My 50th parkrun and the Bluebell 10 mile 2015

My parkrun ‘journey’ started back in 2009. I paid the odd visit to Hove Park, but those visits were very sporadic.  I was much more interested in going to the pub until very late on Friday night and Saturday mornings were spent recovering with a sore head.

Fast forward 4 years and my world is a different place. Beer doesn’t seem quite so attractive any more and running has begun to play a huge part in my life and the improvement in my health.

This is when parkrun ‘got serious’ for me.  7 months in the planning, we launched Clair parkrun.  It’s taken me nearly 2 years to go from single figures to reach 50 runs, as volunteering was top of the agenda, especially to start with. However, as we grew as an event, I ran more and more and my 50th was soon on the horizon.

There are highs and lows of being a parkrun Event Director and I have certainly struggled with some of the lows. However, the highs are fantastic. One of the highest highs has been meeting so many fantastic people, something that I hadn’t really expected to be so high on the list.

I was lucky to reach this milestone with Jay, who has been a total rock for us over the past 2 years, offering support and great friendship. It was great and very fitting to share our 50th run with each other.

10678690_365414026990984_3859103676180528546_n11159461_365414163657637_3748269566226510967_nSunday was Bluebell 10 day. It comes in 10 mile and 10k versions near Angmering, West Sussex.

This event had been on the radar for a while, but we either missed it or were doing another event.  However, this was the year. It nearly wasn’t. I’ve got a sore achilles, which is really worrying me at the moment, but I needed to test it.

In the lead up to the event everything seemed very organised. Race number arrived in the post along with very detailed instructions. On arrival on the day, the car park is well signed and marshalled. The registration area at the Fox pub is busy and well organised.

The race starts on the road with a quick downhill section.

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After just under half a mile, you turn off and it’s off road or private lanes all the way until the end.

This is a race of 2 halves. Mainly uphill for the first half and mainly downhill for the second. There is a killer hill at half way and another right at the very end.

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The countryside is lovely. If you’re looking for a race with a view, including lots of bluebells, this is for you.

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This is a really good event.  It’s tough.  The hills get you.  On a day when the weather is less pleasant, I’d imagine that it could be pretty harsh and exposed.

If you’re looking for a medal though, you need to look elsewhere.  However, the lack of medal is reflected in the entry fee and to do get free professional photos, which were available within hours of the end of the race.

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To be fair, I’d rather have some nice photos rather than a cheap medal.

Would I do this race again?  Oh yes.  I’d recommend it to anyone.

Would I change anything?  Maybe add a bag drop at the start/finish.

Definitely one for the calendar again for future years.

Take care all and let’s hope that this achilles plays ball. May brings 3 Forts (27 miles), the Green Belt Relay and the Weald Ultra. No time for my body to decide it’s not happy.

Happy running.

 

 

Horsham parkrun and the River Relay make my weekend

There was a time when a good weekend involved going straight to the pub after work on a Friday night, then spending most of the weekend drinking, sleeping and feeling a bit crap.

Well times change and although spending time in the pub is still a favourite pastime of mine, it certainly doesn’t get in the way of other, more productive activities.

This weekend was great for several reasons.  I got to spend some time in the pub with some friends and my wife and I attended 2 events for the first time.

It was the launch day for Horsham parkrun on Saturday.  It was a bizarre feeling when I got there as it didn’t feel like a new parkrun.  The organisers and the volunteers all had a lot of experience of parkruns and how they work and this was evident in how smoothly the event went.  It was a very good job that they were organised, as 366 people turned up for their free 5km run.

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As usual, there were lots of people visiting from other parkruns across the South of England with their wonderful  selection of 100 and 250 t-shirts.

The most pleasing thing was the amount of people raising their hand to the question ‘who is running their first ever parkrun today’?   As an Event Director, I think that one of the most pleasing things is to see people getting into parkrun because it has started in their town.

