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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

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

Nine is a magic number! East Park parkrun encompassing all the parkrun magic in one perfect park

Digested read:

parkrun tourism took me to Wolverhampton and East Park parkrun.  Bagsied my final compass point and got to run round their lovely park three times in order to do so.  It has a bandstand!  Job done.

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Undigested read:

First off, see what I did there with the title ….  ‘encompassing’ because it’s the last compass point I needed to get my Running Challenges virtual badge in order to join the compass club and get a little green icon to go on my running profile that no-one else will ever see!  Genius.  Look, well worth touristing for:

compass club

Finally, it’s been a project.  There aren’t all that many compass point named parkruns, and those that are may lose their names in the great renaming of parkruns tide that is passing through parkrun, so the acquisition of the badge might yet be temporary.  Even so, I love the Running Challenges, as it helps choose which parkruns to visit, and because of it I’ve rocked up at far distant (to me from Sheffield) parkruns across the country that I might otherwise never have had cause to visit.  Had I not done so, my parkrun life would have been the poorer for such omissions.

Getting to compass point parkruns has been a bit of a challenge (well, clue is in the name Running Challenges perhaps) but despite that, it turns out that this has been a great more achievable than blooming parkrun bingo.  Honestly I’m on 241 runs and counting for that one, which is Stopwatch Bingo – all you need to do is ‘simply’ Collect all the seconds from 00 to 59 in your finishing times, I’ve been trying to get my last outstanding number – 20 for almost a year I think.  I am becoming embittered in between episodes of zen like calm where I try to pretend to myself I don’t really care, and it will happen when I least expect it. Which is NOT TRUE as it feels as if it will never, ever happen to me.  I should be so lucky eh…  Oh you shouldn’t have got  me started on topic, it doesn’t bring out the best in me.

Back to cheerier news, and happier thoughts, like my experience at East Park parkrun today.  Which was lovely.  Also, it calms me to acknowledge that really, achieving membership of  the compass club is by contrast to the pathetic and fickle idiosyncrasies element of chance which haunts and hinders acquisition of the stopwatch bingo badge, a mere formality.  The Compass Point badge requires attendance at just four parkruns, albeit ones scattered across the known parkrun universe.

I’d already done Southwark parkrun, Northallerton parkrun and Beverley Westwood parkrun, so just the Easterlies that had evaded me until today…  All had been great in their own ways, with both Southward and Northallerton involving props and fancy dress, and Beverley Westwood having the most fun mud course and cows.  What would East Park parkrun bring I wondered.  Up until recently – nine weeks ago to be precise, the nearest Easts were miles away, basically down on the East coast and not realistically doable in a day.  I was really pleased when East Park parkrun came on board, much more achievable as a tourist travelling from Sheffield.  I’ve been wanting to go for a while, but until today, it just never quite fell in to place. However, best things as they say, are worth waiting for, and so today was at last, the day.

Ironically, to get my East, travelling from Sheffield, I headed South West.  Didn’t mind, whatever it takes to get that elusive compass badge eh?  East Park parkrun here I come!  I was joining them for their ninth event. By the way, did you know nine is a magic number of cosmic wonder?  For example:

When you multiply nine by any number and add up the digits of the answer, you get 9.
Examples:
2 × 9 = 18  (1 + 8 = 9)
3 × 9 = 27  (2 + 7 = 9)
9 × 9 = 81  (8 + 1 = 9)
234 × 9 = 2106 (2 + 1 + 0 + 6 = 9)

See, most educational, and fun, there’s other stuff too, but you’ll have to read up about that for yourself as I want to get to the topic in hand, which is my adventures in East Park, not to be confused with South Park, which would have been truly surreal as a parkrun venue I’m guessing, not sure how much running goes on there.  The characters aren’t really built for it are they, I’m not sure their limbs have actual joints, mind you, I’d probably fit in just fine, I’d totally go there if it was an option to do so.

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The event takes place at East Park, Hickman Avenue, Wolverhampton ,WV1 2BS. See Course page for more details.  Oh all right then.  So the course, well, according to the official East Park parkrun website blah de blah it is described as:

Three laps around the perimeter of the park, starting near the Sutherland Road entry to the park near the bandstand and football pitch, and finishing by the bandstand at the centre of the park … Toilets available in the same building as the on-site cafe, free to use, and a children’s play area is close to the finish.t

Not overly complicated, and I like the idea of a bandstand too, that will be nice, not done a parkrun with a bandstand in ages.  Not over keen on three laps bit, but then again, more opportunity to wave at marshals on the way round I suppose.

