Posts Tagged With: volunteer marshal at parkrun

Volunteering at junior parkrun, all the fun things!

The unabridged version.

So the story is this. I got in touch with parkrun to talk about my perspective on walking at parkrun. I really welcome the parkwalk initiative, but feel that sometimes what happens on the ground doesn’t entirely reflect the welcoming rhetoric that comes from HQ. I ended up having quite a useful, interesting and wide ranging conversation with them, including about how inclusive junior parkrun had been, in practice being more accessible than many 5k events. This led to me putting some text together which has ended up being published today in their parkrun blog, which I’m chuffed about. However, inevitably they have cut it back a lot, and I just though it would be good to share the longer read, just because really.

The parkrun blog post ‘a new perspective on junior parkrun’ is here

Undigested read follows, of course it does!

Welcome to a parallel universe of positivity – junior parkrun! Come join the fun factory, the more the merrier.

Volunteering at junior parkrun

Volunteer team for Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun, #100 event celebrations

Inexplicably, it seems that there are some people out there yet to discover the parallel universe of positivity which is volunteering at junior parkrun.  This blows my tiny mind.  If you are one such person, then let me open your eyes to what you are missing out on.  Volunteering at any parkrun is super-fun of course, but volunteering at a junior parkrun is super-fun on steroids.  I can think of no other activity that can have you crying with laughter at the time, and then supplied with such a quantity of feel good endorphins in its aftermath that you will be super-charged with happiness for a whole week afterwards.  All of this in return for spending just an hour or on a Sunday at a junior parkrun venue near you.  I mean really, what’s not to like?  Spoiler alert, nothing at all!

To be fair, there was a time when I didn’t know about this other world either, hard though that is to remember now.  I had a vague sense that I wanted to ‘give back’ something to the parkrun world that had changed my life for the better, and volunteering at junior parkrun was a way to do that.  I got in touch, apprehensive about how I might be received, would I be thought a bit weird for offering my services at a junior parkrun when I didn’t have any children myself?  Well, good news dear reader, nope, I was welcomed with open arms to my then nearest junior parkrun at Graves Park, Sheffield.  So it was I found myself stepping into the wonderland that is happening all over the UK on a Sunday morning. 

It’s almost impossible to communicate how much fun junior parkrun can be.  There is the inherent hilarity about turning out in all weathers to watch people running around.  The camaraderie of meeting with the other volunteers, people from your neighbourhood you might not have had any reason to interact with before, but now you are sharing this hugely positive experience together you feel like you’ve known them all your life.  The delight of meeting the junior parkrunner who stopped to show me the biggest feather IN THE WORLD that they’d managed to discover en route before carrying on round.  Then there is the one who has to run around every bollard, lamp post or indeed volunteer on the course as part of their 2k run; the multitude of fancy dress, Gruffalo onesies or simply unorthodox clothing choices ‘just because’; the junior who brings a different cuddly toy with them each week; the participant who accelerates towards you each week for a high five then swerves off at just that moment of connection because they don’t really do contact; the friends or siblings who do the whole route holding hands; the multitude of children enthusiastically flinging their arms out so they can do aeroplane wings for the downhill section at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun because it is an actual FACT that this will make you go faster – faster still if you make wheeeeeee noises at the same time.  Or how about the child who last week ran the whole event with a buff pulled over their eyes to a chorus of ‘watch out’ shouts from marshals torn between horror and amusement as they set about shooing them in the right direction.  Or the ones who on the first lap are seemingly going to stroll the whole way round (which is fine by the way) only to be turbo charged for their second lap, leaving their astonished and wheezing accompanying adults for dust.  Every junior parkrunner has a story as does every parkrun event.  Being able to be part of this occasion is not giving up anything, it’s being included in a celebration of life, positivity and a world that is for that pocket of time at least, entirely free of cynicism.  In an age where we are used to talking mindfulness junior parkrun has it nailed.  It’s an all-consuming hour when I don’t think of anything else, just enjoy the moment.  The only really, really important rule for junior parkrun – as far as the participants are concerned – is ‘have fun!’  I include this in all my briefings now, to adults and juniors alike, it is ultimately the essence of parkrun, and junior parkrun manifests this mantra brilliantly. 

Through supporting junior parkrun you are part of a movement that increases wellbeing in young people and hopefully secures the future of parkrun more broadly as a new generation grow up with an appreciation of the values of inclusivity and volunteering as well as a love of being active.  It might be you are nurturing athletes of the future – certainly it is the case that a Sheffield junior parkrunner won the actual London Mini Marathon last year in 2022.  However, amazing as that success is, it’s arguably even more important and rewarding to cheer on those youngsters who might otherwise never enjoy being active, who are won over by the supportive environment together with the enthusiastic cheers and applause they experience just by being there.  They are enough in themselves.  They are truly welcome however they choose to participate.  If they want to pause to admire the daisies or rescue a worm from the course on the way round, that’s fabulous too.  And junior parkrun birthday celebrations are especially awesome, these juniors know how to party – have you seen them in their junior parkrun warm ups. Gorilla stomps, bum kicks and sun jumps are the future.  Surely you want to see these glories for yourself?

It’s maybe no surprise to hear that I am a massive enthusiast for junior parkrun.  It has brought so much joy to my life, possibly even more so than for the junior parkrunners who are supposedly the main beneficiaries.  However, my participation took on a whole new perspective last year.  It happens that I was really ill during lockdown, and nearly died following some medical complications that left me housebound for a while and using a wheelchair for many weeks.  Gradually, I became a bit more mobile, but it was a long old haul, graduating to using a Zimmer in the house, then a rollator to help me venture outside and finally sticks.  I desperately wanted to reengage with people but how?  Long story short, the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun community were just amazing in helping me get back involved.  They started off by giving me a marshal point really near to the carpark so I could manage to get to it with my rollator.  They then despatched juniors with a high vis for me to wear so I didn’t have to go to the main assembly point which would have been too far.  The juniors would then keep me company until the start of the run.  At the end they collected my high vis and wished me well.  This went on for many weeks.  Over time, as I could manage slightly further distances, I made it to the finish area to give out finish tokens – a job I could still do seated, and eventually took on marshal points at gradually increasing distances depending on how far I felt able to walk.  They did all they could to accommodate and encourage, being understanding too that if I had a bad day, I might have to cancel at short notice.  In fact, I never had to, I think largely because I knew I was going in to a supportive environment where I’d be helped and not judged if things were hard to manage.  In my experience, junior parkrun really is an exemplar of good practice in creating a positive and inclusive environment for both volunteers and participants alike.

My favourite role?  Whichever one I’ve done most recently to be honest.  It’s impossible to choose.  I love doing the first timers’ welcome as you get to introduce new parkrunners to something potentially life changing and broker that relationship.  I adore leading the warm up because, well, inner child will out I suppose.  Conducting a mini cohort of parkrunners to activate their helicopter arms or wave at the tailwalker is quite brilliant, and any excuse to bring along my Giraffe Geronimo to proceedings.  Then again, cheering the juniors enroute swells the heart.  I’m amazed each week at their micro adventures on the way, whether that’s someone who has decided to skip the whole route, the memorable junior parkrunner who interacted as a somewhat ferocious tiger for the duration of one particular parkrun, or the juniors who put on a greyhound sprint leaving their adults for dust.  Junior parkrun takes the principle of ‘respecting everyone’s right to participate in their own way’ and takes it to a liberating extreme.  Be honest, wouldn’t you fancy giving parkrun a go as a tiger given the chance?  Just do it by the way, no-one will care, but in a good way.  Handing out the finish tokens at the end is fabulous too, you get to speak to every participant, and learn the names of all to boot – but let’s not forget the role of supervising the finish funnel, cheering juniors to their sprint finish and whooping them through like the returning heroes they are, well that’s simply priceless.  Try them all out for size, find your happy place.  None of the roles are taxing, all are fun.  There aren’t enough positive adjectives in the thesaurus to communicate the joy!

Taking part each week honestly reminds me, in times which have sometimes seemed agonisingly bleak, that there very much is still good in the world.  What’s more, you can access it in bucket loads at a park near you on junior parkrun day!  It is a rare privilege in life to be able to both spread and receive happy vibes in equal measure.  This kind of joy isn’t finite, the more it ripples out, the stronger those waves become.  Don’t miss out, jump right on in, the water’s lovely.  If you haven’t yet discovered it, explore it now.  There is a whole new world, waiting to welcome you in, Sundays will never be the same again.  It will restore your faith in human nature and all those belly laughs will do wonders for your abdominal core strength too.  Healing for the body as well as the soul, come join the junior parkrun party!

We may have Paul Sinton-Hewitt to thank for our Saturday parkrun fix, and believe me I do, but thanks too should go to Paul Graham, who was behind the launch of junior parkrun, making parkrun weekends complete – replete even.  Whatever did I do with my weekends before?  Oh, and you can always volunteer on a Saturday as well by the way, junior parkrun can be the gateway experience to that field of glee too.  parkrun in all its manifestations is a force for good in the world in a time when that’s something we really need.  Whichever you choose though, remember Paul Graham’s most important parkrun rule. What’s that?  Oh yes, all together now ‘have fun!’

