I turned out for the weekly Parkrun at Heaton Park this morning to find it had been cancelled. I knew there was a 10k Race for Life happening so it wasn’t a surprise and I found that the cancellation had also caught out another 20 or so regular Parkrunners.
Free measured and timed 5k runs have been held weekly at Heaton Park for almost 2 years and they can attract up to 250 runners of varying ability. The course record for the undulating Heaton Park course is just over 15 minutes but there are people who take over 3 times that time to complete it and I’ve seen people running with their dogs. Volunteers marshall and organise the event and our local sponsor, Sweatshop, provide some loyalty prizes as well as the finances for the equipment.
Today I arrived at the boating lake 5 minutes before the 9am start time to find a handful of people looking at each other with a kind of collective cluelessness. One tall bald guy who was a fitness trainer and had brought a few people with him was keen that something would still happen and so at 9am we all followed the weekly routine of walking from the cafe up to the usual start point near the tram track. We briefly discussed target times and my 20 minute pace seemed to be the quickest. I had enjoyed a bit of a lie in (by my standards) so hadn’t had time for porridge to fuel me properly but no booze the previous evening meant that I would be in a better state of health than most Saturday mornings. I had only run once in the last week and my head isn’t in the best of places at the moment so I wasn’t intending to push myself hard. I lead off and nobody tried to stay with me, I ran a steady race remembering to relax and up my pace during the long downhill of the 4th kilometre. By the time I got round the back of the lake for the final kilometre there were lots of people making their way to the start of the 10k Race for life that I had to dodge around but as I hit the tarmac for the last stretch I could see I’d done enough for a sub 20 minute run. I waited at our usual finish point to clap in the following runners. Second place went to a guy training for the Chester Marathon in October and then within the next 5 minutes another 15 or so runners finished.
Some of us posed for the group photo above which they want me to send to the organisers to show how committed we all were. I’ve never won any race in my life before so it was quite a nice feeling.