Stuck for ideas? There’s a book out this year that will be the perfect gift for everyone who’s ever done a parkrun. Or even better, for those who have thought about it, and might even have signed up for it, but not actually been and done a parkrun yet.
How parkrun changed our lives * is a story book, a book of stories about people, their triumphs and sorrows, and how parkrun has had an impact on who they are and what they have become. And it emphasises the message that parkrun is about MUCH more than just running.
Here you’ll meet “the lovely Jaz” who’s not only head of volunteer management at parkrun HQ, but was also the first British Indian woman to complete 500 parkruns. You’ll meet Conrad and Jose who ran parkrun together on the day of their diamond wedding anniversary and crossed the finish line holding hands. At the other end of the age range are the delightful Pout twins, Hugo and Rory, who are popular on the parkrun buggy-scene; and Dexter who was the first ten-year old to complete 250 parkruns.
You’ll meet the people who got married during a parkrun, the crazy guy who runs it backwards, the blind man who found a new life through parkrun, and the woman who wouldn’t have cope otherwise after her husband died.
There are the volunteers who talk about the sheer joy of being there every week to do the timekeeping or marshalling. There’s the doctors who literally prescribe parkrun for a range of physical and mental health problems.
You’ll meet some running reverends who discuss if parkrun is a new religion, and – of course – you’ll meet PSH, the founder, the man who came up with this great idea for a free timed run every Saturday that now happens in 22 countries around the world.
** Eileen Jones, a member of the Gritstone Publishing co-op, is a journalist and PR working in the Lake District. She’s head witch at parkrun and will turn into a toad anyone who spells parkrun with a capital P.
Once upon a time, as they say in the best fairy stories, Arthur Ransome’s name was just THE byword for the top children’s adventure tales. Swallows and Amazons, which is both a dated and yet strangely timeless piece of fiction, continues to enchant new generations of readers, young and old. The Lake District setting provides a considerable part of the charm, along with the engaging characters with whom most of us have been able to identify at some point in our lives. Not a lot actually happens in that book: children camp on an island, go fishing, annoy a man living on a houseboat, get told off for sailing at night.
The real adventures come later: the wreck of the boat in Swallowdale, the secret hiding place of Picts and Martyrs, and best of all, the search for gold, entrapment in a mine, and a fellside fire in Pigeon Post.
Ransome recorded his own life in an autobiography, Hugh Brogan led the field with the first of the major biographies, Christina Hardyment enchanted us all further with her exploration of Ransome’s real and fictional worlds, and Roland Chambers expanded on the theory than Ransome was actually a secret agent, not just a chess-playing journalist covering the Russian revolution.
Now Alan Kennedy takes us into the world of what he calls The Other Arthur Ransome, in A Thoroughly Mischievous Person (Lutterworth Press). He’s at pains to stress that this is not another biography: there are already many of those. Instead he says: “The questions I wish to explore are more psychological than literary.” Ransome, according to Kennedy, was a complicated and secretive man who “deliberately set out to baffle those who sought to make sense of his life.” So we’ve all been looking in the wrong place?
Ransome deceived us with the story of his own life, says Kennedy, an autobiography which was “entertaining, wonderfully vivid but psychologically opaque…To read it is to discover an author hell-bent on giving nothing away.”
Maybe we should be looking to the psychological, says Kennedy. “What if, far from being some passing fancy, Ransome’s early commitment to symbolism endured and came to flower in stories for children which owe more to fairy tale than to the concerns of his contemporaries?….Powerful autobiographical themes can be glimpsed throughout Ransome’s fiction, albeit always slightly out of reach, fading like the pearls the Swallows left to dry on the margin of their lake.”
His characters, for certain, are of his imagination, and Kennedy highlights the “otherwise sober critics” who railed against John, Susan, Titty and Roger for their want of authenticity, “for their being too middle class, too much a part of a lost world of cooks, nannies and Great Aunts….Idle to point out that the complaint is as pointless as regretting the absence of bicycles in The Hobbit.”
In his argument, Kennedy concentrates much on the character of Titty and the estrangement of Ransome’s own daughter, Tabitha: “Like many a fairy-tale father, he easily convinced himself he would, one day, recover his lost girl. Perhaps he believed that, in Titty’s heroic deeds on Wild Cat Island, his daughter would find reasons to forgive him.” This much will be accepted, absorbed, by the many fans of Ransome, and the members of his appreciation societies.
