Just like any publicity hungry actor. I would attend the opening of an envelope, if invited. So the first running of a new Brighton parkrun was not something I could miss. Better still, this one, at Bevendean Down, was advertised as off-road, hilly and trail shoes were advised. And, when I used to work at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, I sometimes used to run at lunchtimes from the University to Bevendean Down. So, with the redoubtable Sweder, I decided to be there for this historic moment.
I had worried that it would be hard to find, but the marshals had put clear signs in place to direct us. At the start, a number of runners and organisers milled around, and I spotted among them some of the aristocracy of Brighton and Sussex running. We were addressed through a megaphone by the race director, and taken to the start, near a dew-pond. This is a two-lap course, following the edge of the down, and we set off on a flat stretch, turning to start a long slow ascent that makes up two sides of the quadrilateral. A not inconsiderable wind was behind us as we climbed, and then in our faces as, having reached the top, we ran down again to the dew-pond. Then we did it all over again.
The views were splendid, inland over the downs, and out to sea across the Brighton roof-tops. Sweder set up ahead of me, tanned from his recent trip to Florida to wrestle marlins, and other Hemingwayesque feats. I was puzzled, therefore, on our second lap, when he passed me on the hill. For an explanation of this paradox, I refer you to his own account of the event.
On the last downhill I let myself go, trusting in the trail shoes, and overtook a couple of runners, but they fought back. My final time, 32:20, is a personal worst as far as parkruns go, but on this course the laws of physics as we know them do not apply. The going was not nearly as boggy as the organisers had suggested, and, though I had put on my trail shoes, I think I could easily have run it in road shoes.
So much more interesting than the conventional park runs, which are usually crowded dashes round suburban parks on paved surfaces, this is a splendid run and one I shall revisit — indeed I have volunteered to marshal it on my 61st birthday a few weeks hence.