Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Westerfolds Wednesday: So Scott, where's my red shirt?

It's taken me almost two years but I am finally a member of the parkrun 50-Club! Of course, with no national clothing sponsor*, I'm not sure when we'll be getting the next batch of red shirts... and then I'd be down the list as we have not had new red parkrun 50 Club shirts for a while now.

The main reason why it took me so long to hit 50 parkruns would have been the lapse between my 6th and 7th parkruns. parkrun #6 was St Peters' 61st, and then my next parkrun was their 81st event! While I was not that consistent with Westerfolds parkrun in its first year (33/53 - although seven of the "missed" parkruns were volunteer stints where I gave up my run), it was far more consistent than I had been with St Peters. Being a smaller event has a lot to do with why I like Westerfolds parkrun so much more! You actually get to have a chat to people, and you remember faces more easily too.

Westerfolds parkrun event #57 was actually a little bit special, as Westerfolds parkrun First Timer Karen Thorp smashed the women's course record! The women's course record progression started with a strong 19:43 at a launch (October 2013), but took a few months to be beaten (19:22, March 2014), and was taken down to 19:11 in July. With 18:19, Karen slashed almost a minute off the previous best performance! She had little ones to go home to and her wedding the next day, but it would be great to have her back - she's also the first woman in Westerfolds parkrun's short history to be the first finisher overall.

The Westerfolds parkrun Women's Sub 20 club.

Hannah Wearne and Gennine Lamb were the second and third women to finish, with Hannah picking up a PB! Gennine was less than 30 seconds off her PB time, but obviously had plenty left in the tank as she ran a superb 1:17:51 at the City2Sea the next day. Surely a parkrun PB is just around the corner for Gennine!

The men finished in the same order that they had hit the hill - Derek Allan completed the 5km in a PB time of 19:04, while Jeremy Watson and Tony Langelaan finished a little further behind, but with only four seconds separating the second and third finishers.

It was definitely a good morning for running a quick parkrun, with 32 of the 92 parkrunners going home with a new personal best time (34.8%). We hadn't had a percentage that high since the last week of August (35.7%, although our best PB percentage was back in December 2013 when we hit 48.7%). We've never had an event with pacers, but no-one has requested that as far as I know. I wouldn't mind running a handicap event at some point as I think that would be fun. While it could be labour intensive, I already have a spreadsheet set up for it! :)

The parkrun itself was fairly uneventful for me (aside from it being my 50th, and something must have been said at the run briefing as I had a few congratulations thrown my way as the parkrunners ran past). With the City2Sea on the next day, I had planned to take The Dog with me again. But it was 7am, when I zipped up my backpack, that she poked her head out from under the covers. I knew that if I waited for her to wake up, go to the toilet and do her morning business we'd arrive at parkrun far too late to pick up the head start we needed to not slow all the volunteers down!

Despite the lack of four-legged accompaniment, I still set off early as I wanted to hit the 2.5km mark before the parkrunners streamed past. However, once I got to the bench and took some photos using other users of the park I realised that the shot just wasn't going to work!

The top of the climb isn't a bad spot for portraits, but the runners would be running uphill...
It's amazing how quickly this area dried out after winter.
I still think it's a good spot for a photo, but I need to wait until the grass height drops.

There were no nearby trees that were suitable for climbing to help look over the tall grasses in the area, so I needed to find another spot. I really wanted to find somewhere that our photographer volunteers didn't typically go, and I wanted it to be a spot where I could focus on someone and yet show there were others behind (or even take a photo of the conga line). The next point where the course would slightly bend back on itself was to small climb to "naked tree", and just before the start of the main climb.

Naked tree is a relatively young tree that didn't have that many leaves when I started parkrunning at Westerfolds, and is at the top of the bump before The Hill. So it's a bit of a landmark for me - I know that if I can run the whole way to that point, that I will then I have a very short respite (about 20 to 30m) before the start of The Hill. And The Hill hurts no matter how fresh you think you are!

Aside from being yet another uphill section, the field has thinned out at this point. This makes conga-line shots a pipe dream, although it does give you more time between parkrunners to take individual photos (and gives your camera time to save them, unless it's a whizz-bang DSLR).

I soon realised that it wasn't a pleasant spot to take photos (for the parkrunners) so I went back to the start of The Hill. I had set myself up there first - hoping to take a shot showing the parkrunners making their way up The Hill. But when the pointy end (i.e. the fast folk) came through, I found they didn't really fit in the frame! I use a teleconverter on my point-and-shoot Olympus and when that's on I essentially have a fixed zoom lens. To open up the frame I need to unscrew the teleconverter and change a setting in the menu - and I really don't have time to go through that when there's one parkrunner approaching after another!

