Vain hope is still hope after all. Apparently.

Nice rattle though, and some castanets too.

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Oh, and I took Geronimo too. She is actually a marathon veteran, having accompanied me round in 2018, it seemed fitting to have her helping to secure our position. You will see that EWFM brought led lit tambourines to the party, as well as string for sign securing purposes, we had this nailed!

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Morning came, and out we went to set our pitch. It was very exciting, and we had all the things. AND we found we had inadvertently, but perhaps not completely unsurprisingly, put on matchy matchy outfits. Contra bottom layer and personalise apricot tees with ‘parkrun is for life, not just for Christmas’, which it is, just as is an EWFM. Great minds eh? Also, we figured the apricot would catch the eye of fellow parkrunners, we’d be a parkrun cheer station all of our own. It is only fitting. Much of my training for cheering fellow runners has come from unrestrained clapping and vocal supporting of parkrunners at junior parkrun as well as 5k events. We were just taking that transferable skill to a new context. We’d nail it. I should point out that EWFM has cheered at the London marathon at this very spot before, so particularly experienced on this count, but then again, I’ve been cheered at by her at this very point, so we could identify the best cheering techniques from all possible angles. Ethnographic research of the highest order.

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And it was that attention to detail that saw us present as below. Not gonna lie, we were pretty proud of ourselves, and I think you can agree rightly so!

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We were out in good time as we wanted to see all the elites and wheelchair races too. A neighbour came to join us, and neighbourly exchanges were made regarding it being a good spot to cheer from and expressing disappointment re the lack of an actual arch. Also, naturally, we commented on the weather. The forecast had been for a LOT of rain, but in fact it seemed to be pretty much perfect running conditions. Early drizzle had passed and it was a bit cloudy and a bit on the cool side, but basically dry, with roads swept clean by over night rain. Not gonna lie, I had a bit of running envy if I’m honest. I am pleased for them all, truly I am, but so wish I could be joining the throng.

Undeterred, we started to practice our cheering and whooping and enthusiastic and energetic support of anything passing us that moved. I rather regret being too confused to properly whoop a pair of runners on the far side of the road, who I realised with the benefit of hindsight were probably doing their virtual London marathon on the actual route before it started. Good call. Some vehicles and out riders breezing by were far too cool to react to our frantic displays. I wonder if this is what male paradise birds feel like when prospective mates just ignore their efforts? Probably. It’s certainly crushing. Never mind, it isn’t the people that ignored us that mattered, it was those who engaged. Particularly this purple jacketed cycling guy. Who pulled up at the Mile 4 marker and appreciated our efforts enough to have an actual chit chat. What’s more – get this – he’s an actual parkrunner too, so officially awesome every parkrun day as well as today when presumably he was holding out bottles for his nominated elite runner to grab without breaking stride. I think for now he was just checking his runner was ok, as he waited for them to come through, then cycled on, other purple clad cyclists taking his place. Sort of circle of live for TCS London Marathon fluid and nutrition team. Not that he’s actually dead as such, just moved on to his next spot, with another cyclist taking his place for their runner and so it continues. Isn’t he jolly though! Great ambassador for the event. No, he isn’t facing the wrong way, just looking out for his runner. I think he’s done this before.

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This isn’t a role I’d particularly noticed before, but you know how Eliud Kipchoge just broke the world marathon record in Berlin the other week? Well he did, but his efforts were aided by his water bottle handler Claus-Henning Schulke. Someone has put together a video sequence of the handovers, and they are indeed heart warming as well as impressive. The way he punches the air and shoots off on his bike after every successful transfer is just brilliant to see! What a hero!

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We felt the same elation every time our efforts to cheer participants was rewarded. Yep, we were angling to get on the telly too, but to no avail, the elite participants are way too focused to take anything in beyond the road in front. Still amazing to watch though. To be so close to elite athletes is really something, you get a sense of what the human body is capable of. Looking at the wheelchair athletes made me a bit ashamed of how incapacitated I am by my feet and legs at the moment. Also, it was quite tiring just spinning the football rattle for a bit, I can’t imagine propelling a wheelchair with my weight in it for all those miles. There is a reason why the London marathon stirs such strong emotions. It is a cliche I know, but it’s true nevertheless that this is a truly inspirational sight. Every person out there has a story. You don’t need to know them all, just recognise they are valid. Each participant has a different goal, for some just getting to the start line is an achievement, let alone the finish. I celebrate them all.

Meantime, we celebrated the outriders tampering with setting the digital timing thingy before the mass start. I got quite confused by this as the women and wheelchair riders had already been through, and then it occurred to me that at that level they probably aren’t relying on what a digital clock says at each mile marker, probably have a helping hand from pacing teams, as well as their own gps. I wonder if they also feel ‘if it ain’t on strava it didn’t happen’. I imagine so. Did anybody ever to go out running at all before that? Probably not, what would be the point. Couldn’t even really draw rude dinosaur strava art for the world to see on your run routes! Hardly worth leaving the house for.

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Elites out of the way, we could focus on tracking the app for people we knew, and for people others in the crowd new. Because we were high up we had a pretty good success rate in seeing those we hoped to. Unfortunately, despite our amazing signs, some were so in the zone they inexplicably failed to see us. Gutted! Also, turns out, when you are cheering and sign waving and everything it’s actually really hard to take photos too, but we had the interaction and that’s more important. So exciting when you do see someone. Yay to those we saw and screamed at. That was super fun.

We are also listeners to the unofficial parkrun podcast With Me Now, and very excitingly, did spot a fully merched fellow listener among the throng, we screamed and screamed but to no avail, oh well, these things happen. Fortunately though, but this point, we’d been joined by another WMN supporter (it’s not a cult, definitely not) who’d come with her family to share the vantage point and the fun, so she snapped a pic, and shared the moment too. All good. Plus, she takes the best selfies. Action shot of all of us and in focus and relatively flattering too. What a star. Geronimo was fading a bit, but it’s hard being a giraffe tied to some railings, so understandable in the circumstances I suppose.

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It was a bit frustrating to only realise after the event that there were some other participants I knew from parkrun, but didn’t realise they were running this year, check out Endcliffe parkruns very own cardiac runner, fab official photo there. Oh well. Always next year.

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Once those we actually knew had passed by with varying amounts of interaction, and no actual lingering for pictures, we could relax into more random supporting. This was great. The best tactic was to call names when they were on people’s numbers and avoid anyone wearing ear phones as they couldn’t hear anyway. My favourite thing was when some really got into that shared experience, more than one punched their chest with a ‘yes, I am a random stranger, I get that you are cheering for me‘ and that was BRILLIANT! We don’t get enough opportunity as adults to actually play, and for me cheering at a junior parkrun or here at the London marathon you are basically doing that. Making new friends through a shared experience, and it was just pure, innocent joy. All that is good in the world.

We also realised that you could repurpose the signs with names on if there were other Marks and Arifs around and there were! Though the Arif passed too quickly, and our reflexes weren’t all that on it for the Marks but we had fun trying to attract their attention. We are exceedingly good at making our own entertainment. It is a handy shared trait. Shouting at the pacers was a good shout too, literally as well as figuratively. I think on the whole pacers are running at a slower rate than they usually would so they are comfortable in the times and able to take it all in. We saved extra loud cheers for the 7hour plus pacers of which we saw a couple, though very confusingly one seemed to be amongst 4 hour flags. I know they start in three different lines and then merge, but even so, they must have had an earlier start for some reason.

