I can remember my first parkrun experience like it was yesterday.
Due to another commitment, I was unable to run at the first Eastleigh parkrun on the 8th May 2010 but I did manage to get down to Lakeside Country Park with our Labrador as the event team were tidying up and spoke to the then Event Director, Brett, to say that I hoped to make it to the next event. Little would either of us know at that time that within 6 months I’d be taking over the role from him.
Another commitment meant that I couldn’t get to the 2nd event but I vowed to make it the following week, Saturday 22nd May 2010. Third time lucky… At that event, I stood on the start line with 71 others not realising just how parkrun would change my life over the next 4 ½ years.
In that time, my parkrun journey has included many exciting opportunities, including helping to set up new parkruns at Royal Victoria Country Park in Netley, Southampton Common, North Walls Recreation Ground in Winchester, Brock College in Brockenhurst and, most recently, Southampton junior parkrun at Riverside Park, Bitterne. It’s been great to have run many parkruns with my 8 year old son, Daniel. However, my proudest moment to date has been as a Batonbearer for the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. After running my 100th parkrun, I may have to rethink my proudest moment though…
My youngest son, Connor, aged 6, likes to tell me that I ‘eat parkrun, sleep parkrun, dream parkrun, am parkrun’… I have to resist temptation as remind him that I am not parkrun as ‘parkrun is a free timed 5km event held on a Saturday morning’! If I did, he’d no doubt say ‘parkrun! BORING!’ I’m beginning to wonder whether my name should be on his Birth Certificate.
It’s true that parkrun has consumed a fair amount of my time over the last 4 years or so but I wouldn’t have changed that. There are many special people that make our events so amazing. My contribution has been small compared to many that help every week.
Since 2010, there have been many times where I’ve wondered whether I’ll reach my 100th parkrun. The elapsed time, in which other parkrunners have almost reached 250 events, has mostly been due to my volunteering at parkrun events. In fact, looking at my volunteering stats, I’m reported to have undertaken over 330 roles at almost 190 events! In the last year or so, I’ve been that I’ve been able to run at more events whilst being able to get my volunteer-fix by helping out at Southampton junior parkrun. That’s made me feel less guilty about running on a Saturday morning.
With some careful planning and a parkrun-double on New Year’s Day, I managed to coincide my 100th event with a fancy dress event at Eastleigh parkrun which involved wearing hi-viz! D’oh! Fortunately, the fancy dress and the promise that there’d be cake meant that many parkrun friends who usually run at other events decided to converge on Fleming Park. In fact, the attendance of 197 runners was one of the highest for the event (apart from the 200th event on the 19th April 2014) since Netley Abbey and Southampton parkrun events started in March and July 2012 respectively. It was great to be joined by so many people who’ve become friends in the last 4 or so years. Perhaps the lesson to learn here is that parkrunners like cake!
It’s been an amazing experience to have been involved with parkrun locally and my 10th parkrun was the icing on the (cup) cake! To have so many friends share my 100th parkrun with me was very special. Thank you so much for your part in my life over the last 4-5 years. To quote the title of Debra Bourne’s book about the first 10 years of parkrun, parkrun is ‘much more than just a run in the park’.
Of course, my parkrun journey has only just begun and completing 100 parkruns just marks the end of one chapter with a new one already started.
In the first chapter, I’ve become a runner, Race Directed several races, carried the Commonwealth Baton, competed in several triathlons, recently become a Run Leader and made lots of friends. In the next chapter, my involvement with parkrun will become stronger and I’ll slowly plod towards my 250th parkrun which, with luck, will be before I reach my 50th birthday (this will require me to run parkruns for about 7 in 10 weekends between now and then).