It’s gets trickier thanks to sex, which is – of course – at the heart of much psychological discourse and theory, and the reactions to Kennedy’s take on the the work of John in creating the new mast after the wrecking of Swallow, for example, will do more than raise a few eyebrows. And from then on, from being a fascinating hypothesis about words and their meanings in so many contexts quite apart from the Ransome connection, some might find this too far-fetched. Sexual allusion and mythological realism are beginning to shroud what were, otherwise, jolly good stories. And in many minds, they should be left alone as such.
This is, nevertheless, a fascinating and very well researched (and referenced) narrative, bringing a new approach to the study of a series of children’s classics. But ultimately one wonders if the author is being deliberately provocative, that the “thoroughly mischievous person” is in fact Kennedy himself.
Alan Kennedy is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the university of Dundee. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an Honorary Member of the Experimental Psychology Society, and a Member of the Society of Authors. He has published several articles in the journal of The Arthur Ransome Society.
IMAGINE going for your first ever trail run in the Lake District. Now imagine that you’re going for your first ever trail run, and you can’t see anything.
Dave Williams, a parkrunner and marathon runner, is blind, and has just experienced trail running for the first time, on the slopes of the Old Man of Coniston.
This is a story of determination, of overcoming life’s challenges, and believing that you can do something, and it’s here for the telling thanks to parkrun.
Dave, who lives in Worcester, has done 60 parkruns at 20 different venues, but hasn’t seen any of them. Dave was born with Leber Congenital Amaurosis, which causes sight loss at birth. I heard about him when researching my book about parkrun*; his father, Gwilym, is a member of my club, Clayton le Moors Harriers, now living in Austria, and a close friend of the husband of my running buddy, Judy Sharples.
I heard Dave’s story, and wrote about it, loving his enthusiasm and self-deprecation (his regular guide runner, Bex, is dyspraxic and can’t always tell right from left “so between us, we manage somehow!”) and when the book came out Dave bought a copy for his family. But he couldn’t read it himself, of course, and asked if there was an audio version.
That was something I’d not considered, but contacted the RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People), where Dave works, and arranged for a friend, Wayne Singleton – who has the know-how and access to the technical kit – to read the book, record it, and supply the audio files to the RNIB library. From where Dave has recently borrowed it and listened to the whole book.
Then Dave said that he and his family were coming on holiday to Coniston and he asked if we could meet, and also asked if I knew anybody who could take him for a guided run as he’d always wanted to try trail-running. The multi-talented Wayne (who also has a business, The Running Concierge**, arranging trail and fell-running mini-breaks and holidays in the Lakes) is also a qualified running coach, and has experience of guide-running.
And that’s how, on a baking hot morning, Dave Williams had a taste of trail-running in the heart of Lakeland mountain country, with the man who had read the parkrun book to him. He and Wayne ran (and, wisely, sometimes walked) up the side of Church Beck, past the Coppermines Youth Hostel, and into the wilderness of Boulder Valley.
He saw nothing of it, of course, but heard the beck and the waterfalls and the cry of the buzzard overhead. He heard – from the best of all guides – the history of copper-mining in the area, and how in recent times water-power has been harnessed to create electricity, and how the top fell-runners come tumbling down these hillsides at break-neck speed.
For Dave it was a morning he’ll never forget. “I’m a road runner, I’m used to listening out for traffic, and being told where there’s a pavement step. I thought the hardest part would be the heat, and the steepness of the hills, but it was the terrain under foot that was the toughest.”
Dave told Wayne: “‘You can take what you’re given, and survive, and be happy with that, or you can work at it. There are blind lawyers and doctors. Don’t let it be a barrier.”
For Wayne it was a humbling experience. “It’s amazing to be trusted to guide someone with a visual impairment, and presents all sorts of challenges that I wouldn’t normally think of. There’s a constant commentary to ensure that Dave didn’t trip or stumble, as well as making sure he didn’t get branches in his face. It’s awesome to be able to try and describe our scenery to someone, in an appropriate richness, to enable them to ‘see’ through words. It’s also interesting to learn about vertigo from the perception of a person who can’t see the drop. It presented me with equal amounts of joy, terror and glee to have the responsibility of guiding Dave today, and it was topped off by being introduced to his family, and sharing a paddle in Coniston after our run.”
And for this experience, for this meeting, for this connection: the power of parkrun. It really does change lives.
A summer fair in Windermere will stage a competition to find the best cake in the Lake District.
The Lakeland Cake of the Year Championship will be the highlight of the fair in the grounds of St Martin and St Mary’s CE primary school on Prince’s Road on Sunday August 8.
