Just about 19 months ago, two things happened. First, our daughter was born. Second, I went to parkrun for the very first time. While I can hardly equate one to the other, it is fair to say that both have changed my life in a big way.
This weekend, after a frustrating four months of injury, I finally ran my 50th parkrun, joining a burgeoning club of people with the dedication to get up and run on a Saturday morning. (Or, as in my own case, with a small child that won’t let them stay in bed anyway.) Along the way, I’ve made a great many friends, and set and then broken lots of PBs. I’ve marshalled, tail ran, timed and scanned barcodes. I’ve run with my daughter in a buggy, I’ve run as a reindeer, and I’ve run in a bright pink dress.
Running at parkrun has brought a focus, and a “reset” button into my running. I have a benchmark that I can always come back to and see how I’m doing. If I’ve had a bad week, and not managed to get out much, then the habit of going to parkrun gets me back going again.
Despite all these personal benefits, parkrun hasn’t just been about me though: Lolly has run 21 times, and officially volunteered on 11 occasions. Even when she hasn’t officially been helping, she has often taken photos, or just turned up to cheer everyone along. My daughter is perhaps better known at Longrun Meadow than I am: she has grown up as part of the parkrun family, though it will be a couple more years yet before she can run herself. I’ve dragged along friends from football, and my brother, to run. My parents have turned up to watch and cheer, and my father-in-law marshalled on Christmas Day, while my mother-in-law chased my daughter around!
Amongst those 50 runs are a few tourist appearances, at Telford, Killerton, Yeovil and Pomphrey Hill. Hopefully we can get around and explore a few more this year – each one has been just as fun and friendly as Longrun Meadow.
After my landmark run on Saturday, during which Lolly marshalled, we were back in the park bright and early Sunday morning for something new. (Well, I was there bright and early anyway: Lolly arrived a few minutes later after completing her week’s long run.) This weekend saw the launch of a new junior parkrun at Longrun Meadow, and happy to help out, Lolly and I both volunteered to marshal.
For those that don’t know, junior parkrun is aimed at children aged 4-14, and takes place on a 2 km route. Although the main parkrun has the same lower age range, it is obviously a lot more realistic for a 4 year old to complete 2 km, rather than 5 km. One of the aims of junior parkrun is to get children running independently, so unlike parkrun itself, all the children can run without an accompanying adult. Because of this, many more marshals are needed for the course: in contrast to the five marshals needed on the two-lap 5 km course, the junior parkrun course used thirteen.
We were asked to marshal at points three and four, handily, only ten or twenty metres apart, due to the kinks of the course. For the trial run the week earlier, 53 children had taken part, and the Run Director had her fingers crossed for double that. When they charged past us, it was clear that her goal had been more than met. First the older children stormed around. (I’m honestly unsure whether I could match the winning time; I’m going to give it a go soon!) After them came a massive group, followed by a tail of younger children, mostly with their parents. They just seemed to go on and on and on, while the enthusiasm and excitement on show was infectious. Once we’d been stood down by the tail runner, we wandered back to the start/finish, where we were met with a wall of sound: if parkrun is a warm friendly hug of an event, junior parkrun was a massive bear hug of encouragement.
In all honesty, we’d only intended to help out with junior parkrun this first time, and then in times when they were in dire need, but the sheer exuberance of the event is addictive. We haven’t signed up to volunteer again yet, but I think we’ll be back sooner rather than later. Next week, my rehab/training plan means that I won’t be running parkrun… but I’ll definitely still be there!