Monthly Archives: July 2022

Wonderful, Welcoming, Wollaton Hall parkrun

Reyt nice view and a very photogenic volunteer team too!

I took that photo by the way, it was supposed to capture the moment that everyone jumped in the air, I have no idea if I was early or late, but the important thing is that the person who instigated this picture was satisfied it caught the RD crouching in a slightly bizarre fashion, which pleased them. Good enough for me. The snap is something of a spoiler for where my decision making processes took me, but hey ho, didn’t Brecht himself signpost how his dramas were to unfold, removing the fourth wall and all that, and it just served to intensify the understanding of the world as it is, all good. I’m basically creating my own new art form here. Admittedly a niche movement only I understand, but you have to start somewhere.

Where was I? Oh yes, parkrun day eve but where to go?

So many parkruns so little time. Did you know, that at the time of writing there are 775 parkrun events just in the UK, and if you are able to go outside our borders there are EVEN MORE to choose from. 1840 or thereabouts. That’s an incredible amount of options. Speaking as someone who is quite prone to having a panic attack, due to being overwhelmed with choice, even if just having to choose a parking space in an empty carpark, it can sometimes seem almost paralysing. All parkruns are uniquely lovely in their own way, but even in a lifetime of parkrundays you aren’t ever going to get around them all, so you have to choose wisely. There are no wrong choices as such, but then again, there are some parkrun locations you really don’t want to miss out on. Bushy parkrun is clearly one such, and it seems there are others!

My parkrun choices are compromised somewhat at the moment as I can’t run anymore and can be a bit wobbly so I need to choose parkruns that are walker friendly and have reasonably predictable terrain to avoid faceplanting en route, or worse still, toppling into another parkrunner and creating a domino effect through the whole field. I mean, of course parkrun is inclusive, and on the whole event teams and participants unconditionally lovely, but everyone has a tipping point. Or strictly speaking multiple tipping points in the case of a toppling running creating a Mexican wave of faceplants across the whole parkrun route. Just imagine the incident related paper work! Yep, I reckon creating on course carnage could be one such scenario that would wave goodbye to goodwill…. I am based in Sheffield so wanted one not too far away, one I’ve not done before and one that has reasonable terrain. Hmm, still loads to pick from. I was dithering, until a little thought buried in the back of my mind pushed through to the service. Hang on a moment, isn’t Wollaton Hall where batman lives?

OMG it is! This isn’t so much Wollaton Hall parkrun as Wayne Manor parkrun, just as everyone knows that Somerdale Pavilion parkrun is really Curly Wurly parkrun and it’s nonsense to try to claim otherwise. Not such a tough call, of course I want to go there, imagine, might even get to meet batman… or robin, either would be fine. Childhood hero, toss up between him (Adam West) and John Noakes to be honest. Well, not many female role models back then. The former stands out in my mind for one particular episode of batman where he and Robin have their hands tied behind their back and are swinging from some skyscraper or other hanging on to a literal thread by their teeth. They are saved, can’t remember how, but Batman turns to Robin and says ‘and remember Robin, you owe your life to dental hygiene!‘ Wise words indeed. And I am obsessive about cleaning my teeth to this day, maybe that’s why? And John Noakes? Well, he did such cool things, being physically adventurous, climbing Nelson’s Column and things like that – and I remember him dropping his trousers to show off a bobsleighing related injury. Quite shocking at the time. And having a massage somewhere and saying to the woman pummelling the chest area around his nipple ‘I hope that doesn’t make it come off!’ Most risqué a the time I assure you. Sigh, oh giddy days, when we still had the testcard of an afternoon, and ‘photocopiers’ produced wet, purple-inked shiny reproductions only accessible in the most prestigious of workplaces. The smell as evocative as that of cooking cabbage in the school lunch hall; a slightly turned third of pint bottle of full fat milk, warmed by the sun at morning break or class A solvent containing marker pens. I feel properly old now.

Where was I? Stop distracting me with reminiscences of children’s TV shows of the early seventies. Oh I remember, going to da na na na na na na na parkruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuun!

There are apparently 80 ‘nas’ in the original 1966 Batman TV theme tune in case you are wondering. I was.

Wayne Manor parkrun here I come.

Checking out the official parkrun website for Wollaton Hall parkrun it all looked very promising. Parking, toilets, one lap course, all the lovely things.

The course blah de blah states:

One lap through the park, round the lake and back. The surface is a mixture of tarmac, grass and trail. The start and finish are close to the main car park and entrance

which all sounds splendid. I charged up my satnav, and set my alarm and before I knew it, it was parkrun day!

It had been really hot and dry, so I didn’t really think about waterproofs, but had my fleece in the car anyway. The drive was pretty straight forward, and quicker than I imagined. Also, some exciting sightings en route. Did you know there is a Bilbo College? Me neither! But I passed signs to it on the way, a spin off from the Lord of the Rings presumably, I’m not sure what courses they offer, cooking for second breakfasts perhaps? Nor is it immediately obvious is the college is named as such as an homage to Mr Baggis, because Bilbo is a benefactor, or because you learn about the history and culture of hobbits and orks and/or how to become more Bilbo. A research project for next time.

I got pretty close to my final destination, and then disaster. The most ridiculously confusing road work junction I’d ever seen, I wanted to turn right to Wollaton Hall which was so sharp it was practically a U-turn, but the junction was all blocked off and I could not fathom how to negotiate the one way system to navigate it. I ended up driving past and then trying again, like an abortive landing, all very adrenalin fuelled. Then, when I arrived at the MASSIVE gates for the hall, they were locked shut. Those gates are really quite something, you ain’t getting past them, I actually thought I’d got the wrong place and drove around again which gave me another go at the ridiculous road work junction again. Turns out, I was just too early.

The parkrun takes place in the grounds of the hall, which is now Nottingham Museum. By special dispensation, the grounds are opened early for parkrun to take place, but I reckon that must be about 8.30, I was a bit before. I got locked out so you don’t have to, just arrive at the right time, or indeed, if you must come early, wait it out with dignity, rather than screeching away in panic, much more decorous I assure you. They certainly know how to do large scary gates here though. Never seen anything so huge. Think Jurassic park style fencing, only solid. Impressive. Actually, on reflection, I think there may have been some sort of dinosaur exhibition on now I come to think of it, perhaps that’s why they are so particular with their boundary walls just at present. Yes they did, a real T-Rex is there til the end of August 2022, no wonder there is no skimping on health and safety. Just imagine that! Hard to know which to be more excited about, seeing an actual dinosaur or meeting Batman or taking part in a parkrun. All. The. Things!

By the time I came back round again, the gates were open and in I went. Wowsers, it’s a properly huge, landscaped deer park. There was a massive carpark, which confused me greatly, as there are scary signs about how you MUST pay, but to do so requires a smart phone, which I don’t have and downloading an app which I couldn’t do. The other option is to pay in the café or hall, but neither were open. I asked a passing woman, bedecked in a fine hat and festive lei and colourful dress – she turned out to be the Run Director no less. She assured me that paying after the parkrun would be fine, and welcomed me. Explaining that it was Nottingham Pride this weekend, so to show support, parkrunners were being encouraged to come as colourful as possible, which is rather fine. I do like it when people dress for an occasion.

I noticed a rangers van had written on the side ‘Proud to serve you!’ whether they are proud all the year round or had repainted in honour of Nottingham Pride wasn’t entirely clear, very much on brand though, well done.

I parked up, and gazed out at the lovely view.

It was raining, quite a lot. Oh well, it would be a novelty. It was nippier than I expected too. I decided I’d wear the fleece, that way, I could soak up as much water as possible, and transport it back to parched Sheffield with me afterwards. A fine plan, worked well, apart from the steaming up the car interior on the journey home bit.

I always feel a bit self conscious at this point at a parkrun. I couldn’t really offer to help because you don’t know what to do if it’s not your home parkrun, and I’m not nippy enough to be much help. Instead I took in the view. It was fun watching people assemble. There was soon a jolly crowd of volunteers going about their business, the pop up sign was put up in the prime position for photo opps, the flag waved a greeting. Some appeared carrying flags and directional arrows, someone was in green high vis, not sure why, Defibrillator man perhaps? A bit like Batman, but with less in the way of shining a laser into the sky as his batsignal and more able to revive you in an emergency?

After a bit, I ventured out, after all, the precautionary pee isn’t going to facilitate itself now is it! As I did so, some other parkrun tourists who’d parked up next to me asked if I knew where the loos were, I didn’t really, but felt confident enough to wave in the general direction of the play area and cafe. That’s where I was heading anyway.

