Posts Tagged With: With Me Now

Bringing the Highland Fling to Frosty Tring, parkrun tourism on St Andrew’s Day. Parkfun at Tring Kilted parkrun

Digested read: it was St Andrew’s Day, and it was parkrun day, the Venn diagram intersection therefore took me to Tring parkrun where they were having a themed, ‘bring a giraffe to parkrun day’.  It was very nice indeed, thank you for asking. Frosty terrain but warm welcome.  Also tea-cakes.

Undigested read:

It’s a long one, brace yourself…

Well, that was splendid.  It’s the simplicity of parkrun which is particularly awesome.  You get to rock up at the most spectacular of locations and be part of pop-up random wonderfulness in an infinite variety of manifestations. But today it was all about a kilted flashmob taking over the winter wonderland of Tring Park all in the name of St Andrew.  Dear reader, I give you Tring parkrun.  Epic.

Granted, I had a bit of insider info that gave me the nod that this was happening, but honestly, if you didn’t make it this year, then next year it could be you – there’s always room for a few more.  Go awn, you know you want to!

Yes please to this:

Tring Kilted parkrun.  Yes it is a thing.  Has been for half a decade now, my, you are late to the party.  You’ll be telling me you don’t know about Dulwich parkrun’s special day either at this rate!*  The exact origins are somewhat mysterious to me, but essentially one of the Run Directors at Tring is Scottish, so when St Andrew’s Day came around (not sure if that was with or without an apostrophe at the time) he suggested a kilted parkrun was the appropriate response.  Of course it was.  So the good parkrunning people of Tring took this directive to their hearts and thus the tradition of Tring Kilted parkrun began.  It is a fine thing, pretty much on a par with Burns night or Hogmanay in Scotland I understand – really and truly though, you have to go and find out for yourself.   This is what philosophers mean when they say travel broadens the mind.  Do your own primary research dear reader, don’t take my word for it.  Apart from anything else, it might well be a lot quicker for you to wait a while and head off to the next available Tring kilted parkrun than to spend the next few weeks and months wading through this blog post.  Each to their own though, and you have been warned.  It’s now contributory negligence on your part if you choose to read on and succumb to the time vampire that is a parkrun themed blog post.  All parkrunners have been there, photo albums are even worse.  Hours and hours dissecting every shot, blurred or otherwise, to relive parkrun adventures after the event.  Sigh, parkrun, the event that just keeps on giving eh…

Now, the pedants amongst you might be fretting at the missing apostrophe, is it St Andrews Day really or should it not be St Andrew’s Day?  Well, the thing is dear reader, this has become a moot point, as the Apostrophe Protection Society is no more.  This is obviously sad, and yet pleasingly, the person who I think practically single handedly fought the good fight, John Richards, resigned from his self-appointed post at the age of 96.  Here he is.  Looking at a very large apostrophe on his computer screen, in case you are the sort of philistine who isn’t even sure what an apostrophe looks like.  Might be your last chance to see one …

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Whilst I have no intention of still working, or indeed even being alive at 96, if I was founder of an apostrophe preservation society then I can think no better high on which to leave than when the numerals for your age look like back to back apostrophes!  Anyway, sad as this is, it does mean you can add or ignore apostrophes with gay abandon.  That battle has been lost.  On balance, I think it pains me, or as I shall be compelled to write in future ‘pain’s me’.  Oh the horror.

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However you choose to express it, the wrong way or indeed what I like to think of as the right way, Saint Andrew’s Day is the feast day of Saint Andrew. It is celebrated on 30 November according to not only Tring parkrun but also wikipedia, so at least we have consensus there. Saint Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s official national day. Did you know it is also a national holiday in Romania?  No, me neither.  Just think, that means if they had parkrun in Romania, then they could potentially have an extra parkrun today – oh only it’s Saturday anyway this year, so maybe that would be a bit of a waste.  I’m sure they have other celebratory days available to choose from if needs must.

Anyway, point is, I have contacts, I have insider info, I have an invite, I shall be there.  parkrun tourism is calling me….  Been wanting to go to Tring for ages, I mean the name is splendid for a start, and I hear they have a better class of parkrunners there.  Nice parkland location too, Tring it on!

It’s easy to over complicate things when choosing a parkrun destination.  Many of us started out innocently enough, venturing away from our home runs only when cancellations forced us to forage for parkrun opportunities elsewhere.  Next came the realisation that e.g. for me, within Sheffield, there were a fair few in reach, and it would be cool to do them all.  Has to be acknowledged though, that the gateway drug to more strategic travel for many of us is the running challenges chrome extension.  Suddenly the opportunity to get virtual badges that only you can see drives a compulsion to seek out parkruns to complete the alphabet (only you can’t because there isn’t an X and you have to go overseas for a Z and also loads of parkruns are going to be changing their names soon anyway…. oops.)  Not gonna lie, that was enough motivation for me to seek to complete, amongst others,  both my pirates and Stayin’ Alive challenges.  Yes, shallow, I know.  But look how fab they are, most decorative – and a correctly placed apostrophe, what’s not to like?

