The Christmas period seemed to be one long whirl of parkruns, one after the other. The first was on Christmas Eve. England felt incredibly warm after Iceland, even though everyone else was shivering and complaining about the cold. It seemed odd to be getting up at the crack of dawn and actually seeing pink skies instead of darkness too.
Commando had been drafted by Run Director Rob to be funnel manager. He took his place amongst all the elves and Mrs Claus, AKA Kim, and I somehow ended up with a big pot of sweets to hand out to all the children who crossed the line. Considering the date there was a good turnout and a very festive atmosphere. If only we could have brought the snow home from iceland with us to go with all those elves the picture would have been complete.
The very next day we were back to do it all again, although this time Commando actually ran. A surprising number of people left their presents unopened under the tree, donned their Christmas costumes and made it to the Common. Even Commando had a Santa hat.
Some costumes were a little more over the top than others. Rob, who’d been soberly attired in his capacity as Run Director on Christmas Eve was now wearing reindeer antlers and tiny Santa hat. His costume wasn’t quite complete though. After some assistance from commando and Kim he ended up looking like a cross between Rudolph and the fairy from the top of the Christmas tree in a day glow yellow tutu. Christmas Day was his two hundred and fiftieth parkrun so a trio of balloons completed his outlandish outfit. Beside him Kim almost looked underdressed in her Mrs Claus outfit.
Kate, the Christmas Day Run Director, looked fabulous in a full length red coat trimmed with white fur and long red gloves. I’m thinking I should make more effort next year and actually wear a Christmas hat at the very least. Considering it was Christmas Day a surprising number of people turned up to run.
Darren was slightly more low key about his milestone fiftieth parkrun. There wasn’t a balloon in sight, or even a Santa hat. In fact he kept it so quiet we didn’t know it was his fiftieth until afterwards. This may have been the sensible approach as running with a big bunch of balloons tied to your back, reindeer antlers and a tutu didn’t look all that easy. In fact the antlers had come off by the time Rob and his entourage made it to the finish line.
There was time for a quick team photo before it was back to cheering the rest of the runners across the line. Teresa and Gerry had somehow managed to persuade their daughter, Kirsty, to run for the first time. Teresa was every bit the proud mother as they made it to the finish but I’m not sure Kirsty will be doing it again any time soon.
With the Hawthorns Cafe closed there was no post parkrun coffee so, after one more team photo, it was back home for a well earned breakfast and some present opening.
The third parkrun of Christmas was on 31 December. As we approached the foggy start line we thought we were the first to arrive. Commando even joked he might be the first Spitfire over the line at this rate. As we got closer though, we could see the stalwart volunteers setting up.
In the end there was a good turnout, considering it was New Years Eve, with almost six hundred and fifty runners battling the fog. Quite a few were first timers, perhaps starting off their New Years resolutions early. Time will tell whether they keep it up or not?
The main topic of conversation was the double parkrun on New Year’s Day. Usually the events at Netley and Eastleigh start at the exact same time as the run on the Common so local runners have to make a choice between the three. The special extra New Year’s Day parkrun was different though, the Southampton Common run began later giving people the chance to run at Eastleigh or Netley and then hot foot it to the Common and run a second 5K. Commando was planning to run Netley and then Southampton. These would have been parkruns four and five for us.
In the end though, a New Year’s Eve pizza party, including a fair amount of alcohol and a very late night, meant we didn’t quite make it to Netley and parkrun number four. We couldn’t miss parkrun number five though. It was another milestone event.
As usual, we arrived early. There were less people than usual setting up. Whether this was due to the celebrations the night before or some of the usual setter uppers doing the double at Eastleigh or Netley we couldn’t tell but Commando mucked in and helped with the cone laying and rope erecting. Probably I should have helped too but they seemed to be doing such a good job without me I kept out of the way and enjoyed the scenery.
While I was standing around admiring the shapes of the leafless trees against the brooding sky, the amazing Gareth cycled past. Every single week, come rain or shine, Gareth cycles around putting out all the signs directing people to the start and warning unsuspecting dog walkers to watch out for runners. After that he either runs or does a volunteer stint marshalling or suchlike and then dismantles everything again at the end. Gareth is a true parkrun legend.
Pretty soon runners began to arrive. One of the first was the lovely Rachel. She’d just run at Netley and, along with Tasman, was now about to run her two hundredth parkrun on the Common. There wasn’t a balloon or tutu in sight either. Rachel is a very low key kind of girl who doesn’t like a big fuss.
Apparently, and not unexpectedly, Netley had been rather muddy. It was easy to spot who’d decided to start their double parkrun there by the mud caking their lower extremities. A certain little white dog had obviously enjoyed frolicking in the mud but was definitely bound for the bath later.
All in all five hundred and fifty two runners, most slightly hung over, turned up. Some had already run 5K at Eastleigh or Netley. Some had even run from Eastleigh or Netley. Others, like us, had had a little lie in and given the parkrun double a miss. Pretty soon they were off.
Usually I go for a wander when everyone is running, often to the nearest coffee emporium for a take away to warm me up. Today there were no cafes open, not even The Hawthorns, so I stood around waiting instead. Before too long Commando was crossing the line. I made my way through the crowd to meet him by the barcoders but he’d disappeared, off to find Rachel on the course and escort her and her entourage across the line.
So those were the five parkruns of Christmas. In the end we only managed to make it to four of them but I guess that is four more than a lot of people. Sometimes, when I’m getting up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday morning, I question my sanity. After all, I’m not even a runner. This is especially true on cold, wet Saturday mornings. After it’s all over though and we’ve helped pack away all those cones and ropes and are sitting in The Hawthorns having a coffee or hot chocolate, I’m always glad I came. Getting out in the fresh air and wandering around on the Common for an hour or so, chatting to runners who have become friends over the last year or two, cheering people on and helping celebrate their milestones is a great way to start the weekend.
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