And loos there were, not the nicest ever, but fit for purpose. The sinks looked alarmingly like urinals, but they were spotlessly clean and open, which is always a parkrun win. No soap though. The building had some cool murals on, which is always a boon, and on the way over, I passed by a sign for a walled garden which looked lovely. I hadn’t got time to linger at this venue alas, as I needed to get back to Sheffield, but honestly, it is a parkrun where you could – and quite probably should – make a day of it. I was particularly sad to have missed out on seeing the house made of restored cucumbers. Next time perhaps.

By the time I’d erm ‘powdered my nose’ – or should that be kapow-dered? Others had started to assemble. I was struck by what a friendly parkrun this is. Volunteers were greeting each other warmly. You could spot the tourists as we queued in turn to take pictures of one another in front of the parkrun pop up sign, quite a queue at some points, but all very good natured.

I chatted to a few including a parkrunner in apricot from Mulbarton parkrun, one I’d not hear of, it seems that alas it is no more. She’d done some bespoke embroidery on her top so it now says RIP above it. I wanted to take a picture, but then realised I was basically asking to do a close up of her boob, and that felt wrong on so many levels, so just went for standard pose and you can imagine the embroidery for yourself. It’s so sad when parkruns close. It’s nice that the personalised apricot tees allow them to live on a little longer at least.

Oh, and that’s when I got lucky and was talent scouted to take a photo of the volunteers gathered together and jumping in unison! Unfortunately, my point and press skills are not all they might be, hence photo above that just makes the RD look a bit constipated and everyone else a bit, well, a bit peculiar quite honestly. I did my best. This is why I won’t do timekeeping, how people have that level of precision with their hand eye co-ordination I can’t imagine. Still, the quality control officer didn’t seem entirely displeased, amused even. It’s not the quality of the photo that counts, it’s its comedic value, and I guess I delivered on that at least – a partial success!

I think they must aim for this picture of the volunteer team every week, and it’s such a good idea, I’ve been to so many parkruns 260+ and another 100+ as a volunteer and not seen this happen before other than at ‘special occasions’. Too often volunteers get overlooked by photographers who are going for action shots, and it’s just so nice to have the moment and memory captured like this. Or it would have been, if they hadn’t picked a dud to push the button. Oh well, thought that counts. I am going to try to suggest this at some of the parkruns I regularly volunteer at though, it’s a nice tradition.

Next enrichment activity was the first timers’ welcome. There seemed to be quite a gathering, and it was a jolly welcome to all, there were even some first time everers which caused a stir. Imagine having that as your first ever parkrun, wowsers (or should that be kapowsers?) Quite an event. Thirteen in fact – lucky for some. That seems quite a high proportion of newbies, I wonder what brought them, I know they’ll have had a grand time though, how could they not.

Oh, and there was also a box of parkrun magazines available, in case you’d missed out on them. I did get a copy, but haven’t actually seen them freely available to pick up like that before, so that was good too. They’d be a brilliant souvenir of a first parkrun too. Really, they should have got all the other runners to sign them, like you do with programmes at a first night opening or whatever, but that could have taken quite a while.

After the excitement of the briefing, off to the start area. It was a nice gathering under an avenue of trees. There was a white board up asking for volunteers for the following week in particular roles, people were catching up with friends, and mustering near the start line. Timers synching their watchers, all the hub of a pre parkrun assembly. It had felt a bit mad to drive such a long way ‘just’ for a three mile walk round a park without even a friend to go with. However, once I was there, I felt vindicated. If Batman and T-rex weren’t sufficient in themselves, here I was in a fabulous park of which I’d previously been entirely ignorant, and as for friends, well all my fellow parkrunners could be claimed for that. Of course it was worth the trip!

The Run Director did a great briefing, I can’t remember all the details, but I do remember it was thorough, a clap of solidarity for LBGTQ+ parkrunners and reminder of Pride this weekend, yays for volunteers, tourists, milestones, all the things. I got a sense of a strong community, and it was like being part of a warm collective hug, can’t diss that, always a win. Then it was all at the ready and off we went!

I tried to take some snaps of sprinting parkrunners before slipping in at the back. Not gonna lie, they are a bit on the shite end of the spectrum. Not the parkrunners, my pictures of them, it’s not the best camera, however, at least it captures the occasion, if you want better images, you’ll have to go take them yourself. Frankly, that wouldn’t be too much of a hardship as it’s a venue you HAVE to add to your ever growing parkrun ‘to do’ list anyways.

I was determined to push myself a bit more this week, but turns out, the gains are marginal. I power walked in a sort of twilight zone slightly ahead of the pair of tailwalkers and slightly behind the next parkrunners. This worked for a bit. It is a truly gorgeous park. Lovely friendly marshals, one who was playing ‘eye of the tiger’ or more accurately had a sound system playing it for her, as we cornered past her and turned up an incline the goes past the house. Possibly a bit early and ambitious for such motivational music, but it gave a bit of oomph and atmosphere, some charismatic kapow if you will

I couldn’t capture it, but as you go off, you can see the faster runners looping away and up away from you, it’s a great sight. as you climb the hill, you ‘suddenly’ see the full extent of the house, it’s extraordinary. According to Wikipedia so it must be true

Wollaton Hall is an Elizabethan country house of the 1580s standing on a small but prominent hill in Wollaton Park, Nottingham, England. The house is now Nottingham Natural History Museum, with Nottingham Industrial Museum in the outbuildings. The surrounding parkland has a herd of deer, and is regularly used for large-scale outdoor events such as rock concerts, sporting events and festivals

Just pause to think about that for a moment. It’s properly astounding. 1580s? It is in immaculate condition and very, very impressive, well the bit you can see from the outside is. I cannot begin to imagine what it must have been like in its heyday. It is a privilege to be able to run past it even. That sounds weird, but it’s true, parkrun gets you to some pretty fab places once you get the touristing bug. Although walking is incredibly frustrating at times, it is a good way to soak up your surroundings at a parkrun.

By now, I was getting curious and wanting to stop and take photos. Also, I tried a little jog for the first time in nearly a year, and it wasn’t good. The pain that shot through my legs made them feel like they were on fire, and I was distinctly wobbly, so that wasn’t going to happen again this parkrun. The consequence was, I ended up dropping back and joining the two tail walkers who were just lovely. Very chatty, inclusive and companionable. Also, very much part of the Wollaton Hall /Wayne Manor parkrun history, being long time volunteers, RD and pioneers in getting it started up in the first place, so lots of useful history, and high tolerance levels from them that I kept wanting to stop to take photos.

Well, it wasn’t just the venue that was photogenic, it was the lovely marshals too. Their finesse at directional pointing and motivational clapping was positively sensational.

Quite early on, as we were heading out, the faster parkrunners started back along the same path, having already done their circuit of the lake. The path was wide enough this wasn’t really a problem as long as you stayed to the left.

One thing that struck me though, was the number of wheelie bins. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many in my life. I couldn’t work out if this meant those attending Wollaton Hall grounds are the messiest or tidiest of visitors. Do they need lots of bins because they create huge quantities of litter and waste, or is it that they are really tidy and have to bin even the slightest particle of plastic they spot on their watch? Or was it a wheelie bin graveyard, where wheelie bins go to die? The truth was disappointingly mundane. Proof yet again, it is better to widely speculate and imagine possible scenarios rather than find out the truth. If you do want the truth, it’s that the bins were left over from some sort of music festival the week before. They’d been emptied, but not removed. Told you my version was more pleasing. This is the kind of local knowledge that the tailwalkers could share though. That and the best view points.

We headed off round the lake where a marshal had been duped into throwing a ball for a border collie, that had brought it back and dropped it by her and was now staring at it with such intensity I fully expected it to burst into flames at any moment. The ball that is, not the dog, or the marshal, that would have been awkward. Mind you, because they’d taken that photo at the start they’d have known who was missing which would have made identification of any fragments later discovered on the spot by forensics very much easier. Just shows, ,attention to detail is never wasted.

The dog, and me insisting on photographing the situation did mean the parkrunner ahead went a bit wrong and had to be called back to the path. My bad for creating a distraction, no worries, we were off around the lake. As it is basically a one loop course, by now pretty much everyone had disappeared out of view, so we wandered round the lake, marvelling at the views. You get great vistas of the lake and house. There were herons, and at one point a tree full of them roosting. I couldn’t get a picture though as they were too far away, but it was great to see. We also discovered a carving of the birds that has been there for yonks presumably, but which one of the tail walkers hadn’t noticed before. I think though this venue would be different every time with the changing seasons. There are deer too, and other park users walking their dogs and enjoying the spectacular surroundings. And as previously mentioned, if you are trying to complete your ‘I-SPY book of wheelie bins’ you’d have been in your element!

