Digested read: went to Victoria Dock parkrun for some parkrun tourism, nabbed a V and got to accompany a friend on her parkrun debut. Hurrah!
Oh so much to share. Brace yourselves people, could be a long voyage, though not a rocky one, apart from some early turbulence, but we’ll come to that in a bit. I’m knot sure how long I’ll be able to keep going with the nautical references, it’s inevitable I’ll dry up schooner or later, but remember dear reader it’s the thought that counts.
Sooooooooooooooooooooooo excited! I was heading to London for the weekend anyway, to assist a friend and my personal favourite EWFM* with the celebrating of her birthday. She has thoughtfully recently relocated to London, and, even more fortuitously if not proactively thoughtfully, found accommodation for which the nearest parkrun (as the crow flies) is Victoria Docks parkrun. BIG excitement. What is most excellent about all this, is that this particular friend, whilst she has many and manifest redeeming qualities, she had not previously taken part in parkrun. I realise increasingly, that friends, or indeed just people I know who aren’t parkrunners in some way, shape or form are quite a rarity. I tend to live in a parkrun echo chamber, where people are either already converts to the faith, or just haven’t yet transitioned. This particular friendship however, predates my own encounter with parkrun so she is one of very few in my social circle who is allowed not to actively participate in it – I think friends should never require their friends to change or do new things unless they want to, each to their own etc – although inevitably she has been subject to my anecdotes about parkrun participation on quite possibly more than one occasion… and has been required to hang around for me whilst I was parkrunning when the situation necessitated this. That is, it was Saturday morning, and I was doing parkrun before we were going to do whatever it was we were going to go on to do. All of this makes sense to parkrunner people, though possibly not to those as yet uninitiated into the joys of parkrun. There are some. Hard to imagine I know.
Anyways, the point is, when we were planning my sojourn to the giddy delights of our great capital city, my only request was that I’d be allowed to do parkrun at Victoria Dock parkrun because, ‘it’s a V, and I really want to do a V‘. Well, dear reader, not only did she agree to this, but also (drum roll) a couple of days before D-Day (or should that be V-Day?) messaged me a picture of her VERY OWN parkrun (allonewordalllowercase remember) BARCODE. Yep, you’ve guessed it, she’d been following a C25K programme on the quiet in anticipation of joining me for parkrun by way of climax. The big reveal, was sending me a picture of her own actual one. OH MY GOD! I was so excited. Best thing ever. It would be her parkrun debut, and hopefully the start of a new shared life of parkrun playfulness together which will be massively enhanced by her having a London pad with proximity to a veritable treasure trove of parkrun possibilities. parkrun has been so fantastic for me, the thought of being with someone as they took the plunge and had their parkrun debut was positively intoxicating. Once she comes through that finish funnel at parkrun for the first time, her life will be changed forever. Her Saturdays will be reconfigured, things will never be the same again.
Things would never be the same again? Gulp.
Suddenly, I felt the burden of responsibility weighing heavily upon me. You only get one shot at a maiden voyage. I wanted it all to be perfect for her. I wanted her to feel the parkrun love as much as I do. What if Victoria Dock parkrun is the one parkrun in the whole wild world that is off with newbies and laughs and points at slower runners in between ignoring them. I know, I know ‘ye of little faith‘. I wonder if this is what it is like to be a new parent, feeling suddenly overwhelmed with how fragile a newborn seems to be and how it is up to you how they experience the brave new world which they have freshly entered? I just really, really wanted her to ‘get it’ and cross over to the other side without regret. If it was awful we wouldn’t be able to ‘undo’ this experience, things would never be the same again. Tumble weed being blown about between us where before there was always chatting and hilarity. Too terrible to contemplate. I shuddered at the very thought. I mean some things like broken noses, pets and EWFMs are for life not just for Christmas, but even so….
I was worried, not gonna lie, especially when I looked at the results and clocked it was quite a speedy one, with relatively small numbers so not many slow and steadies coming in at the back. I also know next to nothing about his part of London, and therefore didn’t know how it’d be for practicalities like loos and leaving stuff, let alone for friendliness and scenery. Ah well, it would be a V, and parkrun always delivers, sometimes you just have to trust that everything will be alright in the end, and if it isn’t all right then it isn’t the end. Just so.