It’s a charity event with all funds raised going to the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Stalls will be available for hire – the fee being to bring along a cake, – and there will be food & refreshments from Yardies Jamaican Street Food.
The cake contest is being revived by Jen Braithwaite and Eileen Jones of JB Cumbria, who met when organising the original event ten years ago at the Briery Wood Hotel. It included themes of the Olympic Games, and Lakes and Rivers, and attracted some remarkable creations from amateur and professional bakers. They raised money then for Alice’s Escapes, the charity set up to provide respite holidays for families with sick children, founded by Ulverston’s Alice Pyne; a teenager with terminal cancer whose bucket-list of things to do gained her thousands of social media followers. Alice died at the age of 17 in 2013, and this provided the catalyst for Jen and her involvement with Teenage Cancer Trust – since then, she has organised and worked on several events for the charity in the North-West.
Said Jen: “Every day, seven young people in the UK aged 13 to 24 hear the words ‘you have cancer’. Teenage Cancer Trust puts young people in the best possible place, physically, mentally and emotionally, for their cancer treatment and beyond. They do it through their expert nurses, support teams, and hospital units – and they’re the only UK charity dedicated to providing this specialised nursing care and support.”
The theme of the contest is “Joy”, which can be interpreted any way that a cake maker wishes. Cakes should be brought to the event on the day, and they will be auctioned during the afternoon. The buyers will then take them home and provide feedback to determine an overall winner.
“We know that everyone has struggled over the past year and wanted to organise a community event that would truly bring some joy back into all of our lives,” said Jen. “And everyone loves cake!”
The fair, from 2pm till 4pm, will be held in a marquee on the school field. Anyone wanting to book a stall should contact Jen on firstname.lastname@example.org It’s a free event though donations to the charity are encouraged.
JB Cumbria is a partnership between Jen Braithwaite of JB Consulting and Eileen Jones of Cumbria PR.
Teenage Cancer Trust is a registered charity: 1062559 (England & Wales), SC039757
The husband and daughter of an Ambleside woman who died earlier this year have completed a marathon walk in her memory.
Kathryn Rigg died at home in March after a battle with cancer. Vernon Rigg and his daughter Laura Swainson aimed to walk 10 miles a day for 10 consecutive days to raise money for St John’s Hospice, Lancaster.
But they went several steps further, totalling a massive 144 miles over the 10 days, and raising so far £8528 for the charity. Add to that the 150 miles they walked in training, and their tally is close to 300 miles. The longest walk was 18.5 miles. “We had wind and rain in our faces all day but still had a smile on our faces,” said Laura.
Joined on different days by members of the family, especially son Daniel, Vernon and Laura tackled routes around Ambleside, over Loughrigg, Wansfell, and Alcock Tarn, as well as a walk around Derwentwater, and Kathryn’s favourite, at Arnside and Silverdale.
“We had a mixture of weather over the 10 days but two days in particular were very wet,” said Laura. “The longest walk we did was on one of these wet days where my brother Daniel joined us, and we walked from Ambleside to Hawkshead then onto Esthwaite water back to Ambleside.
“Our favourites were the last day with Daniel, which was from Ambleside over Jenkins Crag up to Troutbeck then over Wansfell back to Ambleside via Rydal (13.5 miles); and round Rydal up to the caves, round Grasmere, up to Alcock tarn, then back to Ambleside via the coffin route, which was also 13.5 miles.”
Vernon and Laura are thrilled with the amount raised so far, and hope to carry on collecting more money for the hospice. “Thank you again for all the donations for such an amazing cause close to our hearts. The treatment mum had from the hospice, and support for us as a family, was second to none.
“We have had the best 10 days doing the walks. It has been a big focus for us.”
A personal appeal by the author of How parkrun changed our lives.
As we edge closer to the re-start of parkrun, those with fears and anxieties or the privilege of good health might, please, consider that parkrun is much more than a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.
For some it was their ONLY social contact of the week. Imagine that? Imagine how they are feeling now, 15 months down the line? For some, those with work and family responsibilities, it was the ONLY opportunity for time to do something for themselves. For some it was the ONLY way to be motivated to take exercise in a safe and familiar environment. For some it was the ONLY respite from grief, from depression, from anxiety. For some it was the perfect way to spend time together as a family, exercising together.
For all these people, every day of delay is further torture. We are way beyond the simplistic question, why can’t they just go and run anyway? We know that parkrun is much more than just about running.
