small park BIG RUN is NOT a race!

One of the small park BIG RUN organisers ran in a fabulous fell race on Tuesday evening. It was exceptionally well organised, technical, friendly and fast! What struck him, once he got his breath back, was that as well as some notable similarities to our own event there were some very marked differences, well worth a little muse on. Read on to discover some of those musings.

The Burbage Skyline fell race is ten rugged kms in a figure of eight of rough tracks, paths, rocks, bogs, hills and even a couple of small river crossings around the top of the hills ringing the beautiful Burbage Valley. The pace is fast and even if it wasn’t in the plan, this runner couldn’t help but try to keep up with the others!

Despite turning myself inside out with effort I didn’t feature in the top half of the results! No shame there, there are some seriously impressive runners and the winning time would have been very impressive had it been around a flat track.

But it was illuminating that the way I measured my success was against others; every time I overtook someone, there was a small twinge of satisfaction and likewise when I was overtaken, something I had to get quite used to on the first hill, I was a tiny bit peed off!

Now, everyone who ran the race will have different motivations and targets – and no criticism is intended when I say that in the main I felt this was a very competitive race. It felt notably different to our own run/walk/hop/skip and juggle of an event!

In contrast to being a race, I think the small park BIG RUN is better viewed as a challenge. And though you can measure yourself and your effort – it is more with yourself and not against others that you take that measurement. The targets are personal. For some one lap is the goal and the achievement is high. In 2022 my dearly departed Dad, contending with dementia managed a lap, only months before he passed away.

The race’s great and much missed friend Graham Birkin (pictured here) did his lap in very poor health but walking with the loving aid of friends and family – no small achievement.

Others like Nick, Maggie, Davor, Cécile and others have done gargantuan efforts of up to 24 hours. One runner completed 155 laps but was still slightly regretful they hadn’t made it to the magic 100 miles!!! And to this end, they are coming back this year to try again.

Some set themselves a marathon, half marathon or laps target. Others challenge themselves not with numerical targets but with group plans like teams of runners filling hourly slots to fill up the whole day, or individuals doing one lap every hour for 24 hours, others just running the hours of darkness. Some arrive at 4am to greet the sun and some to reclaim their park. Some have hidden challenges that make it difficult to even make it to the park. For a refugee the bus fare could be the challenge. And others do it to raise money for the charities we support.

Many simply walk around the circuit with their friends and family, satisfied in the knowledge they are celebrating freedom of movement, waving flags and showing friendship and solidarity with Palestinians.

And some simply eat cake and drink tea – which is in its own right a wonderful thing to do!

All challenges, all different, all personal but all on the same course with lots of different people in a spirit of friendship.

What everyone has in common is that they are there – in the park, in the same place. A joint and joyous effort that affirms community spirit, friendliness, companionship and solidarity. All power to you!

small park BIG RUN is – in case you haven’t heard – on the weekend of 22/23 June.

You can sign up here.

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