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Also a source of entertainment and excellence were of course the myriad of fancy dress runners and record breaking attempt runners. A personal favourite though was the post box man who’d updated his pillar box with the new King Charles Cypher, I appreciate that attention to detail. Love a good bit of street furniture, and post boxes are especially brilliant for their cyphers. He was carrying a banana as he passed us, and still seemed to be carrying one at the end. I am left wondering if he couldn’t reach his arms up past his costume close enough to his mouth to eat it, never mind though, he got his picture on the telly and this blog post too, that has to be winning at life surely?

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Well done to the unicorn with the fastest time, though – don’t tell anyone – I think that’s a bit of a creepy unicorn. I prefer my unicorns a bit cuddlier, and less bipedal. But all the same, good job. Talking of cuddly things that you probably really oughtn’t to cuddle, did you know that as well as the London Marathon this week, it’s Fat Bear Week! I know! What a thought!

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As a slower runner and now a slow walker too, I was keen to stay out to cheer as many marathoners as possible. Eventually the field thinned out to but a trickle, I stayed for the firefighter who was walking it in full kit. Looking strong at the 4 mile stage, but way behind the others. It can be lonely out there. Was glad he made it. Some ahead of him were already struggling a bit. A few injured, some perhaps undertrained having underestimated the challenge, but mostly smiles, amazement and delight as participants streamed by.

This is determination though. Respect. Well earned medals – and the medals this year are outstanding. Best I’ve ever seen, and I know my bling, well worth all that running around for! Not just at the event, but in training for it too.

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After the firefighter, I couldn’t see anyone else, although the sweeper hadn’t yet been through so perhaps there were some. I felt a bit guilty not being out their for them, but with the lack of the external stimulus of a crowd of runners to cheer, I suddenly became aware I was in quite a bit of pain from standing for so long, even though I’d tried as much as possible to stand on just one leg to avoid stressing my sesamoids on my poorly foot. The upshot though was my other leg, the DVT one was protesting massively, and coming over all peculiar. I belong to a rather alarming American hosted DVT support group page, I try to disregard the spam sellers of snake oil panaceas – and not only because I’m vegetarian – and the alarmist ‘we are all going to die’ because of course we are, that’s what happens, unless you are an actual vampire, and that’s unlikely – and then you do get the occasional insight. One poster said they get this weird numbness, tingling, dead leg thing too, and call it ‘the crawlies‘ which made me feel a bit better, as that is quite an accurate word for what it feels like, and it made me feel less of a freak knowing someone else out there has it too. Anyways, as my body was disintegrating around me, and my arm hurt from football rattling and I needed not just a pee but a proper cup of tea, we agreed it was time to retreat inside and watch the coverage on the telly. That was great. Once again, running related activity, and all from the comfort of a sofa. #winningatathleticlife

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From the coverage, which was great, although also mind boggling as it slowly dawned on me watching participants we cheered by crossing through the finish arch many hours later, just how long some had been out there for. We also came to realise we had missed the guy who led the marathon briefly at the start. Give the man a medal! Oh wait, I think they did!

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The London Marathon is a marathon, not a sprint – obviously – but Richard Lee-Wright seemingly didn’t get the memo. As the race began yesterday (Sunday 2 October) the 38-year-old, from Devon, legged it out to the front of the pack, surging past the top athletes and punching the air in his luminous socks. Of course, he couldn’t keep that pace going the entire race, but it made the nation smile and his mission was accomplished.’

Truly magnificent, what a way to nab your 15 minutes of fame! To be honest, no mean feat either, those elite runners are not exactly slacking on the way round. Great job, smacks of Run Fatboy Run! Which I recall as being a highly watchable film, though always a bit hesitant recommending any film in case I’ve misrememebered stuff. I’ve still not got over the embarrassment of taking some American visitors to see a panto whilst they were in the UK. I don’t like panto really, but felt it was quintessentially British, and something they should see as they were here over Christmas. I’d forewarned them about the cross dressing, pantomime Dames, singalongs, audience participation ‘Oh yes I had!’ but somehow, as the curtain rose on a production of Aladdin, recalled to my horror and theirs, I’d forgotten the casual racist stereotyping as Wishy Washy’s laundry opened for business. Uh oh. Shudder at the very thought.

So that was that really, just one final observation. The TV coverage included a bit about the mini marathons for junior runners that had taken place the day before. Leaving aside the little detail that one of the winners in his age group taking part in this event which is very much a race and not a run was a Graves junior parkrunner from Sheffield. Isn’t that cool. A noticeably good runner, hurrah for him..

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That’s great and all, but my absolutely favourite participant in the whole weekend of marathoning was the little girl interviewed about taking part in the mini marathon who said – with a wisdom beyond her years in my opinion – ‘I don’t really like running, but I just really, really want a medal’ This is how ultrarunners start out. She’ll be grand.

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And then it was done.

Learning points from today, having an EWFM living on the route of the London Marathon is a boon. Having 42,000 marathon runners pass you by whilst you cheer them on is a great distraction from pain. Drinking tea is always a win. A good day. I thank you. Same time next year? Well now actually, because we don’t have to wait that long any more, just 200 days to go (less by now) as London will be back in April 2023. Oh wow. Time will fly. It’s going to be emotional.

Thanks for joining me for the run and the read. A marathon not a sprint on all counts. And this was certainly the cheeriest of days in a long while. We all need that. I wish you good cheer and good cheer squads in your running related adventures too.

’til next time.

*mostly

Categories: marathon | Tags: | 4 Comments

Coming of age at Champion Charlton parkrun. Number One parkrun today!

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When I was one I had just begun” said someone. For Champion Charlton parkrun that may well be true. Not that they haven’t already achieved muchly greatness, but only that there is soooooooooooooo very much more to still to come. Adventures and joy pending. SO EXCITING. This weekend was their First Birthday and they were having a parkrun party, isn’t that grand. They do seem very established, so ‘just begun’ might seem churlish to Charlton, but I think the opposite, it speaks of a long and glorious future ahead. Super-charged and charming Charlton has eons still to go. This is but the beginning indeed, and a very fine one it was too.

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Oh and today was also International parkrun day, that is the anniversary of that first Bushy park time trial 18 years ago, where parkrun all began. Always about the coffee, with the parkrun pioneers doing their 5k before a debut parkfaff with coffee and chat. In a way, it’s quite nice that the International parkrun day is less of a thing, because it speaks volumes of how local events consider their own birthday the more significant event, that’s how it should be if it is a community initiative. All the same, I do recommend getting to Bushy parkrun for their birthday bash one day, it’s quite a big deal. I was there for the 15th celebrations and it was epic indeed. Mum got her ‘Spirit of parkrun’ award, and it is one of her most precious and prized possessions, that she has promised to pass on to me one day.

This weekend, was all about Charlton parkrun though, because now they are one, and all is splendid. The theme was blue, which may have been serendipity (it has been proposed that each birthday should have a colour theme, saves making complex last minute fancy dress theme calls, and they just happened to choose blue) but how apt! This was also the weekend of the launch of parkwalk, and with it lovely new powder blue high vis for the parkwalk teams, it was truly meant to be!

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Let’s start at the very beginning though, it’s a very good place to start.

I’ll get the depressing bit out of the way first. I wasn’t going to include it, as up until now I’ve determined to only stress positive things in my blog, but I’ve struggled to write this post because of how under siege I’ve felt lately as a walker at parkrun, and maybe I owe it to myself and others in a similar boat to come clean about that. You can always skip this bit, and jump ahead to the joyful birthday bit. But it is set against a context of less cheery stuff. Your call though dear reader, your call indeed.

