Forgive me if I take a mild detour from running-based chat at the start of this post, but it’s necessary to welcome any Star Wars fans who might just be reading this. Star Wars fans? Yup.
You see, something a little strange happened the other day, and it seems to have resulted in a very slight spike in visitors to this website – and I’m guessing most of that extra traffic are Star Wars fans.
To explain… my job, you may or may not recall, involves writing about cars for a living. And so, on Friday May the 4th (spoiler alert: that date is significant…) I found myself flying from London to Dublin in order to collect a car, which I’d then take on a ferry to Holyhead on Anglesey in North Wales, before driving back to out office on the outskirts of London.
The flight was quite early in the morning, and having cleared security I was scouting around for some form of suitable breakfast and coffee when I spotted something a bit different on the Heathrow Airport information board: a list of flights which all related to Star Wars. Because, of course, it was the May the 4th. And, er, May the 4th be with you. Happy Star Wars day!
Amused by the sign, I snapped a picture on my phone, and while idly passing the time for my skimmed milk cappuccino to cool, decided to tweet it. Because many of my friends are of the age that great up with Star Wars, and I figured they’d find it funny.
The tweet had garnered a few retweets and likes from my friends by the time I boarded my flight to Dublin, but nothing too out of the ordinary. I didn’t think much more about it until I landed in Dublin and turned my phone back on. Then I looked at my Twitter and blinked. It had more than 500 retweets. Crazy.
And it didn’t stop. It’s calmed a bit now, but it’s actually still going up…
— James Attwood (@Atters_J) May 4, 2018
Turns out I was one of the first people to photograph the sign and tweet it – ahead of Heathrow’s own Twitter account – and it goes picked up and embedded in various websites. And retweeted by some notable accounts: Heart FM, X Games BMX legend Jamie Bestwick and even an expert from the Antiques Roadshow.
It was all very weird, especially since I can claim absolutely no credit for the genius of the Star Wars-themed display board – that was all the hard work of Heathrow’s PR and marketing team.
But, as noted, from Twitter’s analytics service it seems that tweet has caused a few people to click through to this site, so I wanted to use this opportunity to say hello to them, thank them for reading – and apologise profusely that you won’t find anything else as witty as that departure board here, just some inane rambling about things like sweets, what undulating means and whether you should eat bananas before or after a race from a bloke who used to be a bit fat, and now turns out to be not all that bad at running marathons and things…
Anyway, that said, there is a running aspect to my weekend tale – honest. Because I decided to take a bit of a detour on the way home from Dublin. The ferry was due into Holyhead just before 5pm on Friday evening, which meant if I’d driven straight home I wouldn’t have got there much before 10pm – probably later given that it was the Friday of a Bank Holiday weekend on the roads of Britain.
So I decided it made sense to break up the journey on the way. And that, brilliantly, also meant that I could take in a different parkrun on Saturday morning. But which to choose? I took far too long considering my options, working out how best to split my journey so that I didn’t have to drive too far on either Friday evening or Saturday morning.
That left me looking at Welsh/English border region and the West Midlands. Where there were still plenty of options. So then I scouted around for a parkrun that looked scenic, fun and worth doing, had easy parking and was quite close to a cheap hotel.
I also chickened out of a few. It’s not that I’m afraid of a hill challenge, but I didn’t want to push too hard. So while Wyre Forest parkrun appealed for the chance to take in a pleasant looking forest route, having looked at the elevation profile and discovered the final climb to the finish was nicknamed ‘cardiac hill’ I decided to look elsewhere.
In the end, I settled, rather randomly, on Shrewsbury, which had a parkrun that started in a park right next to the old town centre called The Quarry, and featured a loop that went down a tree-lined footpath along the banks of the River Severn.
From the website, it seemed all very pleasant – and with Britain basking in unseasonably pleasant Bank Holiday weather (although, it should be noted, that anything other than non-stop rain can be classed as unseasonably pleasant for a British Bank Holiday), it certainly was. The course was utterly beautiful, with the sunlight glinting off the river and dappling through the canopy of the trees, and Shrewbury’s historic building visible wherever you looked.
— James Attwood (@Atters_J) May 5, 2018
Most of my recent parkrun outings have been on my local Kingston course which, while flat, does include a fairly length bumpy and potentially muddy trail gravel section. So the fact Shrewsbury’s course was entirely on Tarmac park paths was hugely welcome – although the elevation was a bit more than expected.
The multi-lap course featured two trips up a short, steep hill in The Quarry park. The first time, right at the start, it was hard but achievable. But on the second time, just over 3km into the run, it felt a lot steeper and a lot tougher. In fact, it had 138 metres of elevation in, which seemed a surprisingly high amount.
But hey, you can’t be afraid of hills when running, and it was all part of the fun. Still, in hindsight, it made my sub-20 minute time seem even better.
And also made my think. That was my 154th parkrun, or which I’ve done 127 at Kingston. That’s not a surprise: it’s less than a kilometres from my house. But there are, at the moment, 529 parkruns in the UK alone. I’ve done 11 of them. That strikes me as a really very low percentage. Hmmm. Could be time to find myself more random excuses to make Friday night trips…