Pennies for parkrun or The Story of how Stoke Gifford Parish Council got it so Horribly Wrong

Ah parkrun. You all know how much I love it. Starting in Bushy Park in 2004 with just 13 runners, it has since grown to  850 parkruns worldwide in 12 different countries. So far there have been 14,858,757 runs, covering 73,255,862km worldwide. I don’t know about you but I think this is pretty incredible.

On their website they say “parkrun is all about inclusiveness and wellbeing. We want as many people as possible to feel part of a real local community brought together by our events”. The founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt says “no-one should ever have to pay to go running in their community regularly, safely and for fun.”

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And this is the key to what makes parkrun so utterly brilliant. There is no barrier to getting involved. You just need to throw on a pair of trainers, get to the home of your nearest parkrun and then walk, jog or run the 5k. It’s timed, so each week you can run against yourself, feeling utterly motivated when you shave off another couple of seconds and feel like maybe – just maybe – it felt a little easier this week compared to last week. It’s all run by volunteers (of which there have been 179,475 so far) and you do not have to pay to run. At a time when I’ve seen a lot of runners balking at the cost of their local 10k race on Twitter, the parkrun movement is a glorious antidote to that. The lack of cost is fundamental to its global success.

There are so many wonderful success stories of people who have become involved in parkrun who say that they probably wouldn’t be exercising without it. I saw Alyssa Willis on Twitter talking about how her local parkrun changed her life. The convenience of it made her feel like she had no excuse but to go and try it, and she lost 4 stone as a result. She is now training for her 2nd 10k.

So imagine her dismay when her local parkrun – Little Stoke parkrun – became the first to be told they need to charge runners £1 each by the local Parish Council so that they can contribute towards the upkeep of the paths. As this goes against the entire ethos of parkrun, they have no option but to close the run.

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Ok, but am I walking on glue here or do people already pay council tax for things like this? And why penalise a specific group of runners? If a random group of runners use it, or a group of mothers with pushchairs go walking there, or a wheelchair racing group use it, would they be charged as well? Or do the council feel more able to charge parkrunners simply because it’s a known organisation that regularly attracts up to 300 runners?

At a time when adult obesity is rising and the government is taxing sugary drinks and telling us that we need to move more because our NHS is struggling under the strain of obesity-related illnesses, why on earth would any council put up a barrier to fitness? It seems so unbelievably short sighted when you look into the longer term economic impact. If people stop exercising they open themselves up to physical and mental health problems, which then puts more strain on services within the community. For a brilliant breakdown on the value of parkrun, take a look at this excellent post by Professor Mike Weed.

At the Cambridge parkrun, if you drive you are charged a fee for the car park. No one quibbles this at all. When I go I car share or I get a train to Waterbeach and cycle the rest of the way. The Milton Country Park cafe also gets a HUGE amount of custom because of the parkrun. The queue is always enormous and personally I’ve been known to spend a decent amount getting coffee and the obligatory flapjack for Pete and a kale kick smoothie for myself (don’t be fooled – it’s usually followed by a pain au chocolat chaser when I get home). parkrun enhances a community on so many levels, but when you start charging people to run it, it can no longer fulfill its promise.

Parkrun Forever Free

The dismay in the parkrun community when the decision was passed by the Parish Council was clear to see. There were tears from people who were losing what has become a big part of their life, enhancing their health as well as their social circle. I desperately hope that parkrun successfully appeal this wretched decision and that the Council thinks about the good of their community rather than trying to make a short term profit with a long term negative impact. In the meantime, if you believe the folk of Stoke Gifford should be able to continue running for free, you can sign the petition here.

 

 

My Sporty Beauty Favourites

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited by TheeMiddleSis to a blogger event at L’Occitane Cambridge in partnership with beautiful accessories company Stella and Dot. It was brilliant to be able to meet some other bloggers from the area, but I did think that I wouldn’t really be able to blog about the event itself as it didn’t really align with my blogger “brand” (such as it is. Hi mum!).

But then I was preparing for a run with Ely Runners and I realised that there are actually some beauty items that as a runner / cyclist / general sporty type – with the constant exposure to the elements that I have to deal with day after day – I would be lost without. So here are my top 10 “sporty” (ish) beauty items.

Estee Lauder DayWear Moisturiser

First things first – my face moisturiser has to have SPF. This is something I won’t scrimp on under any circumstances, but luckily Estee Lauder’s DayWear Oil Free SPF25 moisturiser is spot on. Not only does it tick the usual box of reducing the first signs of ageing such as dullness and fine lines, but it also helps to create a barrier against pollutants which is ideal for city-centre cyclists, as well as offering their “best UVA defence”. From a user point of view it’s super light so sinks into the skin really quickly, and it has a fresh cucumber scent which is lovely first thing in the morning. Whether this will be enough to protect my skin against the elements in winter remains to be seen, but it’s been perfect for me this summer.

