I'm running at Michelton with some friends - some old, some new.
This is not my normal operation at parkrun... usually I fly solo. I've gotten in the habit of picking up friends along the way.
My home parkrun is Bunyaville. I'm a trail runner and that's where I belong.
With my build back from injury meaning less trail running and more road running, I've been at Chermside parkrun for the last few weeks and I've started to feel fairly at home there.
Three weeks ago I was running along at a little slower than my normal 7 minute pace. A fellow runner asked me if I was a pacer.
I laughed a little at this and immediately cried "No!". But we stuck fairly close together for the rest of the run. She ran faster than me, but stopped to walk too. I encouraged her everytime we passed by each other and with a k or so to go, I got her to run with me to the finish line. I think I told her that it was all down hill from there, but it wasn't. And of course, I let my new friend cross the line first, of course.
The next week there were pacers so I started with the 35 minute runner. She went out a little fast so I lagged behind a little for the first couple of ks, still with her in sight though. As we reached the turnaround point, I settled in behind the pacer, who was shoulder to shoulder with - who else - my parkrun friend from last week. I just ran along quietly, and listened as the pacer patiently talked her through running, giving tips on how to stay relaxed and how to pace yourself.
"My goal is to run all the way," my new friend confided in the pacer... and I couldn't help myself. I tapped her on the shoulder and said, "you'll get there, you aren't far away. You ran most of the way last week."
She turned and smiled at me. "You ARE here! I was looking for you at the start line!"
We'd picked up a few extra runners so while the pacer gave out actual running tips, I made jokes and encouraged last week's parkrun friend and a couple of new ones all the way back to the finish.
Last Saturday, my new friend from the first week wasn't there. Neither were my newer new friends from the previous week. At about the 3k mark I found a new friend. I gave her a word of encouragement as I ran past her on one of her walk breaks. Not long after, I heard footsteps behind me, and there she was.
|Me and my new new parkrun friend. I love parkrun, especially on Valentines Day.*|
"You're such a good pacer! I've just been watching your feet and trying to keep up!" she said.
"OK, well, let's go! We can get to the finish together from here," I assured her. So I chatted away, and cheered on other runners, and before long there we were.
I followed her across the line and the finish token guy said "35:06".
"Did he say 35 minutes? I've never finished in under 40!" she exclaimed.
I was so excited for her. I gave her a hug and congratulated her. And that was it - she was my new new parkrun friend.
And this is one of the things that's great about parkrun - you're surrounded by fellow runners who aren't your friends just yet.
(On a side note... I'm seriously thinking about getting a running shirt printed up...unofficial 35 minute parkrun pacer... what do you reckon?)
*Photo courtesy of the parkrun Chermside and that week's volunteer photographer.