So we walked and talked and it was most calming and therapeutic. It really was healing for me and parkrun at its best. We discussed issues around shortage of volunteers. It seems the same everywhere, parkrun volunteers have ebbed post pandemic, so have actual parkrunners, but whereas a smaller number of participants doesn’t mean a parkrun can’t happen, too few volunteers really does mean it might not go ahead. It saddens me. Volunteering is fun, and it should be just that, voluntary, but I still feel some people don’t quite grasp that it needs volunteers to happen, there is no one making money off the back of parkrun (we’ll draw a veil over recent poor judgement by an individual) and volunteers don’t put on the event for the community, they are the community! If possible, regular parkrunners do need to step up now and again to keep it sustainable. I don’t get why so many just don’t. Some can’t for legitimate reasons, but I think others just never get round to it, or it doesn’t occur to them, they are the people it would be good to bring on board. Oh well.

Round the lake we went, and the parkrun seemed to pass really quickly. As high vis heroes stood down as we passed, we seemed to gather a fair old crowd, so I got them to pose for me too. Hurrah for these fabulous fun makers

and then we were heading back, homeward bound, up the hill, down the hill and into the finish funnel. Such a huge team and they’d all waited for me. I was just under an hour which is a PB post illness for me, but still a fair bit behind the penultimate parkrun finishers (not including my lovely tailwalking twosome of course). Check out all those welcoming smiles. It was lovely!

As I came in, someone pointed out the carefully positioned parkrun logoed birdboxes. How awesome are these! Turns out, one of the regular volunteers, also volunteers for Wollaton Hall, he had the idea of putting up the bird boxes to mark particular points on the course, the start and a couple of the marshal points, so instead of having to spot ‘the ninth tree’ out of a veritable forest of them, you can look out for the bird box, isn’t that genius. Here he is is, looking at his work and being looked at in turn by the volunteer who pointed him out to me. Teamwork once again you see, what parkrun is famed for. Oh, and mass participation in free exercise world wide too I suppose…

I did wonder if bat boxes might have been more appropriate, but then again, if bats are basically birds of the night (which they are, in a flying nocturnal mammal as opposed to day flying bird sort of way), then it follows birds are basically bats of the day, so close enough. Apparently, they aren’t in the best location for actual birds to nest in, but you never know, something might find shelter in them one day.

All timed in, and scanned just time to say thanks and goodbye. The volunteers were busy dismantling the funnel and sorting results.

Many adjourned to the little café afterwards, I was in quite a bit of pain though so decided to just head off home. I gather there were a couple of eating options though, and aforementioned play area and exhibitions various too, so in a way I regret not lingering, though it was the right thing to do at the time.

Final verdict. This was such a positive parkrun experience. It is a lovely venue and that helps of course, but it was the warmth of the team that made it special, I felt really welcomed and not a problem for being slow, and the walk and talk was companionable and enlightening, it was a good morning.

Oh and the bonus, as I was exiting the park, the deer put in an appearance, huge antlers bobbing as they grazed near the exit gates. Maybe not in the numbers you see at Bushy park it’s true, but impressive all the same.

and you know what? Nope? Don’t worry, I’ll tell you. I might not have met Batman or indeed Robin, but I did meet loads of parkrun people and they were properly lovely. Batman and Robin are all well and good, but not all heroes wear capes. Thank you lovely Wollaton Hall parkrun Wayne Manor parkrun team for making me so welcome at your gorgeous park. Genuinely, one of my favourite parkruns and most positive parkrun experiences. You are heroes indeed.

Oh, and there is an official run report from the day Wollaton Hall parkrun number 56 running with pride you can read here too. Helps prolong the post parkrun experience, all good.

#loveparkrun It reminds you of all that is good in the world.

So home I went with my nicely saturated fleece, sodden with healing Nottinghamshire rain to take back to Sheffield with me along with my parkrun memories…. a good parkrunday.

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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 forward for more recent ones.  Your choice. 🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

A humdinger of a parkrun at Humber Bridge!

Humber Bridge parkrun

Event number 350

16th July 2022

This is actually a run report I did for Humber Bridge parkrun, it was shared on their Facebook page (thank you lovely Humber Bridge parkrun) but not posted on their news pages, so I’ve just added it to my own blog to store the memory. Indulge me 🙂

A humdinger of a parkrun!

Well, that was splendid.

What a humdinger of a parkrun Humber Bridge is indeed.  I can’t believe it wasn’t even on my radar until last weekend.

What happened last weekend I hear you cry?  Well, funny you should ask, last Saturday I was at Perry Hall parkrun, there for a gathering of listeners to the unofficial parkrun podcast With Me Now – worth a listen if you a parkrun passionista, as I’m sure you must be.  Turns out, Humber Bridge parkrun’s very own Ali CARTER was there too, blending into the background dressed as a unicorn as you do.  Despite her near invisibility, we struck up a conversation, I explained I was hesitant about trying new parkruns because I’m currently having to walk and my balance can be poor following serious illness last year.  Quick as a flash she suggested joining her today at Humber Bridge as she’d be celebrating her 250th parkrun and the weekend of her 100th volunteering stint with a spot of tailwalking, so she’d be more than happy to keep me company at the fun factory at the back on the way round.  I mulled it over, not for long, and then this morning, up at stupid o’clock and off to Humber from Sheffield.   I do love a parkrun adventure after all, and knowing the tailwalker was happy to take the time needed gave me the confidence to try an unknown venue.

My bad, but I hadn’t really appreciated before just how stunning your venue is.  On the way, there was a point when I looked out of my car window to the left and saw sparkling blue water and tantalising glimpses of the Humber Bridge.  It was absolutely stunning.  Literally jaw dropping.  How have I missed this?  It felt like being on holiday as I followed the signs to the Hessle foreshore.  I actually paused before going under the bridge to the black mill car park so that I could take in the view and check out the emergency rescue teams doing their life boat drills and take some photos too.  Then, back into the car, and following your website instructions (which were excellent by the way) on a little further to the carpark just adjacent to the foot tunnel heading into the country park.  Great news for a tourist, there were loos!  Not only that, they were open, and not only that they were literally just being cleaned.  This was going to be a good morning.  I always worry about having to go al fresco when touristing, a loo is always a huge boon, one that is clean and has toilet paper and soap and everything is like hitting the jackpot – and I’d not even made it to the gathering point yet.

This parkrun has all the things, loads of free parking, immaculate loos and of course super friendly volunteers, plus, as the morning unfolded, celebratory milestone cakes.  And the course is super lovely, the shade of trees, spectacular views, a sculpture trial, wildlife – if this is your local, you are winning at parkrun life, it’s properly gorgeous.

I’m always a bit awkward on first arrival, but I was so excited to enter the shaded woodland, make may way along the board walk and past various ‘caution runners’ signs into the open grass area where the finish funnel was already set up in all its glory.  A parkrun banner fluttered against the backdrop of the Humber Bridge, and people started to arrive and mingle.

I got chatting to another tourist.  He was here because his son’s graduation had brought him to the area, like me, he was blown away but the spectacular setting.  He helped me acquire a staged photo of the RD through the selfie frame, always good to have a willing accomplice when you are operating by stealth.   Love how the parkrun community always helps one another out. AND he took the obligatory photo of me through the selfie frame.  Hurrah!  I’m not sure why we call them selfie frames to be fair, you’d have to have arms the length of Mr Tickle to take an effective authentic selfie all on your own. Still, minor quibble, happy to have them 😊

Today’s run director was Matthew FISHER-GILL, resplendent in monochrome.  That’s the tourist’s hand in shot there, sorry I didn’t get his name, but at least he has had his hand immortalised in the run report, I hope that’s its own reward.

Matthew also did the first timers’ welcome.  Today there were 20 of us discovering Humber Bridge parkrun for the first time.  Not sure what’s taken us so long but better late than never, and my we were all in for a treat.

The biggest shout out of all though, should go to the duo of first time everers.  Yep, that’s right dear reader, people doing their first ever parkrun.  What a welcome they had!  Bravo to these terrific two, Jonathan HATE and Michael VESSIO I hope it is but their first of many.  I’m not sure if they came separately or together, but hopefully they’ll be back again soon.  Just imagine, their Saturdays will never be the same again, but in a good way, and their lives will be the richer for it!

The other first timers were an eclectic mix from those doing just their second parkrun to those who have already notched up a couple of hundred.  Various clubs were represented including: Coventry Triathletes; South Leeds Lakers; Selby Striders; Bournville Harriers (which sounds like it ought to be a sort of chocolate but disappointingly is not – as far as I know); Run Sandymoor and With Me Now.

