Monthly Archives: October 2022

Wonders of Woodbank parkrun – Fabulous Fibonacci numbers working their magic!

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Well, well, welcome to Woodbank. Hosting a Fibonacci numbered parkrun in it’s two-park venue on the day the circus came to town! You have to love a parkrun that has its own sunglass wearing giraffe to welcome you on arrival. This is the parkrun that thought of everything! I should never have left Geronimo in the car, she’d have been right at home!

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I’ve neither read the book nor seen the film ‘When the Circus Came to Town‘ but accordingtotheinternetsoitmustbetrue the book by Yep is ‘Bolstered by themes of compassion, community and tolerance‘ so that seems an apt way to think about a parkrun. Also, actual circuses (not the horrid ones with performing animals and terrifying clowns, but the nice ones with acrobats and environmentally friendly sequinned hats) include much jollity and leaping about. Pretty much EXACTLY what Woodbank parkrun was all about. Never seen so many people jumping for joy on the way around. Hardly anyone had their feet on the ground all morning if the photos are anything to go by! Gotta love a parkrun with an abundance of smiles!

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Oh, and some parkrun magic too, what with it being a magic number event, so yep, a good one. Why has it taken me so long to seek Woodbank parkrun out? The film ‘when the circus came to town’ seems to have little to do with the book, but then again I’ve never seen it. Oh and actually, it may be that the made for tv drama came first? The book sounds better. Aaargh, really confused now. Oh well.

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Oh, properly confused now. Look, how about we agree to let’s not get neurotic about the actuality of the details here, and just enjoy going along with the tenuous linking of the helpful themes can we? Everyone can relax then, and focus on the event itself? Cheers. Knew you’d see sense!

The important thing is that there was a circus hanging out at the Woodbank parkrun venue this week, the team hosted their Fibonacci numbered event 610 with mood enhancing magic alongside the customary compassion, community and tolerance. So that’s good.

Why Woodbank parkrun this week then? Well, I am getting ever more frantic in my quest to find parkruns that won’t find me a burden, and still feeling a bit bruised by the vitriol unleashed on social media when parkwalk was announced. I’m already acutely aware I’m a slow walker, so I try to pick events that for whatever reason are likely to be walker friendly or at least tolerant, week by week. It had come on to my parkrun radar that on this day Woodbank parkrun would be hosting its event number 610. This, dear reader, is one in the Fibonacci sequence, and since some parkrunners are trying to collect a series of these to complete an online challenge, I knew it likely there would be an influx of parkrunners. More people usually means more people likely to be lingering post the event anyway with milestones and running challenge finales various celebrated. Also, a greater likelihood of encountering friendly parkrunners who I already know to some extent, who being aware of my situation are predisposed to be supportive and give some sense of solidarity. Some do this intuitively, and maybe don’t even realise the difference they make, some put themselves out to do so, both approaches are massively appreciated. I do however long for the day I could just rock up at a parkrun like everyone else without having to second guess how I’ll be viewed. No-one likes to think of themselves of being the cause of every heart sinking as they are spotted arriving at a parkrun, or anywhere else for that matter.

It’s always angsty, choosing where to go of late. Sometimes I give myself a talking to and tell myself it’s just my paranoia and nobody minds, and other days those messages online flash up in my mind and I don’t even want to leave the house. This week though, all good. The Fibonacci number would work its magic, and I need not be alone! Which was just as well, since it turns out I massively overdid it the weekend before with a long drive down to London from Sheffield for Charlton parkrun and standing to cheer marathon runners. I paid for it with considerable exhaustion and pain in the aftermath, this is getting so boring, I feel like my body just given up on me some days. Still, I was determined to get out, parkrun is often the only activity I get to do in a week, and if I stop going then I wonder if I’d leave the house at all. Junior parkrun often gives me an injection of optimism that sustains me for a bit, but the 5k has lost some of its potency in that regard. The continuing online ‘debate’ about parkwalk has reduced me to tears. A lot. It’s not even a debate, it’s all negative, where are the voices of people who would welcome walkers? Probably too scared to put their heads above the proverbial parapet. I know I’ve had people just double down on me when I’ve tried to give a different perspective. All this ‘parkwalk will drive away volunteers‘ I AM a volunteer, I volunteer pretty much every week, usually twice, and kept a not a run report going for 30 weeks or so during lockdown in an attempt to keep my local parkrun community together. I did it and do it because I wanted to. Yet, I’m the one being driven away from parkrun – not by the parkwalk initiative, but by people being so vocal in expressing their hatred for walkers. Wow! Such toxicity, and such a flood of people who really don’t want me at their events it seems. Or if they say ‘not you, the other walkers‘ then what does that mean exactly. We have deserving and undeserving walkers? You’ll be telling me some of your best friends are walkers next, don’t delude yourself. Of course those events will particularly struggle for volunteers, they aren’t offering a welcoming and inclusive environment. I am wondering increasingly if my participation in parkrun might be coming to an end. I don’t want to step away, but the onslaught of negativity is definitely taking its toll. Still, this was not the week to walk away. Anyway, we’ve already established walking is painful for me most of the time, so I really don’t want to walk more than I have to. The upshot this was certainly one of my more painful outings, but you know what, it’s a wonderful parkrun. Woodbank restored a bit of faith that there can still be welcoming parkrun communities, and for that I’m very grateful. Gorgeous venue and a super friendly RD who was proactively lovely as opposed to ‘just’ intrinsically and generically lovely which as we all know is a given for RDs and marshals at parkruns across the world! This RD though was extra specially smiley and welcoming. More of that later though.

First off, the Woodbank parkrun official website blah de blah:

The event takes place at Woodbank Memorial Park, Turncroft Lane, Stockport SK1 4JR.

Course Description
The course starts by heading around Woodbank Memorial Park in a clockwise direction. The route then continues with two figure-of-eight loops through Vernon and Woodbank Memorial Parks – with each section in an anti-clockwise direction. The finish is on the left of the path heading back towards Vernon Park.

Most of the course is paved, but it includes one short muddy path connecting the two parks, and a steep cobbled section in Vernon Park. In winter, we sometimes use an alternative course that avoids the hill.

Facilities
There are toilets available in the Vernon Park Café, but this usually opens at about 10am. Other nearby facilities are in the nearby Tesco Extra, which is 1 mile from Woodbank Memorial Park

and it looks like this:

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There are two carparks. I did that really annoying thing of sleeping really, really badly because I’m an insomniac at the best of times, but was also kept awake by pain ‘all night’ and then was so sound asleep when my alarm went off I ended up over sleeping. Mad dash out the door, and I arrived not late exactly, but later than intended. I made my way to the smaller of the two carparks which I now know to be very near the finish, and given the choice the better of the two options if you have limited mobility. There were some super impressive stone gates at the entrance. Wowsers! No mistaking you’ve arrived. The parkrun route actually takes you past these, and the lovely marshal who redirected me earlier too, but that delight was still to come! Sorry my camera takes such rubbish photos, it’s getting to the point I may have to admit defeat and actually retire it, but then again, you get the gist. That’s worth something surely. You can at least see what I mean about those gates. Quite something aren’t they. Enough to intimidate peasants enough to keep away in days of yore.

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It was already full, but a cheery marshal redirected me back along the road to carpark two. I was worried there might not be spaces left, but actually there were loads. The test was the incredibly narrow looking entrance. Constructed deliberately to slow cars down and prevent larger vehicles using it, it works, I felt like even my dinky little car had to breathe in to squeeze through. The car park is a bit offset from the main park, and as I exited hopefully from the far end it wasn’t immediately obvious where to head. No panic though, inevitably you see other parkrunners and so I just trailed in behind them. I’m getting rather too used to just tagging along at the back.

