What an astonishing start we have had to the parkrun year. We have always known that January is our big month and that thousands of returning holiday makers swamp our many venues to try and exercise away their holiday excesses.
In fact we have named the third Saturday in January “New Year’s Resolution Saturday” as traditionally its our biggest Saturday of the year. It appears that in 2018 we have had two resolution Saturdays as both the second and third Saturdays of the month were HUGE and looking at the build up to this Saturday it appears we could have a third.
Just a brief look at the numbers gives an idea of how parkrun SA has grown. On the 13th and 20th of the month over 120,000 people participated in parkrun. 4 of our parkruns had over 2,000 participants and North Beach broke its own world record’’on the 20th with over 2,500 participants. 26 parkruns had over 1,000 participants and there were record fields everywhere.
None of this would have been possible without our amazing teams of volunteers who must be among the most experienced and dedicated volunteers in the parkrun world. Recently I heard one of our volunteers from a large parkrun laughingly boast that “we only start to get a little stressed after 1,700 runners and walkers have finished and even then we know we will cope.”
The large numbers have led to some logistical problems at some parkruns particularly as far as parking is concerned. I would like to encourage parkrunners to get to venues early, to try and share cars, and to refrain from speeding.
Of course it’s not just about the numbers and its always gratifying to see our smaller parkruns still continuing to make a difference in their communities this new year and still attracting plenty of first timers. On Saturday we welcomed 7,296 new parkrunners into the South African parkrun family. This was the first time we had more first timers than the UK who had 5,734.
After a quiet time during the holidays we are now launching several new parkruns in the next few weeks; The first of these is Johannesburg’s Bezuidenhout Park in Observatory. It is exciting to realise how parkrun has rediscovered many of our parks for us. I have driven past Bezuidenhout Park many times in the past without realising that behind its palisade fence lies a large beautiful park.
Next Saturday we will open our second Namibian parkrun at Walvis Bay. Michelle Wilson and her team are very excited about the launch and at the time of writing Walvis Bay already had 150 registrations.
Many people have queried the role of the tail walker at parkruns. The tail walker fulfills two very important functions. The first is a safety function. The tail walker walks at the back of the field and can assist if someone gets into difficulties or is injured. The tail walker can contact the team at the finish to call for assistance if necessary.
The second function of the tail walker is to walk with, and behind the slowest parkrunner. The tail walker can offer encouragement and support and ensure that no one finishes last at any parkrun. Latecomers to parkruns who finish behind the tail walker will unfortunately not be recorded as finishers. When the tail walker is timed into the finish funnel the parkrun closes.
Cheers for now,
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