For the love of numbers: parkrun and trivia

Parkrun is all about numbers. And we don’t mean the 5k that folk run every Saturday, several of those folk staying with us regularly to run at our local events.

It’s an event – habit, cult, trend – that attracts those who are attracted to statistics, and we thought about this while reading the latest book by Mark Mason, one of our favourite writers (who hasn’t yet stayed here, but we live in hope).

Mark is a lover of trivia, “the little facts that slip down the back of life’s sofa”. He wrote our favourite travel guide, Move Along the Bus, literally the journey from Land’s End to John o’Groats by public buses, and now we’re enjoying Mail Obsession, a journey round Britain by postcode.

For example, about WR (Worcester) he presents us with this: the village of Bricklehampton has the longest place-name in Britain not to repeat any of its letters.

So when a neighbour of ours drove all the way to Inverness just to do a parkrun that begins with “I”, we thought how much Mark would love parkrun (AOWALC – all one word, always lower case), with its love of acronyms (NENYD – nearest event not yet done), and the weekly reminder DFYB (don’t forget your barcode), and the way it’s attracted geeks galore.

Our neighbour is an alphabeteer, that is, someone who wants to run a parkrun beginning with every letter of the alphabet. All she has left to do now in the UK is J (Jersey, coming up soon) and U (oh bother, Ulverston, why did you call your new event Ford parkrun?) There are Zs in Poland. There are – as we write – no Xs anywhere.

But she’s not an ultra alphabeteer, that is, someone working their way methodically through the entire list alphabetically, so Abingdon before Albert park before Alexandra Palace. She is, however, a member of the Cowell club, open to parkrunners who have done more than 20 different events and who wear a yellow and black cowl with a cow logo to recognise fellow obsessives.

A man called Paul Freyne is out in the lead. Mark Mason would love this: Paul (as we write) has done 426 parkruns in different locations; 62 of these were overseas. In total, there are currently 296 parkrun tourists who have run 100 or more different parkruns.

There are now parkruns in some 20 countries, with currently 519 in UK, the toughest of which is our very own Whinlatter Forest with an elevation of 674 feet. (The flattest is Selby, with just three feet of climbing in 5k.) Our nearest is Fell Foot at Newby Bridge, which ranks number 308 in the elevation rankings, with a total climb of 118 feet. Keswick, in at number 355, has 144 feet of climbing.

Parkrunners at Fell Foot
Parkrunners at Fell Foot

The next step, of course, is to move up a distance, and here the Lake District has every number you could possibly want to count to. Wainwrights? We’ve got 214 of them to climb. Want to run 10k, and come home with a Christmas pudding? We’ve got our own race coming up later this year.

Tick list for the Wainwrights
Tick list for the Wainwrights

We also have our own Langdale half marathon and full marathon coming up this autumn, and each spring we have the ASICS Windermere marathon, which some folk run ten times in ten days.

Mark Mason might not be a runner, but he’d love the trivia and the statistics collected by runners. There are parkrun tourists who have never repeated a parkrun, tourists who run new parkruns only when their football team is playing away. There are tourists who tour for the statistics, tourists who tour for the terrain, tourists who tour for the people and tourists who tour for the cake: there seems to be a disproportionate number of cake lovers among parkrunners.

Factfile: Stay with us and it will take you about 35 minutes to drive to Fell Foot or 39 minutes to drive to Keswick parkrun. The Langdale half and full marathons are on October 20. The Christmas Pudding 10k is on December 8.  We are currently working on an app that will tell you how many parkruns you have to run to burn up the calories from an Elterwater Hostel breakfast.