How many runners?

This short post is inspired by a young boy at a parkrun I attended a little while ago. It was a little before 9:00 and people were beginning to amass in the general vicinity of the starting line. All around me were visions of multicoloured excitement. There were dozens of people in short shorts, colourful vests, extravagantly-laced dazzling shoes (okay, most of them were pretty muddy, but I am sure that they had been dazzling once upon a time) and gloriously garish jackets. People stood chatting, some stretched, some chatted whilst stretching, others stretched as they chatted.

I took the opportunity to walk, purposefully, one way and then the other. I think it was to try and stretch my legs out a bit, but it may have been because I didn’t know anyone there and I needed something to do to prevent me from looking as though I was just standing there on my own. Which is exactly what I looked like, of course.

The little boy stood with, what I have assumed was, his grandmother. They were surrounded by this garish scene of stretchers, chatters and one bloke pacing up and down like a bit of a fool. A few people stared firstly at their watches, then at the sky, then back to their watches again, before muttering curses, taking a few steps to the left and trying again. I wondered if I should pace over towards them and mention that you cannot actually see the satellites from all the way down here, however hard you look. At the far side of the group, a couple were warming up by running up and down the path. These people were all clearly waiting to start a parkrun.

The boy’s grandmother, seeing the teeming throng in front of her and in search of a little mental stimulation for her young grandson, asked him if he could count the runners. ‘How many runners can you see?’ she asked.

The boy looked carefully around the group. He thought for a moment, made up his mind, and answered ‘two’.

Which goes to show that, for all the bright shirts and the short shorts and the not-quite-so-dazzling-as-they-once-were shoes that we all wear, all you really need in order to be a runner is to be running.

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