On 2nd October 2004, the first ever parkrun took place in Bushy Park. At the time, it was known rather less invitingly as “Bushy Park Time Trial” and there were a total of thirteen runners, none of whom took more than 30 minutes to complete the 5k course. There were no tourists, no milestones and no official volunteers, and I’m sure none of the participants had any idea what trouble they were starting.
Nearly eighteen years later, the Idiot Collective trooped southwards to Bushy, the home of parkrun, to celebrate Ian’s 250th run and Rob’s 100th different event (known as a “Cowell”, after the first person to complete this feat. Not Simon Cowell). On 28th May, 2022, there were 1209 participants, 69 volunteers and 443 people who took more than 30 minutes. This is still well short of the attendance record of 2545, set on Christmas Day 2019.
Despite the huge number of attendees, Bushy is a well oiled machine and the volunteers are clearly used to dealing with large numbers. The course has changed a number of times over the years with thought to accommodating seething masses of sweaty plodders. Instead of lining up vertically behind a start point, runners spread horizontally across a large field and run across the grass before converging on a path. There is a bit of a slow down as the course narrows, but I’ve seen a lot worse bottlenecks at smaller parkruns. You may recall from my last post that I am not exactly pushing the course records or even the 35 minute pacers at the moment so I did not have that annoying “why are all these people doing exactly the same thing as me getting in my way” feeling at all, though I am told the faster people were slightly afflicted. On the whole though, I didn’t really feel the course was crowded.
Having been practically unable to run at all at the Hackney Half and not having run all week, I wasn’t feeling terribly optimistic about my performance and had decided that I would start off with an experimental run and if my leg was threatening to drop off or explode I would drop to a walk. I was therefore pleased to find that my leg was only providing mild torment and not life changing throbbing agony as it had been at Crane Park. The smarting was sufficiently light that I could concentrate on things like enjoying the surroundings, looking out for deer and watching where I was going. This was a definite improvement! I was still running quite awkwardly and my pace wasn’t a lot better but it felt a lot easier to run slowly, painfully and awkwardly than it had last week. The course is pancake flat and a mixture of surfaces – gravel, trail, tarmac and grass, mainly taking you through big open spaces with a countryside feel, a bit like Richmond Park but without the hills. I was a lot more pleased than I normally would be to finish in 37:59, hopefully I’ll go back for someone else’s milestone one day and knock a couple of minutes off that. It was my first ever 4-digit finish place (1101). It’s a good job I wasn’t running in 2004 because I would have been last by eight minutes.