Parkrun Volunteer

I’ve mentioned in a couple of recent parkrun blogs (read about themĀ here andĀ here) that me and my beautiful wife intend to complete our fiftieth parkruns together, and that I’m currently on 49.

I put my name down as a volunteer two weeks ago, but Lancaster parkrun, along with loads of others was cancelled due to ice and snow. This weekend was therefore my first time as volunteer. The founder of the first parkrun, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, once suggested that it would be nice if everyone volunteered at least three times a year, but that it was fine if you didn’t. At Lancaster, and at most parkruns, there will be people who never volunteer and people who only volunteer. I definitely fall into the former category.

This Saturday I was down to help set up, so I was there at 8am. This wasn’t popular with our dog, as she wanted to come with me, although she did do parkrun with my wife a bit later. There wasn’t too much to do with setting up, and people not down on the volunteer roster arrived to help out as well. In the end there were over 30 volunteers, so after setting up there wasn’t too much for me to do except cheer people on.

I really enjoyed it as I got to chat with more people and also to see the whole event, from the lead runner making it look easy and not out of breath, to the finish line sprinters, the joggers, the children and the first timers. I stayed right to the end and cheered on the last finishers before the tail walker came in.

I love how inclusive parkrun is and it doesn’t matter in the slightest how long it takes. A 60 minute 5k is just as far as a 19 minute 5k.

I probably won’t be volunteering next week as it is a takeover week by Morecambe parkrun, which is due to start up in a couple of months. I’m really looking forward to there being another parkrun in the area, and one that I could on a good day run to.

I would definitely recommend that everyone should volunteer at their local parkrun at least once.

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Book Review: Philip Reeve – Predator’s Gold and Infernal Devices

It was only a week or two ago that I reviewed the first book in the Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve (read the review here), but I have now finished the second and third books, Predator’s Gold and Infernal Devices, respectively.

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Predator’s Gold starts off only a year or two after the end of Mortal Engines, with Tom and Nester flying the skies in their airship. We meet one of the oldest ice cities, traveling the northern routes which has been devastated by a plague and more recently by unexplained thefts and ghosts. Tom and Nester take on board an explorer called Pennyroyal, whose books are more fiction than fact. I don’t want to give too much away, but much like Mortal Engines this is another excellent book.

Infernal Devices is set 16 years after the end of Predator’s Gold, with Tom and Nester living a quiet life with their daughter Wren. Everything goes pear shaped when Wren is kidnapped and Tom and Nester try to rescue her, ending up on Brighton, a floating holiday city. Amazingly, Pennyroyal has landed on his feet and is the mayor.

I love the whole idea of vast cities on wheels, moving around the landscape, devouring smaller cities or suburbs. I sometimes struggle to take in the whole imagery, almost as if my mind isn’t able to cope with it. For that reason alone I would love these books, but the fact that they are well crafted as well makes the whole series brilliant.

As you might have guessed, I’ve already started the fourth and final book.

Parkrun Extras

Currently I’ve done 49 parkruns and have been there for a few weeks as I’m waiting for my wife to catch me up so that we can do our fiftieth together. Because of this, I’m getting my parkrun fix through other means. Last week I volunteered for the first time, although due to the ice Lancaster was one of many that was cancelled. I have added my name to the volunteers roster for the next two weeks, which should allow Helen to catch me up.

Apart from volunteering, my first fix comes from the free weekly timed podcast, which is a fun 30 minutes chat about parkrun with Vassos Alexander, the former sports guy from the radio 2 breakfast show, and Louise Ayling, the uber parkrun tourist.

http://www.freeweeklytimed.com/all-podcasts/

From listening to a few of the older podcasts I came across an add-on for Firefox or Chrome from Running Challenges, which adds a whole load more stats to your official parkrun results page. These stats include p-index, wilson-index and your Tourist Quotient, with dozens more. One interesting stat is the all year runner. This lets you know how many parkruns you’ve done in each month. September is my busiest month with 8 parkruns, but alarmingly, I’ve not done a single parkrun in April. This will be remedied soon.

