I had read a couple of blogs by Steven Hill about the new parkrun at Linwood in Renfrewshire. It’s a place that has fond memories for me as my favourite uncle, aunt and cousins lived there and I used to go my holidays there when I was young boy. As a family we never went on holiday, so it was just me and it was my ‘holiday’ home.
My late mum’s younger sister Margaret McDade and her husband Robert Rae had both moved there to work at the Rootes car factory, which was opened by Prince Phillip on 2 May 1963. The factory became famous for the manufacture of the Hillman Imp. At the peak of production, some sixty cars per hour were rolling off the assembly line and Linwood prospered. I was lucky to spend my time there when the town was in it’s heyday.
Sadly Rootes had financial problems and in 1973, they became a small part of the giant US Chrysler corporation , who wanted a foothold in Europe. Production of the Imp ceased in 1976 and the plant was sold to Peugeot Talbot in 1978. The factory struggled on with the Hunter, the Sunbeam and the Avenger but three years later Peugeot closed the plant. Some 6,000 people directly lost their jobs and another 12,000 were lost in the supplier chain and ‘corner shop’ effect. At a time when jobs were hard to come by, Robert was one of the lucky ones managing to find a job as a bus driver but the town of Linwood suffered badly.
More than thirty years later there are signs of recovery. As part of Renfrewshire Council £103m investment in the Building Better Communities programme, Linwood has a new Sport and Community Centre, the ON-X which opened in March 2013 as part of a £24m project. The Centre has three pools;an eight-court sports hall; fitness suite; four dance studios, athletic track and field area and an outdoor, full-size synthetic pitch and facilities for community groups. Since the 9th July 2016, it has also been home to the Linwood parkrun.
I decided to give it a try on Saturday 3rd September, the ninth staging of the event. As luck would have it, Strathclyde parkrun had been cancelled that day due to a triathlon taking place in the park and a number of regulars from Lanarkshire had decided to come to Renfrewshire, including fourteen from Motherwell AC. In all, some forty-five first timers were included in the day’s 119 parkrunners. As well as a few dogs and at least one baby in a buggy. I was there with Jack and Steven had volunteered to tail run with his daughter, after achieving a fantastic PB of 20:08 last week.
After warming up and chatting with loads of running buddies, we lined up for the 9:3oam Start. When the Race Director said that the pre-race announcements wouldn’t take long, she wasn’t joking and with the cries of ‘oh we’re off’ ringing in my ears, I started my Garmin and joined in with the others running with the hockey pitch on our left hand side. Whilst the others were on the narrow path, Jack and I kept out of their way by running on the adjacent grass, joining the path as it turned left at the far end of the pitch and then right, through the woodlands, towards Moss Road.
Jack hadn’t been too keen to put his harness on and I had hurt my back on Friday, so I wasn’t expecting too much from our performance but with an easier course than Pollok, I hoped that we would be able to dip under the 22 minute barrier for the first time. We weaved along the course, which changed from path to trail and back again. A sharp left at Moss Road and then another and then a long left curve took us to the end of the woods. At this point, I could see the heads of the those in front bobbing along above the hedges in the distance on our left. Another left turn and then one more and we were back at the Start line, so I knew that we had completed about half the 5k course. I also knew that we were working hard because I was feeling it.
‘Only 2.5k to go and Jack’s on for his PB’ I thought, in order to motivate myself to keep working hard even though it hurt. We turned left, this time before the hockey pitch, then right and rejoined the first lap. Because of all the wee twists and turns, we never really got a good view of who was in front of us, but most of the time we could see at least one Motherwell vest.
The marshals were great, all of them spurring us on at each turning as I shouted out to Jack ‘left, left’ or ‘right, right’ trying to keep him from taking too many wrong turns. There were white posts on our right indicating 600m, then 500m etc. I didn’t know if that was to the Finish line or not but used them anyway. With a cry of ‘way-bye’ we overtook another runner and headed towards the final strait. With my hamstring and back issues, there wouldn’t be any mad dash for the line but we still finished strongly, placing 17th.
‘Did you get your sub 22’ asked Neil Robbins, ‘I did indeed’ I replied as I my Garmin revealed a time of 20:06. I was delighted with that time and just as happy to get an official time of 20:08. My lack of attention at the Start may have cost us a couple of seconds but it doesn’t matter too much. My fastest ever 5k in a Scottish Athletics recognised event was 20:18 on 25th May last year at Victoria parkrun. In my 198th outing, I had smashed that by ten seconds, despite being out for nearly a year and not back to real training yet.
With the same time as Steven Hill’s parkrun PB, it’s maybe just a question of which one of us smashes our 20 min parkrun barrier first but at the moment my main target is to get my 200th under my belt, hopefully on 24th Sept at Pollok.
In the last race of their Championship Series, it was Motherwell’s Allan Cameron, running a superb PB of 16:49 who took the plaudits, ahead of team mate Mark Paterson 17:07, with Ian Carroll placing third in 17:11. St Mirren supporter Mark Gallacher ran his first sub 18, placing fifth in 17:54.
In the women’s event, Inverclyde’s Rachael Bushfield still recovering from injury set a new course record of 19:14 to take Gold, ahead of Claire MacAskill (20:22) and Gemma Taylor (21:42).
After our warm down, I joined in with the Motherwell runners and others in the cafe before visiting my uncle who still stays in the same house as he did all these years ago. Sadly, my last visit a few months ago had been at my aunt’s funeral, so it was good to see that he was in good form. Today was a much happier day than then. I’ll be back to run Linwood and catch up with him soon.
Many thanks to all the volunteers for putting on this great event and to all my running friends and buddies for making me and Jack feel so welcome. Photos from Linwood parkrun Facebook page.