Do you remember your first parkrun experience? Did you enjoy it? Did you bring a friend? Which parkrun did you go to?
Our Event Directors are some of our most passionate parkrunners and we recently found out about their first ever parkrun experiences…
Paul Wilcock – St Peters parkrun
There weren’t any parkruns in NSW, but I stumbled across the concept while looking for local races. I got in touch with Tim and after a bit of organising managed to get St Peters up and running in January 2012. parkrun was an unknown back then so I was handing out dodgy self-printed flyers at a couple of local events to let people know about it. People were sceptical, they didn’t quite believe it would be “free”. Everything was fine on launch day and we haven’t looked back. We were the #4 parkrun in Australia!
It was a month before I actually got to run my own event.
Myfanwy Schenk – Dalby parkrun
We lived in country Queensland where I hadn’t even heard of parkrun, and visited my parents in Brisbane during the school holidays – September 2012. My Mother excitedly bounces in first thing in the morning and proclaims that “we’re going for a run!!!”. I clearly remember groaning, I ran a lot during high school and hadn’t done much since, too tired with too many small children. I went along with her, first shock was hopping in the car, next shock was the 30-minute drive to New Farm, third shock was the 300+ people all milling around. I was totally out of my comfort zone, especially when everyone started bouncing around doing a warm up. Didn’t really enjoy the run either, waaaay too unfit.
4 months later, back in Brisbane and I get dragged along again. This time I enjoyed it and got a PB. I did a couple more over the next few years at Wynnum and Wishart and very gradually “fell in love”. I took a couple more months to get up the nerve to look into starting my own. I’m not a leader, not an up-the-front person – but I got too passionate about getting our OWN parkrun that I just bit the bullet. We are 23 events in, I have run our own event 5 times now, and haven’t missed a parkrun Saturday all year. My five year old even prefers to call Saturday parkrun day, bless him.
End of story, life changed!
Tony O’Connell – Inverloch parkrun
My wife signed me up for this “parkrun thingy” while we were on holidays in Merimbula to get me out of the caravan. I was not a runner!! I went along, met an incredibly enthusiastic team and it would be fair to say for me it was life changing. I had 30 plus years as a volunteer in both Surf Life Saving and Country Fire Authority and was looking for a change. parkrun was it !!
Bree Bonaccorso - Westerfolds parkrun
My first parkrun was at Westerfolds. I had been wanting to get fit for a long time, but having young children had killed my motivation. I also had an eating disorder as a teenager so generally my body self-esteem is not great. A friend kept at me to come to parkrun, and the idea of it really appealed to me as I had no excuse for being busy at 8am on a Saturday morning. Wore a horrible tracksuit, and finished in 39 mins thinking I was going to die. Drove home with the biggest smile on my face, and told myself to stick with it, cos I needed to make a change and I owed that to myself. Fast forward 3 and a bit years and I’m now ED at Westerfolds, completed 139 parkruns and volunteered 24 times and haven’t missed many. love love love trail running, have done awesome events like Two Bays 28km and am training for my first marathon. Now my whole family does parkrun with me. parkrun has helped me love myself again.
Wayne Ward – Menai parkrun
Menai parkrun is a two lap course. On my very first parkrun, I was on my way back to the Start/Finish turnaround, and this tall fit fast lady was running towards me. I thought “wow, how fast is she going!!!”. So I put my hand out to offer her a high five, and I said “WOW – You’re killing it. Keep Going”. She high fived me and shouted back “Thank You”. That lady went on to be the first finisher in under 18 minutes! Turns out it was our Australian Olympian – Eloise Wellings. A young photographer snapped a photo of us high fiving, which made it into the newsletter the following Wednesday. I had no idea back then just how much that photo would go on to change my life in so many ways!
