Tim Oberg, parkrun Australia’s CEO shares his thoughts on everyday role models and why we need them now, more than ever.
As a sports mad kid growing up in Brisbane in the 1980s, my heroes were, as you would expect, the most famous athletes of the day: Queensland rugby league captain Wally ‘The King’ Lewis; 1987 Wimbledon tennis champion Pat Cash; and Brisbane Bullets basketball legend Leapin’ Leroy Loggins. As an innocent, wide-eyed boy the superhuman feats of these men gave me and countless others something to aspire to.
However now that I’m older, I’m less interested in being inspired by celebrities and other famous athletes, and much more motivated to highlight the quiet achievements of everyday heroes, many of whom ply their trade week-in, week-out at parkrun.
Keeping this in mind, I asked the staff for parkrun Australia, “Who is your parkrun hero?” The following are their responses:
A Friday night dinner table conversation in late 2015 lead Peter Dunn to discover parkrun. Having never been a runner, when the conversation turned to parkrun, Peter was curious. And curious enough to turn up to Westerfolds parkrun the next morning, in shorts and t-shirt, standing at the start line not really sure what was about to happen but ready to embrace the adventure of a 5km run or walk in the park. I remember when I first met Peter – he was positive, tried everything we threw at him (speedwork, long runs, relays) and made instant friendships with everyone, regardless of age, background or running ability. I’ve heard every excuse for reasons why someone can’t come to parkrun, but then I got a Peter Dunn in my life and realise those excuses can be overcome.
My parkrun hero is my dad, Curl Curl parkrunner Ken Hopley.
He’s been a regular parkrunner since Curl Curl launched in May 2013. He’s the old bloke that plods on the grass, he’s the socialite (ie talks a lot) and he’s proof that parkrun is for absolutely everyone.
He is encouraging, consistent and is a testament to the community and friendships that are built through parkrun.
My heroes are the Panania/Kamay and Cooks River parkrun team. When the call went out in Sydney a few months ago for urgent help at a couple of neighbouring parkruns, these teams embodied everything that community means at parkrun and stepped in without hesitation to help out, selflessly giving up their time to the wider community. The teams not only took on all the volunteer roles to assist the two events to continue but re-engaged the local community to the point where the events now have brand new event teams and a growing local parkrun community. Thank you to all the teams at Panania, Kamay and Cooks River with a special mention to Rachel Allworth and Nikki McCarthy Hicks who were instrumental in leading all of this.
Three of my many parkrun heroes are Anthony Blines (Mackay), Christine Davies (Mackay) and Donna Ellis (Timboon). These guys found themselves involved in parkrun event teams almost accidentally yet they embraced their new roles without hesitation. Somewhat thrown in the parkrun deep end, Anthony, Christine and Donna had to learn quickly as they took on the responsibilities of delivering parkrun to their local communities each week. They’ve each done a brilliant job and I hope that every so often when they are at parkrun (often volunteering), they stop, look around, and are proud of themselves.
As for mine, my parkrun hero is Mudgeeraba parkrun Event Director, Libby Maxwell. I first met Libby on a run back in September 2011 when she shared with me her personal story of overcoming all odds including breaking her neck in high school PE, breaking her back falling down the stairs and developing a severe eating disorder. At one point a specialist told her that she had lost 40% of her “industrial usefulness” and that she would be limited in what she could do for the rest of her life in terms of employment, physical activity and sport! Despite this, Libby has completely turned her life around, not only rehabilitating her injuries but going on to complete numerous running and adventure races as well as outdoor pursuits of all varieties. At last count, she had completed 123 parkruns and volunteered on 97 occasions, many of these as Event Director at both Main Beach and Mudgeeraba parkruns. It is Libby, and people like Libby, that inspire me every single day.
Do you have a parkrun hero?
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