Lucy Marris, A448776

March 2023

I’ve also done various blogs on junior parkrun, link follows in case of use:

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SURPRISE! Ups and downs and round and rounds in the rain at Sheffield Castle parkrun

It is a fact universally acknowledged that a parkrunner in possession of a barcode is always in search of a parkrun. Further more, such a person will never regret a parkrun. Sometimes you may think you will, in the small dark hours of a dismal winter day blinking up at the ceiling from under the fragile warmth of a tightly clutched duvet, but actually, nope, even the most inclement of conditions bestow bragging rights, and the most perilous of journeys can provide payback in terms of future anecdotes. It is always worth stepping out for a parkrun adventure. What is comedy but tragedy plus time after all. However, some parkruns you don’t regret even more than others. Sheffield Castle parkrun is one such event. It is an ostensibly modest offering, small by many parkrun standards, with an average number of finishers each week of around 60. It is an erm, let’s go with ‘unpromising’ at first glance Sheffield location, and has definite ‘Sheffield flat’ sections that give the course the illusion of being almost entirely uphill. In fact scrap that, it isn’t an illusion, it actually is entirely uphill. Think Escher painting with the endless upwards staircases and you’ll get the general idea. However, those of us who have experienced the event at its Manor Park location know of its secret delights. Dear reader, you should know that The Manor Fields park has burst forth phoenix like

“From one of the most rundown bits of wasteland in the city to one of the city’s most attractive parks, this place is a gem for wildlife and humans alike. It has to be one of the best designed wildlife parklands in the country and should be a shining example for all” (Andrew Stringer, 2019).

It still suffers from that reputation in the minds of some. It had more than its fair share of fly tipping, burnt out vehicles, dog crap and yes, actual dead bodies over the years, as opposed to apocryphal ones. Yet now, if you just make the effort to trot along you’ll be greeted by possibly the most genuinely community focused of the Sheffield parkruns. The reclaimed land has been lovingly seeded to create amazing wild flower meadows in the summer months. Nature themed sculptures abound, and careful landscaping has created water habitats in abundance. It is the most fantastic space. Sheffield Castle parkrun is too often over looked. It’s proper lovely, always welcoming, always full of interest, and with stalwart volunteers that are such regulars at their spots it is almost as if they have merged with the landscape, if not actually grown out of it. Check out these photos lifted from the Manor Fields Park Facebook page:



See! Reyt nice – though granted these pics seems to have been taken on an altogether sunnier occasion…

Despite all this insider knowledge about the giddy delights of the venue that awaited, I cannot tell a lie, the deluge of rain that fell from the sky like a giant sized ice-bucket challenge first thing in the morning did not imbue me with enthusiasm at setting out.

My EWFM bestie was up in Sheffield for the weekend. Today would make for a hat trick of consecutive parkrun rendezvous which is no mean feat given she is in London and I’m in Sheffield or ‘up north’ as my southern reader might have it. We’d been debating taking the opportunity to do some tourism a little further afield, I’ve done all the Sheffield parkruns many times now, about from Hillsborough for some reason. Too many laps and a bit bargy when I went though it has a great reputation and now a fab cafe too, so I really should go back. Anyway, for various reasons we decided to stay local. I’m always happy to go back to Castle and it’s been a while, and it would be a new to her parkrun. Everyone’s a winner. Watching the rain beating on the windows with such force they were like shards thrust horizontally at the panes by angry demons* we were grateful for our life choices. I would not have fancied a long road trip aquaplaning across the country to an unknown destination many miles away. I was even for once quite relieved to be a parkwalker. I have to fight back tears of frustration quite often at my restricted mobility these days, and parkrun days are all too often the most painful reminder of what I can’t do, that and the Round Sheffield Run which I also missed out on this weekend. Today though, I was quite pleased to be able to legitimately rock up to the event in a full length rain coat, hat and multiple warm layers. It was surely going to be a wet one. Even so, parkrun day, to parkrun we should head, and so we did. Taking a photo of us just before we set off to share with other parkrunners heading off in the dark on their parkrun journeys. I pity them, missing out on Sheffield Castle parkrun, but dare say they enjoyed their own respective parkruns in their own way…



We drove across Sheffield, it isn’t that far, but I went some weird route because I couldn’t quite visualise the best way to get there and so let the satnav take us on a magical mystery tour instead. It did not disappoint. Negotiating the tram tracks on the way (I have never quite got used to sharing the roads with trams, it makes me nervous) we got to Manor Fields Park nice and early, nabbing one of the last few parking spaces in the modest car park.

Oh, I have written about Sheffield Castle parkrun before, but just in case you are late to the party, here is the Sheffield Castle parkrun website blah de blah:

The event takes place at Manor Fields Park ,City Road, Sheffield, S2.

Course Description: The course consists of three laps of Manor Fields park in an anti-clockwise direction. The Start/finish line is situated at the entrance to the park from the car park adjacent to York House, City Road. From the start head east following the tarmac path which descends gently and then takes a more north easterly direction. Take a right fork climbing gently on a curved path towards the Queen Mary Road entrance to the park keeping the houses to your right. Adjacent to the Queen Mary Road park entrance take a left turn following the tarmac path north east towards the children’s playground. Immediately prior to the playground, at the cross roads, turn left and take the gentle descent north westerly. Continue along the tarmac path following it north keeping rocks to your right and over the discreet, level bridge. Take the next available right and continue along the tarmac path in a generally northerly direction as it ascends ever more steeply towards the Raynald Road exit from the park. Follow the tarmac path left and north west as it descends steeply towards the Manor Park Crescent park entrance keeping within the park boundaries following the path as it bends left passed the entrance heading south in a steady climb. Stick to the main tarmac path as it bends south westerly and commences its steady climb past the cemetery entrance on the right back to the start/finish line. Complete three laps of the course for the 5km of the Sheffield Castle parkrun.

Location of start: The run starts at the entrance to Manor Fields Park, City Road (next to Premier Supermarket). The start line is visible from main road.

Getting there by public transport
Bus: From Sheffield Interchange City Centre 120 platform A, bus stops at entrance to park, City Road (Spring Lane).

Train: From Sheffield City Centre, Tram stops opposite park entrance on Spring Lane. Walk on to City Road to entrance to park.

Getting there on foot: The Park entrance can be accessed from City Road S2 1GF and is situated 2 miles from the City Centre.
Getting there by road: Sheffield Park Square Roundabout via Duke Street (B6070) then follow on to City Road (A6135) Manor Fields Park. The Car park entrance is just on left after Premier Supermarket. Car Parking Free.

Post Run Coffee: Every week we grab a post parkrun coffee in York House – please come and join us!

and the course looks like this:



but don’t let the picture fool you. It only looks flat because it’s a 2D image, the 3D reality is most definitely erm, let’s go with ‘undulating’. Fun for sure, but definitely a hump or two on the way around, a veritable caravan of camels worth, and bactrian camels at that! Mind you, personally I do like a camelid, under-rated and rather magnificent creatures in my world. Much like wart hogs. They are glorious beyond words.

It was definitely still raining on arrival. Even the wonkies didn’t want to get out of the car. To be fair, I’m not entirely sure my precious and rare parkrunning buddy did either, though she was putting a brave face on it at this juncture.


We did a bit of sitting steaming in the car, reflecting on our life and parkrun choices, peering through the rainy car windows to see marshals wrestling with parkrun flags and cones as they set the course areas up, Then I suddenly remembered as I was a volunteer parkwalker, I probably ought to brave the outside and let the Run Director know I was there. Also, there was the inevitable issue of facilitating a precautionary pee. The good news is that Sheffield Castle has a loo right near the start/finish area, the bad news is that it is just the one, so inevitably there is a bit of a queue. Time to move. The wonkies – made of repurposed high vis in case you haven’t been concentrating and havent worked it out, for the most part decided to stay put, but Charley and Red Ted committed to getting out and about. Admittedly, Red Ted is strapped to my walking pole, as a sort of emotional support wonky. I had never really reflected on this particularly until a child at junior parkrun asked me why he was tied up in that way and I felt suddenly exposed in some act of vile coercion and cruelty. I couldn’t come up with an adequate explanation. One of the many unexpected challenges of volunteering at a junior event I suppose.

As we exited the car another car breezed in, we espied frantically waving shadows inside and reciprocated with frantic enthusiastic waves back before quizzing each other ‘Who was that?’. ‘No idea!’. We had only managed to clock the UK parkrun tourists Facebook page buff between us, and were each hoping the other had made a positive id through the grey rain and seemingly darkened windscreen. Oh well, we’d find out.

And so we did!

SURPRISE. And OMG what a FANTASTIC surprise. A contingent from Huddersfield parkrun, although inexplicably not all decked out in Super Mario fancy dress. We’d first met I think back in August at their 500th parkrun event which had been an amazing and welcoming occasion. That is an astonishing course, there are moments en route where if you look around it really does seem like parkrunners are going in all possible different directions and on all possible levels – over bridges and through tunnels below. You really should check it out if you haven’t already done so.

Through the rain, and brandishing AMAZING giraffe leggings and scrunchie for a synchronised tourism occasion still to come was a familiar face, hurrah! It is always brilliant to turn up at a parkrun and unexpectedly see a familiar face, but what was extra brilliant and bizarre about this particular reunion is that we had literally been liaising a couple of days before about rendezvousing at Scunthorpe parkrun next week. That is tricky for me because I’d already committed (health permitting) to join another parkrunning friend for their Cowell run (100 different events). I felt bad though, as we tried to go to Scunthorpe before Christmas but snow and ice made heading out too scary for me. I was feeling guilty and like I was being a bit flaky. This was especially depressing as I really want to go to Scunthorpe. Partly because who doesn’t like a parkrun by the seaside, and partly because, shallow and childish as it is, I do feel the urge to add Scunthorpe and Clitheroe Castle parkrun and indeed Sloughbottom parkrun to my Penistone parkrun result and achieve my personal Infantile Sniggering at Saucy Words challenge, I’m not sure what the virtual badge for that one looks like, perhaps best not to over think it. A chortling smiley face emoji perhaps? That would be family friendly and tasteful. The acceptable face of collapsing in giggles at hidden ‘rude’ words within parkrun names perhaps.