What looks like a short distance here...

... extends on the lowest part of The Hill...

... and you can barely fit two people in the shot before the disappear behind the trees along the middle of The Hill!

Then by the time I sorted out the correct shutter speed (the fixed zoom means fixed aperture, so that's one less setting to worry about, I think half the field had already gone through. Out of 92 parkrunners I only uploaded 37 photos - discarding any that were out of focus, blurry, or if the parkunning subject had their eyes closed or looked like they were suffering too much! (eg. blood noses) I think I'm getting the hang of how to take photos I like, but my preference for "action portraiture" means that I really need my camera to save photos at a much faster rate than it currently does (but that may be my fault for choosing to save images in both JPEG and RAW formats).

Aside from being a nice (and different from the usual) spot to pick up photos, being at the base of The Hill meant I was next to the course sign saying, "It's just a hill, get over it." While this in itself isn't so amazing as I have run past it on numerous occasions, Saturday was the first time I was near it while kids were running past with a parent. That's when I heard it.

"It's just a hill, Dad. Get over it!" 

Followed by cheeky sniggers, I realised that this sign must have been one of the few times that the young boy was allowed to give his dad a bit of lip. I heard a similar phrase when the next youngster came past. And although it was with his mum, the tone and attitude were exactly the same! It was probably the highlight of the morning for me. 

When the tail runner came through I decided to take the "short-cut" up the hill - you cover the same elevation but over a shorter distance. So it's not really easier! As I approached the top I realised one of the cheeky boys was racing his dad up the hill! This was the same boy who looked miserable at the end of the run a few weeks ago when I was barcode scanning on a rainy day, so it was great to see that he was really enjoying himself... and on The Hill!

There was a gap until the tail runner came through again, so I tried to explore vantage points from near Manor House. It was a bit of a fail, but I did discover that one of the picnic tables is very unbalanced. Too much weight on the seats for too long, and the table could flip over. For some reason, my reaction to this imbalance was to jump onto the tabletop rather than jump off. While standing on the tabletop did feel more stable, the parkrun course wasn't very visible from this point and so the death-defying** experience was all for nought.

There is also a small garden in the front of the house with some boulders. The smaller of the two boulders is easier to climb, but a small tree impedes the views of the parkrun course. I ran out of time, but next time I shall investigate the second (larger) boulder and find out if it is (a) climbable, and (b) allows the parkrun course to be seen.

* It used to be Adidas, and so I won't be buying any of the Adidas parkrun merchandise on Wiggle. I don't understand why I should support Adidas (because common sense tells me that they would still be making some profit from the parkrun merchandise, and I haven't read anything to say that this is not the case) when they no longer support parkrun in Australia? Although I did pick up the parkrun 10th Anniversary T-shirt, because I liked it and it wasn't Adidas.

** Kidding.


  1. Tough job being a photographer! I've done that 3 or 4 times at Tuggers - we take as many pics as possible, and all are uploaded to Facebook, even the running ugly ones!

    Gee, I'm really disappointed about the shirt sponsor giving up - next Sat is my 50th - hopefully when they get a new sponsor it won't be a shirt for your 100th run!

    1. We've had children as photographers in the past, and all kinds of artistic angles were applied. :) I hate photos of me pulling faces (usually at the finish line), so I don't upload similar ones for other people if I'm doing the uploading that day.

      I have heard that once the shirt situation is sorted that they'll go through the backlog, but it's just something I heard rather than anything official. Perhaps it's just wishful thinking. That being said, if parkrun (Global) controls the parkrun merchandise, then why don't our Club shirts come from there?

      In the meantime, I am enjoying skipping purchasing anything Adidas for the moment* - it's my one-woman-stand against the ridiculousness of doing the advertising for a company that doesn't support my local parkrun (of course that may not mean that I'd purchase the Adidas/parkrun gear if it didn't have an Adidas logo on it).

      *Unless it's a fluorescent orange City2Sea singlet that was 50% off. Fluoro is my kryptonite.

  2. Congratulations on your 50th - huge achievement! I've only managed 2 so far - definitely couldn't face one last weekend with City2Sea looming on Sunday!

    Very interesting to hear about the ups and downs (literally!) of parkrun photography. I'm lucky to manage anything non-blurry, even when people are standing still but keep trying to convince my photographer husband to volunteer and put his talents to good use.

    1. Perhaps he's worried that turning up to photograph parkrun will turn into doing a parkrun eventually! :)