Digested read: 7th October 2017 was parkrun’s thirteenth birthday and International parkrun day. Yay! I had a balloon. I lost my balloon. I still had fun though. Did you know 2.5 million individuals have taken part in parkrun now. Are you one of them? Isn’t that grand! Happy running til next parkrunday.
Hindsight is always a wonderful thing. I mean, I’m the first to admit that retrospectively I probably should have thought to undertake a more comprehensive risk assessment before turning up at Endcliffe Park to run Sheffield Hallam parkrun whilst in possession of a balloon, but I simply failed to anticipate the garrotting potential of a helium balloon’s string amidst a stampede of runners. Guilty as charged. Hey ho, as it happens, catastrophe was averted, but let’s just say I’m not running with a balloon again any time soon. It’s way harder than you think, and also far too much responsibility for someone with an aversion for being responsible for anything at all really, well not if it can reasonably be avoided.
Last Saturday, in case you haven’t been concentrating on parkrun history, and care not if it ever comes up as a question at a future pub quiz, was International parkrun day. The date being the occasion of the thirteenth birthday of the original parkrun (which was actually a time trial apparently, but let’s not quibble). The reason why the thirteenth anniversary is particularly worthy of note, is because when the event started on 2 October 2004 there were just 13 runners taking part in the inaugural event. Hence the significance. See what they’ve done there? I know, smart people in the parkrun core team, creative and cunning too! Genius.
Thus it was determined by I know not what process, that the start of parkrun’s teenage years should be especially celebrated and International parkun day was thus to be particularly well marked. We’ve had International parkrun day for a while now I think, but this is the first time I’ve been quite so aware of it as a ‘thing’, re-launch if you will. Hurrah! It’s only a matter of time before it becomes an official holiday worldwide. Surely?
Starting a new international day of celebration isn’t an entirely easy thing to do. Individual parkruns did their own thing. From a continuum of absolutely nothing, to full on champagne and prize giving. That would be Bushy park parkrun – the epicentre of all things parkrun being its ground zero. Imagine, there was a time before parkrun? I can hardly imagine it. There was a general push to get as many people as possible to wear apricot by way of celebration. I did consider this, but apricot isn’t really my colour, well it’s orange really isn’t it and anyway I couldn’t get a personalised top with my event name on it in time. I will get one eventually, as I think it’s not much to ask of runners to support parkrun by doing so. Plus, purchasing an apricot top could likely become a way to cross-subsidise the milestone tees. Here’s hoping. Rather brilliantly, and showing initiative as well as dedication, a New Zealand parkrun did an extra parkrun at a time to coincide with it being run in the UK. Whangarei parkrun ran an unofficial parkrun at 9pm New Zealand time – solidarity across the world indeed. Isn’t that grand. Special wave and shout out to them, and let’s all go visit as soon as we can. En masse would be grand, but quite logistically challenging, so we’ll just have to make the trek in dribs and drabs for now, and spread the international joy incrementally. Whitby parkrun get the prize for ingenious apricot top dissemination though. Bushy parkrun possibly (maybe inevitably) get the prize for literal numbers sporting apricot in a veritable sea of colour – or should that be more accurately a puree of apricot. Not sure….
Anyways, I was thinking we ought to do something at Sheffield Hallam parkrun, though this appeared not to meet with universal enthusiasm. The official line was ‘not really anything, but there might be a surprise and wear apricot if you can’. Oh well, undeterred, I decided I might at least try to make my own entertainment. You live and learn. What to do though? What to do?
