Digested read: Northallerton parkrun now done and dusted. It was fancy dress. Hurrah!
Not only was it a fancy dress parkrun, there was also a participant going for the fastest continuous line dancing 5k. He did good too if the picture is anything to go by. Fine grapevine technique being demonstrated right there. Respect. Yet another example of how parkrun always bringeth forth unexpected joy.
What with the Morris dancing parkrunners and The Juggling parkrunner too, you never know what the new parkrun day might bring! I don’t think the linedancing parkrunner has his own Facebook page though, well not yet anyway.
Still, I’m running ahead of myself, which doesn’t happen all that often on account of the fact I’m more a slow and steady galumpher than a runner as such, so it almost seems a shame to rein it back in. Nevertheless, back to basics. My account of my visit to Northallerton parkrun follows. Remember dear reader, I’m not concise, so I urge you to exercise caution, time vampire ahead, lots to share. Continue at your own risk. Or just scroll through for the photos, I won’t know, won’t care. That reminds me:
All the decent photos are courtesy of the Northallerton parkrun volunteer photographer team, they were out in force for this event, what with it being their birthday and all. You could be papped from all angles, ready or not! Naturally I feel obligated to intersperse their fab shots with my blurry ‘well, it captures the atmosphere/ has comedic value’ ones, so as to make their efforts look even better by comparison. Thank you lovely Northallerton parkrun for taking and sharing on their Facebook page though, appreciated 🙂 Look for the albums for 3rd August 2019 and be amazed.
Now, where was I?
Oh yes, wanting to travel the four corners of the parkrun world. Well, UK anyhow. Well, figuratively, if not literally? What’s that? What is this ‘four corners’ adventure of which I speak? Dear Reader, I remind you once again of the running challenges chrome extension, which today brings with it me working towards the compass challenge virtual badge. Hurrah!
I’m on a roll with my compass challenge it seems. By which I mean I accidentally bagged a south when I went to Southwark parkrun over two years ago. That was definitely before I knew about the running challenges thingamajig, and may even have been before its inception. I honestly have no idea. then last week went West with Beverley Westwood parkrun and now here I am going for north, that’s two weeks on the trot, nailing my compass points. Go me! I was aided and abetted in my execution of this plan by this cool picture courtesy of Richard Gower who did a whole blog post about the compass challenge and put together this map earlier in the year which is an easy way to check out where they all are. More have since been added, but it’s still a great start. By which I mean it was for me anyway, and it’s my post so I’ll generalise if I want to. Cheers Mr Gower, loving your work!
For me in Sheffield, Northallerton was the obvious choice to bagsy my ‘north’ and get one step nearer to securing that coveted virtual badge. Mind you, considering I live in the north it’s a fair old way. Especially if you hate being late and therefore have to leave stupidly early to allow plenty of time for emergencies such as not being able to park, getting lost, being stuck behind a tractor en route etc. Ok, I’ll check that out.
So, beginning with online research, also known as lmgtfy – let me google that for you -other search engines are available, and probably more ethical if less convenient. Incidentally, I don’t mind googling stuff for other people, and think the lmgtfy is not so much passive aggressive as actually rude, however, by referencing it here Ii am able to include the cartoon below, which I think offers an insightful and searing commentary on the limitations of regarding google as the font of all knowledge. We need to be critical thinkers people?
But you know what, for checking out your parkrun factoids, Google does just fine, so let me share with you that the Northallerton parkrun page course description blah de blah describes the route thus:
The course is three laps which use the playing fields behind Hambleton Leisure Centre and two footbridges over Brompton Beck. Starting and finishing behind the leisure centre, the course is approximately 900m on tarmac footpath, 1300m on gravel track and 2800m on grass. The course is almost flat with only two small banks (one up / one down), and there are a few narrow sections to navigate which are well signed. The area is open to the public during the event, so expect to meet cyclists and dog walkers during your run.
Yep, that’s three laps. Give me strength! Also, that’s a lot of grass. Should I be panicking about the amount of grass? Will it be sports field grass, the stuff of school sports day humiliations or lovely running through meadows like a timotei ad sort of grass? I have a gnawing suspicion ’twill be the former not the latter…
and it looks like this:
Hmm, not massively appealing to be fair. However, on the plus side ‘There is ample free car parking at the venue – use the civic centre car park – follow the parkrun parking signs. Satnav postcode is DL6 2UU’. That’s a boon, however, I could in principle go to Northampton parkrun, that is a bit further away, but their course is but two laps and it has not only toilets but also a defibrillator to entice me over. What to do.