The course in Horsham Park is excellent and a mixture of concrete and grass.  It is 3 and a bit laps.  I’m a big fan of laps.  It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I love the fact that the supporters gather in one place and they cheer you on each time you go past.  This happens 4 times at Horsham.

As usual, the event attracted a huge range of abilities and ages.  This is what parkrun does.

There is also a great café nearby with inside and outside areas serving hot and hold drinks, as well as a good selection of food.

It is well worth a visit.  It’s also potentially a PB course.  I went under 23 minutes for only the 3rd time ever.

This is another great addition to the range of parkruns available in Sussex.  This week 1506 runners completed the 7 parkruns now on offer. I am pretty sure that this is a record.

On Sunday morning we met at 7am in Burgess Hill to head up to London for the River Relay.  Having done the Green Belt Relay in May, there was a real sense of excitement about the Green Belt Relay’s little brother, which is organised by the same people, The Stragglers Running Club.

It is a marathon run over 5 legs of varying lengths, starting at Virginia Water in Windsor Great Park and finishing at the Hawker Centre on the banks of the river in Kingston.  We entered 3 teams.

Due to some unexpected circumstances, I had the pleasure of running legs one and three for different BHR teams, rather than just leg 1, as expected.

Leg 1 was great.  I had never been to that part of London before and it is fantastic.  The lake was shrouded in mist as we arrived.  The course went round the outside of the lake and headed to the north end of the park where I handed over the baton to our second runner.

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leg 1Unlike the Green Belt Relay, this is a true baton relay, where the baton has to be handed over and each team only has 1 running on the course at each time.

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My time for the first leg was excellent, despite the early start and the quick parkrun in my legs from the previous day.  There was no time to warm down, as I had to get into the car to drive to the start of leg 3 before our runner arrived.

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We did so with about 15 minutes to spare, so as Vicky came in, I set off on my second leg of the morning, not really expecting to set the world alight (by my standards anyway).

10628423_10152412095298763_763051774101726809_nThat’s where I was wrong.  I ran the first 10k of the leg in a 10k PB, which I had just not expected.  I was helped along by a runner from the Stragglers.

leg 3Leg 3 was part of the first leg of the Green Belt Relay course, only in reverse, so it was pretty familiar.

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After my leg, we went off to the start of the final leg where Linda handed over to Nick and she had the honour of bringing the team home in a total time of 3 hours 30 minutes and 38 seconds in 31st place out of the 51 teams.

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The other 2 BHR teams came home in 40th and 41st places.  An excellent performance by everyone.

Again, for us this was a running event and social event in equal measures.  The event itself is much more manageable than the Green Belt Relay and there were certainly more teams at the slower end of the ability range.  There is also much less distance between the legs and less time pressure on getting your athlete to the start of their leg.

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The Stragglers certainly know how to put on an event.  This ran totally smoothly, even with a last minute course diversion on the final leg.

It was also a very nice touch at the end when large sums of money were offered to charity chosen by the winning teams.

I would certainly recommend it to any club, whatever their ability.  I’d love to see us put out a strong team next year to see how close we can get to the front runners.

So there we go.  All of a sudden it was Monday morning and the hectic 48 hours were over.

A huge thank you to everyone involved in making these 2 very different events so enjoyable.

A visit to Bushy parkrun

We had been planning to do this for some time.  Having been immersed in Clair parkrun in Haywards Heath for well over a year now, it was time to visit Bushy Park, the big one, the original.

The great thing was that we had a big group of parkrunning Burgess Hill Runners who joined us as well.

So we all met for a 7am drive up to Bushy Park on a beautiful, if rather chilly, Saturday morning.  75 minutes later, we’re there.

20140823_08391320140823_085140The park is beautiful.  It’s huge.  In fact, the park and the parkrun are so incredibly different from Clair Park.

Bushy parkrun in flat.  Totally flat and it is one lap.  Clair parkrun, as we all know, is over 4 laps and hilly.

The attendance at Bushy Park regularly numbers in the region of 1,000 runners.  There are so many people, they have a mobile PA system to do the event brief.  It makes our event look tiny (not that we’d have it any other way).

