(Me 50/187; Cathy 51/267)
John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”. It can sometimes feel like that when you have your sights set on attending a particular parkrun event, perhaps in pursuance of the next parkrun challenge, only to have those plans thwarted, at the last minute, by something such as an event cancellation, transport/accommodation problems or other commitments needing to take precedence. Sometimes it pays to have a Plan A/B/C…Other times it can be refreshing just to decide on the night before parkrun where to go without any pressure on getting a particular “parkrun badge”.
And so, on New Year’s Eve, we decided to visit Millennium Country parkrun, Forest of Marston Vale, the following day to celebrate the New Year. Cathy and I had often passed this park enroute to elsewhere, long before there was even a parkrun here, so now we thought it was time to visit this event. Added to that, this was the seventh anniversary of my second ever parkrun and first at my erstwhile home parkrun at Tring (which sadly, no longer takes place). Little did we know that our choice of venue would have some emotional surprises in store for us and also for one of the other attendees.
On arriving at the venue car park, we noticed a vaguely familiar car draw up along side us. “That driver…”, said Cathy. “..looks just like…It IS…It’s Lucy!” None other than our BpB-FON ( Best parkrun Buddy From Ooop North) and blog writer extraordinaire: Lucy Marris. It was a lovely surprise to see Lucy given that we hadn’t seen her since since our last travels up North, and that neither of us had pre-arranged to meet up on this particular day.
It turns out that Lucy was On a Mission : a surprise meet up between herself and her EWFM/BFF (Erst-While Flat Mate/ Best Friend Forever). The latter wasn’t expecting to see Lucy at this particular event, given that they respectively live at either ends of the M1. It was lovely to see the delight on both of their faces when they finally saw each other.
A further joy for us was to see some familiar faces from the “With Me Now Crowd”. Some we had met in person at a meet up at University Parks parkrun last year; and others we met for the first time, but had previously seen from Facebook pages of mutual interest.
The course is a flat “out and back run”, along three sides of the park, following a fairly firm gravel/tarmac path (road shoes will do). On the day there was nothing too much by way of mud or puddles, and the the sun was shining! Great to have an “out and back” for a change. It is nice to see virtually every run/walker from the front and back of the pack alike, and to exchange greetings/words of encouragement. It also an opportunity to thank the Marshals twice over. (One can never thank them enough, I think. Standing there on a single spot on a cold day, for an hour or so, takes a special type of dedication to the cause. Although they do it for the love of parkrun, its always good to say thank you. It’s more than just being polite.)
Especial credit has to go to a fellow parkrun tourist (in this case from Germany) who was using this parkrun as interval training. This meant that he was running hard and fast between marshal points, stopping to recover whilst simultaneously shouting encouragement to other runners, and then repeating the exercise to the next marshal point. We chatted after the run and it turns out that he is a Brit, currently living and working in Germany, and also RD (possibly even ED – “Laufleiter”?) at Neckarufer parkrun in Germany. Here he is receiving an award presented by his “identical twin brother” (Spoiler Alert: he is also a whizz at photoshop-ing 😉 )
The other reason why today was a Moo-ving experience was that this was my 50th different parkrun to date. Apparently that is a “thing”, not an “arbitrary”, in that I have attained my “half – Cowell”.  . This confers the unofficial title of “Cow”. A parkrun New Year’s Honour, one might say.
Finally a big thank you to the RD and volunteers on the day. In fact plaudits all round to the parkrun UK Secret Santas (aka Run Directors) and their Christmas Elves (aka parkrun Volunteers) where they were facilitating not one, but two parkruns on each of the two weekends spanning Christmas and the New Year. Wherever you rocked up, you were the local parkrun legends this Christmastide.
- Cowell Club – an unofficial parkrun club for tourists who have run at 100 or more different events. Named after Chris and Linda Cowell, the first male and female parkrunners to do it. A half-Cowell is where tourists have run their 50th different parkrun event.