The gloomy bit:

I didn’t make it to parkrun last week. Maybe we both needed a bit of time to let things settle. It’s been a bit complicated lately, this relationship between parkrun and me. It was/is so important to me, not the running as such, but the being included in a local community bit, and the a national and even global one. Ironically lock down meant local connections became less important than online connections. Since I’ve developed health issues and can only walk quite slowly I’ve not always felt included or welcome at parkruns. I don’t think people mean to be hostile – notable exception the event director who took to social media to proclaim his opposition to the parkwalk initiative, wowsers, that was toxic – but it doesn’t always feel welcoming. I’ve come home from many a parkrun in tears of late, and the negativity of some Facebook groups is beyond my comprehension, don’t read below the line is sound advice. I need to follow it. I didn’t though, I don’t normally name people in my blog, but let’s just say the Event Director who commented very negatively about people walking at parkrun ruining the event and causing an exodus of volunteers. It triggered a spew of vitriol and trolling about how awful walkers are and how ruinous parkwalk is. It made me freeze to read it. Check out the thread only better not to really, it’s so depressing. Posters are all for inclusion apparently, as long as it only includes them.

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I don’t understand the venom some parkrun participants spit out at walkers. As if we are some sort of alien being. More walkers won’t impact negatively on the event, it’s more people to bring atmosphere, to be volunteers to build the community. We aren’t a different species, many of us have been supporting parkrun volunteering and sharing the love over many years. But even without volunteering, why would others begrudge people the opportunity to join in, when those of us who are not currently able to run, and/or maybe never will, need safe spaces in which to be active more than anyone. It’s really sad. Some posted saying the comments had put them off trying parkrun for the first time, and it’s not hard to see why. I truly don’t get the rhetoric around ‘poor volunteers having to wait’ volunteering can be an absolute joy. Yep, in the cold with not much going on it’s more challenging, but more walkers would keep the atmosphere going, and thermals exist for a reason. And as post parkrun parkfaff is always a boon, many in the parkrun community choose to linger long after events have concluded anyway. I wonder if those who spout all this stuff about walkers somehow ruining parkrun would look me in the eye and tell me I’m unwelcome at their event. Maybe they would. In any event, I’ll be giving Sewerby parkrun a wide berth for now, it takes courage enough to turn up at an event these days, without risking attending one where you know in advance you would not be welcome. For the record though, you know what, I’ll ask. …

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Although the tragedy is, maybe they don’t have to, I can read their vibes a mile off. It’s not so much his comment, it’s the 81 loves and likes. It does make me think I’m hated whenever I rock up at a parkrun these days, it’s horrible. How can joining in a parkrun as a walker provoke such outrage? I nearly died last year, and honestly, spent many, many months wishing I had. Slowly re-engaging with parkrun has been critical to my recovery and reconnection with other people. I hope they never live with the daily pain and mobility challenges I do, but I do wish they’d just pause and think for a minute about how hard that is, how lonely and isolating pain can be and how their behaviours make all of that so much worse, when instead they could make things better just by tolerating someone walking at their local parkrun. It’s not a big ask. Not even ‘be nice‘ just ‘don’t be vile‘. Do nothing, don’t actively express hatred for walkers. Is that so very hard? Stupid question, apparently so. Oh well, maybe they have their own demons chasing them down. It’s hard not to really hope so. Anyway, they won last week. I couldn’t face parkrun, I was worried about being hated and humiliated by the invisible minority who would wish me away. I hate letting the bullies win, but I just don’t have any fight left in me some days. I was in a lot of pain anyway, and besides, I had leaky pipes. Not a euphemism, but an actual thing. A leak from the bathroom through the kitchen ceiling, oh, and my physio had advised me to rest the foot for a bit just to let things settle. Basically all the planets converged to keep me away last week. It was a sad day. I hate missing a parkrun. Then again, my day wasn’t as bad as that of the builder’s mate, who stuck his head through a hole in the ceiling to check out where exactly the leak was coming from and got a face first drenching with loo water as a pipe detached. Remember that next time you think you are having a sh#t day, things often do have the potential to get a whole lot worse. This guy cheerfully emerged from his hole, with his saturated t-shirt dripping on the plastic protective sheet that had mercifully been laid out in preparation, all smiles, pronouncing he’d been covered with worse things in his time and only the day before nearly got run over working on a job. Lawks a lordy, puts things in perspective. If he can cope with a facefull of toilet water, I can rise above a bit of online trolling.

Mind you, worst day at work ever prize goes to a former colleague of mine who worked as a research scientist at one point. She was using a glass centrifuge which shattered, spraying radioactive particles over her, resulting in her having to strip naked and decontaminate using one of the showers for that purpose in a corridor. That truly would be a bad day in the office, it’s all about perspective. Oh and her car had broken down on the way to work. Mind you, contributory negligence, she should have just gone back to bed and not forked out for a taxi to get in. Such diligence is commendable, but poorly rewarded. parkrun is totally going to be a walk in the park by comparison, Charlton parkrun being a case in point!

parkwalk, here we come!

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Back to the parkrun positivity and Charlton Cheer! You are safe to read on from this point forward! 🙂

First birthday party. My Best Friend’s local parkrun. We were going to make a weekend of it, I’d tourist at her local, and we’d get to cheer marathon runners from outside her house on the Sunday, what’s not to like. A blue theme for the event. Hmm. Where to start?

Well, fortuitously with parkrun related contra merch, because they had a sale on for a blue sunrise tee. That was an easy impulse buy in advance of the event. One for each of us at knockdown rates so we could be matchy matchy, Charlton parkrun themed and keep parkrun free, for everyone, for ever. I will ignore the implications of seeing an actual sunrise that is blue, I’m not convinced a completely blue sky at dawn would be the best of signs. Fortunately, blue is also a flattering colour, and complements the new parkwalk high vis, all the planets were aligning to make sure this was going to be the most awesome of days. parkrun days almost always are, it’s just that some parkrun days are more awesome than others.

But wait, there’s more! As it was her local parkrun, and parkwalk was launching, and it was their first birthday too, she’d prepped up by getting us on the volunteer rota to help with decorations – which is a sneaky win for a ‘course set up’ volunteering credit and I would get to parkwalk with the brand new high viz. I was properly chuffed to be honoured with sporting it on its debut appearance. I was even more chuffed to discover this is a high vis that erm, let’s go with ‘accommodates’ my assets. Almost flattering, another win! We also sourced cake to bring along – she said butterfly buns, but they seemed more fairy cake ish to me, or rather a sort of hybrid of sorts. There was also bunting for decorative purposes, what more could we wish for?

As my walking is sub optimal and stamina limited, when the morning dawned we drove to the park. It really wasn’t far, but it was further than I would have been able to manage with doing a parkrun 5k as well. There is a little car park in Charlton park, and as we pulled in, we could see some of the core team already very much in set up mode.

Oh wait, I should probably be telling you a wee bit more about this course, hang on. The website blah de blah tells us that:

‘The event takes place at Charlton Park, Charlton Park Lane, London, SE7 8HY’ and the course description understates it as ‘A flat three-lap course on a mixture of grass and path round the perimeter of Charlton Park starting adjacent near the skate park.’

It looks like this on the course map:

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Which still doesn’t seem to properly do the venue justice! The location might not mean anything to you if you aren’t local, but check out the proximity to the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery (presumably actually the Queen’s troop until quite recently) and the associated splendid buildings. The park, rather delightfully is fittingly marked as ‘grand estate for recreational purposes.’ And check out Charlton House and Gardens, this is basically Greenwich, with all its associated splendour and spectacularousness! Yes, that is a word, I think I may have just invented it.

The point is that the park is properly lovely! Grand indeed! Despite the cruelly dry summer, recent rain had greened it all up, and with the morning light and the cheery Charlton volunteers resplendent in high vis and even balloonery in evidence it was all looking most festive.

