Saturday 20 June 2015

Juneathon day 20/30 - Aldenham parkrun, inaugural event

Today marks the 2/3 point through Juneathon, 20 days of consecutive running out of the 30 day challenge. I decided to celebrate by attending an inaugural parkrun event. Inaugural events have taken on an odd hue of late - the number of inaugurals attended used to be on the most events table and qualify you for entry onto the table, but the column disappeared a while ago.

These days a most events table entry looks like this:

17th position (L-R: name, club, total different events, total UK events, total global events)

There followed a sustained period of heated debate about if tourists should go to inaugural events at all as it places a heavy (believed to be unacceptable) extra load on the brand new team at their first event. There were tales of stressed event teams, and much anxiety. There were also plenty of stressed tourists who had enjoyed inaugural hunting as a kind of purist element of parkrun tourism.

We also knew that at an inaugural (when there was generally only one on any given Saturday) we were likely to see our fellow tourists.

Unfortunately I think the hyperbole on the topic didn't do much to give new event teams confidence - they imagined uncontrollable hordes of tourists descending on their parks and overwhelming them. We started to see communications from new events requesting that tourists wait a week or two before visiting. A visit to an inaugural became something you didn't really shout about, attending a first run event risks community disapproval and attending an event on its second, third, or fourth running becomes a badge of honour.

I stayed out of the debate, the Internet - and in particular Facebook - is not the place for nuanced conversation!

As it was I did pull back from inaugural hunting, but I miss them. I like the joy on the faces of new parkrun parents as their pride and joy comes to life. I like that no one knows where the course is or the route, and the excited discussion afterwards about "that bit with the mud" or "the wobbly bridge".

So I will be going to inaugurals when it's convenient, I may even travel a bit like I have done before. But I will keep an eye out on the tourist Facebook groups and if a new event is worried and would prefer a softer start, I'll show some respect and attend at a later date.

Two laps, one hugging the shoreline and the second taking a shortcut

So, with all that in mind I hopped in the car and drove to Elstree and Borehamwood to visit
Aldenham parkrun's first event. It was a nice morning for running, not too hot, quite overcast, and the odd spot of rain. We got to Aldenham Country Park at around 8:35 and immediately spotted some parkrun regulars to catch up with.

100 Aker Wood (as featured in Winnie the Pooh) seems to be the biggest attraction, and around the grounds are the houses of the characters. Nicola took some great photos in the wood - I wish I'd had a wander round myself now!

The run was a good one - I decided to go for a bit of (what I call) pace after plodding along for most of Juneathon so far. The surfaces were good, some concrete along the Northern side of the reservoir and mainly firm trail through woodland for the rest.

Pacing was good at around 5 minutes per km for the first 4km, and then a faster one to finish - my official time being 24:49, a second better than my watch time. There were 78 finishers in the end, a lovely size for a new parkrun. The event team were happy, and the runners gave unanimous praise.

Good luck for the future, Aldenham parkrun!

My Juneathon totals: 20 runs for 141.67km in 14:29:03

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