Digested read: I went to Bushy parkrun for their 15th Birthday Bonanza. It was epic. There is however a darkside to parkrun I discovered. But in a good way…
Well, yes it was ‘epic’ but I’m hardly going to leave my account at that now am I? Have you not been concentrating on my previous parkrun posts? Concise isn’t really my thing, but on the plus side, that’s what scroll buttons are for, and you can always just whizz through the photos if you prefer. On the other hand, if you are up for the account then best to strap yourself in, it’s going to be a long one. Maybe get some tissues to go with your pot of tea/bottle of neat vodka and/or other assorted victuals, it was after all quite an emotional roller coaster of a day. A good one, but overwhelming for sure, and reliving it all, might just trigger a purely reflex reaction of general teariness. Or it might not. I don’t know, maybe you dear reader have a heart of stone, but keep the tissues handy anyway, just in case a friend needs them, or you are coming down with the first cold of autumn, it would be the right thing to do.
So, where to start?
Well, let’s start with a swirly scene dissolve sequence to signify traveling back in time, because, my perspective on Bushy parkrun’s 15th Birthday (which by happy and fortuitous coincidence just happens to be actual parkrun’s birthday too – what were the chances of that?) started a few weeks prior to the day.
I got a message.
Not from some weird spirit or voices from the sky, or even from deciphering the imagery in my morning bowl of porridge, rather more prosaic. An actual message through Facebook. Not just any old message, but one from the epicentre of parkrun. One from the Bushy parkrun Event director himself! So actually, pretty awesome, and way preferable to hearing voices in my humble opinion. It said, basically,
… we have a little* prize giving every year on our anniversary, this year it falls on Oct 5th. One of the awards we introduced a few years ago was Spirit of parkrun and we would love to present it to Elisabeth this year … do you think we’d be able to get her across to the start area for the presentation?
For clarification, this Elisabeth. That’s my mum. I exist in the parkrun world only as ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’, it is my tenuous claim to fame.
Oh. My. Gawd. This was amazing news. She’d be beyond ecstatic, and I’ve been wanting to get her to see the start and finish of Bushy parkrun for herself for years. This would be a great excuse to get her over there and ‘make it so’. There were a few logistical challenges to work out, but I could go down from Sheffield, and there would be a veritable parkrun army of well wishers on hand to help if needed. This was going to happen. It couldn’t be a surprise as I needed to work out the details with mum, but it was going to happen.
I replied with what I hoped was an appropriate level of effusive enthusiasm, both on my behalf and mum’s too. She was chuffed, delighted, totally up for it. I could not wait. How as I going to keep it secret when I was bursting with wanting to share.
‘I’ll have to think about outfits for us both too’ I said
‘Fancy dress outfits, it is going to be fancy dress right?’
Not fancy dress then. Lucky the topic came up, it was only because I made a chance remark about I found out. It just never occurred to me that it wouldn’t be fancy dress. I had just assumed it would be because I understood that is the default parkrun party celebratory way. It shows yet again, everyday is a learning opportunity. Mind you, it would have been hilarious if I’d rocked up with mum and me in complementary themed fancy dress outfits. Not gonna lie, there’s a teensy bit of me that wishes I hadn’t been disabused of my misunderstanding, it would have been a classic. And you know what, if we had, it would have been fine. There’s usually a few people sporting fancy dress at any given parkrun anyway, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t have been us on this particular day. If junior parkrunners can turn up at parkrun in minion onesies just because they felt like it, why not us too – apart from the fact I don’t have a minion onesie – but otherwise my point still stands. Still, maybe just as well, finding something to go with her traditional Happy Birthday parkrun sash might have been a challenge. I got on with ordering that, and asked her what colour she wanted. ‘It has to be orange that’s the parkrun colour!’ well apricot technically, but good call. All those months and years of watching parkrun have not been wasted, she has totally internalised the parkrun palette. It’s not only the high fives she’s nailed since she became an honorary marshal on the Bushy parkrun course.
The semiotics of parkrun eh? Someone should write a book on that – or maybe do a podcast. Perhaps a niche OU sponsored variant special edition of With Me Now – a With Me Know broadcast has a certain ring to it?
Re the keeping it a secret bit, I did try really hard, but I may have sort of accidentally told a couple of very exceptional individuals who weren’t in the Bushy parkrun circle ‘in total and absolute confidence‘ as in ‘this is a secret but not a secret, it’s only ever to be divulged on a strictly need to know basis‘. You need to understand this was basically a necessity for health and safety purposes, I’d have imploded if I’d had to keep that to myself, and with my brain splattered around the interior of my Sheffield home, and my undiscovered imploded carcass adorning my hallway in a star shape, who’d have taken mum to the start line in Bushy park? Precisely. I know, unthinkable!
The excitement continued to build as the countdown continued. Little teasers appeared on the parkrun uk Facebook page. The 15th anniversary commemorative barcode flatband, the poster for the first ever Bushy parkrun time trial was dug out from someone or other’s attic and reposted for the digital age. Also, some uplifting videos reminding us why we do parkrun, not that we all need reminding necessarily, but it’s still nice to hear other people’s stories.
