The Five parkruns of Christmas

Christmas 2018

For runners slightly obsessed with collecting parkrun milestone t-shirts, the parkruns of Christmas must seem like an extra Christmas present. There’s no other time of year when you can squeeze in a cheeky midweek parkrun or even two in one day and those extra runs certainly help rack up the numbers.

This year the official Christmas parkrun was on Saturday 22 December. It was a bright, crisp morning for RD’s Malcolm and Jill and Rudolph and Santa even turned up to warm up before their busy night. Then again, it might just have been Ian in a costume. Trevor, one of the amazing set up volunteers, used this run to notch up his two hundred and fiftieth parkrun and earned himself a shiny new t-shirt to go into his Christmas stocking. Of course, some people still had Christmas shopping to do at this stage but a few Christmas carols, played by Roger on his euphonium, helped them get round in double quick time before they dashed off to the shops for a spot of panic buying.

On Christmas morning, while most people were tucked up at home unwrapping presents, seven hundred and thirty two dedicated souls joined RD, Gill, for the first of the extra seasonal parkruns. Roger and his euphonium were there again to ramp up the Christmas spirit and the order of the day was silly or spectacular seasonal costumes. Even Commando broke out the elf suit, although he was less than happy about having his photograph taken in it.

The costumes may have been bright but the weather certainly wasn’t. It was damp and overcast but at least fairly mild. For once, there was no warm pub to retire to after the run. The Bellmoor was closed and so was the Hawthorne’s Cafe. Quite where the RD and token sorters worked their magic is a mystery but the rest of us went home to open our presents.

The third Christmas parkrun was the official Saturday one on 29 December. To my shame, I completely forgot it was Commando’s two hundredth and didn’t hang around to take photographs. Instead I had a quiet wander around the cemetery, where I discovered someone had spread a little seasonal cheer by decorating some of the trees with baubles. In fairness, Commando didn’t remind me of his milestone run. In fact he kept the whole thing very quiet. This may have had something to do with the Paris debacle. If he’d managed to complete that run he’d have hit his milestone on Christmas Day,

On 1 January, after a night of celebrations and probably a fair bit of alcohol consumption you’d think most people would want a lie in. The pièce de résistance in the parkrun calendar has to be the double parkrun on New Year’s Day though. ‘Doing the double’ is not obligatory of course, but there is no other time of year when you can run at two parkruns on the same morning and thereby get one step closer to your next milestone goal, whatever that may be.

For those not familiar with the double parkrun, it works something like this… some parkuruns start at the normal time of nine o’clock, others start later, at around ten thirty. This means the really didcated can go to one parkrun at the normal time and then hurry off to another later one nearby. As the New Year parkrun is almost always on a weekday and therefore an extra parkrun, it really does help the milestone hunters.

For us, ‘doing the double’ involved an early morning trip to Victoria Country Park for the Netley parkrun. As usual, we arrived far earlier than necessary, partly because Commando wasn’t sure about parking. As it was, we easily found a parking space on the shore just outside the park gates. It was bitterly cold and getting out of the car at all may not have happened if it hadn’t been for the beautiful sunrise over Southampton Water. We stood for some time watching the golden pink glow spreading over Fawley, the docks and the lovely commemorative benches overlooking the sea.

When standing still in the biting wind became too much, especially for Commando who was only wearing shorts, we headed off into the park. Ahead of us the sky was aflame, casting the trees and the hospital chapel into silhouette. The beauty of the morning was made even more magical when Commando took me on a short detour to see the fairy garden that is being built near the park entrance. A dead cedar tree is slowly being cut into fantastic fairy castles, complete with turrets Rapunzel would envy. In the morning light I could almost imagine a crowd of fairies hiding amongst all the logs. This is certainly something I will have to come back and see again when it’s finished,

Netley parkrun doesn’t get the massive number of runners that we are used to seeing on Southampton Common, but a surprising number of people had turned up for the first run of 2019. Several were familiar faces from Southampton, including Kali, who is normally a key member of the set up team on the common. This was a little worrying. If he was here, who was setting up there?

The Running got underway fairly promptly and I was left waiting, with a pile of jackets donated by various running friends tied about my waist. Even if I’d wanted a walk, or had time for one, I could barely move under all those layers.

Luckily, I didn’t have too long to wait and I was, at least, mostly warm, although my ears and fingers could probably have done with a few extra layers. Commando finished running just behind John and Rob. He got his barcode scanned and, much to my dismay, took his coat back. Then it was time to walk back to the car and make our way to Southampton Common.

At this stage I hadn’t had my usual morning coffee. The cafe at Victoria Park hadn’t been open and neither the Hawthorns or the Bellmoor would be either. As we drove towards town I formulated a plan. The second parkrun didn’t start until ten thirty and, as it was now around quarter to ten, I had an idea Starbucks on London Road might be open. We had to drive that way anyway and, if it was, I was pretty sure I had time to get a coffee and walk to the Common before the running started.

As it happened, my plan worked like clockwork, Commando dropped me in a London Road and went off to find a parking space at the Common. My walk to join him was made all the better my a coffee to warm my frozen hands and I arrived with time to spare. Feeling rather smug, I followed the stream of runners towards the start line.

Any worries I’d had about the set up we’re quickly dispelled. Even without Kali, the finish funnel was in place and RD, Kate, was waiting. It took me a while to find Commando amongst the crowds but I bumped into quite a few friends on the way, several I’d already seen at Netley earlier, including Kali, who’d managed to dash from Netley to Southampton in time to make sure everything was set up properly.