In the end, I decided against unilateral fancy dress, and thought I’d go for the more minimal but symbolic helium balloon purchase. Turns out, even getting a balloon is harder than you think. I realised I had no idea where you go to get such a thing, and then when I did find somewhere, realised that apparently 13 year olds are considered too old to want a balloon with a number thirteen on it, as the numbered balloons only go up to ten. I could potentially have gone for the two balloons in metallic individual numerals, but that was a bit top end of my budget for what was essentially a desperate whim. Undeterred, I thought I’d go for a simple ‘happy birthday’ offering. ‘Boy or girl?’ enquired the guy at the fancy dress shop. Boy or girl? Blimey, is this what parents have to go through every time they buy anything. Is even a balloon purchase gendered? I have no idea what gender parkrun is, but as an inclusive event, my feeling is it should be gender neutral. Well, that narrowed it down. But I liked my balloon anyway. Plus it came in a bag so it wouldn’t float away or require me to spoil the impact by carrying it floating above me on its string all the way home. I also made an impulse buy of some little party hats, because who doesn’t like a party hat? A way to spread the joy of celebration surely! (I’m so naive.)
So International parkrun day dawned. To be fair, you couldn’t really tell it was International parkrun day on waking, nothing on the news which was a bit disappointing, but then again, those in the know, know, that’s the main thing. Incomprehensible as it is to some of us that there are still people out there who know not of parkrun or worse yet, do, but just don’t actually care. I was reminded of visiting a good friend of mine in Warrington some years ago. Brilliantly, she had coached her offspring to look forward to seeing me, and when I appeared at the school gate with her to pick up one of said children, she took my hand, gazed up at me and explained with genuine confusion ‘do you know, when I told my friends at school that you were coming to visit today, not one of them knew!’ She was perplexed and horrified in equal measure. I was naturally massively flattered and impressed. I explained to her that due to my celebrity status, I had to keep my travel plans under wraps to avoid being mobbed – she was very special and therefore in the know… I don’t think I’ll ever experience someone being so delighted to see me ever again, but no-one can take that moment away from me. What a marvelous and well brought up child she was! (and is, but also sadly older, wiser and less easily impressed now.)
Securing a balloon about your person as a prelude to running with it is actually quite hard. The balloon drags behind you, and where to tie the string? In the end I secured one end of it in the back pocket of my running tights (hand free option you see) and then secured it a bit more with a safety-pin on the string attaching it to my top. I thought that way I’d keep it under control. Epic fail. The walk down to Endcliffe park was something of a challenge. It’s hard to look nonchalant with a balloon attached to you just as it is hard to look nonchalent wearing deely boppers for say a Halloween themed parkrun of previous years. I was conscious of getting a few smiles from people believing it to be my birthday, and I felt a bit fraudulent accepting their well-meant greetings, but you can hardly expect to cross the road and chase after a random pedestrian in order to explain it isn’t your birthday it’s for parkrun without them taking fright and running away it seems. I felt for those other street walkers at this hour. They must have felt they had stumbled on a peculiar subset of the local population as they went about their business. I wasn’t the only unusual sighting. I also encountered a woman walking along with a bowl of cereal and a dog. The dog was company, the cereal was breakfast. This I find curious. There is nothing unremarkable about taking toast, or even a mug of tea or other breakfast beverage of your choosing as you head out of a morning, but a bowl of cereal with the spoon and everything I thought quite ambitious for a morning constitutional. Fair play to her. Wouldn’t try it myself, but then I’m more of a porridge woman. That comes out of the microwave piping hot. Dangerous…. Each to their own.