And it looks like this:

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So it was, I was woken up at stupid o’clock by my alarm, blinking into the darkness.  What was I thinking?  Oh yes, parkrun day.  Up and off.  It was dark, and blustery but compared to wind speeds causing cancellation chaos elsewhere it was relatively benign.  It is a looooooooooong way to Wolverhampton though. Did you know Wolverhampton is a City by the way? I did, but it seems it’s news to some if the launch of the Town of the year’ competition in Wolverhampton is anything to go by… Technically, apparently Wolverhampton is eligible for towns funding if you want to be pedantic about the story, but even so…

Anyway, the cheapskate in me avoided toll roads going – not a bad move as the roads were clear, but it’s a convoluted drive, and I went wrong a couple of times along the way so was glad I’d allowed extra time.  At one point, the road I was planning on taking (A5) I think, was inexplicably closed, completely, with no indication why or any diversion signs.  Oh crappity crap crap.  I noticed the car ahead of me brake and hesitate on seeing this too, before moving on confidently.  I made a split second decision to follow them as they seemed to have a plan.  It turned out to be a good call, i have no idea where I went, and my satnav was furious with me in a passive aggressive way constantly telling me to u-turn when possible, but I ended up seeing signs to Wolverhampton and my Sat Nav came round to thinking East Park was in fact navigable from where we’d ended up.  It was nerve wracking though.  I don’t have a smart phone, so it wouldn’t have been easy to come up with a back-up plan. I was mightily relieved not to be in a hurry.  I did have a moment of insight though that such tourism trips are a kind of madness, it is too far to travel in a morning ‘just’ for a parkrun really.  … Except then afterwards, I feel that was totally worth it, and tortuous drives and early morning starts are long forgotten.  It is the parkrun tourist way!

It also looked like it would be a bit of a nightmare congestion wise on the return journey… As is often the case, just as I was losing confidence that I was in the right place, the satnav took me to the perimeter of East Park.  There were exceedingly magnificent gates which are the access point.  This is one impressive Victorian park, the gates were just the start.  Sorry the photos are all dark again, it was quite a dark morning to be fair, but also, my camera can’t seem to cope with those lighting conditions, nor indeed high vis or if it’s too sunny, so a bit rubbish really, but you’ll get the general idea, and maybe that will tempt you to go and find out for yourself.

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There was indeed loads of parking, including within the park, which is what I opted for after talking to a friendly marshal.  The only issue in parking inside, is that the park gates are locked for the duration of parkrun, i.e. until the tail walker has come through, for the safety of participants.  So you won’t make a quick getaway if you are a speedy runner.  However, that’s never an issue for me as the post parkrun faffery is part of the whole parkrun package as far as I’m concerned.

Parked up, I went for an explore.  I can report dear reader they have a community cafe building complete with lavatories and it’s open before parkrun.  Also, that parkrunner tourist in pink, she’s a hero.  Just saying.  The photo may be blurred, but her ethical code is crystal sharp.   Thank you for saving my parkrun day 🙂

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I availed myself of the facilities, but it nearly ended badly.  The person coming into the cubicle after me called out because I’d dropped my barcode wristband!  Oh the horror, I have spares, but even so, that could have gone horribly wrong, especially as it was apparently balanced precariously near the rim of the loo.  How she would have handled the situation if it had toppled in I’m not so sure, nor am I completely confident of what I would have done had the situation been reversed, you like to think you’ll do the right thing, but we mustn’t judge, if we haven’t experienced the full horror of that scenario for ourselves how can we ever really know?  If you’d seen a fellow parkrunners barcode wristband within, would you have plunged your arm in in a selfless retrieval manoeuvre, or turn a blind eye, do your ‘necessaries’ and flush, hoping desperately if wouldn’t be a floater (and for the record I think it probably would be) and so you’d be passing the problem down the line for the next cubicle user, who might think said wristband was yours!  Oh the horror!  Is it possible I over think things I wonder, I’m genuinely traumatised at the very thought…