More research, that may help.
GAME CHANGER – further research unearths a post on the Northallerton parkrun Facebook page that 3rd August is a birthday and what’s more FANCY DRESS! Basically, pop up parkrun party. Yay! Decision made. Northampton parkrun will have to wait for another time.
I know some might think my response shallow, but I can embrace that. After all, if fancy dress is good enough for PS-H himself then it’s good enough for me. Just look, Bushy parkrun were celebrating their 800th run today, and it looks like he went as a disembodied head. Impressive, albeit I concede slightly disturbing. Still, you know what they say, ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way.’ Fair do’s. You take it up with him if you must.
And he wasn’t the only representative of parkrun royalty in fancy dress either. My mum was equipped with Cleopatra apparel. I don’t know if any photographic evidence of this exists, but in my mind’s eye she will have been splendid, accessorising her usual hi-vis with a spectacular asp head-dress – it’s what all the best marshals will be sporting at a parkrun near you soon. So much better than putting poultry on your head methinks. Though I refer you once again to the point above ‘everyone in their own way’.
Oh hang on, *STOP PRESS* we have pictures. Blooming love Bushy parkrun folk for furnishing me with these. Thank you Bushy parkrunners, you are the best!
So where was I? Oh yes, fancy dress. What’s not to like? Apart from clowns, obvs. I really hope there aren’t any clowns. Surely parkrunners wouldn’t do that? That would be taking the idea of ‘respect everyone’s right to participate in their own way’ a step too far. Everyone knows clowns are scary yes?
There’s a reason why ‘killer clowns’ are a thing you know, and you can be fined for public order offences for dressing up as them. Quite right too. Some behaviour is just too anti-social to tolerate.
And on the subject of anti-social behaviour, my regular reader will be interested to know that the burglaries down my street are still continuing by the way. It’s a bit unsettling, the same people came back to the same house 2 weeks on, presumably targeting the property in anticipation of all the goods having now been replaced. That’s not good is it? However, I did laugh when another neighbour complained about having a parcel delivery stolen from outside her door. It was a mail order delivery of kefir from guffawing goat company or something.
I’m not surprised the goat is chuckling. That people drink her fermented milk must give her a right laugh! Payback time for nicking her milk in the first place. My point is, that I’d only ever vaguely heard of kefir when I’ve accidentally listened to The Archers, and didn’t think it either really existed at all, or if it did, that anybody actually really consumed it other than as a fictionalised fad, fetishised by hipster social media influencers. Whoever and whatever they may be. It was a genuine surprise to me that it’s a real thing, let alone one that is actually to some desirable. Although clearly I condemn all such anti-social behaviour, having your kefir stolen doesn’t quite put you in the same category as someone who has been the victim of a life-changing assault. What’s more, the victim in this case might have the last laugh, as she said that unless stored correctly kefir is basically an unstable compound that can explode spectacularly and messily and presumably honkingly at any moment. Equally, consumption of said kefir can have catastrophic and explosive consequences for the uninitiated. Maybe karma will get those thieving bastards yet. Not quite as good as the guy who booby trapped baited parcels with exploding glitter bombs that would erupt if stolen, but it’s a start. It’s worth forfeiting 9 minutes of your life to watch his YouTube clip of the glitter/ stink bomb device in action. Well, I think it is, but maybe my life doesn’t count for much, you might be more busy and important and careful of how you squander your time – which would beg the question of what you are doing reading this then, but I daresay you have your reasons…
That would be such poetic justice. Actually, just a thought, but maybe anyone dressed as a clown at parkrun should be offered a complementary cup of kefir at the finish, that might deter them from a second outing in clownish apparel! Mind you, that could backfire horribly in every sense. If there’s one thing scarier than a clown, it’s an exploding enraged one. Thankfully, I’ll be a guest there, it’s up to the core team how they chose to keep order… frankly, I’m glad it’s not my responsibility to uphold parkrun regulations – there aren’t many, and at junior parkrun the number one rule is quite simply ‘have fun!’ and it ought to be the rule for 5k parkruns too. I think it’s a given, which is why it isn’t on the posters, also the lack of a specific reference to ‘don’t wear a clown (or gimp) outfit’ is an omission, but I suppose they believe common sense will prevail. That doesn’t always work, case in point, at our Graves junior parkrun the RD once turned up for the junior parkrun birthday run in the most terrifying werewolf head mask I’ve ever seen! I shudder at the very memory! Still, he hasn’t done it again to be fair. Sometimes you just have to trust in people to do the right thing. And/or, recognise everyone has a right to make mistakes now and again. Next time it might be me or indeed you! Perish the thought, but could just happen!