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Even so, the compulsion to complete challenges can become mildly toxic so it was good this weekend to take things back to basics.  The decision to go to Tring parkrun was simplicity distilled to its most basic form.  All I did was start a running blog about 5 years ago and include a post about my experiences of running the Sheffield Half Marathon (my first one) laying it as bait for a Tring parkrunner to stumble across when preparing to run it for myself.  Then there was just the little matter of securing a ballot place for the London marathon, but having to defer for a year, so that the year I did do it, was the same year as same Tring parkrunner also got lucky with the London Marathon ballot.  Unbeknownst to me, said Tring parkrunner would continue to read my blog because we were both training for our first marathon, and it was London.  She’s actually a reet good runner, whereas I’m, erm, what’s the word?  Oh yes, ‘not’.  Then the weather had to make it the hottest ever London Marathon, so that the night before facing London I was having a complete meltdown in my hotel room and did a looooooooooooooooong moany blog post about my angstiness.  The husband of said marathon runner would read my blog post, and then comment on it to share with me that his lovely wife – Tring runner previously referred to – was similarly stressed by unanticipated heat wave following months of training in ice and snow.  From that heartfelt message we bonded for all eternity, and it was basically from thereon in a foregone conclusion I’d be at Tring parkrun one day.  We both did London, we met up at some Sheffield parkruns, as you do, and then one auspicious day, I got the kilted parkrun nod.  The info this was happening, the offer of accomodation, and even assistance in scottish tartan beret making.  It was meant to be.  Like I said, parkrun tourism is just so simple when you strip it back to basics.  From the moment I hit ‘publish’ on my blog post button about the Sheffield Half marathon in 2016, fate directed my path so it would culminate in being part of Tring kilted parkrun on 30 November 2019.  Dear reader, this is how fate works.  You can’t fight it, you have to surrender to it sometimes, and embrace the adventures that henceforth unfold… submit to the inevitable and sometimes your life is the richer for it.

So that’s the backstory, in summary, three years blogging, a couple of Sheffield half marathons and two different parkrunners getting lucky with the ballot for the London Marathon leading to  mutual internet stalkery and becoming new best friends.  Simples.  What could possibly go wrong?  Of course, you could skip some of those stages and just rock up at a new parkrun of your choice anytime, but where’s the fun in that?  And there might not be kilts.  I rest my case.

Now what of the actual run?

Well, according to the Tring parkrun website blah de blah:

Course Description
The winter course is an out and back route on grass and dirt trails. Runners are asked to run on the left. Starting in the valley on the north side of the park next to the A41, the course heads into the NE corner of the grassy part of the park. Passing through a marshalled gate, shortly after turn right and climb a steep leafy path to the obelisk. Turn left here and carry on up to the Summer House where the path loops 180 degrees right to the top of the ridge. Follow this path south-west for 1.5 kilometres until the turnaround point just before Hastoe Lane and then returning along the same route. The finish is 200m beyond the start point. Trail shoes are recommended in winter.

and it looks like this:

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Yeah, whatever, sure it’ll be lovely, now on to think about fancy dress?  Kilted parkrun.  I take it that just means broad Scottish theme – or does it?  I wonder, does that mean deferential and respectful embracing of Scottish culture, or does it mean carb loading with a deep fried mars bar (ingredients mars bar, batter, hot spitting fat) the night before and putting irn bru in your water bottle?

Full woad as in Braveheart perhaps…  the woad would be easy enough

then again, getting the full flame effect as a backdrop would be a nightmare for the RD doing on the day risk assessments, need to think again…

Oh I don’t know, maybe better to go down the Nessie fancy dress option?

It helps that fortuitously in between me excitedly accepting the invite to go and the date dawning, we all became better informed about the Loch Ness monster FACT which is good to know.  They are  Monster eels apparently.  Clearly a conspiracy to keep people away.  Though to be fair, I’d be happy to see a ginormous eel or indeed a swimming elephant whilst visiting Loch Ness, or even Tring – is there a Loch in Tring?  Didn’t spot one on the course map…. mind you, I really like the thought of elephants in captivity, particularly not in circuses, so it would have to be a wild one to be acceptable as a nessie sighting, and I’m dubious there are indigenous elephants in Scotland – or indeed Tring.  They would trample and scare away the native haggis, and as haggis exist, the elephants can’t.  Fact.  I’m not happy about the midges though.  Lawks a lordy, Scottish midges,  now they are monstrous.  Back to eels, conger eels are potentially absolutely huge though seeing conga eels would be even more fun.  Makes you wonder…

Still, given how contentious it is with Nessie and all, perhaps I should stick with the tartan theme, which is towards the lower end of causing offence with casual racial stereotyping and/or cultural appropriation.  Hoping so.  Will be interesting to see if any other eeks nessie substitutes are present – or even a rubber chicken, that would be cool, that reminds me, I really must add Wyndham Vale parkrun to my to do list.  It’s in Australia, might take me a while to get there, even if I set off now…  Though I’ve already got a ‘W’ from Wakefield Thornes parkrun, that was a fun one – but lacking in rubber chickens now I come to think of it, though excellent on space ships.  What you lost on the fowl front you gained on the force front.  You had to be there really, no you did.  Trust me.

Incidentally, another monster at Loch Ness is this 80 mile ultra marathon, bet that’s amazing, but then it would have to be to brave the midges, they are the real monster resident in Scotland!  Looks blooming gorgeous though… seriously tempted. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do the full 80 – awesome as that would be, you can just do a few marathons instead if you prefer.  Go awn, go awn go awn….

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Anyway, you keep distracting me, we are heading to Tring not Loch Ness, and I’m going with the tartan.  I had a chat with Geronimo – oh, did I not mention she’d be coming too?  Well, we did London together, and so she’s part of our Tring twinning enterprise, it was only right and proper she comes along for the ride.  Also, I understand from my Tring contacts that exotic African creatures have historically had a home at Tring park.  I put her through the washing machine especially, she has never arrived at a parkrun more fragrant or more aptly attired…

geronimo

We talked about improvising with green tights to create a nessie creature, but it was a non- starter.  Geronimo felt that would cramp her running style, and she didn’t want to look stupid in the way that the wearing of green tights can so often result in.  It’s a look not everyone can carry off to be fair.  Upshot was that I came to think the tartan is a simpler and safer bet.  Granted, some may see our wearing of the tartan as lazy and casual racial stereotyping, but I see desperate times calling for desperate measures.  If Brexit happens I’ll be wanting to demonstrate my Scottish credentials as best I can, however tenuously, and surely a robust celebration of St Andrew’s Day will smooth the passage towards gaining Scottish citizenship further down the line.  Sporting some tartan along with happy smiles is sure to swing it should the need arise.  Decisions made.  Hurrah!  It’s all going to be just grand.  A wee adventure for the both of us!

