Tag Archives: parkrun

Best Book – Running Awards 2016

I was amazed and delighted to discover late last night that my book, parkrun: much more than just a run in the park, had won the “Best Book” category at The Running Awards 2016.

I poured my heart and my life into writing this book for a year. I interviewed more than 150 people in person, by telephone and via Skype – not counting the parkrunners who coped with me chatting to them at parkruns then asking them to repeat what they had just said, but this time with my voice recorder running. I gathered about 100 more tales that were sent in by parkrunners after parkrun kindly put out a call for stories. I looked through old parkrun newsletters and run reports, and cross-checked information where stories didn’t quite match (memories can be fallible five or ten years after the event).

I wanted to write a book that would inform people about how parkrun started, how it had developed over the first 10 years, what goes on behind the scenes to make it all work. I wanted to celebrate all the different aspects of parkrun (the working title was parkrun: a celebration, which then got used for the parkrun photo book), and all the different parkrunners, sharing stories of everyday parkrunners as well as some of the pioneers and key people in the organisation.

And I wanted to write an inspirational running book not about running marathons or ultramarathons, but about an event that pretty much everyone can take part in.

Given this award, I think I can say I succeeded.

Thank you to everyone who voted for parkrun: much more than just a run in the park – winning this award means a lot to me.

And thank you to everyone who supported me in writing the book: Paul Sinton-Hewitt who gave me the initial go-ahead and his backing to contact people; Bruce Fordyce for writing his wonderful foreword; Scott Reeves (Chequered Flag Publishing) for publishing it; Shelagh Yospur, Aidan Dixon and Eva Jacobs for commenting on drafts before it went to the publishers; and everyone who contributed their memories, stories, quotes and photos that made this book what it is.

Finally, 50 parkruns!

Yesterday, 10th October, 2015, at the 265th Lloyd parkrun, I finally ran my 50th parkrun.

I had originally planned to run this at Lloyd parkrun’s 250th event, back in June, which would have given me an average of one event run for every five we’d held – not a surprising average given my role as Event Director and Volunteer Coordinator – but then I broke my ankle. It’s now 16 weeks since that simple slip on a grassy bank which caused the injury, and it’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve started, very gradually, to run. First a few paces barefoot on grass, then jogging a bit on a 0.5 mile walk to the railway station, when I was slightly late for the train, working up to jogging all the way to or from a railway station 1.5 miles from home, and then during this last week, some longer runs, reaching about parkrun distance.

Putting myself down to be Tail Runner was one way (many might say the only way) to make sure I wouldn’t try to run too fast on this first parkrun back after so long. It felt really, really good to line up with the other runners, to jog along the track, including large parts of the course that I have not seen in four months, to thank the marshals as I passed them, to watch all the runners ahead of me and cheer on the faster runners as they overtook me during the second lap. I even managed to pick up a few bits of litter along the way and deposit them in the bin just before the bowling green, and collect a few route marker arrows to help the marshals (who bring back the arrows once the last runner has passed them).

I finished in a Personal Worst Time of 47:44, but that didn’t matter. It felt FANTASTIC to be running, and it’s wonderful to have finally made it to the 50-club. Of course, now that I’ve seen the new colour for the 250-club T-shirt is a really nice green, I’ve got motivation to run a bit more often. Volunteering-wise, I’ll be at 250 separate occasions before the end of 2015, earning my 25-club volunteering T-shirt ten times over, but it’s taken me since January 2011 to reach 50 parkruns, so it’s going to be a loooong time before I earn a black 100-club T-shirt, never mind a green 250-club shirt to go with the red 50-club shirt and the purple (NOT my favourite colour – I voted for the bright yellow) volunteering T-shirt.

Never mind – I’m running – and parkrunning – again. That’s what’s important.

Dreaming of Running

It’s now more than six weeks since I broke my ankle, five since the fractured fibula was fixed surgically, and I’m counting down the days (four!) until my six-week post-op check-up. I am really, really hoping that the x-rays will show good bone healing. If they do, I will be allowed to start partial weight bearing and what should be a six week rehabilitation period to return to normal walking, if all goes well. For the moment, all I can do is wiggle my toes, GENTLY move my foot forwards and backwards in a straight line, and a few leg exercises, while wearing the Aircast boot, to try to maintain some of my upper leg muscles, even if my calf muscles are horribly wasted.

By day, I sit on my sofa, leg propped up on pillows, sofa and coffee table converted into a temporary home office, getting my work done.

By night I lie with my leg well propped up on pillows, and I dream of running: parkrunning, woodland trail running, even road running. Occasionally I dream that I’ve got out of bed and walked across the room, and then I remember I’m not allowed to do that yet and I wake up feeling guilty – then realise I didn’t actually do it!

I am thoroughly fed up of spending 14 hours a day sitting on the sofa, even if it is quite a comfortable sofa. Thankfully, my wonderful husband has given up his Saturday morning lie-ins in order to take me to Lloyd parkrun. As during my other periods of injury-enforced breaks from running, volunteering at Lloyd parkrun has been the highlight of each week.

