News - 7th July 2017

The parkrun Dream

Ghurka Catterick

I come from Nepal, the home of Mt Everest. For 30 years I worked as a civil servant for the Brigade of Gurkhas, a service that dates back to 1815, and I now work with the Gurkha army as a chaplain.


When I was 36 I moved to the UK having been based in Hong Kong previously. As an employee of the Ministry of Defence I was familiar with British people, but the cultural and social system here is very different to Hong Kong and Nepal so it took me some time to adjust.


I live in Catterick in the north-east of England. Catterick Garrison is the biggest Army Training station in the UK, including the Gurkha Training Company, whose mission is to mould Nepalese youths into trained soldiers who will live up to the traditions of the Brigade of Gurkhas.


Every year, 270 young Gurkha are recruited from Nepal to join the British Army, and get their training for nine months before joining their Regiment. About 100 instructors live with their families in Catterick along with about 150 retired Gurkha Soldiers and their families.


In total there are more than 13,000 military personnel, civilians and their dependants living and working in the area. It is a multi-cultural area that includes Afro-Caribbean and Fijian communities.


In 2009 I took part in TRAILWALKER, a 100k team endurance challenge across the beautiful South Downs Way. This event started out in 1981 as a military training exercise in Hong Kong. Organised by the Queen’s Gurkha Signals, and taking place along the famous Maclehose Trail, the exercise was designed to test the endurance and teamwork of soldiers of the Queen’s Gurkha Signals over a long and arduous course.


When the Brigade of Gurkhas returned to the UK in 1997, the Queen’s Gurkha Signals wanted to continue the tradition of TRAILWALKER. The following year a course was set across the South Downs National Park in Sussex, and every year hundreds of civilians set off from the start line alongside the Gurkhas. Teams have 30 hours to complete the course, and the average finishing time is 27 hours. But the course record is an astonishing 9 hours 50 minutes – set by the Gurkhas themselves in 2004.


After completing this event myself, I was strongly motivated to do a lot more walking and running.


Since then, my speedometer has never been slowed. I have done many 10ks, half marathons, the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, Ben Nevis, and some races in Nepal as well. I am also a yoga teacher and did my training and study in both India and the UK. I regularly organise free yoga classes across the UK.


During the Great North 10k in 2015 I had an epiphany. The idea of starting a parkrun popped into my mind, so in the days after the race I spent a lot of time on the parkrun website finding out about what was involved. I identified several possible locations and then I got in touch with parkrun HQ.


The district council and local councillors were very supportive and provided funding, and after several meeting with the landowners of our chosen venue we were granted formal permission for Catterick parkrun. I can only describe that feeling as similar to the pleasure that washes over you after finishing a marathon.


The final piece of the jigsaw was to secure a defibrillator for this new event. I approached the Army for help, because Catterick parkrun will not only benefit the Army personnel, MoD civilians, retired soldiers and their families, but all the communities around the Garrison. The Garrison Commander happily agreed to provide a defibrillator.


There are some Gurkhas in our core team but a lot more have helped behind the scenes. I received enormous support from them with locating a suitable route, measuring it, and obtaining permission from the MoD to use it. And it was a Gurkha officer who liaised with the Garrison Commander to get the Defibrillator for us. We are so proud of their contribution to our parkrun.


The whole core team were proud to launch Catterick parkrun recently, and we are confident it will bring both locals and people from surrounding communities together to promote healthier and happier living.


The Commandant of Infantry Battalion and Gurkha company has given permission to send about 100 Gurkha trainee soldiers to parkrun every Saturday if they haven’t any training commitments. At our launch event in June there were more than 100 young (18-22 year-old) Gurkha trainee soldiers and some retired soldiers and their families in attendance.


Catterick parkrun is a beautiful location with a culturally diverse community. The course runs through open green fields and circles three laps of a small lake that is pushchair and wheelchair accessible. It has hard surfaced paths, toilets and parking facilities within the Catterick Racecourse.


We are looking forward to welcoming parkrunners from all over the world to walk, jog, run and volunteer alongside the Gurkha soldiers: ‘Bravest of the brave, generous of the generous, the world’s most famous fighters and most loyal friends of the British people after more than 200 years together.’


Atmaram Dahal
Catterick parkrun Event Director
parkrunner A1986740


Have you ever thought about bringing parkrun or junior parkrun to your local community? Click here to find out more.

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