Inspired by Boff Whalley, I spent my August holiday running with my boys in the hills of the Lake district and west Wales. Actually, “running” makes the activity sound rather more athletic than it was. My calf still sore, I hobbled more than I ran. Meanwhile, my eldest boy, whose running is definitely hampered by the near-total absence of aerobic exercise at his school (things may improve in year 3, where the curriculum includes swimming) decided that what he really enjoyed was running downhill (see above) rather than up. We must have been an odd sight: ascending slate hills, the stone stacked together in layers, we would take as much as half an hour to walk to the top, then just three or four minutes to run back down to where we had begun.
Finding myself in Stockport on a Saturday, I signed up for the local parkrun, two laps of Bramhall house each with an ascent and then a drop of about 80 metres. It was pleasantly different from parkrunning in London.
At both locations, the demographic is chiefly runners in their thirties and thereabouts. (Most parkruns have only been set up in the last 3-4 years; longer-established races have a richer sprinkling of runners in their 50s and up). In Bramhall, there were many more children under 10 running with their parents, and more teenagers. More families walk in the hills, and the parkrun just felt like a natural extension of what people would be doing anyway. Quite a few of the six or seven year olds were running pretty fast too – 5k in 26 or 27 minutes. This image from the Parkrun website, shows the race in winter; but gives you a sense of the route:
The course follows a path track, around a metre wide, and the ground to each side of the path was too damp in places, or too densely-wooded, to allow much overtaking. I ran in laps of about 15 and about 10 minutes, a ridicuously unbalanced split, motivated in part by a desire to protect my injury, and in part by a sheer inability to move forwards in the race until the running group had stretched out a little and there was space for me to overtake.
One or two of the runners displayed the introversion that I associate with the sport; although no-one expressed it more clearly than the man in his 50s, bald and shaven on top, who I watched running closer and closer towards a young mother with her buggy out for a morning stroll. Not looking where he was going, he eventually ran straight – bang – into the pram. He was also, I must add, absolutely mortified and thoroughly apologetic afterwards.
Thanks are owed, as ever, to the organisers.