The first week, the only role I dared take was barcode scanning, meaning that I only needed to get from the car past the cafe to the registartion tables, then sit down. However, as the pain has reduced and I’ve become more mobile on my crutches, I’ve managed to get as far as the finish chute to be (while sitting down) photographer or timer, and (again with my husband’s assistance for juggling megaphone and crutch) even Run Director. Everyone has been very supportive, with Jenny Booth taking on Run Director most weeks and number Checker even the time I was Run Director. I’m hoping to be mobile enough to try that as well, soon.

I’ve also managed to volunteer for a couple of events associated with my running club, Striders of Croydon, including the local veteran’s league athletics match two weeks ago and our club handicap last Wednesday. Good to be out and about, and socialising with people, and able to DO something.

Many thanks to Stuart and to Selena, for transportation on those two occasions.

40 parkruns!

Yesterday I ran my 40th parkrun. I ran my very first parkrun in January 2011, so it’s taken me nearly four years to get this far and I’m clearly going to be into my fifth year of parkrunning before I earn my 50-club T-shirt. That’s okay; I’ve also volunteered 192 times, according to the system (actually more, as I volunteered several times before anyone mentioned that this activity could be noted on the old Volunteer Management System) and I’ll easily reach 200 volunteering weeks before 50 runs.

The last three months I’ve run at Lloyd seven times, which is more frequently than I’ve ever managed before. That’s due to more people stepping forward to volunteer, which is great to see. I’m also grateful to Jenny Booth (my right-hand woman at Lloyd parkrun) for sometimes taking my place as Run Director on a day when we have extra last-minute volunteers, so that I can run.

Recovering from the injury (posterior tibial tendon tear in a cycling accident) which stopped me running for six months over the winter has given me additional appreciation for the chance to run the 5K of the parkrun. It has also reminded me what it’s like when five kilometers is a long way to run. Given that I ran my first half marathon in 2009 and my first ultramarathon in 2012, it’s easy to forget this and good to be reminded just how amazing it is for beginners to complete a parkrun.

parkrunning this often also has helped me to the realisation that I honestly like volunteering at parkrun as much as I like running in it.

I love the chance to push myself in the run, trying to creep back up towards something like my pre-injury speed (I’ve managed to pass 65% age graded three times recently, but I’m still a long way from my previous best of 70.24%).

Equally, I love watching and encouraging everyone during the run, seeing all the different running styles, the individual efforts and personal triumphs which are much more visible when you volunteer.

The cameraderie is great in both roles, but again there’s a difference in the feel between running, passing and being passed by other runners, calling out encouragement on the hill and perhaps being pushed on by someone on your shoulder – who in turn may be using you to “pull” them along as they try to catch you – and the chatting and banter between the finish line crew during the run, with the chances to briefly congratulate each runner on the finish line or as you scan their barcode, or to encourage every runner as they pass while you’re marshalling. I really enjoy both experiences.

And a final note: the first time I ran a parkrun I was one of 7,511 runners at 51 events in the UK, with 7,643 runners at 55 events globally. when I ran this Saturday I was one of nearly 49,000 runners at 300 events across the uK and globally, parkrun is exceeding 500 events weekly with 75,000-80,000 or more runners. Being part of that is amazing!


I finally feel like I’m making some real progress in my running.

During September, we had lots of volunteers and I ran at Lloyd parkrun three times. I’m pretty sure I’ve never managed so many parkruns in one month before. The last one I finally made a small improvement in my run time. The first Saturday in October I went down to Bushy Park for the Bushy parkrun Tenth Anniversary, which was amazing. I wasn’t pushing to run fast, and slowed down several times to take photos, but I still dipped under 24 minutes on the flat course, making me 502nd finisher – out of 1,705!

All 13 of the people who ran in the very first Bushy Park Time Trial were there, as were the first volunteers. Paul Sinton-Hewitt started the run and turned out to be one of the volunteers barcode scanning – by chance I was in his queue. A little way behind me in the same queue were two Cardiff parkrunners whom I last saw when I ran Warszawa-Praga parkrun! It was a fantastic morning and felt really privileged to be there and taking part in it.

Last Saturday I took part in the Surrey Cross-Country League and helped Striders of Croydon to fifth place out of 29 teams in the B division. I didn’t feel that my running was great, and I had to slow down for a while due to gut cramps, but my ankle didn’t hurt during the race, even on the uneven ground. We were supposed to complete a short loop and then a long loop but a marshalling error meant we were sent off on the long loop first.

On Sunday I extended the 90-minute club run with some extra running in Lloyd Park, ending up with 14 or 14.5 miles under my belt (I’m not sure of the exact distance because I accidentally stopped my Garmin for one part of the run). It was particularly pleasing to find that, for the first time since the accident, I could enjoy the long downhill sections without getting ankle/foot pain. I also felt like I was running a lot more freely. Based on the pattern of the pain I had been getting and it becoming suddenly sharper then disappearing, I think it likely that a bit of adhesion/scar tissue has broken down. I will be extremely pleased if I can keep improving.

We’ve got lots of volunteers lined up for this Saturday (not surprising with the Croydon 10K on Sunday), so hopefully I’m going to run, which should take me to 37 parkruns (of course, I’ve also volunteered on 185 occasions).