Instantly though you get the sense of this being a splendid park. In fact it’s more than one, but I hadn’t quite got the hang of that at this stage. Some cones and marshals were already in place, and there was a big top as the circus had indeed just come to town. Mature trees were already turning autumn gold, some spectators were seated on benches in anticipation of romping parkrunners, and a great migration of people wearing multi coloured tees were seemingly being pulled together to a central assembly point as if by an invisible force.

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I’d like to think I scampered to the start as I was definitely pushing it for time, others were putting on more than a half hearted jog to get there, I was offering up more of a well intentioned shuffle. Still, this even number 610 had gathered quite a crowd, so others were also somewhat tardy arrivals at the Fibonacci ball.

You know what a Fibonacci number is right? I’m sure we’ve been through this before. Sigh. Well, in case not, the thing you need to know is that some keen parkrunners collect them. I inadvertently found I’d collected one myself at Millhouses parkrun #55 earlier in the year, they’d not really been on my radar much before if I’m honest.

Fortunately, the lovely RD knew all about them. As I approached the start, I heard him asking if anyone had joined them because of the event number. A veritable Mexican Wave of jazz hands went up in spirited acknowledgement that this was indeed the lure!

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In case anyone didn’t know, he gave a great account of what they are, which I didn’t write down or memorise at the time (my bad) but have subsequently googled so you don’t have to:

Fibonacci numbers appear unexpectedly often in mathematics, so much so that there is an entire journal dedicated to their study, the Fibonacci Quarterly. Applications of Fibonacci numbers include computer algorithms such as the Fibonacci search technique and the Fibonacci heap data structure, and graphs called Fibonacci cubes used for interconnecting parallel and distributed systems. They also appear in biological settings, such as branching in trees, the arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruit sprouts of a pineapple, the flowering of an artichoke, an uncurling fern, and the arrangement of a pine cone’s bracts.

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Also, if you are interested in embarking on various parkrun number challenges and there are a squintillion of them, which is almost as many challenges as there are parkruns and people that do them. That isn’t even a lie once you include things like name badge challenges (spell your name with the first letters of parkruns attended) although I begrudgingly concede I’m not quite sure where my number offering sits in our Hindu-Arabic numerical sequence. Still, if a squintillion isn’t yet a number it should be. Remember dear reader, you heard it hear first.

Anyway, you are distracting me with your picky questions. The point is, if you’d like to know a parkrun number, there is a brilliant online toy to help you do this, and predict where a particular number might show up one day too. This genius Google Spreadsheet global parkrun event number predictor development was put together by parkrun passionista Keith Bennet, an absolute hero. Go spoil yourself, dive in, discover not only Fibonacci numbers, but the Nelson Index, prime numbers and everything in between. You will disappear into a time vortex as you get absorbed in checking out infinite possibilities as you undertake your voyage of numerical exploration and discovery of course, but it is so worth it. It will definitely keep you busy for a while. You have been warned. Remember though, sometimes parkrun home is best, fun as parkrun tourism can undoubtedly be. Thanks to the dedicated few who create these parkrun related fun spin offs. The running challenges team and Elliott Line Stats being but two more who bring added value to the parkrun party week in week out.

It’s because of Elliott that we know the parkrun Attendance and Milestone Stats for 8 and 9 October 2022. Specifically worldwide there were 1,775 parkruns plus 388 junior parkruns, and the worldwide parkrun population was 249,735 parkrunners and 36,365 volunteers. But there is so much more stuff you didn’t know you needed to know until you go have a gander. For example, in Malaysia there were 4 parkrunners per million this weekend, whereas in the UK this week there were 1977 parkrunners per million people in the general population. Spookily, 1977 was the year Concorde first flew, and it’s flight path took it over Bushy Park (probably, I’m not absolutely sure, it certainly set of sonic booms over Bushy Park with regularity) and Bushy Park was where parkrun was to first start back in 2004. Oh, and FYI running was apparently invented in by Thomas Running in 1748 when he tried to walk twice at the same time. Google tells me everyone knows this but it isn’t true. I’m astonished, because I had never heard this but now as sure as the earth is flat sounds plausible enough to me. Good to know.

On the subject of believing unlikely things, I’ve decide to temporarily become a believer in Angel numbers! I gather 610 is one, (as in one of those numbers, not as in number one, that would be ridiculous and mathematically extremely unlikely) and as a consequence lots of lovely things align, who wouldn’t want to believe in that!

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I am in need of positive changes so I’ll take that, and I’m pathetic in my desire to seek validation from the approval of others, so knowing my angels ‘fully approve of my life choices and decisions’ is clearly splendid. Although I do have a slight concern I may be hanging out with the wrong crowd of approving angels just now as it’s not been working out for me all that well at times, still, the occasional waiver and wobble is understandable is it not, I’ll still take that. One things for sure, a crowd of angels did sterling work as volunteers at Woodbank parkrun today, and many in fine voice too!

Right, where was I? Oh yes, back to lovely Woodbank parkrun

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And event 610 was lovely almost instantly, because apart from being a sunny day and a lovely park, I espied a familiar face in the crowd, hurrah, last seen at Huddersfield parkrun #500, a micro reunion! And look! There’s a 250 voluntouring hero, all ready to scan and on an outing from Burnage parkrun. Yay to lovely people and shared hugs and smiles! Definitely lifted my spirits to see some friendly faces and get a warm welcome. Thank you! Love you guys 🙂

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So I was a little late to the party, having missed the first timers’ welcome, sorry about that, but slotted in at the back to join the throng as it set off on it’s migration route through the park.

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The weather was gorgeous, and the park looked lovely. You can’t really see in the photos, but you got a great view of faster parkrunners heading off over the other side of the park. Again, this was a good course because the looping about lapping nature of it, meant you did get to see other parkrunners speeding by. Many throwing words of support and encouragement my way which was friendly. Unusually, there was another parkwalker who was a bit slower than me so with the tail. That meant for the first time in weeks I felt unhurried. Although I was on my own it was quite nice. I could swap cheery exchanges with marshals, take in the view, snap a few pictures. It was good. There was a photographer on the course, who took way better photos than me. I’ll do a mix and match, but I’m guessing you may well be able to spot when I was behind the lens and when it was someone else. It’s the thought that counts dear reader. Loving all the aeroplane arms, these are parkrunners who are pros at living their best parkrun lives.

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Notable things on the course. Erm, well seeing those amazing gates was quite something. My research for parkrunpedia tells me that:

Woodbank Park has lots of wide open spaces and is ideal for a leisurely stroll. (or indeed parkrun) It’s also situated close to Vernon Park. The park connects with the River Goyt and the Goyt Way. Footpaths can lead you through Poise Brook or towards Otterspool and Bredbury. The Midshires Way and the Fred Perry Way also pass through. A nature trail, that had been lost for years, has been restored by the Friends of Woodbank Park group. This trail links many of the heritage features of the park that many people do not know exists

and

Vernon Park opened in 1858 and is Stockport’s oldest public park lying just east of the town centre. It’s an exceptional Victorian/Edwardian asset to both the local community and the North West region. Once known as ‘Pinch Belly Park’ or the ‘People’s Park’, it was built by Stockport Corporation on land donated by George John Warren (Lord Vernon). It was an instant success with mill workers helping to construct park features. The park received a £1.6 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant to give it a new lease of life and to restore it to its former splendour. The park is well used by schools for historical and environmental studies. (and parkrun) It provides unique areas for traditional pastimes such as crown green bowls and has beautifully restored areas of formal and informal parkland. The site also boasts a mature woodland along the river which is sensitively managed whilst maintaining public access.