Checking out the Victoria Docks parkrun Facebook page didn’t reveal a huge amount. It’s clearly monitored but not super active, though top marks for team work and this offering on their 50th run, that’s class, right there, good job parkrun celebrants, it’s not easy doing those sort of shots. I wonder how they got the shot, from a drone, from a very tall person, or from dangling from a cable car over head. Oh, have I not mentioned the cable cars yet – oh my you are in for a treat dear reader – they are magnificent!
So, did some research, according the the Victoria Docks parkrun website blah de blah the course is:
The course is a horseshoe around Victoria Dock, entirely on the dockside path. Starting near the community hut in the Crystal gardens, proceed along the north side of Victoria Dock. When you reach the far (east) end of the ExCeL, turn around. Come back past the Crystal, then along the south side of the dock to the SS Robin. Turn around here and head back to the Crystal to finish.
hmm, not sounding overly exciting. I mean dockside paths sounds a bit ropy… oh well, and the course looks like this:
Also, hmmm, not the most inspiring, but you know what, it’d still be a V.
How to get there. I had wanted to do something spectacular in honour of the first ever parkrun experience. You know, sort out transport like ‘young people’ do to get to their proms which wasn’t even a thing for my generation. Maybe not a stretch limo, too carsick inducing, but were it not for my awareness of the negative environmental impact of sorting out an arrival by helicopter that would have been good. I understand it is traditional to have some sort of high impact happening to mark a participants first parkrun. Well it ought to be a thing. Worry not dear reader, a bit of research, and things were looking up! Literally, not just figuratively. The best way to get from her house, to the Victoria Dock parkrun rendezvous point was to fly there!
I know! A first for me too! Not the city airport route, though I daresay some could, but by Emirates Air Line ….
Yay! We’d get to go on a cable car. Hooray! What could possibly go wrong.
OK, maybe not quite the same as an actual aeroplane, but just as much fun and less having to hate yourself for contributing to climate change and acceleration the rate of extinction of life. I mean, we won’t be taking it to quite the same level as Greta Thunberg in terms of forgoing home comforts for the greater good I know, but showing willing eh?
Everybody wins. Except at parkrun, because it’s a run not a race, although all parkrunners are winners just for being there, though you don’t get a trophy as such every time, just the warm glow of satisfaction for being part of something so awesome – so that’s a bit of a mind knot to be untangled. I’ll leave it with you to ponder and get back to me…
So we’d get to fly in, and I’d get to be there alongside her at her first ever ever parkrun. Like being there at the big bang, the starting point of the creation of the known universe. It was going to be epic!
The day dawned. Windy. Windy in a blustery sort of way and wet too. Wet in a ‘we may escape it or we may be drenched’ sort of way. Not enough to deter true parkrunners, but enough to wonder if the cable car would still run. I hadn’t entirely thought through this aspect, as I was too excited by triple whammy of new parkrun, a V and my bestie having her parkrun debut. We had an easy bus ride to the base of the cable car, and although it’s expensive to catch £6 or something crazy like that, because you can pay by contactless it feels like it’s free until you see your bank balance later on. The cable cars move continuously, so you can recreate the giddy excitement of the first people to step onto those paternoster lifts by clambering on board whilst it is still in motion! I’m actually quite blasse about extreme sports having both travelled in the University of Sheffield paternoster lift and indeed clambered over the Millenium Dome – though that was after not prior to Victoria Docks parkrun adventures, so I was quietly confident about taking on the cable car challenge!
You do get sealed in before it heads off across the water, giving you a sense of being entombed just before the wind picks up and an error message appears on the computer screen in you cable car suggesting you are now in the opening sequence of some sort of London based disaster flick. FYI you may find out at this point that your travel and parkrun companion isn’t over enamoured of heights and turbulence in cable cars which swing about really quite a lot in gusty winds. You may also find out at about this point that you aren’t over keen on these things either! However, none of these momentary flickers of self-awareness will derail you sufficiently that you forget to take the obligatory over-posed slightly manic selfie shots during the voyage.
