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Monday, 28 December 2015

Merry ParkRun to All and to All a Good Flight! In Praise of ParkRun

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, how lovely are thy cheapo hats

After a few days of indulging in every delicious food and drink we now have the delight of New Year's Eve ahead of us, with its perceived obligations to look glittery and make grand schemes, or 'resolutions' to be better and achieve more in the new year. Last year I wrote about feeling anxious about this event, a day when one looks in the closet or on the sales racks for sequins and spandex, hoping that the two will come together in a wonderful symbiosis which belies the enormous quantities of stuffing that we've just cheerfully crammed into ourselves without a care for our waistlines or coronaries.

The closest I shall come to the above (and I do have dresses like this that don't fit)
is this: sequin spanx. (

This year I started a little better on the journey towards eating one's own body weight, by taking part on two consecutive days in my local park run at Bushy Park. Have you heard of ParkRun? Here's a little about them from the website:

"parkrun organise[s] free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.These events take place in pleasant parkland surroundings and we encourage people of every ability to take part; from those taking their first steps in running to Olympians; from juniors to those with more experience; we welcome you all."

In a typical week I try to do exercise as part of my week's activities, in order to boost the endorphin levels and (I would hope) to keep my mental health on an even keel or at least on the up (however minutely). Around Christmas, though, I tend to head squarely for the sofa from the desk and leave the thousands of emails unanswered with a to do list to rival the length of Santa's naughty and nice list, but the issue I then face is that my body starts to mould into the fabric of the sofa, and does not want to move, not one little bit. This is quite dangerous because the less I do, the less I want to do. The more I watch television and eat, and do nothing but that, the less I can do. And that could lead to a dissatisfaction with everything because I don't feel like doing things, but I certainly do not need any more sitting or scoffing.

You can find a parkrun near you every weekend, in the UK and around the world

It was probably good luck (and good management on the part of the Bushy Park's parkrun management committee) that I found myself down to write the run report for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, meaning that however many mince pies I'd managed to gorge myself on the night before, I wasn't going to be able to excuse myself from the festive fitness proceedings. 

A sea of Santa Hats getting ready to cover 5K...however they wanted

The 5K runs that parkrun organises gets everyone involved, and is a great way to kick start my weekend. Not only that, but when I feel totally reluctant to see another soul I can participate in the run with no obligation to speak to other people, but with the lovely sense of having joined in with something, even though my mind has closed itself off to callers.

Boxing day in a toned-down version of headgear. Just sparkly antlers.
My weight had already increased through Christmas consumption!

My stomach is not feeling very well eve n now as I type this because despite my attempts to moderate the consumption of meat, cheese, potatoes and, mainly, sausages, on a typical day I'd be more likely to eat carrot and lentil salad than chestnut stuffing, which means that I'm still overeating even when compared to the average calorie intake I've taken it pretty easy. It's annoying that this happens - and I'm sure I'm not the only one - who makes an effort not to overdo it, only for my stomach to tell me that I have been immoderate in my moderation. 

Anyway, I'm lucky that I had to run 10K in total over 25th and 26th. I also drank some vegetable juices to keep some semblance of normality in my diet. Tomorrow, I plan to run again to keep my hand in and (hopefully) my hips within their normal range on the lead up to New Year's Eve. And my mental health? It's hanging in there, but I certainly plan to keep it that way as far as possible with the amount of exercise that will start to return things to normal after five days of solid stodge.

View from the snug sofa.
It is pretty hard to leave these woodland animals to head for the, err, woods.

As something a little different I composed a poem for the run report I wrote for the Christmas and Boxing day Bushy Park runs. The point was to have a little bit of fun with the report, very much in the spirit of Bushy Park itself. This post serves for me as a 'check in' for my health - in every sense - and to remind me why I love parkrun and how helpful it is for me. It also serves as my community fitness contribution. I've written before about Mind's #GetSetToGo programme, which helps people to become more active for better mental health, but although this programme is currently working in a handful of locations, it's good to know that there are other community fitness schemes like the wonderful parkrun to help us to become active.

This is Andy, one of the key Bushy Park parkrun volunteers

If you are looking for a new way to keep fit in 2016, you can find a local park run here on the registration page (click for more) and even start your own. The next parkrun at Bushy is on New Year's Day, and you can walk, run, jog, hop or do a combination of all of these to join in with your community and do a bit for your fitness. Parkrun is a run, not a race. Everyone is welcome, and encouraged to do what they can. I share its desire to help people to participate at any level, for free, for better fitness for everyone. 

Runners go Crackers!

Take care in the remaining days of holiday, of yourself and others, and perhaps see you at a parkrun in 2016? x

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the town
No creature was stirring (we were all lying down).
The running tights snug in their drawers all together,
As we shut out the wind, and cold winter weather.
Then at seven AM, arose such a clatter
I opened my eyes to see what was the matter.
My alarm had gone off, surely by some mistake?
On Christmas Day morning? No one else was awake.
But apparently no, it was meant to be done,
As today was the Christmas day Bushy ParkRun!
I rose from my bed, and put on the lights,
To avoid falling down as I put on my tights,
Then out of the door donning festive headwear,
Hoping some other runners would also be there.
A thousand one hundred plus forty five more
Turned up as elves, reindeer and Santas galore!
Double buggies and dogs in tinsel and bells,
Dodging puddles of mud just like graceful gazelles.

Congrats to Andrius Jak-sev-ic-i-us
Who finished in first (did he hop on a bus?)
Molly Renfer: first female, 18:11
A jolly good time for a mud-spattered run.
To Craig Jarman, Matt Reed, and to Richard Berry
Congrats on new PBs and hope you are merry.
Add on seventy eight with new personal bests
Well done all eighty one, now, have well-deserved rests!

Around forty park run volunteers ran the show
With a three-funnel finish to manage the flow.
Prosecco, mince pies and sweet treats were in store
For the finishers, volunteers, fam’lies and more,
So Christmas Day started in true ParkRun style
With goodwill shown to all for just over three miles
Our five K now ended we went home to our trees
Till we’d eaten our eight thousand (ish) calories
A warm glow in our cheeks till the next week’s park fun

No, wait, it’s tomorrow for the Boxing day run!

Boxing Day turnout of 700+ parkrunners. 
Perhaps a little slower in some cases (mine) but good to participate all the same!

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