On the run: off-and-on at Swindon Parkrun

The frozen surface near the finish of the Swindon Parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The frozen surface near the finish of the Swindon Parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different Parkruns.

Two Italian Spinone dogs who attracted the attention of Carl Marston before the delayed start of the

Two Italian Spinone dogs who attracted the attention of Carl Marston before the delayed start of the Swindon Parkrun. - Credit: Archant

The ‘best laid plans’ – that sums up my ‘mini-adventure’ at last Saturday’s Swindon Parkrun.

Everything was geared towards a strong run, for a change.

Firstly, there was a good week’s training under my belt, although these days that equates to a couple of short four-milers without feeling a twinge or an ache.

Secondly, there was the tonic of reporting on a Colchester United away victory at Swindon Town’s County Ground the night before.

All smiles as well wrapped-up runners near the finish of the Swindon Parkrun last weekend.

All smiles as well wrapped-up runners near the finish of the Swindon Parkrun last weekend. - Credit: Archant


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And thirdly, a perfectly-sited hotel, just over a mile from the start of the Parkrun, within the resplendent grounds of Lydiard Park, meant there was no prospect of any travel problems.

I could fall out of my bed, fill myself up with coffee, amble along to Lydiard Park, show all the Wiltshire faithful a clean pair of heels over five kilometres, and return to the hotel in time for a full English breakfast.

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As I said, the best laid plans ….

Finishers young and old approach the finish of last Saturday's Swindon Parkrun

Finishers young and old approach the finish of last Saturday's Swindon Parkrun - Credit: Archant

Carl’s experience

It was a bitterly cold morning, but the 260-acre sprawl of Lydiard Park looked a delight under a layer of frost.

I arrived more than half-an-hour before the start, and was well warmed up by the time that the organisers called off the event!

Frustrating, certainly, even annoying perhaps, but I could see why they had taken the decision.

Dogs as well as runners took part in last Saturday's incident-packed Swindon Parkrun. Picture: CARL

Dogs as well as runners took part in last Saturday's incident-packed Swindon Parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

The course, all along paved tracks, was like a skating rink in places, with many frozen puddles and couple of slippery corners to negotiate, and although Parkruns are not competitive ‘races,’ I did acknowledge that someone could come a cropper (probably me!).

Instead of returning to the hotel – and many runners did drive home – I decided to go for a gentle training run in the park, from Lydiard House out along the main avenue to the outskirts of the park, basically following the official route.

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I encountered into a couple of dogs, both Italian Spinones who bore an uncanny resemblance to my own Spinone (Oscar). They were supposed to be marshalling one tricky corner of the course with their owner (like they had done every week for about 80 Saturdays).

It was just after taking a few pictures of these striking dogs that I spotted about 200 runners, multi-coloured, running along the avenue about a mile away!

How come?

A marshal further down the track revealed that the Parkrun was back on.

I had a choice. Continue my leisurely training run, or make a mad dash back to the start (which had been dismantled earlier),

Seeing as though I was 140-odd miles from home, and unlikely to take part in the Swindon Parkrun again in the near future, I ran as fast as I could, carrying my knapsack, to the start.

The rest of the field had already disappeared over the horizon, seven or eight minutes ago, but the next 20 minutes were a blur as I weaved my around ‘slower’ runners and avoided each frozen puddle. I soon got rather warm, despite the freezing conditions, due to wearing a T-shirt, two sweat-shirts and a running top – I ditched the knapsack at the start.

Not the ideal outcome, then.

But although my official finishing time (for 5K) was slower than my personal best for five miles, it was still a Saturday morning that I won’t forget in a hurry.

This was no run-of-the-mill Parkrun experience.

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The Run-Down

The post-race report of last Saturday’s event, on the official Swindon Parkrun website, began with the following:

‘It’s the season of goodwill, and goodwill was certainly needed at Swindon parkrun today. In fact, along with that goodwill, some real reflecting and understanding was needed too.’

It went on to confirm that the event had been called off by the Race Director, after consultation with his course set-up crew, at 8.45am due to sheets of ice on corners and slopes. This led to the finish-funnel being dismantled, and the cones collected.

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Just before 9am, however, word spread that the event was back on. Volunteers broke up the ice, gritted the corners, and the event finally got underway at 9.20am.

A morning of mixed emotions.

Saturday’s Results

In the end, a field of 242 (well done on the usual 450-plus mark) completed the two-lap course at the 380th staging of the event. Isaac McAdam, a teenager from Cirencester AC, was first home in 17mins 45secs. Leah Baker was the first female finisher in 21:07.

As for me, I was one of a total of 14 ‘first timers’ to reach the finish – though one or two potential ‘debutants’ had probably long gone.

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