After the first timers’ welcome, we were called to the start area, and parkrunners compliantly assembled with the Humber Bridge spectacular as ever in the background.  Nope, the photos don’t do it justice, but I’m trying to show willing.

So it was 104 of us assembled at the start area.  We were addressed by the charismatic Jamie PENN.  At other parkruns it tends to be the Run Director who does this address, but I can quite see why Jamie was put in the spotlight.  It was a very entertaining, and authoritative briefing.  Lots of interaction, reinforcement and clear messaging.  You can see why he’s on comms.  It is THREE laps we were told. THREE, which is not the same as one, or two, but THREE.  You have to keep to the LEFT, so faster runners can pass, they aren’t being horrid if they call out to you as they whizz on by, they are just letting you know.  LEFT is the right thing to do, oh no, scrap that, not right, always LEFT.  There are some steps on the way but DO NOT USE THEM, they are NOT PART OF THE COURSE, they COULD BE DANGEROUS, THIS IS WHY THEY ARE NOT PART OF THE COURSE.  Honestly, it says a lot about the style of delivery that I can still remember all these things.  It was terrific.  And people kept quiet throughout, that pretty much never happens.  All good.

There were shout outs for milestone Ali CARTER for her 250th – heads up for cake at the finish, a huge cheer for Kevin PENNY on the occasion of his 25th volunteering stint, and fine work he did out on the course today too.  Every person visiting from another parkrun was identified and greeted in turn, too may for me to remember, but Coventry, Hull – me from Sheffield, we all got a cheer just for being there.  It’s nice in life to be cheered for just existing, it’s validating and fun and much appreciated.  The bear hug was reserved for Ali though, I assume that’s traditional when you reach your 250..  Besides, we have to make up for all those weeks and months when we couldn’t even gaze at each other across a parkrun let alone touch.  Then when parkrun returned we could only do air elbow bumps which were never very satisfactory and high fives were a long time coming back, we are – for now at least – back into full on (consensual) hugging territory, and the world is a better place for it.  It’s important to make the most of it whilst we can.

The briefing was so thorough, I was half expecting a written test before we would be allowed to continue, much like doing the driving theory test, before you are allowed out in the car but no, it was straight onto the parkrun practical, ready and OFF!

The start was up a little hill, though generally the course was pretty flat, and the terrain even.  A few narrower sections, some tree roots, but nothing too technical.  Very doable with my sticks.  It was lovely seeing the mass of runners disappearing in a streak of colours ahead.  They looked like celebratory bunting as they ran up the incline and cornered to the right.  High vis heroes provided superb clapping, enthusiastic words of encouragement and outstanding directional pointing to help us all round.  There was an abundance of arrows too.  Even though all three loops are identical, I managed to entirely lose my sense of direction.  By chance, on this hot morning, it was a lovely shady course.  You weave beneath lovely mature trees.  I was distracted by the little carvings en route, the spectacular ‘cliffs’ of chalk, the views of the bridge (oh, have I already said about that?) the calls of encouragement from passing runners and the fine company of the fun factory at the back.  Plus, it was edutainment at its best, since we were joined by Helen PENN for a couple of laps, and she was able to fill me in on some of the venue’s history.  It used to be a chalk quarry apparently.  I had a Google later on to assist me with parkrunpedia, from this I learn that ‘the Humber Bridge Country Park, a former chalk quarry that once supplied the whiting mill with chalk. Known locally as Little Switzerland, the Country Park has been a popular family destination for generations. It is also a designated Local Nature Reserve welcoming more than 100,000 visitors per year.’ Also, more about the big black mill ‘on Hessle foreshore, in the shadow of the north tower of the Humber Bridge, stands Hessle Whiting Mill, a unique example of an early nineteenth century whiting windmill. The mill forms part of the Humber Bridge Country Park’s Chalk Walk heritage trail.’  And to think that less than 12 hours ago I didn’t even know a whiting mill was a thing!  Just goes to show, parkrun really is the gift that keeps on giving.

Helen was involved in setting it up Humber Bridge parkrun some 8 years ago now, and seems to do pretty much everything.  She was explaining that she originally did a parkrun at I think Peter Pan, and just wondered why there wasn’t one at the Country Park at Humber Bridge, expressed an interest in setting one up, and then before she knew it was Event Director and Run Director and made it so!  She has already joined the 250 volunteer club, but … get this… has completed an astonishing 2478 roles!  Even allowing for the fact she often takes on multiple roles on one day, that’s an extraordinary statistic, it surely equates to a whole year of parkrun volunteer days at the very least.

Today was Helen’s 333rd parkrun, though I’m not sure she appreciated this at the time.  I do love good palindrome.  This made her the most runny parkrunner in attendance today, the next up being Neil HERON on 288 parkruns.  Helen is also an international parkrunner having done parkruns in Australia, Germany and Italy as well as in the UK.  She’s even done Bunbury parkrun in Australia, which I didn’t know was an actual place despite being pretty positive it got a mention on neighbours back in the olden days when in was Scott and Charlene not Jason and Kylie.  Sigh.  Just goes to show, parkrun can open your eyes to all sorts of new worlds if you just step out and explore the ones on offer

I was impressed talking to the volunteers how committed the core team are.  It seems there are some regulars who go above and beyond to keep the show on the road.  Yay for Terry, Terence William PARKER, who has also been involved in the parkrun from the very beginning. His 288 volunteer roles isn’t too shabby either.  I’m constantly bowled away by how much time, and love is poured into parkrun by volunteers.  It’s important not to take them for granted.  Yes, they get to look fabulous rocking the high vis – who doesn’t look great in fluorescent pink after all, but they also do a huge amount behind the scenes.

The event today was made possible by 15 AWESOME & AMAZING volunteers:

Terence William PARKER • Helen PENN • David ROOMS • Ali CARTER • Jamie PENN • John RIDDIOUGH • Pamela TARBET • Victoria RIDDIOUGH • Susan ELDER • Graham NAYLOR • Fiona WALES • Matthew FISHER-GILL • Tony NICHOLSON • Kevin PENNY • Mandy SIMMS

Many events have really struggled to get volunteers since coming back after the pandemic, and it seems Humber Bridge is no exception.  Volunteering is not compulsory, but it is super fun.  You get to wear the parkrun high vis and look busy and important (some roles even involve holding a clipboard, and you don’t get more high status than that), you get the gratitude of passing runners; you get all the fun of a parkrun without the messy sweaty having to actually run bit; you gather virtual badges for your Running Challenges extension (think sticker charts for grown-ups) but best of all you get a lovely glow of inner joy as the feelgood consequence of being part of what keeps the parkrun phenomenon running (or walking or jogging).

If you haven’t volunteered before, do consider giving it a go, you’d be so very welcome, and you’ll find you aren’t really giving anything up, just experiencing and enjoying parkrun in a new way. You can find out more here https://volunteer.parkrun.com/principles/volunteer-roles If you have volunteered before then you know how brilliant it is!  Why not pick a future date, put it in the diary so you commit to do a stint on an actual day, rather than some vague ‘one day’ and email the team to offer a date and preferred role (if applicable) together with your name and athlete id.  Email: humberbridge@parkrun.com Imagine what it would feel like for the event team to have a whole rota filled up in advance?  Pretty amazing eh.  Or if you aren’t wanting to commit that far ahead, maybe at least opt in for the volunteering emails, so when the parkrun is in jeopardy due to lack of volunteers you could maybe save the day.  All contributions will be appreciated.  Every little helps as the saying goes, and it’s super fun.  Plus, it is a known fact, that volunteers are the most photogenic people at any parkrun. 

Case in point, yay for Kevin PENNY, on his 25th volunteering occasion.  He’s only four parkruns away from his 100th parkrun too.  He’s going to need a bigger wardrobe for all those lovely new milestone tees that I hope he’ll be indulging in shortly.  This could be you too dear reader, just imagine!

A Kevin factoid, is that his best time in 2018 was 22.00 a 72.88% age grading, impressive yes, but get this, in 2022 he has still achieved a time of 22:07 and his age grading has increased to 74.45%

Be more Kevin.  It looks like doing all that volunteering pretty much guarantees you an improved percentage age grading.  Well, it ought to, if there was any justice in the world.

Age grading takes your time and uses the world record time for your sex and age to produce a score (a percentage). This score allows you to compare your personal performance against other people’s performances even though they might be a different age and a different sex to you – the higher the score the better the performance.  Did you know that the Humber parkrun course record in relation to age grading was Jane Ruth MORLEY – 87.19% 22:54 – Event 80 (19 Dec 2015).  That’s pretty impressive.