Still, I was very relieved to be reunited with it.  Mysteriously though, I also lost a glove.  Only a cheap one with holes in the fingertips from where I’ve worn them gardening, but a blow all the same.  I have a horrible feeling I dropped it at same time as my wristband barcode as that must have come off when I took my gloves off.  I can’t help wondering if that did make its way down the toilet cistern and is even now the tipping point in creating a hooking up point for a fatberg to gestate in the sewers beneath Wolverhampton.  I really hope not, that would be a terrible legacy.  I shudder at the very thought…  Not felt similar levels of guilt since i lost a helium balloon on a milestone run.  Littering the countryside still.  I do litter pick, but I’ll never take a balloon outside again, the damage they do

Phew, have wristband barcode, will be parkrunning.  I saw little figures in hi-vis darting around the park with signs and cones and other parkrun paraphernalia, setting out the course, possibly via a quick go on the swings in the playground.

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It’s never a given whether you can find the start at a new parkrun destination, but here the bandstand provides an obvious focal point for gathering, and gather parkrunners a-plenty did.  176 to be precise, though it felt like more with lots of volunteers and supporters too.  It’s a newish parkrun obviously, but it all went extremely smoothly, and it seemed friendly, though a lot of people I spoke to were newbies too, either to East Park or to parkrun altogether – the latter of which is always really exciting I think!  Oh the joys that will now open up ahead of them, their Saturdays will never be the same again.

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There’s not an official bag drop, well there never is to be fair, but it seemed accepted practise to leave things alongside the bandstand area, but you could leave them near the finish funnel I suppose, or do as I saw others doing, and lob your worldly goods and successive outer layers of clothing at one of the marshals as you run by.  You get three goes at throwing things at any given marshal point, so that’s up to three extra layers you could potential rid yourself off on the way round.  I can’t promise they’ll all welcome it, or indeed that any of them necessarily have a good catch, but I noticed a couple of clothes horse marshals who seemed to have acquire whole jumble sale tables worth of stock by the end of the parkrun!  Probably more polite to avail yourself of this informal service if you are a known regular.

I don’t think there was a separate first timer’s briefing, if there was I missed it, but the Run Briefing was fairly thorough, and pleasingly easy to hear as it was delivered from on high.  It’s a brilliant venue for a parkrun, and definitely a boon for briefings to have that view from on high.  I must be getting old, well I am, but one manifestation of this is I’m getting so worn out by people who insist on talking or even shouting through run briefings I just don’t get it.  All attentive here though,  so that was good.  I was inspired to take a selfie, which I don’t normally, because they are so soul destroying when you see them later, but this one came out ok!

Usual thanks and shout outs during the briefing.  There was though a potentially awkward silence in response to the call out for ‘any milestoners here today?’  Fortunately, the silence was filled by a parkrunner who actually did her 50th last week, but forgot, so she got a massive cheer for being at her 51st.  I liked that, it was fun!a

After the briefing, there is a group migration to the start.  The start sign was definitely in motion, I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that some parkruns are in the habit of shifting the end points of their parkrun (taking it further away just as it comes into view if you don’t keep an eye on things) but was surprised to see how brazen they were at the start here!  I quite like group walks to starts, it’s somehow companionable.  And it’s fun seeing everyone in all their colourful tops streaming out ahead.

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It really wasn’t very far, and we were soon all lined up next to the start banner, I noticed that they seem to be using the volunteer app at this parkrun, as the timers had their mobile phones all primed and ready to go.  I tried to get a photo of the start, but it was rubbish, so I’ve stolen one from their facebook page which reflects the set up way better, look:

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Here are mine by way of comparison, pitiful I know.

I rest my case.

I slotted in somewhere towards the back.  The paths are wide, and although it’s a three lapper, it didn’t feel crowded, and as long as you basically kept leftish there was plenty of room for faster runners to overtake.   It’s all tarmac paths, and pretty much flat I’d say, well certainly by Sheffield standards, a few bumps maybe.   A good cross section of runners, but a fair few who I think were new to running or first timers, so it felt like an inclusive event.  A scattering of tourists identifiable by the cow cowls, and local running clubs and national informal groups like Run Mummy Run.  Lots of parkrun apricot and milestone tees too, so plenty of people who’ve been running elsewhere before East Park parkrun came into being.

