Cobar is a town in central western New South Wales with a population of just under 4,000 and recently became home to 307th event to launch in Australia.
The inspiration for the event came from ‘stay at home mum’ Tanya Gilbert, who was looking for alternatives to exercise classes and the gym. Tanya sat down with John Robins to chat about her new event before and after the big launch.
Can you tell us a little about how the idea came to you to have a parkrun in your town?
This came about as I have learned quickly that young children really limit your ability to attend exercise classes, the gym and participate in scheduled team sport. Running and walking however, I can do with the children at any time. I have met a lot of like-minded people and other mothers over the past 18 months since taking on this new hobby and being off full-time work. In August 2017 I was part of a group of 15 friends from Cobar who all travelled to Dubbo to participate in the Dubbo Stampede running event. During the course of ‘training’ for this and then over the weekend we were there, I really came to realise firstly how great it was to participate in such an accepting active community of welcoming people, but also how many people from Cobar had made the huge effort of travelling a 600 km round trip to participate in this event.
I then joined the Dubbo parkrun Facebook page and started really taking notice on social media as to how many local Cobar people were participating in the Dubbo parkrun event whenever they were in Dubbo over a weekend. It really drove home to me that we need to be offering a more regular event like this in our own town so people do not have to travel to participate, and also to bring all of these like-minded people together across our town to build support within a parkrun community setting. There is a lot of organised sport in Cobar and a strong sporting club community, but for those who cannot participate in these groups, for any reason, parkrun would really fill that gap in our community.”
How are you feeling as the launch date approaches?
“I am feeling really excited. I was getting nervous a few weeks ago, I was second guessing myself and thinking things like ‘have I over committed myself – what if we don’t get enough volunteer helpers to make it sustainable’ and ‘will the community get behind this and actually show up?’. Thankfully, the nervous feelings have now gone and the excitement has kicked in, as every day I am out and about around town or at different events, people are always talking about Cobar parkrun, asking questions, making comments on Facebook, etc… the town is buzzing with parkrun conversations happening daily, which really reinforces to me that it is certainly worthwhile doing and I am confident we will get a good crowd to our launch, and weekly into the future.”
There are many towns the size of Cobar around Australia. What encouragement and advice could you give any prospective parkrun Event Director to start and prepare for a parkrun launch in their town?
“It is so simple to do! And the support from the parkrun community has been amazing! I honestly believe being in a small town and community made it even easier. Working with the local council (landowners) has been simple because they are all about community and really keen to be involved. Getting volunteers has been much easier in that it is a small community, everyone knows everyone, so word-of-mouth spreads very quickly. The other beauty of parkrun is that all we needed was a nice, safe and accessible pathway to get started – it doesn’t matter how large or small the town you live in, we all have access to this somewhere.”
Cobar successfully launched with 58 runners and walkers, 49 of them first-timers. Tanya shares her thoughts post-event…
“I am relieved that Cobar parkrun has been so well received by our committee and that a great group of people actually came and joined us! I am also even more excited now that we are up and running to see how we continue to grow and have a positive impact on our local community. Post parkrun activities all went smoothly… and is surprisingly quicker than I expected. The clear guidance material provided by parkrun HQ makes everything so simple.”
For all those other towns in Australia without a parkrun, is there any additional advice or encouragement you would give?
“Just jump in and have a go! It is so rewarding and worthwhile, and it really is just so simple! It really doesn’t take up much time at all, and there is a phenomenal support network across the parkrun community, it really is like being part of a new massive family.”
Can you tell us a little about the process of establishing the course route?
“The course route is probably the most thought consuming part of the process I believe, especially if you live in a town with so many open spaces and great running or walking tracks. For me, it was a bit of a process of elimination, based on the parkrun requirements – such as – can not cross a road, all weather access (as best possible), plenty of parking for participants, and it was also very important to me to have an all-inclusive course that would enable and encourage people with prams or in a wheelchair to be able to come along too. For me, it only left a couple of local options, so we went with the one that had the best “meeting area” to encourage people to hang around afterwards for a chat and to watch and encourage other participants on their way to the finish line. Once the track we would use was determined, it just came down to liaising with the landowner (in our case, local Council) and then getting accurate measurements of the 5km, marking out our “half-way” mark and start/finish line.”
Thanks again Tanya. Cobar parkrun is and will be a great addition to the parkrun family of events in Australia and the world.
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