Whangarei parkrun excelled even themselves by having their very own darkrun by way of celebration. This was run as a freedom run, simultaneously with everyone taking off on the start line of Bushy parkrun at 9.00 a.m.. That was 9.00 p.m. in New Zealand, hence they were in the dark, but a select group darkran/parkran and celebrated with cake and probably fizz as well. It is the parkrun way! I really want to go to Whangarei parkrun one day, they positively ooze the parkrun ethos. Darkruns are catching on over there thanks to them!
A small group gathered for Whangarei darkrun and I understand a thoroughly enjoyable event resulted. Denise very kindly provided a celebratory cake. The night was made memorable by a visitor from Hamilton , Joseph Morgan, who ran the course in 16:01 which would be a course record. Of course it being a Freedom Run and an unofficial event it will not take the official title, but nonetheless it is a stunning time and we congratulate Joseph. Incidentally his brother Adam also ran and was not far behind! (Apologies, the picture is badly cropped, but you get the idea!)
Whangarei was also the catalyst for a South Island darkrun at Pegasus which was very successful and included a live link with Market Harbororo parkrun in the UK . Quite a day down there with the celebration earlier in the day of the completion of 500 parkruns by Steve Darby, the first time that has been achieved by anyone outside the UK.
It isn’t even the first time they’ve done this, here are the original darkrun crew from 2017.
That’s dedication isn’t it. High Five to Whangarei parkrun! And to Pegasus parkrun too! I wonder if there is a Running Challenges badge for nabbing parkruns linked to mythical beasts? There should be, gap in the market I’d say. Greytown Trail parkrun had a darkrun too. Double the parkrun fun all in one day! Yay. Like the New Year’s Day double here except only one counts, they are 12 hours apart and one is in the pitch dark and a freedom run, but otherwise identical. Bound to catch on. Not.
Mind you who expected 13 on 2nd October 2014 to become 1838 13 years later? That’s right dear reader. Nobody at all. Can you tell which starting line up is which? Go on, be brave, take a wild guess… Maybe New Zealand freedom darkruns of the future will have similarly grown exponentially. Only a matter of time.
Anyway, where was I? Stop distracting me with all these questions about darkrun, fine innovation as that is. Oh yes, I was indulging in the anticipatory build up to the big day. My Facebook feed was full of it, mind you it is always full of all things parkrun, no idea what the point of Facebook is otherwise to be honest.
The actual anniversary was 2nd October, though the nearest Saturday/ parkrunday was 5th october, and parkrun UK reminded us of this with some handy stats.
Time ticked by, and eventually, amazingly there was just one more sleep to go. I had a nightmare drive down from Sheffield, a record 8 hour drive due to the M1 being closed in a couple of sections. However, you have to think of those who never made it to their destination at all, and I did, so let’s keep perspective eh? Quick visit to mum, she had her hi-vis all ready, and her birthday sashes too, looking good. One more sleep. Not that it was a sleep really because I was SO EXCITED! And also, had to invest time in excited texts and messages with parkrunners and supporters various to check out who was going to be there for the big celebration. Turns out, it was basically everyone in the whole wide parkrun world, so I could have saved myself the trouble of contacting people. Joking apart, it was brilliant to be sharing the anticipatory excitement, and many of the Bushy parkrun team touched base too, offering support on the day as needed.
And then it was tomorrow! Which was, in case you haven’t been concentrated, or maybe just skipped ahead parkrun day and Bushy parkrun’s 15th birthday! Yay! Let’s get this party started.
Over to pick up mum, and she was pretty much in readiness, with her hair done specially and so it was just a question of gathering up everything bar the kitchen sink ‘just in case’ into the car and – after texting to say we were en route – off we went round to the carpark near the coffee shack and the Bushy parkrun finish line. I knew there was a couple of disabled parking bays there, but we went early because it was going to be rammed. It was about 8.10 a.m. as we were driving along Chestnut avenue, we could see some runners whizzing about – with the benefit of hindsight, I wonder if this was some of the original golden barcode bearing parkrunners, who I gather met and ran the original route, started by Paul S-H himself after he’d given the traditional run briefing apparently. It was on the With Me Now, special Bushy parkrun Birthday Edition broadcast – more of that later. There were some humungous stags about, it is the rutting season, and they had to cancel Bushy junior parkrun because of them potentially charging. The threat is real, but I think even a rutting stag might give way to 1800 plus runners. This roaring beastie was snapped in Richmond Park. Respect.
You could see from a distance the car park was full, and as we cornered there was a TV van, and hundreds of people purposefully setting up for the occasion. It was amazing, and we’d not even parked up. I could feel myself filling up, this was going to be quite an extraordinary day. The scale of the event takes your breath away. I’ve run at it loads of times over the years, but this day was something else.
Mercifully, the disabled space was free, and we pulled up. Mum was soon safely out of the car and into her wheelchair, sash straightened, hi-vis on, and into the collective embrace of parkrun. Honestly, it took seconds for her ‘regulars’ to spot her and come rushing over. Although mum has got to know people at her corner, obviously there are limits to how long they can talk for as inconveniently they are mid-parkrun and have to press on. It was just brilliant that many came across for ‘proper’ hellos and yep, the photos started. I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity, you are just stunned by the attention, the paparazzi, the fan base. It’s overwhelming. Actually scratch that. What am I saying ‘I wonder if this is what it is like being in the entourage of a famous celebrity’. No need to wonder dear reader, that is exactly what I was. And it was great.