Think this offering might have won the internet fancy dress for the day though – even if strictly speaking it’s ineligible what with being an actual puppet at Brighton Pride, but you get my point I’m sure! Have to concede they made a bit more effort than I did, digging my companion animal out the back of the cupboard for the first time since Christmas. Oops.
Oh didn’t I say?
I decided to take Geronimo with me, turned out though, last time she had an outing was on Christmas day at Concord parkrun, she still had her Santa hat on when I went to ask her about coming along to Northallerton. About time she had a run really, and I thougth I’d lost my running mojo, blimey she’s not been out even once in 2019. No worries, it’ll be fine! Just a question of putting one foot in front of another, times four – or six, if you include me. I should have remembered that she’s less of a boon when running than you might think, but we’ve had fun together out and about in the past. It’ll be nice to have a comeback reunion run with my companion animal of choice. Whatever happens, we’ll always have London… sigh.
Decision made. Northallerton parkrun it would be.
Not gonna lie. Northallerton parkrun is a looooooooooooooong way from Sheffield. At stupid o’clock I did start to contemplate the wisdom of my ways travelling such a long way for parkrun tourism and the chance to bagsy a ‘north’. Then again, fancy dress. Sometimes these decisions are finely weighed.
The day dawned, eventually, and it was lovely. Too lovely in fact. Whilst the terror of driving to Westwood nearly scared me off the roads entirely, this time the brilliant orb of early morning sun nearly burned the back of my eyes to dust, despite my sunglasses. This seemed almost bizarre, following the recent nigh on apocalyptic rain, which has literally washed away some parkrun courses (Lyme park parkrun case in point), left others inches deep in water and poor Whaley Bridge junior parkrun in fear of complete annihilation. Hard to imagine. There aren’t many things more important that parkrun on a Saturday or junior parkrun on a Sunday, but in a rare moment of perspective, I’d venture cancelled parkruns are the least of their worries in Whaley Bridge. Hope it ends well, I really do.
So I’m driving along, squinting into the sun, and periodically, great layers of mist create amazing landscapes as I drive past. The roads were empty, the wind turbines still, and everywhere seemed verdant and bursting with life. Reet nice out in fact.
Then, as I neared my destination, ‘I say, this mist is really getting awfully thick.’ I was saying to myself. I often talk to myself. This is what can happen if you spend too much time alone. A bit later ‘hang on a goddarn minute! This isn’t mist any more, this is actual fog!’ It was like I was trying to circle in on Brigadoon or something! Really hoping I’ve picked the right single day in a hundred year cycle to head out to this parkrun… Mind you, the seem a joyful lot in Brigadoon, if that is where I’m to be heading, I’m sure they’ll have a parkrun there, if they choose to emerge on a Saturday it would be very rude not to, and they look hospitable enough. I wonder though it that would make it a 9.30 start as it would count as Scotland, and also presumably not qualify as a North. Oh well, would still be an unexpected adventure I suppose, and I do like them.
Next thing I know, I’m crawling along through dense fog, trying to work out where the road was, periodically checking my rear view mirror, until I noticed it was almost entirely obscured by a police van. Cue paranoia. I’m great at that. That and getting the munchies, ace at both.
So eventually I arrive, crazily early even by my standards. There is indeed loads of parking. Squillions of parking places. So many in fact, I get confused about which would be the best one to park in, decisions, decisions. The venue is indeed based around a mahoosive leisure centre. I am in desperate need of a loo, please let it be open, please let it be open. It was! Hooray. I’m in. Behind the reception desk is a disabled loo which I spotted first and then bolted towards in desperation, only temporarily blind sided by my inability to get the lights to come on despite frantically waving my hands about. Spoiler alert, this is because the lights weren’t motion activated, but there is a switch inside the loo by the door, but you can’t see this, because once the door is shut you are basically enclosed in a panic room in the pitch black. They are called panic rooms because they induce panic by the way, in case you were wondering. Relieved in every sense, I could start my exploration of the venue.