Anyway, the enormous irony of us actually being in Sheffield instead, today was hilarious, brilliant and perfection personified, or parkrunnerfied more accurately. I couldn’t have been more astonished if they’d all burst out of a gigantic super Mario themed cake to the accompaniment of a full size steel band and a troupe of acrobats. It was magnificent! They had the advantage on me having checked out the volunteer roster, but were also tail walking. The intention was we’d be joined by others, but they had car issues en route and ended up doing Hillsborough instead, so near and yet so far. Still, we could be whooping and amazed and excitable with enough demonstrative passion for all of us! A fantastic surprise. #lovetheparkruncommunity We managed a rendezvous and I know longer have to split myself in two across two far away parkruns in order to avoid missing out on or putting out fellow parkrunners, hurrah! It may have been raining on the outside, but it was all sunshine on the inside.

Quick pee, scamper to collect the blue high vis – it is massively the most flattering of the high vis options in my opinion, and then to the pop up banner, that was more blown down and saturated then popped up and perky and some photo options. Selfies and wonkies all needed to be captured on film. That’s me pointing with my surprised face, and that is surprise visitor looking pleased with themselves for being so surprising, and why wouldn’t she be? So much joy! Also, aren’t are hats splendid!



The photo shoot required a certain amount of acrobatics and indeed contortion as unless held upright with some force the pop up sign did a kamikaze-esque collapse. Then wonky Charley did a faceplant as soon as left unattended, so there was much ducking behind signs and posing with signs and all sorts. It got very jolly in fact. I do love making my own entertainment, and was perfectly accessorised for such adventuring what with having both Huddersfield companions and my precious and rare EWFM which in case you haven’t been concentrating is sort of like a BFF but waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better, more enduring and more complex. A very good thing indeed, and very much for life not just for Christmas, much like parkrun. Are you following?

Anyway, we ended up directing a number of photoshoots of other parkrunners seeking a pic with the pop up. Initially they stood dripping and bedraggled like muddied survivors from a disaster moving, but with a bit of encouragement played up for the camera beautifully and provided much jolly pre-parkrun entertainment, hurrah! Making your own fun is highly recommended, it is always pleasing just how up for it other parkrunners are if you just set the playfulness in motion. I say up for it, maybe they were just particularly suggestable and have traipsed home full of regret that they didn’t nab their usual rigidly upright, solemn faced behind the pop up photo. Oh well, there is always next week I suppose. I like our photos, though somehow, we failed to get one of me and EWFM in all the confusion and merriment. Never mind, we have our memories and got one the next day at junior parkrun so all was not lost.



With all the pre parkrun faffage, it seemed that really quickly we were called together for the Run Director’s briefing. There were the usual shout outs for tourists – there were a few, but mainly from Yorkshire although obviously my bestie from Londonshire was also present and correct if a little damp around the edges. Thanks to the volunteers. There was a full roster today which was good to see, but possibly largely on account of people resting their legs before the iconic Round Sheffield Run tomorrow. One person had a number up for grabs, and I endeavoured to get it for my lodger, however it didn’t work out as I was walking and the parkrunner concerned had long gone by the time I got back. Maybe just as well as I’m not entirely sure if it would have been possible to do name changes at this late stage. Darned shame though.

All too soon, we were sent on our merry and puddlestrewn way. I didn’t have my camera with me and to be fair it wasn’t really photo weather, people were understandably loathe to risk their phones in such conditions. However, you can take my word for it that it is a really brilliant route. I love that the inclines mean you see the runners streaming away from you, and the twisty turny paths and open landscape mean you get great views of others ahead. The three lap bit means you get lapped as a slower participant, but that’s jolly too, a good opportunity to make new friends and share greetings as you pass one another.

There was another parkwalker which was good to see, they were power walking so a bit ahead of me and the two tail walkers. We had a little party at the back with walking and jeffing parkrunners. Both were regulars. We ended up having the familiar conversation about why is Sheffield Castle parkrun called Sheffield Castle parkrun when there doesn’t appear to be any castle as such. I sort of know this but couldn’t entirely remember the details. It is confusing, because this park, together with what is now Norfolk park was all once part of a deer park, and as I recall there was a fortified looking hunting lodge as part of the estate which was known locally as The Castle, even though it wasn’t an actual castle though it was where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner for ages and ages. To add to my confused history, there was a real proper Castle in Sheffield at one point, which is now long gone, but referenced as Castlegate in Sheffield City Centre. Oh, and actually, there was a dig a few years back which found some stuff of interest apparently, but the Castle reference for Manor Fields has a different origin, i.e. the turret house from Sheffield Manor Lodge:



Hang on, let’s just Wikipedia Sheffield Manor Lodge shall we? Might save some time:

Mary, Queen of Scots, was held prisoner by the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury at both Sheffield Manor Lodge and Sheffield Castle (her ghost is said by some to haunt the Turret House building). Wolsey’s Tower was built to accommodate Cardinal Wolsey, who then died after travelling on to Leicester.

Mary came to England in 1568 after her defeat at the battle of Langside seeking the support of the Catholic nobility. Mary’s freedom was restricted after her cousin Elizabeth was advised of the threat that Mary posed to her own crown.

She was handed over to the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury on 4 February 1569. Talbot had armed guards watching her constantly, however she was still able, with the help of the Duke of Norfolk and others of the Catholic nobility, to plot against Elizabeth. Several times Mary had to be moved to places of greater safety and stricter control.

On 28 November 1570 she was taken to the Earl of Shrewsbury’s castle at Tutbury, where, apart from a few breaks at Chatsworth and Buxton, and more regular visits to Sheffield and the Manor House, she remained for 14 years.

So now we all know. I shall make it my business to immediately half commit this to memory in the spirit of passing on partial truths in perpetuity, so next time someone asks me I can sound much more authoritative and confident, that would make a pleasing change.

I did sort of know most of this history, albeit it had got a bit mangled since I last looked it all up. What I did not know until it was pointed out to me today, is that there is a particular point on the course where you can see the silhouette of the turret towers on the distant horizon. This means you actually get three shots at spotting them, more if you include partial views. I think this is pretty cool, and also another boon of walking and talking – twalking – because it creates the time and space to have things shown and explain to you, hurrah! This is in addition to putting the world to rights, comparing parkrun stories and being excited about tomorrow’s Round Sheffield Run winter edition and sing the praises of this amazing event. Definitely best race ever, it is a race not a run, unlike parkrun, but in many ways retains a parkrun ethos being inclusive and social and altogether brilliant. A parkrun on steroids with a medal at the end, where you can eat your bodyweight in jelly babies on the way round. Coffee and pizza at the end and loads of photos of happy smiley people having the best time outside together. Just sayin… might not be free, or weekly, but it is timed and it is awesome. Even volunteering for it is a joy, much like junior parkrun, though takes a bit longer, might want to bring your own chair. You can tell this marshal is a parkrun ambassador, got lucky with his position adjacent to toilets in Bishops House where the volunteers provided hot tea. He had to bring his own chair and snacks though, and it is a long time to be out there cheering and clapping I know. Looks like he’s nailed it though, has sussed sitting about is way easier than running round in the mud, however lovely the route!



Back to Sheffield Castle parkrun though, it was just lovely. The weather may not have been the best – though Warrington parkrun had it worse for sure



and I can’t resist these pics of runners in action elsewhere too – check out The Holmfirth Photographer at the TNT and the puddle of doom at Temple Newsam 10 on Sunday. Fortunately running in the rain just makes you more hardcore.


But walking round with lovely parkrun buddies is The Best. Plus, we got to appreciate the various sculptures in the space, and to thank the somewhat sodden but irrepressibly cheery marshals as we passed them. One had come with an umbrella which was not holding up well to the challenge, but still beaming at the self-imposed hilarity of the situation. Yay for the marshals, they are The Best. And yay for the naming of the radish leaves sculpture, it may not have actually been called this previously, but it is now. You heard it here first dear reader:



So we walked and talked and put the world to rights, and laughed and shared stories and made new friends and rekindled old friendships. My EWFM bestie came to join us after completing her parkrun to walk us in. She was delighted with her number 69 finish place, I don’t know why in particular, but she was definitely chuckling inwardly more than grown ups are generally expected to do, but exactly the amount besties should, so all good.

The rain fell as we headed up the final hill past the cemetery, the last lap was pretty much just a couple of walkers and the tail, but none the worse for that. Unsurprisingly, by the time we came to the finish funnel, most other parkrunners had dispersed, but cheery hardcore finish funnel and scanners and timers were all very much in situ and hugely appreciated by all of us walkers. They were even still smiling. The RD was busy in the house token sorting, so I waved goodbyes to the stalwart volunteers who were busying themselves with final course set down and waved goodbye to my Huddersfield friends – the two of them who had run also circled back to join us again. I thought this was solidarity, but it may have been that they didn’t have the car keys which would allow them to get themselves to a place of dry safety as their driver was my tailwalking buddy. Still, we made a jolly troupe heading to the finish.