I left mum surrounded by well-wishers taking selfies. I was filling up already and we’d not even left the car park.
and rang the RD who was organising the awards ceremony. They had two RDs today, one doing run stuff and one doing awards stuff. The team at Bushy parkrun is amazing. It’s huge, but still friendly, and the whole event runs like a well-oiled machine. A well oiled machine fuelled by cake and prosecco and the positive endorphins that fly around the park I think.
I headed to the big birthday balloons, which are mandatory for Bushy parkrun’s birthday as it is a parkrun rule that Paul S-H has to be photographed alongside them. In years to come this may no longer be environmentally acceptable what with the plastic and helium and all, but this impulse was nevertheless indulged today, and, I’ll let you into a secret, quite a few other people embraced the photo opportunity they presented too. The pictures tell their own story. Here’s the starter though:
Despite getting my contact on the phone, I had a little trouble spotting him because firstly, I was looking in completely the wrong direction, and secondly, he was in disguise not yet wearing a high vis. However, we made contact, and I got a lovely welcome, and directed to where the awards were to be presented. It wasn’t too far, and mercifully the rain of the last few seemingly months had stopped. The compact path was pretty good, I’d been in a panic about whether the wheelchair would be robust enough for it, but all was well. What I hadn’t factored in was how slow progress would be as it was like doing a royal
walkabout wheelabout. So many well-wishers.
By the time I got back to mum, she had been located by the Bushy parkrun team who were in on the awards and around to help. Happy reunions, they were awesome, not only because all parkrunners are awesome anyway, and they were great company, but also because they helped make the magic happen by clearing routes, sourcing balloons and selfie-frames and carrying out all those individually small but cumulatively huge and magnificent gestures that made the morning get better and better! I now realise, my whole life would just run so much more smoothly if I had a couple of attentive and proactive personal assistants to accompany me about my daily business. It was fantastic! Thanks team Bushy!
We passed the film crew – it was going live on the BBC apparently, later I had a moment of disappointment at having missed it, but then again, that’s ridiculous as WE WERE THERE ACTUALLY EXPERIENCING IT ALL FIRST HAND which is way better. Anyway, I was still sulking after the One Show coverage, so annoyed about how negative the guests present were about it afterwards, totally missing the point. Oh well, let it go, their loss after all. Poor people not yet inducted into the way of parkrun, their lives must seem strangely pointless without it… They deserve our pity not our hate. It must be awful for them. I’ve moved on already.
Next challenge, was to make it down the long path, but there were lots of micro-adventures and distractions along the way. Photo ops and greetings too. Our Bushy parkrun snatch squad managed to requisition the balloons so we could take pictures in all possible combinations of groupings. It was hilarious. You’d be amazed how much fun potential is contained within a couple of balloons. Awesome. That was going to be hard to top….
Hard, but not impossible it turns out. It turns out, that this yellow brick road was studded with ever escalating awesomeness along the way. I say this, because ‘suddenly’ out of the autumnal mist (I might have made up the bit about the autumn mist, but I like to think it adds atmosphere) not one, not two, but THREE Pauls emerged. This was amazing, the holy trinity of Pauls. All of these Pauls are important in different ways. One founded parkrun, which you might have heard of, one was responsible for posting a picture of when he delivered a Christmas card for mum and she shared with him what parkrun means to her which set in motion many more Christmas cards, and one is another Bushy parkrun stalwart, Bushy junior parkrun instigator who has proactively offered support to mum in practical ways. The problem is, that up until now, they have never been gathered together in one place. I don’t know if that’s because like the royals who travel on different planes, they daren’t risk all being taken out simultaneously by a rutting stag or falling tree; or if it is because time and space will invert and collapse if they are all seen at once; or – and I’ve thought about this a lot – if it’s because like Superman and Clark Kent, they are actually all the same person.
Well, you do start to wonder. I’ve invested quite a lot of time and effort trying to explain to my mum who is who (or should that be who is whom? My grammar fails me), but they’ve all sort of merged into one multi-talented, multi-faceted, interchangeable Paul, and it’s hard to differentiate one from the other. I mean she knows each individual identity, but as soon as we have any conversation in which I refer to a parkrun Paul, it becomes immediately confusing trying to explain which one I mean. Similarly when looking at pictures, all Pauls can seem pretty much the same if you only see them one at a time apparently. In my defence, I mentioned this to the partner of one of the Pauls and they agreed that this was a valid point and they felt the same on occasion, that they seemed interchangeable at times and it does get confusing, so it isn’t just my mum. Anyway, today was the day that kept on giving, because they all came, and they all posed, and it was THE BEST THING EVER ALL DAY (until the next best thing ever all day, because like I said before, it just kept getting better).
Here they are a-gathering
And they did attract a lot of attention:
and it was so exciting there might have been so over excited and opportunistic photo bombing going on. I was trying to play it super cool alongside parkrun royalty myself, but not sure I totally nailed it on this occasion:
Despite the mass of people, there was time for some proper conversation too. This photo is another BEST THING EVER that happened on Bushy parkrun’s birthday. Thanks Wendy Stokes for the pic. It is taken from her awesome run report for the Bushy parkrun 15th Birthday event which is a must read too. Here are two icons of Bushy parkrun sharing words of wisdom.