So easy to find, loos available nice and early, loads of parking. What’s this? Slightly disconcerting outline of a body on the ground, presumably left over from some ‘scene of crime’ shenanigans earlier. Oh well, best not ask.
I went back to my car, and slowly registered that there was a lot of green green grass around. It did look very much like proper playing fields. Gulp. They were immaculately maintained, but definitely grass of school sports day flash backs, only with fewer imperfections.
There were the beginnings of signs of parkrun life. A gazebo was going up – I later learned this is an actual parkrun gazebo, which is a glorious innovation from the Northallerton event team. There was some indication of other runners appearing over the horizon, and other hi-vis clad people were out with flags and cones doing the course set up. ‘Oh god. Cones, it’s not going to be an obstacle course as well as sprint events at this school sports day is it?‘ Screamed the voice in my head. Childhood trauma has much to answer for.
I went for a bit of an explore. The course was a bit confusing, arrows pointing all over the place, but it seemed to go round the perimeter of a couple of fields, and take in a bridge or two and alongside a waterway.
I have never seen so many poo bins in such a small space, including some that were positively vintage. This seemed to be working as there was no sign of any actual dog poo, which was clearly a boon. I liked the mosaics, particularly the one of the person in a red parkrun milestone tee, hand held aloft ready to make contact with a high five was a particularly nice touch! I retreated back to my car to watch what was going on.
More people gathered. More alarmingly, a distinct absence of people in fancy dress. Wait hang on, someone was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, I know another parkrun is having a Hawaiian shirt day, maybe either he or I have mixed the two events up? Hang on, nope, I’ve checked, it’s Colwick parkrun having a Hawaiian shirt day, and that’s still a couple of weeks off. Aloha Colwick parkrun people, loving your look there. Ahead of the fashion curve I’m sure, but will definitely catch on.
No, he might just be wearing it because it looks fabulous. Curses. I eyed Geronimo. I mean, it seemed a shame to have brought her all this way and not brave it, but then again, standing around awkwardly on the periphery of a new parkrun when you are a visitor can be stress inducing at the best of times.
Mercifully, I eventually saw a couple of others who I was more confident were rocking the fancy dress vibe. Hurrah! These people could be my new best friends! They might not know it yet, but I would seek them out and grind them down. They’d only have to pretend for half an hour or so it would be fine, better than fine, it would be fun. Here’s the first!
That’s Berta the dragon not Bernie the dinosaur, just as I am with Geronimo the giraffe not Melman. Many things were not as they first appeared. This is unicorn not a dog for example. You’re welcome.
We bonded over our clothing choices. I confided I’d nearly bottled it but was reassured it was good to make the effort as that would give more people the confidence to do likewise next time. ‘It’ll be like Jurassic park at your next parkrun birthday‘ I cried out enthusiastically, implying all would be emulating her choice of dinosaur-wear – before realising I’d immediately soured things by falling in to the dragon/ dino confusion trap. Put it down to nerves, and anyway, maybe everyone else would come as dinosaurs next time because dinosaurs are super fun for running in/ with/ away from and parkrunners might not want to copy Berta given that she was too excellent and magical a manifestation ever to be equalled again. It was explained a lot of thought had gone into that outfit of choice earlier on in the day, it was not at all a case of frantically rummaging in the deepest corners of her child’s bedroom cupboard in just in time desperation and clutching at the nearest fluffy onesie that presented itself. Not at all like that. Not at all.
This was my other kindred spirit, but we didn’t get properly acquainted til later on. Still, best things eh? She was being busy and important in the way that you can only be when in possession of the giddy might that comes with possession of a clipboard. With the power of being co event director comes mighty responsibility it seems.
