Moscow ‘parkrun’

Moscow ‘parkrun’
Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia


There had been talk in the UK, or oblique references, to Russia setting up parkruns. Initially, seeing their Facebook page, I was excited, reasoning that I might get to be the first tourist to hit a Russian parkrun, but then spotted that this was unofficial. From that, I figured it was ‘borrowing’ official logos but otherwise totally different. The truth is somewhere in between. It isn’t under the parkrun umbrella, and they have changed location a couple of times (pity they aren’t still in Gorky park for this tourist, though I have run on the sparrow hills part they used) but PSH visited in July, and they work to the same principle; 5k, Saturday morning at 9. Position tokens and personal barcodes are QR codes, and the scanning software is (at a glance) different, possibly homemade, running on a tablet. Results go on a google docs sheet.

Run route by the waterside. Large white church steeple behind trees
Run this way.

I registered so as to have my own Russian code – no. 589, in there earlier than my uk one-though the run director said “you have barcode? We will make work” in reference to my uk one. Registering is easy enough, though google translate wouldn’t let me click the registration link so I guessed and translated odd words on the registration page. Actually the FAQ, which you can see from the translation page, explains the registration page, but in case you want to know, the fields are; email, forename, surname, sex, date of birth, password/confirm password. Took me three goes, as using my hotmail address didn’t work, but then I got the confirmation email, clicked the link to setup my account and could see my qr code. Click the image for the full ‘card’ and you’re ready to go. Whisper it, but you don’t need to print it, it worked fine having taken a picture of the page on my iPod.

Small crowd at the finish of the 'parkrun'
The vanquished.

Today there were two runs, at the Botanical Gardens and Kolomenskaya. I went for the latter, it is the more established and seemed easier to get to. From Kolomenskaya metro, you hop out and head towards the front of the train, up the stairs and then out of the exit in front and to the left. Under an underpass and out; once you are clear of the shops, there should be red and white hooped chimney stacks diagonally opposite you. Walk away from those, down ul. Novinki, cross over and take a right into the park and left as soon as you’re past the security barriers. Follow that road down and right, past the wooden reconstructed fort buildings, onto the waterfront and you’re there. There were signs to WCs around the park, but there are portaloos en route if you don’t detour.

Russian lettering round a large-scale, person-sized clock on the grass
A clock

There was a briefing, not sure what they said, but the run director – in a white parkrun t shirt, one of two I saw, maybe gifts, maybe reconstructions – had told me about the route, and it’s a simple out and back, cones and a marshal showing the route. Like Poland, runners tend to shake everyone’s hand before the start, and several spoke English for a brief chat. I’m at least the third English visitor, after PSH and another last week. We had a nice communal warm up led by one of the runners; just gently warming up the whole body, I thought it was very good, and don’t normally go for group warm ups like that. The run is as flat as, perhaps with a slight down at the start and therefore slight up at the end. As for the running, numbers were down, perhaps because there was a big 7k in the north of the city later. Looking at recent results I’d expected to be in the front five or so, and when we set off at a gentle pace with a group of 3, then 4 running alongside one another, and no one had hared off I figured I’d found my first difference – here, we’re racing like a championship race, and no one is fussed about leading just for a while at the start. But as it happened, there just weren’t any of the quicker people there, so I stuck next to whoever was at the front, blue shirt guy for most of it, a man for whom the 3m wide path was not quite big enough as we bashed arms a couple of times (though without the force of a Chris O’Hare shove). At the turn I left him and galloped home. Garmin died, so I don’t know the time, but low 19s is all, probably, after a 6:22 then 6:10 mile. Lovely, and the spirit is very similar, water and sweets for all at the finish, cool down in the sun and friendly waves all round as people left. Left for the next race, in the case of the Russians, for a snooze ahead of more athletics in mine.

Stadium internal view from high among the commentators
He’s in there somewhere.