When I did catch up with Commando, he’d nabbled himself one of the new blue pacer bibs for his second 5k of the morning. Pacing is his speciality and, today, he’d chosen a relatively slow, for him, twenty five minute time.

These extra runs really do make a difference to runners who are trying to reach milestones. For John, Netley had been his two hundred and ninety ninth run, meaning he was now about to hit his three hundred milestone. There were no fancy costumes, banners or balloons but I did take a photo to mark the occasion.

Before long it was time for the one thousand and forty eight runners who’d made it to the Common to line up on the start line. After the usual briefing, they were off and I tramped back across the grass to the finish funnel. While I was chatting to token meister, Barbara, we watched an escaped zero from someone’s celebratory one hundred bunch slowly drifting above the tree line.

All that was left to do now was take a few photos of the runners as they passed on the loops of the figure of eight course, find Commando in the finish funnel and get his token scanned while he did his normal funnel managing job. Finally, the five parkruns of Christmas were over for another year. With luck and injuries permitting, we will do it all again next year and Commando will collect his two hundred and fifty t-shirt.

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Mist and other ephemeral things

2 November 2017

For my first walk of November I had the most glorious autumn morning. When I left Home the sky was blue and the sun was trying hard to burn off the morning mist as I crossed the railway bridge. On such a lovely day it was impossible not to walk along with a huge grin on my face, even if it did make me look like a loon. The plan was to walk into town to have a look at a new sculpture I’d heard about.  Continue reading Mist and other ephemeral things

The five parkruns of Christmas, almost

December 2016

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.  Continue reading The five parkruns of Christmas, almost

A new ship in town and a birthday party

8 November 2016

With our Icelandic adventure imminent, It occurred to me I should probably be thinking about getting some Christmas presents this week. Frankly, I’m a little bah humbug about the whole Christmas thing. When the boys were little it was fun but, these days, it all seems too much like an excuse to spend money on things people probably don’t even want and eat too much. To my mind we should all buy one Christmas present for ourselves and leave it at that. Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t agree with me though so this morning was mostly about buying presents.  Continue reading A new ship in town and a birthday party

Another day, another race, the Akamas Multiterrain Half Marathon

26 November 2016

Today we had an even earlier start. A coach picked us up from the hotel at 7:45, still struggling to digest our hasty breakfast. Sue seemed none the worse for her tumble yesterday and was as chirpy and giggly as ever. We were headed for the mountains again, this time for the Akamas Multiterrain Half Marathon. The journey was long but the views from the coach window kept boredom at bay. White painted cuboid houses with terracotta tiled roofs and shady balconies gave way to craggy rock formations dotted with stunted trees, contorted and bowed down by the weight of the relentlessly beating sun. Every inch of flat space was covered with bananas, pomegranates, oranges, cabbages or fruit bushes in rows. What I wouldn’t have given to walk the interesting looking trails we passed. Continue reading Another day, another race, the Akamas Multiterrain Half Marathon

A little Boxing Day walk – first published 26 December 2013

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Boxing day 2013, the sun was out, Commando was out on a run, it seemed like a good time to go for a little walk. Apart from anything it might walk off some of the Christmas food I ate before it had a chance to settle on my hips. At first I thought about trying out a new route but the river was calling and my feet were listening even if my head said try something new. Continue reading A little Boxing Day walk – first published 26 December 2013

less of the bah humbug and more of the German market – first published 19 November 2013

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Mid November 2016 and my time at Silver Helm was fast drawing to a close. They were turbulent times and the strain was having an unfortunate effect on my memory and my sleep. Nights were filled with bad dreams and days with forgetting or losing things. Then there was Mr Haughty, my successor in the frozen north coming to pick my brains and steal all my knowledge, not to mention the spectre of Christmas looming. It felt as if all the festive furore began earlier every year and I was feeling very bah humbug about it all. Continue reading less of the bah humbug and more of the German market – first published 19 November 2013

2015 life is too short to be unhappy

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31 December 2015

The final lesson of 2015 was that sometimes, if you stick at something long enough, success will come. Conversely, I also learned that there are times when you have to cut your losses and give up. The main theme was that life is far too short to be unhappy. Continue reading 2015 life is too short to be unhappy

Memories of the early 1960’s – Christmas

Percolator 2.4 (2.4) Grind: Extra Fine (Tiny Circles & Effect: Auto Adjust), Brew: Ishihara (No Pic & Full Blended Circles), Serve: Stirred (Spectrum Tone & Smooth Texture)

For a child Christmas is a magical time filled with tinkling sleigh bells, elves and anticipation. One of my most vivid Christmas memories is being allowed to help decorate the huge pine tree that had mysteriously appeared in the front room. Normally our time was spent in the back room where large French Windows looked out into the garden and the front room was kept for best, the door firmly closed. Continue reading Memories of the early 1960’s – Christmas

Ho, Ho, Ho

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25 December 2015

Our Christmas Day began with a Park Run, at least Commando’s did. Originally I’d planned to get up early with him and go along but, in the end, I chickened out and stayed in bed. There was a great deal of work to be done in the kitchen after all. He came back wearing his Santa hat, just in time for breakfast. He was freezing cold and I was glad I hadn’t gone although I’d have liked some photos of all the runners in Santa hats. In the end I had to settle for one runner in a Santa hat.  Continue reading Ho, Ho, Ho