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Not gonna lie, it being my besties local, she was probably rather more helpful than me when it came to doing course set up, but I choose to believe that without my supervision she’d never have managed to wrangle those evasive banners and attach them to trees with such success. I was also exceedingly game for accessorising our fabulous high viz and that all surely contributed to the party atmosphere. Oh, and I captured a spontaneous reunion of parkrun friends. Touching isn’t it?

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Others were busy bringing cake (thank you lovely vegan runner); writing birthday messages on white boards and displaying the AMAZING bespoke selfie frame which is surely in a league of it’s own in terms of magnificentness. (New word of the day, number two, Sesame Street has nothing on me). Number of the day? Well the number one, obvs. Number one birthday, number one parkrun…

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Number 1! Number 1 is a leader, coming before all the other numbers, helping you get to numbers like 2, 3, 4, and 5! There may not have been a dancing elephant to celebrate year number one achieved at Charlton parkrun, but there were balloons; cake; the debut appearance of an actual blue tail besported by the actual tail walker, (which was looking especially fine in silhouette if I may say so) and some party hats! All the things! A parkrun party indeed!

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In possession of our high vis, I headed over the first timers briefing. This was exceedingly jolly, with an acknowledgement of the extra first timers enticed along not just for the first birthday festivities, but because they are doing a London Marathon thingy tomorrow. All were welcomed warmly. I also, really like the new parkrun card prompts, which give hints of what to cover at the parkwalk and first timers’ welcomes. I always appreciate attention to detail.

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And then next stop the Run Director’s welcome. She did sterling work. Thanking many who had contributed to the set up of the event, and to those who continue to keep the Charlton parkrun show on the road. Lots of people were named, reinforcing the message that it is a community of people who come together to make this happen. Special thanks for the cake maker. Congratulations to milestoners, slight (but acceptable) reluctance to sport a party hat, but then other volunteers had embraced the head accessorising with gusto, so just another manifestation of respecting everybody’s right to participate in their own way. All good! There was also special thanks to those who’d arranged for the bespoke selfie sign, designed and made in time for the first birthday event – which is properly amazing and references Charlton House, a visible and impressive landmark visible from the course. Very well received indeed.

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Then it was off to the start and off for a run not a race and for the tailwalker and parkwalkers a walk not a run!

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parkrun party at the back

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One boon of being at the back is you get the glorious sight of the other participants streaming off at the beginning. It gets me every time. It’s an emotional sight. Look at them go! Quite a turn out eh? That’s the enticement of both cake and getting to run the streets of London. Check out that park though, a fine recreactional space indeed!. You’ll see Charlton House in one direction too, and lovely mature trees with a hint of autumn hues. Reet nice, as we say up norf!

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And off we went. I was at the back with the tail walker. The parkwalker role is new, and there was some discussion about what it ‘ought’ to be. The bottom line is that it’s for raising the visibility of walkers and making walking seem an acceptable option. After months of feeling a burden to parkrun and useless other than as a report writing or marshalling volunteer, it was nice to actually don a high vis for a purpose. If I have to walk anyway, I may as well fly the proverbial flag for walking. Speed walkers are great too, but I can certainly be on the poster for rehab walking as a parkwalk option. It’s of course true there is a need for parkwalkers ahead of the tail too, to fill that awkward lag there can be between the back of the bulk of parkrun participants and the tail, the run equivalent of an embarrassing silence; but the really important thing is to put the message out that walking is ok – whatever you may have seen on Facebook…

Officially though, the role of tailwalker is:

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So now we know.

parkrun is always splendid of course. But extra splendour today because we were joined at the last minute, right at the back of the pack, by two first timers. They’d actually been heading out for a general walk, not parkrun at all, but got chatting, one mentioned to the other they’d registered for parkrun a year ago when Charlton first started but never gone because, well you know, the notion of a run is scary – and through talking remembered seeing stuff about parkwalk, and thought ‘what the hell’ and just turned back, and came right round just as the Run Director called ‘go’ and decided to join in. This was beyond brilliant. A really tangible outcome of the parkwalk initiative. The pair of them walked and talked, and were occasionally shepherded back on the route when their concentration lapped and they were in danger of walking straight out of the park. It kept us alert anyway. It’s harder than you think, walking around a park! Fortuitously there were cheery Charlton marshals acing directional pointing as well as motivational clapping to see us safely – and accurately – on our way! I gathered there is at least one celebrity marshal who has her own corner, cheering each and every runner on every single lap with unwavering enthusiasm, what a star. In explicably not captured in the photos, but definitely captured in my heart!

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The beauty of a multi-lap course, is that you get the camaraderie of other parkrunners supporting and greeting you as they pass. All were encouraging, and the marshals patient and in good cheer. The sun shone, endorphins flowed, the park looked lovely. All good. After a bit a friend who had already finished came back to join us for our final lap which was very companionable. The event photographer snapped one of my favourite ever parkrun photos, hurrah!

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Three Amigos! Because parkwalk buddies are the best! Fact! #walkingatparkrun

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I thought it would be good to get a shot with our backs with the tailwalker tail and moniker and the parkwalk moniker too, so we walked backwards to enable this – before someone helpfully observed he’d have been able to do that after we passed him and walked away anyway! Oh. Well, I don’t claim to be a photographer, I could hardly have been expected to have such specialise knowledge! He’d already pulled off this tour de force a couple of times at this event already. Who knew? Thanks photographer Paul, you are the best!

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I know the birthday banners are looking a bit battered, but don’t worry they were repurposed later in the day and did good service accessorizing our banners motivating marathon runners the following day. Gotta love a repurposed birthday banner.

Finally, after a companionable final lap, and thanking all the marshals en route, it was our turn through the finish.

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The first timers hadn’t brought printed barcodes with them, but had brought mobile phones. With a bit of clever apping and smart phone searching, fellow parkrunners were able to access the relevant barcodes so all got times. This is a big positive of now allowing mobile phone barcodes to be scanned. It also added to, rather than detracted from the social interaction part of the parkrun. People helped and made sure the results were recorded, and that has to be good. You can find a guide to getting your own barcode on your smart phone here, and there is a way to make friends with others so you can access their barcodes too but I’m not honestly sure how that works, having neither a smart phone nor the relevant apps. What I do know, is that apparently parkrun are finally developing an app of their own, I’m sure that will be a feature they’ll have thought of.

The course was pretty much packed away and the funnel dismantled in record time, so we weren’t able to make use of the newly created selfie frame – oh well, next time. However, we were able to pose in front of the actual Charlton House so that’s a start! Sometimes you do just have to make do with sub optimum scenarios without too much fuss, it’s all about being flexible. It is testament to the power of parkrun I was more fixated on the bespoke selfie frame than the actual house. A variation of the ‘if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen’ mentality I dare say. Oh well, I’ll just have to make sure I come again some time.

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Next stop was the excellent café. Oh my, this was seriously good value, and I speak as a now northerner. Fab food options, incredibly reasonably priced by super friendly staff who are massively supportive of the parkrun. The proprietor does a lap of parkrun before going to open up apparently, and they were happy to provide a table for cakes and birthday treats. Sat in the near autumn sunshine it was all pretty splendid. No wonder the venue is by royal appointment – even if he wouldn’t be my royal of choice to dine with, I’d probably have gone for Emma the fell pony in truth, given the option.

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And that was that. A fabulous venue and a welcoming team. I was especially impressed at how they’d laid on fine weather despite poor forecasts ahead of time. Time to go home. It was extra nice of my hosting buddy to take the scenic route back, encompassing many of the fine sights in the locality, not least the Kings Troop Royal Artillery barracks, and this was not at all because we were chatting so much with our post parkrun debriefing that she forgot which turning to take to get her home. So that’s good then.

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parkwalk or parkwalt – hopefully but the first of many

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Charlton parkrun, so much more than a run in the park 🙂 Thank you to all who made it so.