It was basically like a ‘Who’s Who’ of Bushy parkrun. Like I said before EVERYONE was there. Oh, and then we found the selfie frame. This was just the beginning, gets even more genius later on… I’m not sure I’d properly inducted mum into the joys of selfie frames at this point, but even though it looks marginally like elder abuse to the ill-informed, all these photo based activities were in fact consensual.
and we continued our slow progress to the area near the start where a table was set up in readiness for the awards. But more friends emerged from the throng. This one is my namesake, and, although it’s a bit tricky to pinpoint exactly at what point Elisabeth was first noticed by the Bushy parkrun community, her formal recognition was as a result of this member of the core team, saying very sensibly, well, if she’s there every week anyway it’s high time she had her own hi-vis. And someone, not sure who, maybe a team, maybe Lucy herself, duly walked down to present her with her very own marshaling tabard many moons ago. From thereon in she was an honorary marshal for Bushy parkrun. I remember that day, because when I spoke to mum in the evening afterwards she was so thrilled to have been recognised and welcomed into the parkrun community. It was both a small thing and an enormous thing at the same time. I might have got something in my eye that evening too. Honestly, I do like Bushy parkrun, but the allergens there are so powerful they could bring tears to my eyes even over a phone line to Sheffield. I know, almost unbelievable. I do have a tendency to be allergic to things, but it’s still quite bad. I think it may be that sadly I’m allergic to unicorn hair or something, there are loads of unicorns in Bushy park, so perhaps it’s that. Anyway, high time we got a picture of these two together. The start of the chain reaction that culminated in today.
One day, I’m going to use my hallway wall to create an incident room time line of the sequence of events that led to the naming of Elisabeth’s corner and the celebrations of today. Like on Vera, or maybe Sherlock Holmes, the new version with Benolin Cumbersnatch, I like the idea of those hi-tech interactive glass boards to work with. It’s higher up the food chain than post it notes, though I do like Vera, maybe she could be my consultant… Also, on reflection, I get quite excited by colourful stationery, and this would be a great pretext for getting a stash of new highlighter pens and novelty post it notes so potentially something like this:
but with more hi-vis, milestone tees, fancy dress, christmas cards, and TpoT orange beanie hats. A project for another time, you must be on your second pot of tea/ bottle of vodka by now, and we’ve not even made it to the start line yet…
More and more friends emerged, some pre-arranged, some by happy chance. Many were delighted to see mum at the start, if a bit perplexed as to what the implications for this might be when they got to Elisabeth’s Corner and found her absent. I was kicking myself for not having thought to put some sort of hi-vis substitute in place for the duration, that could have been hilarious. What about her parkrun public who count on seeing her at the half-way mark to give them the necessary energy boost to make it round to the end? Oh well too late now. Hello best ever photographer for taking fab photos of mum over the years (sorry I don’t have the skills to quite return the favour), hello pioneer parkrunner – congratulations on your 250th milestone and well done for having a balloon – nice to see a fellow Smiley here, hello everyone!
While we were having our micro-adventures trying to get to the start area and the presentations table, others were similarly migrating across the park. Not least, David Moorcroft, who was to be presenting the awards. One of my favourite posts from today (of which there are a great many to be fair, often the one I’ve most recently looked at) is this one, of a cheery parkrunner welcoming a newbie to her home parkrun. ‘Do you run much/ at all?‘ Oops. Only not oops at all, because she was appropriately welcoming and that makes her a winner to me. Yay!
It is amazing, everyone of the 1838 runners plus volunteers and parkrun entourage had their own physical, mental and emotional journey to get to the start. It can be both the simplest and hardest thing to rock up. If you listen to the With Me Now parkrun special edition podcast, you might like me, be surprised to hear from others how it took a bit of courage to turn up the first time, and sometimes still does. But it’s always worth it. You just start by reaching out and saying hello, or not even that, just turn up and observe from the sidelines if you want, you are still significant and a part of parkrun for doing so.
Anyway, on the subject of ‘oops’ as we went towards the start, mum struck up conversation with David Moorcroft. She had no idea who he was at this point. Sorry. Thought he was very nice and friendly though, which is actually more important and more of a compliment isn’t it. She was querying why his N was the wrong way round on his tee shirt. I’ve clearly not kept her up to speed with the merits of the COИTRA brand. Oops. A few people were sporting the raspberry tees today by the way, they were really nice. I’m tempted, but then I’ve just splashed out on my apricot tee…
En route I spotted another familiar face – a splendid individual to whom I am still grateful for securing us extra Smiletastic points during a running challenge on account of her dragonfly necklace. Long story. Smiletastic can be quite hard to explain… We first met when I was on a running weekend including a track session, Bushy parkrun (obvs) and a recovery run round Richmond park too. Also, and this is crucial, a meal out, during which she wore said dragonfly necklace, and through some shameless meddling with the points allocation system, nabbed our Smiletastic Dragonfly team some extra points. Yay. We even requisitioned it for a photo op, and one of the Pauls took the picture too, proving they can be handy accessories to have around in all sorts of unexpected contexts. Also, I think it must have been quite a novel experience for him standing the other side of a camera lens, so everyone’s a winner! I’m actually quite surprised he knew how to operate it at all. We probably had to direct him…
We were pointing at the dragonfly brooch. Don’t be childish.
