Sunday, 22 January 2012

Newcastle parkrun celebrates its 2nd birthday

We've had a number of causes for celebration at Newcastle parkrun just recently, from our 100th run to festive fancy dress over the Christmas season. But this was really something special.

Mark Allison, Run Geordie Run
Thanks to the persuasive talents of one of our race directors, Ian Kirkley and regular parkrun volunteer and runner Tove Elander, after the run we were invited back to the nearby Royal Grammar School for hot drinks, food (provided by the parkrunners) and presentations from Mark Allison, also known as Run Geordie Run.

For anyone who doesn't know, Mark is something of a local hero. In 2011, he ran an epic 3,100 miles across America in 100 days, and raised over £100,000 for two North East charities - St Benedict's Hospice and the Children's Foundation. In 2013 he's taking on the even tougher challenge of running across Australia.

On Saturday, after his first ever parkrun,  he spoke with much humour about the challenges, highs and lows of his amazing achievement. It was inspirational stuff and the parkrun crew were hanging on his every word. It wouldn't surprise me if he's put some thoughts in some heads. And I hope he comes back for another run soon.

It's not usual for there to be prizes at parkrun, but it was a tradition started by our first race director Niyc Pidgeon and it's great to see it continue. There are prizes for the highest points scorers and some more light-hearted awards, nominated by parkrun regulars. I discovered we had a duathlon champion - someone who takes on the role of lead bike around the course and then runs parkrun in an impressive 36 minutes.

Parkrun regulars also showed their support to the volunteers who make our runs possible. There's a hardcore team of volunteers at Newcastle who really are the backbone of this community and make sure a growing number of people can enjoy a weekly timed run on the Town Moor.

So what about the run? Well conditions were a little challenging, with gusty winds providing added resistance to hard working runners. But 355 made it round the course, with 68 trying it out for the first time and 39 scoring a PB.

For me, it was one of my most enjoyable runs. I'd offered to pace Danielle, a runner I've made friends with on Twitter at sub 30 pace for a new PB. It was great to finally meet her and it gave me a chance to run, but at a sensible pace.

It's quite a responsibility to pace another runner, especially one you don't know very well, but following Danielle's updates on her training and seeing her positive attitude to the task ahead I was confident she could do it and didn't really need me.

After quite a tough start into a headwind across the moor, I actually pushed the pace a bit too hard towards the middle of the run, but Danielle stuck with it and was running really well. I kept offering little nudges of encouragement and positive messages.

As we approached the last corner I reassured her that she had it in the bag and we powered for the line. It was a brilliant run in far from ideal conditions and I felt really proud that Danielle had done what she set out to do.

Parkrun isn't always about racing or beating your best time, but it's great to see so many people enjoying it and growing in confidence as they do something better than lying in bed on a Saturday morning.

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