I’ve recently returned from a trip to Europe, and during 3 weekends away I’ve been privileged to experience parkruns in 3 different countries. It just so happened that each of these parkruns also marked a special milestone – for the event, or for me personally – but that’s not the only thing that’s got me in the celebratory spirit!
Back in my hometown, Harlow parkrun hosted a ‘parkruns of the world’ theme for their 200th event. I embraced it it with gusto, ferreting out a Queen Elizabeth costume to join some 250 others looping around the Town Park (not all of whom put in the same level of outfit effort, photographic evidence suggests).
What really stood out for me (aside from the Run Director’s midriff – he had opted, presumably, to dress as parkrun USA and was sporting a Hawaiian-themed outfit) was the wonderful accessibility of parkrun. Harlow is a low-income town – it has ‘deprived areas with poor health and underemployment’ and the concept of ‘leisure’ is a luxury inaccessible to some residents. So HOW fantastic to be celebrating nearly 4 years of a free, weekly, accessible event that promotes wellbeing in a community that needs it. There is still work to do, and people to reach – but thank you Harlow parkrun for making mass exercise available in my old ‘hood!
My other takeaways were how this bigger event is a great indicator of the growth we can expect to see in communities across Canada, and that polyester capes and wigs are not breathable.
2 good friends and I timed our 50th milestones to fall on the same week, and we plotted a trip to make it really special. Gdansk (Poland’s northern industrial hub on the Baltic Sea) was mooted at one point for reasons of historical interest, but we soon came to agree that Italy was a more desirable summer holiday destination. And so we hit the big five-oh in the shadows of (and by extension, the eruption zones of) volcanoes Etna and Monti Rossi.
Etna was also a celebration of the dedication that so many people bring to parkrun. With 14 events, parkrun Italy is at a similar stage of development to us here in Canada – not yet a household name or nationwide phenomenon as in the UK or Australia, but supported by passionate people who are making it happen every week. Event Director Enzo Ferro started parkrun because he believes in helping his community to keep fit and healthy.
The same morning, participant Peter Dry discovered the unreliability of the Italian weekend bus service the hard way, arriving at Etna parkrun almost an hour late despite setting out 3 hours earlier. He was delighted that he could still run, despite his late arrival. That’s dedication for you – from Peter, for travelling for 3 hours, and from one selfless volunteer, who stayed in position until Peter had finished to record his time.
Closer to home, myself and 2 other Richmond Olympic Run Directors visited neighbouring Alberta to attend the superbly hosted 2nd birthday of Nose Hill parkrun.
We received the warmest of welcomes from Event Director Suzanne and team. What wasn’t warm was the weather. Being British, I can tell you a thing or two about the cold, wind and rain. But Nose Hill that morning really was something else! In the face of this unseasonable deluge, we celebrated the strength of community at Nose Hill. Wackily-dressed volunteers and runners came out in droves – nearly 100 of them – many bringing refreshments for a potluck at the end.
The fact that 3 Run Directors could leave Richmond Olympic on the same Saturday also speaks volumes for the strength of our own volunteer community; they say it takes teamwork to make the dream work, and how right ‘they’ are! Back at Richmond Olympic, Jeremy and team ensured it was business as usual.
A 200th event, a 50th milestone and a 2nd birthday are 3 big reasons to celebrate. And so are accessibility, dedication and community.
But to me, there are far more than 3 reasons to celebrate. There are, in fact, over 4 million – one for each registered parkrunner. That number will keep on increasing, and what better reason to celebrate than every time our friendly, global community grows?
Becky Maybury, Richmond Olympic parkrun
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