WC 7 and Pushkin

WC 7 and Pushkin
Moscow, Russia

Moscow, Russia

Flash interviews are conducted with athletes on their way out. Linda Stahl, having qualified in the javelin, talked about training whilst working as an assistant doctor, and is apparently “here on a leaf” which is their version of ‘on a wing and a prayer’ though she qualified comfortably enough. Highlight of the morning for me was the final 200m heat. Usain Bolt eased through, not needing a great time to win, looked right and spotted no one, looked left and saw Delanno Williams racing up, just as williams eased off and grinned back. The two finished the race grinning, pretty much laughing, with each other, as if it was their own private fiefdom, no one else involved. Good to see some British talent happy to mix it up, as did Chris O’hare in the 1500 earlier in the week, taking it on with over a lap to go, and responding whenever anyone came alongside until the final straight. He couldn’t hold it then, but qualifying on time was the least he deserved for a gutsy run.

Two statues, resembling dancing weeping angels (from Dr Who)
Weeping angels hit the disco.

After a short session, I headed to the Pushkin museum. An easy ride on the metro, 5 stops from the stadium, it’s easy enough to find if not immediately obvious which beautiful building holds the museum. The queue outside looked bad, but moved quickly if sporadically. 400rub entry. They’ve gone large on the pre-raphaelites (finally, use of the word ‘pre’ without my having to shout ‘******’. Pre-booking, I ask you) upstairs, the section a bit crowded for my liking. There are a succession of masterpieces, and not too much ‘ah, another madonna and child’ religious nuttiness. Having forgotten my guidebook, though, I was a little confused at first-statue of David? Bust of Pericles? Not much in English amongst all that, but one crucial word is; plastercast. Apparently they were intended as models for students. Certainly grand, but it does make it all a bit fake, and means the few real marble heads and the like don’t stand out. The large pieces, including wall friezes, are impressive, though. Amongst the pictures, the portraits without provenance always seem a little too prosaic; ‘Portrait of a man’ ‘…a woman’ ‘…a man with whiskers’. Some fabulous art, and a Titian display there at the moment, though I’m sure they rotate them regularly. Don’t be fooled that the downstairs area you can see at the back of the building, under the main stairs, holds another exhibition area; it’s just cafe, toilets and exit. You can come back in with your ticket if you wander down there exploring, mind. The building itself is grand, enormous high ceilings, decorated in a variety of ways, from large skylights to plaster sculpture and paintings. The whole thing is probably just a plaster cast of an original somewhere, though.

Replica of Michelangelo's David
Dave.

A great evening of athletics. Fraser-Pryce scorched through again, Ahoure just hanging on to silver, while Gemili raced through for another pb, two in the day, taking another .19 off (.13 earlier) and going under 20 seconds for the first time, 19:98. Chris O’Hare looks a right racer, prepared to get in and have a go and qualified, having given the 5inches taller Frenchman a heck of a shove, in an admittedly slow race. Mo, once again, took the lead 600m out and repelled all attacks. On the replay you can see the point where he attacks, with Gebrhimet immediately responding, but that passivity hasn’t worked yet-once Mo gains that yard with a lap and a half to go, he holds on even when he works hard. One Kenyan made a move early on, and when he was joined by the other on the next lap it looked like finally Farah would be challenged by a quick early pace, but Farah left them to it and it soon closed up, with splits (if I remember rightly) of 2:45, 48, 49 before they sped up towards the end. Britain were squeezed into fourth in the 4x400m, Russians won the long jump and hammer to huge noise, the latter with a championship record. Rutherford’s form from last year would have got him a medal, but not gold. I moved away from the commentary area so I could make some noise, though went back for the medal ceremonies to avoid all the standing up. A brilliant night.

Ukrainians enjoy Bondarenko's medal ceremony, inside the stadium which might be approaching half full. In places.
Ukrainians enjoy Bondarenko’s medal ceremony.

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