I liked the route.  There’s lots to look at. This is a mature and well managed space.  Some of the trees are huge and must be pretty old.  The gateway I’ve already mentioned, but there are other features too like exercise equipment, and different views of the bandstand.  It’s not dull at all.  Best of all, there are fab marshals to cheer you round.  I try not to have favourites obviously, but I have a soft spot for the two next to the zebra crossing at the gates.  The gates were safely locked now, no escaping from this route.  I like to think they don’t unlock them until they know every finish token has been accounted for at the conclusion of the run.  These marshals were pleasingly interactive, and seemingly having a good time too.  Also, I just love the idea of runners responsibly running over the zebra crossing, no jaywalking here.  Although I was slightly disappointed not to be able to capture a foursome doing a better recreation of the iconic Beatles Abbey Road crossing.  This is the best I could do.  Remember dear reader, sometimes it’s the thought that counts.

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Because you go round in a complete circle, you get to see how the light changes everything in the park.  There were some lovely moments, when I turned a corner and suddenly from being all overcast and gloomy, the sun was pouring through a gap in the trees and it looked genuinely gorgeous, and felt quite erm, countrysidey even, which is weird as it is most definitely within a very urban setting, surrounded by roads and adjacent to an industrial park.

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See, lovely!

And I liked it when you head up the mini hill and into the trees – taking up the high five option if you wish on the way through.  Personally, I never pass up the opportunity for such a power boost, always appreciated, thank you marshal!

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At the end of the first circuit, you go past a guard of honour, as the RD and his entourage, who would be moving up to the finish funnel area in due course, are cheering runners round. This was excellent.  I do like a squad of cheerleaders en route. Just a bit of what I hope will be recognised as constructive feedback, they maybe could have done with a couple of those enormous pom poms to shake at us, and possibly co-ordinated leotards and legwarmers might be an idea further down the line.  Basically the workshop dance outfits worn by the original cast of the FAME TV series would be about right in my opinion, but on the whole, great effort!  Seriously, loved that, it gave a welcoming and enthusiastic vibe, and I got a sense of a team that worked together well and was sharing the parkrun love.  Thank you team!

feat guard

before you know it, you are romping round the back of the bandstand again.  And past where it all began and there is a handy ‘caution runners’ side, to alert other park users to the shenanigans unfolding in the vicinity, not because runners are especially dangerous or unpredictable as far as I’m aware.

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Round again, this time noting the formidable looking exercise equipment at intervals if you fancied doing some cross training at any point.  Maybe at the end of the run rather than in the middle of it, but your call, as long as you make the tail walkers aware I suppose – high fives still available for lap two…

and then I took what I think was among my favourite shots of the day:

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I think because that’s very much how the park was.  Good tarmac path, lots of parkrunners doing what parkrunners do and flanked by amazing tall trees in a green oasis amidst houses and industry.  A proper parkrun.

As a more, erm, sedate runner, I got to pass the finish area again when it was very much in full working order.  It was fun watching the speedier finishers being cheered on through, and I was impressed at the patient queueing and good order in evidence in the finish funnel.  No funnel ducking here!

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Ding ding, round three.  It had thinned out by now, just me and a few others romping round, that meant we got the undivided attention of marshals as we passed them. It’s great for your self esteem to be cheered as you go about your parkrunning business.  Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we whooped and cheered each other in all contexts, just for being there and giving it a go?  Such a shame that to routinely big up your colleagues with enthusiastic shout outs every time they contributed to a planning meeting say, would have you sidelined and marked down as eccentric at the very least.  Unsolicited praise and celebration of just being part of something should be welcome anywhere.  Maybe this feelgood influence gave me the confidence to take a mid-run selfie.  Not something I generally do, but it came out ok, I’d even go so far as to say I’m quite pleased with it!  No wonder I look so surprised…

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This was a noticeably supportive parkrun I’d say.  I don’t know if that’s because its new and enthusiastic, or a reflection on the ethos they’ve set or just that as a smallish parkrun they know one another but I got lots of support.  Departing runners who’d finished clapped others still on their way round, overtaking runners called out supportive comments, and it’s the only parkrun I’ve been too in a very, very long time, where I could actually hear the whoops of encouragement being generated in the finish funnel area from the other side of the park!  No really, I’m not even exaggerating for comedic effect!  Very impressive, and from my perspective at least, very much appreciated too.  Thank you lovely marshals all.  Here are some, being lovely.