Oh you want to know more about the exotic animals at Tring.  Fair does.  I was keen to find out more too.  Basically, my Tring parkrun contacts informed me that Zebras are ten a penny at Tring.  I can now confirm from personal experience that the parkrun route is carriage friendly, it even has a carriage turning circle at the top of the ridgeway which is most certainly a boon for anyone planning on taking their own zebra carriage for a spin along the paths there.   Look, spoiler alert, this was taken mid parkrun, but it I can’t keep it from you anymore, so exciting to be able to share:

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OK, I will concede it isn’t perhaps immediately obvious this is a turning circle for a zebra carriage, but surely you can see it now you are in the know?

I don’t honestly know if there are specific rules in the parkrun code regarding the inclusion of exotic animals at parkrun events, but for the record, Geronimo was made welcome, as a giraffe respected in her own right.  This was especially pleasing, as I do worry that once she’s spotted in a forthcoming feature film next year people might treat her differently.  Her meteoric rise to inevitable stardom is a foregone conclusion, hence it’s all the more important to treasure these personal memories before she becomes famous and potentially relationships shift.  Here it felt the welcome was authentic and genuine, and equally offered to all incoming parkrun tourists and regulars alike.  You are curious about her stardom?  Well, I can’t say too much about that just yet – confidentiality clauses and all that –  but I will say she could be upstaging big names on a big screen near you come summer 2020, no-one parties like Geronimo under a storm of confetti at a street party in Sheffield.  I’ll say no more…  I think we just all need to apply a bit of common sense, but those confidentiality clauses are a bind.

Clue though:

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Nope, that’s it, nothing more, my lips are sealed…

So back to kilted parkrun day.  As has already been established, Geronimo likes to party, so she came sporting a kilt, and that made her a shoo-in for a VIP welcome.  I daresay other African mammals would also make the cut, but contact the core team via the facebook page in advance if in doubt. This is the usual turn out convention with zebras at Tring – looks like the ‘one dog per runner’ rule is upped to four zebras per participant max here…

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I’m not sure of the ethics of riding an endangered giant tortoise round the route, although the photos would suggest it’s been done before.  Presumably this would have to be recorded as an ‘assisted run’ and only one barcode allowed.  Actually, that’s not true, I am pretty sure of the ethics around this.  It’s a terrible idea, let the poor animals be.

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Depressingly, most of Rothschild’s eclectic menagerie collection ended up being stuffed and displayed.  That makes me sad.  Then again, some of his impulses were around conservation, and much of his collection ended up in museums contributing to research.  It’s complicated.  You can read more about him and his life – including how he got given a museum for a 21st birthday present one year, as can happen apparently… here.  It does however explain the sign about wallabies roaming in Tring, I know wallabies aren’t from Africa, it’s the ‘exotic’ species link I’m making here.

and probably also explains why no-one really batted an eye about a giraffe rocking up at Tring parkrun, though they did like her fine tartan beret, as indeed they should.  It was a gift from the good Tring parkrunners who hosted me too.  Their hospitality was beyond compare…

Speaking of which.  This visitation was not so much ‘parkrun tourism’ as parkrun mini-break.  I set off from Sheffield on Friday afternoon, and arrived at my guests abode late afternoon, in daylight and in time for pre-parkrun faffery.  parkrun is even more fun if you prolong the experience with pre and post parkrun related activities.  In this case, we had to check out the various fancy dress options, experiment with tartan ribbons, and especially pleasingly for me, be the recipient of a fine parkrun tartan beret.  I had been alerted to this development in advance, and it was tailor made using a panda as a model.

parkrun beret modeling

They aren’t from Africa too, and this particular panda isn’t really into parkrun, but was happy to contribute to the success of the occasion by offering up a head to aid beret construction.  That’s one of the many things I love about parkrun, there is scope for everyone to be part of it, even if they aren’t running or even rocking up on the day.  It’s a community bigger even than the impressive Saturday morning attendance stats suggest.  Hang on, I’ll check it out – right, these are the summary stats as of today, 4 December 2019 (yes, that’s after the date of this blog post I know, so shoot me, time travel is possible in the land of blogs, you just post for whatever date, past or future – you don’t seriously think I’d have written all this on Kilted parkrun afternoon, as well as having post-parkrun eggy bread and going through all the photos?  Quite.)

Number of events: 156,628

Number of runners: 2,240,488

Number of runs: 32,284,453

Number of locations: 684

Number of clubs: 6,667

Number of PBs: 5,540,683

Average runs per event: 206.1

Average number of runs per runner: 14.4

Average run time: 00:28:46

Total hours run: 1,767 Years 233 Days 16 Hrs 33 Min 28 Secs

Total distance run: 161,422,265km

Wowsers!

No wonder it’s changed so many lives.  Hurrah that Mr P S-H, got awarded the he RSA Albert Medal this year, it’s given annually for innovation in the fields of creativity, commerce and social improvement.  You can watch the full presentation and his speech here:

but come back and do that later or you’ll never even get to the start line of Tring parkrun, and never find out if it was a Braveheart-esque line up on a big long start line like William Wallace and the massed Scottish armies, or a more sedate trot out as if on a carriage ride pulled by zebras.  However, you can snigger at the childish observation of Danny Norman of With Me Now who boasted that he got to touch Paul S-H’s Prince Albert.  (Chortle).