And then. Something amazing. Oh my gawd. The views from up there, it was just beyond awesome. I felt pretty stupid for not having worked it out before, but the Victoria Dock parkrun is in the middle of the redeveloped docklands area of London. The weather stormy with moody clouds – gave us amazing skyscapes of iconic London landmarks. Canary wharf, the O2 arena – which is actually the millenium dome obvs, big eff off boats and the teeny tiny toy trains that are not teeny tiny but far away and nipping along the docklands light railway route. A somewhat bizarrely annotated marriage proposal marked out on a roof top I didn’t know that you were supposed to give your age when proposing. Good to know. No idea what the outcome was – in fact, it may even be a cynical marketing ploy of some sort, though as it’s too clever to know what it was advertising, maybe not as clever as it thinks… And even the slightly scary aircraft taking off and landing from the London City Airport was impressive if a bit discombobulating. I just don’t know if you should be landing aircraft on that teeny tiny runway, which was actually teeny tiny by the way and not all that far away at all, in case you were wondering. Still, at least it took our minds off the cable car swaying. It was fantastic.
And what a way to make a parkrun entrance too! You can see the whole dock spread out before you as you approach and descend, and no prizes for guessing what the crystal centre is when you see it from on high. How did I ever think this was going to be a bit of a ho-hum parkrun experience I can’t imagine. I can only say I’m shamed and apologise unreservedly. My bad, my oops. This was by far and away the most impressive approach to a parkrun I’ve made. I was EVEN MORE EXCITED now.
Any fear of finding the rendezvous point quickly evaporated. You can see the crystal building even though I didn’t know before hand what it was, it is very distinctive. And as you descend the cable car you are deposited just a hundred yards or so from it really.
So we’d arrived. There weren’t any parkrun flags up as such, but there were some people in running gear hanging around. I thought they might be fellow tourists, since we were all so early. In fact it was their local. They were very welcoming, pointing out the hut where you can in fact leave your gear, and where there is a single loo for pre-parkrun precautionary pee purposes. They explained the route – which is basically a horse shoe, and were great ambassadors for parkrun in general and Victoria Dock parkrun in particular. They were faster runners than me ( not hard) so were actually heading off home whilst I was still on the course finishing, but I did get to wave goodbye to them before they vanished. Thank you nice welcoming fellow parkrunners and Victoria Dock natives 🙂 You can tell they are friendly can’t you? Very reassuring. Never underestimate the impact of a friendly smile of welcome on any occasion, but especially at a new parkrun.
So then we got chatting with some other new arrivals, who were also tourists. One had Bushy parkrun as his home run, though usually runs at Kingston apparently (wave if you are reading) and was also after his V. It became apparent from him, and other parkrunners who started to appear, that not only is this a V opportunity, it’s also a known fast run. Flat and sufficiently spacious and even surfaced to attract those heading for an all time pb. Oops again. Obviously, faster runners are going to want to make the most of that, and good luck to them, but it made me a bit twitchy about how we slower runners might fit in, I wasn’t worried for myself, but for my first timer friend I didn’t want her to have that isolated plodding round at the back through a veil of tears experience that I myself have encountered at running events, though never at parkrun. I hadn’t thought to check the course records for this one, but have now and they are impressive….
Female record holder: Jess SAUNDERS – 18:22 – Event 56 (18/05/19)
Male record holder: Paul MARTELLETTI – 14:43 – Event 55 (11/05/19)
Age graded record holder: Ros TABOR – 95.99 % – 22:27 – Event 8 (05/05/18)
though not as impressive as Bushy parkrun, their stats are dazzling indeed, but then again, a lot more people have run there and it is a site of pilgrimage, though I’d say the terrain was tougher at Bushy. Strange but true:
Female record holder: Justina HESLOP – 15:58 – Event 379 (22/10/11)
Male record holder: Andrew BADDELEY – 13:48 – Event 422 (11/08/12)
Age graded record holder: Jane DAVIES – 100.23 % – 21:30 – Event 645 (24/09/16)
and, whilst we are on the subject of being impressed by the physical capabilities of others, what about Germany’s Fiona Kolbinger becoming the first female winner of the Transcontinental cycling endurance race. She cycled more than 2,485 miles across Europe in just over 10 days, unsupported. I know. That is impressive. She must be a parkrunner too I’d imagine, inside if not actively participating on the outside just now… she looks smiley and all round awesome, so would fit the parkrun bill.
Mind you, so would this lass. Jeannie Rice, setting a half marathon record for her age group with a 1.37.07 half marathon aged 71. Yep, that’s very impressive too! Not sure if she’s a parkrunner either, she is American, and parkrun is less of a thing over there, I’m sure otherwise she’d be up for it too. Why not?
And then we have Cynthia Arnold and her triple buggy running exploits. Also awesome. Cynthia Arnold, 35, finished the Missoula Marathon in 3:11 while pushing her three children in a buggy, unofficially breaking the Guinness World Record for fastest marathon ran while pushing a triple-person stroller. That means she maintained sub-7:20 pace for 26.2 miles with her six-, four-, and one-year-old in tow.
