On my drive to work on Tuesday, a massive crack appeared in my windscreen- first going right from the chip (a chip that was repaired over a year ago) and then left- rather scary. I drove home the long and slow way, and it got even longer- argh! I was due to be going to the celebration of parkrun volunteers, so I posted in our running club facebook group and thankfully someone offered to pick me up- phew.
Everyone who volunteered at a Hertfordshire parkrun had been invited to the evening, and there were lots of people from local running clubs, as well as lots of volunteers.
It was put on by the Herts sports partnership, and was held at the uni. It started with a buffet and drinks in the foyer (where we had to collect our badges- name + parkrun, although mine had Ellenbrook and Panshanger- when we booked the tickets we were not asked for our parkrun, so I think they must have looked to see where I tend to go), and it was lovely to chat to so many people- one of my friends from Panshanger was going to be doing a talk, and her daughter was presenting some flowers, and then I ended up chatting to a few people who I see at Ellenbrook and say hi to, so it was good to chat to them a bit more . The St Albans parkrun band were playing (mainly running songs like the Rocky theme tune, Keep on Running etc). Just before 7 we were led into the auditorium. After a brief introduction from the host (who was ED at South Oxhey parkrun I think- one of the Herts ones anyway) the king of parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt OBE gave a talk about how parkrun had started.
I thought I knew a lot about it- I used to listen to the parkrun show podcast (sister to marathon talk), and I have heard interviews from various people on the marathon talk podcast before. But he went into great depth and it was fascinating. He also talked about their ambitions of making the world a healthier and happier place, how they want to expand in America, and how they feel they should do China if they really want to have an impact. He talked a bit about sponsorship and how they feel a bit conflicted when the relationship changes a bit (eg at first Adidas supported them, but after a while they just wanted to push them to sell shoes) and how the apricot range of parkrun clothes is a big step in them coming more independent from sponsors (a great excuse to do a bit of internet shopping). Danny Norman was sitting in front of us (he used to present the parkrun podcast) and he was putting it on facebook live, so I am sure it is out there on the internet. If you are interested in parkrun, I’d recommend it.
It was so interesting hearing how it grew so organically- literally parkrunners would emigrate and then get in touch and say “can I start it here?”. We also heard about how they relented with Russia after “parkrunski” (no joke) was started, using QR codes instead of barcodes!
We then heard stories from various volunteers throughout Hertfordshire. At the start we had been told to cheer each time our home parkrun was mentioned, so each time we heard Ellenbrook all the OH ladies in attendance gave a big cheer- it was quite funny as the more local ones had much bigger cheers.
The stories included people joining parkrun to lose weight, getting involved in the core team and a VI runner and her guide. The VI runner was particularly inspiring because of the way parkrun had put her in touch with people- someone who was a guide for her also runs with her one evening, and someone else takes her swimming- it was just wonderful to see the community spirit. One of the volunteers was a child, and his mum had helped to start up another parkrun (Luton), apparently partly because her son did gymnastics and was often late because they went to parkrun first!
We then had the ED’s of the only Herts junior parkrun, talking about how they set it up, and how much they enjoyed it (they were both RD’s at Panshanger, so they knew how to set up a 5k one).
Then we had some information about how parkrun has grown across Herts- in October 2014 there was only one in the county (St Albans), but now there are 11, with more on the way.
Finally the Herts sports partnership gave out some awards, and then the most important part- coffee and cake- served back in the foyer. The band were playing again, this time singing some of the songs where they change the words- if you follow St Albans parkrun on facebook every now and then you will see them- e.g instead of “All about the Base” it’s “All about the lake” (as St Albans is 3 laps of a lake)…. very funny.
The people from Like the Wind magazine were there, as in the latest issue there was an interview with Paul S-H, and he was going to be signing issues. Since hearing them on marathon talk a long time ago, I signed up to the mailing list, and I get emails telling me when the new issue is out, but I have never actually bought one- it seemed like the perfect time.
I picked up a copy, got some cake and then had a wander around, looking for him. I ended up chatting to more people from our club, before finally realising that he was sat at the table where the magazines were being sold (I think I was too quick coming out of the auditorium as he wasn’t there when I bought mine!).
I get very easily star struck- when we met Mark Kermode Andy pretty much did all the talking, so nearly chickened out, but I joined the queue and I think I just garbled thanks to him about how I loved parkrun and how he was so amazing to come up with the idea. He asked me why I had two parkruns on my badge, so I had to explain that.
Then Andy came to pick me up as we had some sorting out to do with the cars. It was such a brilliant evening- the only thing is, it was on a Tuesday so we all had to wait many days before we could actually go to a parkrun!
Does your county do anything to encourage sports participation? Are you good at meeting famous people? I am sure I have mentioned this before, but on our first trip to Disney (I was at uni) I got starstruck meeting Minnie Mouse.