A place I could easily have spent more time if I had the stamina.

Excitingly, there is another – to me unexpected bit – where you go up a cobbled hill. It’s a bit unexpected, and at the intersection of the two parks. I wonder how many other parkruns go through multiple parks? There are a few I think, it must make things a bit trickier with permissions and admin, but it all went smoothly here. I don’t know absolutely for certain, but this is probably the steepest cobbled street in the UK and the one used for the Hovis ads.

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Hovis Hill was free of people delivering bread today, and instead populated entirely by parkrunners, some posing some panting some pacing some in the intersection of a venn diagram and doing all these things simultaneously.

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I was quite relieved to have to make no pretence at running. It was nice to take it all in, and to see the path named after Fred Perry signposted through. Fred Perry Way is a 14 mile walking route which spans the borough from Woodford in the south to Reddish in the north. The route combines rural footpaths, quiet lanes and river valleys with urban landscapes and parklands. Sounds very nice actually. Disappointingly however, Fred Perry has nothing to do with PERRY HALL parkrun, but rather ‘Fred Perry is one of Stockport’s most famous sons and was born in Portwood in 1909. He won the men’s singles at Wimbledon in 1934, 1935 and 1936. He was the last English men’s tennis player to win the title. Fred Perry was also a member of Britain’s winning Davis Cup team from 1933 to 1936. He was made a freeman of Stockport in 1934‘ So now you know.

I enjoyed the first lap, and took the opportunity to talk to some of the marshals going round. One admired my sticks and we shared some stories of our experiences as parkwalkers through circumstance. It was a relief really, to talk to someone who gets it. Who recommended a virtual 5k through a group where you don’t have to do the 5k all in one go if that’s too hard. Also, we shared the guilty secret, that it would be really lovely to be able to participate without angst at any parkrun rather than have to default to volunteering in order to be welcome as a walker. I feel very conflicted. parkrun is really important to me, or has been at any rate. I don’t want my honesty about my parkwalk experiences to deter anyone from coming. What we need is more walkers, not fewer. I really believe a critical mass of walkers would make for a better event for everyone. Better atmosphere, a bigger pool of participants and therefore volunteers that might help things pick up again. Post covid numbers are down and often getting volunteers nears mission critical! Talking to someone else who gets that is ok. I’ve felt quite stung recently when I’ve mentioned some parkruns aren’t accessible to me because of the terrain and told ‘oh well just come and volunteer’ but I volunteer all the time, I want to be able to join in and complete a parkrun without judgement too. Volunteering is great, and I’m happy to do it, but want to enjoy parkrun as a parkwalker as well. I think parkwalkers are a long way off having ‘the same experience’ as other participants, though I hope that once all the critical voices are flushed out, the apparent resolve of parkrun to make walking at parkrun truly acceptable will come good. I can but hope. I’m still in bracing myself before a parkrun mode at present, but I hope this time too will pass. Meantime, Woodbank was very fine.

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One thing that was exceedingly impressive about these particular high vis heroes, was the high number of them who were accessorised in some way. So we had tamborines with jingly bells, a sound system and a cow bell giving good service as well as the cheery shout outs and clapping on the way round. Good job.

Oh, and here I am at the finish – though still with another lap to go. I liked seeing the buzz of the faster parkrunners finishing. It can be a bit like the deck of the Mary Celeste by the time I make it round to the finish at some parkruns these days. Only with less sea water (unless it’s a seaside parkrun) and less rigging (unless they have a particularly ambitious finish funnel – see Bushy parkrun). Here are some random photos by way of illustration, and also to provide a photodump of shots I want to include but don’t know quite wear to shove them (no, don’t tell me, I can work it out for myself).

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Just after I passed the finish for the first time, the tail walking team caught up with me. |I did have a bit of a wobble at this point, as a departing parkrunner shouted out to the tail walkers with a definite tone of incredulity ‘so you’ve got another WHOLE lap still to go, a WHOLE lap?’ That was a rough moment. I wondered if I should offer to finish at that point, but stayed quiet. It’s just another example of people being thoughtless, I am slow, and acutely aware of not being regarded by some as a ‘proper’ parkrunner, whatever that is. I doubt she gave a moment’s thought to how I might feel hearing that. The person the tail walkers had been accompanying had dropped out after one lap. I noticed she like me had been walking with a stick. I hope she wasn’t feeling hurried and that she gets to complete a full 5k before too much longer assuming that is her goal. I have found rehab to be really hard and more than a tad dispiriting so I feel for those maybe at a different stage on that path, I felt for me too. Was it ok to be taking so long? The tail walkers reassured me there was no hurry and they were just establishing who was the final participant, but psychologically, I did start to feel the pressure a lot more at this point. I tried to speed up a bit, with mixed success. A bit further on, good news, a faster parkrunner who had finished (literally) flying round, came to keep me company for a bit. He’s done this previously at other parkruns and is a patient, non- pressurising parkrun buddy, for which I am grateful. I was a bit miserable at this point as feeling the pain, so it was good to be distracted. Also, he facilitated some selfies with marshals, always a win AND, he had picked up a celebratory cup cake. This is THE BEST idea I’ve seen EVER for someone wanting to share their 100th different parkrun celebrations. What he did, was make 100 different cakes, and give each one its own label corresponding to each of the different parkruns he’s completed. This is clearly genius, and ought to become a thing at every parkrun across the world. You can always stick the flags in grapes if you want a healthier option, or even just give out the flags, because flags are fun are they not?

What’s more, in a very pleasing moment of either fate or chance depending on your point of view, this Burbage parkrunner just by pure happenstance picked the cake that was labelled for Burbage! I know, how very brilliant is that. In an act of selfless charity, he donated it to one of the marshals who was happy to have the sustenance to keep him fuelled until the tailwalker came back around. They had been right behind me, but delayed by course dismantling en route. It was good to have some non judgemental walk and talk company for the final kilometre.

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‘Suddenly’ it was back to the finish where a jolly funnel full of volunteers and many a parkrunner were still very much present. And there was my Burbage voluntourist buddy ready to do her magic with the scanning volunteer app. It got quite emotional thanking all the volunteers at the end!

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And that was that, timed in, barcode scanned and Woodbank parkrun done.

There was a certain amount of parkfaffery, but low key. Mandatory photo posing, oh, and I acquired a parkrun magazine which is VERY EXCITING there was a box available for people to help themselves, and someone picked one up for me. Thank you Team Burrelli! People were dispersing to different cafes and I wasn’t feeling great so opted to just head off. Walking back to the car I was able to appreciate the autumn colours a bit more and exiting towards the larger carpark there was one of the moto coffee vans where I got an excellent coffee from a friendly pair serving. Never found the loos though.

The sun shone, turning autumn leaves gold. Not a bad closing image from Woodbank parkrun.

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Thank you Woodbank team for welcoming the Fibonacci number chasers, and thank you RD for being welcoming – I noticed he made a point of personally thanking the voluntourists before departing, which was a nice touch, thank you tail walkers for not piling the pressure on and thank you parkrun buddies for meeting and greeting me and keeping me company on the way round. This is a properly gorgeous parkun venue, with loads of extra things to explore if you allow yourself a bit more time. I have no idea why it’s taken me such a while to seek it out. Well met dear parkrun, well met indeed. 🙂

’til next time then? Happy parkrunning and parkwalking and voluntouring in the meantime.

Best foot forward eh – or least worse one anyway in my case!

