As you may know, I volunteer at Bushy juniors parkrun. But something I had never done before is run the course to see what the runners have just experienced by the time they reach me to have their barcodes scanned.
It's a 2 kilometre course and this run is only open to junior age category runners (please remember to register and print your personal barcode beforehand - your barcode works at any parkrun worldwide). Parents that run with their children are asked to peel off at the very end to ensure that they do not cross the finish line as doing so may mess up the results!
So about 20 minutes before the runners arrived, I positioned myself on the start line, put my finger on my stopwatch start button, gave myself a 'ready..... go', hit the start button and off I went!
The first kilometre is run along the avenue of trees between Teddington gate and the fountain. This avenue is nice and wide, allowing the hundreds of runners to spread out and jostle for a comfortable position.
The run is entirely on grass apart from the times where you must cross the four tarmac paths that cross the course - people are usually kind enough to wait for runners to pass but remember they have as much right to use the park as we do. So keep an eye out and remember to say thank you to anyone that does stop.
As you near the 1 kilometre point at the far end of the avenue you will see some cones on the ground and a marshal with a big smile on their face! When you reach them you will do a 180 degree turn to your left around the very last tree.
The second kilometre heads back towards Teddington gate under the adjacent avenue of trees and is slightly narrower than the first, but as the runners would have spread out by this point there won't be any congestion.
After a while you'll soon be longing for that first glimpse of the finish line, but it takes ages to appear and by the time it does it still looks so far away!
The course is flat but you will find a few uneven bits where the ground dips down suddenly, so look out for them to avoid twisting your ankle. Also try to keep an eye out for stinging nettles - they tend to grow under the trees so if you keep to the centre of the grass path you should avoid them.
Finally you'll hear the encouragement, cheers and clapping from the parents and volunteers as you reach the last few metres.
Then you'll cross the line, the timer will log your time and another volunteer will give you your finishing token. After this you will take your finishing token and your own barcode (you did remember it, didn't you?) to one of the volunteers at the tables behind the finish line.
Your result will appear on the bushy juniors parkrun website a few hours later. If you forgot your barcode you won't get an official time in the results but please remember to give your finishing token back!
Once all of the runners had left, I ran it again (and was a tiny bit slower) and thanks to the wonder that is the 'freedom parkrun', I was able to log both efforts on my profile even though I ceased being a junior runner many years ago.