Mel at Maidstone parkrun 24/07/21

Kerstin's cursing but Simon Cope(s)

It's parkrun pandemonium at Maidstone as runABC South reporter Alan Newman enjoys a 'quiet' Saturday morning with his wife Sue at their local event, as he explains...

We woke early, roused by the sound of a huge thunderclap – the starting pistol that signalled a new day and a further step towards normality in these uncertain post-Covid times. Today already felt different. It was 6:00am and parkrun was back in England after an absence of 70 Saturdays!

My wife Sue was first up and we enjoyed a light breakfast in bed. She had spent lockdown undergoing treatment for neck and throat cancer and we decided to volunteer for the return of our local Maidstone parkrun, as neither of us was feeling quite ready to participate as runners. 

Our plan to cycle to the start was ditched in favour of the car as it was bucketing down. Then the Maidstone parkrun fairies intervened and the rain stopped just in time for the run. We were allocated the furthest points on the course to marshal; equipped with pink hi-viz vests, a defibrillator and first aid kit, plus a radio that was more walkie than talkie (as the battery was a bit like us – past its best) and we jogged to our posts to earn our joint 195th volunteer credits.

Milestones are big in the world of parkrun and one that stood out on Saturday was the 100th parkrun notched up by M75 Mel Paszkowski – a 25-minute runner (pictured above, arms aloft) who was determined to take his first opportunity to reach the ton after spending lockdown immobilised in a boot for two months, followed by two months of intensive physio for a ruptured achilles tendon. Mel walked the course in 46:12 with his mate Dave Thornby. 

My marshal post was eventful. While directing runners onto and back off the 'wobbly' Blue Bridge into Whatman Park the leading lady, Kerstin Sung (Maidstone Harriers) slipped and fell heavily, cutting her knee. She had been literally flying in fifth overall at the time.      

With runners passing me front and back; a dodgy radio in one hand and a mobile phone to the Run Director in the other, I was hugely relieved when Simon Cope, of the friendly Bacon Butty Brigade, stopped to offer his battlefield surgery skills to patch up the unfortunate Kerstin.

With Simon escorting the bloodied but unbowed Kerstin back to the finish and my incident report phoned through, I could finally relax and enjoy the many thank yous and Covid-compliant air high fives from grateful runners who were clearly delighted to be back in action after so long. 

Thankfully, the defibrillator stayed in its rucksack, as 202 finished the 368th Maidstone parkrun in 1:07:22 behind lead runners Edward Hatfield (18:04) and Leona Franklin (21:36).

On our jog back to hand in our volunteer kit, Sue and I (pictured below) shared tales of friends we hadn't seen for ages who had wished Sue well in her return to health and of so many from the parkrun community who went out of their way to show their appreciation for our efforts, which made the early start so much more worthwhile.

Alan & Sue at Maidstone parkrun

We've missed you, parkrun, welcome back. But maybe we'll take the easier option and run next time! 

Images courtesy Maidstone parkrun 

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