Hang on, there’s an official press release thingy parkrun Founder wins prestigious award  with a more formal portrait.  And the medal is so very fine, it even comes in it’s own box I see!  Now that’s class!

official photo RSA

Lots  of teeth in the pictures, most impressive.  I admire teeth, and intend to hang on to mine for as long as possible.  Not in a creepy way, if I do lose them I won’t be threading them on to a necklace, but you are unlikely to meet anyone as obsessive about brushing their teeth regularly as I am…  Anyway, stop distracting me with teeth talk, even though it is true that the best Batman and Robin episode ever was the one where Robin had to save himself from falling to his death by hanging on to a rope with his teeth because his hands were tied behind his back, and Batman said in the closing moments ‘and remember Robin, you owe your life to dental hygiene‘  He was so wise…  And ahead of his time too, oral hygiene prevents heart attacks too dear reader.  Actually, this isn’t a complete digression as Batman and Robin were both present at Tring parkrun too – how else do you explain the cape?

Can’t wait for the next With Me Now podcast, it’s going to be epic, even if it might be light on tooth care. Then again they all are, the podcasts, with or without oral hygiene segments, frankly, I could stay in the house til spring now, just listening to the WMN back catalogue and venturing out only to attend actual parkruns in between listening to, and poring over accounts of ones that have already passed…  I have to catch up on Free, Weekly Timed too, being a late adopter there.  In fact, that’s my Christmas Day indulgence sorted.  parkrun podcasts and a sofa post Christmas Day parkrun, and I shall be living in an earthly paradise indeed. Ho ho ho.  That’s lifted my Christmas spirit, can’t wait now.  Not many more sleeps to go…

Anyway, back to arriving at my hosts.  Fancy dress sorted, parkrun tales shared, just the little matter of carbing up nicely the night before.  We had vegetarian haggis with neaps and tatties which was excellent.  And then we had Scottish cranachan recipe courtesy of Mary Berry  fortunately, my host used the pictorial directions in the recipe dividing up the pudding into three portions… it was only the next day she noticed that the quantities were intended to serve 8.  Still, parkrunners like a challenge, we managed to polish of the lot, and very nice it was too!  Delicious in fact.  Great way to set ourselves up for the Scottish delights that would unfold before us on the morrow…

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and so the morrow came, which is actually today – if you believe the post date for this blog, or a few days ago if you are pedantic and want to know in real time what the timelines are.

Bracing.  That was the word.  A deep, picturesque frost – in fact, loads of parkruns in Sheffield and elsewhere were cancelled due to ice, so I got lucky in having already made it safely south.  Hot coffee was quaffed, and last minute parkrun faffing commenced.  My hosts with the most drove me through pretty villages – used as a backdrop for many a midsomer murder episode apparently, and towards Tring.  Now dear reader, Tring parkrun has many excellent attributes, but it is not blessed with conveniently located loos.  My regular reader knows I cannot countenance undertaking a parkrun without a precautionary pee, fortunately my hosts catered for all needs, so it was that we did a Tesco detour en route.  There are loos in the public car park apparently, but the Tesco ones are nicer, and have a handy tampon/ condom machine too.

Precautionary pees completed, off to the parkrun venue.  Apparently there are a couple of different car parks, but I didn’t pay too much attention to this, as I was chauffeur driven.  We arrived nice and early, passing the not at all conspicuously attired parkrun carpark marshal(s) already mustering and in situ extra early to keep parkrunners safe and on track.

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It was cold though, not gonna lie, was glad I’d not gone for the bare-legged kilted option, though kudos to my travelling companions who did.  Brrrrr.  Next challenge, fancy dress sorting.  This is what goes on behind the scenes quite probably at a parkrun near you.  I think the degree of self-sacrifice (baring legs in the cold) and creativity that goes into making the parkrun fancy dress transformations  happen adds to the parkrun magic, but look away now if you don’t want to see the smoke and mirrors lifted…

I think she was helping to put the kilt on… not sure.  You know what, the parkrun code requests that we all respect everyone else’s right to participate in their own way, so let’s do that, and not worry about the particular dressing/undressing car park shenanigans shall we, each to their own.

And that was it. OHMYGAWDTHISISSOEXCITING!  Kilts on? Check.  Barcodes present and correct?  Check.  Laden with shortbread tins of tunnocks teacakes?  Check  Ready for action dear reader,  Bring.  It.  On.

Last minute check round for anything left behind.  What’s that – a pair of gloves, bound to belong to a fellow parkrunner, my contribution was to scoop these up and take them along too.  Truthfully, I wasn’t much practical assistance to the Tring parkrun experience, unless you count enthusiastic and appreciative participant, which I do.  My hosts were doing a great job with their jenga balancing skills being tested by a quantity of tins and flasks of hot coffee, would have undermined their confidence if I’d thought to offer to help… probably.  Almost certainly, that’s why I didn’t risk it.  Anyway, I was too distracted by the stunning location and sights and sounds of the venue to focus on being useful.  And we’d not even left the car park for goodness sake!

In fact, the set up team, who’d been out even earlier, took some amazing photos of the frost-scaped early morning.  Reet nice out as we say up north!

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You leave the car park through a pretty gate, and turn right following the sign to Tring park (a clue for the observant amongst you) and head along the path towards a spectacular curly bridge.  Not hard, and the chances are there’ll be other parkrunners to follow.

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Don’t forget to admire the wildlife murals, they are to an impressive standard.  There was even artwork on the curly bridge, but I didn’t take a photo as I was clinging to the handrail to avoid skidding on the icy steps at the time.  If you are braver, or there is less ice, you could look for longer.

It’s super exciting when you get to the curly bridge, because it’s quite an architectural feature in its own right, but it also opens up the most fantastic views across Tring park and you get the fun spectacle of watching from above as ant sized parkrunners start to congregate.  They weren’t actually ant-sized FYI – well not unless there are some exceptionally large mutant ants in these parts, they just looked tiny because they were far away.  I’ve been through this before.  These are small, these are far away a la Father Ted,  Yes, she is carrying a bottle of irn-bru.  The coffee in flasks story was just a cover…

Rather epic isn’t it.  And VERY EXCITING!