It was lovely to be introduced to champion; chilled; chic and cheery Charlton parkrun, cherish it. Even the most churlish and choosy will be charmed by Charlton. Or your money back!

#loveparkrun

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You can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

Categories: parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Making it Massive! Moving it at Monsal Trail parkrun

I do concede that to the untrained eye we might not appear to be doing a massive amount of actual moving around in the banner pic, but that’s just a quirk of when the picture was taken. We were moving it for an honest, 5km for starters, because that’s the parkrun route, and it was definitely parkrun ‘Monsal Maaaaaaahoooossive’ as yoof speak would phrase it, apparently, so all good. This I have been told by a reliable but confidential source, and who am to disagree with that pronouncement?

Join me for the Monsal Massive low down as my most recent parkrun fix.

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Monsal Trail parkrun this week – but I’m thinking you might have guessed that already? If so, well done. Have you also guessed that I’ve lifted many photos from other parkrunners again? My camera isn’t really doing the job these days, but I’m coming round to the view that just as I increasingly have my own personal escort at the back of parkrun events, so too, it is handy to have at least one dedicated official photographer around to document these adventures. Life is definitely easier if you have staff attending you I find. I’m really hoping for a personal chef and a personal trainer to rock up some time soon too, but it takes time to find the right people. parkrun day was sorted though, staffing wise, so that was good. Thanks to my tail walking companions and multi-tasking photographers both.

Another week, another parkrun, another week of ouchery.

Is it boring that I keep going on about my ailments? It must be. I’m so over it myself. Yet, I feel this context is helpful in terms of making sense of my current parkrun adventures, I can’t talk about my parkruns without reference to how my health impacts on how they go. It seems that I have entered that demographic that not only spontaneously makes noises when getting up and sitting down, but also has to do a mental physical assessment check each day on waking. It’s very tedious. Pain is lonely. Also annoying. Very annoying indeed.

The big medical adventure last week, was having someone inject steroids into my big toe joint. FYI this hurts just as much as you think it might, the numbing ointments and local anaesthetics doing little to make the procedure any more bearable. Well, I mean, obviously they must help, but OMG I’m not putting my body through that again. Apparently my big toe joint is a bit small, tight and arthritic so the person administering the injection had to have a bit of a jab around to get it in (they don’t just guess by the way, they do have an x-ray up on a screen to refer to as they plunge about with the needles) and maybe because I’m on blood thinners I got quite a bit of bruising and swelling and – of course – a rare but not that rare reaction – which cased my whole toe joint to flare up for 36 hours afterwards. It was beyond excruciating, I may have railed at the world, screamed into a void, sworn never to put my body through anything like that again and honestly, were I not vegetarian I’d have gnawed my own leg off to stop the pain. I was back to not being able to cover the foot with a sheet let alone get shoes and socks on. However, it did then ‘suddenly’ improve, so parkrun became a possibility again – well parkwalk at least. However, it all feels a bit tentative on the tootsies, you can surely grasp why it might. It’s hard to know if there has been any improvement as a result of the shot, or I just feel a bit better purely in contrast to the agony immediately post the jab. Oh well. Just goes to show pain is relative, and you have to try these things sometimes, even if only to rule things out,. The medical treatment equivalent of kissing a lot of frogs before you meet you actual love. Hmm, I’ve probably gone as far as I can with that analogy. I’ve subsequently seen a physio who said that you need to not do anything too much for a couple of weeks at least to allow things to settle as the procedure is basically a trauma to the foot, albeit for long term gain, so perhaps it’s unsurprising this turned out to be a particularly painful parkrun. Oh well, hindsight eh? Has a lot to answer for.

Where to go though? I was originally thinking Rushcliffe parkrun, but long story short (an unusual statement from me I know, and probably not even true) headed to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun instead. In essence, this is because I’d have the experienced, friendly and photogenic tail walking team from last parkrun day at Chevin Forest as my personal escort. A bit like having my own personal staff to carry me around, only they do this only figuratively, not literally, not having access to a parkrun endorsed sedan chair being part of the challenge. I do get that recruiting volunteers is a struggle these days, and even the most modest of sedan chairs needs quite a team to lift it aloft for the whole distance. I would happily forgo the extra folk with the fans at this time of year if that helped at all, but it’s still a bit labour intensive for the average parkrun. Reminder dear reader, if any is needed, that every parkrun appreciates volunteers, step up if and when you can.

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I’ve said a bath chair would do, but they ain’t biting. I don’t know why, buggies are fine at parkruns after all. Did you know that sedan chairs are also called palanquins? No me neither, I thought that was a perilously endangered trafficked animal. Every day a school day!

Whilst we are engaged in edutainment, I learned a brilliant new thing this week! I always thought the way to a builder’s heart was through biscuits, decent coffee and builders/Yorkshire tea, but guess what? Actually, don’t bother even trying, I don’t think you will be able to. The real way to their heart is though processed cheese triangles! I know! Who knew? Well, all of us now, obvs, but I felt it was in everyone’s interest to share the scoop. Such serendipity. Could be a game changer! You’re welcome.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, I made the call to head to Bakewell Monsal Trail parkrun. Having made that call, it then materialised there would be other With Me Now pod listeners too, including Team Burrelli freshly sporting 250 tees following shared milestone celebrations last weekend. Wait there’s more – 50% of the tail walking team would be celebrating their fiftieth different parkrun location making her an absolute cow, which is tremendous news. There’d be an outfit for that for sure. Yep, I’d go there. Hurrah. Also, just a hop from Sheffield, so less ‘stupid o’clock alarm setting’ and more ‘just another 5 mins in bed’ before having to surface and face the day.

There was even talk of additional deferred fancy dress making an appearance this week – we have the outstanding pirate costume in need of an outing after all, as well as potentially an inflatable cow to be donned. In the event, the pirate got marooned en route to the parkrun (now that is a long and painful story) and the cow thought the better of fancy dress that some might thing a bit too jolly for a period of mooing mourning, which is understandable, though a bit of a shame too. Pirates in particular are having a terrible time at the moment, on account of the Queen’s Funeral coinciding with International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I’m thinking they won’t be conducting the ceremony observing that tradition, such a loss.

A weird juxtaposition of dates you’ll agree.

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Oh well. This further deferment will simply serve to build anticipatory excitement even further. Eventually the moment shall come when all those pent up fancy dress outfits shall surge forth from their bottle neck in one great tsunami of OTT costume couture choices at some future event, people will gather from near and far; high fives will be swapped; jumping in the air shall be the order of the day; photographers will flash their cameras; barcodes will be brought and scanned – there may even be cake – and it will be glorious. FACT. And it’ll probably be at York parkrun on 15th October 2022 if you’re interested.

Also, just so you know, lack of fancy dress, didn’t mean nobody dressed fancy. Au contraire! Check out the shoes and socks options flaunted on the trail today. Some excellent buffery and yellow heart accessorising too, and that custom Brooks t-shirt is The Best!

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That t-shirt! What’s more, it was an actual freebie! I’m so jealous. There are hoodies as well apparently. Wowsers. Brooks are one of the parkrun sponsors now, and attend various events unannounced, where you can test run their shoes and they also give out the odd freebie to random finishers. I’m not sure what this parkrunner had done to merit this honour, but to be fair, she’s appropriately delighted by it. I would be too. I genuinely like Brooks stuff, I got some freebie sunglasses from them at an event way back and they are absolutely brilliant, wore them for the London marathon back in 2018 and many times since and they are good as new. I’m totally stalking the Brooks Facebook pages now, in hope of the slightest of hints as to where they may descend next. I’m shameless #brooksrunninguk @brooksrunninguk #parkrunhappy choose me!