There was someone in a bridal running outfit, but maybe that’s just on trend and not actual fancy dress. I remember an unfortunate fashion trend when people started wearing their underwear as outfits for the evening – underwear as outerwear in fact. I found it completely bewildering. I can recall more than one occasion when I wondered if I should mention to my next door neighbour she seemed to have inadvertently forgotten to finish dressing before heading out of an evening. I wouldn’t want to be guilty of judging what anyone else is wearing, her body, her business, but then again I’d want someone to have a quiet word with me if I was heading out the front door with only my marks and sparks basics protecting my decency – and protecting me from inclement weather – before I embarked on a big night out. It’s such a sensitive topic. I remember back in the eighties being out at an ‘alternative night’ and spending some time agonising over whether or not another attendee had got her skirt caught in her knickers or making a statement to challenge the tyranny of societal expectations in relation to female fashion. Spoiler alert, she had actually got her skirt caught in her knickers, though we could agree that the fashion industry is indeed tyrannous. Around the same time as the outerwear/ underwear malarkey, it was also considered elegant to where a faux satin or silk lacy nightdress. I say considered elegant, but obviously only those with a narrowly defined aesthetic which was also actually pretty narrow. For mere mortals like myself it was just another tyranny of the fashion industry. Now if I could have just worn my brushed cotton pyjamas all the time I’d have embraced it! And if I’d have got away with a onesie, well, I’d totally be in. In Cambodia, many of the women wear absolutely gorgeous outfits that we in the west would view as pyjamas, I’d love to be able to do that here. Found this photo at this website by the way, the random observations about Cambodia resonated with me. Why 31 I wonder? That is indeed random…
Anyway, stop distracting me. Why are you asking me about Cambodia now? We’ll be here all day if I don’t crack on. Where was I? Oh yes, at Northallerton parkrun and now, finally, I was out of the car and so there was an opportunity for some self-conscious milling and chilling. I, or more accurately Geronimo, was sporting the cow cowl tourist buff – though I do wish she’d looked in a mirror before stepping out, it was partly inside out which didn’t help. I didn’t see any others, so it was hard to tell tourists from regulars. It was also a relatively small parkrun, and so it wasn’t all that easy to approach people somehow. Perhaps not everyone warms to giraffes either? Still, there were plenty of distractions, including a enormous cheque from Tesco which was quite fun. Got to like a giant cheque haven’t you? Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real one of those before, only on TV. I really hope they have to go and pay it in like that. That would make me so happy!*
After a bit, it was over for the first timers’ briefing. There were a fair few of us, and, just for pleasing symmetry, the person doing the first timers’ briefing, was also doing that for the first time! I know, good isn’t it. I think it might also have been the RD’s debut appearance too, but I’m less sure about that one. Main thing is, it was friendly and welcoming, but I was none the wiser about the route the course took, only really noting it was three laps, and follow everyone else.
Shortly after the we first timers’ had been inducted we were all shooed over to the start area. I was acutely aware that this had the look of a fast field of runners. I know it’s a bit of a generalisation, but it just looked like the majority of runners were towards the more serious end of the spectrum. More people warming up with drills or stretches as opposed to say comparing fancy dress outfits or checking out the cakes. I was feeling apprehensive. I mean, I’ve been final finisher a fair few times, but didn’t relish the extreme visibility of being that as one of very few who were sporting fancy dress. Yes, I know the tail walker is actually last, but I didn’t want to keep the volunteer team hanging around for too long. Eek. Oh well, here now, and it wasn’t like I’d be able to slope off inconspicuously either. I think the rising fear was exacerbated by the awful present reality I’d be having to run round playing fields, two playing fields to be precise, and each three times. That’s a lot of replaying of childhood trauma. I would try not to cry.
So hi-vis heroes went to their marshal spots, whilst we parkrunners headed down the surprisingly steep slope to the gathering ground and the runners briefing.
The cheque was presented, the system with the gazebo and donations for tea and cake explained, volunteers thanked, there was a big cheer for the hen do party – so it was dressing up outfit rather than fashion being sported there. Good to know. This briefing had the most politely behaved dogs ever. Usually at parkrun briefings any canine companions are barking uncontrollably and bouncing about in eager anticipation like the dogs of hell waiting to be unleashed. Not so here. Not so much as a polite whimper, and there were dogs, because I met some later. A shout out for tourists… I thought I’d made a good effort coming from Sheffield, but there was a woman and child present who’d come from Vietnam, so win for them methinks. I don’t know that they’d only come that morning though. I’d have loved to have talked to them as I have fond memories of working in Vietnam, but they were super speedy runners and long gone by the time I came through the finish funnel. So many stories every individual participant holds within them at parkrun, I wonder what theirs was.
And then, the shout went up and we all went! This is what it looked like from a distance for the volunteer parkrun photographers:
and this is what it looked like for me in the midst of all that running around:
and this is what we looked like disappearing over the fields from behind.
and what fine parkrun posteriors are on show. No exceptions. Because the bottom line is we are all fabulous at parkrun. Fact. Mind you, this beehind is pretty fine too, so I suppose I’d have to concede reluctantly, that parkrunners don’t have the monopoly of brilliant backsides.
