Parkrun: What does it mean to you?

Nicky and I volunteered at Torbay Velopark Parkrun last week. We’ve participated in a couple lately and we found we were able to help this week.

We have an occasionally challenging, always active, FULL life and quite often we need to be exercising earlier than Parkrun’s 9am start in order to shoe horn our plans into a weekend.

2018-04-28 09.27.18Some tweeks to our life combined with a planned evening run meant we could help out for a change.

Anyway, there’s been some debate lately about where Parkrun sits in society, its role in the running community, in the community in general.

Parkrun issued its annual report recently and there has been many opinions shared online. Some issues which  people have aired are with Parkrun management and its stated aims and others with individual events and maybe even individual personnel. Some people seem to have issues with the focus on participation rather than performance.

I recommend reading the report and attending a few Parkruns before forming your own opinions, but, despite a few negative vibes, the vast majority of people, in my experience, find Parkrun to be a positive in their lives. Like I say, it is certainly a passionate subject for all who treasure it for whatever reason.

Well I don’t think my role as a blogger is to be deciding who’s right or wrong. We all develop our opinions from somewhere and if someone feels passionately enough about Parkrun to have a strong opinion which they want to share, then surely that shows what a success Parkrun is.

 

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The local clubs are always well represented at our local Parkrun

I can only report what I find.

I have seen comments suggesting Parkrun should be all about effort levels and improving. For many people I’ve no doubt that the weekly timed events are purely about emptying the tank and trying to better their times. But for others, it might be simply a reason to get out of the door and be active. Maybe even, a focus to get out and socialise.

 

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“Nothing but smiles” could be these guy’s three words

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy running as fast as I can and comparing my times to previous efforts or to others in my age group.

But not always.

I’ve recently enjoyed more ‘chatty’ efforts and had just as much (if not more) fun in the process. I’ve also had the pleasure of running with my Step-Daughter and Grandson when they made their Parkrun debuts last year. My own Parkrun times range from 19 minutes to 50 minutes and I’ve enjoyed every single one of those minutes.

Personally I feel critics of the ‘easy’ efforts of others are in danger of quantifying their judgements in terms of finishing time rather than the effort levels they talk about.

Again, please don’t think I’m criticising Parkrun participants or volunteers for the way they choose to consume the weekly timed event.

Last week, I witnessed a very good friend, in her, shall we say ‘late middle age’, absolutely rinsing herself, squeezing every lost drop of effort out of her protesting limbs, as she passed my marshaling point, immediately after about 100m of deep squelchy mud.

She was trying so hard she could barely acknowledge me as she entered the last kilometre or so. I saw her after she finished and she was so spent and so emotional that she just burst into tears. “I’m trying so hard,” she sobbed, “I’m not getting any faster!”

She’s been running for about a year, hoping to compete in triathlons having developed a passion for open water swimming.

I also saw two younger chaps amongst the wonderful mass cross section of the community participating in the early morning sunshine. They were laughing and joking as they negotiated the terrain with ease and skipped passed me.

My thoughts turned to comments made about how, in some people’s opinions, Parkrun should be about trying as hard as possible and measuring improvement. If that truly were the case then these two chaps wouldn’t be classed as trying hard enough!

These speedy boys were first and second across the line on the day, both credited with a time of 18 minutes exactly. They had thoroughly enjoyed their runs and were possibly holding back a little despite their incredible speed.

Our friend finished about 30 minutes later. Spent.

A glance at the results from a purist might lead to the wrong conclusion about who was trying hardest to improve on the day.

As I say, I can only report what I see.

Marathon Talk, the podcast, is co- hosted by Tom Williams, the CEO of Parkrun and his enthusiasm for the rapidly expanding phenomenon is utterly infectious.

Parkrun is now in 17 countries and has started in prisons, South African townships, refugee communities and its self declared quest to be part of a healthier happier world is, to me, great to observe.

But, and here’s my “opinion”, YOUR Parkrun is whatever YOU get out of it. Whether you are tail walker, running 16 minutes, volunteering, writing up event reports, pushing a toddler in a buggy, it’s YOURS!

And who am I to tell you what experience you should get from Parkrun.

A new podcast, Free Weekly Timed, is asking each of its guests to describe what Parkrun means to them, in just three words.

The all time fastest ever Parkrunner and thoroughly lovely bloke, Andy Baddely, answered with “BLOODY GOOD FUN”!

Which is surely just perfect for something we do in our precious leisure time.

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South Devon At Its Finest

There’s nothing quite like a bit of sunshine……..

So, we’ve been having #baconsandwichfriday for a while now. Well, the best customer ever raised the bar this week….

Which was the perfect set up for a packed long weekend.

Regular readers (hello regular readers!) will know this, but for newcomers (hello newcomers!) the general gist of this blog is to share the tales of adventure of myself and my wonderful lady wife, Nicky. Aside from the many yarns spun about running (and cycling and swimming in Nicky’s case) there are accounts of the tears, frustrations, challenges, occasional comedy and heartbreak of being carers for Nicky’s dad, Frank.

There’s the occasional opinion, but we try and avoid politics, I wax lyrical about my pride and privilege of being a step dad to Nicky’s gorgeous daughters and proud grandad to the three rugrats.

But mostly, though, it is a vehicle for me to tell the world how utterly blessed I am to get to spend my life with the most beautiful, amazing, inspiring lady in the whole wide world.

Anyway.

The Bank Holiday weekend.

