Today is the 10th anniversary of parkrun. 10 years ago the notion that I would get out of bed at 7am on a Saturday morning to go running would have been laughable. I am still a bit bemused by the transformation that running has wrought in my life, but can only assume that it is generally a good thing to be more active. Not only has parkrun increased my enjoyment of running, and the number of races I have entered, it has also greatly increased my circle of friends and acquaintances. It was a bit of a shock last weekend to turn up to a race and not recognise anyone at the start. In the UK I am more likely than not to bump into someone I have met before, or know online. These friends have enriched my life more than I would have thought possible when I first, rather nervously, made my way to my first parkrun.
Today I considered going to the birthplace of parkrun - Bushy Park to celebrate with many other parkrun friends. Then I thought about the numbers of people who would be there. On an 'average' parkrun day there are about 1000 runners. Today was looking as though it would be closer to 2000. I don't like crowds. I get a bit stressed about going to parties where there will be more than a handful of people - especially if I don't know everyone. To be fair, I normally go to the party anyway and either have a miserable time not talking to anyone because I get a crippling attack of nerves, or I anaesthetise the inner social nerd with enough alcohol to take out a small village and have an awesome time - or at a least the bits I remember are great! Alcohol doesn't mix well with a 5k run, especially if you have to drive to the start line, so I started to look for somewhere smaller.
A few weeks ago some running friends had mentioned that there was a parkrun starting near them. In fact they had organised their holiday flight to ensure that they could make the inaugural Cranleigh parkrun. Now inaugural parkruns normally attract quite a crowd. But the canny bods who make parkrun magic happen had planned quite a few for this morning. This, I assume, was to take some of the pressure off Bushy, but which also had the effect of reducing numbers at all the first time events. And even a 'bumper turnout' for an inaugural is 'only' about 300 runners. I can cope with that!
Cranleigh, according to my sat nav, was 55 minutes away from home. I bundled the running child into the car (resplendent in our anniversary tees), picked up a friend and set off. It took us 35 minutes (less time than it takes me to get to work most mornings - and we almost drove past my school) and a swear I don't drive that fast! We found some free parking and some loos. I had a minor contact lens disaster (had to remove one, decide it was too overcast to wear my prescription sunglasses so the only option was to run with one good eye and one blurry eye) and then we set off across some football pitches and a road to the start.
There were people at the start - but not the masses we get at Basingstoke ever week. There were familiar faces and new people, there were 100, 50 and 10 t shirts and a smattering of anniversary t shirts too. We chatted to people we knew (and a few we didn't), had a warm up lap of a field, listened to the run briefing, made our way to the start and then we were off.
Two grassy laps of a fairly convoluted course starting at Bruce McKenzie Memorial Field with some stunning views over the surrounding countryside. There is one significant climb - which isn't too bad as it is fairly short, at the top of which the most amazing views were to be had, and also some amazing echoes. I would like to apologise to any residents of Knowle Park Nursing Home who were trying to have a lie in - my booming voice echoed impressively back to me as I encouraged Freddy (and other runners) at the top of the hill and the start of the steep decent! Freddy was a wee bit too enthusiastic on the downhill, and did an impressive head over heels tumble. Where is a camera man when you need them? He cried a bit - through shock more than anything - and on we went, Freddy covered in grass and mud!
We chatted with several other runners as we completed our last lap. I started singing to encourage Freddy to get a wiggle on, he hates my singing (the boy has taste) and so put on a spurt towards the end. As ran through the finish funnel and collected our finishing tokens we were congratulated by the Mayor, who, wearing her chain of office, shook hands with every finisher.
There were 111 finishers - a lovely number for this venue. We got to chat to people and get a feel for what this event will be like over the next few months. There was coffee and cake at the finish, provided by the local leisure centre and the volunteers. The sun shone while we ran - although the heavens opened on the way home. Thank you to everyone involved in this lovely event. I am sure I'll be back to run with you all again someday soon.