The longest parkrun is a "tradition" started in the northern hemisphere when on the day of the summer solstice parkrunners run as many of the parkrun courses as they can. Of course, when it's their summer solstice, it's our winter solstice so although the weather forecasts were a little sketchy, a band of intrepid parkrunners gathered in the early morning light to start the tradition here in the West.
Although we only have three active parkruns, it was decided we also visit the proposed courses for the two imminent parkruns, making the program: Aveley Park, Joondalaup, Claisebrook Cove, Canning River and Rockingham. 5 events at 5km each meant for 25km of social running; some people chose to attend fewer events but many opted to attempt all five.
Aveley parkrun is scheduled to commence on 6 July. The course is predominately flat, starting with a lap around the beautiful park and its waterways then following the footpath for a few km then turning back and undoing what was just done. The longest parkrunners started at a sedate pace, chatting and laughing, but once the course was figured out the pace at the front increased; but this was only the first event of five so no-one took things too seriously. Of course there was the congratulatory claps and cheers as each runner crossed the line (a gesture which would grow in importance throughout the day).
Joondalup is still in the planning stage and the last time many of the parkrunners had visited Neil Hawkins Park was for the Half Marathon a few months earlier. Joondalup will be an "unusual" course for it has a net downhill! We started at the top of the park and headed south on the sealed path before turning north onto the unsealed track which is closer to the lake. The running atmosphere was still very relaxed, jovial in fact (IMHO) and was thoroughly enjoyable. Like at Aveley, every runner was given the rock-star welcome as they crossed line.
Many runners have graced the Claisebrook Cove parkrun before, so with very little fanfare, we all just set off. The 10km already run was starting to show for some people, as did the interval between efforts driving to each location; this highlighted the importance of warming up properly and doing some stretches before and after each effort. At the end of the run, the applause was growing louder as more support from the sidelines was called upon as the runners climbed "heart-break hill". As it was close to midday, lunch was taken in the park at the finish, a good time to top up the energy reserves; 15km done, 10 to go.
By the time we arrived at Canning River parkrun, the weather had turned and the cool but sunny conditions became colder and wet. A little drizzle was not going to dampen our spirits, but heavy showers started to wear thin! (Thin enough that one un-named cut the corner ) Although the weather may have been a little gloomy, the atmosphere at the finish area was the opposite.
By the time we arrived in Rockingham for the final push, the rain had stopped but it was still cool and the breeze on the coast was considerably stronger than further inland. Still, we all took our positions on the starting line and headed out for kilometres 20 to 25. For some, they remained buoyant, for others the distance was telling, but everyone finished what they set out to achieve; some finished more than they thought they could. After the shouts, claps and cheers brought in the last runners, we retired to a warm venue for some refreshing beverages, hot chips and tall stories.
I had a great time, and although my legs were a little weary the next day, it was well worth the effort. It might not be too sensible to attempt a longest parkrun on 22 December (our summer solstice) but then again, we're parkrunners and are known to do silly things from time to time, so we'll just have to wait and see?
Thanks go to Jon Storey for making many of the arrangements and letting us know of this northern tradition.