And then, suddenly, everyone dispersed. It is magical how people come together for parkrun and then vanish into the mist afterwards as if we were never there. Leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but memories, and maybe photos, and in this case, large amounts of rainwater soaked into clothing, but that was all!

If you like to see accounts triangulated, you can see the full results from today here and see the write up of the event below. Hurrah!



So that was all properly lovely, even if my last outstanding bingo number still eludes me. Oh the frustration.

The best bit though, we can do it all again next Saturday, and for me and my EWFM bestie we could do it again tomorrow, at junior parkrun. We went to Sheffield Olympic Legacy junior parkrun on the Sunday, all tooled up with wonkies and had the best of times. I like to pretend the wonkies are primarily to give joy to junior parkrunners, but they have taken on characters all of their own and their joy radiates outwards far beyond juniors. Even so, it was fun to have them back in their natural habitat and en masse too. One of the frogs and one of the cats got carried round by two sisters taking part. I love it when that happens and the wonkies get a proper work out. The little things eh?

It didn’t even rain! I know, what are the chances? #loveparkrun #especiallylovejunior parkrun



There we go, another parkrun weekend done and dusted. Thank you Sheffield Castle parkrun for being awesome always, small but perfectly formed, thank you lovely EWFM for being my parkrun bestie, and thank you Huddersfield parkrunners for the amazing surprise and thank you everyone who keeps the parkrun community alive and thank you RSR for being the best running event ever (apart from parkrun obvs) hopefully I’ll find a way to join you again at some point in the future. Yay to all in the Sheffield running community who make it so!

Same time next week people? Go awn, you know you want to!

Incidentally, you can extend your parkrun contemplations for longer 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.  Also, you might just like to lean back in a comfy chair, close your eyes, and dreamily recall your happiest parkrun moments.  Bet there are loads.

*well, like I imagine shards thrust horizontally by angry demons would seem to be, not having actually experienced this personally to date

Categories: 5km, parkrun, walking at parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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


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



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

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



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

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

The gloomy bit:

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



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



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

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

parkwalk, here we come!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It looks like this on the course map:



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

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



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



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



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



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



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



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


parkrun party at the back


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



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

Officially though, the role of tailwalker is:


So now we know.

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



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


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


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



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

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



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

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



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



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


parkwalk or parkwalt – hopefully but the first of many


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

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



You can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though.  Your choice

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

The Spirit of Bushy parkrun. 15th Birthday Brilliance at Bushy parkrun.

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…

LC the awards

Undigested read:

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.

kudos to parkrun

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!

sept5 18A 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!)

sept6 19Whangarei 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.

Whangarei original darkrun

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.

greytown woodside trail parkrun darkrun

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.

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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.

birthday 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.

jules cox photo

Photo taken by following the British Deer Society Code of Conduct:

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:

Paul and balloons

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.

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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…. 

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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.

superman and alter ego

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:

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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.

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:

investigation wall

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! 

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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!

do you run much.png

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.

mum and david moorcroft

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:

AB start

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

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Wow, a lot of people pile past pretty speedily – and then they are gone, winding their parkrun way out of sight

Bushy parkrun around they go

see them run!

SG parkrun surge

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

apricot tee

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

youre in

#loveparkrun indeed

(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.

🙂 x

As a reward here is are some early morning photos in Bushy park, taken this very week, though not by me.

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Quite a special place eh?

Categories: 5km, parkrun | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Will you go out with me? Graves junior parkrun on National Get Outside Day.

Digested read: volunteered at Graves junior parkrun today.  It was awesome!

Undigested read:

National ‘Get Outside Day‘ Oh GOD!  Is that really a thing?  I mean apparently so accordingtofacebooksoitmustbetrue.  Never heard of it, but it seems that today, Sunday 29th September has been declared National Get Outside Day!  They said so on the (very marvellous) Let’s Go Peak District Facebook page and even put an enticing image on it to emphasise both the point, and the unambiguous loveliness of the great outdoors.


What could possibly go wrong?


Nothing at all.

Apart from apocalyptic weather.  This is what the great outdoors looked like to me at 8.00 o’clock this morning.


Still, the thing is, there is still no better place to be on a Sunday morning than a junior parkrun.  Granted, in an ideal world it would always be Graves junior parkrun, but for those of you not fortunate enough to live within either the catchment area of Graves park, or to be able to commute to it, there are other junior parkruns available, they too offer up their own unique fun factories, whatever the weather!

I was a late signee for volunteering duties this weekend.  I’ve had a bad back (lawks-a-lordy that makes me sound both aged and decrepit, both of which adjectives I’m currently inclined to ‘own’ as is the current zeitgeist).  I wasn’t sure I’d be up for it.  Also, the weather.  Ooooooooooooooooooh my loooooooooooooord.  Did you see the forecast?  Basically torrential rain ALL DAY.  Not just all day, but I think for all eternity.  I wasn’t over keen.  But then again, I very much prefer dramatic weather to low key miserableness.  There might be an anecdote in it.  Storms and torrential rain might be pretty awesome, as long as I was dressed for it.  Graves park is its own micro-climate, and whatever weather is happening in Sheffield more broadly you have to multiply the wind speed by 100 and drop the temperature by 20 degrees and add in snow, fire, ice and flood to get a more accurate indicator of what to expect.  FACT.*  Never a dull moment up at Graves.  Anyways, when I did send my rather late in the day email to offer up my services to the Run Director (it’s a run not a race even more so at junior parkrun) he promised glorious sunshine and chortled at the nonsensical and alarmist rumour mill that included  “earlier on today, apparently, someone said they heard there was a hurricane on the way, well, don’t worry, there isn’t!”  As if!  The sun always shines at junior parkrun.  Ha ha, might have caught out Mr Fish – or might not, depending on what you choose to believe – (he did say it though, YouTube never lies) but definitely not our RD.  Guaranteed sunshine it would be, or your money back.  Count me in.

michael fish

Besides, volunteers bring their own sunshine with them wherever they go, here are some of them from today, basking in it.  Lovely indeed.


So it was, alarm went off at stupid o’clock, not that it really needed to.  The rain had been battering on my attic window all night.  I was half expecting to find myself marooned in my roof space, rising waters surrounding the entire house.  It wasn’t though, although it was definitely exceedingly wet.  Waterproof over trousers it would be.  Not only waterproof trousers, other clothing as well, but just an extra top layer.  Woolly hat too.

I ventured out.  Yep, definitely raining.  Got to Graves park car park.  Pretty much deserted apart from the RDs car, we’re on then.  I got my ticket for the car park and then sat in the car waiting to the RD to appear out of the rain, which he duly did, dragging the all important kit wheelie bin with him.  We were ON!


Other core team members started to emerge from the mist, and, each furnished with newly laundered and fresh smelling fluorescent tabards (comes under ‘any other duties’ for the RD of whichever week apparently)…

squeaky clean hi vis

we divvied up the set up tasks and off we went about our hi-vis business.  Astonishingly though, and this is indeed nigh on miraculous and proves that Mr P S-H does absolutely have supernatural powers, it had basically stopped raining.  I know, amazing!

Distinctly damp yes, but no longer a need to actively wear life-saving floats or other buoyancy aids prior to entering the park.  Better yet, we even had some early arrivals to the Graves junior parkrun ball, so what with a venue, volunteers and hardy parkrunners that was it, we had all the necessary ingredients for a fab event. We would make it so!


I set off as is my way, to do course set up.  I  enjoy this, it’s a refreshing stomp round the 1km route to clear your head and you always see cool stuff.  Gorgeous trees whatever the season, sometimes parakeets, today a bedraggled fluffed up robin, sheltering in amongst the red berries of a hawthorn tree.  There are challenges of course.   Carrying all those signs is harder than you might think, though I’ve developed an idiosyncratic knack of sorts:


I’m not going so far as to say I’ve perfected the art, but I have found my own pathway through.  The real challenge is with the parkrun tape, putting it in place around the lake to try to deter participants from running into the water.  The capacity of small children to run into inanimate objects is extraordinary, and the tape seems a modest barrier, but, alongside attentive marshals and accompanying adults has worked to date.  That’s good.  Disentangling the officially sanctioned parkrun tape is however really tough.  It’s also somewhat contrary, some days you effortlessly unfurl the tape as if unwinding a silken ribbon from a fairy’s spool – or like I imagine that would be, I’ve never actually experienced that to be fair.  On other occasions it’s a veritable Gordian knot, especially if you are in a hurry, have spectators or are trying to show a rookie volunteer how easy course set up is.

Got there in the end. Phew.  The distance shot is taken at a parkrun earlier in the year 10th Feb to be precise, but I realised to my horror, I’d failed to snap my handywork in action today.  I was also responsible for that fine tape work earlier in the year though, so I think the inclusion of this shot for illustrative purposes is probably fair enough in the circumstances.

You get to say hello to other hardy park users, and to admire the wildlife and livestock.  Next to the pond are often some guinea fowl in amongst the waterfowl, protected by a fence.  They are sort of 3D / 2D birds.  From the front they are most definitely three dimensional, but from the side, they look absolutely flat.  Honestly they do, go check it out.  Nope, no photos – hang on, that’s what google is for…

Hmm, not sure if it entirely captures what I mean, you have to see them for real.  Honestly, side view, like a cartoon drawing, then head on, a perfect sphere.  This pleases me, the amazing 2D/ 3D guinea fowl.  Awesome.  Some sort of optical illusion, perhaps induced by the extreme contrast in the two perspectives.  I look wide from both angles, but then I’m not a guinea fowl.