So off we went, walking and talking.  I used to run parkrun, slowly admittedly, but a lot quicker than I am now.  Now I can’t do that anymore, I like to take photos along the way, I’m not much of a photographer, but the pictures remind me of each different parkrun.  Today however, I captured a fluke flying feet photo of which I’m very proud.  So, mystery runner, thank you for bounding by.

Ali as tail walker was keeping me company, but it was lovely that at various time we were joined by other parkrunners who’d either already finished, or were just pausing to congratulate Ali on her 250th parkrun.  For at least one lap she was joined by her birthday twin, Naomi.  Apparently, there are three friends who share the same birth date but as they are decades apart in age I am going to stick my neck out and venture they are non-identical triplets.  

Despite being smartly hatted and suited (I do appreciate a fine hat) Ali hadn’t in fact dressed in my honour as you might have first thought.  Turns out, she is a local (and probably international too) legend for her finesse at fancy dress.  She’s already completed one parkrun alphabet (run a parkrun beginning with each letter of the alphabet apart from X because that’s not possible) and is doing it again.  However,  this time, not only is she running them in alphabetical order, but with a fancy-dress outfit beginning with the same letter of each of the parkruns she attends. I did ask her if she could remember all the outfits and all the parkruns, and you know what?  She absolutely can!  She told me all of them, but unfortunately, I’m not so good at remembering.  I do know she has been some or all of the following: a penguin; a minion; a unicorn; Wally (or is that W’Ali?); Olaf; a fox; a frog (that was for leap year run nothing to do with alphabeteering though I think) and many more besides.  Oh, I do remember she did an x-ray at Exmouth parkrun though, see what she’s done there?  Clever.  That’s the way to do it.  And and ambulance, that was pretty fabulous, as tailwalker on the celebrating 70 years of the NHS day.  She picked up a timer dressed as a patient at the end.  Attention to detail you see.  Impressive.

This week 104 people ran, jogged and walked the course, 10 recorded new Personal Bests.  Which is especially impressive on a hot, hot day.  All are worthy of congratulations, but a particular shout out for Colin BOTHAM because he achieved the numerical finesse of a finish time of 27:27.  Nice.  Almost as good as Roby STYLES who smashed out a palindrome as a first timer with 24:42.  Loving your work.  Tim GREEN was also concentrating getting a 37:37, a Humber Triathlete no less, triathletes have to be on it for their timings so I’m going to assume that was intentional.  I need to get some input from these folk, I’m 262 parkruns in and yet to complete my parkrun bingo (that’s when you collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finish time – one of many Running Challenges parkrunners can undertake.  Check out the chrome extension at https://running-challenges.co.uk/ if you want to get some ideas about how to choose parkrun tourist destinations, though warning, it can get a bit addictive.

Representatives of 19 different clubs took part.  Some were triathletes joining in the Ali CARTER’s celebrations for her 250th parkrun.  The The McGill’s Martletts were represented by Sian AUSTIN who was doing her 99th parkrun today, hope she had a celebratory flake ice cream somewhere afterwards.  Perfect day for it.  There were also three Lonely Goats, so hopefully not feeling lonely at all today.  Edward STEAD was the solitary Royal Sutton Coldfield AC representative but cracked his 42nd parkrun and therefore possibly the meaning of life too.  I didn’t get to meet him though as far as I’m aware, so therefore didn’t get the chance to ask him about it, and now that moment has passed.  Oh well.  The point is, there were many clubs represented, and that’s always great to see.  There was also a noticeable couch to 5k contingent, I think they were touristing from elsewhere so must have already graduated, but great to see so many people sporting their team colours.

I honestly feel quite emotional watching parkrunners assemble for and participating at a parkrun.  People of all ages, shapes and sizes, a healthy scattering of tutus, fancy dress, club t-shirts, it’s genuinely uplifting, and all that a parkrun should be.

Even though we walked round, and took just over an hour, cheery volunteers were still patiently waiting to cheer us home through the funnel of cones and to time us back.  It seemed to go quickly.  Yes, it was a three-lap course, but there was so much to see, and such good parkrun companions the time flew by.  We even got to see some of the speedier parkrunners come flying through the finish funnel as were finishing one of our laps.  Epic running.

Once we’d finished, and been timed in and scanned there was still sufficient patience in the team to allow for more posing for photos at the end.  All possible combinations of people and selfie frames with the Humber Bridge doing its thing in the background were accommodated.

Finally, back to the car park.  I wasn’t able to join the gathering for post parkrun coffee and catch up, though I was warmly invited and made to feel very welcome, but I did get to admire the cake.  Excellent.  Oh, and for the record, I may also have got not one but two almond shortcake biscuits in the shape of a milestone tee.  I might also have eaten these on the drive home, scattering crumbs all over my car and lap.  If I did, then just so you know, it was totally worth it.

Today’s full results and a complete event history can be found on the Humber Bridge parkrun Results Page, today’s results are here https://www.parkrun.org.uk/humberbridge/results/350

Just so you know, here are some general Humber Bridge facts, they may come in handy if ever you have a local parkrun pub or café quiz say, plus inherently interesting I reckon:

  • The male record is held by Kris LECHER who recorded a time of 15:40 on 2nd June 2018 (event number 210).
  • The female record is held by Della HATFIELD who recorded a time of 18:30 on 25th June 2022 (event number 347).
  • Humber Bridge parkrun started on 7th June 2014. Since then 7,957 participants have completed 44,721 parkruns covering a total distance of 223,605 km, including 7,501 new Personal Bests. A total of 526 individuals have volunteered 5,093 times.

Are you still here?  Thanks for sticking with me!  Just like with the tailwalker, you are here to support me right to the very end.  I appreciate that.

Thank you Humber Bridge parkrunners and volunteers one and all for making this such a fantastic parkrun tourist experience.  You are all STARS!  I feel lucky indeed to have chalked up this most excellent parkrun at long last.  It was just joyful.  What fantastic ambassadors you all are for parkrun in general and Humber Bridge parkrun in particular.  At the end of the day, parkrun is about communities, and bringing people together and this event does exactly that.  Be proud of yourselves, you are The Best!

Lucy Marris, A448776

Give me a wave if you see me out and about!  Happy parkrunning ‘til then.

and a bonus smorgasbord of photos just because, you’re welcome!

The End

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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 forward for more recent ones.  Your choice. 🙂

Categories: 5km, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

parkrun passionistas pack PERRY HALL parkrun! Roger that. 321 and go!

Finally to PERRY HALL!

Digested read: went to Perry Hall parkrun for the WMN listeners’ meet up. It was epic with all the things.

Undigested read: – continue at your own risk, time vampire follows

Finally! All good things as the saying goes….

This With Me Now Pow Wow (meet up) was a long time coming. It’s actually third time listeners to the unofficial parkrun podcast have got together to meet in real life. The first time they all met up is frankly of no consequence to me becausethe pod wasn’t then on my radar, but I’m sure it was a jolly event and attendees did the best they could in the circumstances to have fun times despite me and my BFF/ EWFM (pictured above) not yet being part of the ‘not a cult’ that is the With Me Now (WMN) audience. The podcast catapulted into my consciousness following Bushy parkrun’s grand 15 birthday celebrations way back in the olden days pre pandemic of 2019, when they gave my mum, Queen Elisabeth their ‘Spirit of parkrun’ award as their honorary marshal of some years. For ’tis she who came to support the parkrunners from her care home over the road, making her basically parkrun royalty that puts even PSH in the shade. I say this with some confidence, since she has an actual part of the course named after her ‘Elisabeth’s Corner’ whereas poor Paul – as far as I’m aware – has yet to receive that accolade. I mean granted he has a wikipedia entry, and a CBE and an FRSA after his name, and people do like to take selfies with him which is a start, but he is, alas, yet to have a part of a royal park named after him. Oh well, still time I guess.

Meantime, how many celebrities can you espy in this little slide show I wonder? One parkrun, so many heroes!

Anyways, the point is, that Danny, of WMN came to cover the 15 birthday celebrations at Bushy parkrun for his podcast, and as part of that interviewed the legend that is my mum (obvs) and so that got me into listening. My bad for not really discovering it previously.