Hmmm, they are toying with us though. Playing hard to get – it seems we will have to not only stalk their social media pages, but also harness our psychic powers to find them. Oh well. I love my parkrun apricot too 🙂 and I have patience. My time will come.

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Never mind, where was I? Oh yes ouchy feet and parkrun touristing, I’ll get there in the end.

It wasn’t too early a start, and the drive over in early morning sunshine gave gorgeous light across the dying back heather. Expansive views to lift the soul. It was all going splendidly, until I came across an unexpected road closure and had to do a grand detour. I arrived at Hassop Station carpark after 8.30 and it was already really busy. There is a very limited amount of free parking, but I’d forgotten about those spots and was too late for it anyway. There seemed to be a field open over the road where many parkrunners had parked up, but I wasn’t sure if you had to pay for that, and didn’t want to add in the extra distance, so I coughed up the £3.50 for three hours parking. I don’t begrudge parking fees generally, but that does seem steep when you are probably going to use the cafe as well. This wasn’t a cheap morning. I’d hoped to be earlier as I was going to offer to be the tail walker having heard my original buddy no couldn’t make it due to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and rubbish garages relating to newly purchased cars. My logic was, I am sooooo slow everyone ends up waiting for me anyway, so I might as well be that person at the back, and then I wouldn’t have the agony of someone else trying to jostle me onwards at a pace more that I could muster. It’s so awkward when others try to jolly you along. I was counting on the other tail walker repeating her outstanding service last week and being content shouting support to other parkrunners and getting creative with the photos as we went. Yep, that’d work.

Except I was too late for that, tail walker sub was already in place. Which is good in a way, since it shows how parkrunners are happy to step up to cover for one another when things aren’t going to plan. I’d just be limping round at the back as usual then, with my personal escort.

The first thing to remember about Monsal Trail parkrun is that it’s actually Bakewell parkrun. Well, maybe not any more strictly speaking, but it definitely used to be, and now it isn’t, but the pop up banner is very much still saying Bakewell, so that’s confusing if you are touristing and are on an alphabet completing schedule and have lost track of what country, county or rural paradise you are in. Do you follow? People still call it Bakewell although really it’s not, it’s more Hassop, and Monsal Trail is more accurate still. Like Endcliffe is still known as Sheffield Hallam and Knavesmire parkrun is still known as York. Oh wait, hang on…. Whatever, the point is, it will play havoc with future Facebook memories, but for now, you have to improvise with the pop up banner that’s to hand, and that’s what happened. Those posed photos have to be taken, just as if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen, how can you be sure that any given parkrun wasn’t but a dream unless you have the pop up pic to proof it? Ooh, I wish we could have actual pop up photos, the way we used to have pop up books in the olden days. I suppose in the future we will, and they’ll be holograms. For now we have to make do with jpeg files, but fortunately they are lovely. We spent a while trying to get the making it massive moves nailed. It would help if I understood the whole concept a bit more, but I reckon I blagged it pretty well in the circumstances. What massively cool dudes we are. Hurrah.

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Foreground is official photographer, soon to be official cow and experienced escort, centre is me with White Ted on this occasion – and that’s the sub tail walker all smiles and raring to go. We are quite lucky to have her in the UK at present as she’s a world parkrun tourist prone to seeking out new adventures all over the place. Catch her if you can. Oh, and I’m crouching down in a futile attempt to stop my stomach from blocking out the sun, I’m not that short. I mean, I am quite short, but I can see over the pop up sign without standing on tip toe despite what the photo suggests.

The id explanations are just in case you are curious, but there won’t be a test or anything, so you don’t have to concentrate too hard on who’s who, in fact it’s probably better if you don’t. Just keep calm and carry on. We know each other purely through parkrun in general and the With Me Now podcasts and live streams of parkrun lockdown in particular, which is pretty remarkable really. I don’t think I’d know anyone at all if it weren’t for parkrun and the people who live in my laptop. Oh and the quarantine quiz too of course – more of which later, possibly. Depends if I remember. I have an EWFM* too, obviously, but that’s in an entirely separate category of gloriousness all of its own. Obvs.

Yay, for jolly planned meet ups of With Me Now tourists, and a selfie of the party at the back posse pre parkrun . I’m assuming it’s expensive to replace the pop up sign, and actually, I have a vague feeling that there might be a pause on new ones anyway because of the need to change the sponsorship names. I think that might be why we still have the Bakewell parkrun sign. The other – perhaps more obvious explanation – is that what with the hiatus in parkruns and a change in the event team, no-one has been able to pass down the necessary knowledge of how to fold up the sign. Hence, there it sits, in perpetuity, unless and until some gifted travelling passing parkrunner shares their secrets and normal order with respect to the tidying away of things is restored. The main thing is DON’T PANIC! Well, I mean panic about many things, heaven knows there’s enough catastrophes kicking off in the world – just not about that. Save your panic for scenarios like the planet burning and forgetting your barcode. It’s all about perspective.

So in all seriousness, this is one of the parkruns that during lockdown was re-routed and renamed but kept it’s event counter ticking. The start and finish remain in the same place, but the route is now an out and back in the opposite direction. I’m in the position of having previously completed this parkrun when it was still Bakewell parkrun, but it morphed into Monsal Trail parkrun on my stats, which wasn’t a problem but did mean my profile suggested I’d completed a route I actually hadn’t, only now I have, so problem solved. Be happy for me. I am generally in the mood for touristing as I’ve been so unable to do anything for years, but this is a new route on a familiar course so didn’t feel too much like a repeat.

Oh and I feel I should say more about our companion cow. Look! Here she is.

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Last week a Jill in the Box but this week a complete cow or just half a Cowell depending on how you calculate these things. The Cowell is a Running Challenges Chrome Extension thing by the way. Specifically, to join the Cowell club you need to Run at 100+ different parkrun locations anywhere in the world. Named after the first parkrunners to complete it. A quarter cowell is available at 25, half at 50, and three-quarter at 75. Those who have completed their fiftieth different parkrun venue can claim cow status, and this is what happened here. For my tail walking photography compatriot. One day, in years hence, she may get this virtual sticker added to her profile. A fine reward for many years of touristing i think we can all agree.

It seems 2022 is actually her year of fifty things – fiftieth birthday (I know, doesn’t look a day over 21, it’s a miracle); fiftieth occasion of her home parkrun at Chevin Forest and fiftieth different parkrn event. Does that make her 150 then, if she’s done all the things? I’m not sure, but it’s splendid anyway, and worthy of celebration. No wonder she was jumping for joy all over the place. As previously reference, she was supposed to be wearing an inflatable cow, because that’s pretty much compulsory for marking your 50th, but well, you know, period of mourning and all that, the inflatable cow will just have to wait for York.

The jumping about thing was set to continue though, because of course any parkrun has parkrunners jumping for joy, and to be fair there was something of a jump off occurring at intervals. High jinx all round one might say. Since we had a Jack outa the box giving our Jill outa the box a run for her money!

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Did you spot the 250 tee in the blur of bouncing? Hopefully yes you did. Jumpage is understandable but can make it hard to see the finer details of individual outfits, but I reckon that 250 top is pretty distinctive. Green team, dream team. Just so you know, that’s it being worn on it’s first ever outing after being achieved just last parkrun weekend at Burnage parkrun, alongside another person’s 250 volunteering milestone. More specifically their other/better half. Nice bit of carefully planned parkrun milestone synchronicity there. It’s taken a lot of organisation to nail that particular celebration, but oh so worth it! Check out the cake, that’s just outstanding. Apparently it tasted amazing too, not just an Instagramable option but a dietary delight! Oh and they had milestone capes too, which should be compulsory really, at all events, but aren’t quite yet. Capers with capes are so much fun!