So we trit trotted over the curly bridge, you can tell you are in the right place because of a strategically placed ‘caution runner’ signs.  Always a relief and frisson of excitement as a parkrun tourist when you espy one of those.  We tagged along with the gathering throngs.  It was not only beautiful and atmospheric, but also a lot of fun, as we started to espy other kilted parkrunners striding towards the gathering point.  My pictures make it look a bit bleak, but honestly it wasn’t, it was just lovely, and perfect… if a tad bracing for my liking – and I still had my fleece most definitely on at this juncture.  Pity those sporting naked legs.  I mean, kudos for honouring the kilted spirit but brrrrr.

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There is a pleasing mini optical illusion as you approach the clan gathering point.  You think it’s flat, but actually, the path – which is basically cross country rather than a formal walkway as such – ‘suddenly’ goes down into a dip.  These means even though you feel like you are basically walking on the flat, you unexpectedly (to me, you’ll know so I suppose I’ve potentially ruined the surprise for you now, oops) find yourself at what is the brow of little hill, and unfolding before you in a big reveal was the encampment!   So exciting.

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It’s hard to describe the scene, but I won’t let that stop me, why let a picture be a thousand words when you can type considerably more than that and gift your reader confusion wonderment?

It was like espying an arctic research station, or a first human settlement on some remote planet, or possibly even a festival tent, the first marker of a party tent for those that come.  It was epic!  Look at the early picture of it put up in the dawn light.  I say put up in the dawn light, but it looked quite complicated, they had probably been working on erecting this for many weeks, I doubt the cows hanging around were all that much practical assistance to be fair.  Good job.  This photo is amazing, it captures the Brigadoon like way that Tring parkrun sort of materialises out of the mist.  They do have regular results listed on their official parkrun page though, so I’m pretty sure it appears more often than one day every hundred years (imagine how annoying that would be, particularly if the one day that Tring appeared it was neither a Saturday nor bonus parkrun day. Oh, the horror!).  Still, wouldn’t hurt to check their Tring parkrun Facebook page in advance if you are making a special trip, just to be on the safe side.

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In fact, this domed cathedral was the VIP tent.  It covered a table groaning under the weight of Scottish consumables, and was adorned with flags as well as being awash with good will.  In fact, as you will appreciate, all parkrunners are equally important, so everyone could access all areas, and very nice it was too.  My hosts added to the weighty load of the table, whilst I helpfully lurked and took photos, and wondered at what point I’d have to take off my fleece.  More dedicated sports people warmed up for parkrun with traditional sword dances, as you do.  Impressive.

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People continued to arrive, all smiles and kilts.  Happy parkrunners a-gathering on an auspicious and frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Cèilidh!  I do like it when people make an effort, and I also like it when there are photos to document such dedication that can be endlessly looked at later.  It extends the timeline of joy that parkrun offers up, beyond the Friday night anticipation, the Saturday morning big event into potentially many months of memories and reflection and sometimes laugh ’til you think your knickers will never dry shared recollections.  I wonder why tena haven’t been approached as parkrun sponsors?  Other incontinence product manufacturers are available.  Only a matter of time surely.  I mean, they may not be so necessary if you are wearing a kilt and adhering to tradition in terms of what lies beneath, but pads could be a boon at non-kilted parkruns, particularly for those who lack strength with their pelvic floors.

There may have been a certain amount of posing, and those swords were most certainly a boon for creative play.  Every parkrun should have photo props methinks.  Game changer!

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I say I took photos, and indeed I did, but I also foraged for some subsequently, and so many of the better shots are not attributable to me, but to the Tring parkrun official photographers, for which many thanks.   They were fab.  All high vis heroes are.  Obvs.

Where was I? Oh yes, mingling at the start.  Another innovation at Tring, is that they lay out a huge blue tarpaulin on which you can leave all your stuff.  I feel they missed a bit of an opportunity to transform it into the Scottish flag the St Andrew’s Cross through the simple effort of tippexing a white saltire onto it, but maybe they didn’t have enough time after spending ages putting up the VIP tent.  The idea is that this keeps your stuff together and dry.  Hang on, I’ll find a pic:

Hurrah!  It’s the usual ‘leave at your own risk’ system, but you’d have to be a bold thief to take on the collective might of the ferocious-looking battle-ready broadsword- brandishing core team left behind at the pod to keep order whilst parkrunners did their thing.  Well, they were gathered around the finish funnel area nearby in their high-vis vests, which amounts to the same thing.

I still had the pair of gloves I’d picked up from the car park so tossed them in the middle of the tarpaulin where hopefully their rightful owners would discover them.  I mean surely only parkrunners would be roving round the carpark at this ungodly hour, carelessly dropping their gloves for others to find.  I did ask half heartedly around for glove droppers, and tried to discreetly look for gloveless hands turning blue with cold amongst those gathering in the hope of using my Miss Marple skills to find the person who had suffered this loss, but my efforts came to nothing.  …  Oops, hope there isn’t some poor random dog walker even now checking round their car puzzling about where on earth else they could have dropped their favourite woollen gloves on their sojourn to Tring park…  Oh the angst.  You have no idea!  At least the gloves were getting their own micro adventure I suppose, but at what cost.

What next?  First timers’ briefing I think.   There was a fair few of us from near and far.  Some who like me, had been wooed over by the prospect of kilts as well as the intrinsic glory of Tring.  Wave to the Poolsbrook traveller, who I didn’t meet on the day but found out we were fellow travellers from the north after the event.  Hello, next time maybe?

There were even a few first time everers!  What a one to choose for your debut.  I like to think they will have gone away believing kilts to be not just de rigueur at Tring, but actually compulsory at parkruns everywhere.  People came from near and far, with and without kiltery, which just goes to show, if you build it they will come!