Carried on with course set up.  Oooh, Humungous puddle on the way to the entrance to the animal farm!  That’s not going to stop our junior parkrunners though, that’ll just add to the fun, a splish sploshing opportunity to enjoy not fear!

oh, mustn’t forget about change in access route from next week – wasn’t too confident how that would unfold (I know, I know, ‘ye of little faith and all that) but no time to fret about that because oh look!  A highland coo!  One of the highlights of Graves for junior and 5k parkrunners alike!  Not sure why this one is being kept away from the others, could be a promotion or a demotion due to illness, or injury, who knows?

Despite my ambivalence about animals in captivity generally, and the sanitisation of how farm animals are kept, it is nevertheless pretty cool to see the critters in the morning. Today they were drenched, and a bit put out to be honest.  For whatever reason, breakfast was clearly late, and most came to check me out in case I’d brought along a bucket of alfalfa pellets, or whatever along with my flags, and looked exceedingly unimpressed when it became clear I hadn’t.  Messed with my head a bit.  They galloped over ecstatic at the sight of me as I first came into view and then disdainfully – petulantly even – went off in search of a more promising candidate for breakfast service.  I understand their point of view, I need to learn to handle rejection better.  I’m just saying, if you’ve not been pointedly ignored by a trio of llamas you’ve never really been ignored at all.  Love the piglets though.  Warthogs will always be my favourites, but pigs hold a pretty fine second place in my heart.

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Up through the park, nice cone work in evidence from my fellow course setter upperers

One of the big container planters was a bit in the way of the course, but we couldn’t move it, basic physics really, it was full of water from the rain. Still, seems junior parkrunners are a svelte lot, they managed to negotiate the narrow space into the car park without incident.  Wonders will never cease.  They run into marshals and the sides of buildings often enough.  Still, all good today.

It took me longer than usual to set up, partly because of the Gordian knot, partly because of the standing water everywhere, partly because of my back and partly because I got distracted by the animals.  By the time I got back to the mustering area, there was a pleasing assembly of people, and the first timers’ briefing was just starting.  That’s one of my favourite roles at junior parkrun, so much eager anticipation and excitement and so much parkrun good will.  Not for me today though, someone else had the giddy joy of delivering that.


I put the final arrow in place in the finish funnel, and checked out the other hi-vis heroes newly arrived.  The mist was thickening. Strictly speaking every child is in view of a marshal at all times, it was however looking like we might struggle to see our hands in front of our faces if this trend continued.  Oh well.  What’s the worst…

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Back to the start, all happening now…

It is always so worth rocking up to junior parkrun.  The weather may have been inclement, but it takes more that an arctic blast and world ending downpours to deter our juniors, particularly when they are to be running their 100th parkrun and have a balloon to accompany them en route by way of marking the occasion.  Anyway, it wasn’t raining.  It might be a stretch to say it was glorious sunshine beating down on us, but, as already explained, we’d brought our own sunshine along with us, parkrunners always do!  Plus flamboyant rainbow golfing umbrellas are guaranteed to lift your mood.

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More juniors and accompanying adults rocked up, but always time for an attempt at a selfie.  Really, I prefer to leave selfies to experts such as Smiley Selfie Queen, but in her absence we didn’t do too badly – if by ‘not doing too badly’ you mean we captured our gurning selves within the frame of the lens.  Anything else a bonus.  We also managed to alternate wide-eyed wide-mouthed deranged-demeanours with one another, which, dear reader, you must concede is good work.

back to the main business in hand, and the RD briefing.  It seemed like fewer people than usual, not entirely surprising, but it was a keen and attentive crowd.  We kicked off with a big round of applause for the parkrunners themselves this week.  ‘Our junior athletes’ no less!  Normally, the applause is for all the volunteers – and of course individual milestones and wrist band achievers, but in the elements today, the junior participants earned their recognition for turning out.  Usual rules and awards,

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Also, good news!  We are the only junior parkrun in the UK, probably in the world over, that gets to run through an animal farm. This is a great USP and quite a privilege.  New rules from next month mean the path through the animal park is going to be shut from Monday – oh no!  However, expert negotiation has secured the Graves junior parkrun special dispensation to continue running the same parkrun route as always for a trial period at least – as long as all participants make sure they only run though.  So no stopping to interact with the animals on the way round.  That’s OK, plenty of time to scratch a goats jaw afterwards, through the ‘official’ entrance, and excellent news for Graves junior parkrun as there isn’t any really viable alternative route as it’s hardly health and safety gone mad not to want to have 4 year olds running through an active car park.  That could quickly negate the positive effects of exercising outdoors, doesn’t take a genius to realise cars and children don’t mix.  Although you might think so, the way some drivers behave dropping off their precious cargo outside school gates in the morning in cow bar adorned 4 by 4s.  Terrifying.

Next base, warm up!  I was documenting this rather than participating, but in my head I was doing the swimming exercise with particular aplomb, and I reckon the hula hooping looked fun too.  Yay, go junior parkrunners, you are awesome!

Then a slidey trudge to the start line up:

Under starters order, with volunteers lined up like so many tenpins on a bowling lane, the tunnel of fear, and GO!

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The front runners sprint past!  Others skip, trundle and weave.  All are brilliant.  There can be no more joy-filled scene to behold on a Sunday morning.  Honestly, in dark times, this spectacle will lift the most hardened and embittered of hearts. FACT.**

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Gone.  Disappeared into the midst.  Oops.  Perhaps we should have counted them all out, in order that we could count them all back.  Never mind, too late now!

parkrun underway, cue the Reservoir Dogs routine as hi-vis wearers move to their new stations.

It’s a two lap course.  I was on the entrance of the finish funnel, to try to ensure everyone did the required two laps and didn’t enter the funnel unless they had.  To encourage runners and to shoo away parents from the funnel.  Well, except in exceptional circumstances.  Sometimes at the end you get some really scared juniors, we aren’t completely heartless, and can exercise discretion if faced with distraught participants who have completed the run quite happily, but are then overwhelmed by the sight of a veritable fluorescent army of towering scary looking marshals!  How are they to know they are entirely benign?  Well, for the most part…  some of the warm up sessions can be quite full on!

It’s quite fun, because you do get to see all the runners at least once before you have to leap into full funnel management mode, and so get a little bit of the stories of some of the participants as they complete their first lap.  The ones who are digging deep, the ones who smile the whole way round.  The knowing ones who like to be photographed, the ones who seem to be running in their pyjamas/ fancy dress/ favourite dinosaur or skeleton shirt (why not, I would if I could).  I was pleased to see the balloon was still attached to the 100th event runner.  One junior wanted to finish at one lap, but I explained she couldn’t come in the funnel unless she’d done two, but there was still time.  Negotiations went on. The outcome was unclear.  Oh no, had I done the right thing, or had I morphed into Cruella De Ville.  Still, rules is rules, and it would have messed up the timings something chronic if one-lappers in the finish funnel started to be a thing.  With great power comes great responsibility it seems, I wore the mantle heavily.   Still, at least I didn’t have to wear an actual mantel, that would have been worse, particularly with my back in the sorry state it is at present.

Before you know it, the first finishers are hurtling round.  Blimey, they weren’t deterred by the mud!  Sprinting to the finish at breakneck speeds.  Astonishingly, I didn’t see any either face plant or backslide in the finish funnel, more luck than my dulcit tones imploring them to take care.  I did see one really spectacular slide – but that was of a parent, racing to get a barcode to their offspring.  Good recovery if I may say so.

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The RD surveyed all, deep in profound contemplation…


probably, he might have just been thinking about what to have for lunch later though.

I know you shouldn’t have favourites… . I don’t really, but even so, can we have a special mention for the two runners who finished holding hands together, and also for the brave parkrunner who, having been turned away from the finish funnel after lap one, did indeed go on to complete lap two.  Powered by haribos, she even achieved a sprint finish.  I got something in my eye watching those moments.  It happens a lot at junior parkrun.  Also, the parkrunner who had to stop for a pee after the first lap, also made it back out on the route and completed the run.  Yay!  Catastrophe averted.

Good news, our 100th junior parkrunner completed his parkrun too – we should give an anticipatory shout out to his sister who will be doing the same next Sunday.  Luckily the family have practised how to celebrate properly ready to up their game even further next week.  For today, they celebrated with ace star jumps.  This is the junior parkrun way!  It would be the 5k parkrun way too if it was down to me, but I recognise I need to win hearts and minds to bring that about over time…


And then, in what seemed no time at all, the tail walker came into view, and that was that, parkrun done, we could all stand down.  Just a question of dismantling the course and we would be good to go.  There was one anxious moment when we nearly lost the RD for next week.  She momentarily took leave of her senses, contemplating retrieving some cones from the bottom of the kit wheelie bin. This was contraindicated for her on account of her height, which is on the petite end of the continuum.  If she’d disappeared head first into the bin that would have been the end of her, never seen her again.  And with fewer adventures than Alice down the rabbit hole, and more complaints about how surprising it was to fine our normally reliable RD a ‘no show’ and why was the wheelie bin seeming to be a bit heavier than usual and why are there some stiffened legs sticking out of it?  No worries, junior parkrun is about nothing if not team work.  A taller marshal was sourced, and saved the day by effortlessly reaching in to retrieve said cones. Crisis averted.  Especially good news as it’s her birthday next week!  Happy Birthday awesome one!