Natalie Clothier – Clare Valley parkrun
I was told about parkrun by a friend (who later started Murray Bridge) so I looked it up and there were only 3 in SA. On day one of our honeymoon I dragged my poor, hungover husband out to Torrens parkrun and left him to the coffee gods while I had a go. I remember feeling very lost and must have looked it because a couple of people came up to me and asked me if I was new, told me where to go and what to do. I remember everyone cheering for each other along the way and at the finish, with all my “new friends” checking back in to see how I went and showing me how to get my token scanned. I honestly don’t think I would have kept on with being a runner if not for that experience. Being out in the country, the only way to get to a parkrun regularly was to start one, so Clare Valley happened after a lot of persistence and refusing to take no for an answer! I had managed four parkruns in two years before ours was launched, and seeing people’s stories and the change it has made in our community was worth every bit.
Brenton Pobjie – The Terrace parkrun
We drove out from home one day in Carrington and saw all these people running. And then we noticed it was happening week after week, then heard Dave Robbo on the radio one morning doing the Run Report. By the next Saturday we had printed off our barcodes and did the Newy parkrun. All four of us as a family did it and we haven’t looked back. Two of us are RD’s, I am an ED and my daughter will walk parkrun every now and again, or sleep in the car (but she has volunteered 25 times!). As we were welcomed and milestones were celebrated that first Saturday, we loved the encouragement, the community and how organised it was. I think we actually volunteered the next three parkruns before we ran again.
Emma Nicholson – Kirra parkrun
I discovered parkrun by accident. My morning weekend shifts start at 6am – I’d kit up, grab a coffee and then start the slow patrol north from Point Danger (unless I was given a job). Each Saturday I worked, I’d see these mad runners along the path from Kirra and wonder what they were doing. I googled parkrun after seeing the brand on the gazebo. It took me a few months to finally work up the courage to go. I didn’t know anyone, I just stood there at the run briefing gazing at my shoes and hoping I didn’t look like a Nigel. I can’t remember if I spoke to anyone at all that day, except to thank the barcode scanner. But I went away feeling so proud of my time and how good I felt. When I became more confident and started volunteering, I met so many more people who made me feel welcome and accepted. I feel like I’ve found my tribe. Some of the parkrunners I’ve met have become wonderful friends and my life is richer for them. It really is a marvellous gift that we give.
Mark Connolly – Darwin parkrun
I had heard about parkrun from Marathon Talk Podcast. Martin and Tom made it sound like the best thing since sweat-wicking running clothes. I emailed parkrun Australia and asked Tim if anyone was starting a parkrun in Darwin and mentioned I was quite happy to help. Alas, I was the first contact from up north. At the time, I wasn’t someone who did this kind of thing (running and/or organising), so I left the email in my inbox for about a year. So on a trip to Perth for a wedding (on a Friday night), I decided to visit Claisebrook Cove parkrun. And after a late, festive wedding and a trip down Struggle Street on a fine Saturday morning, I came back to Darwin interested. One 5 minute phone conversation with Tim, (where his enthusiasm for parkrun couldn’t be hidden, even if he tried), I decided straight away that we needed this in our community. At the time, I was hoping someone would want to take over and I could hand it off, but not anymore. I am still enjoying every second of it almost 4 years later.
Michaela Wilson – Meadowbrook parkrun
Logan River parkrun with my eldest son who’s 16 next weekend, so he was nearly 13. We got there later than planned, missed the first timers brief, missed most of the main brief (naughty!). Walking to the start line, I spotted the mum of one of my son #2′s friend and asked her what do I do with this barcode. Turns out she’s one of the RD’s there! I’ve only missed one weekend of parkrun since, and that was due to a late cancellation that morning. I was hooked, instantly. Never have I come across a more welcoming bunch of people.