I made it to the parkrun assembly point, a little early, as I’d heard talk of flags. A fellow parkrunner was trying to get 13 runner of 13 different nationalities to each run with their flag to communicate the international inclusivtiy of parkrun. Couldn’t see them. Oh. Never mind, I set about trying to
offload distribute my party hats. You have no idea how hard it was. Also, how easy I am to say ‘no’ to. Outright and unapologetic rejection followed rejection. I think I made the rookie error of implying the offering was negotiable. If I’d presented them as gifts, people might have felt mean-spirited to refuse. I got a goldfish that way. Back in the day when you won them at fairs – something of which I do not approve. A house-sharer of mine won one, but didn’t want it. He knocked on the bedroom door of our first fellow sharer and when she answered asked ‘do you want a gold fish?’ to which she responded (not unreasonably) ‘No. Why would I want a goldfish? *&%$ off!‘ and shut her door. Learning from this response he then knocked on the next door which was mine ‘I’ve got you a goldfish‘ he said, handing it over. ‘Thank you‘ I said, taking it. Because that’s only polite, even though I was thinking in my head exactly as my first house mate had done. Talk about a white elephant. Cost me a fortune that goldfish, I felt bad for her, so had to buy a tank, and a filter, an aeration pump – even a companion. She lived for years. She was called Calamity, which is an excellent name for a goldfish I’m sure you’ll agree. I don’t have a photo of her unfortunately, you’ll just have to imagine what she looked like.
I kept one party hat for myself, and disseminated the rest as best I could… I couldn’t help noticing that even some of those hat that I thought I’d succesfully ‘gifted’ were almost immediately palmed off elsewhere. Oh well, I suppose not everyone can carry off a hat with panache and glory. Fortunately, some can! Party on people. Great hat sporting going on with you – you know who you are…
I took brief joy in spotting another balloon wielding runner. Yay. Top marks for excellent balloon choice, but it seemed the balloon was for milestone celebration purposes. Oh well, it was still most festive, and a fine colour co-ordinated choice to complement if not quite match the apricot tee too, so credit where credit was due. Also, this particular runner has perfected the art of balloon running (yes it is a ‘thing’ and if I had my way it would be a recognised sport too, like parkour increasingly is perhaps, only marginally less dangerous – unless you inhale the helium, which you really, really shouldn’t). If only I’d appreciated there was this level of expertise available to talk through balloon running techniques I maybe wouldn’t have got into such difficulties myself. Oh well, too late now… Worth noting for future reference though, one of the great joys of parkrun is the breadth of the network you build amongst fellow parkrunners. I reckon there is expertise on just about every topic under the sun within the Sheffield Hallam parkrun field. I’m not quite sure what my particular area of expertise is just yet, but perhaps it will emerge over time, given the right sort of nurturing and positive reinforcement. Also, given the benefit of the doubt…
So people assembled. Some did their active wear warm ups – why don’t more people wear sweat bands these days? … others saluted the glory of the event in their own way, or offered up a little prayer of gratitude. Lovely.
One things for certain, everyone was having heaps of fun, eager with anticipation for the great awf to come!
I love the random milling bit at parkrun. What a fine and eclectic lot we all are. It would be great to do a pen portrait of every participant on a particular day, I bet every one of us has a story of sorts that brought us there…
Many had dressed up for the occasion, as well as sporting apricot, so that was excellent. You have to appreciate it when people make an effort. Again, good attention to detail with the colour co-ordination there. Any colour-me-beautiful consultant would be well chuffed. No personal make over services required here, no indeedy!
There was the first timers’ briefing, and then the run director led a rousing chorus of The Hokey Cokey before getting on with the main business of the day.
The run briefing did include a small element of ‘this is what you could have won’ as we learned we were to have had the co-op with us as they are a new sponsor of parkrun, but their presence was blocked by some local by-law or other, presumably one against co-operation with others? We also learned we were going to have lots of international flags, but that wasn’t possible but, there would be a special appearance of the Belize flag later on to look out for. It was however the thought that counts, so that idea was applauded. Then there was a shout out for someone getting married later. Not just anyone, I expect lots of people get married on a Saturday, but a parkrunner present. They were from Leamington. At least I thought that was what was said. I also rather jumped to the conclusion that the tutus were for the wedding party to save them all from having to get changed later on. Well, it would be tight getting to the registry office or church or whatever straight from parkrun. In fact, I think I might have got that all wrong, because at one point I did shout ‘go Leamington‘ at this trio of runners, and they just looked utterly perplexed. I have a soft spot for Leamington parkrunners, on account of the fact I used to live there. Maybe this was just their running gear of choice in Autumn? Autumn colours you see. Who knows… never a colour-me-beautiful consultant when you need one!