Body Moisturiser

With all the cycling and running I do the skin on my legs and arms is exposed to the elements a lot, which means attractively dry and sometimes even scaly skin. Delightful. I have never found a body moisturiser that I’ve been faithful to as there has always been something I didn’t like about it, whether it’s the smell or the fact that it takes an AGE to soak into the skin. Typically, the one I really fell for was one my mum brought back from the US for me, which means I can’t easily get my mitts on it in the UK. It’s by Bath and Body Works and it’s their Cashmere Glow Ultra Shea Body Cream. I loved everything about it, from the smell to the texture to its incredible ability to keep my skin hydrated for hours. But until they open a shop in the UK (please please please please please!) I need an alternative, so I was pretty impressed with the L’Occitane Almond Milk Concentrate samples I received at the blogger event. I’ve used them for three days now and my skin seems to be happier as a result so I’m planning to invest in a full size version. Whether or not I’ll like it enough to become loyal to it remains to be seen.

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Estee Lauder DayWear, £42  *  L’Occitane Milk Concentrate, £38

Insect Repellent

The first time I went running with Ely Runners I got attacked by what can only have been an invisible, poison-filled dinosaur. Or it was possibly a horsefly. Either way, my bite became infected and my ankle swelled up so much you couldn’t make out the ankle bone any more. This led to about 8 days of no running, an interaction with Louis de Bernieres where he charmingly informed me that Rupert Brooke died from an infected insect bite, and left me with a lovely scar to add to my already large collection on my right leg (I’m somewhat accident-prone). Needless to say I swiftly invested in some Ben’s Insect repellent which smells faintly of citrus and is only a little bit greasy, and I’ve been bite free on my evening runs ever since.

Suntan Lotion

This is an absolute no brainer. If you’re going to be out in the sun, whether it’s in summer or winter, you need to protect your skin. I never wear anything lower than SPF25 (my go-to is SPF30) because I have pasty Irish skin and burn ridiculously easily. However there is obviously a big problem with vitamin D deficiency in the sunlight-sparse UK at the moment, so you need to try and strike a balance between getting enough sunlight for your bones but not too much for your skin. Generally I don’t wear suntan lotion on my cycle into work in the morning when the sun is lower and I can get a bit of vitamin D goodness on my arms and parts of my back (I have a cracking racer back tan thanks to my obsession with Sweaty Betty Athlete Vests) but I slather it on before a running session. At the moment I’m favouring Ambre Solaire Clear Protect.

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Ben’s Insect Repellent, Approx £7  *  Ambre Solaire Clear Protect £7.50

Elemis Sp@Home Aching Muscle Super Soak

The name of this product pretty much tells you everything you need to know, but basically you dump three capfuls of this under running water for your bath, and the extracts of birch, juniper, clove, alpine lavender, wild thyme and blue chamomile, combined with sea salt, warm the muscles and recharge the body. As you can probably tell I copied and pasted that directly from their own description, but only because it explains how good it is far better than I ever could. If this is a little bit pricey for you Waitrose do a decent alternative as part of their SenSpa range.

Compeed

The ONLY thing to use on a post-race blister if you’re unlucky enough to get one (or more likely in may case, if you get one from wearing stupid heels on a night out and then have to run the next day).

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SenSpa Detox Muscle Soak, £5.95  *  Compeed, from £4.25

Batiste Dry Shampoo

Forget your Nike Flyknits or your TomTom watches. The best thing ever to happen to runners is dry shampoo. I get my hair dyed pink by Gemma at Salon 46 four times a year, and to protect the colour I have to wash it as little as I can socially get away with. Cue the miracle that is dry shampoo. When I’ve done a weights session, badminton or yoga I can spritz this on the roots and I’m good to go in a matter of seconds. Obviously if I’ve done an epic sprint or hill session I’m going to have to wash my hair properly, but dry shampoo means I can get away with washing it three times a week instead of six or seven. I usually pick a volume one because I have fine hair, but I’m a sucker for nice-smelling products so am partial to the cherry and oriental ones too.

Mama Mio Lucky Legs

I seriously love this stuff. Mama Mio are experts in pregnancy skincare, and I’m not sure I remember how I stumbled across this product but I’ve been hooked for some time. The cooling gel with energising oils and spearmint is meant to ease that heavy feeling (a third more blood in your circulation system when pregnant + water retention = leaden legs) so I find it AWESOME slathered on after a long run or hill session.

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Batiste Dry Shampoo, £3.99  *  Mama Mio Lucky Legs, £19.50

Lip Balm

I’m constantly fighting with my dry, chapped lips, and at the moment I’m obsessed with Maybelline’s Baby Lips. I love it when lip balms have a bit of colour to them, and the one I’m most taken with is Pink Shock from their Electro Range. I have about four of that colour chucked into different bags but of course I can never find one when I really need to.

Deodorant

Of any kind. Seriously, if I have to explain this one to you I don’t want to be friends with you.

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Maybelline Baby Lips, £2.99  *  Dove Invisible Dry, £2.30