Saturday the 8th of August was Cuerden Valley parkruns second birthday. Nothing remarkable about that statement as we have had hundreds of Event second birthdays in the past 11 years. Every birthday is special and it’s always a treat to be at these celebrations. What was remarkable is that Cuerden Valley parkrun, otherwise known as “The Valleys parkrun” or by some as “Lancashiretough parkrun”, deposed their standing King and Queen and anointed their incumbent King and Queen. It was a fairly bloodless experience with the past royalty standing by and applauding the incumbents. Known locally as the King and Queeen of the Valleys, these two individuals obtain special “Royal” powers for a year, representing their parkrun wherever they are willing and able, to promote and defend their parkrun. There was no election or democratic vote to decide on the chosen pair, no, they had to earn this right. And they did so by running their little cotton socks off. Many of you will recognise this as the yearly points competition.
Now I could be wrong but what I witnessed yesterday was unique in my experience and brings a wonderful twist to the points competition. Two parkrunners, one male and the other female, have worked hard all year to accumulate the most points by running and volunteering at their event. The prize for achieving this wonderful accolade is that they get to represent their Event at the town hall and in schools or wherever the opportunity is offered. At Cuerden Valley parkrun, they are supported by the wonderful core team led by the indomitable Pita Oates. They are not forced to do anything they don't want to do. Indeed, this is an honour for anyone willing to serve.
And so it was that King John Wiseman and Queen Yvonne Johnson were publically deposed following a eulogy presented by Pita acknowledging their support and role. From all accounts they were brilliant royals! This was followed by the crowing of the new King, King Chris (Chris Charnley), who received a large, extended crown made from what appeared to be wattle sticks. King Chris was acknowledged for his contribution and then we proceeded to the coronation of the Queen.
Such is the generosity of the Lancashire and Valley folk that Anneke Crosby, the incumbent, passed her crown to Finty Royle, a thirteen year old, who until recently, had led the competition after being first lady home no less that 22 times before falling ill and being hospitalised with a heart complaint.
Anneke couldn't attend the ceremony, so wrote a lovely letter extolling Finty’s achievements and asking that the crown be passed on. By special permission from the hospital, Finty was allowed out to attend the ceremony.
“Finty, you need to be wary of these folks as I understand they plotted secretly for weeks to arrange this day all without your knowledge”.
Nevertheless, Finty was on hand to receive the crown and went on to read a poem she had written whilst she recuperated in Hospital:
Faster than those still lay in their bed
With shoes as light as feathers, or as heavy as lead
Charging along like a swarm of bees
Down the steep hill and into the trees
Out at the top and round the Heron pond
Over the troll bridge and beyond
Every Saturday without fail
Regardless of the British weather that does prevail
Crowds turn up for the 5K run
To socialise and have lots of fun
And again, in the wink of an eye
Saturdays come, and just fly by.
Today at Cuerden, we are turning two
People here from the beginning, people new
Volunteers, paid with a smile
Cheering runners through the last mile
As they marshal, young and old
Frozen to the bone, tired and cold?
But it’s the spirit of parkrun
That makes it fun.
Now back to the troll bridge where a marshal gazes
By the field that is full of daisies
Here is the crossover, and the river
High-five another passing runner
We keep on going, our determined souls
To meet our SMART individual goals
We are the parkrun community, together we stand
Here to encourage, to give a hand.
No-one can prevent the spirit of the run
It is the people who make parkrun
So happy birthday everyone!
Almost every visit that I make to a parkrun is special. I recently visited Roundshaw Downs, Worcester and now Cuerden Valle parkruns, where at each of these events the most special thing is the interaction between the people. The community! Some courses are prettier than others. Some are tougher than others but this appears to be insignificant in the scheme of things. What strikes me on every new visit is the strength of belonging, the collective ownership of the event and the care and attention shared amongst the folks. This is what parkrun is. I wouldn't have thought you could bottle this but something tells me we already have.