Joy Cox tells us the story of an Irish homage to Bushy Park, Teddington – where parkrun all began.
Five years ago, Gráinne Kelly (Event Director) and others set up Kilkenny parkrun based in the beautiful surrounds of Kilkenny Castle park. Amongst the core team and participants many friendships have evolved and resulted in an annual weekends away to another parkrun.
On the weekend of Saturday 30 November, 16 parkrunners from Kilkenny met up with 12 from Wexford racecourse parkrun and travelled to Bushy Park parkrun in Teddington, the birth place of parkrun.
The weather forecast leading up to the weekend wasn’t favourable, so many packed for the cold and wet weather we expected to greet us on Saturday morning. We were all delighted to wake up on Saturday to see a bright but dry and cool 1 degrees outside our hotel close to Bushy Park.
As we gathered in the hotel reception at 8.15am, remember parkruns in the UK start at 9am, the excitement was palpable among the group, some doing their very first parkrun while others were seasoned park runners.
We set off on foot to travel over to Bushy Park, a 15 minute stroll away from our hotel base. On arrival to Bushy Park some wild deer crossed our path, seemingly heading in the same direction as ourselves. A comment overheard amongst our group was “I hope those deer aren’t our pace setters!” set some laughter going amongst the group.
We were surprised to be welcomed by Pat McGrath Volunteer Co-Ordinator for Bushy Park parkrun at the entrance to the park – our hats and email to the bushy park parkrun team commenting on same may have been a give away to his presence. As we walked down the main road to the parkrun start area Pat told us he had been at the fifth parkrun and since then he has been involved in the core team there.
As we got closer to the start area we could see more and more people assembling. As we drew near we were directed towards the area of the first timers and visitors briefing. There we received a warm welcome and useful information on the route and where volunteers would be posted and how the finish funnel worked. Not long after the first timers brief we assembled with the 1281 parkrun participants to hear the Run Director make announcements and get us started.
It was amazing to be part of what might seem like a mad dash by almost 1300 people along the same route to get the parkrun started, but that wasn’t the case at all as we had plenty of grass area to move along from the start. The course is one continuous 5k route anticlockwise, starting and finishing on grass, with the remainder of the route on compact gravel or tarmac footpath. It’s flat, though you have to be mindful of wet and uneven areas but overall a very pleasant and scenic run, with an opportunity for a seasonal or personal best to be set if you wanted.
Thankfully we all made it to the finish, all with smiles on our faces. En route the sun shone, the ducks and swans were out on the lakes, and the golden colours on the trees made it a magical place to be on a cold winter morning. Seeing participants milestone t-shirts with 100, 250, 500 on their back, visually impaired, runners with dogs, parents encouraging their children along the way from the start to finish all demonstrated the inclusivity ethos of parkrun. There was no delay at the finish as we were nicely moved along a double funnel to get our finish tokens and barcodes scanned.
We spent some time at the finish area taking photos of the group and enjoying chatting to fellow participants and volunteers.
We received a very warm welcome from Bushy Park and got a fab write up in their news report, particularly as we were unmissable in our bright and fluorescent hats. We also enjoyed a lovely breakfast afterwards at the park café, The Pheasantry, and watched many people token sorting, before departing the park later that morning with plenty of smiles of happy memories of a great visit to Bushy Park. The general consensus amongst the group was that it was a really nice course, with a warm welcome given to visitors. When asked would they return again, there was a resounding YES from the group.
Teddington itself is a lovely spot to stay and eat, and has plenty of options from Ireland for airports to fly in to this part of London. From our hotel base it was only a short distance to Bushy Park and Hampton Court Palace. Teddington train station near our hotel allowed a 30min train trip to the heart of London. We will definitely make a return visit where it all began in 2004.
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