You know what, these women are extraordinary, and I want to note and celebrate their achievements, but I’m beginning to feel a bit inadequate now. Maybe I’ll feel better after I’ve eaten a six pack of doughnuts… Hope over experience, usually makes me feel worse, but I’m game.
On the subject of awesome women and their endurance and tenacity, did you see the parkrun blog post about Yorkshire woman Stephanie Evans who moved from London to Michigan at the start of 2018 she biked 30 miles each way through the snow to get from Ann Arbor to Livonia, so that she could join a parkrun. I know. Puts my parkrun tourism efforts into perspective, I hesitate about driving that far, even if there’s no snow. High five to her! Shame they haven’t got a picture of her cycling in the snow, she looks very happy now though doesn’t she? She has a more local parkrun these days apparently. I wonder if she shouts ‘weeeeeeeee’ when running with her arms outstretched, I told my parkrun first timer that it’s traditional to do so, but it might just be a me thing to be fair…
So, on the subject of miraculous physicality, me and my new to parkrun buddy were gazing about, milling and chilling and/or possibly feeling a bit apprehensive. One of us because we were worried about what on earth we’d consented to take part in, and one of us because she was so desperate that this conversion and inculcation to the parkrun way would run (pun intended) smoothly. Only time would tell…
It was a bit of an atypical parkrun, in that because it was so gusty, they’d not been able to put out any of the flags, cones or other parkrun paraphernalia that indicates you are at parkrun central. No matter, hi-vis wearing volunteers began to come into view, and a little queue materialised at the crystal community hut where the loo was situated. Cue companionable queuing where a lot of the parkrun magic happens! There was no paddling poo today, but there was a specialist eye care first aid kit, which sort of puzzled me, it’s very niche, maybe something to do with being near the water? I like that the centre was signed ‘bliss events’ apt indeed, and the extreme enthusiasm for hand hygiene judging by the number of bottles of carex gel in the loo, was also noted and a boon! Well, I took it that they are of a exceptionally clean disposition but I suppose it’s possible it goes the other way, and that in fact they require such copious quantities of antibacterial gel because they are not generally friends of hand washing. Some unknowns are best left that way I think, you can draw your own conclusions… I didn’t feel the need to ask anyone if I could inspect their finger nails, so I reckon it was all fine. Anyway, you are attending parkrun, not signing up for any surgical procedures so it matters not. Bottom line is, there was more antibacterial handwash than you could shake a stick at, by which I mean, a very great deal.
parkrunners assembled in their apricot and milestone tees, and I found myself explaining to my parkrun buddy what they all meant. ‘Ah! I see, it’s basically the essential semiotics of parkrun‘ she exclaimed in enthusiastic recognition of what I was saying. Dear reader, now I appreciate this is very niche indeed, but it was at that exact moment that a heavy penny dropped and I understood the meaning and application of the word ‘semiotics‘. I fully recognise it would be possible to pass your whole life without this insight, and indeed most, if not all people could still have a rich and full existence without ever needing to reach for this word. But what you need to know, is that one of the reason me and my EWFM buddy are so bonded, is because we studied together at one point, and this included a whole year module on the theme of ‘the semiotics of theatre’ and I never understood what it meant, despite apparently passing the course. Total mystery, until now, some three decades later. Another parkrun miracle, of which there are many, every week, happening more than likely, at a parkrun near you. Anyway, it was fab to share the semiotics of parkrun and the parkrun jargon in context. This was going to be grrrrrreat as Tony Tiger would say!
It was good to witness the gathering of parkrun people. I know you shouldn’t have favourites, but I was particularly delighted by this attendee and his ‘well, this is what happens when you dress in the dark‘ bravado! Well, you can’t be expected to miss a parkrun over a minor detail like this can you? Hilarious and most excellent, anonymous parkrunner I salute you! That’s the parkrun spirit right there!
The real worry to me would not be the colour issue, conspicuous as that was, but the differentiation in drop. What if that led to veering to one side or the other, you might end up in the water, and that would ruin your morning for sure… unless you were in training for a triathlon, which some may well have been. There were people swimming in the dock, deliberately and not by accident as far as I could tell…
There was time for a few scenic shots, and I explained that it was customary and tradition to have a pre-parkrun selfie shot on the occasion of your first parkrun. Was planning on milking that trope for as long as possible… Hurrah!
