A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the parkrun UK annual conference; a fantastic opportunity to learn from my colleagues in the northern hemisphere. But before the conference started, I took the opportunity to head over for a few extra days so I could attend Bushy parkrun where this whole free, timed, weekly 5km thing began. Why wouldn’t you?
Since I started my first event at Westerfolds Park in 2013, I’d always wanted to see how closely the parkrun experience that I was creating in a suburb in Melbourne would resemble what Paul Sinton-Hewitt created 14 years ago in a park in South West London. Upon arrival I could see that some things were very familiar – the apricot, red and aubergine t-shirts were plentiful, as were the families, smiling faces and a sense that I belonged here. These are my people.
The first timers briefing was short but humorous and it dawned on me that there were probably more at this briefing than the total attendance for some parkruns I’d visited back home. I then quickly found my place amongst the other 1100 parkrunners on the start line and tried to listen to the main briefing. This included a 500 milestone t-shirt presentation to the first female who is one of only eight in the world to reach 500. And then we were off.
Bushy is flat, fast and everywhere you look it’s green. A few deer joined us early on but I think we were more bemused by them, than they were by us.
21 minutes later and it was over. I’d run a PB and was in the scanning queue thinking ‘this is the coolest thing ever.’ The same feeling I had when I started running at Highlands parkrun 4 years ago.
Bushy was a success. I’d run, had my post-run coffee and met a few parkrunners who gave me some tips for exploring London. But being a tourist around London wasn’t my focus on this trip. My next visit was to Surbiton junior parkrun.
I had high expectations for junior parkrun – and they were blown away within about 5 minutes of arriving. The excited energy, natural playfulness of the kids and sense of community was clear. I was lucky enough to be volunteering as the Finish Funnel Marshal, a great vantage point to experience the full range of emotions kids go through over 2kms. On the first lap I saw a few pained expressions and some kids working hard but by the time they were all running into the finish funnel, I saw smiles, joy and some were even giggling they were so proud of what they had just achieved. The pollen count must have been very high as my eyes watered a few times
When a child experiences pure happiness – there is no greater sight.
junior parkrun is coming very soon to Australia, we’ll be announcing something in the next few weeks and I’m confident it is going to change Sunday mornings in this country for thousands of you. Brace yourselves.
Onto the conference at Ashridge. We don’t have a lot of castles in Australia so my reference point is a bit blurred but when we drove up the driveway and I commented that a castle was an impressive place to hold a conference, I was quickly corrected that it was ‘only’ a stately residence! Either way I was looking forward to my next few days, mixing with parkrunners, talking parkrun and learning about the future plans.
Naturally a visit to the local parkrun was included and we were lucky to be close to Tring parkrun. I’d always followed Tring since Uncle Risitas shared his experience a few years ago and it’s fair to say I have a new entry in my ‘Top 3’. The photos don’t do it justice and to share it with probably the most experienced collective of parkrunners in existence was special. The weather was perfect, the cow marshals were doing their job and PSH was dealing out high fives. What more could you ask for?
My love and passion for parkrun sometimes baffles my family and friends. They wonder how a run in the park on Saturday morning could mean so much to me but after three days at Ashridge, I’m more enthused, passionate and in love with parkrun than I ever have been. The direction we are headed, the impact we are having on hundreds, if not, thousands of lives is powerful.
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