So volunteers thanked, parkrun rules run through (keep off the road people) and happy birthdays shared, milestones applauded and soon enough we were awf.
I am very proud of the fact that finally I have the ultimate flattering photo of me in the line up. Identifiable only by a balloon. I knew taking a balloon to parkrun was a genius idea! Off we headed, the great mass of parkrunners, stampeding towards our very own intrepid photographer. He is fearless. Or naively trusting. I forget which. So far untrampled though, which is more than remarkable after over two hundred times of being a volunteer photographer and so standing facing the front runners as parkrun kicks off, right in their path, fearless (or stupid) like a matador facing a bull (only less cruel and less enthusiastic about blood sports one would hope). It is frankly a miracle he remains unscathed, physically at least – what it does to the mind to have hundreds of people running towards you with manic looks on their faces week after week I have no idea. I don’t like to ask. Maybe some things really are better left unsaid.
So we runners ran and yomped round, whilst the volunteer hi-vis army looked on, or directionally pointed, or clapped and cheered depending on their particular role for the day.
It started well, a bit of congestion made for a slow start. That never bothers me, my excuse for my tardiness this time round was that I had the TenTenTen trail 10k the next day, but truthfully I don’t need much of an excuse to take things at a gentle yomping pace. Better value for money if you take it slowly on your way round. A better excuse for my steady pace, was the own goal scored by running with a balloon. It’s a nightmare. It doesn’t weigh anything, obviously, but it is like it is possessed by demons or something. It is a perpetual irritation, bopping about and being wayward. It’s probably like trying to run with a cat or something, albeit one that is airborne and tied to you with a string.
I did get some good will from my juxtaposition to the balloon. A fair few happy birthdays. As I was also sporting my parkrun 100 top, I even got one ‘happy one-hundredth birthday’ which I like to think was a merry quip not an absolute belief. Some people thought I was doing my milestone run. Oh well, I’ll take positive encouragement from wheresoever it comes. Just shows though, it’s hard to get across a pithy message. Even the most seemingly obvious symbols can be ambigious. It’s what the study of semiotics is all about. I imagine that it is anyway, not having studied it myself. (That one’s for you EWFM!)
I freely admit, it was also somewhat hazardous to other runners, so I had to keep panting out breathless apologies. At one point it near enough garrotted a fellow runner as its string seared across his neck as he tried to pass. ‘thank goodness I changed that cheese-wire strand to cheery balloon ribbon‘ I thought to myself as I once again mumbled an embarrassed ‘sorry.’ Fortunately, most were good-humoured about it, recognising my mortifying faux pas as inadvertant rather than driven by malicious intent. Mind you, it would be an interesting tactic for a faster runner wanting to impede/ take out any prospective over-takers. I hung onto my balloon on a shorter string, and stuck to the sides. It’s just as well parkrunners are all signed up to the parkrun code which contains within it the
directive reminder to respect the right of all runners to participate in parkrun in their own way. I wasn’t alone in doing so to be fair. I think everyone pictured is enjoying parkrun in their own way, it’s just that in some photos the level of enjoyment is more obviously manifest than in others. Whether you want to maintain your Tommy Cooper ‘Just like that’ impression for the duration, levitate the whole way round or multi-task with buggy and hound, parkrun will welcome you.
Anyways, it didn’t end well for my balloon. I made it to the end of Endcliffe park, and on to Rustlings Road. There I tucked myself in beside the railings and disaster struck. I felt an ominous tug, and then… nothing! My balloon had snagged on the railings and gone off on a voyage of its own. It’s not so much the loss of the balloon I mourn, it is that my ineptitude has let loose a balloon to the elements. Discarded helium balloons are a menace for wildlife. Oh no. Humiliation at my balloon carrying ineptitude was preferable to this new overwhelming sense of guilt and growing mortification. I’m never running with a balloon again. Not without taking the proper precautions to avoid inadvertant release anyway. Gutted. Not even the possession of a silver party hat (which for the record stayed in place extremely well is very practical for running in just so you nay-sayers know you can’t use that excuse to reject one another time) could bring me cheer.