As is traditional, some selfie shots were noticeably better than others. Also, turns out it’s really quite hard to get a selfie with a cable car in the background, but you have to admit we tried, giving it a good shot if not actually securing a very good one. Go on, you try when you go, you’ll struggle too, unless you are very, very tall indeed, which you may be.
So then, after much faffing, and wondering whether it was coat on or coat off weather – also a parkrun tradition, we conferred over participation tactics. The agreement was companionable ignoring. I hate it when people run with me or try to engage me in conversation, so am never offended if people shun this in me. But I didn’t want my first timing buddy to feel abandoned, so we agreed to stay in sight of one another, and she could initiate communication if required. Above all else, I pledged not to shout any words of encouragement that might imply judgement, because they can push you over the edge when you are starting out. Good, all settled then.
In due course, by general consent, people started to gather around the RD for the pre-event / first timers briefing. We stood on fake grass, which was practical, but always makes me sad. Granted, elsewhere they’d made an effort with wild flower planting. Drainage was perhaps a bit of an issue though as I managed to stand in an unexpected indentation (those are the worst) and almost ankle deep in water. Oh well, my trainers were going to get wet anyway.
First timers briefing was brief, friendly, route was explained, but hard to go wrong really, as if you went the wrong way or tried to cut a corner you’d end up in the Thames. The only really important warning was when you come back to the finish after the second half of the horse shoe, you need to add on a little u-shape at the end past the crystal centre before you get to do your sprint finish arms aloft etc in the usual manner. Also, a general ‘keep left’ rule, as the nature of the course means inevitably runners will be going in both directions for most of the course as speedier runners come back against the flow of others still heading out. It will make life interesting! There was an option to hang back if there were any more detailed questions for true first timers as opposed to first timers through tourism, but we were ok so didn’t take advantage of that.
Then we edged our way to the start line, where moody skies provided a splendid backdrop to the suspended cable cars. When the wind gusted it was pretty strong, it seemed likely we’d have a headwind for at least half the time, but hey ho, it all adds to the unique qualities of the event. Was rather hoping we wouldn’t be beneficiaries of any surprise splashing, as per the overhead signage, but there was a railing alongside the dock so should be easy enough to avoid.
There was a second RD briefing, but we’d tucked ourselves in towards the back, so I couldn’t really hear it, so didn’t get to manically point at my EWFM during the ‘any first timers’ moment. Not to worry, I’d find a way to rectify that later. Some clapping, presumably for the volunteers not for Trump’s latest tweets, though always a concern when clapping a message you’ve not actually heard… and then awf!
The paths are wide, and some were definitely going for pbs so people took off quite quickly. I did my leap frogging technique of stopping to take pictures, and take in the view and the sights and sounds, and then running on as fast as I could in an attempt to keep ahead of the tailwalker. Might even have been able to spin it as intervals if I’d only thought to do so, but jeffing at a push. Love legitimising walk/ run approaches. It is the future. Oh look, here’s the first marshal! She was super friendly – all of them were of course. There weren’t that many about but then again, the course doesn’t really require them, only at the far turning points really. You will note, that even just a few yards in, there was nothing but the dockside equivalent of a trail of dust as all the other runners had disappeared out of view. A fast field indeed. I however, can always make time for a stop and shoot (photo) opportunity.
Off parkrunners sped, along the dockside, cornering past the cable car terminal building and after a mini zig zag the first long straight outward stretch to the turning point. There was a random guy on a bike giving high fives. The one in the blue sweat shirt, that was good. And as is often the way for me, I could see the stream of colourfully clad runners who’d already cornered ahead of me. Nice.
It is such an amazingly picturesque location, albeit in urban dockside glory, it’s really hard not to be distracted by the novelty of the sights and sounds en route. A tad disconcerting to have life buoys lining the route, but then again, probably even more disconcerting if they were absent. Those faster runners are running past the restaurant by the way, not trying to nab their post parkrun breakfast tables with indecent haste by elbowing other participants out the way. That would not be in the spirit of parkrun at all. Not one little bit.
Ridiculously soon, the front runners were coming back the other way. Now, can’t lie, I’m extremely pleased to have inadvertently got a couple of flying feet photo. I think being airborne early on must have sort of set the tone of the event somehow, I’d never have caught these if I’d been trying!