Then, as lockdown hit WMN became so very much more. It not only continued with the weekly pod despite there being no actual parkrun, the community grew. There were daily live feeds covering Pictionary , countdown, parkrunpedia, all sorts really. I’ll spare you the blah de blah, but in essence it became very much more than ‘just’ a pod, although granted it was always way superior to Free Weekly Timed, the official parkrun podcast. It became a supportive community of people not just across the UK but parkrun globally, keeping us together in a fun way. I live on my own, worked from home, and became very poorly during this time, so it is no exaggeration to say this connectivity became a lifeline during dark times. It’s hard to admit to being isolated and lonely, but I guess many of us were, and significantly, it was people in the WMN community who proactively reached out to me and rallied round one another, stopping people from feeling so invisible they slipped away entirely. To be able to become part of an inclusive, accepting, non-judgemental and positive community, that has the courage to be open about mental health and to address not just loneliness but full on existential angst is actually pretty goddarned amazing! Also, who doesn’t like a midweek ‘boop’ (sharing close up of pets’ noses) day, or childishly rude pictionary? Spoiler alert, NOBODY AT ALL! Plus, I learned sooooooooo much about loads of different parkruns that I’d need to be immortal to get round them all now, not to mention the history of uk post boxes, all of which turns out to be way more memorable than my Chemisty O’ level say AND makes me want to visit the postal museum in London now. I need to see a Penfold – this is but one example of how many of us were changed by the experience of lockdown. I am also way more knowledgeable than first appearances would suggest about sewer gas destructor street lamps (there’s one practically at the end of my road) and how to craft novelty items out of recycled parkrun high vis. My life was and indeed still is, weirdly the richer for it. Turns out it’s true! Every cloud really does have a silver lining!

As lockdown stretched on, the WMN community grew and strengthened, there were even spin off virtual events – I give you dear reader Noms Quarantine Quiz, a bi-lingual parkrun quiz spectacular that contiues still – and with this, there was great enthusiasm for having an actual in real life meet up at the first possible opportunity. That opportunity came last year, but, I couldn’t go. I was poorly and busy not dying and dreaming about a day when I’d be mobile again. My EWFM and other WMNers tried to include me by sending live links and hellos, and that was appreciated, but not gonna lie, it really wasn’t the same. I might have cried. A lot. It’s NOT FAIR.

Months went by, and finally Listener Meet up Take Three – WMN the second sequel – came around. All the hurrahs! I could go! Even more yays. And that’s what happened last weekend. And you know what, breaking the trend of disappointing sequels, the WMN gatherings just get better and better! FACT!

But wait, there’s more! In a perfect aligning of the planets, the rendezvous of choice was to be PERRY HALL parkrun. Largely due to the outstanding campaign by Emma, the event ED, RD and now a parkrun ambassado,r to keep PERRY HALL parkrun in all our minds throughout lockdown. This was exciting for many reasons. However, I was particularly taken by this as Emma was one of the many who had previously taken and posted a selfie with my mum at Bushy parkrun and this meant I’d finally get to meet her myself! RD and ED and Ambassador Emma that is, not my mum. Met her before. Known her all my life in fact. I’m not bragging, just stating the facts, I know her inside and out you might say…

Upshot. There would be a gathering of the WMN community. What’s more, this time I’d get to go. It would be at PERRY HALL parkrun, oh, and as if that wasn’t an embarrassment of riches enough, the parkrun was to be a Ted Rogers! I know. #321. If you know, you know! Roger that!

But you know what, turns out every silver lining also has a cloud. Bluff called. Wait, what? I have to meet all these people I’ve never met before in actual real life? What if they hate me? What am I saying ‘what if?’ of course they’ll hate me! They are bound to hate me. I can’t remember how to socialise, or talk and absolutely not how to run. I can’t physically do that any more, even walking is a stretch. In fact, I’m not sure I could ever do any of those things in the first place now I come to think about it. There are cobwebs over my front door it’s been so long since I went out, and I definitely can’t remember how to put on a bra. Do people get dressed to go outside these days, or is that not a thing any more?

Huge anticipatory angst ensued. Desperate to be part of something, but the fear of not fitting in, dark thoughts flooding my mind with IMPOSTER SYNDROME. They’d be sure to find me out. Particularly what with those flashing lights overhead proclaiming ‘IMPOSTER’ accompanying me at every step… It’s not something you can hide very easily. I tried to reframe this as ‘anticipatory excitement’ rather than actual ‘raw terror’ but paranoia stalked me in the build up if I’m honest. Fortunately, my aforementioned ladies’ companion, BFF and EWFM would be along to provide moral support. I pity those attending without one of those. What’s more, she brought along extra wonkies. Look:

Strapped up safely and ready to ride. Team Wonky! L-R Grot, Storm, Perry (?), Mittens, Charley & Freddo

You do know about wonkies right? What’s that? You aren’t sure? Sigh, erm, long story short, they are made out of recycled parkrun high vis, and popular extra marshals at junior parkruns, some 5k parkruns and emotional support animals for some. A few have even gone off on their own tours, circling the parkrun universe and checking in with their original creator from time to time on the Wonky Bear Facebook page – the Furthest Travelled Wonky made it almost 8,000 MILES to the world’s most remote parkrun, Cape Pembroke Lighthouse parkrun on the Falkland Islands. I know!

The original wonkies were bears, but mini wonkies and other wonkies have cascaded outwards with new creators taking the idea and going forth into the parkrun world with their own interpretations of the original HP brief. Thanks Hannah for starting it all 🙂 Thanks EWFM for continuing the supply line. Did I say ‘long story short’? Sorry, I lied. Long story long, but it’s a good one though isn’t it? Rhetorical question YES IT IS!

Angst or no angst, the day dawned. Or more accurately parkrun eve. As many WMNers were coming from far afield (prize going to the one who joined us from Singapore, yes really. Normally that would be extraordinary, but in fact it’s only 6795 miles, so not as far as the wonky, respectable effort all the same. Good try pink kitten, the important thing is you made it. Hurrah!

The gathering began the night before at the Premier Inn in Perry Barr, or Holiday Inn for those who were late out of the starting gates. I have no idea how many stayed, but over a hundred I’d guess, the people on check in couldn’t work out what we were all doing there, not normally being booked out in this way. Inexplicably, they didn’t notice that we all had the same athletic physique that would define us as national and international sportspeople, I guess this just shows once again how inclusive parkrun can be, all shapes, sizes and ages welcome here.

I got there first, my EWFM arriving soon after, and we did a bit of mad titivating pre the pre parkrun faff. I say mad titivating largely because the phrase delights me, and also because my EWFM says Mad Titivator sounds like a rather impressive drag act, which it totally does. Perhaps disappointingly, on this occasion the Mad Titivations involved simply scraping a comb through my hair, having a precautionary pee and checking for visible sweat stains before joining the assembling throng. Between us we’d booked out the entire evening of tables at the Harvester so people gathered and ebbed and flowed as tables became available. It was weird, but lovely to see people. Some I had met before, either at other parkruns, or The Malmo/ Amager Strand Bridge Trip (will write that up at some point I daresay). Many names I recognised or people I felt I’d met only actually hadn’t. It was peculiar at times, but nice peculiar. Someone had had the GENIUS idea of bringing labels so we could identify one another. It may sound cringey to the uninitiated, but honestly it was a godsend in recognising each other. Even if people have varying degrees of talent in decoding the astoundingly creative hieroglyphics, painstakingly drawn by someone with extraordinary talent, panache and creativity. I mean, this is very obviously a seal and not a badly drawn fish, but there’s no accounting for what goes on inside other people’s heads is there? We just have to make allowances for different ways of seeing the world, it makes it a richer place.

It is a seal though. Just so you know.

Somehow, I ended up with the giddy responsibility of writing out the labels for those naive and trusting enough to allow me this level of free expression. It turned out to be a real boon, because it quickly became apparent name labels are waaaaaaaaaaaay more interesting if you include a bit about the wearers USP or claim to fame or random factoid. This was a great ice breaker, and genuinely moving at times as I asked people for this information and got the most amazing stories. Everyone has a story, and many will even share if you ask them, it’s Fab.U.Lous!

So it was I met: the world’s best hugger; the parkrunner who got engaged at the London Marathon (mile 16 in case that’s important to you); the parkrunner who is doing a trek across the Sahara Desert to raise funds for Breast Cancer UK; the man of mystery; the loser of found things and finder of lost things; not one but two parkrunners completing their Cowell (100 different parkrun locations) at Perry Hall; the parkrunner who was completing a Hoffman (100 different parkrun locations and no other parkruns – that’s exceptionally rare); the Welsh Munchkin; people who had been to Bushy parkrun and taken a selfie with my mum; a Homewood parkrunner who in lockdown accidentally raised £1.6 million after Chris Evans promoted a fund raiser aiming to raise a few grand in order to make scrubs for NHS workers. Suddenly, he was basically running a charity with oversight of design, manufacturing and logistics, this led to a bespoke rainbow fabric and many, many rainbow scrubs being distributed and worn nationwide – you might even have seen some when you got your jab; baton carrier; tailwalker extraordinaire; #teamDolly cat lover; parkrunner with unicorn(s); a regular at carnage corner (Cardiff parkrun apparently, just so you know); it’s my birthday parkrunner – oh just everything you could imagine and lots more besides. It was honestly maaaaaaaaaaagical. Some even made it onto their running shirts for the following day. It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again, the way parkrun brings together such an eclectic mix into a giddy cocktail of feelgood loveliness is little short of miraculous!

