Saturday morning’s just aren’t the same any more

Almost two years ago now, I took part in the third Richmond Park Time Trial (now Richmond parkrun). It’s funny to think that in taking part in that, my second time trial, the seeds of what would become Glasgow parkrun were sown. I was catching up with my friends David and Sharon Rowe, and taking in a free running event that had become a big part of their lives. I was incredibly struck by how simple the format was. A few folk taking their turn to help out, everybody else getting a great sociable run in. Go for coffee and cake afterwards.

‘When were they going to come to Glasgow?’, I asked the organisers. ‘Whenever you want, if you’re offering to start it’ was (essentially) the reply.

At that point came one of those moments when a decision is required. Not quite of the order of choosing a university (I still remember the moment I chose my University, at the foot of my parents stairs, deciding that a work-placement year was important, and therefore Oxford Poly (now Oxford Brookes) would be my choice. Thus perhaps the single biggest life changing and affecting moment in my life to date, and with such profound consequences. Boy did I get that one right). But certainly ‘up there’ with notable decisions. Did I take time out to work on persuading the council and runners in Glasgow that this was a good thing. Chase the paperwork through. Put something in to creating what – I hoped – would be a success. But faced with the blank expressions when talking to people even the famous Bushy Park Time Trial (now Bushy parkrun), knew there was perhaps a bit more of an uphill task ahead of me.

What followed did take a bit longer than I’d hoped. After an initial surge of interest from Glasgow council, things went quiet. Wrong avenues, wrong dates, wrong people. Oh, and getting married was something of a focus for the first few months of 2008. Getting put in touch with Iain from Sweatshop was just what was needed to get things going. Turned out that Iain had been making noises and enquiries himself, and together we developed the momentum to get things moving forward.

Glasgow council required a fair bit of paperwork, and think it’s fair to say there were probably a bit sceptical views on what we were proposing. But once over the initial hump, and through a couple of meetings, don’t think we could have asked for better support. With the paperwork sorted out, it was just a case of setting a date, and getting on with it. Oh, and choosing a specific course and getting the word out. Would have been horrible to have turned up and found nobody else there.

We needn’t have bothered. The course pretty much selected itself given some of the constraints we needed to work to, and when we had a launch date set interest picked up. Our trial run went well, and the first event – despite my forgetting the tokens to dish out to runners – went really well. We’d chosen to start in early December, so it was certainly cold, and with Christmas shopping a priority for many too, our numbers were low. But all the better for getting used to the format and system. Heck, I even managed to run myself on 27th December, and have done two other times since.

Forward fast a few months and Saturday mornings really have changed, not just from those first few small Glasgow parkrun events, but from a year ago when ‘lie in’ was something that happened. Followed perhaps by a stroll around the farmers market, and maybe some Saturday Kitchen. Goodness knows I’ve not seen a live broadcast of that programme in a while, but I certainly miss the lovely eggs and interesting produce from the farmers market.

The big worry I had with the prospect was, in bringing parkrun to Glasgow, that the system would come, but would the atmosphere? I’d been struck by the friendliness at both Bushy and Richmond. Bringing a system wouldn’t necessarily bring that though. But I needn’t have worried. The registration queue, the free and weekly nature of the event, and the post-run coffee and cake, brings a special atmosphere with it because folk are more relaxed, and if they mess up can either come back next week, or console themselves with cake. Contrast with a local race, where runners are so much more serious. I suspect it’s a combination of having paid (sometimes quite substantial amounts) to enter the event; It’s probably an annual event, so no room for messing, and most importantly, there are reputations at stake, so there’s a little less banter and chatting.