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All things were being celebrated here. This had also been planned as a fancy dress option, with the 250th parkrun being completed in a particularly fine Mr Zippy outfit (no reason, do you need a reason?) but again, restraint was exercised in respect of donning the fancy dress. And then in a hat trick of missed fancy dress opportunities, my pirate buddy was thinking maybe pirate today, but then didn’t make it due to a series of unfortunate events, specifically relating to mechanical misadventures en route, meaning she ended up at Brierley Forest parkrun which is very much lovely and all, but not the intended destination.

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And the consequence was that there was no pirate and no Mr Zippy last week and no Cow this week. A lack of fancy dress might be a cause of disappointment but…

DON’T PANIC!

There is a plan. All these missed fancy dress outings will be reconvened on the same date at some parkrun in the future. There will be an explosion of fancy dress at the next midi gathering where missed opportunities will be made good. Not that this lot need much of an excuse to get the fancy dress on, but they can share their joy in donning it en masse and properly mark the milestones and arbitrary achievements that have had but muted recognition where they’ve fallen during these 10 days. Might be all the better for having a backlog of celebrations to mark all at once. A positive scrum of joyfulness. You think they’ve jumped high and dressed to the peak of fabulousness already? Pah! You ain’t seen nothing yet!

First though, back to today!

I arrived parked up, joined the queue for the loo which wasn’t too long and definitely not 5 miles, and no live tracking you just had to take your chances.

I did, and then was rewarded for this by bumping into a world tourist With-Me-Nower in the scrum of exiting it. How exciting! Turns out, they were everywhere today. Outside the loos; in the café; at the start on the parkrun; volunteering – all over the shop.

I made my way to the start area and we started to find one another. It was VERY EXCITING. People I actually knew, people I knew by their high ranking status as parkrun ambassador for example – there seem to be loads of them out and about at the moment we get one or two at Sheffield Olympic Legacy park junior parkrun most weeks- people I knew through Facebook but not through real life, and by reputation for example as uber tourists. It was great, and unexpected. There is actually a whole sequence of photos of ever growing numbers being gathered together for a group shot as new people we ‘knew’ kept appearing out of the crow, and we still didn’t manage to get everyone in to the one shot, nothing like. Well it is a bit like herding cats I suppose. Here’s a grand stab at the bulk of us though. Impressive isn’t it, remembering these were not all planned meet ups either, it’s just the parkrun community’s network keeps on reaching out and ever more connections are made, so every parkrun can feel like a reunion at times. It’s good like that 🙂 You are truly never alone at a parkrun. Unless you turn up as the only one who hadn’t twigged it had been cancelled, that can be discombobulating, but mostly, never.

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We busied ourselves doing the parkrun friends equivalent of dogs sniffing each others bottoms until we were summoned for the first timers’ welcome. According to the results there were 7 first time everers and an astounding 96 tourists, so that’s nearly 50% of the field of 203 participants. This is a tourist destination it has to be acknowledged, and it isn’t really that near a local population which I think contributes to the difficulty it sometimes has in getting enough volunteers. Fortunately, it’s not a complicated route so not too heavy on the number of marshals required, but it’s still hard for teams to manage at times. We were grateful for the warm and friendly welcome. We were reminded very much of the need to respect other users. It’s a busy path with cyclists, horses, walkers all availing themselves of the lovely route. That’s why it was also important to keep the trail free at the start, and remember to keep to the left of the path out and back to minimise the possibility of collisions, and also to facilitate more effective high fiving as you pass each other in a contraflow at some stage en route. He didn’t actually say that, but I’m sure it was implied…

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The Run Director’s briefing came next. Quite quickly in fact. I still have never quite got over the astonishment of having pre parkrun chatting interrupted by having to actually commence the parkrun. The poor RD had a cold, but gamefully stood atop her steps to brief us and send us on our way. I felt for her though, she definitely sounded a bit rough, and it was a nippy morning, beautiful yes, but nippy. Thank you lovely RD for turning out despite feeling rough, and thank you even more to you and all the high vis heroes for making all the parkrunners so very welcome, right to the end of the pack.

As is usual now, I took some photos at the start, then slotted in at the back of the field with my bouncy parkrunning friends. There might have been a bit of a jump off going on at one point, all in apparent jest, but I see a future rematch pending. I so wish I had a proper camera at times like this, they were awesome. Flying through the air like acrobats on acid. Cirque de Soleil has nothing on a pair of over-excited parkrunners soaring high. Never has leaping for joy been more literal or more inspiration to behold.

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But where were we going? Don’t worry dear reader, I can explain! Shall I wait for you to get a pen to make some notes, or will you just take a screen shot for later? It’s no problem I can pause for a bit…

Welcome back, ready? Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

The route is basically out and back. If you don’t believe me, here is the Monsal Trail parkrun route blah de blah from the website

Course Description

Out and back course on the Monsal Trail. Start and finish are in the same place by Hassop Station.

https://www.parkrun.org.uk/monsaltrail/course/

and the picture looks like this:

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Erm, that’s all you can say. You run away from the timers for 2/12 km when you are met by a wall of marshals. Well, two and their dog Nigel on this occasion, and a rather sweetly positioned cone to trot round, or skid round, or handbrake turn around as the mood takes you, and then you run right back the way you came. I belief it is fractionally downhill on the out and uphill on the way back, but honestly, not so you notice, this is properly flat. Hilariously though, if you run it in the other direction as the Bakewell parkrun used to, Strava doesn’t understand the concept of tunnels so will think you’ve done some epic and speedy ascents. That is, gone up and down those hills, rather than straight through the middle, this is excellent for boosting your bragging rights if you don’t let the truth get in the way of a good running narrative.

It’s compact gravel, and the only issues are really making sure you are respectful to other participants as you parkrun out and back.

Almost instantly the main bulk of parkrunners streamed out of sight, and we were but a few at the back. My two tail walking companions and 50% of the newly anointed green team who’d opted to walk and talk which was jolly sporting of him. I did feel initially some pressure to get a move on, which was challenging, but we did settle in to a more manageable pace.

On a serious note, I’m finding parkrun pretty tough at the minute. I think because I look fine (bit podgy obviously, but I mean ‘able bodied) and indeed opted for walking poles rather than crutches precisely so I’d blend in a bit more, people over-estimate my capabilities and I seem to constantly have people cajooling me to get a move on and that feels really shaming. I totally get it’s unintended, but it’s crushing every time. I can’t ‘get going’ I need to pause, and sometimes I’m in a lot of pain. Feeling embarrassed because I’m holding everyone up is an extra pressure and at times I feel like bailing or opting out entirely. Even with supportive parkrun compatriots I feel quite vulnerable. My fear is that once I give up on parkrun, I won’t be able to go back at all, and that thought makes me sad. It can be a mixed bag walking at parkrun and I really hope that next month’s parkwalk initiative normalises this a bit more because speaking personally, I think that’s very much needed. I worry about being a burden to individuals and teams, of course I do, the official parkrun line of ‘walkers always welcome’ doesn’t always reflect what happens on the ground. I try to go to different parkruns so I don’t make the same team have to wait for me each week, and I have always made a point of volunteering regularly to ‘give back’ a bit as well, but that doesn’t quieten the voices in my head that are constantly making me feel inadequate and that I don’t have the right to be there. Every parkrun I go to is a battle lately, and I’m conscious it doesn’t take much to push me into despair. I guess partly because every parkrun I hope will be a bit better, that I’ll make some progress and although I have made progress if you look back over a whole year, I’m very far away from where I was before and it feels unfair, which is jolly surprising, because usually life is 100% fair is it not? (Spoiler alert, it’s not) I know I’m lucky compared to many, and I am still there at the moment, however insecure I may feel about it. Hanging on by my fingertips. One foot in front of another. Sometimes blinking back the tears, but not bailed yet.

