We’d wanted to visit Bushy parkrun for a long time. It’s the home of parkrun and the biggest parkrun in the UK by number of runners, and many consider a trip to bushy as being a “pilgrimage” – none more so than me!
Not only did I want to visit where it all began, the former Event Director in me wanted to know, logistically, how they managed all those runners.
Anyway, we were in London as we had tickets to watch them film “Red Dwarf” at Pinewood Studios, and had a wedding present to cash in – Afternoon tea at the Royal Albert Hall, so we decided to make this our weekend to visit.
Our Hotel was in Kingston, about a quarter-miles jog from Bushy, one of the Royal Parks. It’s a big park though, and it was nearly a mile further to get to the start line!
The start was near the Princess Diana fountain, and when we got there to use the on site facilities, I was quite surprised at just how few people were already there. We arrived at about 8.45, which I thought was a little late, but the number of people around was quite sparse!
Now, there is nothing unusual about this, from all the parkruns we have visited, it always seems to be very quiet until 2 minutes before the start when suddenly everyone seems to appear. I just wasn’t expecting it to be the same at Bushy, purely due to the numbers!
The start was brilliantly organised, with flat cones delineating the start and people adhered to them – great idea! It was good and wide as it needs to accommodate so many people, not unlike the brilliant organisation at Yeovil Montacute!
People listened attentively to the run briefing which was over loudspeakers, and newcomers and tourists got a brilliant applause, but there weren’t as many tourists as I expected put their hands up. Then again, there are an awful lot of parkruns in London!
Before long, we were off, a thousand runners thundering toward the path like wild cattle, naturally funneling and thinning as the path narrowed down. The course itself is less than a year old compared to previous iterations, and is mostly on compact trail with some short sections on grass, but it is very, very flat. I imagine it is a very fast course, if you can find the space to run because it is very congested in the mid pack which is where I was running for the day – it was a recovery jog day for me.
The marshals around the course were excellent, but whilst it was a great experience the course didn’t really inspire me – perhaps we need to return in summer when it’s in full bloom.
I eventually progressed my pace a bit (recovery be damned!) and found myself overtaking a lot of people. There is plenty of room you just need to take a wider line.
As we barreled toward the finish line I felt sorry for the timers who must be frantically pressing the lap button. As I ran through the pack I noticed large clumps of runners running together, it must be very difficult to keep track of your presses!
The finish funnel was a spectacle itself – over 112m long and split in two.
The idea is that when one funnel is full, runners are sent to the other funnel, and these are separated further by holding a “funnel card”. This way, when a person holding a funnel card reaches the token volunteers, they know they need to switch which funnel they issue the tokens too. it works very VERY well, I was really impressed.
My 25 and a half-minute time earned me 389th position, and what was even more impressive was that I got the result text before 11am. Huge kudos to the team for getting 1000 results processed so promptly!
Jodie was a couple of minutes behind me and I managed to snap her in the mega funnel.
Again, amazingly there was hardly any queue for scanning – I really couldn’t believe just how well-managed this was. But then again, I guess they have 11 years experience!
Did I love Bushy? Yes, absolutely. Would I hurry back? No, to be honest, I wouldn’t.
One of my favourite parts of parkrun is spending time with friends and club mates, going for a post run coffee and shooting the breeze. Any parkrun without your friends isn’t the same, and as such I wouldn’t go back without it being a club/friends event. It is special that it’s the home of parkrun, but it is just another parkrun – and there are plenty of others still to visit yet!
Thank you Bushy, and all your amazing volunteers!