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.  Your choice

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Go Random Stranger, Go! Motivating Marathoners, London 2022

Me and my EWFM got to cheer every, single, marathon runner at London this year. Isn’t that grand.

I already knew she was a keeper obvs, an EWFM (Erstwhile Flat Mate) being for life not just for Christmas and all, but just in case you need a bit of triangulation in your evidence base because you consider me too close to the research to retain any objectivity, how many people do you know who would relocate from the North of the Country to London and find a house on the actual route of the London Marathon entirely for your benefit, to enable you to have a more manageable marathon watching experience post illness a few years down the line? Hang on let me guess! Oh, that’s right, none at all! Only me! I have the best EWFM ever. A while ago I was contemplating that, in a dark world, I am grateful for my BFF/EWFM. Something I heard on the radio about the importance and rarity of friendship perhaps struck a chord anyways, it led me to resolve that next time I saw her, I’d make a point of telling her that I feel really lucky to have found such a friendship in my life. Well dear reader, you can just imagine the look on her face when I announced to her on arrival that ‘I really don’t what I was thinking of when I reflect on us becoming friends’. Her look was an absolute picture. I can only assume she feels the same. Another rare and precious memory shared. Lucky us. Isn’t that touching?

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Anyway, fast forward from our first meeting 39 years ago, to this London Marathon weekend 2022.

In an irony wasted on neither of us, our weekend activities revolved entirely around running related rollicking good fun. We were not noticeably running enthusiasts back in the day – unless you count putting on a bit of wiggle to get home in time for early evening neighbours now and again. Oh, and maybe running a bath (not an ice one) from time to time. Yet here we are, four decades on, and it was all about feeling the running love. We’d been to her local Charlton parkrun to join their first birthday celebrations on the Saturday. Did I mention she’d also arranged a birthday party parkrun at Charlton and ordered in a new pale blue parkwalk high vis especially for me too? No? Well she did. Like I said, a rare and precious find indeed. Also, whilst on the subject of extraordinary things, finally a parkrun high vis that I can fit into, hurrah for all the good things happening! This clothing option might even be borderline flattering, though to be fair, I’ve cheated a bit by having my best side photographed and distracting your gaze with a helium balloon. This are just tricks of the trade I’ve picked up in my film and tv career. Works for me. Look on in wonder and learn.

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Yes, I parkwalked, I know. I only said ‘running related‘ I didn’t commit to us actually running anywhere. I can’t at the minute anyway as perhaps you know dear reader, but I can dream and enjoy celebrating the running aspirations and achievements of others. In further running related activity-ness we may also have done some sofa sitting and extensive planning to ensure our marathon watching experience would be optimal. In preparation for the 42,000 odd people who’d be trailing past her front door on London Marathon day on Sunday. It was going to be amazing. To clarify and to be fair, they may not all have been completely odd, but a fair proportion must be to embark on a marathon at all. This is not a bad thing, au contraire, individuality is what makes people interesting and there were certainly some classic individuals pounding the London streets this marathon day. It lifts the heart to see them.

We would cheer each and every one.

Clearly, we needed to tool up. Cheering ‘each and every one’ is fine in theory, but requires some planning. This was after all a marathon not a sprint, we couldn’t just rock up unprepared and expect to be able to maintain our energy and focus without some forward planning. For starters, to achieve this aim in practise we obviously required some generic signs, but then we would also need some person specific ones for particular friends we’d said we’d be looking out for. It was only fair they looked out for us too, but we recognised they might need a bit of help in spotting us. Fortuitously, the nice people at the London Marathon had put the 4 mile marker pretty much directly outside our house. Well, my EWFM’s house, and my residence for the weekend. Hurrah! Disappointingly, it wasn’t an actual arch across the road with balloons as in previous years, but it was still definitely a mile marker, shouldn’t be too hard to spot. And the four mile marker is early enough in the event that passing marathoners hopefully wouldn’t yet be bleeding from the eyes so much they could no longer make out any details smaller than Tower Bridge. It would be grand. We’d be to the left of it, high up, looking down on the road from some railings. We could make this work.

Saturday afternoon became an extended craft activity. Granted, I did take on more of a hands off supervisory role at times, because my EWFM has patience, a creative talent and an eye for the aesthetic, well, two eyes to be fair. I mainly did sticking things down, being trusted to go outside with an aerosol of glue where there was better ventilation and a reduced possibility of me sticking random household items together never again to be parted. I also did some colouring in of letters with a marker pen AND some drawing round the stuck out letters so they stuck out more. So pretty busy in fact. Oh, and I also did google some sign ideas and show some enthusiasm, which I think we can all agree is also tremendously important, helps to keep teams motivated. Besides, giving a creative genius the necessary space to do their thing was actually exceedingly insightful of me. I was not only a motivator but enabler too. The signs would have been nothing without me. Sign building was a great activity as it provided a cover for us basically sitting about and drinking industrial quantities of tea, which are two of my favourite things. Doing so in the company of my EWFM not seen in too many months being the icing on the actual cake, and we may have had some of that too. All needs catered for.

Look at the sign making factory though – you have to grant we did good!

Gin? I see no gin. It’s just a decorative bottle.

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Like I said, I was mainly supervising. Quality control, that sort of busy and importantness. Also, I was extremely good at keeping out of the way*. As a wise old woman once said: ‘I be old, and I be wise, and it isn’t helpful unless you are helping‘. Wise she was indeed!

So sign wise, we had the generic ‘go stranger, go!’; person specific ‘go Mark, go’; because we were cheering someone called Mark; person specific ‘go Arif, go’; because were also cheering someone called Arif (I know, spooky telepathic communication if you guessed that already) and generic ‘You run better than the government’; (made us laugh) another ‘Only 7 1/2 parkruns to go!’ (too cruel as well as not mathematically completely accurate?) and last but not least a huge ‘Hello Mum’ sign. Well, if we did make it onto the telly, it would be too good an opportunity to miss. Any besides, somebody’s mum would be running out there and might think it was for them, and that would be grand too.

We didn’t stop at the signs though. Oh nosy no. We also had excellent noise making things. I had come tooled up. Having acquired a football rattle from my gifted neighbour over the road in Sheffield. He actually made it himself, as a noise-creating asset to contribute to the ‘clap for carers’ during the pandemic. Do you remember that? When we clapped NHS and other staff so they wouldn’t notice the daily trauma of being trapped in PPE and feeling helpless as they worked long shifts trying to support desperately ill people who were unable to see loved ones and not being paid properly and parties at number 10? He made it back then. There’s not a lot of cheering and clapping going on for such front line workers anymore, but ill wind and all that, it meant I got free rein with a bespoke football rattle to cheer random strangers at the London Marathon, so I hope the crumbling NHS structures and the exhausted people working in the caring professions will take comfort in that. Vain hope is still hope after all. Apparently.

Nice rattle though, and some castanets too.

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Oh, and I took Geronimo too. She is actually a marathon veteran, having accompanied me round in 2018, it seemed fitting to have her helping to secure our position. You will see that EWFM brought led lit tambourines to the party, as well as string for sign securing purposes, we had this nailed!

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Morning came, and out we went to set our pitch. It was very exciting, and we had all the things. AND we found we had inadvertently, but perhaps not completely unsurprisingly, put on matchy matchy outfits. Contra bottom layer and personalise apricot tees with ‘parkrun is for life, not just for Christmas’, which it is, just as is an EWFM. Great minds eh? Also, we figured the apricot would catch the eye of fellow parkrunners, we’d be a parkrun cheer station all of our own. It is only fitting. Much of my training for cheering fellow runners has come from unrestrained clapping and vocal supporting of parkrunners at junior parkrun as well as 5k events. We were just taking that transferable skill to a new context. We’d nail it. I should point out that EWFM has cheered at the London marathon at this very spot before, so particularly experienced on this count, but then again, I’ve been cheered at by her at this very point, so we could identify the best cheering techniques from all possible angles. Ethnographic research of the highest order.

