We all know that parkrun is a wonderful community for runners, walkers and volunteers alike. It gets people from all walks of life outdoors, exercising, meeting people and making firm friendships. Friends help boost our happiness and self-confidence, assist in relieving stress, help us cope with trauma and are also there to share laughs and good times with us. Friendships formed over running are the best and at parkrun we are increasingly hearing more and more stories of people finding their ‘tribe’ at their local event. This week we spoke to some regulars about what parkrun means to them and the friendships they’ve made during their Saturday morning ritual.
Jan from Panania said that after 5 years of running solo, finding parkrun and making lots of new friends was an extremely enjoyable experience because her new buddies “get it”. She loves the support and encouragement they provide and also loves the volunteering side as it “breaks the ice of meeting new people”. Initially, Jan was nervous to attend her local event, but now says, “Everyone is so friendly and I am hooked”.
Another Panania regular Kathy made comment that she lacked self-worth as a runner and was originally a bit scared to attend her local event. However, it didn’t take long for her outlook to change once she plucked up the courage to go along. “Our parkrun community is so inclusive and is such a supportive place. I now have an incredible core of runners who are my friends, some days we stay back and chat longer than the time of the run. My whole family are involved in parkrun and I love the support we are all given and the encouragement my 8 and 10 year olds give others. I am blessed to have so many of these people in my life – from a kind smile, a high five, words of encouragement, support for running events or weekend long runs. These people have become such a valuable part of my life and for that I am most grateful.”
From a volunteer’s perspective, things are no different. We spoke to Nina who spent lots of Saturday mornings helping out at Cronulla parkrun. Nina says that as a volunteer she forged many friendships with parkrun participants whom she went on to support “during races and on the trails outside of parkrun”.
Mel Flentjar, the Event Director at Lalor parkrun in Victoria, said her parkrun friends were there for her in a heartbeat, and vice versa. She said her parkrun friends had gone above and beyond the call of duty, by helping her to run her first marathon.
“When I began running, I could only run a few kilometres. In October, I completed a marathon – and I couldn’t have done it without the friends met at parkrun. It may sound a bit cheesy, and maybe also a bit like I’m trying to sell you something. But actually, I am. I’ll tell you why you should join parkrun. It’s not just being a part of parkrun, it’s being part of a community. It’s much more fun running with a bunch of other people and it gives me the opportunity to challenge myself. On top of that, I know when other people are waiting for me, it’s easier to get out of the door” she said.
Mel also looks after the Lalor Running Club, a club that grew out of the friendships that started at Lalor parkrun, which only launched in April 2016.
The club, which now has 50 members, meets regularly to support each other on training and social runs, at formal events and of course at parkrun each week in search of those elusive PBs.
Rachel Allworth & Sally Heppleston
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