I can’t mention the listener meet up/ pow wow without mentioning that our Friday night wasn’t entirely wow. In fact it was bittersweet, because the Ridiculously Attractive WMN presenter Danny, with his entourage didn’t make it. His car got broken into at a service station en route. All his critical blogging and vlogging stuff – drone, laptop, gimble, 500 shirt, extra special dolly buff – as well as clothes, quite possibly even barcodes were stolen. Devasting news and not the start to the grand weekend we’d all been anticipating.

Sad faces all round, as it was impossible to have any sort of real actual fun in thier absence of course, however we put a brave face on things as much as we could in the circumstances.

The upshot is that although there was much pre parkrun parkfaffery, friendships rekindled, anecdotes shared, laughs a-plenty and a great deal of hugging, there was a tinge of inner guttedness at the injustice of it all. Also, I wanted to be on the test panel for the world’s best hugger contest, but that didn’t quite happen, though some splendid hugs were available on request. I stayed up way past my bedtime and may even have got somewhat tipsy, although this was due to lack of practise in relation to alcohol consumption rather than obvious excess. I’m a lightweight these days, in terms of alcohol tolerance if not actual BMI. I eventually managed to tear myself away from the throng and stagger back to the hotel, bumping into a tall person on the way and spotting a wallet in the carpark. This turned out to belong to a fellow WMNer, and the tall person had a track record in losing and finding things, so all went well. There was a minor hiccup when I couldn’t get back into my room as the keycard didn’t work, but a fellow parkrunning guest took pity on me (there was a flight of stairs, which is sub optimum when you are using sticks) and swept it away, disappeared to scatter fairy dust or something on it, and it came back functional. Sometimes it’s really nice when someone rescues you. And so to bed.

Blinking in the dark. One more sleep before parkrun day! It was very hard to sleep. Partly because of being super excited, partly because of being terrified about over sleeping and missing the whole thing, and partly because the room was approximately a gazillion degrees hot. Even poking various limbs out from under the covers, and having the window open as much as possible provided little respite. Oh well. I guess this is the future as the planet burns, not even funny, just true.

MORNING!!!! It was the ACTUAL DAY, we were going to be at Perry Hall parkrun. FINALLY! So excited. Not too impressed at sleep deprivation, and we still had to negotiate about what time to arrive at the park which was just up the road, but even so, need to be there in lots of time to park and notch up pre-parkrun quality faffing. A busy day! It was jam packed, and a day full of insights. The insights started early, I discovered my EWFM and BFF who I thought I knew really well, can effortlessly, yes effortlessly, put on a sports bar and do up the back even when it is one of those ones with two different strappy bits. You know the ones with one that does up in the middle of your back and one that does up mid way between your shoulder blades. They do give good support, but I’ve never fathomed how you can get into them without a team of personal dressers on hand to assist. Only turns out she has specially evolved wrists that bend and stretch and twist so she can do this with no more effort than lifting a feather. Honestly, I’ve know her best part of 4 decades, shared a house with her for much of that and I had absolutely no idea. It just shows dear reader, don’t take those you think you know around you for granted, they can still reveal new talents of which you were previously unaware. She has basically got a super power. The weirdest thing being that she had no idea this ability is exceptional. Frankly you could build an act for Cirque de Soleil around that one super power. A.Maz.Ing. Perry parkrun was going to have to be pretty spectacular to top that. Spoiler alert. It was!

So we headed off in a mini convoy to the park. Not gonna lie, it’s not the most obviously promising of locations as you approach. Very roady, lots of cars, dual carriageways kind of thing, but then, lo, you arrive, and lo, it is a place of wonder!

We were super early, but the volunteer team had reported for duty even earlier. Aren’t they lovely? Rhetorical question, yes they are! I don’t think this is even everyone, they massed in their hundreds, surely! Or at the very least, punched above their weight in terms of cheers produced in relation to numbers of marshals on the course.

We followed the road into Perry Hall park, and cheery marshals were ahead of us, waving us in to a specially opened extra car park. Parking was abundant, safe and free, hurrah! Emma, who was hosting us all, had thought of everything. Extra parking, open loos, extra marshals, photographers, and extra cakery available post run laid on by the Friends of Perry Hall Accredited Country Park volunteers who were collecting for their nominated charities which are Mind and Midlands Air Ambulance Charity. The attention to detail was amazing.

We hadn’t set foot out of the carpark before the greetings began. Much whooping and greeting, and then much queuing for the loo. The loos in the park are amazing, well their exterior was anyway, fantastic murals, and a highly sociable loo queue. Unfortunately the gents was out of order, so there was the novel experience for male parkrunners of having to queue with the pros and cons that queuing brings. The con being the time spent, the pro being the new friends you make in that time. Queues at a parkrun are always a boon, that’s how you get to know other parkrunners as you wait in the finish funnel or to get your barcode scanned. Did you know that parkrun deliberately keep these elements in to retain the human interaction at their events. It’s one reason why they haven’t gone down the fully DIY digital route. Interesting isn’t it, and clever too. They know what they are about these parkrun bods.

Here follows a smorgasbord of arrival photos, granted perhaps the photos I’ve taken are only good in parts, but capturing memories they merit inclusion all the same. See Welsh Munchkin be greeted, admire the loo murals and gasp at the photogenic properties of the high vis heroes.

Oh and the park. It’s properly loverly! I don’t know what I’d expected, but certainly nothing as gorgeous as the park we found ourselves in. It was beautifully landscaped with little bridges, and waterways, some formal planting, wide open spaces, paths to explore, playing fields to host sport. All sorts. The weather was properly hot too, matching the warmth of the welcome.

I suppose I should give you the official blah de blah at some point. According to their official Perry Hall parkrun website

The course is in Perry Hall Park, Birmingham. The course is run on a mixture of tarmac paths, gravel paths and grass

Course Description
This is a 3 lap (with 3 slightly different laps), mainly flat course, all on paths except for approx. 20 meters. The course starts by the moat area near the main gates on Perry Avenue. Run over the main bridge and turn right, following the path around the cricket pitches in a circle back to the bridge. On the second lap, you will turn off onto a straight path three quarters around the circle; you will then turn at the cone and retrace your steps back to the main laps. On the third lap, you will turn off at the path approximately halfway round which follows the river, again turning around a cone and coming back onto the main laps. When you get back to the main bridge after completion of the three laps, turn right to go back to the start / finish area.

Please keep to the right on the out and back paths where runners are going in the opposite direction.

Facilities : Car parking is available through the main gates on Perry Avenue. Toilets, situated near the main gate, are open from around 8:00am

and the course looks like this:

to be honest, I never pay much attention to the routes these days, I am confident I’ll have an escort in the form of a whole tail walking team in many instances, like an actual entourage, but at the very least a personal guide. Today the tailwalking team included some or all of the following, resplendent in bespoke high vis

Pre the parkrun, there were hellos to be said and wonkies to be passed on. Someone was handing out leis, soon, many were adorned with flower garlands and looking most festive. It was somewhat reminiscent of a peace festival, spaced out smiling, hugging of strangers, flowers, heat and the parkrun love was tangible. A peace festival, with a scattering of people doing community service if you’ve been watching The Outlaws lately. It has become impossible to unsee, fortunately I enjoyed the series, so I’ll take that.

Wonky wise, EWFM has taken on board the feedback from our parkrun at Amager Strandpark where the RD remarked pointedly that out of all those attending, only ONE PERSON had thought to bring him a present. Well, that couldn’t happen here. A junior wonky was handed over in gratitude. There was also a dragon wonky and a further junior wonky to go on tour with Team Woods. Oh and Freddo and Grot (German for little frog) to join in the fun too. What was brilliant, among many brilliant things, was seeing how some parkrunners who see each other relatively infrequently have even evolved their own bespoke parkrun greetings, in one particular instance involving star jumps. Love that! Even if my pelvic floor muscles and somewhat earth-bound centre of gravity say otherwise. Nevertheless, I can still appreciate the artistry and athleticism of others, and splendid it is to behold indeed!