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And it was that attention to detail that saw us present as below. Not gonna lie, we were pretty proud of ourselves, and I think you can agree rightly so!

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We were out in good time as we wanted to see all the elites and wheelchair races too. A neighbour came to join us, and neighbourly exchanges were made regarding it being a good spot to cheer from and expressing disappointment re the lack of an actual arch. Also, naturally, we commented on the weather. The forecast had been for a LOT of rain, but in fact it seemed to be pretty much perfect running conditions. Early drizzle had passed and it was a bit cloudy and a bit on the cool side, but basically dry, with roads swept clean by over night rain. Not gonna lie, I had a bit of running envy if I’m honest. I am pleased for them all, truly I am, but so wish I could be joining the throng.

Undeterred, we started to practice our cheering and whooping and enthusiastic and energetic support of anything passing us that moved. I rather regret being too confused to properly whoop a pair of runners on the far side of the road, who I realised with the benefit of hindsight were probably doing their virtual London marathon on the actual route before it started. Good call. Some vehicles and out riders breezing by were far too cool to react to our frantic displays. I wonder if this is what male paradise birds feel like when prospective mates just ignore their efforts? Probably. It’s certainly crushing. Never mind, it isn’t the people that ignored us that mattered, it was those who engaged. Particularly this purple jacketed cycling guy. Who pulled up at the Mile 4 marker and appreciated our efforts enough to have an actual chit chat. What’s more – get this – he’s an actual parkrunner too, so officially awesome every parkrun day as well as today when presumably he was holding out bottles for his nominated elite runner to grab without breaking stride. I think for now he was just checking his runner was ok, as he waited for them to come through, then cycled on, other purple clad cyclists taking his place. Sort of circle of live for TCS London Marathon fluid and nutrition team. Not that he’s actually dead as such, just moved on to his next spot, with another cyclist taking his place for their runner and so it continues. Isn’t he jolly though! Great ambassador for the event. No, he isn’t facing the wrong way, just looking out for his runner. I think he’s done this before.

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This isn’t a role I’d particularly noticed before, but you know how Eliud Kipchoge just broke the world marathon record in Berlin the other week? Well he did, but his efforts were aided by his water bottle handler Claus-Henning Schulke. Someone has put together a video sequence of the handovers, and they are indeed heart warming as well as impressive. The way he punches the air and shoots off on his bike after every successful transfer is just brilliant to see! What a hero!

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We felt the same elation every time our efforts to cheer participants was rewarded. Yep, we were angling to get on the telly too, but to no avail, the elite participants are way too focused to take anything in beyond the road in front. Still amazing to watch though. To be so close to elite athletes is really something, you get a sense of what the human body is capable of. Looking at the wheelchair athletes made me a bit ashamed of how incapacitated I am by my feet and legs at the moment. Also, it was quite tiring just spinning the football rattle for a bit, I can’t imagine propelling a wheelchair with my weight in it for all those miles. There is a reason why the London marathon stirs such strong emotions. It is a cliche I know, but it’s true nevertheless that this is a truly inspirational sight. Every person out there has a story. You don’t need to know them all, just recognise they are valid. Each participant has a different goal, for some just getting to the start line is an achievement, let alone the finish. I celebrate them all.

Meantime, we celebrated the outriders tampering with setting the digital timing thingy before the mass start. I got quite confused by this as the women and wheelchair riders had already been through, and then it occurred to me that at that level they probably aren’t relying on what a digital clock says at each mile marker, probably have a helping hand from pacing teams, as well as their own gps. I wonder if they also feel ‘if it ain’t on strava it didn’t happen’. I imagine so. Did anybody ever to go out running at all before that? Probably not, what would be the point. Couldn’t even really draw rude dinosaur strava art for the world to see on your run routes! Hardly worth leaving the house for.

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Elites out of the way, we could focus on tracking the app for people we knew, and for people others in the crowd new. Because we were high up we had a pretty good success rate in seeing those we hoped to. Unfortunately, despite our amazing signs, some were so in the zone they inexplicably failed to see us. Gutted! Also, turns out, when you are cheering and sign waving and everything it’s actually really hard to take photos too, but we had the interaction and that’s more important. So exciting when you do see someone. Yay to those we saw and screamed at. That was super fun.

We are also listeners to the unofficial parkrun podcast With Me Now, and very excitingly, did spot a fully merched fellow listener among the throng, we screamed and screamed but to no avail, oh well, these things happen. Fortunately though, but this point, we’d been joined by another WMN supporter (it’s not a cult, definitely not) who’d come with her family to share the vantage point and the fun, so she snapped a pic, and shared the moment too. All good. Plus, she takes the best selfies. Action shot of all of us and in focus and relatively flattering too. What a star. Geronimo was fading a bit, but it’s hard being a giraffe tied to some railings, so understandable in the circumstances I suppose.

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It was a bit frustrating to only realise after the event that there were some other participants I knew from parkrun, but didn’t realise they were running this year, check out Endcliffe parkruns very own cardiac runner, fab official photo there. Oh well. Always next year.

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Once those we actually knew had passed by with varying amounts of interaction, and no actual lingering for pictures, we could relax into more random supporting. This was great. The best tactic was to call names when they were on people’s numbers and avoid anyone wearing ear phones as they couldn’t hear anyway. My favourite thing was when some really got into that shared experience, more than one punched their chest with a ‘yes, I am a random stranger, I get that you are cheering for me‘ and that was BRILLIANT! We don’t get enough opportunity as adults to actually play, and for me cheering at a junior parkrun or here at the London marathon you are basically doing that. Making new friends through a shared experience, and it was just pure, innocent joy. All that is good in the world.

We also realised that you could repurpose the signs with names on if there were other Marks and Arifs around and there were! Though the Arif passed too quickly, and our reflexes weren’t all that on it for the Marks but we had fun trying to attract their attention. We are exceedingly good at making our own entertainment. It is a handy shared trait. Shouting at the pacers was a good shout too, literally as well as figuratively. I think on the whole pacers are running at a slower rate than they usually would so they are comfortable in the times and able to take it all in. We saved extra loud cheers for the 7hour plus pacers of which we saw a couple, though very confusingly one seemed to be amongst 4 hour flags. I know they start in three different lines and then merge, but even so, they must have had an earlier start for some reason.

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Also a source of entertainment and excellence were of course the myriad of fancy dress runners and record breaking attempt runners. A personal favourite though was the post box man who’d updated his pillar box with the new King Charles Cypher, I appreciate that attention to detail. Love a good bit of street furniture, and post boxes are especially brilliant for their cyphers. He was carrying a banana as he passed us, and still seemed to be carrying one at the end. I am left wondering if he couldn’t reach his arms up past his costume close enough to his mouth to eat it, never mind though, he got his picture on the telly and this blog post too, that has to be winning at life surely?

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Well done to the unicorn with the fastest time, though – don’t tell anyone – I think that’s a bit of a creepy unicorn. I prefer my unicorns a bit cuddlier, and less bipedal. But all the same, good job. Talking of cuddly things that you probably really oughtn’t to cuddle, did you know that as well as the London Marathon this week, it’s Fat Bear Week! I know! What a thought!