Oh, you’re disappointed. I never said they were all flying feet photos, that would have been too much to hope for. Even so, you get a sense of the fab setting at least don’t you? And the wideness of the path and the way the out and back bit works I hope? You do? That’s good.
So we trotted down to the turning point, companionably ignoring each other as was prearranged. A cheery marshal called encouragement as we cornered, always appreciated. Thank you marshal!
And you get to run back the way you’ve just come! This does offer up some great views, but also, not gonna lie, as you get towards the end of the straight and turn a corner again you got a full head wind which was pretty hard core demotivating. Still, we like a challenge! And nothing like a wind eddy near a big drop to make a parkrun course the more memorable. However, you get to see the big red boat; you get to see the O2 which we’d be clambering over later; you get to see the runners on the other side of the water – if you squint a bit; you get to see the marketing model used by sports bras manufacturers as a terrible warning of what will happen to your boobs if you don’t wear a properly fitted brassiere; you get to see the seal in the dock – oh no, not a seal, a spent swimmer perhaps; you get to see the life saving marshal in a kayak, hooray, don’t fall in people, but if you do, there is someone on hand to save you! Well, strictly speaking I think they were there for the swimmers, but didn’t look like a jobsworth, I reckon they’d drag you out too if required to do so, isn’t that the law of the sea that you help others in need – unless you are Sicilian fisherman rescuing drowning, desperate migrants, when you risk being jailed for doing so. Such are the dark, distorted times in which we live. Topple into Victoria Dock though, you’d be rescued I reckon… most probably.
I actually felt quite emotional, seeing London landmarks laid out along the way, especially having come in by
plane cable car, for the first time I got a real sense of how the river shapes the London landscape, and a renewed appreciation for what a fantastic city it can be. It was a great choice for a debut parkrun outing, what’s not to like? Apart from the feeling compelled to run, and the gusting headwinds, but that’s just what happens with type 2 fun experiences, it’d be grand by the time she was clutching her first finish token and allowing the post run endorphins so surge through her veins. Hurray! We done good. Also a V. Or we would have done, by the end of the parkrun immersive experience – hopefully without immersion into water, which wasn’t on my ‘to do’ list irrespective of the likelihood of rescue, but only with immersion into the loveliness that it intrinsic to parkrun. Perhaps ‘experiential’ would be a better choice of descriptor in the circumstances.
So, back to the crystal centre, and the gusty wind. Some of the super speedy runners were finishing, and others just behind them were doing the little extra u-shaped loop, which was handy to see as I hadn’t really grasped where to go from the briefing, but when you see others running the route it becomes very obvious.
I ran on ahead a bit of my running buddy to try to get some photos, and paused to talk to the Run Director who was doing sterling work cheering runners by. I couldn’t resist informing on my EWFM by alerting the RD to the fact she was a FIRST EVERER at parkrun, which as all parkrunners know merits extra special cheers of encouragement. After all, you never get a second go at your first ever parkrun participation. Sad, but true. She obliged brilliantly, bigging it up with the support as is traditional, though should never be taken for granted!
You run past the fake turf where the finish funnel and post run chilling and milling was taking place. I knew pretty much everyone would have gone by the time I got back there again, so I paused again for some snaps.
Then you are off again back out along the other side of the dock. It was thinning off a bit by now. The second stretch is significantly shorter than the first, so you are about two thirds through by now. Wide paths, and a good view across to the opposite side is quite fun, as you can see more clearly the route you’ve taken, and take in the visual feast from another angle. I tried to get arty shots of runners through the life buoys. Didn’t really work to be fair, but it’s the thought that counts.
The paths were very clean by the way. I was impressed by how immaculate everywhere was. I’m not sure if it’s because all the litter gets blown away, or perhaps people in London know better than to drop rubbish everywhere or maybe they employ people to do a fine job at picking it all up. Whatever way, it was impressive, and a refreshing change from the rubbish strewn streets of Sheffield which are beyond depressing. I suppose it helps that this is such an iconic location. Even so, very nice. Clean hands, clean paths too. Tip top, spick and span and spit spot as Ms Poppins would say. Possibly, or maybe not. Didn’t ‘spit spot’ mean hurry up? Whatever. I’m sure she’d be pleased anyway, she liked things neat and orderly, for ever tidying up with a song. Also the spoonful of sugar reference is apt, because a lot of the docks around here were – indeed are still known as Silvertown, because of the link to Tate & Lyle and Silver Spoon sugar. Interesting isn’t it? Well I think so. It may also explain why towards the end of this parkrun you may feel like you are running through treacle. Again. Good to know.