Such was the sociability of the gathering, we’d almost forgotten we were here to actually do a parkrun, and it there was therefore an element of surprise in being summoned for a run briefing. This was lovely! Such a warm welcome from the RD. It was all a bit of a blur, but acknowledgement of what WMN is and involves, a shout out for ‘any regulars from Perry Hall parkrun?’ rather than for tourists. Thanks to many who’d made the day what it is, whoops for those doing ‘things’ at the parkrun today, and alongside a cheer for the volunteers, the loudest cheer of all was in response to the ‘welcome all to PERRY HALL parkrun’, we made it, euphoria doesn’t begin to describe it. The crowd went wild! You had to be there. Those that weren’t, I can only pity you, but worry not, I’m sure we’ll meet again, and it will be grand next time too, albeit in uniquely different ways!

Also, fab to see, we had a BSL interpreter signing the briefing, hurrah! What’s more, the same who graced the Deaf and hard of hearing takeover at Endcliffe parkrun in Sheffield a while back, a great surprise, and a welcome one. In fact, the briefing was something of a team effort with someone to do the course description, someone to sign and the RD to welcome. We were blessed by the tremendous trio taking the reins. Terrific aren’t they?

Let’s have a pause for some of the visions of loveliness gathered today, can you guess who amongst the following was doing a full cow(ell) parkrun today or having a birthday perhaps? Maybe doing their 250th parkrun? I’m not going to help you here, you just have to trust your gut instincts. Believe in yourself. I believe in you. Trust too, that a roaring good time was to be had by all. Even those of us being chased down by dinosaurs.

Finally, off we went to the start, and with a 321 for event 321 is was go. I slotted in at the back, but it was amazing watching the great colour train of parkrunners heading off. I never get bored of watching the start of a parkrun, all that promise, all that colour, all that joie de vivre. It’s quite something.

I tucked in at the back, where it was quite crowded to be fair. Injury, ailments, inclination, limitations of fancy dress, meant there was a veritable abundance of walkers. The official line is that walkers are welcome at parkrun, but sometimes it can be a solitary experience, even with a tailwalker for solidarity you can sometimes feel a bit out on a proverbial limb. It was nice to be part of a walking party bus on this occasion. Really, it is walkers who need parkrun the most, for me certainly it feels like the only safe way I have to be active at the moment, if it weren’t for parkrun, I wouldn’t be doing any exercise at all. And it isn’t just about the physical activity, it is about the social interaction, that’s probably just as important, more so even.

The actual parkrun route is all a bit of a blur, which is surprising, as it’s not as if I was going very fast. I found the route picturesque but incredibly confusing. My bad for not really concentrating on the run briefing as I thought I wouldn’t need to know the route. Well I didn’t really, marshals direct you and signs fill in any gaps. I had it in my head it was three laps. It is, but each lap includes an entirely different out and back bit of different lengths and at different junctures, so I entirely lost my sense of direction, and even lost my ability to count to three. All laps had large numbers of marshals who aced the clapping and directional pointing, cone wrangling – all the things. Here are some:

Each volunteer had their own USP in terms of what they did to enhance the whole parkrun experience, somewhat gilding the lily to be honest, but not complaining. One amongst them was unleashing her inner air traffic controller, setting up an aeroplane corners so parkrunners could fly past arms outstretched. Given my sticks I went for more the helicopter approach, we all had fun though, that’s the main thing. It’s delightful seeing everyone fly round, but maybe a little bit worrisome that we are all quite so suggestible. Fortunately a parkrun marshal is always a force for good in the world.

Oh, and just so you know, this particular parkrunner was also broadcasting live to radio during the actual parkrun in anticipation of her carrying the commonwealth baton as part of the relay. She did this at Bedworth parkrun course a week or so later, and she neither faceplanted, nor dropped the baton AND her trousers stayed up throughout, so basically nailed it. Didn’t even cry until afterwards. Yay. See more about her Bedworth baton relay here.

Aeroplane corner was happening at one location but at another, an abduction was occurring. A Perry Hall local was taking a walk in the park, and curiously asked one of our number what was going on. Instead of just explaining about parkrun and waving them on their way, the accosted parkrunner said simply, ‘come with me’ and walked and talked them round, even going so far as to register them on the phone app on the course so they completed the entire parkrun entirely unexpectedly. I consider this completely magnificent, parkrun is not a cult at all, but we do like to share the parkrun love to all and any who will make eye contact and perhaps listen too. Hurrah for first time everers and hurrah too those who welcome them into the fold!

Those more accustomed to parkrun were jumping for joy in appreciation of the event Hurrah for the photographer who captured so many ecstatic parkrunners. The three lap course gave opportunities for multiple interactions with both passing parkrunners and friendly marshals. All was lovely in parkrun world.

Unfortunately, and I’ll try not to dwell on this, one junior parkrunner took a tumble on the course (don’t worry, they did have to drop out, but were revived by hugs, first aid, and goodies and being love bombed by the PERRY HALL parkrun community. They revived sufficiently to insist their parent went on without them to finish the course. This I consider to be noble, but said parent did comment they thought it might have partly been motivated by a desire not to be persuaded to get back out there themselves! The upshot of this incident, was that the tail had to wait with the fallen parkrunner whilst a handily passing parkrunner who IRL is an actual nurse #parkrunnersareequippedtodoanything administered first aid. This meant I continued and found myself on my own for a bit. At this point, I realised I’d not entirely being concentrating and couldn’t fathom the lappery at all. Fortunately however, my lovely EWFM, now finished came to join me, so we walked and talked and parkrun debriefed and it was all lovely. ‘Suddenly’ we were at the finish, and so many people were still there to cheer me in I felt like I must have been first finisher. I was certainly a winner, because everyone who joins in a parkrun, in whatever way, is winning at life!

Through the funnel, barcodes scanned, reunited with other WMNers and new friends from PERRY HALL parkrun. Time to check out the cake stall – well rude not to. It was still laden sufficiently for me to find a vegan treat

Then, after the final finishers were cheered in, we all rallied once again for the WMN Not-a-cult address. You can tell it isn’t a cult, because we all chanted this in unison. And that person kneeling, just the comfiest position at that moment in time, nothing sinister to see at all

The WMN presenter acknowledged it hadn’t quite been the gathering imagined, but despite everything, being scooped up by the collective support of the pod listeners had turned things around a little at least. We don’t know what the future holds, but here and now, in this place, good things happened. Even if trying to get everyone in the group shot to follow basic instructions was like herding cats, little matter, we were all just channelling our inner Dolly (WMN feline), it was a pod tribute really. Not small, but far away.

and then people began to disperse. Some lingered to record quiz questions for a Summer Special Quarantine Quiz number 83. Questions in English and mixed ability German, all entertaining nevertheless!

and finally, those who were able to extend the post parkrun parkfaffery headed to the Tennis Court Pub but a short stroll away with outside seating for a couple of hundred. It was needed. The sun shone, parkfaffing occurred. Elliott was probably already imagining the stats, but I can report dear reader that for this weekend of 9th and 10th July 2022 PERRY HALL parkrun made his stats page with the perhaps unsurprising morsel that ‘The biggest increase in attendance (by percentage change) was Perry Hall, with a change of 198%,’ Oh be still my giddy heart, to be one who contributed to that is a big deal. I could die happy!

Inevitably though, ,eventually, the time came to tear ourselves away, farewell hugs, squeezing hard enough to sustain ourselves until next time. It’s not goodbye for ever, it’s just for now, ’til next time, we still have our parkruns to sustain us. 🙂

So there we have it. PERRY HALL parkrun WMN pow wow. Long anticipated, speedily over, but we still have our memories eh… no wonder it had me jumping for joy even though I was walking at parkrun 🙂 Do love a flying feet photo…

The ultimate flying feet photo

although, if you are serious about taking flying feet to new heights, check out this photo from The ponds parkrun, Australia

All pretty full on. I’m exhausted now, you must be too if you’ve stuck with me all this time. Like a conscientious tail walker, with me throughout. It’s appreciated. Still, don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a nap now, I was going to say power nap, but it’s not so much that, no napping of any sort, no, far more noble. I’m simply investing in my future self. You might like to too. #sleepisgood

but if you want more, there’s always the With Me Now Pow Wow pod!

There was a run report from the day with some amazing photos, check it out here Event 321 (9th July 2022) With Me Now Pow Wow

and a gazillion photos capturing the awesomeness from Barnaby and David – I’m constantly amazed anew at how fabulous volunteer photographers at parkruns are. Thanks Barnaby, thanks David and thanks to parkrun photographers everywhere.

Oh and check out the With me now Pow Wow 2022! Running Perry Hall parkrun vlog from Nicola Runs and maybe you have your own memories too.

It’s a wrap.

The End

AND A NO PARTICULAR REASON EXTRA:

In other news.Do you know how many parkruns are in sight of a football ground by the way? Guardian has checked this out just for us, isn’t that splendid! Good to be able to outsource these sorts of queries.

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 forward for more recent ones.  Your choice. 🙂

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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