This Saturday was to be my 50th Parkrun, so, to “spread the joy” (i.e. if I’ve got to get up early on Saturday morning then so should everyone else), on Friday evening we set of for deepest, darkest Yorkshire. I could have stayed in East Anglia (flat, no hills) but the grandchildren all wanted to join in, which is what prompted the hike northwards. Whether or not they really wanted to join in, or if they were prodded in that direction by parents who suspected that one more Parkrun (with hills) would finish the Old Man off is a moot point – given a choice, how many 9-year-olds these days would put down “Call of Duty” to run around a park, unless there was some kind of financial incentive?
These things have a habit of growing organically (which is probably the best way to grow) and the Cambridge crew decided that if the old fella was going to be having a cardiac arrest up north, then they probably ought to be there to make sure that they got their fair share of whatever bounty there might be and that the elder sisters didn’t get first dibs at the will. Incidentally, I don’t mean “elder sisters” in a Cinderella-like context. They didn’t travel up north in a pumpkin pulled by mice (which would be illegal), it’s just that they’re sisters and, er, older. The added incentive is that once these gatherings reach a certain critical mass, then alcohol often gets involved, which takes the edge off a bit for them. And so it came to pass that the southern contingent of the Family e-Quip set off for an appointment with both destiny and Skipton Park.
The first problem, not counting the M6, was the accommodation. Mrs e-Quip is not often called upon to book hotels. Now, I’ve been doing this for years and in the early days I must have chosen some right lemons. On the well-tried principle of trial and error, Mrs e-Quip went directly to “error”. It took Edison over a 1,000 stabs to perfect the light bulb. He didn’t regard these as mistakes – his view was that inventing the light bulb is a 1000-step process. I guess that he started of with something a bit like a light bulb which gradually got better and better. I’m trying to be generous here, but no matter what definition of “hotel” you use, where we stayed on Friday night probably didn’t match it. I suppose that having been brought up with All Creatures Great & Small, Emmerdale & Heartbeat, it hadn’t occurred to Mrs e-Quip that a) there would be a nightclub in Skipton and b) it would also be a “Boutique” hotel. Years of cynicism have taught me to avoid any brand with an adjective in its name. I just naturally assume that a hotel with the word “Comfort” in its name will not be comfortable and any product name which includes the word “Fun” will be anything but. I’m not sure what particular image the word “Boutique” conjured up for Mrs e-Quip, who is as-yet untarnished by years of scepticism, but I suspect that a learning process may have begun (Warning: Steep Learning Curve Ahead). Still, we were able to sleep between 03:00 and 06:45.
It turned out that we weren’t the only ones who had a late night. Bloomy (in Yorkshire adult males seem to always referred to by a contraction of their surname with “y” stuck on the end) had decided to go straight to the “alcohol often gets involved” phase of the weekend – good lad! It was great to see that everyone had turned up: Bloomy, Wardy, Avery-y (I’m not sure how the algorithm is supposed to work in this case) – the whole crew in fact, apart from Zaris-y (I’m also unsure how the algorithm is supposed to work with Greek names). Some were even wearing PE kit! Not the Misses e-Quip though. All four of them had a note from their mum to say that they were excused games. We bimbled over to the start line for the briefing. “Welcome to Parkrun …” (applause). “Any First Timers?” – Charlie, Thomas and Andrew-y all indicated in the approved fashion (applause). “Any Visitors?”. This is a tricky one. We always say we’re from Cambridge but Mrs Bloom (née e-Quip) always insists that we’re from Peterborough. We were saved from having to make a decision by someone admitting that they had come from Detroit (applause). No-one could compete with that we let that pass. “Any milestones?”, at last, my moment of glory and I got to announce my 50th run. Fortunately there were no 6-year-olds doing their 200th runs, so my 15 seconds in the sun was undimmed. So, we all huddled in the starting funnel: Thomas, Milly, Charlie, Bloomy, Wardy, Andrew-y and me-y, waiting for the crack of the starter’s pistol. Then, we’re off.
We’ve all heard stories of people playing golf with their bosses and deliberately letting them win to let them feel good and I was wondering how the inter-generational competitive streak would be handled by sons-in-law. Would they politely lag behind in deference to my years or run at their usual pace? How would the Wardy-Bloomy brother-in-law competition play out? Fortunately, I already had a plan. I was going to be in charge of Charlie. Charlie is 5 and this was his first ever run. He had practised by running round the field behind the Co-op and had declared himself ready to run with Granddad. This meant that I didn’t have to worry about impressing anyone. Unless the unthinkable happened and Charlie was faster than me, I was safe. Bloomy was to be Milly’s escort so he didn’t have to worry about racing against Wardy. This was perhaps just as well – bearing in mind that “alcohol often gets involved” bit of the previous evening. So, I’m safe, Bloomy’s safe – result! There was a small cloud of dust left behind as Wardy shot off into the distance, and we we’re off.
I have to say that one of the reasons that I love Parkrun so much is how friendly everyone is. Charlie is so tiny it’s hard to imagine him actually completing a 5k run. So many people were urging him on and encouraging him, giving him “high-fives” and generally making him feel very happy, even though he was wearing a Chelsea football shirt. Needless to say the shirt attracted a good few comments. I have no idea what running the London Marathon is like (and I have no plans to find out) but I suspect that it is the support of the crowd that gets you over the line. That’s pretty-much how it was with Charlie on Saturday. I don’t know how his tiny little legs carried him 4 times around Skipton Park. We could see that Thomas & Milly were also going great guns as our paths crossed on each lap.
As we approached the Finish Line I held back a few yards to let Charlie run in by himself, to the applause of the family. So, my 50th Parkrun turned out to be a fantastic day, followed, naturally, by breakfast at Billy Bob’s. Thomas, Charlie & Andrew all successfully completed their first Parkrun and Milly finished her 2nd. Just like me, Bloomy was able to blame his finish time on escort and baby-sitting duties. Apart from an overnight stay in a nightclub we had a really great weekend.
(Andrew-y, Bloomy, Wardy (+ Zachary-y), Me-y, Charlie, Thomas & Milly)
As for Wardy – he came 12th. Grrrr!