parkrun’s ethos encourages us to celebrate every personal success as we seek to make running more accessible to all. We’re more likely to acknowledge the wacky achievements of globe-trotting parkrun tourists, the quirky milestones, and the “pretty” finish times than the occasional extraordinary sporting feats that take place in our runs. Sometimes, however, we report – in awe – on athletic history.
At 9, Ani Veltcheva had set an age grade 5 km World Record with an astonishing 18:47. By 12, already Middle School State Champion in Florida, Ani was ready to repeat her feat. Broni, her mother, tells us: “Ani was really close to the previous world record for 12-year-old girls (only one second away), so we were looking for certified courses where she could race and try to beat it. Jacob Smith from RaceSmith recommended the parkrun to us, so on the morning of March 18 we woke up at 4:00am and headed to Clermont.”
The rest is history: Ani’s blistering time of 17:16.8 matched the all-time Female Course Record at Clermont Waterfront, blew up the overall nationwide parkrun age grade record and reached a certified single-age 5 km Women’s Road World Record. Ani topped it off, like any Clermont parkrunner, with breakfast at Cheeser’s Palace Café.
You could be excused for worrying that, at this age, all this running would have taken over Ani’s life. But, as she told MileSplit Florida, “Outside of running, I have many hobbies. I swim for 2 hours almost every day after school at Gator Swim Club. I also love math and compete in different math competitions throughout the year. Another hobby of mine is competing in the school Spelling Bee. In 6th grade I finished top 10 in my middle school and in 5th grade I was the school champion. Reading is what I love doing most in my free time.”
Are we likely to see Ani again at parkrun? “Most definitely. Ani liked the course, the people, and the atmosphere at the run. You have a very supportive running community in Clermont!”, says mom Broni.
How did a Thursday in late November become the world’s biggest day for running? Why is participation in other running events plateauing? Two recent articles point to the same conclusion. People want to take part in events that are affordable, lack gimmicks, and that focus on social support. Sound familiar? The US running market…
A time to pause and be thankful … “parkrun creates a sense of community centered around physical and psychological well-being. Young, old, male, female, any background, it’s all inclusive. I like the fact that it is an addictive behavior in a positive way. Once they start, most people can’t stay away.” Tom Anderson –…