On the plus side, it was a lot easier running without a balloon. And it is the thought that counts.
Eventually, my two circuits down, I was free to take up supervisory responsibilities cheering in the runners still coming in. This is always fun! An important job too.
I also got my first proper flag sighting! Dreams can come true, the flags were out in every sense. No flagging on this course… ironically!
In fact there were more flags revealed in the photos post event. Shows I should have a bit more faith. Plenty of effort put in to the occasion, you just have to look:
So all too soon, that was another run done and dusted.
It’s got a small footprint parkrun. Amazing how it goes from over 700 people assembled to nothing within an hour or so.
Hope nobody went home with a barcode. parkrunners are a forgiving lot, but there are limits… Don’t try to find them.
Many departed. But many lingered too. For me, post parkrun pleasantries continued in the EPIC Endcliffe Park Independent Cafe. It was great to have a catch up with running buddies old and new. I lurve running buddies, they are The. Best. We can do anything if we cheer each other on. I love that parkrun is so established one amongst us has her own espresso cup at the EPIC cafe. That’s service is it not?
So that was it, done for another week. The fun hadn’t ended though, because there were still the photos to pour over after the event. Those snaps are most educational, I never knew before that you were supposed to fold children before putting them in a buggy for example. This operator has a self-folding child, which is particularly impressive.
So happy 13th birthday parkrun, and well done to all of you everywhere who made the effort to wear some apricot for the day. Good effort. I wonder what the teenage years have in store for parkrunners everywhere. Oh, and in case you were wondering, our very own parkrun royalty Mr S-H, had a special message for us all on this auspicious day. Hurrah! It was quite nice getting the email, but I hope in time the technology will evolve so he can be beamed as a hologram into the sky to deliver future anniversary messages to the people like a pimped up Queen’s speech, only with fewer corgis and a less self-conscious Christmas tree. I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…
As we prepare to celebrate our 13th birthday this weekend, it’s hard not to reflect on how far we have come in such a short space of time. 13 runners and a handful of volunteers at our first event has grown into a global community of more than 2.5 million participants. And while the numbers are impressive, it’s the friendships, the life-changing stories and the positivity that I have always seen as the true measure of our success.
Did you know, on the 13th birthday weekend the 1,000,000th person outside of the UK completed a parkrun! That’s quite a
cult community! Go us!
So thank you parkrun pioneers and parkrun people present and yet to be. As our very own Belize flag bearer puts it with such beaming eloquence:
From just a few of us around the world, muchas gracias for being always, welcoming, inclusive and encouraging, no matter what time we take to complete our Saturday run! To all our wonderful parkrun family, fellow runners, run directors, marshals, volunteers and photographers, gracias! ❤️Sheffield Hallam Parkrun❤️😃xxx Again Feliz International 13th Cumpleaños parkrun!!! xxx
Happy running y’all 🙂
Thanks Pontefract parkrun for awesome customised birthday greeting. Great stuff!
I really have to go now. There is an ENORMOUS house spider in my flat. It has so far respected my boundaries and stayed on the floor, but I just glimpsed it migrating up on to the sofa. Enough. This ends here. We can’t both stay in this flat tonight, so obviously I need to go pack…
For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries.
For all Sheffield Hallam parkrun posts see here scroll down for older entries.
And as a postscript, we are more international than some know in Sheffield:
Germany 🇩🇪 Slovenia 🇸🇮 India 🇮🇳 Belize 🇧🇿 Iceland 🇮🇸, pic from International parkrun 13th Birthday!