So, how does this work?

Nicky, a natural with the scanner….
The tail walker family – MASSIVE smiles!

Nicky and I made our Parkrun volunteer debuts this week – I got to stand in some long wet grass and cheer close to 300 participants as they rounded the cones about 2.5 miles in to their runs. Nicky had THREE jobs, holding up the ’25 minute’ placard to help the start line organise itself, then directing the runners out into the field after their two laps on the Velopark tarmac before she rushed over to become a barcode scanner to ensure everyone gets allocated their finishing time.

A wonderful thing is that there Parkrun, and the team at Torbay Velopark Parkrun is rightly proud of the fabulous atmosphere they have created. This weeks run director, Roger (and everyone else we have met) was so courteous, informative and clear and it was a real pleasure to become part of their ‘team’.

It won’t be the last time we help out.

Said run director, Roger, was to feature a couple more times on our Saturday…… As I chose a lovely slab chocolate orange cake in a splendid nearby café a bit later, I heard his dulcet tones ordering himself a coffee too. We had another brief chat and then Nicky and I enjoyed our refreshments and sauntered home.

So that was the last we would see of Roger until……. Saturday afternoon…… we went to Pennywell Farm for the Pennywell Pursuit 10k at teatime, a THHN charity event. There was Roger, yet again donning a hi-viz ready to be tail runner for this great race.

Where WOULD local running be without Roger?

Wow what a lovely event. Nearly 6 miles of quite brutal terrain on what is normally private land. Everybody arriving back at the finish line concurred “THAT WAS REALLY HARD”

With a dead phone and dead running watch I enjoyed toeing the start line ‘naked’ of technology. Feeling strong, I lined up near the front for a change and catapulted myself into the first bend on the gravel path with the leaders.

I reckon I was with them for, oooo, 10, maybe even 11 meters before my gasping for air gave me the clue I needed to realise I was probably going too fast.

The route is relentlessly up and down, across hoof ravaged fields and gorgeous woodland trails. The beauty took my mind of the constant battle for footing and breath. I absolutely love this sort of running.

With the lead group gone I just ran as hard as I could and was only overtaken by 2 or 3 more athletic chaps before getting back to the farm for the ‘sprint’ to the finish.

It turns out I was 12th!!

Nicky charged in shortly afterwards and we enjoyed a lovely burger before firing up the mini for home.

A truly smashing event with about 150 runners. It was very well supported, in particular, by Torbay Athletic Club, it was good to catch up with Steve, a good trail running mate who was their mascot for the day….

The Torbay Athletic Club massive! Local running ‘character’ Steve is well down with the kids!

What passed as a warm up for us!
Race director Brian, about 15 minutes into his pre-race briefing
A well earned piggy medal
Nicky striding over the line

Anyway…..

Sunday.

Whilst Nicky took herself off for a million miles on the bike, I set off across my local park and through the sleeping BMAD festival to get on Paignton beach and join the coast path to Brixham. I was holding back the effort level with creaky legs from the previous night’s trials on the trails and half an eye on next week’s ‘long’ marathon (Pure Trail’s Race The Tide, check it out HERE) which meant I could simply enjoy this glorious route.

Once in Brixham I ran through the setting of their Pirate Festival as it recovered from its Saturday excesses and past a visiting Spanish galleon.

I enjoy the coast path so much I simply ran to the end of Brixham breakwater then turned around and ran home again the same way. Check out the run HERE

So I’d had my long run, showered and was busy cutting the grass when Nicky arrived back from her epic cycle declaring “I’m bricking it, are you coming?”

Well I could hardly decline and whipped off my gardening shorts, whipped on my running kicks and we whipped out for a 3 mile run. Check it out HERE

Brick layers – finding it hard to be in focus!

Nicky’s a month or so away from her Cotswold 113 half iron-distance triathlon you see, hence the Brick sessions.

Not satisfied with our exercise for the day we headed off to Stoke Gabriel with Charlie (the Border Terrier, another regular in the blog) and found a little hidey place by the river to sun ourselves. Charlie mostly preferred the shade though….

Amyway – on to Bank Holiday Monday.

We haven’t done an epic walk together for so long. We certainly put that right.

Roughly based on a loop I’d ran the previous week, we indulged ourselves in a 20 mile hike in the belting sunshine around the glorious South Devon countryside. The trails and quiet lanes were sparsely populated meaning we got to enjoy the wonderful landscapes on offer without the Bank Holiday masses.

I’d taken Charlie for a 3 mile jog before we went as the forecast temperatures and length of the walk wouldn’t have been much fun for the little fella. Check out Charlie’s run HERE

We were out for 9 hours. One of the billion reasons I love and cherish every second of my blessed life with Nicky is that time simply becomes irrelevant when we are together. We never tire of each others’ company and Nicky never fails to amuse me, entertain me, inspire me and challenge me and I am humbly devoted to being everything I possibly an be for her too.

We didn’t even fight over the Jelly Babies. Saying that, I have to prove I’ve only taken 3 after I’ve double checked how many she has in her hand! We’ve been known to chase each other across fields for a bite of a Cadbury’s Crème Egg if we feel we’re owed it!
Check out the walk HERE

Our walk took in some of the forthcoming Stoke Gabriel 10k route too – check it out HERE

Anyway. There’s my Big Blog for the Big Weekend

Something lovely from the internet you say?

How about the YouTube channel of a very old friend, Clint, still making lovely acoustic covers of lovely songs………