Parkrun #14 – Newcastle

As Christmas beckons, keeping up the running momentum is proving to be difficult. It’s not the cold that bothers me – Scottish, innit – but it’s just so dark, so early. At the peak of my 2017 running career, I was running two 4ks a week after work in Brockwell Park, followed by a parkrun 5k at the weekend, in various locations. Now, it’s dark after work, all the parks are closed, or questionably lit, and the only option left for running location is the streets around my house. Sure, it’s doable; it’s just not enjoyable.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself, because I did have one final parkrun in October before British Summer Time ended. Though summer is not the word I’d use to describe that Saturday morning in Newcastle. I was visiting my uni friends Alison and Tom, and their two wee girls Sophia and Hannah. Though neither Tom or Alison are runners, I couldn’t let the opportunity of doing a parkrun in another British city pass me by, and tentatively asked Alison if she’d mind me slipping away for a couple of hours to run a 5k. Thankfully, she didn’t mind, in fact, quite the opposite as the entire Merritt-Smith family descended on Exhibition Park to watch me run.

I’ve had some pretty sunny parkruns in my days; this was not one of them. It might as well have been night time, it was so dark and overcast, and the wind was piercingly cold. As I hopped about at the runners briefing, I thought to myself, this is definitely the last time I’ll be wearing my very-much-designed-for-summer orange shorts in 2017; it was my official welcome to winter running. The Newcastle parkrun is a relatively flat route, which involves running a long loop around the park and then retracing your steps to finish where you started. As there were no laps involved, and this was my first time in Exhibition Park, I had no concept of how much I’d run or how much there was left to run, until I saw the mass of people congregating at the end. I remember the last stretch, running into the wind and literally feeling like I was barely moving. Despite the wind trying its very best to slow me down, I was able to get a time of 30:58. Not bad given the few runs I’d been able to do in the lead-up to the trip.

That night at dinner, Alison asked Sophia what her favourite part of the day had been. ‘Watching her run’, said Sophia, pointing at me. Note, she is three years old. She also asked me why I wasn’t wearing my orange shorts any more. I know, Sophia, if only I could wear my orange shorts all of the time. I’ve done parkrun with a number of friends but I think this was my first time having people watch me run. At one point, I looked up and saw a group of people waving. ‘Aw, that’s nice that those people are waving at their friend’, I thought, before realising that ‘those people’ were my friends, and they were waving at me. As I sprinted to the end, Alison and Sophia were there cheering me on, and Sophia immediately came running over to me, looking generally quite fascinated by me and the fact that I’d just spent the last thirty minutes running round a park. ‘I want to run!’, she exclaimed. I will happily take you running little one, but it might be a wee while longer until you can join the parkrun craze!

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