Team work is fun you know.  And you know what, you should really have a stab at volunteering if you haven’t already done so.  If you have, and so already discovered for yourself that volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, then volunteering at junior parkrun will blow your mind, so much so, you must understand you undertake such a role at your own risk.  FACT***  Clangers would be ace at marshalling, they have innate cheeriness already on tap, but you too could harness and channel your inner clanger by joining whatever parkrun team is in striking distance for you.  Go on!  It will be splendid!  Which one will you be?  Actually, I might be a froglet…

clangers supporting junior parkrun

Adjourned to the cafe for results processing and token sorting.  Normally I bagsy token sorting, but I was sacked gazumped on this occasion, so instead took on busy and important supervisory duties.  I must have supervised brilliantly – assisted by a junior parkrunner stationed at the opposite end of the table – as results were processed, tokens sorted and stashed and thank you texts to volunteers all sent out by 9.45.  A record surely?  Like I said before, team work.


So there you go, job done, all done and dusted for another week.  Oh no, ages to wait.  Still, if you want to prolong your parkrun fix, 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.

I shall miss my junior parkrun fix next Sunday, but it’s for a good cause.  I’m joining Bushy parkrun for their 15th Birthday celebrations and International parkrun day.  It’s going to be SO EXCITING!  The park looks like this:

Sue Lindenberg Bushy park 28 sept 2019

I know this, because this picture was taken by Sue Lindenberg in Bushy park just yesterday in the early morning by the Leg Of Mutton pond in the park.  Granted, she has photography skills a tad superior to my own, but that’s a pretty stunning location whatever talent you have behind the lens.  Can’t wait!

So happy parkrunning people.  Share the parkrun love.

Oh, and yes, on balance, I think it was worth getting outside for today.  Funny thing is, it always is!  Get Outside Day or not.  Good to know.


*When I say FACT, I mean Lucy fact, i.e. what I choose to believe.  Works for me.  You’re welcome.

** as above

*** also as above

PS I’ve been careful in the photos I’ve used, but if anyone wants any removing, then let me know, and I’ll happily delete.

Categories: parkrun, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Feeling the parkrun love – back to Bushy parkrun to join the TpoT troupe. #parkrunfriendsarethebest

Digested read: back at Bushy parkrun this week to meet up with Tralee parkrunners on Tour.  It was jolly nice.


Undigested read:

I wasn’t going to do another blog post about Bushy parkrun, because, well you know, maybe cyberspace is already awash with enough parkrun accounts, and then I went and you know how it is.  The fabulousness of the morning unfolded and it just seems a shame to let it pass undocumented.  Reading this account is optional after all, and I like the idea that I can capture my fond memories of the morning before they fade away entirely. Also, I really, really wanted to share this picture.  I don’t know who drew it unfortunately, but apparently a GP, presumably from Durham as Durham parkun originally shared.  So many truths within, perhaps not quite all universal ones – personally I’ve abandoned any aspiration to a new pb, and my alarm goes off way earlier than 8.10 – but the other aspects of the parkrun emotional rollercoaster I can completely relate to.  Particularly the axis (can’t remember if it’s x or y) that charts the shift from being ‘bitter and resentful’ to ‘loving life’!  So true!  Thank you J Stutchbury(?).  Great name by the way.  When I’m a best selling author I’m going to name a character after you.

parkrun emotional rollercoaster

Where was I?  Oh yes, heading off to Bushy parkrun.  The reason for this particular sojourn was to coincide with the pathologically lovely TpoT people!  That’s Tralee parkrunners on Tour for the uninitiated.  I have the extreme good fortune to have become an honorary member of this group that oozes parkrun love and general all-round fabulousness.  It was they who invited me to join them for my first bit of international parkrun tourism at Hasenheide parkrun last year.  The Tralee Troupe have tourism down to a fine art, cheap flights from Kerry airport mean they seem to relatively frequently take flight en masse and descend on parkruns the world over.  I wasn’t sure if they should be more accurately described as a troop or a troupe.  According to the interweb, troop apparently usually refers to a group of soldiers or people more generally, whereas a troupe implies a traveling contingent of theatrical performers.  I rest my case.  Any parkrun contingent including a juggler in their midst surely qualifies as the latter?  A toupee is something entirely different, and arises from either a typo or a spelling error, so hope we’ve cleared that up.

tpot juggling still

The real miracle is how they can literally remove 100 parkrunner regulars who head off on these trips, but still leave behind a fully operational parkrun with 200 plus people running the parkrun show. Awesome!

Hooray.  I have the official orange beanie that marks me out as such.  Not going to lie, it isn’t the most flattering item in my running wardrobe, but it is among my most valued ones, who doesn’t like glory by association?  I’m super chuffed to get to be an acknowledged part of such an awesome parkrun troupe.  Strictly speaking I think I must be on probation at the moment, as I’ve not actually yet got to run at Tralee parkrun itself.  One day I hope to actually go and run on their hallowed course at Tralee, and that will make my membership truly official. They haven’t actually said it out loud, but I know in my heart of hearts I can only ever be considered to be on probation until I’ve joined the Tralee parkrunners in all their glory in their native habitat. It’s little wonder that Tralee parkrun is most definitely at the top of my parkrun tourism destinations for the future.  I’ll need to renew my passport first mind

Oh, here is the picture of me modelling my TpoT hat.  ‘nuf said. When I’m a best selling author I’m not using this shot to illustrate my author’s bio, but I can still be weirdly fond of the beanie all the same.  After all, who wouldn’t experience a little puff of pride and pleasure and a frisson of joy for being able to sport such a beacon of shared identity and gain glory by association with surely the most famed of parkrun tourists anywhere!  If I’d given it a bit more forethought, I’d have adopted a t-pot pose for the picture as well, but not quite sure how that would work doing a selfie, which is not my area of expertise at the best of times, maybe the world has had a lucky escape on all counts!  I’m not saying I won’t try some other time, but some things are best not shared aren’t they.  We can take social media too far…


Where was I.  Oh yes, staying in Teddington, up early to allow sufficient time to get into my new sports bra – which I’m testing out for Brooks – it’s a juno, and doing ok.  Having wrestled into this, I headed off to Bushy park via my mum’s.  She was taking her honorary marshaling duties very seriously, and had all her kit laid out in readiness, including a bespoke sign for the TpoTs and her fine orange beanie, also gifted to her by the lovely folk of Tralee, partly as a ninetieth birthday present and partly to allow her to demonstrate support to the parkrunners on the move.  Hurrah!

It was blooming cold in the park, but really beautiful.  I’d been really worried about the ice and forecast of arctic conditions, but in fact, although there was some ice around, it was limited to patches and the roads were clear.  Mum would be making it through the magic gateway…


The sun was popping through the trees, and all looking fabulous as always. I love this park.  It’s extraordinary how it continues given the amount of people and dog walkers and everything else that use it every day.  Even so, you can feel like you have the whole expanse to yourself if you time your arrival right in the early mornings.

I borrowed some pictures from the Bushy parkrun facebook page, well they were quite fabulous. Some are mine, general rule of thumb is where a shot is blurry and erm, idiosyncratic, it’s probably mine, if it looks like a vision of heaven and is perfectly focused and composed, then it probably isn’t.  You’ll work it out.

I was distracted by squawking parakeets and silhouettes of stags in the park and the sight of seagulls standing around on ice and swans thrusting through it like ice breakers.  Eventually though, I saw a beacon approaching.  A fellow TpoTer.  These hats may not flatter, but my they do mean you can spot a fellow sporter of one at a thousand paces. Very handy.

I always get a little frisson of excitement arriving at Bushy parkrun.  The set up is so impressive.  A team was putting the finish funnel up – it is a thing of beauty, and elsewhere token sorter tables were being erected and other bits of purposeful blustering about were going on.  It’s the same but not at every parkrun.  Familiar elements but writ large here.

I dumped my backpack on a handy tree railing:


and then I soon found myself meeting and greeting my Tralee buddies, not seen since Berlin Hasenheide parkrun yet I feel like I know them, it was a grand reunion. There were so many of them.  I don’t know what the collective noun is for a group of Tralee parkrunners but it’s probably a magnificence of parkrunners I think.  That will serve for now at least.

Everything about Bushy parkrun is epic.  Today, there was (obviously) a flash mob, singing and dancing to celebrate a fellow runner’s 500th run.    They were wearing face masks and everything, which sounds a bit weird and stalkery when I write it down, but in context was both appropriate and brilliant.

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I don’t know why I was surprised. This is the parkrun that once had a fly past for someones milestone tee!  I’m sure I’ve seen a video clip somewhere, though I’m darned if I can find it just now… maybe one day.

