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.
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.
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.
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.