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Eventually, following the noise of wildly cheering parkrun supporters I was in sight of the finish funnel, and off I went.  Is that a familiar face I see alongside?  Still can’t stop now

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Except I can, because I’ve now started stopping to capture a shot of finish funnels just before I go through. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t put the brakes on if I was in front of other parkrunners, I do check first.  However,  it’s quite fun getting that picture and then sprinting on through.  I mean look how encouraging they all are:

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and through I went.  The only problem was, that my stop before the funnel did create some confusion as I then went through ‘oh are you actually running then?’ queried the timer, it’s doesn’t reflect well on my levels of running effort that this wasn’t immediately evident, but no worries, timer was clicked and situation quickly rectified.  Time to snap the volunteers as I passed through though:

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I got confused (doesn’t take much) about where the scanners were, because I was looking for people with lanyards and the (now) old fashioned scanners, but it’s all mobile phones here, and the Run Director was multi-tasking as a scanner, so he did the honours.

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and then that was that.  All over,  lovely!

There were still parkrunners coming through so I lingered and loitered a while soaking up the scene, it’s a very picturesque parkrun, love the trees that frame shots and the bandstand.  You can see them sorting and counting the finish tokens back in as well.  Team work again, loving the team work.

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And whilst loitering, good news, here was indeed a familiar face!  My new best friend from Delamere parkrun on New Year’s Day. She’d been wearing a sash to mark running her 50th parkrun, and now here she was, sporting the actual milestone tee!  How fabulous is that, and what were the chances.  Her regular parkrun is Isabel Trail parkrun, which has been cancelled for flooding for what seems like weeks now. I was quite lucky I chose to run it when I did.  I was really impressed how quickly she got her t-shirt.  Result, and worthy of a photograph methinks, you can compare and contrast.  She’s the one in the red milestone 50 tee, in case you are suffering from any confusion.  Well done – grand to cross parkrun tourism paths once again!

and that was that.  Nothing left but the post event clean up.

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I investigated the cafe for post run options.  I bought a coffee to take away, which was only a pound, and to which they added milk to my exact requirements from a rather elegant metal milk jug.  However, there was nothing vegetarian so I didn’t stay.  Quite a few did though, and it looked good value if somewhat restricted, think generous sausage and egg sandwiches on sliced bread and instant coffee.  Friendly though, and seemed cosy.  I noticed signs to other cafes on the adjacent industrial estate too, so I think there are lots of choices.

Then time to go home.  Always sad to say goodbye.  It’s too far for me to realistically come back up, but it is one that I’d happily return to.  This parkrun definitely scores above average points for its welcoming vibes and vocal en route support.  Honestly, I’ve never experienced such sustained cheering at a finish, I think they made every participant feel like a champion!  Quite right too on one level, all parkrunners are awesome, but even so, a brilliant experience. Thank you 🙂 .  From a tourist perspective it is also particularly brilliant that it has pre parkrun car parking and peeing equally well catered for.  Phew.  Oh the relief, in every sense.

Home, and I didn’t fancy battling the route I came so opted for the M6 toll route, fondly imagining it would be £1 or so.  In fact it was £4.20!  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!  However, it was fun as a new experience for me, empty well maintained roads with no litter, and when you go through the toll booth thingy, you get to feel like you are in the starting blocks for whacky races, so I enjoyed the novelty of that. That’s a lot though, way more than I expected.  I’d rather have spent the money supporting the cafe in East Park, but then again I couldn’t so I only spent what would otherwise have gone on breakfast I suppose…

Verdict then?

Totally worth it.  What do you mean what about the stupidly long drive and getting up in the middle of the night?  The event delivered in it’s own right, and getting East was but the icing on the cake!

So yes, it’s shallow, but now my badges look like this.  Check out that Compass Point top middle(ish).  Totally yay!

compass new badge

So thank you East Park parkrun for your warm and vocal welcome, your excellent nomenclature which lured me over to you in the first place, and to everyone who was there today contributing to making the parkrun magic happen.  You are all superstars.

🙂

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.

#loveparkrun

 

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