Anyway, as well as her being intrinsically awesome, and getting us smiletastic points, on this occasion she introduced me to the RD for Colwick parkrun, another of my favourites, who was touristing at Bushy parkrun today. I went to Colwick parkrun earlier in the year, but this RD was away then for some reason, so it was nice to say hello. It’s a great run, if you go, you have to wear a Hawaiian shirt, I mean the RD was trying to convince me that’s not strictly true, but trust me on this one. Love the parkrun network, it reaches everywhere. Finally, we found ourselves at the front of the presentation audience, my lovely Bushy parkrun assistants having cleared a way through the throngs to secure us prime position. Having contacts does help.
And then the awards commenced. The RD did a lovely intro – encouraging us to look at our watches around the 13 minute mark and note where we were and that back in the day David would have been zipping down the finish funnel at just that point. David Moorcroft added some heartfelt comments too, he was a great choice. Fortuitously, a friend took a video of the start and some of the early awards, they are also documented in the aforementioned run report, so I’ll resist the temptation to go through it all again here. Just take it from me that it was all heartwarming, celebrating and sharing the joy of parkrun. A very special morning indeed. I freely admit I was quite overcome, but for the record, the photo below, which I’ve included in the interests of transparency and because it meets the comedic element criteria which overrides my default reflex of deleting unflattering photos, is the face I pull when I recognise a parkrun face in the crowd. In this instance the amazing Waterworks parkrunner who became my best friend when we bonded pre marathon at Southwark parkrun. She’s not only awesome in her own right, but appreciates the importance of fancy dress on any and all occasions. Of course it was emotional seeing her, even though I’d known she was coming. I can’t help having a slightly manic and over-excitable disposition on occasions so I may as well embrace it. I may look pained and in shock, but it was coming from a happy place. Just shows how hard it is to read emotions. No wonder social interactions can be so fraught, it’s a complete minefield. You can never really tell what someone is thinking, just have to go with your instincts and hope for the best.
And you can click on the link to see for yourself if you want the full immersive experience. And let’s face it, why wouldn’t you? Hope the link works.
So the various awards were dished out to worthy winners all, and it was lovely how the parkrun family came together to celebrate diverse achievements.
But then, the for me BEST BIT OF THE MORNING EVER was coming with the final award. The RD did an awesome build up, not naming mum but referring to her as ‘this person…. more famous that Paul Sinton-Hewitt‘. Credit where credit is due, this RD knows how to work a crowd. He spoke of how she’s at her corner week in week out – ‘but she’s not there today‘ a gasp of horror from the assembled company… to be replaced by a cheer of relief as he added ‘because she’s here at the start!’. It was just the best noise in the world ever, real affection. And then when she was presented with her award, the applause went on for ever. Well, nearly for ever, I mean we still had to stop to have parkrun happen at some point – and then she held her award aloft and a great collective whoop went up. Best thing in the world ever! It is- quite a solid chunk of glass with a personalised inscription on it and has considerable heft, anyone would be delighted. This moment gave rise to my favourite photo of the morning EVER, until the next picture popped up in my newsfeed obvs.
But you know what, you don’t have to take my word for it, you can see if for yourself in the clip below. The volunteer of the year gets his recognition first, and then it’s the final award of the morning to my mum about one minute in. Not a dry eye in the park I can tell you. Those blooming unicorn allergens eh?
It all went off to perfection. All the award winners were present, the day stayed dry, and now it was time for the run. As people dispersed snatched a few more hellos, and a little bit of trophy admiring (more of this later). I took the opportunity to go in with a big hug of emotional gratitude to David Moorcroft, he looked a bit startled. It was only as I walked away it dawned on me that although I was meaning to just express appreciation for the brilliant way he gave out the awards to everyone including my mum, he would have had no idea at all who I was and what I was doing. In the circumstances he handled it well, all the same, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise for scaring him and potentially invading his personal space. The irony is I’m not even all that huggy generally speaking, but something about the whole parkrun/ running vibe that stimulates this impulse in me. I think it does for others too. We’re all on hugging terms here… but even so, note to self, maybe check first next time.
and then positioned ourselves in a good spot to watch the start. It was the first time mum had ever seen this, and what a day to choose. Some good parkrun citizen had the wit to take a video of the start line. It went on for ever! Mind you, even the stills are quite impressive:
It’s an extraordinary sight to see a whole sea of people moving like a tsunami across the grass and towards the ant hills. Amazing. Here is another video clip of the start from a different – more courageous angle some would say…
Wow, a lot of people pile past pretty speedily – and then they are gone, winding their parkrun way out of sight
see them run!