The briefing was welcoming and succinct, something about a hill, and the route was described, and the ridgeway, and things to look out for.  Hills don’t particularly phase me, not because I’m fast, but quite the opposite, I’m really slow, and hills legitimise me walking, so all good.

Then there was a little bit of anticipatory waiting.

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At some point I availed myself of the thistle on the cheek temporary tattooing service, so that was good …  Actually, can we just pause for a moment to appreciate the magnitude of that particular offering.  Someone had the initiative, foresight and creativity to bring along with them a thistle stencil and a sponge preloaded with face paint or indelible ink, I forget which – purely for the purposes of helping fellow parkruns really rock the Scottish themes.  That’s awesome.  For this great public service fellow parkrunner – and your most excellent plumed hat, I thank you.  He got about 40+ marked up pre-parkrun I understand, and you can see his handiwork captured in some of the photos.  Grand is it not?  You might have to squint a bit to see them, but trust me, there are there, twice in one case, check it out!

He probably would have got more, but his efforts were interrupted as we were corralled for the mass walk to the start, which was just a little way on, up a slope.  The walk was lovely.  It was fun as a collective activity, and also fun because there were coos along the way.  Coo marshals shooed them to one side.

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The cows were calm, photogenic and placid. Unlike Sheffield cows which may be photogenic but need to be given a very wide berth.  Not phased by the parkrunners at all, which was a relief.  I also took a mandatory selfie.  Has to be done.  And I had by this point removed my fleece.  Kill me now.  It was very cold indeed.  I thought my nipples would freeze and fall off, they didn’t on this occasion, but it was touch and go I don’t mind telling you.

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Then we were gathered at the start, where by complete coincidence there was fiddler and an accordian player on hand to provide musical accompaniment to the run.  I mean, honestly, what were the chances of that, and how very fine!

It was apparently the Run Director’s event debut, you couldn’t tell, it all seemed very slick to me, clearly a well oiled team runs this show, or well lubricated by early morning seasonally appropriate Scotch Whisky on this particular occasion at any rate…

We were gathered in a semi-circle for the briefing, cheers for milestones, cheers for volunteers.  To mark the occasion, there was also the official kilt wearing shot, and the kilt lifting one too.  Has to be done.

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and then suddenly, there was the countdown and we were off!

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Up a hill, to the accompaniment of this: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=419351318973065

As usual, I just slotted myself in at the back.  I like to pootle these days, partly dodgy back, partly being unfit anyway but a great deal of liking to take my own time and take in the view.  The view from the back can be glorious, it is often the fun factory of a parkrun, and what’s more, on this particular route, being out and back, you get to see everyone at some point anyway.  Hurrah.

You head off up a fairly gentle incline, and then along a flat bit known locally as cowpat ally.  It was so cold, the ground was pretty much frozen, so no mud bath or slurry pit sliding required today.

Rather you could skip through, and cheerily greet the marshals on the gate in situ to see you safely through into the wood and the first of the proper uphill up to the ridgeway.

Well dear reader, I can report that it is indeed a hill.  Quite  a long one.  It’s picturesque (my signature word of the day forTring parkrun it seems) in the wood, and sheltered too, but it is also quite a long heave ho up the woodland track to the obelisk.  A full kilometer I think, but I didn’t check.  I did have a vague moment of clarity when I recalled my host telling me that when she was trying to get her husband into parkrun she deliberately didn’t take him along to Tring for his first one for fear of putting him off forever.  Hmmm.   Possibly a point.  I paced myself by walking.  Works for me.  As others peeled off ahead, you could see them through the trees.   There was also a lurking photographer at a corner spot, to capture the action.  All details attended to at this parkrun.

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It’s quite hard taking photos in the wood.  The trees are magnificent and tall, and bright sunshine above tried to break through their canopy.  You are heading towards the obelisk.  I do like a landmark on a parkrun, and this one was particularly fine.  It was so high the top was way up in the winter sunshine, so with the dark at the base it took on a near mystical quality.  This spot has its own regular marshal to keep you in order.  He offered smiles and words of encouragement on both the out and back.  Sometimes there is even music from speakers here apparently, though not today.  There is a story about that I gather, but I didn’t get to hear what it was.

From here, you do a zig towards the summer house, and then a zag back upwards to the ridgeway.

Lots of friendly marshals along the way.  Well, maybe not lots, but certainly sufficient, and they all had interactive settings so you could engage with them en route.  You could even pose for photographs with them, or get them to take photos of you and your new best friend you’ve just made at parkrun.  Inexplicably, some parkrunners just sprint round the whole course without stopping to pose for pictures, but perhaps they haven’t yet realised this is a viable option.  Maybe one not absolutely compatible with getting a pb, but then again, I pbed automatically on this route because it was my first time, just putting it out there as a thought.

Once you are on the ridgeway, breaks in the tree line now and again give amazing views, which once again are alas, hard to photograph, but you might get a broad gist from these two – it’s the same site, but with different emphasis on foreground in one and view in the other.  I tried dear reader, I tried:

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As I was having a leisurely event, I paused to try and photograph some runners at the carriage turning spot.  There being a distinct lack of zebra drawn carriages along the way today, there was plenty of room for runners in both directions.

Onwards, and a bit further up was another view point, and the uncontested winner for top trumps cameras in situ too.   Size might not be everything, but sometimes you have to acknowledge it can impress, as with the obelisk, so too with this lens thingamajig.  And you have to concede it is quite something to be able to draw attention away from the eye-catching redhead in full pelt as well as full tartan sprinting by in the foreground.

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Oh look more runners coming by – including mein hosts!  Hurrah!