And for the GPs, and not JUST those in the 1500 parkrun practices, who were prescribing parkrun for a range of physical and mental health conditions, the immediate return of parkrun is crucial. Would they tell a patient, sorry your medication is still not going to be available, after 15 months..?
The outdoor environment is safe. It’s as safe now as it’s ever going to be. It has been safe all the way through this pandemic. Many scientists have now proved and explained that outdoor transmission of the covid virus is negligible. But there’s a more serious pandemic building up among those falling ill, becoming overweight, unable to deal with diabetes , in danger of heart disease.
Some say, we should wait a few more weeks until it’s safer to mix with others. By all means, don’t put yourselves under strain of anxiety if you are feeling those fears. This is a voluntary experience. You don’t HAVE to run, or marshal, or scan barcodes, until you’re ready; return when you feel comfortable.But please, think about those for whom such involvement is imperative, as soon as possible.
There are landowners with their own codes of operating, who talk about the safety of ALL their visitors, at “peak” times. ALL their visitors, parkrunners or not, are safer in an outdoor environment. The scientific evidence applies to everyone. And “peak” times are not really 9am on a Saturday morning. At many parks, the runners have gone, all trace of the event disappeared, before most of the visitors start to arrive. In holiday areas, it’s acknowledged that Saturday morning is a quieter time, being the traditional “handover” day as families arrive and depart.
What they, what we all, need to consider is what’s best for others, not just best for ourselves. What does another few weeks matter, you might ask? For many people it matters a great deal. To borrow from Bill Shankly, parkrun isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s much more important than that.
Eileen Jones is the author of How parkrun changed our lives
Ambleside Sports will not go ahead this summer due to uncertainty around the lifting of Covid restrictions.
The biggest and oldest of the traditional Lakeland sporting events, the Ambleside Sports is usually held on the last Thursday of July and attracts crowds of thousands. It was cancelled last year because of the pandemic.
The organising committee had hoped to stage an event of some sort this summer, but they have decided with deep regret to abandon this year’s plans and put all their efforts into making the 2022 event the biggest and best ever.
“It is with really heavy hearts that we reached this decision,” said president Mr Jak Hirst. “We are all bitterly disappointed, and we know that our competitors in the many arenas, and our trading partners, will be disappointed too. But there is still too much uncertainty about what the summer holds, and it is a burden too great for a group of volunteers.”
The committee made their decision after considering many health and safety issues, including any continuing requirement for social distancing which might be announced, the enormous task of tracking and tracing many thousands of potential visitors, and the need for many extra volunteers to keep people moving safely through the gates and around the showfield.
They also learned that nearly all the local shows, all of them smaller and potentially more manageable than Ambleside, due to be held before the end of July, had already been called off.
“It is a question of reality outweighing the heartstrings,” said committee member Robin Dean. “We desperately wanted to put on an event to raise spirits and allow people to have some fun after the awfulness of the pandemic, but it’s just too soon for us to be sure that we could stage a perfectly safe event which was also enjoyable.”
The organising team are now hoping that new volunteers will step forward to join the committee and plan for next year’s event. The Sports includes wrestling, track cycling, hound trailing, track running and fell-running, and always features a very popular children’s sports competition.
Two Cumbrian businesswomen are joining forces to provide a complete package of help for local organisations and companies.
Eileen Jones at Cumbria PR and Jen Braithwaite at JB Consulting are merging to meet demand as businesses try to recover from the pandemic lockdown.
They will retain the two individual business titles, and still offer bespoke services to clients as needed, but will operate together as JB Cumbria.
Ambleside-based Eileen set up Cumbria PR ten years ago and has worked for a range of tourism and heritage organisations including William Wordsworth’s home at Rydal Mount, the Heaton Cooper Studio and Gallery and Studio in Grasmere, Zeffirellis cinemas and restaurants in Ambleside, and the award-winning Cedar Manor hotel at Windermere. She ran the public relations and news service for the environmental campaigning project, Windermere Reflections.
A former journalist and university lecturer, as course leader for degrees in both Public Relations and Journalism at the University of Huddersfield, she’s the author of the recently published book How parkrun changed our lives.
Windermere-based Jen set up JB Consulting two years ago after working for a global people-development organisation for ten years. She’s a specialist in personal and business development training and support, with wide experience in wellbeing, sales and marketing. She runs inset training for schools, bespoke wellbeing support and provides a full suite of organisational and strategic support to help businesses improve productivity and potential, while operating sustainably. She’s also an Advisor for the Cumbria Chamber of Commerce’s Business Growth Hub, providing support to many Cumbrian businesses.