Time to turn about, and make our way to the finish funnel, or more specifically a new, one time only honorary marshal point from where we could cheer the parkrunners in. Time for a bit more trophy admiring en route though, and a proper chat with parkrun supporter friends who’d come especially to see mum’s prize giving. That was fantastic, it is wonderful to share such moments. Mum was really taken with the way running gear adorned the railings round the trees. Funny the things you notice being there for the first time. One of the hi-vis heroes sped off as she was in charge of spot prizes for the finish funnel. I’m not quite sure what the prizes were – a lifetime of free parkruns maybe? But what she’d done was use the letters that they give out to organise the funnel, to spell out Happy Birthday Bushy parkrun, and whoever got one of the letters appearing in the phrase would get a prize. Presumably not necessarily in the right order, the turnout was certainly great, but they weren’t expecting that many on the day! Genius idea. As someone who has no chance of ever winning a prize on account of my athletic prowess at any organised run, I’m a massive fan of spot prizes!
We found a good spot, and a non-running parkrunner to share it with. She was doing the Kingston Half Marathon the next day, so tapering ‘us too!’ I said, a bit too forcefully, I think my ploy was well and truly rumbled.
If you want to experience the actual run, number one option is to come and take part in it. However, an acceptable position two, is to take a bit of time to watch this brilliant youtube video which basically summarises the whole event. To be honest, I could have saved us all a great deal of time and bother by just putting this link up in the first place, but where would be the fun in that. My blog post might be uncomfortably long, but it is a much more effective procrastination tool, so basically you make your choice and you take your chance. Nevertheless, I offer up Here we are running’s take on the morning. It omits my mum, but don’t worry, I think it’s fair to say I’ve more than compensated for that oversight, so no hard feelings eh?
I sat and watched this YouTube video with my mum. She’s never seen the course from a runner’s perspective and was completely rapt. Recognising parts of the park she used to explore a lot.
So after not very long at all, first the lead bikes came into view. I don’t know why they have two, I mean it’s sensible to do so, but wouldn’t it be more fun if they whizzed round on a tandem. Or even a rickshaw – now that would be prime position to have a ride in the back of one of them.
Right behind the bikes, the front runners, they are insanely fast, and giving it their all.
After the run I was asking mum what her main observations were from the day, there were lots, she’d had a great time, but one comment that made me chuckle was that she said she noticed the runners looked a lot more tired at the end of the run than they did at the half-way mark. Good point, well made!
She was in fine form cheering and clapping with considerable stamina.
It was lovely to see the reactions of parkrunners. Not all had heard the briefing so some were concerned that she hadn’t been at her usual spot of Elisabeth’s Corner. I resisted the temptation to pretend we were still at the halfway point by calling out ‘well done, just one more lap to go!‘ as I think that joke has been done to death and isn’t always as funny as you think when you are actually running. I have learned this from bitter personal experience. You have to appreciate the runners who are fleet of foot and speed by, but it’s extra fun if you are cheering and people wave or high five. My mum was ecstatic when she spotted one of her ‘regulars’ and there are loads of them. You can’t not feel good giving out high fives and cheers at a marshal point, it’s just the best. Especially brilliant was seeing happy parkrunners who’d obviously been worried because she’d not been at her usual spot. Such an outpouring of affection. People do care about each other, more than we maybe realise, but perhaps we need to give ourselves permission to express it somehow, and that’s what parkrun does. Allows us to see the best in others and ourselves. Giving and receiving a high five is quite an art though, some of those parkrunners could take you out with one, I should know, I’ve been almost flattened by the force of a four year old high fiving at full velocity on the course of Graves junior parkrun. I wonder if RDs do a risk assessment for shoulder dislocations as part of the generic parkrun preparations? Note to self, must ask.
In the midst of all this clapping, and cheering and high fiving, we had a visitation from Danny of With Me Now, who – quite rightly – had worked out no account of a visit to Bushy parkrun would be complete without including the infamous Elisabeth. It was quite a trick to pull off though, interviewing her when every other runner was shouting greetings, and parkrunners were in need of their long awaited high fives to get them through the sprint finish! In the circumstances he did really well. And mum showed off both her trophy and birthday sash. Listening to the audio later, it was really comical and appropriate that the conversation was constantly interrupted by mutually appreciative shouts. It was great, and another pleasing micro adventure to add to the morning’s tally. Plus, more photo ops, some classics here, mum has totally nailed selfies now!
Front runners called out breathless greetings, but her ‘regulars’ less focused on a time, stopped for a catch up, and some finished their parkrun first and then came back for a proper talk, to admire her trophy and yes, get a photo too of course.
And then, much excitement for me as my Waterworks parkrun buddy came into view. She, like me, has a propensity for collecting new best friends on her parkruns, and did not disappoint today. This was a parkrunner making the trek from Burgess parkrun I think, with a cohort of others donning Uganda tops because it is Ugandan Independence Day next Saturday. I so wish I was near enough to Camberwell to join them for that parkrun, I bet it will be epic!*** They clearly have plans for the morning. Anyways, once they joined us obviously that was more photo opps, and then others joined in, and so the picture party continued… The Ugandan Runners were the subject of one of the Jessica’s parkrun heroes stories.
This new temporary Elisabeth’s Corner turned out to be quite a prime spot, but eventually as the runners thinned we tore ourselves away. I generally do like to wait for the tail walkers to come through, but I was also mindful that I wanted mum to experience the cake and prosecco celebrations and see the finish funnel in action too, so time to relocate. That took time too, as we had to stop to have the trophy admired and catch up with a whole new set of Bushy parkrunners, some of who were now departing. A few select individuals got to hold the trophy – under supervision – it has considerable heft, and it is very satisfying to feel the weight of it in your hands.
