parkrun is not just the domain of the young and fast. parkrun is cross-generational which includes older folk; folk like Noel Pope.
Towards the end of 2017, Noel, at the young age of 86 years intends to complete his 50th parkrun in Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia, proving that age is no barrier to participation. Often accompanied by his daughter Wendy, Noel inspires other parkrunners and many in the community. He walks briskly, keeping well ahead of the volunteer Tail walkers.
We asked Noel some questions about himself and his involvement in parkrun.
Where did you grow up as a child and what was a typical Saturday morning like for you as an older child or a teenager?
I grew up on a sheep and cattle farm at Mookerawa which is now under Burrendong Dam on the Macquarie River where I attended Walters Public School. A Saturday morning was like any other morning. I had chores which included collecting the eggs, milking the cows and working in the vegetable garden. Leisure activities were tennis and horse riding. At age ten, I was sent away to St Stannies at Bathurst. While there, I did well in Athletics holding a school boys record for 100 yards and being part of the 440 yards relay record. While at ‘Stannies’, the weekend was spent playing sport including football, cricket and handball. However during the big drought in 1946, when I was 15 years old, I had to return to the farm to help as my older brother had died. At a spot where we had always swam, a bank had moved and when he dived in, he broke his neck.
Has regular walking been a part of your life?
Since I retired from being a wool, hide and skin buyer, I have walked about 5kms every morning. I go north to the Sunshine Coast for 3 months every year and walk along the beach from Cotton Tree to Alexandra Headland and back every morning. I can’t get to a parkrun up there because I park my van in the caravan park and once I set up the annex I don’t drive anywhere for the 3 months.
Before I retired I had physically active jobs farming, wool classing, working as a fuel distributor and working at abattoirs in the Northern Territory and at Fletchers Abattoir in Dubbo. As a young man and when I was first married, my main income came from rabbit trapping so I walked all over the hills at Mookerawa setting and checking traps. This is when my daughter Wendy and I first began walking together.
How did you get involved in parkrun?
My wife Joan, died in 2014. She had been sick for a few years and I looked after her at home. After she passed away, I renovated my kitchen and bathroom and did a lot of jobs around the house. These took about 12 months and then I got a bit down so Wendy suggested I got back to dancing. I now do Old time/New Vogue dancing five nights a week. She also suggested that we try out parkrun.
What do you like about parkrun?
It is good for the joints and leg muscles and keeps me fit. I like trying to beat my time and was very happy when I got under the 50 minutes. I enjoy saying hello and having a chat to people. Having had a few skin cancer scares I always wear long pants and sleeves, and a hat and sunscreen in the summer.
Congratulations Noel for your upcoming 50th parkrun. Can we expect to see you doing your 100th parkrun this time next year?
It might take me a bit longer than that. I will go to Western Australia in May to see my granddaughter and 3 of my great-grandchildren. I will then go back to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland in June, July and August.
Thank you Noel for being a great inspiration to all.
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