Every Saturday thousands of people complete parkrun at locations all across Australia – old and young, Mums and Dads, sons and daughters, those just in it for the post-run coffee with friends and those focussed on their next PB. Sprinters and walkers and everyone in between – parkrun really is for everyone. And for one father-son combo in Perth, even a wheelchair won’t stop them giving parkrun a go.
Let me introduce Gordon – parkrunner, dad and his epic beard (more about that later!). He caught the parkrun bug back in 2015 at Claisebrook Cove parkrun, WA’s oldest parkrun. Although parkrun wasn’t a weekly event for him, he squeezed it in when he could, including achieving the occasional PB.
With the opening of Maylands Peninsula parkrun however, Gordon now had a parkrun in his own backyard making regular parkrun attendance a walk (run!) in the park. Since then, he has become a regular parkrunner and volunteer at Maylands Peninsula having volunteered six times since event launch.
Not long after switching to Maylands Peninsula as his home parkrun, Gordon brought his son Lochan along. Lochan is a full-time wheelchair user. I’m not sure what thoughts were going through Lochan’s mind during his first parkrun but as Event Director I was both super excited and proud we were accessible and welcoming to everyone but also feeling bad about our final 20m dash on the grass and I started second guessing my logic for why we’d mapped out the course to finish there instead of the path. We’d had regular pram users though so we knew where the kerbing was a potential challenge so our RD for the day explained the course to Lochan and he seemed happy and ready to go. Dad Gordon also had five parkruns under his belt at Maylands by then and he was certainly confident.
Soon enough it was 8am and we were off. Just 33 minutes and 45 seconds later Lochan crossed the line, just in front of his Dad who finished 2 seconds later. As it turns out, Lochan had absolutely no problem at all with the final dash – he was clearly a pro at pushing on grass. It’s worth pointing out our course has a hill at the turnaround – not a Nambour parkrun hill by any means but a hill nonetheless, plus as a two lap course, you have to do it twice! I reckon it’s tough on two legs – powering up that hill (twice!!) in a wheelchair using only your upper body is a mighty show of strength.
Since then, Lochan’s completed 10 parkruns at our course and got to celebrate his Junior 10th event on the same day that Gordon did his 50th parkrun! He’s also dropped his PB down to 31:54 so maybe he’ll crack 30 minutes before long. parkrun has also been part of Lochan’s City2Surf training programme and the hills practice obviously helped as Lochan came a very impressive second in this year’s City2Surf wheelchair event!
So, what’s the next challenge for Lochan now the City2Surf is done and dusted?
As it turns out, it’s a challenge with his dad. Gordon has committed to do the “Day in a Wheelchair” challenge so shortly both Father and Son are going to do parkrun and take on that hill (twice!) using just their upper body strength. “Day in a Wheelchair” is an annual challenge organised by Rebound WA to raise funds and awareness about life in a wheelchair. Specifically, they aim to address the 30% participation gap in sport, recreation and social programs between people with a physical disability and their able-bodied peers.
And that’s where the beard comes in to it… Gordon has a fairly noteworthy beard. As part of Lochan’s parkrun wheelchair challenge to his Dad, he’s challenged him to shave off his beard if he raises enough money.
Gordon and Lochan have a few tips for wheelchair users interested in parkrun:
It’s probably a good idea to check out the course online beforehand. If you aren’t familiar with the area, just email the parkrun or messenger them on Facebook and check out accessibility. Most parkruns are wheelchair friendly but some parkruns, such as those that are on trails, may be more of a challenge. When you get there, check with the Run Director what the course is like – they’ll know the course inside out and if there’s any kerbing or other things to keep in mind.
And finally, give it a go! It’s free and fun, sign-up, print your barcode and go have fun! Whatever you do, don’t forget your barcode!
Having now completed 10 parkruns, Gordon says Lochan’s only got one small complaint (apart from the sore arms at the end!) – it’s that he has to get out of bed a bit too early and lose his Saturday sleep-in… typical teenager!
Bronwyn Bell – Maylands Peninsula parkrunner
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