Onward we yomped. Oh look, there are people in the water and they’ve gone in on purpose. Bobbing about by a buoy, taking it in turns to swim off. I’m not sure what the deal was quite. These were clearly an organised group in training, but I guess if open water swimming is your thing, this is somewhere you could jump in at the end of the parkrun if you want to get a swimming fix. There were a couple of places that with the benefit of hindsight were
platoons pontoon type structures that were where people could plunge into the water if they felt the urge to do so.
to the final turn around point, where there was a still smiling marshal to cheer us round and back for the homeward straight.
And back we went, jeffing along nicely. Using the cranes to judge walk run intervals and running together in parallel but incommunicado. Companionable ignoring remember dear reader, that was the agreement. Wave at the tail walker coming on through…
Oh look, my parkrun friends from earlier just as we cornered the fake grass again:
Then just the final u-turn and back past the crystal centre:
and then the final marshal and to the finish!
Yay! Job done!
That was it, my EWFM through the finish funnel successfully and now clutching her very own finish token as a matching accessory for her personal barcode. Temporary possession only of course, she was going to get that scanned, and she had been well briefed on the importance of not being a token magpie. Take a finish token home with you and token sorters and run directors weep and a kitten dies. Every time. FACT.
So me and my EWFM both had run, both had our finish tokens, and were in the line for barcode scanning. We are all parkrunners now!
I felt a lump in my throat at being there at the beginning of this initiation into the parkrun family. So proud of my EWFM for being there, and parkrun too, for delivering when it mattered most. (Though it does always to be fair, so I should have had more faith…).
I explained about it being traditional to have your photo taken with your finish token at the end, and that everybody looks fabulous with their post run glow!
Then I explained it was parkrun tradition to be photographed having your barcode scanned and posing with parkrun hi-vis heroes.
She got a bit suspicious when I tried to persuade it was parkrun tradition to be thrown in the air by a cohort of hi-vis clad heroes at the end of your first run. Worth a try though…
I took some photos of the final few coming through. One runner ended up sort of on her own for the final u-shape addition, and I noticed a man who’d finished his run quite a bit earlier, accompanied her round before peeling away at the finish funnel. That was very public spirited I thought, sort of unassuming but necessary assistance, perfectly judged. My EWFM did stretches amidst other collapsed runners on the astroturf. This is admirable, I personally don’t favour sitting on the ground immediately after parkrun because of the fear I will stiffen and set there, unable ever to stand again. It’s a real concern. One not to try at home, unless you are lithe and fit, or at least stretchy. I am none of these. Kudos to those who are. On reflection, maybe that’s what the RD was conferring about with that other parkrunner. How to raise the cross-legged parkrunner from the ground, maybe they were fixed to the spot too after ill-advised, over confident post parkrun sitting down. It can happen. I think parkrun HQ probably makes you do risk assessments about what to do in those sort of situations now I come to think of it.
It is however most definitely a parkrun tradition to be photographed with the RD at your first event. And if it isn’t, then it should be. So we went to seek her out and to thank her, and she obliged with photogenic gloriousness as well as personal charisma and charm!
It was a revelation talking to the RD, not least, because turns out she was actually Event Director too. This makes her Paul S-H’s earthly representative, or at least his Victoria Docks one, huge kudos by association to be photographed with her. Thank you for obliging lovely RD! 🙂 Plus, it was interesting hearing a bit about the history of the event and how it had evolved. When it was being set up, the core team imagined it would be a smallish one, not thinking then that people would be on a quest for a V, or that it would attract lots of tourists to London, irrespective of the running challenges alphabet questing. That, and it turns out to be a pb course for many, which again attracts runners from outside. Such visitors are all extremely welcome, but it had been anticipated that they’d get mostly locals because this parkrun is held pretty much on a well worn run route for the local population. This means it can take longer to work out who the locals are, and although there is apparently a healthy, friendly and welcoming team of volunteers, it isn’t always obvious if people are just passing through or there to stay. I’d not thought of any of those things. Most fascinating of all, was the moment when my running buddy had a penny drop moment on a par with my comprehension of semiotics.
EWFM: ‘Oh, they are after the letter V!’
Me: ‘erm, yep… that’s what I’ve been saying...’
