or maybe Elisabeth Corner? Can’t make up my mind which sounds better…
Digested read: you know the celebrity marshal at Bushy parkrun? The one who sits each week at the Sandy Lane Gate corner of the course cheering runners round. The one from whom getting a high five was the highlight of Paul Sinton-Hewitt’s morning? That’s my mum. Cool eh? Form an orderly queue people. Keep calm.
So for those of you who don’t know, my mum had her 15 minute of fame, when a Bushy parkrunner, Paul Killick, dropped off a Christmas card to her at the residential care home where she now lives. He posted on the parkrun discussion Facebook group about how pleased she was to get it and how she’d shared that parkrun was the highlight of her week.
As a result of this, there was an online outpouring of appreciation, and a flurry of cards were sent. The story even got picked up in one of the parkrun uk newsletters and tweeted – and quite right too!
Mum had however been a regular and much photographed fixture at Bushy parkrun for many months previously. To such an extent, that one parkrunner shared online that when they do their post Bushy parkrun debrief, they actually refer to the bit on the course where she sits as one of the landmarks en route.
Even so, it was fantastic that mum got lots of cards and greetings in response to Paul Killick’s post. She wanted to write her own reply, which I sent on to parkrun UK with my own top and tail to share her story. It follows here:
Dear parkrun UK,
I thought you might like an update about my mum, Elisabeth, who you featured in your newsletter just before Christmas. She lives at a residential care home just over the road from the Sandy Lane Gate in Bushy park, which is right on the route of the iconic Bushy parkrun. Every Saturday, she joins marshals at this spot to cheer parkrunners as they pass. She first went last May, and after she had been doing this for a few weeks the Bushy parkrun community awarded her her very own hi-viz, of which she is enormously proud, so making her an official ‘honorary marshal’. Since then, more and more people greet her on their way by. Some pause to talk to her en route and the faster runners, who have no time to shout a greeting during their parkrun, will often have a chat to her as they leave the park on their way home instead. She has learnt the art of the ‘high-five’ and made many new friends, and renewed old acquaintances from being there each week. Not only parkrunners, but others who regularly walk in the park at about the same time each week.
Just before Christmas, Paul Killick, a Bushy parkrun regular – more than that, with a mighty 570 runs (and counting) to his name of which 553 have been at Bushy park – dropped off a Christmas card to my mum at the home, and they posed for a selfie together. My mum was really delighted to have the card and frankly astonished to find that her involvement in parkrun was so appreciated. Paul posted about this and it got picked up on some Facebook forums, which resulted in a little flurry of cards and greetings being sent to my mum. The Christmas cards were very much appreciated. Mum was particularly touched by the personal messages, with some runners sharing their own stories about what parkrun means to them. A few signed off with their parkrun number, and she was impressed to receive a card ‘from someone with an CBE’. Who can that have been? A couple of junior parkrunners even sent some sweets and a lovely photo of themselves at Rogiet parkrun, noting, ‘everyone appreciates you clapping at parkrun’, which sort of sums it up!
So thank you everyone who got in touch, I may have missed a few in which case apologies, your card was still massively appreciated, but the tally I came up with included greetings from near and far. Thanks to: Donabate parkrun, Dublin; Bob and a thousand other parkrunners!; Wendy and Orla; Gina and Steve from Tredegar House Newport parkrun; Gillian and Paul, Heaton parkrun Manchester runners; Jenny from Congleton parkrun, Cheshire; Anita, Bromley parkrun; Danny and Tiffany Waterworks parkrun, Belfast, Norther Ireland; Jacqueline, Druridge Bay, Northumberland; Paul S-H CBE; Paul K; Krysin, Martin, Selt and Kirst; Eva (5) and Rosa (6), Rogiet parkun; Tess and Morag; Pat and many more.
There were lots of messages, but one that resonated for me was the comment: ‘people like you make parkrun the amazing experience it is. parkrun changed our lives, so we are always grateful to the volunteers and supporters.’ parkrun has changed my life too. The actual ‘running’ part has become almost incidental to the community support, friendships made, post-parkrun brunches and laughs along the way. What I hadn’t anticipated, was how great an impact it would have on my mum’s life too, for which I am incredibly grateful. For her, it is something she really enjoys and looks forward to – carefully putting out all her kit the night before so she will be on time to her marshal point and there are lots of photos of her at parkrun on display in her room as well. Quite right too!
My mum celebrated her 89th birthday at the weekend, so I was visiting from Sheffield. She wanted to write her own message of thanks to the parkrun community about what it means to her. Enjoy:
Lucy Marris, A448776
Elisabeth’s parkrun story, in her own words:
Happy New Year!
parkrun has enriched my life ever since May 2017 when I came down to the Sandy Lane Gate to watch. It links with two of my children who run at Sheffield Hallam and Livingston parkruns. The marshals are really friendly. I clap along with them and have become an honorary marshal! I learnt how important community activity is as well as how important drawing others into the community is. 1300 plus participants stream past in the same order in about 20 minutes. ‘Personal Besters’ have no time to greet marshals. Middle field runners are truly friendly and there is much reciprocal greeting and many photos taken. Tailwalkers are just brilliant! Because of my weekly involvement in parkrun I find I am greeted everywhere I go in Teddington! Could it be because of the internet?
Thank you, thank you everyone for many Christmas cards and greetings, as well as being the highlight of my week! parkrun is a truly special community organisation, in which I feel wonderfully included. It is amazing that it has become international in a brief 13 years. Congratulations. I love all your stories.
Elisabeth, Honorary Marshal at Bushy parkrun, Sandy Lane Gate.
Update: I think following a recent tweet by parkrun royalty, we can safely claim that henceforth this marshal spot will be known as ‘Elisabeth’s Corner’ – or maybe Elisabeth Corner. Whatever, you get the gist!
Thank you parkrunners all.
The tweet in question:
So that’s official then!
No wonder she’s such a celebrity she often gets her own billing in the Bushy parkrun event reports! I claim glory by association. Form a line people, form a line…
PS for the record, I really like how in the parkrun UK blog post the top picture is of my mum with one of the Bushy parkun regular marshals but it sort of implies it’s me. I am happy with this for two reasons. Firstly, Lorraine, pictured, has been a fantastic friend to my mum since she started marshaling at parkrun. Secondly, I’m worried if my face becomes too well known I won’t be able to go about my normal life of angst ridden social encounters interspersed with the occassional jog out to the hills. Better to stay incognito, a woman of mystery. Don’t tell.
For all my parkrun related posts see here – scroll down for older entries
Loved how they linked to the blog from parkrun uk facebook page and my favourite comment (so far) was from someone simply saying ‘just when I thought I couldn’t love parkrun any more’. Love that. Parkrun spirit in buckets.