So of we went, and the event kicks off with a sprint round one playing field. I was worried about how the logistics would work with it being a three lapper – that means over-taking is inevitable, and I’m slow and paranoid about getting in faster runners’ way. The cornering round the perimeter of the fields did mean you get to see the faster runners ahead, or I suppose, by logical extension, if you are a faster runner you can look back and see the slower ones trailing behind you in a colourful train like a stampeding fan base trying to catch up with you. Except, I don’t think the faster runners have time to look behind them, that would cost precious seconds, the line dancing parkrunner would have seen though, he would have had to look behind a fair bit to get that grapevine technique correctly executed.
After the first little field, you go up the ‘hump’ which you descended to listen to get to the start, and past the car park and right round the far side of another bigger playing field. There was a crowd of volunteers and spectators and a proper cheerleader with shiny pompoms and everything, who I truly like to believe is there every week, but I have been wrong before. Sorry, the photos are a bit rubbish aren’t they, I’m not completely lacking in insight, but then again, they capture a flavour of what it was like, so here they are anyway, recording the event for posterity. I take comfort from knowing these won’t be the worst photos cluttering up the interweb, not by a long way, not by a very, very long way indeed.
The route has cones in place to guide you away from rabbit holes and stop you from cutting corners. As you come to the end of the perimeter of the second field, a jolly marshal pointed you towards the first of the wooden bridges, where clearly the path narrows:
In fact, the route meant you spread out a fair bit skirting round the playing fields, so by the time you were at the narrower sections it seemed to be OK. It wasn’t a huge attendance either, and it seemed a good natured run. I wasn’t aware of any jostling going on. There is the potential for bottle necks over the two small bridges, but I think regulars must get themselves sorted before they encounter those, and for those chasing a pb, maybe it’s an added incentive to secure your position before you enter the potential no overtaking zones.
Over the bridge, and then there is a narrowish path but room for over taking with a bit of communication and common sense. It’s only a short stretch, but a picturesque one. You can make out faster runners heading back up – or is it down – the first playing field the other side of the water way. After a couple of hundred metres, if that, another jolly marshal (is that tautology, I mean all marshals are jolly here to be fair?) waves you over the second bridge. I think his role was partly directional pointing, partly cheery clapping and partly troll patrol. He was excellent on all counts, particularly the latter, as I didn’t see a troll all morning, despite 6 bridge crossings. Good work.
A little bit of a zig and a zag round some hedges – wave at Charlie canix dog as he passes…
and you come out by a dog poo bin and the mosaic depiction of the high-fiving 50 milestone tee wearing runner. Hurray. An actual hi-viz hero was in situ there to wave you round, and this time I could see runners sprinting back in the opposite direction to me, having already embarked on their second lap. Oh look! My new best friend was among them!
Round the corner, and a bit further on there was super friendly canine marshal – well, strictly speaking a unicorn, was a huge distraction because it took something of a shine to Geronimo and I, and because I’m quite shallow, that was flattering and necessitated a stop and bit of interaction on each loop. Oh, and the marshal with the unicorn was also jolly and friendly by the way, but I was rather assuming by now you’d have taken that as a given…
You carry on along the tarmac path, and continue along a flat section with photographers in situ taking action shots of approaching runners and then shooing you back down the hill to ensure you do the correct number of laps, or cheering you on when finally you have done all the laps required and are now free to shoot off for your sprint finish three laps done.
There weren’t a massive amount of marshals out on the course, but those that there were were without exception friendly and encouraging. I was near the back, and clearly yomping along near to a Northallerton regular. Every marshal we passed greeted him by name, shouting encouragement. It felt friendly.
There were almost as many dedicated photographers as marshals out on the course, giving terrific scope for entries to the ‘seen a photographer’ pose contest. I would say competition for that was fierce, and I won’t presume to pick a winner, but here are a few of my favourites. Yes you did see the photographer! We can all tell. Loving your work.
So that was lap one down. Down an alarmingly steep bank for lap two, and off I went again. This course is definitely overwhelmingly on grass you know, no getting around that – figuratively not literally. Literally you do have to get around it, three times, or parkrun hasn’t happened. Tough love I’m afraid, but it is what it is.
Still, the hens were having a blast out there I’m sure, inside anyway. Each to their own.