10478942_10152371709777983_8556586565254377079_nThe start of the course is probably 15 metres wide as the field spreads out over the first kilometres and the whole event is run over wide open pathways.

The number of volunteers required is amazing.  The finishing funnel is so long.  There were probably as many people volunteering in the funnel as we have at our event in total.

20140823_092508They have 5 scanning stations, making the queue to be scanned no longer that the queue at Clair Park.

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The job of sorting the tokens is obviously a huge one and without real organisation, would take an age.

20140823_092759_Richtone(HDR)The differences between our event and Bushy Park are clear for everyone to see.

More importantly though, the similarities are pretty stark too.

As we arrived in the park, we were pointed in the right direction for the start by a very friendly lady wearing a 250 club t-shirt.

When we got to the start, the welcome was warm and the same lady who pointed us towards the start line offered to let us store our bags and spare clothes in her car.

There is the same sense of anticipation before the start of the event, knowing that the next 16 to 50 minutes were going to be painful.

The volunteers were friendly and encouraging, which something that we pride ourselves on at Clair.

There is the usual huge age and ability range.  There were 33 minutes 56 seconds between the first and last finishers.  The age different between the youngest and the older runner was around 75 years.  The oldest runner, Madge Bradsell, completed her 308th parkrun.  She completed the course in just over 39 minutes by the way.  Amazing.

There are 2 places to grab a coffee after the event, giving you the chance to catch up with friends and talk about the run.

It was a very special day for one of our young Burgess Hill Runners.  3 months ago it was impossible to think that Georgia would be completing her 10th parkrun in a field of 920 runners.

Despite taking a fall on her way to the event this morning and hurting her knee, she did it.

20140823_093447_Richtone(HDR)20140823_094008_Richtone(HDR)And we ate cake to celebrate the morning.  It would be rude not to.

10616256_10152371709407983_5231016744160284616_nIt is always great to spend time with our junior runners and Beth proved that this morning.  I can’t imagine that I would have taken an event of such a size in my stride at her age.  Her boundless energy and enthusiasm are always a joy to share.

20140823_093838_Richtone(HDR)Finally, to round it off for me, I battered my 5k PB.  23 minutes 33 seconds.  A good 20 seconds off my previous best.

So there it is.  Our visit to Bushy parkrun.  Thank you all you BHR and Nic Bowker for sharing it with me.  Thank you Bushy Park for being so brilliant (and we saw some deer on the way out).

Take care and have fun, Neil.

Volunteer, Run, Support

This is what I did this weekend.  My body is telling me that it was great fun, incredibly rewarding and very tiring.

In order, marshalling at Clair pakrun, 14 miles along the South Downs Way, then lots of clapping, cheering and laughing at the London Marathon.

trypticI was tucked away at the top of the downhill section to marshal on Saturday at parkrun.  It’s a really good spot as you see people before they head off down the hill, although there is a spell for a few minutes when you don’t see anyone until the quick boys come past on the second lap.

On Saturday, it was great to announce the parkrunner of the month for March.  The winner, Sue, was there on day one and typifies what parkrun means to us. She comes down with her family, friends and neighbours and is always smiling.  She’s getting quicker as well and removed a huge chunk from her PB on pacer day.

I am currently in that bizarre space between recovering from one marathon and preparing for the next one.  It is 3 weeks until 3 Forts. I’m not really sure what to do.  I’ve never been in this position before with 2 marathons in quick succession.  I don’t really know what to do, but I think that my legs told me on Saturday.

Jay and I took the train over to Shoreham and ran home.  This takes in part of the 3 Forts course and I really love this part of the South Downs.  I know it very well from my cycling days.

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SDW with JayAs well happen at the 3 Forts, we walked up the hills and ran the flat and downhill.

It was a bit of a struggle to get over Newtimber and the downhill sections are pretty steep, which is not the best way for my knees to spend the afternoon.  We did, however, make it back home in just over 2 and a half hours, which is the pace that I am going to be aiming for at 3 Forts.

