Pontefract parkrun in West Yorkshire joined the parkrun family on Saturday 7 May 2011. 42 people completed the 5k course that day, and in the six years that have followed, the number of finishers is now ten times that number!
Co-Event Director of Pontefract parkrun, Joanne Conroy, tell us the story behind the event…
My very first parkrun was at Pontefract for the inaugural run. I loved it and although I was a bit hit and miss to start off with, now, like most people, I can’t imagine a Saturday morning without a parkrun being in it. I joined the core team as Run Director in 2014, and became joint Co-ED along with John Kees in December 2017.
I’ve seen our parkrun grow to 350-400 walkers, joggers and runners every week. To say I’m proud to be a very small part of such an awesome team is an understatement. Each one of us are passionate about parkrun and I think that comes across in the overall atmosphere and inclusivity of our event.
John Kees is also Co-Event Director: “My parkrun journey started with run #35 in 2012 which I failed to finish having set off too fast. I did the same thing the following week, feigning an injury and going home after 2k.
At run #37 I finally completed my first parkrun! I was hooked by the welcoming atmosphere and the fact it was so inclusive. Nearly seven years later I still feel the same way.
Although we have grown from quite a small event we’ve never lost sight of the core values. We welcome each participant with a smile.
Our course starts on the inner track of the racecourse near the lake, then heading towards the playground, parkrunners take a right turn at the famous ‘Ken’s corner’, heading down to the lake for an anti clockwise lap of the lake.
Back up to Ken’s corner turning right again and doing a full clockwise lap of the racecourse when you return to Ken’s corner for the third and final time you turn right, back down to the lake for a clockwise lap of the lake to the finish.
Our most famous landmark would have to be ‘Ken’s Corner’ of course! Ken is a local running legend and has run the course more than 110 times, and has volunteered over 170 times, more often than not as a marshal at the corner, hence why it’s been named after him.
He’s that well known we’ve had tourists travel to our parkrun specifically just to meet him!
We pride ourselves on being a friendly parkrun in Yorkshire. Despite having large numbers turn up, we ensure that a welcoming atmosphere is there for all, whether a tourist or a regular.
An unusual fact about Pontefract parkrun is the racecourse, which is two miles long and is one of the longest continuous flat horse racing circuits in Europe. Even though they say it’s flat where horses are concerned, don’t be fooled, it’s more what you would call ‘Yorkshire flat!’
Unfortunately we don’t have anywhere in the park to go so we head to The Liquorice Cafe at Pontefract Castle to have breakfast and process the results.
Like most parkruns, our event has been embraced by the local community. A couple of years ago we actively focused on encouraging walkers to our parkrun. So we started a walk group and a run/walk group. This has opened up our parkrun to many more people, who once upon a time wouldn’t have even considered joining us.
This is one of the reasons we have seen such an increase in attendance figures. Some of those that started off as walkers have progressed over time to be able to run the whole 5k - which is brilliant to see, but our whole community now know that you can turn up at Pontefract and just walk, and that that’s OK!
We also now have a junior parkrun in Pontefract, meaning families can parkrun on Sundays too!
Since January 2018 we have been profiling our regulars each week under the title ‘midweek motivation’ on our Facebook page.
We have so many amazing people that come to Pontefract, all with their own fascinating stories, so we decided to highlight them to encourage others to come along and join us on a Saturday morning and change the perception that parkrun is for just for ‘proper runners’ only.
This has helped encourage more walkers and run/walkers too. One person that started off as a walker and progressed through to running the whole course was Keira Jeffs.
Over the last 18 months it has been amazing to see her transition from walker to runner and see her confidence grow in her abilities. She has recently completed her first half marathon and we are certain that won’t be her last.
To top it off she has volunteered several times as well, she really is, the perfect parkrunner! We are seeing this same story over and over again with our regulars and long may it continue.
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