The Day parkrun Came Home

First of all it was going to be October. Then early June. Then late June. Then July. At first I missed going to parkrun desperately, but then I missed everything and everyone desperately. When things started to reopen I started enjoying the freedom of not having to get up and run 5k every Saturday morning. Mostly I got up and ran 10k instead.

parkrun’s restart date was one of those days when I start work at 1100 so have to pick a local parkrun and scarper as soon as I’ve finished running. Since Mile End hasn’t had permission to return yet (the local council are far too busy putting on funfairs in the park it appears), this meant a trip to the somewhat less local Barking. I contemplated going to Wanstead Flats, where the majority of my friends were running, but a) hate the course b) wasn’t confident I’d make it to work on time c) I think I’d have found seeing my friends on the course but not having time for a chat afterwards even more soul destroying than going to a run where I hardly knew anyone.

As I walked into Barking Park, I couldn’t help but feel there ought to be more of a sense of celebration. There should have been music, balloons tied to trees, people dancing round the lake at joy with parkrun being back. Instead there was a gaggle of volunteers unsuccessfully trying to take shelter from the pouring rain under a puny little tree and another volunteer clearing leaves off the painted start line, as if it were an ancient fossil waiting to be uncovered. I felt it was a bit like no one wanted to draw too much attention to themselves because they couldn’t believe we were really allowed to be there and that if we ran too enthusiastically someone might come and shut us down again. For me, it really didn’t feel like the right day to restart. Not because I didn’t think it right or safe (I think it should have started months ago) but because there is the huge question mark of the “delta variant” and rising infections hanging over us and I’d hoped the parkrun restart would coincide with a feeling of “it’s over” or at least “it’s over for now”. The thought of having to go to work and tell people over and over again that they have to wait five hours for an ambulance probably didn’t help.

I don’t know if it was my grumpy mood or my wet socks but I recorded one of my worst performances for ages with 36:42 which is incredibly annoying because I know I am normally fitter and faster than when parkrun went on pause.

It wasn’t until I got a text with aforesaid disappointing result that I felt a burst of nostalgia and excitement and even joy. Suddenly I realised that the feeling of “I must not get excited about this because it might not happen” could be consigned to history and that I could now start planning for the future again with a reasonable level of confidence that the things I was planning for would actually happen. So I planned my parkruns for the next three months, and invited everyone to my 100th parkrun in two weeks at Finsbury Park. Then I discovered that Finsbury Park is cancelled that week for a concert in the park. But I have a plan B. I’ve got used to having an plan B over these last 70 weeks.

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