It’s pretty easy to see from these photos why it is so great to make the effort to get up onto the South Downs Way.

10176002_10152052713948870_2040554537413339855_n1512449_10152052715343870_5976631921960673036_n10169233_10152052715903870_8481679623874353493_n 10259815_10152052716533870_542809171765658726_nSunday was London Marathon day.  I was more excited about supporting in London, than running in Brighton.  A lot more relaxed as well.

We got a really early train up and there were still lots of spaces at the barriers a couple of hundred metres from Tower Bridge.  Perfect.

10150525_10152056568983870_2457589160389092157_n10169308_10152054474513870_7659699769772001314_n10152581_10152054477933870_8913362640678586277_nAnd the parkrun meagephone even had a day out.

The first athletes who came through were the para-athletes.  It was pretty awesome to see these people.  Partially sighted or blind runners with their guides and amputees all went through.  It’s quite humbling and amazing to see how people overcome adversity.

1517529_10152054473723870_1631592760488459157_n10177861_10152054473523870_8544618290293146915_n10150518_10152054473128870_481376892090664372_nFinally, we saw Richard Whitehead.  This chap touched the hearts of many people during the Olympics and the place went crazy as he ran past.  It must have been such a buzz for him, as I imagine that was the reception he got most of the way round.

10172623_10152054474858870_5946735370797703889_nThe ladies soon came through at a fair rate of knots, followed closely behind by the men, including Mr Farah..

10250232_10152054474173870_6371328723228009484_n1006089_10152054475158870_8858036540090337016_nAnd then came the very impressive club runners and the masses.

10259935_10152054476018870_1692973975754862344_n1613984_10152054475503870_2087654854679487562_nWe watched all of our club runners come through and then headed off on the long walk over Tower Bridge, along the river to mile 25 miles.  It’s a long walk, but worth it.  It was still possible to get to the barriers to cheer people on.

The noise on the Embankment was at a different level.  It was the cheering point for many of the charities and the volume increased each time a specific charity’s runner went past.

This is where people need the help and they got it.

10176204_10152054478538870_4904806607836249576_n10006946_10152054479378870_8002352559975809149_n10154245_10152054478563870_5338783034525163681_n10178140_10152054479008870_2319659398545009841_n1781928_10152054478933870_5431676588939989938_n10246436_10152054479138870_1975636437013883556_n10250164_10152054479648870_152317070625188737_n10245579_10152054480238870_5231820463874588388_n1491692_10152054480423870_2912327495231922885_n10167934_10152054480648870_2227124048735896155_n10013585_10152054480088870_2378244714454393288_nIf ever there was any doubt in my mind about getting up very early on a Sunday morning, when I could have done with staying in bed, then I think that these photos prove that going to London was the best idea I have had for some time.

Well done to everyone for doing this, runners and supporters.  Well done all those BHR people who reached some amazing personal goals.  The most incredible performance came from Helen Pratt.  2 marathons in 2 weeks and the smile on her face on Sunday was just amazing.

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So, it was time for a quick beer at the lovely Blackfriars Station before heading home after the most incredibly rewarding and tiring weekend for some time.

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February at parkrun

February was the second of my 2 months as volunteer co-ordinator. I had done a 2 month stint last year, but I really thought January and February would have been much more difficult than it was.

It still amazes me the amount of good will from the volunteers, many of whom volunteer week in week out.  In February we also had quite a few first time volunteers, which is really nice.

Week one saw a bit of water in the park.

1619403_207189719480083_1576289392_nThe following week, we saw lots of water.

1896911_209570175908704_478340632_nThe last 2 weeks of the month were almost dry, although there was a mad panic as a fallen tree was blocking the path on Friday and the event would have had to be cancelled if we couldn’t get it moved.  Luckily, the council were brilliant and they moved the poor tree and cut branches to make it passable. During another storm on Friday night another tree came down, but luckily only half blocked the path, so the event could go ahead.