There is a special place in my heart though for this parkrunner:
He normally runs, and when he does always greets Elisabeth on his way round. However, today he couldn’t – injured I think – so had gone to her corner to keep her company for the morning. When he found she wasn’t there, but was at the start, he’d come up to find her (and yes, probably other people too) all of which was of course really welcome. However, when we got chatting about our parkrunning stories, he confessed he was aware of the original time trial 15 years ago, and could have gone, but it was 9.00 a.m. on a Saturday morning and he just didn’t fancy getting up and over there at that time on what might have been a cold day. He was very matter of fact about it, but I couldn’t help thinking on his behalf ‘oh, what might have been!’ Just shows people, you never know what opportunities have been lined up for you, you just have to learn to spot them and embrace them so they don’t slip through your grasp. Look around you RIGHT NOW, there’s probably an opportunity waving at you even in this instant! Thank you for sharing your story nearly parkrun pioneer!
Finally, we were within reach of the cake and prosecco offer, which was extensive. Obviously this was a particularly special occasion, but I reckon on any given Saturday there will be cake and prosecco at parkruns everywhere. It did make for a party though, and such an abundance of offerings. Little individually wrapped cupcakes, themed homemade cheese biscuits of 1 and 5. A fresh bottle was duly popped and bubbles flowed, more parkrun friends old and new appeared.
The trophy was much admired, but it was also carefully inspected by those in the know who were carrying out quality control spot checks. Apparently, one year all the awards were engraved with ‘Busy parkrun’ instead of ‘Bushy parkrun’, in fairness, it is very busy, so you can understand the mistake, but they didn’t want a recurrence. This is mum’s reaction to hearing of this past calamity. Serious business, the administering and supervising of awards production. This award passed its inspection with flying colours. Hooray!
Astonishingly, not enough photos had been taken of the morning yet. There were still queues of people trying to get the perfect balloon/ parkrunners combo for their social media accounts. This has to be the most photographed and documented parkrun of all time.
All the fun of the run wasn’t over yet though. I was worried mum was flagging a bit, and so one of our entourage went in search of coffee. I got distracted by – I don’t know – spotting another parkrun friend probably, and when I got back, With Me Now were trying to get the perfect shot with a WMN selfie frame. They were doing ok. Bit of negotiation and shuffling around secured the backdrop of The parkrun Tree.
but then I had a genius idea if I say so myself. In my great and unmatched wisdom I proposed we go for a tunnel of selfie frames. It took a bit of team work, but oh my, this is the best thing ever. In a way it makes it even more fun that you need at least five people to capture this effect!
and then, someone – my Belfast Buddy in fact – in her great and unmatched (except by me) wisdom suggested that I get in shot too. And the result is this, another of my absolutely definitely favourite pictures of the day.
Thanks to With Me Now for the picture, which, in their great and unmatched (except by me and my Belfast Buddy) wisdom, they used as the clickbait for their special edition podcast.
What’s the plural for genius? Genii, yep, probably, we are all that. Magical presences certainly.
Still time for more mingling. You know what, I discovered it’s a great boon to hang out with parkrun royalty, I’ll take glory by association. Loads of people came to say hello and introduce themselves, which was wonderful. So many parkrun doors thrown open to me because I’m Elisabeth’s daughter! I explained my origins at Sheffield Hallam parkrun by pointing to my newly personalised apricot tee – though in reality, it would be even better if it just said ‘Elisabeth’s Daughter’ rather than the more prosaic ‘Sheffield Hallam’. It was noticeable how in many introductions people basically pointed to their boob area to indicate their parkrun of origin, it’s like a sign language for parkrunners. It works well if you are indeed wearing a bespoke apricot tee, less well if you are just wearing a random running top – people have discovered this to their cost. Also, on my last parkrun visit, a parkrun core team member who will remain anonymous, lamented how they were so proud of their new apricot tee they got a friend to take a close up of the Bushy parkrun strapline under the parkrun logo. Let’s just say the resulting photo was not really ‘appropriate’ which might be why prodirect use a photo of a flattened t-shirt for promotional purposes, rather than an extreme close up of a female parkrunner’s assets.
So here are more parkrun people, sharing the Bushy parkrun party. In possibly the weirdest ever twist of fate, we also met some people walking their dogs, one of whom I was at junior school with and haven’t seen since I left around forty-four years ago, that was bizarre. With her was the parent of my bestest friend from that time too, see how parkrun brings people together! I had not expected that.
Inevitably this account is very much focused on me and my mum, or more accurately my mum and me, but for the record, she wasn’t the only celebrity present. Here are more, including the parkrunner who has done the most parkruns of anyone on the planet – 741 and counting. Also, I feel I should have given the deer in the park higher billing, they are amazing at any time of year, but this Saturday the stags in mid rut were particularly impressive. The deer certainly need to be treated with respect though! Don’t know if they remembered their barcodes. Plus a pic of a parkrunner I’m more used to seeing in fancy dress, who was today doing her unofficial milestone 350 run. Yay!
