Wednesday 4 February 2015

Gravesend junior parkrun 14

When I asked Matilda what she wanted to do upon waking on Sunday (1 February) she replied with a very enthusiastic 'SWIMMING!!!'. The swimming pool in Dartford is currently undergoing refurbishments so we have been going to Cascades in Gravesend (aka North Downs Run HQ).

General admission to the pool is from 10.30am which fitted in perfectly with a quick visit to Gravesend junior parkrun. So we packed our swimming bags, stuck on our running gear and headed over to the riverside leisure area in Gravesend.

It was a very cold morning and Matilda wasn't overly keen to run at first, but we walked over to the start area and by the time the mass warm up session had finished she was raring to go. So much so that I didn't even spot her as she eagerly headed over to the start line. Fortunately, one of my running buddies Angela was there and she kindly let me know that Matilda had already lined up.

one [photo: paul johnston]

As everyone was forming on the start line I said a quick hello to BuggyRunningDad who was there with his children. I had been given an invitation to run with Matilda so I hung around at the back knowing that I could let the kids get going and then catch up with Matilda as the runners began to thin out.

As the runners headed off and the crowd of spectating parents and volunteers began to clear, I was faced with the sight that pretty much broke my heart. Matilda was standing there looking around for me and calling my name. I rushed over to her where she explained that she had fallen over during the start and hurt both of her knees. She kept saying 'Daddy, it was too tight' in reference to there being too many people squeezed into a small space (she has confirmed that my interpretation was indeed what she meant).

two [photo: paul johnston]

In order to try to take her mind off of her grazed knees and to try to prevent her from getting too cold, I suggested that we carry on around the course and we walked the first hundred metres or so with the tail runner. As we walked along, she remained pretty upset and by now she was also shivering so I suggested that we should go back to the car, which she agreed would be the best thing to do.

In order to warm her up I started the engine and within a few minutes she was playing with the stereo (I had no idea it could pump out so much volume) and the hot air blowers in the car. Her knees were slightly grazed but she soon forgot about the fall. Now nice and toasty we got into our respective seats and headed off to the swimming pool where we an absolutely fantastic time.

three [photo: paul johnston]

When we arrived home I spent some thinking about the start area at Gravesend junior parkrun which is fairly narrow, is bordered on one side by a brick wall and features a short sharp downhill. This combination didn't seem to be problematic when the numbers were lower, but now that the event is attracting larger numbers (68 junior runners + parents) it is definitely in need of a re-think...

... which was why I was happy to read in the event report that the start point of the run is being reviewed. You'll never get that many children to line up sensibly and smaller ones like Matilda will unintentionally get themselves right in the thick of the action without realising that they are at risk of being swept off their feet. I'd definitely say that it needs to be moved to a wider area that is flat to minimise the risk of future start line falls. There are wider paths on the course so hopefully changing it will be quite straightforward. I told Matilda about the possible change to the start area and she responded with a big 'Yay!'.

four [photo: paul johnston]

Matilda's incident was captured in a series of four photos by the photographer on the day and just looking at them really breaks my heart all over again.

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