Running 5k 'up Pomphrey' will give you a lift - you can put your shirt on it

October 27 2017

As parkrun, which holds friendly, free 5k weekly events including one in Mangotsfield, passes a milestone, writer Siân Harris gathers stories from fellow parkrunners on why they run

As parkrun, which holds friendly, free 5k weekly events including one in Mangotsfield,  passes a milestone,  writer Siân Harris gathers stories from fellow parkrunners on why they run


THE weather was damp and and the hour was early but the car park was full and the atmosphere buoyant. It was the usual Saturday morning Pomphrey Hill parkrun.

I say ‘usual’ but every parkrun has something that makes it special to somebody. It might be the first time running 5k, a personal best or a run after an injury or illness. Today was the 13th birthday of parkrun so there were memories to share.

For Danny Smith, it was also a milestone run  -  his 100th  - which means he got a free T-shirt. And, as often happens for milestone runs, there was a dressing-up theme for Danny and friends. Running plays a special part in Danny’s life so he encouraged us each to help him celebrate by wearing the running top that meant the most to us.

I was volunteering this morning as a marshal (another great aspect of parkrun) but I donned the T-shirt from my first half marathon (Oxford 2015, very slow but emotional and amazing) and asked others what they had chosen to wear and why.

Some, like me, chose their first race at a particular distance, for example Andy, who chose his Stroud half marathon top from 2015 because it was his first race.

Lucy also chose to remember a half marathon: "The running top I’m wearing is from the Great North Run. It was my first half marathon. I started with a couch to 5k course. I never really thought I’d keep running or that I’d actually do a half marathon  -  and neither did any of my family - so I guess it’s the top I’m proudest of."

Sandra chose her Bath half marathon top for similar reasons: "It was a fantastic sense of achievement and it was hard."

Others chose parkrun tops. Sally, who runs regularly with Sandra, was wearing her 50th parkrun top. "That was a real achievement because we started at the beginning of January two years before and we never thought we’d get to 50. And now we are about five away from our 100  -  so the next favourite will be the 100 T-shirt I expect."

Mandy chose her 50th parkrun top too: "My favourite running top is my parkrun 50 top, which arrived two days ago. It shows my running journey from my first parkrun when I could hardly get round, to when I was at my peak and achieving my PB, to now when I had to finish my 50th run after suffering pneumonia so it feels like I’ve done full circle."

Others picked their running club tops. Anna explained: "I chose to wear my Emersons Green Running Club top because before I joined the club I used to run pretty much on my own and now it’s lovely to be part of a club and run with friends and meet new friends."

Caroline agreed: "My Emersons Green Running Club top means a lot to me. I joined on the spur of the moment and I’ve met the most supportive, encouraging, mad group of people  -  friends now  -  that I could wish to meet."

"I started running when I did Race for Life in about 2007 when my mum was diagnosed with breast cancer," said Helen. 

"I didn’t think I’d be able to run 5k and then the next year I signed up for the 10k and it’s gone from there. Today I’ve got my Bristol half marathon T-shirt on from a few years ago. I put it on today because it was one of those races where the night before I just didn’t think I was going to be able to do it and it was a horrible day but I got to the finish line and it makes me proud."

Gary chose the Doynton Hard Half Marathon (a tough, off-road run held in January and organised by Emersons Green Running Club) because it was his favourite race. "I’ve not done many races; I just enjoy running in the countryside," he said.

Laura chose her 'pink Emersons Green versus the Monster Race 2014' T-shirt. "It’s special to me because we made some really good friendships on the journey. Prior to that I was wearing my long-sleeved Weston Christmas Cracker 2013 top because that was my first ever 10k," she said.

Angus chose his Green Man (an ultra-marathon around the outskirts of Bristol) top: "I just so loved the idea of bring able to run all the way round Bristol without hardly being on roads. I knew I was going to be very slow. So I took a year to learn all the byways off by heart so I wouldn’t get lost and lose time. It was such an achievement to run considering I’d only then been running three years before and was still a plodder."

Steven was wearing his apricot Pomphrey Hill parkrun T-shirt "because I love parkrun". However, he had also brought with him his Loch Ness marathon T-shirt because that was the first marathon that he did with his now fiancée (and soon-to-be-wife) Anne.

For Rich, the top he chose was for the mental health charity Mind. "It reminds me of the year that I ran every day raising money for Mind." In his work with university students, Rich sees how serious an issue mental health is. All the people I spoke to mentioned ways that running improves how they feel. For some, it was the chance to get away and have a bit of headspace.

Ian said, "I run to get away from everything, to escape, with no screens," while Mandy said, "I run to keep myself earthed." Another person mentioned how running provides some 'me time' to help them deal with the extra challenges of parenting a child with special needs.

Sally agreed: "Because my husband works on a Saturday morning, if I did nothing I probably wouldn’t talk to anyone until maybe three in the afternoon. Coming here, we have lovely friends and we’ve made lots of lovely friends — so it sets you up for the day."

There are, of course, physical as well as emotional benefits. People talked to me about keeping fit, losing weight, recovering from illness and setting challenges. Or, as Sally put it, "We run so we can eat lots of cake".

And some just simply said they run because they enjoy it. Ian probably summed up the feelings of many when he said, "I don’t really have a favourite running top but my favourite run is my next one."

It was quite emotional hearing how running, our local running clubs and parkrun mean so much to people for so many reasons. And, interestingly, not one person mentioned competition with anyone but themselves.

So, as this theme was Danny’s idea, which top did he choose to wear? The answer was all of them. He wore all the running tops that he has gained at runs  - 21 tops in total. He then removed them one by one as he went around the 5km course until he finished with his apricot-coloured parkrun top.

"Since starting parkrun I’ve done so many incredible things I thought I’d make it a celebration of everything I’ve done running. I took off all the T-shirts in chronological order so I’d be left at the end with the one that means the most to me, my Pomphrey Hill parkrun top."

Happy 100th parkrun Danny! And happy 13th birthday parkrun!