Last Thursday I flew down to Sydney at the request of Athletics Australia to present at their joint CEOs conference; a gathering of the Chief Executive Officers of each state athletics association. This was my first trip to Sydney in almost a year and I was excited about the opportunity to provide an update on the continued success of parkrun and also touch base on our plans for launching junior parkrun (more to come on this soon).
By chance our Chief Operating Officer, Renee Gimbert, was already scheduled to be in Sydney visiting family so she met me at Sydney Airport and we ventured to the nearby conference venue, the iconic Novotel Sydney Brighton Beach, overlooking Botany Bay. As I was checking-in, the chap behind the desk overheard Renee and I smalltalking about parkrun stuff (as we do) at which point he exclaimed “parkrun! Do you guys do parkrun?” Renee and I paused and smiled knowingly at each other before confirming that we do indeed “do parkrun” and that in fact we were employees of the organisation. It turns out that this chap behind the desk was Jared Watchers, A2715141, from Shellharbour parkrun. Jared made his parkrun debut just under a year ago on the 20th of August 2016 and has run 12 times since then and volunteered on 4 occasions. To my surprise Jared then upgraded me the the ‘Spa Suite’ and we made a plan to meet for a run the following morning.
Our presentation to the athletics CEOs was well received. They were particularly interested in understanding how local running clubs can best engage with their nearest parkrun events and so we are now working on a statement that will explain this to club Presidents. We’ve always encouraged local running clubs to use parkrun as a training tool and hopefully this will provide some structure around this. As you can imagine the CEOs were also very interested in junior parkrun as I’m sure many of you are!
On Friday morning I met Jared in the hotel reception at 6am as planned. It was pitch black and freezing cold, something I’m not used to living in North Queensland! I was secretly hoping that Jared wasn’t a 17 minute parkrunner who was getting ready to blitz me so I was pleased when he said his PB was 22:17. None the less, Jared set a pretty hot pace and looking back at my Strava profile we knocked out 4:51, 4:33, 4:36, 4:15, 4:15 and 4:34 kilometres (averaging 4:30/km) over 6.3km. Looking at Jared’s parkrun PB and doing the math, this kid was going full steam! However the times only tell half the story of this run…
With about a kilometre to go and moving at a pretty swift 4:15/km pace, Jared cut through a parking lot and I followed, only to trip on a knee high chain fence… ouch! I landed elbows and knees first, sliding and scraping a good amount of skin off in the process. I remember just laying there, still in the dark, thinking that I was potentially about to stand up and find blood streaming out everywhere. Thankfully the wounds were not too deep and the blood was mostly superficial. None the less, Jared was incredibly concerned and apologetic. Of course it wasn’t his fault but I think for a moment he thought he had seriously injured the guy from parkrun!
We made it back to the hotel where Jared and his colleagues cleaned me up. I then returned to my room to shower and after doing so found a dazzling A4 photograph of Sydney (see image above) tucked under my door with a note from Jared -
“Cheers for smashing out a fresh Sydney morning run. Thanks for inspiring so many parkrunners south of the Queensland border. I hope you recover well mate.”
Moments like these that actually make me quite emotional. It’s easy to forget just how much impact parkrun is having and how many people it is touching. Jared’s note was a simple reminder of this. Thanks for bringing a smile to my face Jared. The room upgrade was a nice gesture but your note was priceless.
And something obviously worked for Jared that day too. On Saturday Jared ran his fastest Shellharbour parkrun of 2017, finishing in 22:24, just 7 seconds outside of his PB. Maybe next week mate?
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