I found it hard. I don’t rule out the possibility that I may one day learn to love running on the grass of sports fields, but it hasn’t happened yet. Then again, there’s hard, and there’s hard. I do find running round a sports field hard. So does Geronimo. But probably it isn’t quite as hard as running from John O’Groats to Land’s End, and a 55 year old woman has just broken the record for that! Go Sharon Gaytor. What’s even more mind blowing, is that she plans to go back to work on Monday. I don’t know what her job is, but I really hope it isn’t open heart surgeon or anything like that, or indeed any job that requires her to stay awake. Bus driver would be contra-indicated as well methinks, although her clothing should be COИTRA indicated, because apparently she ran a parkrun just before heading out. Respect. Not sure it that was immediately before, or if it’s just a rumour, but she is a parkrunner, all the best people of course are – one way or another walk/ run/ lope/ volunteer. We are all heroes. Hurrah!
So maybe it is just a question of mind over matter?
Round I went again.
I was a bit stop start, because of wanting to interact with marshals and take photos, and I’m not fast at the best of times so was constantly dropping right to the back, and then putting on a bit of a sprint to get ahead a bit again. I hope it wasn’t too annoying. Less of an issue at one lap courses, but for a three lapper I did worry I might be in the way. It gave opportunities for some interactions though. My favourite, well one of them anyway, was the pair that I leapfrogged by for the umpteenth time and one of them called out ‘oh hello there – we’ve seen a fair few of your herd about already this morning!’ Which I thought was genius and hilarious. I could see what they did there!
I tried to explain to some of the marshals that I was actually ‘on fire’ for the third lap, it’s just that I have one of those faces that does turning bright red rather better than looking determinedly but attractively ‘on fire’ as a communicative expression. Not sure if any of them actually bought that, but hope over experience eh? Anyway, they were all too polite to argue the point with me mid run which is the main thing.
I heard a few quips along the lines of Geronimo giving me a competitive advantage what with four long legs to help me round. I protested that it wasn’t giving me quite the edge I’d been hoping for, and another participant pointed out she was always going to come in ahead of me by a neck which was a good point well made. I tried to interact positively, but on at least one occasion I fear what was meant as a witty if dry retort came across as breathlessly indignant rudeness. If you were a cheery runner who was on the receiving end of this unintentional rejection, please accept my apologies. Note to self, what you think are clearly witty retorts lose a lot on delivery if you are sweating buckets and can hardly speak. Maybe next time just go for a ‘thanks’ and weak smile to acknowledge encouragement instead. Glad we’ve cleared that up
Round again. Round the field, up over the hump, by the car park, wave at cheery marshal, over the bridge, along the path, it had emptied out a lot by now. Over the other bridge, zig zag, say hello to unicorn dog, wave at photographers, acknowledge lapping runners, exchange pleasantries with own speed parkrunners, check out other runners toing and froing in all directions, spot photographer and marshal at lap point – don’t suppose there’s any chance? Nope, down the slippery bank again for
round lap three. There’s a lot of multi-tasking that goes on at a parkrun. How people get bored running I have no idea. And then as I headed off past the car park on my final lap, you could see the cheery gathering of people who’d already finished. Some parkrunners were heading home as I was still heading out. Still, that happens to me at most parkruns to be fair, so no change there.
By the final lap, there seemed to be only a few of us left on the course. However, the marshals where still there, still clapping, cheering, shouting encouragement and directionally pointing with quite as much enthusiasm as they had at the start. Much appreciated. Meanwhile, other runners were coming in, all flying feet with their sprint finishes. Some great action shots captured some of those moments. Can you guess who got the Timotei award for great hair from these? Go on, have a wild stab at it, you might just get lucky! Some of those runners look positively ecstatic approaching the line, not sure if that’s running endorphins kicking in, or relief at it being all over. Both probably.
Finishing the final loop was challenging for me, but fortunately, the fun factory for parkrun is always the back, so it was good natured quality if not quantity left out on the course! The sun had come out in full force, burning away the earlier mist, and I was super hot, but not in a good way!
It was a relief to see the lap turning point again and realise that this time I could sprint on ahead. Yay! A guard of honour lined the finish funnel, and a friendly cheer went up as I finally made it through at the end. Hallelujah!
Through the finish, and some lovely fellow parkrunners not only offered to take a finish photo of me and Geronimo (we’d clearly totally nailed it, and such an achievement needed immortalising on camera) but also one went to fetch the Northallerton parkrun picture frame AND made sure I was posed correctly so as not to obscure the venue name. Now that’s a quality service I’ve not experienced before, and was fun and appreciated since as a lone tourist it can be hard to get those sort of shots. Honestly, I’ve never been so photographed at a parkrun. This must be what it’s like for my mum at Bushy parkrun every week! Quite an experience! Also, that bike wheel makes it look like I’m wearing an enormous bracelet. This pleases me.
