I believe 7th August 2021 was the fourth date I set for my 100th parkrun. I can’t be sure of this because like with everything in the last year, the endless cancellations and postponements got the better of me and I lost all grip on how many times things had changed and any faith in it ever going ahead. And even when it was clear that it would go ahead, there were still a couple of spanners in the works, firstly the fact that my preferred venue, Finsbury Park, was cancelled due to someone I’d never heard of playing a massive great concert (it feels like massive great concerts managed to get going a lot quicker than parkrun) and secondly, our old friend Weather deciding to tip a few buckets on our heads.
I think the general uncertainty, horrific weather and lingering Delta Variant put a few people off coming but a respectable gaggle of miscreants made the journey to rainy Brixton for Brockwell parkrun. I’d picked this as a Plan B as a) it is my Nearest Event Not Done Yet that isn’t Walthamstow b) it’s tarmac and hills so if you squint your eyes you can present you are in Finsbury Park. There was me, Rob and Camilla (amazed I got Camilla out in the rain), Bernd and Cheryl (my friends from the weekly Zmoo parkrun tourist’s zoom meeting, who had escaped from their square box on my computer screen), Cal (marshalling in the rain, suffering hypothermia all for me), Ian (who I’ve only met for 0.5 seconds as he lapped me at races), Paul and Wendy from Gunpowder parkrun, Steve and CJ from my goth days, Eleanor (who had come all the way from Near Oxford and therefore wins the prize for distance travelled to have a miserable time running round a dilapidated park in the rain) and last but not least my friend Meg from school who delighted me by reminding me of the time when we were fourteen and she (half my size) tried to teach me to cycle by pushing me along on a tiny bike on a bumpy road called Worlds End Lane. There would have been my other school friend Miranda too but her son came down with the bloody corona the night before the parkrun!
Although I’ve never done this parkrun before I am extremely familiar with the park from doing the RunThrough events there which use a very similar course. It starts in a similar fashion to the RunThrough 10k (not the 5k which goes in the other direction), a little further along the path near the lido, and then follows the exact same route up the long slow hill and down again. There’s a pleasant sense of relief at the bottom of the hill where the RunThrough route turns left for a steeper hill and the parkrun carries on on the flat. When you get back to the lido, there’s a left turn which takes you off the RunThrough route with a sharp up and down again and soon reunites you with the original lap. (There is a potential left turn by some bushes on this bit that everyone agreed looked very appealing, but isn’t the right way to go. Keep going straight on until you see the marshal).
Meg decided to run with me as she is not a habitual runner, more of a swimmer (not much difference in this weather) but I noticed she was not having any trouble keeping up with me, in fact I got the distinct impression that she would be going a lot faster if I hadn’t been there. I wasn’t really surprised about this because I remember her as being the sort of teenager who was naturally fit and active, climbing trees and riding bikes and things, while I was indoors writing and drawing. We were having a nice conversation about the labour party, coronavirus and my mother and by the middle of the second lap, the rain which had somewhat eased off at the start returned with a vengeance so I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to how fast I was going and assumed it was going to be a really slow one and was therefore quite surprised to find we came in at a fairly average 36:23. All the others (except Cheryl and Bernd, who were walking it) were already gathered at the finish (in fact Paul had done a third lap, what a show off) to congratulate me on my persistence at a hobby I am no good at and unnatural fondness for getting up early on Saturday mornings. The Run Director presented me with (Rob’s) 100 shirt and I posed for a very wet, red faced photo before getting in the lido because obviously I wasn’t wet enough already.
It was an absolutely lovely morning and made me remember why I go to parkrun, not merely to run (I do that all the time anyway, usually in better weather) but to hang out with other people who share the same addiction. It was great to gather together such an assortment of people from various unrelated points in my life. And the t-shirt has arrived already! Now I only have another 150 parkruns (probably about four years) until my next milestone. Hopefully Finsbury Park will be on that weekend.
First parkrun: March 4 2017, Finsbury Park
Different events done: 62
parkruns done more than once: Finsbury Park (10), Barking (7), Burgess (5), Mile End (5), Bromley (4), Hackney Marshes (4), Dulwich (3), Hampstead Heath (3), Oak Hill (2), Valentine’s (2), Victoria Dock (2), Beckenham Place (2), Grovelands (2).
Fastest time: 33:53 at Malahide (Dublin)
Slowest time: 54:08 walking Beckenham Place with my mother, or 47:11 at Stratford Park (Stroud) with no one but myself and the mud to blame.
Hilliest: Got to be Hadleigh I think? Or maybe Stratford Park but the hills paled into insignificance compared with the mud.
Muddiest: see above
Ones I would like to do soon: Sunny Hill, Gunnersbury, Chalkwell Beach (again), Lowestoft, anything by the sea, any hilly tarmac ones.