Eve Muirhead competes for Great Britain in the Winter Olympic sport of curling. She became the only athlete in curling history to win the World Junior Championships four times, before going on to win gold at the 2013 World Championships and a bronze medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. She will be representing Great Britain at next year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Like most people it seems, I first heard about parkrun through word of mouth. My friend Katie is a regular at Perth parkrun in Scotland, and she is always talking about how brilliant parkrun is and posting about it on social media. So when I was invited recently to take a little break from full-time training to visit my nearest parkrun in Falkirk, as part of the promotion for #teamparkrun on 19 August, I jumped at the chance to volunteer there.
parkrun is definitely something that has to be seen to be believed, and not even Katie waxing lyrical about it could fully prepare me. I felt really privileged to be invited to stand up and say a few words before the event started, and to see people of all ages, shapes and sizes, with dogs and buggies, dressed in all types of different clothing, was just so inspiring. I loved encouraging people on Falkirk parkrun’s infamous ‘heartbreak hill’, before scanning some barcodes as people filtered through the finish funnel.
With around 100 National Lottery funded athletes preparing to pull on the high-vis to volunteer as Tail Walkers at parkruns around the UK for #teamparkrun, it will be a wonderful opportunity to show our appreciation to the British public for your support, as well as inspiring thousands of people to take their first steps towards a healthier and happier lifestyle.
As a full-time athlete who has been lucky enough to compete in multiple world championships, and win a medal at the Olympics, I have a long list of people, clubs and of course the British public who have supported and inspired me since a young age. One of my earliest memories is being taken to watch my father compete in curling competitions. I remember being in a pushchair along with my brother, screaming and shouting and throwing our toys everywhere. Then when we were old enough to understand that dad was competing at international level, it inspired us to try it too and it wasn’t long before we were hooked.
At school it was my PE department, because those lessons were my introduction to physical activity and it was a hugely enjoyable experience. Later on, it was my local curling club. It has lots of members who have been there for many, many years, and who are extremely passionate and knowledgeable about the sport. They would always take the time to help younger athletes like me, and learning from them was invaluable.
Of course, nowadays it’s the British Olympic Association, UK Sport and the general public, via the National Lottery, who make it possible for my teammates and I to train on a full-time basis. Without this, we would not be able to compete for medals against the best athletes in the world. The contribution that the public makes cannot be understated, from playing the National Lottery through to coming along to watch and support us in competitions. Without the funding we would not be able to perform at our best, and without the support in the stadiums it would be a very lonely sport!
To make the most of #teamparkrun on 19 August, as well as having National Lottery funded athletes as Tail Walkers, we would like the parkrun community to bring a friend with them on that day who has not been to parkrun before. From my own parkrun experience, especially as someone who plays a sport that’s on ice and doesn’t involve any running(!), parkrun is one of the best ways to take your first steps. If you’re feeling brave you can walk, jog or run, but of course the beauty of parkrun is that you can also get involved by volunteering or simply coming along to spectate. It was obvious to me that parkrun in many ways isn’t about the running anyway, it’s about being social and having fun.
If you do decide to walk or run, remember that not only can you take as long as you need to, but you can never finish last at parkrun thanks to the volunteer Tail Walkers. And on 19 August you may just have a GB athlete in high-vis as your personal cheerleader along the way, so why not print off your barcode and come and join in the parkrun fun?
Sue Smith has been a member of King’s Lynn parkrun since its inception in 2011, which also inspired her to join the Ryston Runners, a local running Club. Not the fastest runner in town, which she will readily admit, Sue’s dogged determination to improve her performance regardless of competition and conditions was an inspiration to…
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