Christmas in my world always entails a visit to my hometown of Bromley to visit my mother. I’m not really a great fan of Bromley, it’s a characterless suburb that isn’t quite London and isn’t quite the countryside and is home to lots of families and people who wear beige. However, it is home to one of London’s oldest and best attended parkruns, and so I announced to my mother that this Christmas we would be getting up bright and early, not to open presents, but to run in Norman Park. I think she thought I had lost the plot. “But won’t everyone be busy peeling potatoes and doing things with families? What if we are the only people there?” she said. I replied that she obviously didn’t understand runners.
My mother, obviously, is not really a runner, though she is very active and does a lot of walking and we walk/ran a Race For Life together last summer (in 47 minutes). She looks a lot younger than she is (but I had better not post her age here) and is in very good health but it was daunting enough for me to go to my first parkrun with lots of Mos and Paulas so for her it was even worse. I’d like to say that she was keen but this would be a lie. She had trained quite well for her Race For Life but this had all gone out of the window because “it is cold outside and there are lots of parties on this time of year”. She was obviously angling to pull out and suggested that she just ran one lap of the two-and-a-half lap course. In the end we agreed that I would run the whole way as normal and then keep going to catch her up to keep her company for the final lap. My maths isn’t much better than my running, but I calculated that if I ran at my usual seven mins per km and she walked at 11 mins per km, I would catch up with her somewhere around the finish funnel, when I had done 5km and she had done 3.5km.
I don’t have an awful lot to say about the course at Bromley. Bromley is a boring place and Norman Park is a boring park. It is just some grass with a path round the edge. There are some trees in the middle. There is almost a slope at one point, but not quite. Oh, there’s a car park. And a bollard. Yeah. On the plus side, this makes Bromley the easiest parkrun I have ever done (even easier than Hackney Marshes, which is flat but has potholes, and Hove Promenade, which has a slightly uneven surface at one point. Both these parkruns are also extremely easy). I think the path is new (the course page mentions something about gravel, but it’s all tarmac) and it is completely devoid of trip hazards. Apparently in summer they have a different course which goes on to the grass which I don’t fancy much. But then I don’t much fancy spending a summer’s day in Bromley full stop.
My time was 35:26, which was my fastest parkrun ever, though I wasn’t terribly excited by the result as it was so much easier than Finsbury Park and I thought I could have probably got under 35 minutes easily if it wasn’t for the goddamn hacking cough. I had caught the tailwalker (a lovely, friendly man who was very reassuring to my nervous mother at the start) at the very end of final lap (this may be the first time I have ever lapped anyone at parkrun) so I was expecting my mother not to be much further ahead. I got my barcode scanned and then ran on towards the tailwalker. However, my mother was nowhere to be seen! Then I scoured the park, and saw her way off in the distance. I had to cut across the grass and sprint up the path to catch up with her. Obviously, she was way ahead of her target of 55 minutes.
You will be glad to know that I caught her (and her new found parkrun friends) well before the finish and accompanied them along the finish straight. My mother’s finish time was 49:14, which considering her age and lack of training I think is particularly amazing. I don’t know if I will be able to complete a parkrun that fast in thirty years time, in fact I suspect my leg will be totally arthritic by then and I will have to wheel myself around. In any case, I am a very proud daughter and I felt Christmas dinner was well and truly earned by both of us and treated myself to an extra sprout or six. Incidentally, my mother was soon on the phone to her friend asking if she fancied another parkrun this weekend. She had better not end up getting faster than me.