At around this point, as if by magic the coffee appeared. I wasn’t sure how mum would be able to juggle a cup of coffee and a flute of prosecco, but not to worry dear reader, she quaffed her remaining half glass of fizz in one go and freed up her hand for the caffeine fix. A very fine cup of coffee it was too.
All good things come to an end eventually, but luckily we have not only memories on this occasion, but actual silverware. Here it is for one last time, with the backdrop of the famous parkrun tree where it all began.
Totally the spirit of parkrun, I’m sure you’ll agree.
And the morning was nearly over, the last few parkrunners peeling away, the course dismantled, prosecco bottles drained and cake tins emptied. The Bushy parkrun core team were so attentive and asked if we needed any help getting back, which we didn’t. I’d felt we were so welcomed and looked after all day, it was a blast. As we made our way back to the car, the contrast between the scene a few hours earlier and now was extraordinary. All was quiet and calm and clean, nothing but footprints was left behind** and nothing but photographs were taken away. A lot of photos though, No really, a lot. Think of the biggest number you can imagine, ok, got that? Is it huge? Well, I’ve news for you, you are not even close 🙂 What’s more, every picture holds a memory. A.Maz.Ing.
Another parkrun done and dusted, and added to the annals of parkrun history. I wonder what the next 15 years will bring?
Even though it’s another whole week before parkrun day comes round again, the good news is you can continue to indulge your parkrun passions by checking out the awesome Bushy parkrun Big Birthday Bash run report (thanks to Wendy Stokes) for Event no 809, 5 October 2019 here
If you prefer your parkrun fix to be delivered by audio, then immerse yourself in the With Me Now podcast link which is here, or you could check it out via the With Me Now Facebook page post if you prefer.
And no doubt there will be a squillion other photos and posts out there on the interweb too, yours for the finding, plus the personal reflections of the 1838 parkrunners and multitude of volunteers, spectators and cheery melee of others who joined the occasion. Quite something it really was…
So thank you Bushy parkrun for putting on such a show, not just on this special day, but delivering the parkrun magic week in week out. It was just the best day ever. Mum loved her trophy, but more than that, she loved meeting and mingling with so many fantastic parkrun friends. All parkrunners are equally epic, what a wonderful shared adventure it is for all of us. For me and mum today, entering Bushy park, was like being drawn into a collective supportive parkrun hug. Best day ever!
Bloody unicorn hair. Leaking eyes again.
And when you’ve finished reliving Bushy parkrun’s Birthday Bash, you can prolong the parkrun party for longer still by reading all my parkrun related posts here. Or not. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though. And maybe you have a life. There is life outside parkrun so I’m told, which might be true, but it’s also true that parkrun is a little microcosm of life as it should be, which is sometimes a great deal preferable to life as it is, though on the plus side, parkrun also perhaps shows us what might be possible, and brings together the positivity that is out there in the world if we are but open to it.
Incidentally, Mr S-H said something – I think on the podcast, about how every week he gets hundreds of emails and messages from people talking about what parkrun means to them, and the funny thing is, that almost none of them mention the actual running! Rather it is about the community cohesion, the coffee, the coming together, the sharing of adventures, the mutual encouragement, the being outdoors. The run is the glue that holds it all together, or the catalyst that sets the reaction in motion, but it’s all the things that spin outwards from it that makes parkrun the global phenomenon it has become. And better yet, anyone can join in, how fabulous is that? There’s a research report just come out about that wider impact too, volunteering is even more fun than running for some it seems. So we have the yin and yan of parkrun, it needs the runners and it needs the hi-vis heroes and wider community too. That’s the open secret. Yay!
Even people disappointed by finding out this week they did not get a ballot place in the London Marathon can find solace here. All welcome. Volunteers as well remember, the parkrun community has a wide reach.
(No idea how to use hashtags, but that seems about right eh? 🙂 )
*The occasion wasn’t all that ‘little’ to be honest, but I suppose it depends on what you are comparing it too. Anyway, I’ll let that go.
**actually, one poor runner lost their garmin when it broke somewhere round the start apparently, so that might have been left behind by accident. That’s a shame, but unusual to be fair.
***Yep it was, check out this video clip courtesy of Ian Feeley who was there, and keep an eye on the Burgess parkrun Facebook page too, as surely more pictures will follow… AND they got a mention in parkrun uk newsletter assante marshal for 16 October 2019 – well worth a gander
PS to save you the effort of googling it, the ‘Jog On’; podcast referenced in with WMN podcast is Ep 36, Darren Wood – the most parkruns ever. You’re welcome
PPS Mum, if you are trying to find the podcast it’s here. CLICK ON THIS LINK FOR THE WITH ME NOW BUSHY PARKRUN SPECIAL EDITION. It should just start playing by magic. 🙂 It’s like a radio programme, so the screen might go blank. It’s about an hour long.
Are you still here? That’s amazing! Well done. You get the prize for making it through to the end. It’s a virtual prize, not an actual one, but you’ll know you did good. A round of applause from me (I’m clapping you now) and free parkruns for life! Congratulations.
As a reward here is are some early morning photos in Bushy park, taken this very week, though not by me.
Quite a special place eh?