It’s New Year and I’m staying in Leeds with my mum and brother. Leeds is well blessed with Parkruns currently boasting 4 parkruns with several others quite close by. On New Year’s Day there are 2 runs. One is at Woodhouse Moor (near Leeds University) and the other is at Temple Newsam in the grounds of the glorious Elizabethan manor house. They have realised that there will be a bunch of complete maniacs that will want to do both runs and so instead of starting them both at 9 am as they would usually do, they are running the Woodhouse Moor Parkrun at 9 and Temple Newsam at 10. It’ll be tight but with them being only 4.5 miles apart then it is eminently possible to do both.
Now, I’ll make a small diversion here to talk about Parkruns. The vast majority of you will know about these but for those who don’t I shall fill in a bit of background information.
Parkrun is a measured 5 kilometre run organised entirely by volunteers and starting at 9am every Saturday morning. It began in 2004, founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt as the UK Time Trials and then morphed into Parkrun in 2010. I usually run in the Cambridge Parkrun although I’m pleased to say that I can usually find Parkruns wherever I stay. I did note that there were none in the USA when I was there last year. I’m hoping this phenomenon will spread across the ocean soon. The event relies upon volunteers as it costs nothing to enter. There are usually a starter, several marshals to make sure you stay on route, a finishing funnel team to click your finishing time on the stop watches and people to hand out your bar code finish tags. There are also people to scan your finish tags as well as your athlete bar codes that you sign up for online before you attend the event. It’s a minimum team of around 8 or 9 for every run and often with fields of 3 or 400 people running at every event then you can need much more. Therefore it’s very important that everyone who takes part volunteers to help out at some time. I have very much enjoyed the experience every time I’ve volunteered so would heartily recommend it to anyone reading this who hasn’t yet experienced the fun of being a Parkrun volunteer.
I rise early on New Year’s Day and set off for Woodhouse Moor. My partner, Carrie is coming with me. She doesn’t usually run nor does she usually attend Parkruns with me, being of the very sensible opinion that Saturday mornings are for sleeping in a little and recovery from the trials and tribulations of the working week. This time it feels like a special occasion and she accompanies me to Woodhouse Moor. Carrie has also brought along some running shoes. She’s going to attempt her very first Parkrun. We’ve decided it should be the second one so that we won’t risk missing getting to that one if Carrie is still running the first.
There are huge amounts of folk milling about even though it’s only 08:45. Woodhouse Moore Parkrun seems to have a really strong community feel to it. Many people asking each other whether they’ve had a good Christmas and all that kind of thing. It’s all very jolly. I even hear quite a number of people talking about going on to the other Parkrun at Temple Newsam. One mad fool is going to run in between the two as well as taking part in both. Just incredible.
At about 08:55 the shouting begins and we are all cajoled back down the course to gather at the start. There we are given our instructions and the latest news. The latest news is that the Leeds Parkrun is going to change its name to the Woodhouse Moor Parkrun. The instructions are to run around the course, look out for other folks using the park, keep dogs on short leads and keep any under 11’s close by because they are inherently evil and could break loose and destroy everyone. We nod sagely and are sent on our way around the Moor. Unfortunately it’s not a very big moor and so we have to go around 3 times to make 5K. This gets a bit confusing with the distance markers. The first one I saw was 3 kilometres but I managed to figure that one was probably a marker to savour for later.
It’s a nice easy course with a little uphill but nothing too taxing. It’s pathway all the way around so ideal for a wet and cold winter’s day. It is very crowded but we soon spread out and are able to find our own pace.
I finish the race, am funnelled down to the barcode scanning folks and then Carrie and I are bustling over to the car to head out for Parkrun number two.
We travel in a mighty convoy with many other folks on their way to Temple Newsam run. We park and then circle around the glorious house to the mini farm beyond. We talk to nice chap as we walk to the start who extols the glories of this Parkrun. He refers to the course as ‘interesting’. This sets off all my alarm bells. When I hear people call courses ‘interesting’ they often mean bloody difficult. Hmmm, we shall see. We set off up the hill toward the house and then turn off to run alongside the formal garden.
I wonder at this point whether I should have run along with Carrie. It was her first Parkrun and maybe she would have wanted some company to run with. It never occurred to me at the time. I just took off and trotted around the course at my own pace but there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t have run with Carrie and given her some encouragement. If our positions were reversed then I wouldn’t have wanted her to run with me. I would have just wanted to plod around and do my own thing in my own way but I have found through years of experience that I can’t always judge what other people would want from my own perception. I think, in this case, what I should have done was to ask her what she wanted. Asking won’t always get a response that reflects what the person actually wants but it has to be better than not asking at all.
We ran down by the formal gardens and then turned left ish toward the motorway in the distance. Then left again and eventually circled around so that we were coming back up the hill toward the farm and the house. There was a lot of mud and the uphill was steep and particularly gruelling. My suspicions about the word ‘interesting’ were definitely realised.
We went around the course twice and then it veered off to spend a little more time on that last hill that we all enjoyed so. Just as I was beginning to wonder if the 5K measurement wasn’t all it could be I finally spotted the final funnel. Fortunately the finish funnel was very long as they’d run out of tokens so were scanning people as they finished using just the one scanner. This would put all the results in one place so that they wouldn’t need to be collated later and would get over the lack of tokens problem. This was probably quick thinking by someone on the day, so much kudos for whoever sorted that problem out.
I went back down the track to find Carrie. She wasn’t enjoying herself and I was regretting that this was her introduction to the Parkruns. The Temple Newsam Run especially in all that mud was one of the toughest Parkruns I’ve ever done. Possibly not the best one for a first timer.
She was glad she did it though and I was thrilled that she now has a little knowledge of the sort of thing I get up to every Saturday morning.