It was a busy morning, what with various people trying to rendezvous with each other.  One of my Tralee buddies was lamenting that he couldn’t spot a friend he was trying to find, as although he’d promised to wear his 250 milestone tee in order to be distinctive, but frankly, here at Bushy parkrun they honestly aren’t that much of  a rarity!   In better news, I was able to reassure that yep, mum was coming. The cold wouldn’t stop her, but ice would have, but I’d checked her route from the nursing home and astonishingly it was clear.  Hooray.  It actually turned into the most unexpectedly glorious of mornings. At least one errant parkrunner is known to have come to regret rolling over in bed and going back to sleep on parkrun morning…

dont miss parkrun

I suppose as long as you learn from your mistakes, that is the important thing…  Like the running cup from lidl, and are those the Kingston phone boxes I see.  That’s pretty cool actually, but not as cool as parkrun obviously.  Fortunately there is always next Saturday.  Unless you live in Durham and a forest has been planted over your usual Durham parkrun route whilst you were sleeping.  I mean trees are good, and planting them is excellent, but a bit of communication might have helped all round…

Mr S-H was present, which was a surprise, as I’d have thought he’d be much too busy with his contra range right now. I understand he personally supervises every item produced, with some enthusiasm, if the photos are to be believed.  I reckon he might even iron on those spots himself you know, bet that bit is quite rewarding.  I have one of the sage base layer tops, it’s roasty toasty.   It’s official colour is ‘green marl’ by the way, but I have no idea what that actually means, except it probably means sage, just so you know.

personally made by psh himself

Maybe he was there because his better half was part of the fame-inspired flash mob.  (Cheery wave, I would have said hello, but you were mid star-jump at the time) wearing the face mask didn’t fool me.   Or maybe they were both there, with dog, because, well you know, parkrun is fun.

I was distracted by so many people to talk to, and such a hubbub.  The ground was declared to be icy in parts, so after the first timer’s briefing


marshals were dispatched to their marshal points, and

then we were all shooed a bit further over than usual for the Run Director’s briefing. They had slightly shifted the start to avoid a HUGE icy patch just before the ant hills.  This made the pre run understandably but uncharacteristically chaotic and I couldn’t honestly hear properly. I improvised and clapped along when it seemed as if audience participation was expected and then joined the mass scamper of the start when the parkrun was declared underway.

Considering how many runners there are, it was a good natured start.  I started a bit further forward than intended, so it seemed as if pretty much the entire field got to overtake me. Oh well, one day I’ll cause a sensation by overtaking someone, even if it is only because they have to stop to rescue a puppy from up a tree or something.

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Being in among so many runners is uplifting though.  I love that you get to hear the chit-chat of other runners, putting the world to rights, comparing running goals or injuries or good-naturedly trying to shove their 500 milestone running friend into an icy bog.  What larks eh?


She survived the support of her friends and made it through to the finish funnel and reviving prosseco though, so don’t feel too sorry for her…

survived the ice

On the way round were excellent marshals, including mini marshals with bells, warning of ice, and wearing their own special hi-vis for the occasion.

However, a special mention should go to the especially heroic paramedic ice marshal, who, disappointingly, wasn’t actually made of ice, but who put himself in harm’s way, by standing on a huge skiddy patch of treacherous ice, just before you turn sharp left beside the cricket pitch, shooing people away. That’s parkrun dedication.  And I thought standing in a line of human cones at the start of Graves junior parkrun was scary!  I’ve never seen a braver marshal than this top man today.  Hurrah to you my friend. There should be a special chrome extension badge for your profile for brave parkrun duties ‘above and beyond’ if I had anything to do with it.  I think something like this would be appropriate:

pow badge

I trotted on through the cold, admiring my fellow runners legging choices and taking in the views:

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As I approached the half way point, I was wondering if my mum would have made it out in the cold as planned.  Good news, I could see her bright orange hat like pulsing outwards like a radioactive beacon.  I was very pleased.  Even more pleased to find as I approached she already had a Tralee parkrun acolyte with her, and what’s more, she was successfully brandishing the signage I’d supplied for this purpose.   Nicely tooled up. Result!  🙂  The bikes aren’t hers by the way, in case you were wondering…

mum and TpoT signs

Though no, I still don’t know why the Irish flag has those colours.  Note to self, must google this…

Obviously I paused for the first of many photo shots!

It was fun.  There was quite a party atmosphere, so I elected to hang on and wait for others to get their photo ops and for further Tralee parkrunners to rock on up

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There was quite a multitude!

I feel I’ve really missed a marketing opportunity here!  It was a fair old pop up party going on at Elisabeth’s Corner today.  Eventually I saw a huge Tralee contingent, festooned with flags, weighed down with cards and coming round just ahead of the tail walker.  It was lovely. They presented cards, posed with photos, said lovely things.  All very touching to behold.

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Don’t worry though dear reader, she did her best not to neglect her regular runners, there were high-fives and waves a-plenty. It really is the best thing ever about parkrun, the feel good waves that radiate outwards.  Good will doesn’t weaken as it disperses, it magnifies.

be kind

‘In a world where you can be anything be kind’ is a good motto, and for me at least, parkrun personifies that ethos.  Kindness cubed and magnified in all directions.  Excellent multi-tasking going on there though, I’m sure you’ll agree, with waving at oncoming runners happening whilst simultaneously greeting those already present.  Look on in wonder and learn dear reader.  Impressive eh?

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So, I’d pretty much ground to a halt now, and the tail runners were coming round.  Now, I’ve been wanting to meet some of this fine cohort for a while now, as I keep seeing them in photos with my mum, and feel therefore like I know them even though we’ve never met.  I decided today was the day, and ended up walking round with the tails, which are multiple here at Bushy parkrun and all the better for it. The back of the pack is often the fun factory of any event in my experience, and Bushy parkrun is no exception.  It was really grand to walk and talk and share some laughs along the way too.  Love parkrun!

Said farewell to the marshals at Elisabeth’s corner as they dispersed once the tail walkers had come through

and then I sort of split my time between trotting ahead with the Tralee parkrunners for a bit, and then dropping back to chit-chat with the tails.  Busy, busy, busy.  The sun was out, the park looked gorgeous, as it always does to be fair, but I was so pleased that the weather smiled on tourists and home runners alike.

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Yes, of course we posed for photos along the way:


and I stopped to snap a few marshals, not sure I got the full set, but my I-spy book of parkrun marshals sticker book is pretty full:

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and on we romped

Until finally the finish funnel was in sight

and I stormed(ish) through, feeling like a winner, because everyone’s a winner at parkrun right?  Having a personal worst just means I got best value for time out on the course.  It was an emotional run, so much positivity, so much parkrun love, so much all round awesomeness.

and then ‘suddenly’ it ends. Only it doesn’t really, post parkrun celebrations were everywhere, cakes being doled out, prosecco poured, and cheery laughter permeating the park.

As one poster said, if Carlsberg did mornings…

if carlsberg did mornings

Until finally, we dispersed, and I headed back to my mum’s to admire her latest lot of cards, birthday cards this time, to complement the Christmas stash, all of which absolutely delighted her, as they did me. Thank you lovely parkrun people.

and that was that.  Job done, til next time.  Which pleasingly, would be tomorrow, with the monthly Bushy junior parkrun. Hurrah!  Two days on the trot with my lovely TpoTers.  Life is good.  🙂


Miss it.  Miss out. Just sayin!

HW atmosphere

Oh, and there is an official run report for Bushy parkrun event 774 2 feb 2019 here.

and an even lovelier one for the following week giving details of all the Bushy parkrun marshal points including Elisabeth’s corner for the 9th Feb report. Love this.

For all my parkrun related posts click here.  Or don’t. It’s up to you. You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though

Categories: 5km, parkrun, running | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Brrrrrr at Brierley Forest parkrun. Snow, actual snow. The weather was cold but the welcome was warm :)

Digested read: went to Brierley Forest parkrun for a bit of parkrun tourism.  It snowed!  It was very nice though thank you for asking.  Would recommend.  Wear big warm pants in winter though.

halloween parkrun

The unabridged version:

I know I’m only a nesh southerner, but really, snow?  In October?  Lucky for this (almost) Halloween I was shrouded  (see what I’ve done there?) in the warm embrace of a new parkrun or I’d never have made it home alive.  Well, ok, that might be a teeny bit of an exaggeration, but honestly only a teeny-weeny bit –  I’d most definitely never have made it out of the house to go for a run otherwise, which amounts to the same thing on a Saturday.  Because, after all, what is a Saturday for, if it is not for parkrun?  parkrun, and making new friends – pretty much synonymous to be fair.

parkrun day

There are lots of ways to make new friends if you engage in a bit of proactivity it’s true.  Well, maybe not quite forever friends straight off, but social interaction on the path to that outcome certainly.  One way is to randomly accost people trying to have a quiet coffee on a bench and use your charms so you can join them, direct approaches work best (go mum!). #itsgoodtotalk indeed!

Another approach is just to rock up at any parkrun and start with a slightly awkward smile as a precursor to parkrun small talk and then you’re in.  Or your money back!  What do these displays of brilliance have in common?  Why dear reader, parkrun of course! It’s a FACT (albeit one I’ve not actually been able to provide a statistical evidence base for, but just has to be true based on my subjective personal experience – or ‘ethnographic research’  if you prefer) that people who are involved in parkrun are more likely to be pathologically friendly and receptive to approaches from other people involved in parkrun than the population as a whole.  Actually, I am of the view that most people are friendly if you approach them, even non parkrunners, but that doesn’t work quite so well as the premise for this post, so hey ho, bit of creative licence here – ‘bear with, bear with’.  Most people are nice, or try to be.  But parkrun people are extra so.


Also, I can’t work out how to do the Venn diagram, but I’m sure you can grasp the general idea. Case in point, today whilst my mum was hobnobbing with the deer and celebrities and parkfunners in all their many and glorious manifestations in Bushy Park, I was shivering in the warm and welcoming company of Brierley Forest parkrunners.

I’m getting ahead of myself though.

