Last Saturday Durham NC parkrun became the 3rd US event to celebrate 5 years of parkrunning. Julie Messina got involved as a runner and volunteer in one of the earliest parkruns in the UK 10 years ago, and she is the longest serving Event Director in the US.
At first Julie wondered if she would ever get to sleep in on a Saturday again. Now she wonders why she would ever want to.
On June 30, we celebrated our fifth anniversary in Durham, NC. It was exactly what you’d expect to see and hear at any parkrun on a Saturday: new faces, familiar faces, pleas for missing barcodes, cheers for finishers, volunteers solving problems, and some nice folks sticking around to help clean up. That all of this is commonplace, makes it no less extraordinary. What parkrun has given me and allowed me to provide for my local community is one of the greatest gifts I’ve received.
In the early days as event director of Durham, NC parkrun, I’d wake up on Saturdays with a knot in my stomach as I wondered if anyone would show up, if too many people would show up, would someone fall on the course, would I accidentally swear during the pre-run brief, would I get to sleep in on a Saturday ever again. After a year or two, the anxieties mellowed from a frantic feeling to a steady heartbeat. It became the constant hum of an established routine with friends and new runners and the stopwatch and scanner. This is the pulse that carried me through several tough months when life outside of parkrun became less routine and more heartbreaking.
This last year has been a chance for me to learn to say “Yes, please!” to the kind offers of help that had been around me from before our first event. I reached past my unfounded worries about asking too much of volunteers and was delighted when a half-dozen people immediately signed on as run directors. Finally, a chance to sleep in on a Saturday had arrived. Though I’m still unclear when I’d ever choose to take it over my local event or a bit of parkrun tourism….
At our anniversary event, I invited runners and volunteers to share their own reflections on our five years. In the comments, some of which are copied here, I again see the commonplace yet extraordinary that is parkrun:
“I love the volunteers! Thank you.”
“Thank you so so so much. I haven’t been to parkrun in two years and what a reminder of what I’ve been missing! I’ll be back soon!”
“We had the good fortune of being international visitors from Ireland today and experiencing our first southern parkrun. We had a sweaty blast. Thank you.”
“parkrun has been lots of fun and has become quite an addiction!”
“Thank you for creating this wonderful running community! We look forward to our Saturday mornings and that tiny little baby hill.”
“I moved here one month ago and your smiles and friendship keep me running. parkrun 4 life!”
“I love parkrun. Fresh air, sunshine, good exercise, and most of all the people.”
“It’s so nice to run with such an encouraging community!”
I am so grateful to my local parkrun community for these past five years, and I am grateful to the wider parkrun community in the US and beyond for being a positive force in my life and the lives of so many. Here’s to many more years of parkrun in Durham, NC.
A19814, Event Director, Durham NC parkrun
Durham NC parkrun by the numbers:
Most prolific: Gordon Keeler, 175 runs at Durham
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