On Friday we were lucky enough to go to a meeting of Event Directors and core teams in Newport. We had the fabulous opportunity to chat all things parkun, meet other event teams, share notes, learn all the latest goings on and find out what other people did at their events. It was a hugely interesting event and experience, and we event got to meet parkrun founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt.
The event was truly inspirational. Listening to the HQ team talk so passionately about parkrun it really is abundantly clear that there is just nothing else like it in the world. So clearly uncompromisingly visioned (in a good way) it’s an honour to be a part of it.
As the event was in Newport, the HQ team were going to do Newport parkrun the day after. We stayed overnight to join them, along with a couple of other teams.
Newport parkrun is hosted at Tredegar House, in the west side of Newport. A National Trust property, we were sure the event was going to be just as special as our home run. We got there reasonably early on a cold, overcast day. It seemed to, like all other parkruns, take a little while to get busy, then all of a sudden with 5 minutes to go the masses descended!
We attended the first timers briefing where we learned we were using the summer course for the first time this year – though I can promise you it did not feel like summer! We had a description of the course along with all the usual safety information and registration details.
The course started just in front of the house and runs out through the middle of the parkland down an oak avenue. Turn left at the end and begin a big lap, running through the courtyard in front of the house and along a lovely wooded river area. Cross the bridge and carry on round til you reach the top of the avenue again. Then repeat the lap. Just after the bridge on the second lap you turn left to go back down the way you came along the oak avenue for a good flat finish. The course is mostly flat with a few small inclines, but the challenge is that some areas are quite muddy!
The pre-run briefing was an inspirational affair. There were over 400 runners, and I was amazed how quiet and attentive everyone was. At our home run we get less than 200 and they are much nosier! A young lad who had knocked 20 minutes off his PB won the parkrunner of the month, and there were shoutouts for milestone runs and volunteers.
We were ushered toward the start, and with the number of people there it was a bit congested. Before we knew it, and with no fanfare at all, the run was started – I only realized it had because the people in front of me had started running!
I had no real intention of running this hard, thinking a decent tempo effort would have been fine. But I started quite far back and needed to do some overtaking – so I took a wide line. It didn’t take long until that plan was scuppered and I nearly had to hurdle a stream! Luckily I spotted it in time and managed to squeeze onto the bridge.
I found myself getting quicker and quicker though and it turned into a bit of a progression run. This was in part because it was bloody cold and I wanted to warm up! The course lent itself brilliantly to support from spectators and they really were a warming (boom boom!) bunch. Particularly helpful on the second lap when I was blowing pretty hard! I continued to make progress and through the woods on the second lap I just overtook a chap as we came out to the home strecth. Not long after he tried to take me again, but I still had plenty in my legs and had a blistering finish sprint, with the last 0.1miles in sub 5m/m pace, which i was pretty pleased with!
It was a lovely run, though i wish I had tried a bit harder so I could have taken this bloke down, who finished 30 seconds ahead of me.
That’s Tom Williams, parkrun UK MD and host of Marathon Talk, to which I am a devoted listener. He was the one doing all the talking on Friday night and I had a chat with him then, but we got to talk more in the post-funnel recovery. What a damn nice guy. An honour and privilege to meet him, keep up the brilliant work with both parkrun and MT.
Of course, with this being National Trust, there was a magnificent cafe. We managed to get in there reasonably early, but before long it was mental! They do a parkrun special – Bacon Sandwich and a Tea/Coffee for 3.75, and the bacon was delicious! We got to chat further with Meryl and Adrian from Pomphrey Hill in the cafe too, who were equally lovely (I think all parkrun people are lovely, it must be a prerequisite) and we were invited to visit any time and maybe to a parkrun westcountry meal in June.
We even managed to speak with Event Director and Ambassador Chris Davies who takes care of parkrun in Wales and we chatted about how great the NT are as partners for parkrun, and extended an invite to come on down next time he is in the area. I hope he does so I can extend the same brilliant courtesy that we had from NWhat a lovelyewport.
Newport, we will be back when it’s drier for a good fast time!