My regular reader will know, if they’ve been paying attention, I’ve been really struggling with my running lately.  Can’t be bothered to explain why, but in an attempt to counter this, and rediscover my love of running (it’s complicated), I thought I’d ring some parkrun changes.  Take the pressure off by heading off to a new place for some parkrun tourism and just romp round anonymously, taking pictures and taking in the view.  What’s not to like.

I settled on Brierley parkrun because it’s definitely a doable distance from Sheffield, in fact it only took about 40 minutes to get there, but of course I didn’t believe that so left at stupid o-clock this morning.  It was still dark when I ventured out the house:


It was freezing stepping out the door.  The roads were clear, and the sky too.  At one point a load of birds – gulls maybe – flew across the moon in a great swarm, back-lit they looked like a load of bats heading out or heading home, who knows?  Very spectacular.  It’s worth getting out early sometimes, the world looks difference in the silence pre dawn.

The drive was easy, and I arrived at Brierley Forest just after 8.00.  There were loads of parking places, so many I got confused about where to pull up (doesn’t take much to be fair).


I then had a bit of a panic.  I’d been asking some fellow parkrunners (hello Monday Mobsters) from my home parkrun at Sheffield Hallam for some tourist ideas and they mentioned this run and one other.  One doesn’t have toilets for a pre parkrun precautionary pee, the other does.  They couldn’t remember which was which and nor could I.  This is the problem with getting advice from well-meaning fellow parkrunners, their opinions are all well and good, but sometimes the omission of detail is near ruinous.  York parkrun I recall definitely lacks loos.  Good to know.  Only the most slender of parkrunners would manage a surreptitious pee behind one of the racecourse railings, it’s a no-go area for me then.  Back to Brierley Forest though – curses, this could yet turn out to be my WORST NIGHTMARE EVER!  On the plus side, I was early and there were seemingly plenty of al fresco options for the desperate/ disinhibited, so all was not lost.

Car parked:


Time for an explore.  It’s grand going to new places.  I didn’t know anything at all about this one before I arrived, other than the post code to get there which by the way is if using SATNAV, NG17 2PL.  It helped maybe that the autumn colours were at their finest, but this is a wood that has been lovingly sculpted. There were well-marked trails, including – drum roll – parkrun signs!  Not seen them before.  I mean permanent ones, hang on…

there you go.  This parkrun isn’t going anywhere.

Then there was a lovingly put together adventure playground with obstacles to climb over, swing on or run across.  Some cool woodland sculptures,

Then there was a rather moving wooden memorial in commemoration of the five miners who died in the 1957 Sutton Colliery (Brierley Pit) disaster and in tribute to all those who worked at the colliery 1872 to 1989.

Aside from being a parkrun venue, the Brierley Forest site has a pretty interesting history.  This site has been dug, and hewn and reshaped over the years.

The trees were good, though disappointingly, I couldn’t find any acorns, I’m on a quest to find a really good one, still in its little egg cup cover.  None to be found here.

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I did find something else though.  Hit the veritable jackpot with these:

There was a mobile catering van outside the very shut looking visitors centre.  I got chatting with the woman running it, to find out about post run veggie options (more of this later) and asked her about loos.  She directed me to the adjacent visitors’ centre.  It wasn’t locked.  What’s more, it was spotlessly clean and roasty toasty warm with toilet paper and running water and everything. Phew, crisis averted.  I always feel better for my precautionary pee.

This was definitely fast becoming my new favourite parkrun – all needs catered for:


Here is the visitors’ centre, and the adjacent mobile catering outlet in case you are wondering what they looked like.  I don’t think they were doing curries at that time in the morning, but then again, I didn’t enquire.  They were doing hot drinks and hot baps from about 8.00 a.m.  It seems they were not there exclusively for parkrunners, but dog-walkers, people fishing and other day trippers too.

I did a bit of exploring, and found the hi-vis heroes out in force, setting up the course.  This parkrun doesn’t have volunteers, it has voluncheers instead, apparently.  Aren’t they lovely and particularly photogenic to boot?


This wasn’t the only genius innovation though.  They also mark up their course markers like this:

Clever eh?  No wondering every single week if you are carrying the right number of signs out with you for the course set up.  It seemed a well oiled machine in action, with hi-vis voluncheers marching purposefully about.

It was still early, so I temporarily retreated back to the relative warmth of my car until a few more people had assembled.  I do like it when people make an effort at parkrun, and a quartet duly arrived who I assumed, had done just that.   So much so that I asked to take their photos:

I congratulated them for making an effort with their fancy dress – only to be completely mortified to discover they weren’t in fancy dress at all, but had come straight from work!  Oh no, I quickly stammered out something unconvincing about meaning ‘making an effort by coming in uniform’ but not sure I quite pulled it off.  Shame, not a crowd to get the wrong side of I’m guessing.

More milling and chilling.  I love watching people gather at parkrun, the coming together of people for a common purpose, familiar and yet unfamiliar.  Familiar, because the same characters are at every parkrun, and unfamiliar because, well, not been here before, so all new!

The chilling was very literal.  I could have sworn I got a dusting of ice from the sky at one point.  There was cheery herding of first timers to the first timers briefing, we assembled, and then yes, actual snow fell.  Quite a lot of it. Not just a little bit of ‘is it or isn’t it’ wintry showers, but full on, proper snow. That was most unexpected.

It was quite exciting in a way, but mostly very, very cold.  Still, made for an adventure I suppose.  And I probably didn’t feel it quite as much as the poor guy who was a tourist runner from Vermont, who was wearing shorts, a brave choice I felt.  Wonder if he’s done the Barkley Marathons too?


Glad to see some tourists – more than that treasured cow cowl sporters had also made an effort for the season.  I wished I’d been able to find my halloween deely-boppers from a couple of years ago, but have a feeling they ended up with a friend in Bangladesh (long story). I wonder how you train a spider to hang on like that?  Also, I wonder if it helps keep your head warm. I’d consider an arthropod as a companion animal if that was the case, I was rather regretting not having my woolly hat out with me this morning.

First timers briefed.  Included in our number were a couple of completely new to parkrun people.  That’s always exciting.  They might be on the cusp of something new.  How their lives might change from hereon in.  Or not.  The snow wasn’t maybe the most enticing of welcomes…

Into the melee for the run directors briefing.  The RD had a somewhat evangelical presence in his delivery.  I have to say though, this was the noisiest run briefing I’ve ever been too.  I seemed to be surrounded by people seemingly chatting extra loudly so they could hear themselves over the to them irritatingly noisy RD. I was quite shocked actually, how rude.  If they really didn’t want to listen they could have at least stood further away.  I even asked a few to ‘maybe keep it down’ – which is extreme behaviour from me as normally the most I’ll do faced with such anti-social behaviour is direct an ineffectual Paddington Bear Stare. The provocation here was extreme though. The shouters paused just long enough to look at me like I was mad before carrying on shouting at one another. This is clearly their parkrun ‘normal’.   Pity the poor run director faced with that.  Obviously, I then felt uncomfortable for having even tried, not the done thing here.  I really hope today wasn’t typical though.  Being quiet for 4 minutes for the briefing isn’t a lot to ask when the volunteers voluncheers have given up so much time for a parkrun to happen surely.  Junior parkunners are way more attentive than this crowd, and many of them are only four at Graves junior anyway! #itsgoodtotalkbutnotduringtherdbriefingatparkrun

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That was it, before we knew it we were awf…

Oh hang on, you probably want to know the official course blah de blah, here it is from the Brierley Forest parkrun site:

An undulating 2 lap course set in the grounds of Brierley Forest Park. The course is clearly marked with directional arrows.

The start is located close to the Brierley Forest Visitors Centre. From the start runners head North East for approximately 1KM. From there arrows will direct through a small S bend onto an access road where a marshal will be present. From here runners will continue forward onto the Brierley Branch for approximately 250 metres before heading back onto Brierley Park heading South West following the path to the pond. At approximately 1800metres follow an arrow taking you around the left of the pond, through the trees back onto a straight path towards the finish.

Before the finish, turn right following the path of trees towards the visitors centre and past for approximately 170m back onto the second loop of the course and head straight on to the finish.

My version is though, two loops, basically flat, through woods and on tarmac/ compacted gravel trails. It was very scenic.  I was inadvertently caught up in the middle of the throng as we set off, but it was all very good-natured.  This parkrun has an excellent vibe.  The route is lovely.  Through trees, past a lake, a few turns means you don’t always see other runners ahead but sometimes there are glimpses of them over the horizon.

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There weren’t many marshals on the course as such, but there were loads of arrows, no chance of getting lost. Also, another fine innovation, their marshal points are named in honour of presumably, some of Brierley Forest parkrun’s finest.  Check these signs out.

Especially heart-warming is the correct use of the apostrophe.  Such a relief.  This is what my mum needs for Elisabeth’s Corner.  Only a matter of time, surely.

Other hi-vis heroes a-plenty, and especially impressive as it was cold enough that I’m sure a few of them must have had bits freeze and fall off, law of averages, a few would be sacrificed for the many…  The more wily amongst them had bought steaming hot flasks and other provisions.  Impressive forward planning methinks!


I did my usual leisurely trundle along at the back, only it was so cold I could feel my lungs freezing every time I inhaled.  I had to stop periodically to photograph the sights and delights along the route, even doing a detour to take in the dragon egg.  Well, rude not too, and it isn’t something you see everyday now is it?