Though if they are coming back the other way, maybe time to get a wiggle on myself.   It’s reasonably flat and sure footed along the ridgeway, and after a bit, you reach a turn around point, where you are invited to run round, if not the actual marshal, then the cone at this point.  It doesn’t specify how many times you should run round the cone, as many as you like, I was running a bit late, so just did the one, but others may have done more.  One enthusiast apparently overshot the point entirely, and had to be wrestled back by the marshal and spun round to head back to the finish funnel.  They are alert and primed for action at a moment’s notice these marshals.  Quality effort.

Coming back along the ridgeway, you see the views again, better actually, as the light was less whiting out and more illuminating.  Oh look, tailwalkers.  Always a welcome sight, and companionably putting the world to rights as they went along by the look of things.

I noticed more details on the way back.  There are little footpath signs and a Walter’s Wander walk of sorts.  I tried to get a parkrunner bordered by the cut out sigh, but never a parkrunner en route when you need one, maybe you can photoshop yourself in some time later.

And then check out this view – you can even see the finish area and the Rothschild stately home too, if you aren’t so worried about the prospects of getting premature wrinkles you can have a good squint.

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And friendly marshals again.  Still friendly and supportive second time round.  Marshalling in the cold of a crisp winter morning, and greeting all parkrunners with equal enthusiasm takes tenacity, stamina and grace, all were in evidence today, for which I thank them all.

And check out the summer house, spectacularly lit by the sun.  Great place to sit and watch the parkrun whizz by methinks.

and from the summer house, you can see the obelisk ahead, homeward bound now, and some proper downhill coming too, the yin to the yan of the up.

It was quiet by now, and I was nearly caught by surprise by a stealth photographer still en route, but he caught me and Geronimo in full flight.  For the dubious amongst you, and I think there may be a few, surely this shot is absolute proof that running with a Giraffe is not as much of a help on a run as you might think.  The psychological and emotional support of having a companion animal along with me cannot be overstated, but in terms of six legs better than two, maybe not quite so much of an asset as you might imagine!

tp geronimo go

Actually, it might be time for some gratuitous parkrunning action shots, courtesy of the official photographers, a little interlude, before we come to the climactic finish.  Running with a buggy must have been tough.

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So after smiling and waving at the photographer en route, you charge on down the hill, depending on your courage and your faith in your trail shoes, and back out of the wood and into cowpat alley once again.  As I passed through, a runner who’d already finished was coming back the other way, holding refreshments I presume for the marshal(s), who must have been getting cold by now.

The light was beautiful, and the scenery lovely, and my erm, let’s go with ‘sedate’ pace meant I had it pretty much to myself too.

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The pictures don’t really do it justice I’m afraid, but think of them as but a spoiler, something to whet your appetite so you make the effort to go and see for yourself.

After a little while, again the finish funnel comes into view just as you are coming over the brow of the hill.  There is the usual glorious sight of welcoming volunteers, a well staffed finish funnel and a few parkrunners who had stayed behind to cheer the final few through.

What was less usual, but exceedingly glorious, was to be serenaded by the duo who were there from start to finish.  It was a.maz.ing!  Only problem is, I want live music at all my parkrun finishes now.  And not just live, but bespoke, so themed to each and every occasion.  Is that really so very much to hope for?

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Also, and this is a bit weird, it was like entering a different world on the return leg.  Sunshine had melted the frost and the grass was green and the shadows just as atmospheric but the scenery quite transformed somehow.  I had my barcode wristband thingy scanned in record time.  I treated myself to one of the anniversary wristbands, but it’s not had a great success rate scanning, two out of five occasions used it didn’t record for some reason.  No worries today, see, everything about this parkrun was practically perfect in every way!

So that was my parkrun ended, but it wasn’t the end of the fun.  So much still to do.  Specifically, to play with the swords, too good an opportunity to miss, particularly when you’ve come dressed for it especially.  You know, I think that’s one of the most brilliant things about parkrun, yes, yes, we all know it’s good to exercise and be part of a community blah de blah, and I am 100% behind those aspects too, however, maybe for me the bottom line is something about it creating a space where we have permission to play.   Being able to participate in parkrun in your own way includes joyful scampering about.  Where else would it be completely acceptable to mess about with swords in some country park somewhere and be confident that parkrun friends would join in and someone would have the wit to photograph the occasion for posterity – even direct the participants to ensure they captured the perfect shot!  I can’t quite decide which is the perfect one though, so you’ll have to look at the slide show for a whole load of them, and other posing too.  It’ll be fun, it was for us, you can have fun by association, or simply think yourself accursed you were not here, though it was St Andrew’s Day remember, and not St Crispin’s.

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No animals or parkrunners were injured or distressed in the posing for these photos.

Still time to linger, avail ourselves of refreshments, enjoy the view and welcome back the volunteers and tail walkers.

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However, all good things must come to an end.  Eventually everyone was accounted for, as the last of the marshals came in en masse

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Then there was just the little matter of taking down the VIP zone.  That was quite technical, and involved a great many people helping, and me circling around unhelpfully whilst I fretted about the gloves.  Remember them?  Well, they were still on the tarpaulin so not reunited with their rightful owner then.  Oh lawks a lordy, someone, somewhere has probably lost multiple digits from their hands because of me ‘helpfully’ removing them.  Just as I was falling into near despair at this thought, I vocalised my dilemma, only for someone to pipe up ‘oh, they are mine!  It’s OK, I had a spare pair!‘  Phew, it ended happily dear reader.

So too with the tent deconstruction, with some expert supervision, it was dismantled with exemplary teamwork.

I commented to anyone in earshot that this was the sort of high performance practical problem solving that would make me confident that Tring parkrunners are also able to fold up their collapsable start sign and even parkrun flag.  Awkward.  Apparently not.  One amongst our company disclosed they actually have the Tring parkrun start sign very much open on their kitchen floor, steadfastly refusing to be packed away despite having watched youtube tutorials on the theme.  It may even have been the cause of a blip in usual domestic harmony.  Oops.  Assume nothing dear reader, learn from me.  Mind you, those bannery things, they are tough!  Here’s Great Notley parkrun, grappling with the pop up so we don’t have to:

and that was that, everybody started to disperse, and where once there were runners, now there was nothing but footprints and the echo of laughter.  We took away photos and memories.  Some departing were noticeably more laden than others!  Bravo volunteer heroes, above and beyond on so many levels.  Your labours were very much appreciated.  Best kilted parkrun ever!