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As a slower runner and now a slow walker too, I was keen to stay out to cheer as many marathoners as possible. Eventually the field thinned out to but a trickle, I stayed for the firefighter who was walking it in full kit. Looking strong at the 4 mile stage, but way behind the others. It can be lonely out there. Was glad he made it. Some ahead of him were already struggling a bit. A few injured, some perhaps undertrained having underestimated the challenge, but mostly smiles, amazement and delight as participants streamed by.

This is determination though. Respect. Well earned medals – and the medals this year are outstanding. Best I’ve ever seen, and I know my bling, well worth all that running around for! Not just at the event, but in training for it too.

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After the firefighter, I couldn’t see anyone else, although the sweeper hadn’t yet been through so perhaps there were some. I felt a bit guilty not being out their for them, but with the lack of the external stimulus of a crowd of runners to cheer, I suddenly became aware I was in quite a bit of pain from standing for so long, even though I’d tried as much as possible to stand on just one leg to avoid stressing my sesamoids on my poorly foot. The upshot though was my other leg, the DVT one was protesting massively, and coming over all peculiar. I belong to a rather alarming American hosted DVT support group page, I try to disregard the spam sellers of snake oil panaceas – and not only because I’m vegetarian – and the alarmist ‘we are all going to die’ because of course we are, that’s what happens, unless you are an actual vampire, and that’s unlikely – and then you do get the occasional insight. One poster said they get this weird numbness, tingling, dead leg thing too, and call it ‘the crawlies‘ which made me feel a bit better, as that is quite an accurate word for what it feels like, and it made me feel less of a freak knowing someone else out there has it too. Anyways, as my body was disintegrating around me, and my arm hurt from football rattling and I needed not just a pee but a proper cup of tea, we agreed it was time to retreat inside and watch the coverage on the telly. That was great. Once again, running related activity, and all from the comfort of a sofa. #winningatathleticlife

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From the coverage, which was great, although also mind boggling as it slowly dawned on me watching participants we cheered by crossing through the finish arch many hours later, just how long some had been out there for. We also came to realise we had missed the guy who led the marathon briefly at the start. Give the man a medal! Oh wait, I think they did!

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The London Marathon is a marathon, not a sprint – obviously – but Richard Lee-Wright seemingly didn’t get the memo. As the race began yesterday (Sunday 2 October) the 38-year-old, from Devon, legged it out to the front of the pack, surging past the top athletes and punching the air in his luminous socks. Of course, he couldn’t keep that pace going the entire race, but it made the nation smile and his mission was accomplished.’

Truly magnificent, what a way to nab your 15 minutes of fame! To be honest, no mean feat either, those elite runners are not exactly slacking on the way round. Great job, smacks of Run Fatboy Run! Which I recall as being a highly watchable film, though always a bit hesitant recommending any film in case I’ve misrememebered stuff. I’ve still not got over the embarrassment of taking some American visitors to see a panto whilst they were in the UK. I don’t like panto really, but felt it was quintessentially British, and something they should see as they were here over Christmas. I’d forewarned them about the cross dressing, pantomime Dames, singalongs, audience participation ‘Oh yes I had!’ but somehow, as the curtain rose on a production of Aladdin, recalled to my horror and theirs, I’d forgotten the casual racist stereotyping as Wishy Washy’s laundry opened for business. Uh oh. Shudder at the very thought.

So that was that really, just one final observation. The TV coverage included a bit about the mini marathons for junior runners that had taken place the day before. Leaving aside the little detail that one of the winners in his age group taking part in this event which is very much a race and not a run was a Graves junior parkrunner from Sheffield. Isn’t that cool. A noticeably good runner, hurrah for him..

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That’s great and all, but my absolutely favourite participant in the whole weekend of marathoning was the little girl interviewed about taking part in the mini marathon who said – with a wisdom beyond her years in my opinion – ‘I don’t really like running, but I just really, really want a medal’ This is how ultrarunners start out. She’ll be grand.

🙂

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And then it was done.

Learning points from today, having an EWFM living on the route of the London Marathon is a boon. Having 42,000 marathon runners pass you by whilst you cheer them on is a great distraction from pain. Drinking tea is always a win. A good day. I thank you. Same time next year? Well now actually, because we don’t have to wait that long any more, just 200 days to go (less by now) as London will be back in April 2023. Oh wow. Time will fly. It’s going to be emotional.

Thanks for joining me for the run and the read. A marathon not a sprint on all counts. And this was certainly the cheeriest of days in a long while. We all need that. I wish you good cheer and good cheer squads in your running related adventures too.

’til next time.

*mostly

Categories: marathon | Tags: | 5 Comments

Coming of age at Champion Charlton parkrun. Number One parkrun today!

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When I was one I had just begun” said someone. For Champion Charlton parkrun that may well be true. Not that they haven’t already achieved muchly greatness, but only that there is soooooooooooooo very much more to still to come. Adventures and joy pending. SO EXCITING. This weekend was their First Birthday and they were having a parkrun party, isn’t that grand. They do seem very established, so ‘just begun’ might seem churlish to Charlton, but I think the opposite, it speaks of a long and glorious future ahead. Super-charged and charming Charlton has eons still to go. This is but the beginning indeed, and a very fine one it was too.

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Oh and today was also International parkrun day, that is the anniversary of that first Bushy park time trial 18 years ago, where parkrun all began. Always about the coffee, with the parkrun pioneers doing their 5k before a debut parkfaff with coffee and chat. In a way, it’s quite nice that the International parkrun day is less of a thing, because it speaks volumes of how local events consider their own birthday the more significant event, that’s how it should be if it is a community initiative. All the same, I do recommend getting to Bushy parkrun for their birthday bash one day, it’s quite a big deal. I was there for the 15th celebrations and it was epic indeed. Mum got her ‘Spirit of parkrun’ award, and it is one of her most precious and prized possessions, that she has promised to pass on to me one day.

This weekend, was all about Charlton parkrun though, because now they are one, and all is splendid. The theme was blue, which may have been serendipity (it has been proposed that each birthday should have a colour theme, saves making complex last minute fancy dress theme calls, and they just happened to choose blue) but how apt! This was also the weekend of the launch of parkwalk, and with it lovely new powder blue high vis for the parkwalk teams, it was truly meant to be!

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Let’s start at the very beginning though, it’s a very good place to start.

I’ll get the depressing bit out of the way first. I wasn’t going to include it, as up until now I’ve determined to only stress positive things in my blog, but I’ve struggled to write this post because of how under siege I’ve felt lately as a walker at parkrun, and maybe I owe it to myself and others in a similar boat to come clean about that. You can always skip this bit, and jump ahead to the joyful birthday bit. But it is set against a context of less cheery stuff. Your call though dear reader, your call indeed.

The gloomy bit:

I didn’t make it to parkrun last week. Maybe we both needed a bit of time to let things settle. It’s been a bit complicated lately, this relationship between parkrun and me. It was/is so important to me, not the running as such, but the being included in a local community bit, and the a national and even global one. Ironically lock down meant local connections became less important than online connections. Since I’ve developed health issues and can only walk quite slowly I’ve not always felt included or welcome at parkruns. I don’t think people mean to be hostile – notable exception the event director who took to social media to proclaim his opposition to the parkwalk initiative, wowsers, that was toxic – but it doesn’t always feel welcoming. I’ve come home from many a parkrun in tears of late, and the negativity of some Facebook groups is beyond my comprehension, don’t read below the line is sound advice. I need to follow it. I didn’t though, I don’t normally name people in my blog, but let’s just say the Event Director who commented very negatively about people walking at parkrun ruining the event and causing an exodus of volunteers. It triggered a spew of vitriol and trolling about how awful walkers are and how ruinous parkwalk is. It made me freeze to read it. Check out the thread only better not to really, it’s so depressing. Posters are all for inclusion apparently, as long as it only includes them.

