In April 2016 I visited a parkrun other than my regular Havant home run. Initially this change of location was just to scout out Queen Elizabeth country park a bit before the QE Spring marathon, but one thing has led to another, a seed has been sown. Before you know it I’m embarked on a whole new level of parkrun related shenanigans! The tourism bug has dug its claws in, taken hold and has opened up a whole new sub-culture within parkrun that I previously knew nothing about.
Once you have done 20 different parkruns your name will appear on the most events page on the parkrun website. A new target! Being very much a target orientated sort of chap this has given me a goal to obsess about. However, I subsequently found there is more to this than first meets the eye, there is this parkrun tourist layer that exists and that I was very much unaware of. It’s almost like a secret society, yet it isn’t a secret at all.
There are a lot of people out there that tour the country (as well as international trips) notching up run after run, location after location. Since the inception of the Apricot home run shirt it’s been easier to spot these tourists, wandering around staring at the chest region of other runners now perfectly acceptable! However, before these times how was a tourist able to spot another dedicated journeyman? The cow cowl of course!
There is a Facebook group for anybody on the UK most events list. Members of this group become eligible to purchase a cow cowl running buff. The cow cowl was conceived pre-Apricot as an easy way of identifying other tourists visiting parkrun. This came about as people kept finding out after the event that they’d run at the same course as other tourists without realising. It’s a totally unofficial product and unique to the group. Although unofficial a contribution from each one sold goes to the New Events Fund.
Cow cowl – a distinctive black, white and yellow not-buff designed by Kathy Brown which members of the most events table are welcome to buy to allow themselves to be spotted by other tourists at home or away. Completely unofficial. Features no parkrun branding whatsoever at all.
I must have one! I love the idea of a club within a club as it were, this appeals to me greatly. So since that fateful day in April I’ve strayed from home regularly, in fact I’ve been really naughty and only been back to my home run twice since! I feel guilty not seeing all the friends I’ve made at Havant regularly, but I do bump into most of them at other events. The idea of not visiting somewhere new each week now also feels strange. Once I’ve hit 20 I’ll go to my home run at least once a month, but the tourism will continue as I’m loving it.
At the time of writing I’ve run in 16 different locations, including Bushy, the birthplace of parkrun, just 4 more to go until I can join the group, purchase and sport my cow cowl with pride.