November 17 was my 50th Parkrun which I celebrated at Riverside but one I will remember for all the wrong reasons. The run route had to be changed 5 minutes before the start as a young man was threatening to jump from the footbridge. Rumour has it that a parkrunner with connections to If U Care Share talked the young man down until the police arrived. I will never forget seeing that young man being escorted to safety through the park by police.
Only a few days earlier I had been invited to participate in Parkrunathon 2019 for this self same charity. Irony or karma?
So along came June 1st, and after a series of injuries I was probably the most unfit I have been since taking up running and was going through one of my lowest periods ever. I had no idea how the day would evolve and even less idea how my running would stand up to this rather obscure running challenge.
The atmosphere was electric. We were all buzzing. The organisation was flawless. A sprightly bunch of runners descended the coach at Sedgefield, looking fresh and enthusiastic. Junior Parkrun followed by the “official” Sedgefield Parkrun – we were well on our way! For me it was all about finish lines. Finish times were banished from my mind!
From Sedgefield we got back on the coach to Hartlepool. Wasn’t sure what to expect. After all their official Parkrun had been finished only minutes earlier. Would anyone be there? Of course there was…local support was out in full force. 2.5 runs ticked off and back on the coach – direction Cotsford Field.
Timing was tight for this one. 40 minutes’ turnaround time. It’s one of my favourite parkruns but not an easy one. My legs were kind and got me round the full course just in time to get back on the coach to Sunderland.
We had a generous amount of time at Sunderland and were “blessed” by the rain. I was cold, stiff and fairly miserable by this point, and although I walked some of the course it was here that my determination kicked in. I was suddenly determined to tick off all these parkruns. Sunderland I didn’t enjoy you…at all! But the Sunderland crew supplied us with ice lollies and we were off again. Next port of call – South Shields.
It was here I got my mojo back. Kept a slow but steady pace and ran the whole course. We had terrific support with hot drinks, snacks and fresh strider faces to join us on the run. By this point we were more than half way. Only 3 left to go…
Windy Nook was our next chosen destination. Boy did I suffer on this one. I literally felt broken. But if I could get through this one, then there was just Riverside and Durham left. My family were coming to support at Riverside so I knew I’d find some renewed energy there, and, well even if I had to run till midnight I would finish Durham!
Windy Nook has to be THE most complicated parkrun ever; twists and turns everywhere. The core team were there thankfully to keep us right. On the last lap I teamed up with George who was also battling the beast and we crossed the line, albeit in last position, together.
Only 2 left. It started to really feel like I could do it. Did I mention I’d never run this far before? Longest run to date had been a half marathon. Even getting on and off the bus at this point was proving tricky!
Riverside was fab. My local parkrun. Mam, sister and bestie all there to support me, but the support for the event as a whole was simply amazing. Another fab supply of drinks, snacks and encouragement.
Back on the coach to Durham and I was giddy knowing that I was on my way to running my first ever marathon distance. But by this point I was hurting – everywhere.
I will be forever grateful to Kerry for running with me at Durham. She fixed me mini challenges of reaching a lamppost, a bridge, a tree then allowing myself to walk and recover before starting to run again.
I crossed the finish at Durham with a massive feeling of accomplishment and pride and maybe a year or two. Not necessarily pride in myself but in the club and running community that I am part of. I can only imagine the organisation that went into planning everything. The support throughout the day was simply amazing.
What a day! Pushed myself to my absolute limits. But more importantly we raised awareness and precious funds for this amazing charity.
I hope the young man who marked my 50th Parkrun has found solace in this or another similar charity.
Would I do it again. Of course I would.
Parkrunathon 2020 – has a nice ring to it!