That was that. All done and dusted. I waited for the final finishers, and did some more post parkrun pottering.
Got chatting to my other new best friend. The one I mentioned earlier, with a clipboard? Do you remember who I mean now. Anyway, turns out she was part of the core team, so it was good to get some Northallerton parkrun intel. For example, it was from her I learned that the gazebo was purchased by parkrun to facilitate these monthly coffee and cake ‘sales’ (actually a donation). Astonishingly, the huge leisure centre has no cafe within, so that’s why the local event team have come up with the gazebo and fundraising refreshments plan, to encourage parkrunners to linger. There is a cafe people adjourn to on other days, but it’s a walk back into town to get there, and inevitably not everyone will want to do that, or be able to for that matter. It was good to talk, and I was made to feel welcome. I also learned that yep, the turnout is generally not huge, and that other runners who are local also recall school sports days of their youth which may well have actually taken place on those very fields, so I wasn’t alone with that association, for others it was a more literal flashback. Some may have fonder memories of such times, and a lot of current athletic events and running clubs still use the venue regularly. Interestingly (well, I thought so) although numbers drop back a bit at winter, there are always those who relish the mud quagmire the fields can become as a peculiarly delightful challenge its own right, and those seeking north will also continue to make the trek of course! Well, I should know about that. Also, she shared that she had run parkrun on the morning of her actual wedding day, so I thought that was impressive. I forgot to ask her if that meant she had to run in her wedding dress or whether or not she’d allowed time to change in between times. I like to think the former, no need to disabuse me of this delusion 🙂
So photos taken and chit chat over, I made my way to the gazebo for coffee. They’d run out of polystyrene cups, I should have brought my reusable one with me, don’t know why I didn’t think of it. Anyway, I had a plastic cup instead, which was functional if not ideal. Then I got chatting with some other parkrunners, one of whom is dedicated canicrosser and the other of whom is a ‘proper’ triathlete. So that was interesting, finding out about both of those, and being generally amazed at what they had achieved. Nice to meet you fellow parkrunners, thanks for the touristing tips too! Good luck at the championships!
And all too soon, that was that.
parkrun people dispersed. The gazebo was taken down, arrows and cones dematerialised, and Northallerton parkrun disappeared without a trace. I’m fairly confident it will be back again for business next Saturday rather than you needing to wait a whole other hundred years for a showing, but do keep an eye on the parkrun cancellation page as well as the Northallerton parkrun news page and Northallerton parkrun Facebook page just to be on the safe side.
So me and Geronimo, now soon to be homeward bound.
Thank you Northallerton parkrun for the warm welcome, for giving me the opportunity to take Geronimo for a welcome yomp round too. Thanks especially to the marshals, photographers and event team for pulling it all together, cheering me round and giving up time to take photos, set up, and do all the other smoke and mirrors magic that keeps the parkrun show on the road each week. Thanks too to fellow parkrunners for companionable chatting, words of support and sharing the parkrun joy. Sorry if I got in your way with my erratic pathfinding – as a first timer it was hard to know which way to move out of the way on the course as it turns around so much! Special thanks to fellow fancy dress sporters and good luck to the bridal party too. New adventures await.
Oh, and – can’t believe I nearly forgot!
So where next for parkrun tourism I wonder? I’d love a trip to one of the seaside ones, but they aren’t on my agenda as yet, and they are a bit of a performance to get to. Maybe combined with a weekend away? I’d have to go off season though, expensive in the summer holidays. Incidentally, if, like me, you were struggling to find an alphabetical list of parkruns, one way to get this is to look at the parkrun pages for the official course records. Handy top tip there, can’t remember where I stumbled across that. Would love to think it was all my own idea, but it definitely wasn’t. I genuinely don’t know where I’ll be next Saturday, it will be a surprise. Wherever I end up I’m sure it will be splendid! Hope you have happy parkrunning adventures too, whether that’s home or away.
By the way, 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. And you might have places to go, people to see and/or a life to live, so I’ll understand if you leave it for now. 🙂
Whatever adventures are awaiting you, parkrun related or otherwise, step out and embrace them. Be happy, be brave, be yourself. They start with a single step, how hard can it be?
*Yes, I do know, but I can dream!