Numbers in February have been fantastic, apart from the 3rd week when we have the doubt over the fallen trees and it was half term.  Every other week we had more than 100.  I would love to average over 100 runner each week during 2014.  I think we can do it.

We also had a great really nice visitors this month.  We had a big group come over from Eastbourne parkrun.  They were a really lovely group of people.  Again, of different abilities and very friendly.  We also had a 250 t-shirt in the park, which belonged to Becky Thurtell. She visited with David Piper, who himself had a 100 t-shirt. We were also visited by the Flynn family. 5 of them ran with well over 600 parkruns between them (photos below).

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We have now ordered the pacer t-shirts.  We are going to have numbers 24 to 34 minutes on the t-shirts in order to cover the bulk of the runners.  We had planned to start this in February but it just didn’t happen. I’m really looking forward to launching pacer day.  It will really add to the event and I love seeing people have the chance to improve their achievements.

It’s been another amazing month for juniors in Clair Park. One of the reasons for launching parkrun was to help give others the chance to do sport in the way I did when I was a kid. I was amazing lucky.  I had 2 incredible supportive parents who did all they could to support me in my sporting activities and a school that was incredible.  In the last 2 week of the month around a quarter of the runners were juniors.  They run to the start line to get to the front and then rush to get to the first corner first.

IMG_6507We have already handed out quite a few 10 t-shirts (Orson and Lewis have theirs in the photo above) and there are a lot more on 6, 7 or 8 run, who will get to 10 runs in the next month or so.

A very wet Clair parkrun 8th February 2014

I’m not going to write about parkrun every week. To be perfectly honest, it’d get a bit dull.

However, if anything out of the ordinary happens, then I will make an exception.

The weather has been appalling for the last few months.  More rain than I can remember falling before.  When we first started to plan parkrun around this time last year, we visited Clair Park and it had been raining heavily.  The section at the bottom of the course was totally flooded.  I imagine that it is down to the drains getting blocked following the leaf fall.

So I guess what greeted us was to be expected.  I had no particular role this week, so I was free to take some photos and I was lucky that it happened this week.

Here are a selection of the photos I took.  There are more at – https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.209565615909160.1073741864.136451203220602&type=3

1908115_209565805909141_1642140366_n 1907921_209570249242030_1216276450_n 1907572_209569959242059_25559404_n 1798628_209568785908843_929661987_n 1620428_209567189242336_294319873_n 1620927_209566525909069_1236391388_nI did wonder how people would react to this, especially the juniors. It was amazing.  Everyone got stuck in and seemed to relish it.

There seemed to be a real buzz afterwards today, as people had something extra to talk about.

The power of parkrun does not and hopefully will never cease to amaze me.

January at parkrun

January at parkrun was fantastic.  We managed to avoid the rain on the day of the event, but there was often standing water at the bottom of the course and the finish area is a bit of a mess.  Still working on that.

We averaged over 120 people per week, with 481 people completed the course in the 4 weeks in January.

I am keen to encourage local running groups / fitness groups to visit parkrun on a Saturday morning as a social event for the group to get together and also have a lovely 5km trot around a park.

It was really lovely to welcome the Aspire ‘We Run Hassocks’ group on the 11th January.  There were 17 or 18 of them and I recognised quite a few of them from passing them on the streets of Hassocks.  They share the same ethos that we do at parkrun.  There is a big range of abilities and everyone is extremely encouraging to each other.

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It was also really nice to present t-shirt to quite a few juniors this month.  Lily and Lewis have both run all of their parkruns at Clair, so may not have been parkrunners if we hadn’t launched in Haywards Heath.  They are both from families who have really embraced parkrun as well, as siblings and parents are also running regularly.

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We also presented December’s parkrunner of the month.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult to decide on the parkrunner of the month.  The folks at Tilgate warned us of this.  The awarded Jay with the award and here are his new shoes courtesy of Sweatshop.

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Jay and his family have become and massive part of the parkrun team and there does seem to be a hole if they are not there.