EWFM: ‘I thought you meant the run was shaped like a V!’
Glad we cleared that one up. parkrun outings are always most educational.
So we thanked the lovely RD and the high vis heroes still out and about, and then we wended our way off. You can hang around for a coffee in the community hut I think, but to be honest, there are so many coffee shop offerings around that may explain why people seemed to disperse. We were going back by the DLR, which is but a hop, skip and a jump from the crystal centre. This is an incredibly accessible parkrun in terms of proximity to modes of transport.
So just remains to say big thanks to the whole Victoria Docks parkrun team for the fab welcome and brilliant event. What an amazing location and a memorable induction into parkrun for my old friend and new parkrun buddy. It was a spectacular and positive experience. So much so, my EWFM proclaimed that she would ‘definitely be back’ though we didn’t set an absolute timeline for this. I’ll take that, my biggest fear was that it’d be a ‘we shall never speak of this again’ experience, and we were way the other side of the continuum to that! Hurrah. Better yet, she also conceded that whilst it wouldn’t have been accurate to describe it as type 1 fun at the moment she was being blown back along the dockside path coming back towards the crystal centre for the first time, that moment was now recognised as complying with type 2 fun regulations, and the approach to the finish funnel and being processed bit was genuinely type 1! Result. A new convert, we can all rejoice! New parkrun possibilities await, like I said before, never the same again, but in a good way…
Took the parkrun plunge and didn’t fall (into the river or anywhere else) but rather flew. Literally too, what with the sky train and all. Hurrah!
Yeah yeah, I get that it’s a cliche, but it seems especially apt here, and I like the sentiment it expresses. Post parkrun highs make use of inspirational quotes acceptable. FACT.
I expect you are longing to know about our post-parkrun breakfast options. Well dear reader, I can report we ended up going to Jade at Woolwich for a truly spectacular breakfast, but the real high point was seeing the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Association trough. What the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Association would have to say about this water receptacle being appropriated and re-purposed for non-cattle drinking related use I dread to think, but how pleasing that such an association (once) existed/s
And then later in the weekend, we checked out the Victoria Dock parkrun espied from the roof of the O2 arena. That was cool. It would be better if it had been labelled as such with the parkrun logo, but there you go. This was a birthday treat for my EWFM who seemingly shares a birthday with Mr S-H, it was meant to be. They are practically twins, apart from age, and having dates a day apart, but clearly, it’s a sign, you know it is. All’s good with the world.
So there you go, here’s to a parkrun that’s practically perfect in every way !
Right, that’s your lot, I need to crack on, can’t spend my whole day chatting away to you much as I’d like to. Hope you are enjoying your own running in general or parkrun in particular adventures. Have fun remember, that’s really the only rule. Run for fun! Type one for preference but type two is also acceptable. parkrun is for everyone. Yay!
If you want to see more of Victoria Docks parkrun – Vicky D to her friends apparently – and can’t get there yourself, you could check out this video of Victoria Docks parkrun taken by a participant back in June. It’s very cool. Taken by Andrew from Action Go! Thanks Andrew, appreciated, loving your work there, loving your work.
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. 🙂 I do not have a separate blog about semiotics, though I daresay they exist.
Oh and finally, because the world can seem a dark and dismal place at times, have you seen this or this? No? Well maybe you should. They will give temporary respite. Try not to dwell on whether or not the atypical snow in Australia is yet another indication of apocalyptic climate change, that would rather cancel out the feelgood effects. Also this statue, isn’t she splendid! No shame in having crabs in your pubes for her. No need for body shaming, be proud of who you are! Listen to Eilish people, she is an epic runner and speaks the truth – the statue isn’t her however, though maybe she’ll get her own statue one day!
*Erstwhile Flatmate, what else? And yes I know it strictly speaking should be EF, but that has connotations of Ef Off, which is most definitely contrary to the esteem and affection with which she is held and how we choose to interact with one another. I suppose I might have gone with EW, but who wants to refer to their friend as ‘ew‘ which sounds more like an expression of disgust rather than affection, so by custom and practice this has become EWFM, which is a sort of abbreviation rather than an actual acronym, and not at all a mnemonic. Which is something else all together. Thought it would have been obvious, but then semiotics wasn’t to me til just now so I suppose I have to make allowances… Bottom line is that it is traditional that we recognise each other as EWFMs, and if it’s good enough for us, it’s good enough.