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I don’t understand the venom some parkrun participants spit out at walkers. As if we are some sort of alien being. More walkers won’t impact negatively on the event, it’s more people to bring atmosphere, to be volunteers to build the community. We aren’t a different species, many of us have been supporting parkrun volunteering and sharing the love over many years. But even without volunteering, why would others begrudge people the opportunity to join in, when those of us who are not currently able to run, and/or maybe never will, need safe spaces in which to be active more than anyone. It’s really sad. Some posted saying the comments had put them off trying parkrun for the first time, and it’s not hard to see why. I truly don’t get the rhetoric around ‘poor volunteers having to wait’ volunteering can be an absolute joy. Yep, in the cold with not much going on it’s more challenging, but more walkers would keep the atmosphere going, and thermals exist for a reason. And as post parkrun parkfaff is always a boon, many in the parkrun community choose to linger long after events have concluded anyway. I wonder if those who spout all this stuff about walkers somehow ruining parkrun would look me in the eye and tell me I’m unwelcome at their event. Maybe they would. In any event, I’ll be giving Sewerby parkrun a wide berth for now, it takes courage enough to turn up at an event these days, without risking attending one where you know in advance you would not be welcome. For the record though, you know what, I’ll ask. …

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Although the tragedy is, maybe they don’t have to, I can read their vibes a mile off. It’s not so much his comment, it’s the 81 loves and likes. It does make me think I’m hated whenever I rock up at a parkrun these days, it’s horrible. How can joining in a parkrun as a walker provoke such outrage? I nearly died last year, and honestly, spent many, many months wishing I had. Slowly re-engaging with parkrun has been critical to my recovery and reconnection with other people. I hope they never live with the daily pain and mobility challenges I do, but I do wish they’d just pause and think for a minute about how hard that is, how lonely and isolating pain can be and how their behaviours make all of that so much worse, when instead they could make things better just by tolerating someone walking at their local parkrun. It’s not a big ask. Not even ‘be nice‘ just ‘don’t be vile‘. Do nothing, don’t actively express hatred for walkers. Is that so very hard? Stupid question, apparently so. Oh well, maybe they have their own demons chasing them down. It’s hard not to really hope so. Anyway, they won last week. I couldn’t face parkrun, I was worried about being hated and humiliated by the invisible minority who would wish me away. I hate letting the bullies win, but I just don’t have any fight left in me some days. I was in a lot of pain anyway, and besides, I had leaky pipes. Not a euphemism, but an actual thing. A leak from the bathroom through the kitchen ceiling, oh, and my physio had advised me to rest the foot for a bit just to let things settle. Basically all the planets converged to keep me away last week. It was a sad day. I hate missing a parkrun. Then again, my day wasn’t as bad as that of the builder’s mate, who stuck his head through a hole in the ceiling to check out where exactly the leak was coming from and got a face first drenching with loo water as a pipe detached. Remember that next time you think you are having a sh#t day, things often do have the potential to get a whole lot worse. This guy cheerfully emerged from his hole, with his saturated t-shirt dripping on the plastic protective sheet that had mercifully been laid out in preparation, all smiles, pronouncing he’d been covered with worse things in his time and only the day before nearly got run over working on a job. Lawks a lordy, puts things in perspective. If he can cope with a facefull of toilet water, I can rise above a bit of online trolling.

Mind you, worst day at work ever prize goes to a former colleague of mine who worked as a research scientist at one point. She was using a glass centrifuge which shattered, spraying radioactive particles over her, resulting in her having to strip naked and decontaminate using one of the showers for that purpose in a corridor. That truly would be a bad day in the office, it’s all about perspective. Oh and her car had broken down on the way to work. Mind you, contributory negligence, she should have just gone back to bed and not forked out for a taxi to get in. Such diligence is commendable, but poorly rewarded. parkrun is totally going to be a walk in the park by comparison, Charlton parkrun being a case in point!

parkwalk, here we come!

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Back to the parkrun positivity and Charlton Cheer! You are safe to read on from this point forward! 🙂

First birthday party. My Best Friend’s local parkrun. We were going to make a weekend of it, I’d tourist at her local, and we’d get to cheer marathon runners from outside her house on the Sunday, what’s not to like. A blue theme for the event. Hmm. Where to start?

Well, fortuitously with parkrun related contra merch, because they had a sale on for a blue sunrise tee. That was an easy impulse buy in advance of the event. One for each of us at knockdown rates so we could be matchy matchy, Charlton parkrun themed and keep parkrun free, for everyone, for ever. I will ignore the implications of seeing an actual sunrise that is blue, I’m not convinced a completely blue sky at dawn would be the best of signs. Fortunately, blue is also a flattering colour, and complements the new parkwalk high vis, all the planets were aligning to make sure this was going to be the most awesome of days. parkrun days almost always are, it’s just that some parkrun days are more awesome than others.

But wait, there’s more! As it was her local parkrun, and parkwalk was launching, and it was their first birthday too, she’d prepped up by getting us on the volunteer rota to help with decorations – which is a sneaky win for a ‘course set up’ volunteering credit and I would get to parkwalk with the brand new high viz. I was properly chuffed to be honoured with sporting it on its debut appearance. I was even more chuffed to discover this is a high vis that erm, let’s go with ‘accommodates’ my assets. Almost flattering, another win! We also sourced cake to bring along – she said butterfly buns, but they seemed more fairy cake ish to me, or rather a sort of hybrid of sorts. There was also bunting for decorative purposes, what more could we wish for?

As my walking is sub optimal and stamina limited, when the morning dawned we drove to the park. It really wasn’t far, but it was further than I would have been able to manage with doing a parkrun 5k as well. There is a little car park in Charlton park, and as we pulled in, we could see some of the core team already very much in set up mode.

Oh wait, I should probably be telling you a wee bit more about this course, hang on. The website blah de blah tells us that:

‘The event takes place at Charlton Park, Charlton Park Lane, London, SE7 8HY’ and the course description understates it as ‘A flat three-lap course on a mixture of grass and path round the perimeter of Charlton Park starting adjacent near the skate park.’

It looks like this on the course map:

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Which still doesn’t seem to properly do the venue justice! The location might not mean anything to you if you aren’t local, but check out the proximity to the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery (presumably actually the Queen’s troop until quite recently) and the associated splendid buildings. The park, rather delightfully is fittingly marked as ‘grand estate for recreational purposes.’ And check out Charlton House and Gardens, this is basically Greenwich, with all its associated splendour and spectacularousness! Yes, that is a word, I think I may have just invented it.

The point is that the park is properly lovely! Grand indeed! Despite the cruelly dry summer, recent rain had greened it all up, and with the morning light and the cheery Charlton volunteers resplendent in high vis and even balloonery in evidence it was all looking most festive.

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Not gonna lie, it being my besties local, she was probably rather more helpful than me when it came to doing course set up, but I choose to believe that without my supervision she’d never have managed to wrangle those evasive banners and attach them to trees with such success. I was also exceedingly game for accessorising our fabulous high viz and that all surely contributed to the party atmosphere. Oh, and I captured a spontaneous reunion of parkrun friends. Touching isn’t it?

