At last, finally, and about time, after eleven years, I have completed my fiftieth parkrun.
Back in 2010, I ran (back in the days when I ran) my first parkrun at Brueton Park in Solihull finishing in a time of 21:32. A few runs further along and I achieved my all time best time of 20:44.
I managed a few more runs in 2011 but then switched to volunteering mainly as photographer at Brueton.
Over the years, I still managed the occasional parkrun including trotting around Glasgow’s Pollock park with my other half on our way to the Isle of Arran.
Another holiday parkrun was Dolgellau on a cold day in November where I managed to finish in third place. To be honest, there were only six runners in total and the tail walker who bothered to venture out that day.
When my arthritic knee dictated that I do something with less impact, I walked around a parkrun now and again allowing my total to (very) slowly creep up.
The arrival of a couple of dogs in 2019 managed to get me out running again with Gabby dragging me around Sutton or Kingsbury parkrun.
As you can see from the photograph, I had to strap my knee up to allow me to run.
Then came covid and all parkrun activity stopped until July 24th this year when I walked to and from Sutton Park and walked around in 40:39. That was my forty sixth parkrun.
Checking the parkrun website, I was horrified to learn that the free T-shirts for completing fifty parkrun would, from 1st September, cost £15. I had five weekends before the September deadline and four parkruns to complete – game on !
Over the next few weekends, I have walked to and competed in the requisite number of parkrun, culminating in my fiftieth at the place where it all began so long ago.
I rose at half five and after breakfasting and getting everything ready, I was out of the house at six, heading for Brueton Park in Solihull.
I followed the almost direct line to Chelmsely Wood then along the waterway that is Kingshurst Brook and later, Hatchford Brook. I was feeling good and so much in my own little world that I took a wrong turn necessitating an unplanned jaunt through Cranes Park.
At some point on my walk to Brueton, Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles was playing on my iPod. It has a very strong beat at roughly the speed that I was walking.
As an experiment, I walked to the beat and then later, back home, I checked my cadence for that section. I was taking 136 steps per minute.
Checking the old internet, I discovered that Eleanor Rigby is played at … 136 beats per minute (bpm).
It proves nothing but was an interesting diversion, although if I need to speed up a tad I should listen to something like Michael Jackson’s Beat it at 139 bpm !
Under threatening skies, I continued through Elmdon Park then along a footpath which winds it’s way around the Land Rover works before emerging onto Lode Lane.
After a short section along Lode Lane, I diverted onto the Grand Union Canal where I managed to get quite close to a heron before it took flight.
After around a mile of the towpath, it was back into the houses for the final leg to Brueton Park.
Technically, although it is called Brueton parkrun, the start is in Meriden Park – the two parks running into each other.
When this parkrun started, the start / finish was at the other end in Brueton Park and the name has stuck.
I arrived around half eight and had time to gobble down a Tunnock Caramel Wafer before the start.
Some old friends of mine, Eric and Jeanette, were also taking part so we had a little chat before lining up for the start.
I must have look as though I belonged as a father and son come up to me and explained that this was their first parkrun and asked if there was anything that they needed to do. I told them that there would be a first-timers’ briefing before the start and wished them good luck.
Brueton operates a bit of a Le Mans style start with runners starting in pens according to their anticipated finish times. As the hooter sounded to start each pen was called out onto the path to get going. Starting in the 35+ minutes section, I was one of the last to start.
I started a brisk walk but having waited to start my average pace, at least initially, was quite slow. As I got into the swing, overtaking people I gradually sped up.
I continued to speed up throughout, achieving the classic negative splits.
I crossed the finish line, pulling away from those behind, and stopped my watch. It read 38:05 at an average pace of 12:09 minutes per mile.
The official result, when it came through later, had me at 38:23, nearly twenty second slower. The results do show a finisher at 38:02 which is a lot closer so maybe they got the timing / counting out of sync – never mind.
The important thing is that I had finished my fiftieth parkrun – Yeh !!!
I was hoping to catch up with my friends, who had waited at the finish line to cheer me on but by the time I’d been through the funnel and scanning, they’d buggered off !
I fortified myself with another Caramel Wafer before resetting my watch for the walk home.
The light drizzle that had started towards the end of the parkrun had become a heavy drizzle as I walked through Solihull town centre then out to Lode Lane, bypassing the canal.
I roughly retraced my steps through Elmdon Park, Sheldon Country Park across the end of the runway at Birmingham Airport then along Hatchford and Kingshurst Brooks.
By the time I reached home, I had added another nine and a bit miles onto my three miles at parkrun and the ten plus miles on the outbound journey giving a total of 22.68 for the day.
Back home after a bite to eat and a shower, I logged onto my parkrun profile to see that my 50th had been correctly recorded and that I had earned my 50 T-shirt.
I am informed that I will be able to claim it soon – let’s just hope that it’s before the September deadline !