Special guest Paul Sinton-Hewitt, orginator of the Parkrun organisation (originally the Bushy Park Time Trial, in 2004)
This parkrun was my first, and also the first one in Plym Valley. It is also the most south west erly park run in England, being just on the Devon side of the Devon/Cornwall border.
We had a very special guest in Paul Sinton-Hewitt, here for the inaugural run; he was announced and given warm applause by the fifty plus runners who had turned up for this first event.
The morning was lovely; the run was due to take place at 9am, and as I'd never been to the venue before I set off in plenty of time with my satnav programmed to the postcode given and was pleasantly surprised to arrive 15 mins before the start time and without getting lost!
I had gone by myself, leaving the OH snoozing in bed, and didn't know anyone there at all, but soon got chatting to a couple of people, finding out about the course, once around a large tussocky meadow, then onto the packed mud and gravel path along the side of the river Plym which is set in mature woodland. Up a horribly steep, loose screed but mercifully short hill, along the tarmac cycle path on the other side of the river; back down a horribly steep, loose screed but mercifully short slope, up towards the meadows again, looping around the very uneven field the opposite way and back to the finish!
My Garmin was having great problems finding the satellites under the tree cover and didn't pick up anything until at least half a mile after I'd started so I gave up holding out any hope for a set of Garmin stats to analyse. I contented myself with knowing that I'd have my barcode scanned and would be given a time of sorts by email later.
Off we went, me only about one from the rear of the pack. I didn't like running on the very uneven meadow grass and was very worried that I was going to turn my ankle. I run mostly on pavements and tarmac, so I felt like I was going slower just trying to keep an eye out that I wasn't about to go over on a pothole. I was definitely running very gingerly and carefully, picking my landings carefully. I soon attached myself (not literally you understand, but pace wise) to a couple and their young son who was making a brilliant effort of keeping up with mum and dad. They seemed to be going along at a pace I could just about keep up with. Huffing and puffing they made some ground on the people up front and I managed to keep up. (Always nice when I go past a few blokes - sorry guys!)
We all huffed up the horrible steep hill, the female half of that couple having to slow to a walk, but I managed to keep up the running pace, albeit with very short strides! Her hubby slowed down to support her - he was obviously a very good runner, I could tell by his build and the sinewy calf muscles - but well done to him - he hung back to encourage his missus. The little lad though, he had no such thoughts, and off he went like a wee hare! I thought to myself that this was just too embarrassing, being outdone by a primary school boy, so I dug in deep and, starting to wheeze like an asthmatic, I kept up (just!) as we scrambled back down the slope and made our way back towards the meadows. I tried to do the fast 1, 2, 3, 4, count to get my legs moving, but no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't catch up with him, so I had to settle for just keeping a few seconds behind.
I couldn't fault the marshalling; every turn and sign was covered by someone pointing the way and lots of clapping and encouraging calls to everyone. Our bags were being minded by a couple of people at the start/finish line.
I shoved in a hard effort to try and catch the little lad and ended up crossing the finish four seconds behind him breathing extremely hard! My barcode was matched to another and scanned. I grabbed some water out of my bag and stretched a bit while talking to the young athlete's mum and dad who had come in a few seconds later. The boy's name was Tom and he was just nine!! I ruefully told his mum and dad that there was no hope for me if I couldn't beat a nine year old - he obviously has his dad's running talent!
I've just had a look at the parkrun's results page, and happy enough to see I was 43rd out of 53 runners. 27min 59secs. Better than it felt at the time!!