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Others were busy bringing cake (thank you lovely vegan runner); writing birthday messages on white boards and displaying the AMAZING bespoke selfie frame which is surely in a league of it’s own in terms of magnificentness. (New word of the day, number two, Sesame Street has nothing on me). Number of the day? Well the number one, obvs. Number one birthday, number one parkrun…

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Number 1! Number 1 is a leader, coming before all the other numbers, helping you get to numbers like 2, 3, 4, and 5! There may not have been a dancing elephant to celebrate year number one achieved at Charlton parkrun, but there were balloons; cake; the debut appearance of an actual blue tail besported by the actual tail walker, (which was looking especially fine in silhouette if I may say so) and some party hats! All the things! A parkrun party indeed!

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In possession of our high vis, I headed over the first timers briefing. This was exceedingly jolly, with an acknowledgement of the extra first timers enticed along not just for the first birthday festivities, but because they are doing a London Marathon thingy tomorrow. All were welcomed warmly. I also, really like the new parkrun card prompts, which give hints of what to cover at the parkwalk and first timers’ welcomes. I always appreciate attention to detail.

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And then next stop the Run Director’s welcome. She did sterling work. Thanking many who had contributed to the set up of the event, and to those who continue to keep the Charlton parkrun show on the road. Lots of people were named, reinforcing the message that it is a community of people who come together to make this happen. Special thanks for the cake maker. Congratulations to milestoners, slight (but acceptable) reluctance to sport a party hat, but then other volunteers had embraced the head accessorising with gusto, so just another manifestation of respecting everybody’s right to participate in their own way. All good! There was also special thanks to those who’d arranged for the bespoke selfie sign, designed and made in time for the first birthday event – which is properly amazing and references Charlton House, a visible and impressive landmark visible from the course. Very well received indeed.

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Then it was off to the start and off for a run not a race and for the tailwalker and parkwalkers a walk not a run!

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parkrun party at the back

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One boon of being at the back is you get the glorious sight of the other participants streaming off at the beginning. It gets me every time. It’s an emotional sight. Look at them go! Quite a turn out eh? That’s the enticement of both cake and getting to run the streets of London. Check out that park though, a fine recreactional space indeed!. You’ll see Charlton House in one direction too, and lovely mature trees with a hint of autumn hues. Reet nice, as we say up norf!

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And off we went. I was at the back with the tail walker. The parkwalker role is new, and there was some discussion about what it ‘ought’ to be. The bottom line is that it’s for raising the visibility of walkers and making walking seem an acceptable option. After months of feeling a burden to parkrun and useless other than as a report writing or marshalling volunteer, it was nice to actually don a high vis for a purpose. If I have to walk anyway, I may as well fly the proverbial flag for walking. Speed walkers are great too, but I can certainly be on the poster for rehab walking as a parkwalk option. It’s of course true there is a need for parkwalkers ahead of the tail too, to fill that awkward lag there can be between the back of the bulk of parkrun participants and the tail, the run equivalent of an embarrassing silence; but the really important thing is to put the message out that walking is ok – whatever you may have seen on Facebook…

Officially though, the role of tailwalker is:

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So now we know.

parkrun is always splendid of course. But extra splendour today because we were joined at the last minute, right at the back of the pack, by two first timers. They’d actually been heading out for a general walk, not parkrun at all, but got chatting, one mentioned to the other they’d registered for parkrun a year ago when Charlton first started but never gone because, well you know, the notion of a run is scary – and through talking remembered seeing stuff about parkwalk, and thought ‘what the hell’ and just turned back, and came right round just as the Run Director called ‘go’ and decided to join in. This was beyond brilliant. A really tangible outcome of the parkwalk initiative. The pair of them walked and talked, and were occasionally shepherded back on the route when their concentration lapped and they were in danger of walking straight out of the park. It kept us alert anyway. It’s harder than you think, walking around a park! Fortuitously there were cheery Charlton marshals acing directional pointing as well as motivational clapping to see us safely – and accurately – on our way! I gathered there is at least one celebrity marshal who has her own corner, cheering each and every runner on every single lap with unwavering enthusiasm, what a star. In explicably not captured in the photos, but definitely captured in my heart!

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The beauty of a multi-lap course, is that you get the camaraderie of other parkrunners supporting and greeting you as they pass. All were encouraging, and the marshals patient and in good cheer. The sun shone, endorphins flowed, the park looked lovely. All good. After a bit a friend who had already finished came back to join us for our final lap which was very companionable. The event photographer snapped one of my favourite ever parkrun photos, hurrah!

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Three Amigos! Because parkwalk buddies are the best! Fact! #walkingatparkrun

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I thought it would be good to get a shot with our backs with the tailwalker tail and moniker and the parkwalk moniker too, so we walked backwards to enable this – before someone helpfully observed he’d have been able to do that after we passed him and walked away anyway! Oh. Well, I don’t claim to be a photographer, I could hardly have been expected to have such specialise knowledge! He’d already pulled off this tour de force a couple of times at this event already. Who knew? Thanks photographer Paul, you are the best!

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I know the birthday banners are looking a bit battered, but don’t worry they were repurposed later in the day and did good service accessorizing our banners motivating marathon runners the following day. Gotta love a repurposed birthday banner.

Finally, after a companionable final lap, and thanking all the marshals en route, it was our turn through the finish.

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The first timers hadn’t brought printed barcodes with them, but had brought mobile phones. With a bit of clever apping and smart phone searching, fellow parkrunners were able to access the relevant barcodes so all got times. This is a big positive of now allowing mobile phone barcodes to be scanned. It also added to, rather than detracted from the social interaction part of the parkrun. People helped and made sure the results were recorded, and that has to be good. You can find a guide to getting your own barcode on your smart phone here, and there is a way to make friends with others so you can access their barcodes too but I’m not honestly sure how that works, having neither a smart phone nor the relevant apps. What I do know, is that apparently parkrun are finally developing an app of their own, I’m sure that will be a feature they’ll have thought of.

The course was pretty much packed away and the funnel dismantled in record time, so we weren’t able to make use of the newly created selfie frame – oh well, next time. However, we were able to pose in front of the actual Charlton House so that’s a start! Sometimes you do just have to make do with sub optimum scenarios without too much fuss, it’s all about being flexible. It is testament to the power of parkrun I was more fixated on the bespoke selfie frame than the actual house. A variation of the ‘if it ain’t on Strava it didn’t happen’ mentality I dare say. Oh well, I’ll just have to make sure I come again some time.

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Next stop was the excellent café. Oh my, this was seriously good value, and I speak as a now northerner. Fab food options, incredibly reasonably priced by super friendly staff who are massively supportive of the parkrun. The proprietor does a lap of parkrun before going to open up apparently, and they were happy to provide a table for cakes and birthday treats. Sat in the near autumn sunshine it was all pretty splendid. No wonder the venue is by royal appointment – even if he wouldn’t be my royal of choice to dine with, I’d probably have gone for Emma the fell pony in truth, given the option.

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And that was that. A fabulous venue and a welcoming team. I was especially impressed at how they’d laid on fine weather despite poor forecasts ahead of time. Time to go home. It was extra nice of my hosting buddy to take the scenic route back, encompassing many of the fine sights in the locality, not least the Kings Troop Royal Artillery barracks, and this was not at all because we were chatting so much with our post parkrun debriefing that she forgot which turning to take to get her home. So that’s good then.

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parkwalk or parkwalt – hopefully but the first of many

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Charlton parkrun, so much more than a run in the park 🙂 Thank you to all who made it so.

It was lovely to be introduced to champion; chilled; chic and cheery Charlton parkrun, cherish it. Even the most churlish and choosy will be charmed by Charlton. Or your money back!

#loveparkrun

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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.  Your choice

Categories: parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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