My friends are fighting and it’s making me feel sad.
Sad and uncomfortable.
Sad, uncomfortable and angry.
Sad, uncomfortable, angry and very, very ranty.
So before I start throwing things, I’m going to vent.
(1) “Not always” is not the same as “Never”
(2) “Sometimes” is not the same as “Always”
(3) “I don’t have a problem with it” is not the same as “No-one will have a problem with it”
(4) “I don’t have a problem with it” is definitely not the same as “If you have a problem with it, you’re wrong”.
(5) “I’d rather you didn’t come today” is not the same as “I hate you and I never want to see you again”
(6) “It wasn’t an issue when ten people did it” does not imply “It won’t be an issue when one hundred people do it”
(7) Saying “let things evolve naturally” is meaningless if you have already upset the balance by introducing a new element.
Seriously! Things change! Deal with it!
Before June 2011, new parkruns (in Greater London) weren’t a thing. The number of parkrunners who turned up at a parkrun’s first event was broadly speaking the number of parkrunners who turned up at the next nine events and first events attracted fewer than 100 people.
Between July 2011 and February 2012, local inaugural tourism started to emerge. Events such as Riddlesdown, Nonsuch and Gunnersbury which were within easy reach of the larger South West London parkruns saw large numbers of local parkrunners popping along to their first events to have a bit of a nose around and to see whether the new parkruns were more convenient to get to. There was also a small but growing community of dedicated tourists (myself included) who started to cotton on to the fact that visiting inaugurals offered an opportunity to socialise with other tourists.
From February 2012, inaugural tourism took off. It was included on the most events table as a statistic, and it was far easier to climb up the rankings of inaugurals than the rankings of overall different parkruns. It also offered a short cut onto the table, as you needed to visit 20 different parkruns but just 5 inaugurals to find your name in lights. The “Riddlesdown” pattern of massive inaugural with much more modest numbers in the following weeks went from being unusual to being the norm, and gradually inaugural tourism went from being a harmless bit of fun to something with consequences.
To begin with the hints about this were subtle. New parkruns stopped being announced on the parkrun show and familiar faces from parkrun HQ stopped being regulars at new events. Gradually the message has become stronger, and parkrun tourists have been asked to consider the strain that they are placing on new events and to consider visiting new parkruns in weeks two or three or four rather than in week one.
To consider. To consider visiting later. This isn’t a ban. It isn’t “go to a first event and we’ll delete your barcode”. It’s a request. It’s parkrun HQ (and parkrun events teams) saying “very large first events sometimes cause problems”. Sometimes. Not always. Sometimes. It’s parents expecting a new baby saying “While we’re in hospital, we’d rather only deal with close relatives. Once we’re home, close friends. Once we’ve found our feet a little, all and sundry will be welcome to drop over. But please, while things are new, don’t make a special trip to see us (or rather to glance at the baby and then spend a few hours chatting to your mates) because we’re new at this and we’d like a little space”.
So. Please stop fighting. Inaugural tourism is not always a good thing. It’s not always a bad thing. It is sometimes good and sometimes bad, and like alcohol, should be enjoyed responsibly.
In the light of the new feedback on inaugural tourism, I’ve made a flowchart to help me decide whether or not to go to an inaugural. To help me. Not you. You may do what you like.