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Yes, I did notice it looks a little bit like they might be trying to dispose of a body, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.  Even if they are, I’m sure they will have had their reasons.  Talking through the run briefing does really need to be stamped out, I didn’t notice any of that at Tring, and perhaps this is why…

Oh, an in case you are regretting having missed it, you can relive the glory of the run through this actual footage of the kilted parkrun, or possibly the kilted coaches, but it looks broadly similar, so you’ll get the idea.  That’s a fancy dress haggis chasing them down at Tring by the way.  They aren’t real, that would be silly.  Real haggises (haggae?) are much, much smaller, but equally ferocious, and don’t wear fake tartan hat/hair combos, obvs.

kilted coaches haggis

You’re welcome.

Back to the carpark – remembering to check out the lovely wildlife pics again:

Time for a quick pose by the gate – one for the family album surely, or at very least their fridge…

and alas, that was that.  Just the mud on the shoes remaining to prove we’d been there.  I’m not one to bear a grudge, but couldn’t help noticing my toesies were a lot muddier than Geronimo’s.  Still, we’d both had a fab morning out so no cause for complaint.

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So basically, this was indeed the best parkrun ever… until the next one.  That’s the funny thing, it was completely brilliant, but I never fear anticlimax at my next parkrun, because all parkruns are uniquely wonderful. Just as the capacity to love is infinite, so too is the capacity of parkrun to engage and enthrall… worst case scenario is type two fun – only fun retrospectively, but that’s still fun is it not, and parkrun is always parkfun, or your money back!

Also, for me, the awesomeness wasn’t even quite over yet, as it was back to mein hosts for post parkrun eggy bread – which I’ve not had in years and years, and steaming hot coffee, and a de-brief about all the fun we’d had and a sharing of some of the photos too.  Perfect end to a perfect parkrun.  Post parkrun brunches consolidate parkrun fun and parkrun memories.  It was just brilliant.  I felt like I’d been not so much on a mini break, but on an actual holiday, maybe in part because I had.  This might be the way forward for parkrun tourism, groom befriend people over the internet for a period of a few years and then turn up at their houses wanting to stay the night so you can run at their parkrun the next day.  Only moving house will prevent this occurrence from happening again.  Actually, now I come to think of it, there was some mention of a potential move further down the line… no surely not, had to be bluffing, and anyway, just a coincidental mention.

So sadly, the time came where I had to leave.   My hosts cheerily waved me off cheerfully.

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Possibly a little too cheerfully at seeing me go now I come to think of it, but then again they had to crack on with the rest of their busy day.  You can see they are just itching to get on with their spontaneous outburst of Scottish Country dancing, and that shortbread wouldn’t be eating itself now, plus there was scotch to be drunk also.  I think they keep the Drambuie back for bathing in.  It lightens the legs.  No rest for the wicked as the saying goes…  Just another typical parkrun morning, paying homage to their wannabe Scottish heritage.  Honestly, when they aren’t indulging in Scottish themed consumables, they are running up tartan accessories and working on their highland flings.  I know, I’ve been there.  …

celebrating guests departure

So thank you lovely Tring parkrunners all, but especially thank you to my virtual and now actual parkrunning Tring friends, we have officially bonded now, we have shared a kilted parkrun together, this can never be undone, not that we’d want to, because it was brilliant.  Exceeded expectations even, which is saying a great deal as I’ve been excited about it for ages and ages!  🙂

Incidentally, if you would like to triangulate my account of this Tring parkrun with another, then dip into the very fine debut run report for event #276 Highland (Fl)Tring!!!! which you can access here.  Recommended.  Full exposure of Tring parkrun.  There are also a gazillion photos (yes, I think it is an actual number) with albums aplenty included kilted parkrun album part one, Lucy’s perspective (yes, that’s me!)  and the final collection – like I said, really a lot of photos, but you can never have too much of a good parkrun thing.  FACT.  Also, what’s new year for if not for reminiscing about the high points of last one, all those pics could come in handy.

Same time next year anyone?  Or just get in the habit of wearing a kilt anyway, they are surprisingly warm to run in apparently, and handy if you need an al fresco precautionary pee I understand.

So keep on having parkrun fun y’all, here’s to new parkrunning adventures for all of us, wherever they may lead us.

By the way,  you can read all my parkrun related posts here.  Or not.  It’s up to you.  You’ll need to scroll down for older entries though, and you might be needing to get on with your life again now.  You are needed in it.

*Oh you want to know about Dulwich parkrun. Well, turns out it may be Dul by name but it is far from Dul by nature (see what I did there, gawd I’m hilarious sometimes, great punning action).  They only do a Eurovision Song contest themed parkrun every year.  That’s my 16 May 2020 parkrun destination sorted – hopefully it won’t be negatively impacted by Brexit.  Do love a parkrun that sets its own traditions. Colwick parkrun has its Hawaiian shirts, Tring parkrun its kilted run and Dulwich parkrun the full European spectrum.  Choose your parkruns wiseley dear reader, and your grand tour will be most enlightening, educational and – best of all – entertaining.  Start making your bespoke bunting now…

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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

‘Outfits?’

‘Fancy dress outfits, it is going to be fancy dress right?’

‘Erm…’

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 https://www.instagram.com/julescoxphotography/ following the British Deer Society Code of Conduct: https://bit.ly/2Eqr0EK

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.

exciting!

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…

contra.png

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:

DSCF6368

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!

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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!

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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.

selfies

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?

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