It was a bit of a wobbly start, but once we were underway on a lovely crisp sunny morning, things were looking up. Just because it’s a straightforward out and back though, doesn’t mean you can’t have parkrun adventuring along the way. Au contraire!

It’s jolly pretty for one thing, the route has lovely trees creating an avenue along it, then there are open vistas where you get great views, and if you have your wits about you you might spot the rare Bakewell born and bred long necked sheep – oh wait, what’s that you say? Really? Shame alpacas adjacent to the path. There was a little wren, busying herself popping in and out of the gaps of a moss covered stone wall. There was a very junior marshal – taking it all in. All very lovely.

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So the scenery was lovely, as well as the the company, but we had other adventures too. Specifically, on this occasion there was a mass group of walkers taking part in a Fund raising 26 km trek for the charity Together for short lives – Helping families caring for a seriously ill child make the most of every moment together. It was pretty chilled by the time we at the back met up with them, but earlier may have been a bit of a challenge. Like those early gladiator sort of films, where thousands of extras were brought in to stage battles, running at one another and mingling as each fought to pass the other. Not that that would happen here though, because we’d all been briefed to give way, and parkrunners are polite obvs. Think more parting of the sea rather than riotous bunfight. Or gentle ordered contraflow, I’m sure it was negotiated with grace. They were an eclectic and jolly group of walkers, it was quite early in their walk I think, so they had a long way to go, but my what a lovely day they picked for it.

One warning though, this is not a route for arachnophobes, which, presumably erroneously, was not explicitly mentioned in the briefing. Fortunately, the spider people running round today were being shepherded by lovely With Me Now crew to keep us all safe. It’s so lovely when parkrunners look out for one another in this way. They even gave us a reassuring wave of acknowledgement as they breezed by, letting us know the whole situation was all under control. Phew. There were 23 personal bests today though, which seems a pretty high percentage of the field of 203 so maybe the spidery presence just made everyone else run just that much faster. Apart from me. I’m very much just walking still. Besides, I like to get my money’s worth at an event.

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One of the super fun things about an out and back course is that if you are a slower parkrun participant you see all the faster parkrunners as they come back, and if you are a faster parkrunner, you see all the slower participants as they are going out! Everyone wins. It made for a highly sociable and people spotting parkrun. Hurrah.

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What made it even more fun, was being part of a very vocal party at the back offering up bespoke motivational cheering at every opportunity. Our tail walking cow has an enormous amount of experience at this and was in fine voice. But better yet, we had some Welsh language cheering from the stand in tail walker, always a boon. Not that we restricted ourselves to cheering only those we knew, anyone was fair game, potentially whether partaking in parkrun or not, we were happy to be sharing the parkrun love! All of us at the back got on board with parkrun appropriate whooping. It’s not called the party at the back for nothing! When it works, walking at parkrun is therapeutic indeed.

and that works at junior parkrun too. This recently shared anecdote made me properly cry, because it’s just SO LOVELY!

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Tony Kenyon
I have told this story a number of times because to me it is what parkrun is all about. One week we had just one child at the junior parkrun where I’m now part of the core team. I was tailwalker. They didn’t want to take part by themselves. So I convinced them to walk with me. They only agreed if every volunteer walked with us. So we all took a leisurely 2km walk.
That same child now regularly runs, seeing a PB after PB, getting faster each week. Those who walk today may run tomorrow. Or they may not. We should embrace them all.

See comments section of https://www.facebook.com/parkrunUK/videos/1367426970452602/

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I properly cried. Snot and everything. It’s peak parkrun practice in my view. It also very neatly illustrates why for parkwalk to be successful next month, solidarity from plenty of walkers is needed. Consider walking one of your regular parkruns instead of running and experience the event quite differently. That junior parkrun intuitively knew that walking together was the way to go. How right they were.

Back to us. Eventually we made it out to the full extent of the 2.5 km and to the turn around point – that’s Nigel in the middle, supervising. Barkrunner par excellence! Not one parkrunner overshot the route turnaround point, so he did just grand.

We weren’t having a stand off, we were just having a parkrunny chat. Getting our Chat’s Worth at the parkrun nearest to Chatsworth was apt indeed.

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Cone negotiated safely, and we were coming home again. It was very quiet for the return leg, the charity walkers and other parkrunners having long since passed this way. But we could take in the scenes, and have companionable chats and so all was good.

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Finally, almost exactly on the hour, we were back to the start, which handily is also the finish. Where diligent marshals were still waiting and standing by to swing into time keeping and barcode scanning business on our return.

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The RD was in desperate need of a pee by the time we got there, a scenario for which I have enormous personal sympathy, and I felt mortified that she’d had to wait for me. Oh well. She was self deprecating about her plight, but it did catapult me back into the mindset of having spoiled the parkrun experience of others. Paranoia is devilishly hard to shift.

There was a bit more picture posing, trying to perfect the shot of the range of t-shirts on show, and also to get our lovely green team to pose appropriately with coquettish over the shoulder glances for maximum impact. Well we were entertained anyway. I never did get the perfect shot, but fortunately have been able to loot this one from elsewhere. Resource gathering skills come in handy at times.

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All done, back lit, we made our way to the Hassop Station Café.

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There is actually a special parkrun deal from a table area outside, with coffee and a variety of bapts/ breadcakes whatever including the double meat sausage and bacon options, veggie and vegan options – though I don’t know what the vegan option was to be fair.

A fellow with me nower and his family had already secured an outside table, so we queued inside (not five miles) and went for the more extensive menu. You just give your table number and order from the counter. The hot beverage situation confused me hugely, doesn’t take much. I asked about this and was told it would be brought out, but some said they’d been asked to collect if from the counter. In fact I think if you only have a drink you wait for it, but maybe if you are having food as well they bring it out. In the event this didn’t work particularly well for me as my flat white never came, although on reflection an unclaimed mug of tea brought out earlier might have been my order processed erroneously. When questioned they claimed it hadn’t been ordered, which was annoying as I’d paid for it, but hadn’t got a receipt, they were game for going through the whole till roll again to prove their point, and in the end my lovely tailwalking companion by passed the whole thing by just just buying me another one, which was kind of her and eminently sensible but somewhat grated in terms of customer service. Top tip, get a receipt. I know I’d paid, because I asked ‘and do I need to wait for my coffee now’ and they said ‘no, we’ll bring it out with your order’ so that’s not me not having ordered it is it? This aside, the food was amazing and the staff accomodating, in that we were able to customise our orders swappoing halloumi cheese for vegan cheese in toasties. These were pricey but came with a rather fine salad, some of which gathered on my top, but worth it. There was also amazing bakewell slices to be had, and an abundance of choice. Yum.

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Some were feeling the cold, but nevertheless, this brave duo braving the warm Bakewell slice or possibly Bakewell pudding with ice cream topping because, well it had to be done. They were worried about it being too cold to enjoy properly, but hard to justify being in Bakewell and not having someone step up to the challenge. In the end they were in it together, but took the safety precaution of getting a hot chocolate to warm themselves up afterwards, the yin and yan of post parkrun cakery I suppose. They are experienced like that. It’s really inspiring when other parkrunners are willing to make these sacrifices on behalf of others, brings a tear to the eye. I can report dear reader, they totally nailed it!

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We were quite an assembly, and there was loads of seating for post parkrun faffing and no pressure to move on beyond how much parking we’d paid for. More photo posing and parkrun story reminiscing ensued. Not too shabby a head count for what had been a pretty much entirely unplanned and arbitrary meet up! With Me Now pod listeners a-gathering.

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Alas though, all good things come to an end, and eventually people needed to disperse. There w