The two met ten years ago when they organised the Lakeland Cake of the Year competition, raising money for the charity Alice’s Escapes. They plan to revive the contest this summer, to showcase their clients and fundraise for Teenage Cancer Trust.
Eileen said: “Businesses have much more complex needs today than they did a year ago. It’s no longer just about promotion and profile-raising; in many cases they will have to operate in a very different way. Joining forces with JB Consulting also means that we can offer a full PR and marketing service.
“Jen is a remarkable young woman with a very personable approach to helping businesses. Together we will be able to provide a comprehensive PR, marketing and business development service.”
Jen said: “I’m thrilled to be joining forces with Eileen. Together we can offer a fully rounded service to our clients old and new. After the past year or so we as businesses need to be even more agile to survive. The support of JB Cumbria will enable our clients to move forward and not only survive, but thrive.
“Eileen has been my mentor, role model and confidante for many years – to partner with her in more formal ways is a dream come true. I can’t wait to get going and really give our clients what they need.”
An Ambleside woman will set off from home on Saturday (March 20) and walk all the way around Windermere for charity.
Liz Stobbart of Greenbank Road will tackle the 26-mile marathon to raise money for St John’s Hospice, Lancaster.
Gardener Liz and her partner Rob Powley have been training by walking the dog a little further than usual “and getting a few miles from home”.
Liz, a member of the Ambleside Sports organising committee, has never done such a distance before. “Every year when the (Brathay Windermere) marathon is on, I say I would love to do it, and never get on with it,” she said.
“Then I was talking to someone a few weeks ago who had done it on his birthday, so it set me thinking again and I said, right, I will do it.”
Liz chose to do the challenge this weekend while the roads are still quiet, before visitors are allowed back to the Lake District, as the Newby Bridge section of the route can be danerously busy with traffic.
She and Rob will set off from their house heading to Hawkshead, then down to Newby Bridge, and back up via Bowness and Troutbeck Bridge to Ambleside. They reckon the 26 miles will take them around nine or ten hours.
After deciding to get sponsored for her challenge, Liz chose the St John’s Hospice in Lancaster. “It’s local, and living in such small villages I think we all know someone they have helped, and they need all the support they can get. They get 30% from the NHS and they have to find the other 70% themselves from fundraising. It’s tough.”
She added: “Members of the Ambleside Sports team have been very supportive. We’re all looking forward to being back in action this summer. I love the whole event, helping to set up and take down the equipment.”
Runners are going to celebrate the return to organised training with a new event based at Fell Foot park at Windermere: We’re Back!
The backwards-running challenge will take place on Easter Thursday, April 1, and is organised by the local run coaching and events team, Jogging Pals.
This will be a Covid-secure event, with participants asked to tackle the route – around the meadow at Fell Foot – in groups of no more than two at a time.
From March 29 outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households will be allowed. Outdoor sports facilities such as tennis or basketball courts will reopen and organised adult and children’s sport, such as grassroots football, will also return.
Organiser Wayne Singleton said that he was thrilled to be offering a chance for runners to challenge themselves again, before the return later this year of his Run/Steam/Run events on the Ullswater Steamer and the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway.
Last year Wayne’s team had to cancel at the last minute a planned challenge on Wansfell , Ambleside, when the first lockdown came into place. The Wansfell Two-Step was due to see pairs of runners tackle the fell (uphill only) with legs tied together.
“We still can’t consider that event because of the need for social distancing,” said Wayne. “But we think a lot of people will enjoy a backwards run around the meadow at Fell Foot.”
The procedure is simple: from 10 am when the car par at Fell Foot opens, runners are asked to make their challenge at any time that morning. There will be no prizes for the fastest finishers, but runners are asked to make sure that someone photographs their efforts, and uploads those pictures onto the Jogging Pals facebook page. A winner will be chosen at random – a name from a hat – to win the prize, a signed copy of the new book about parkrun, How parkrun changed our lives, in which Fell Foot is featured.
Only people living in the locality, who are permitted to drive to Fell Foot for exercise, are allowed to take part, due to Government restrictions.
Nigel Holmes, above, a well-known medal winning retro runner from Manchester said: “Running backwards is great fun. If I lived nearby I would definitely love to have a go at this.”
Lucy Tickle, Senior Marketing and Communications Officer for the National Trust which owns Fell Foot said: “This is such a fun challenge. We have missed seeing our parkrunners here, and it will be lovely to see people going the other way around the meadow.”