https://running-challenges.co.uk/

If stats are you thing, then go and find Elliott Line. This website is a weekly run down of parkrun, starting with a list of the largest and smallest parkruns. For example, on 3rd February 2019, the largest parkrun in the UK was Bushy Park with 1267, and the smallest was Fort William with just 16. There are then attendance records and any new parkruns along with how many people have reached milestones. Last week there were 875 runners who joined the 50 club.

http://www.elliottline.com/parkrun/

Finally, a tourist map which is linked to your parkrun results page and shows where the nearest parkruns to your home location that you’ve not yet done. This is similar to the NENDY stat which I mentioned when me and my wife did Ford parkrun in Ulverston (read about it here), except that the map will show 10, 20 or even 30 nearest parkruns. You will need to enter your parkrun athlete number for it to work. To find it just search for ‘parkrun tourist tool’. Of course if you live in London or a large city then there will be loads to chose from, but up in Lancaster there are not too many nearby. That is until Morecambe parkrun starts up in the spring (hopefully).

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It might be a while before we tick off Blackpool parkrun as we have a busy couple of months, but me and my beautiful wife are aiming to complete at least one tourist parkrun a month.

 

Book Review: Philip Reeve – Mortal Engines

A couple of years ago I was asked to give a talk about air quality at at local Data Science Meet. They use the App Meetup to organise events, which I downloaded, although there hasn’t been another meeting for ages. Back to the App and I stated that I was interested in book clubs, so every few weeks I get a notification that the Post Apocalypse Book Club will be meeting in Manchester, and what book they will be discussing. I’ve never made any of their meetings as Manchester is a bit far to go to on a Tuesday night, but the book that they were due to discuss a couple of weeks ago caught my eye. As you might have guessed it was Mortal Engines.

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Within a couple of pages I was hooked. The imaginary of cities moving around a desolate world, devouring smaller and weaker cities had me completely. Set far into the future after most of the world was destroyed in the 60-minute war, scavenging is a way of life for the nomadic cities. The book is mostly based upon London, a weary old city with a slightly unhinged mayor and a loyal archeologist, who might have found some ancient technology that could benefit old London.

I don’t want to give too much away, but as I said earlier, I was hooked big time. So much so that I have ordered the other three books in the quartet, and I am happily working my way through the second one. Book review to follow soon I’m sure. I will also have to look out for the film, which apparently was released last year.

Book Review: Debra Bourne – parkrun

It’s no secret that both me, my beautiful wife and our silly dog are all big fans of parkrun. Nelly is looking a bit tired because she’s had double run today and a long walk in the snowy lake district yesterday, and also doesn’t really want to give me the book back.

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As soon as I found out that there was an official book to celebrate ten years of parkrun I ordered a copy, even though it’s a few years out of date as parkrun has been going for over 14 years now.

I’ve blogged about parkrun a few times before (here, here and here). Currently I’ve done 49 parkruns and you get a free T-shirt with ’50’ on the back once you’ve completed 50 (other T-shirts are available for 100, 250 and 500), but I’m waiting for my wife to catch me up so that we can complete our fiftieth together.

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Back to the book, and it’s brilliant. It contains the history of parkrun, how it evolved, new runs added and new countries, but the best thing about it are the stories from regular people explaining how parkrun saved their life. So many people who were worried about their health, physical or mental, and either found parkrun or friends recommended it. One thing I love about parkrun is how open and welcoming it is to non-runners, and how parkrun becomes part of your Saturday.

Lancaster is our regular parkrun, which has been going for two and a half years. When it started there were usually 150 there, but on the first Saturday in 2019 there were 391 finishers, and three weeks later over 400 for the first time. There are also plans a foot for a parkrun in Morecambe along the prom, starting this spring.

The success of parkrun is astounding, as the stats in the book attest to. International parkrun day is held on the first Saturday in October, and on the tenth anniversary there were 477 parkruns globally with almost 80,000 finishers. Last Saturday there were 1388 parkruns and 285,000 finishers. In the UK alone there were 581 parkruns and 160,000 finishers.

As I stated at the start, I am a convert to parkrun and in a few weeks time I am sure that I will be blogging about me and my wife reaching 50.