Gary Clarke - Tuggeranong parkrun
Denise and I rocked up for Tuggeranong’s trial having seen a Facebook post from a mate. We had absolutely no idea how it worked or what was happening. We didn’t know the ED’s and had no idea about pre-run briefings etc. we just took off in the direction of the course and turned at 2.5km. All those people running the other way were yelling at us “parkrun – starts next week – check out the website”. Denise and I still remember saying to each other “I thought that’s what we were doing” We turned up with a small crowd the next week and fell in love. Volunteered in week 4 and joined the event team shortly after.
Jennifer Arnold – Bathurst parkrun
My first parkrun was at Shellharbour in January 2016. I was introduced to Brendan and he was so welcoming and full of enthusiasm for supporting me to think about starting a parkrun in Bathurst, I went full steam ahead. When I began planning, HQ told me there was someone else in Bathurst keen to help get it up and running… as it turned out, Stephen’s son Josh was in my class! Small world/town. We’ve not looked back and were very excited for our birthday last Saturday.
Jon Storey – Claisebrook Cove parkrun
My first parkrun was in September 2009 at Bramhall parkrun in the UK. About 12 months earlier I was at my heaviest weight. Having being diagnosed with hypertension, I lost 25kgs and I trained for a 10km race, the Great Manchester Run. It was something that I really enjoyed and a work colleague of mine, who also ran the Great Manchester Run, suggested that we tried parkrun. parkrun was different back then. It had just rebranded from UK time trials to parkrun. There were only 20 parkruns in existence. Barcodes had not yet been introduced, finish tokens were metal discs, with a number etched on them. You took your disc to one of the three laptops at the event, gave your name and then a password, to the laptop volunteer, to confirm your identity. Race reports, race directors and winners were terms that were still being used. parkrun was very much another club run, only this was free and took place every week. In the UK children under 15 are not allowed to “race” distances over 5kms. Yet here was an event that had a number of youngsters taking part. I don’t remember any walkers, dogs or prams back then, but the course wasn’t suitable for prams. I wasn’t hooked straight away, in fact it took over 2 years to get to 50 runs and the volunteer positions were filled every week, so every time I tried to volunteer I was told the roster was full for 6 weeks. I ended up volunteering at a half marathon that one of the “race directors” also organised, just to give something back to the community. What I did start to enjoy was touristing, I was getting bored with the same parkrun each week. My first aim was to run all the parkruns in the North West and then all of the parkruns in Yorkshire. Whenever we went away for a weekend, I would find out where the nearest parkrun was.
By the end of 2010 we had decided to emigrate to Australia and over the next year whilst obtaining our visa, I was watching the parkrun Australia website start up and expand to 2 events. I was already e-mailing Tim from the UK asking about a parkrun in Perth, there wasn’t one. 7 months after arriving in Australia Claisebrook Cove parkrun was up and running. I didn’t know anyone in Perth. Our attempts on social media resulted in the largest trial run being 4 people, of which one was me and another was my 8 year old son. The first event consisted of volunteers from my family, the 2 others I met at the trial run, a couple of council staff and a photographer who responded on Facebook, who later went on to establish Aveley parkrun. This was the point in time when I caught the parkrun bug.
LJ Taylor – Nepean River parkrun
I read about Penrith Lakes parkrun in our local paper, probably shortly after moving to the Blue Mountains. I couldn’t get my head around the “free” bit (figured it couldn’t be right), but decided to go check it out anyway. I remember being nervous as driving there (not a runner and not sure about 5km), honestly considering bailing and turning around several times. No idea what I thought on the way home, but my main memory is of the first timers briefing… and warm, small, intimate, non-intimidating huddle with Shelley Cootes, where everything I needed or wanted to know was explained, and we were made to feel most welcome. I had to go back through their photos to find what I wore… on the left, my only running gear at the time. On the right, more recent photo pacing 55mins or 60mins at Penrith Lakes, in a borrowed tutu… I’m very much back of the pack, whilst many people think pacing is just for the speedsters, it’s really for everyone.
If you are yet to walk, jog or run your first parkrun – come and join us! You can find your nearest event here.
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