Friday, 14 December 2012

10 great things about Woodley parkrun

Saturday 15th December sees the 10th Woodley parkrun. It does not seem possible that it was 9 weeks
ago, on Saturday 13thOctober, when 148 people turned up for the inaugural run (the first runner home was parkrun show host Danny Norman in a very impressive 17:02!). Since then we have gone from strength to strength building up a core field or runners and volunteers as well as attracting a few tourists. Here, in no particular order, are my 10 favourite things about Woodley parkrun.

The friendly welcome
From the very first run it has been obvious just how friendly the parkrun atmosphere is.  Newcomers have been welcomed with open arms and many new friendships have been struck up. Whilst many runners turn up in groups, those who come alone always have someone to talk to before the run. These relationships have been cemented by the …..

parkrun breakfast
After each run we descend on the Oakwood Centre in Woodley. I am pretty sure we are setting new records for the levels of breakfast orders in there since we began and I highly recommend the bacon baguettes. The post-run socialising has been a highlight over the last 9 weeks and has really cemented the friendships that have started to grow out of parkrun. (

Our mascot, Moses
As with most parkruns we share the park with many other users. The start of our run follows a shortcut across the park. During our first run we encountered 'Moses', a local pensioner who showed no fear as 148 runners aimed right at him, parting the course with his steady route. The legend that is Moses was born.(

Mutual support
As a slower 'runner' it has been really encouraging to get support both from the public and from other runners. As I start to get lapped (it doesn't take long!) there is no end of faster runners offering words of support and encouragement. Many locals have also been vocal supporters – a personal highlight for me was watching 3 teenage girls who just happened to be in the park at the time telling every lead runner to go faster and 'have the run of your lives'.

The volunteers
Without the volunteers there would be no parkrun. All of the Woodley volunteers have played a huge part in getting this event off the ground. Many have volunteered several times sacrificing their runs for others. One of my favourites is a recent addition to the volunteer core through injury, Les. Situated on the back part of our course (next to the hotdog stand for the footballers – pretty tough to run past!) Les has for the last few weeks provided very vocal encouragement to all runners as well as a dance routine to keep us entertained.

Challenge for everyone
Whilst we have many serious runners we also have a wide range of participants of all abilitiesWe are consistently seeing 'pee-bees' week on week. For example event #9 saw 43 of the 130 participants setting new personal bests. Many of these come from the improving runners but it was great to see one of our more experienced runners Andy L finally beat the 20 minutes mark this week after several weeks of hovering just above it.

Mass participation
18,504 runners took part in parkruns last weekend. This led to me to think about the 'typical' Woodley parkrunner. I have come to the conclusion there isn't one! We seem to have every group represented from our very youngest competitors in their buggies, several very talented juniors, the 20s are well represented as are the30s, 40s and so on. Our age grade record is held by a VW65-69 with a very impressive 84.13%.  We also have had a VW75-79 and a VM75-79 running proving age is no barrier to taking part.

It's addictive nature
I turned up for the first event not really expecting for it to become a regular fixture of my life – I was wrong! Having only missed one event due to being away I now find myself driving to my work Christmas party this Friday just so I can run on Saturday. I'm also planning to run on Christmas Day at our neighbouring Reading parkrun which will lead to a new record for being up and dressed before it is time for Christmas lunch. This is true for lots of our now regulars, including a couple of ladies I spoke to at the first couple of events who said 'we might come back' and are now firm fixtures at Woodley.

The finishing line
This gains it's place on my top ten list not because when you get there it is finally over but because whatever time you take to get there you know you will have a small crowd awaiting you and cheering you on. I think this photo sums it up (

The run directors
Without the work of our core team of directors Woodley parkrun would never have started. Whilst all volunteers are important we have the vision and the enthusiasm of our directors to thank for such a great event. Kerri (event director), Stuart, Guy and Jo (and super sub Martin) have all done a great job every week with set up, briefing, encouraging and processing the results. 

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