parkrun announced that they would return in England at the end of October, and of course almost immediately the coronavirus transmission rate went through the roof and an unannouncement swiftly followed. I’m very sad about this, but I do think it was the right decision – not because I think there is much danger associated with parkrun, but because at a time when transmissions are going up and we are supposed to be reducing our contact with others, it just feels wrong to throw another thing into the mix.
The question I keep getting asked is “are you busy at work with coronavirus calls?” and the answer I keep giving is “no, not really”. We are getting more than we were a month ago, but they pale into insignificance when I remember the apocalyptic scenes back in March. It’s just one of many things that can make people sick or dead and no more or less important to me than any of the others. What no one asks me is “are you busy at work with mental health, crime and drug related calls?” The answer I would give to that is yes, incredibly so, the mental health of this country is on its knees. People are broke, desperate, lonely and scared. And that is why I don’t support the idea of another lockdown, or keeping anything closed longer than is completely necessary. I really hope people will pull together and comply with social distancing, track and trace, self isolation hygiene and face coverings. (I put those in what I believe to be the order of importance, by the way). Then we can think about starting to get back to normal. And opening parkrun.
The one advantage to parkrun not returning yet, though, is the fact that now I am free to do other things on Saturdays. One such thing is the fabled RunThrough event at the Lee Valley Velopark aka The Hamster Wheel, the road bike circuit in the Olympic Park. How can I describe this route? Imagine Dulwich parkrun – a smooth, round, one mile lap. Then imagine God is really angry with Dulwich Park and picks it up and twists it round into a big swirling knot and subjects it to an earthquake causing colossal hummocks that span the entire loop, and a howling omnidirectional wind that always impedes and never assists your progress. That’s the Velopark.
I probably haven’t really sold it to you there, have it? I actually really enjoyed the route, though I found it quite tough (I haven’t done enough hill training and I hate running in wind) and was definitely glad I only went for the three lap 5k, not the 6 lap 10k or fifty-nine thousand lap half marathon. An added bonus is that it’s closed to the public so you don’t have to worry about halfwits getting in your way or accidentally following someone who is just out for a bit of a jog and getting lost. I was very pleased to surpass my prediction of 35 minutes (I don’t like making these predictions! I don’t want to commit myself!) with a time of 34:00 on the dot making it my second fastest ever time in a race – although it then occurred to me that if I’d been just eight seconds faster it would have been an official PB. I couldn’t have run eight seconds faster though. I was still out of breath after picking up my medal, flapjack and water and waddling out of the Velodrome.