It has become something of a tradition now at parkrun South Africa to celebrate Freedom Day by running some parkrun freedom runs. The idea was first mooted and planned 4 years ago by Staci Katsivalis and Francis Rogan. Their idea was to run a series of freedom runs with carefully staggered starting times so that it would be possible to celebrate Freedom Day in a dignified, but fun way.
As the number of parkruns grew so the number of parkrun freedom runs on Freedom Day grew. It is now possible to run 9 different freedom runs in the general Johannesburg vicinity (the reason for nine freedom runs is because at the time of the first one there were only 9 in Johannesburg, this also ties in with those runners training for Comrades and their long runs). The idea has grown in popularity and there are now Freedom Day runs in Pretoria, Cape Town and Stellenbosch. parkrunners can choose to run as many parkruns as they feel like. Since none of these runs can count to individual parkrun tallies they are run simply as a celebration. Trevor Doyle from Root 44 parkrun summed it up with his humorous quote; “please don’t forget to forget your barcode” Serious Comrades runners try to run all 9. But others choose to run fewer. I ran 4 Freedom Day runs at Boksburg, Rondebult, Victoria Lake and Atholl.
At these Freedom Day runs I was introduced to the new craze called “plogging”. Plogging is the new practice of picking up litter while jogging. I noticed at our freedom runs that quite a few parkrunners were picking up litter. As we all know that some of South Africa’s parks and public spaces are so full of litter that it’s a disgrace. With more than 40,000 parkrunners running, jogging and walking parkruns every Saturday morning, parkrun ploggers could pick up a lot of litter. This could be yet another area where parkrun could make a significant positive difference in our country.
This long weekend resulted in record attendances at some of our coastal and holiday parkrun destinations. There were record fields at Ballito, Winterton, Amanzimtoti and Umdoni. It is exciting to see that South African parkrunners are remembering to take their barcodes with them on holiday and on trips away from home.
The holiday didn’t interfere with the steady progress of starting new parkruns and Vaal Marina parkrun joined the parkrun family this weekend. Event directors Sonja and Paul have created a testing course in Vaal Marina with a highveld grassland feel and amazing views of the very full Vaal Dam.
Next weekend we will be starting two new parkruns; Harkerville near Plettenberg Bay, and Waterfall in Gauteng. This simultaneous opening is something that is going to be happening more and more frequently in the future. The demand for parkruns has grown so much that the waiting list already extends well into the second half of the year. We are simply going to have to get used to starting parkruns at a faster pace.
South African Milestone t-shirts
Recognising milestones, in one form or another, has been a hallmark of parkrun since 2006 when Darren Wood became the first person to complete 100 UK parkruns. They represent an achievement of persistence over performance, and are achievable by all.
However, as parkrun has grown in popularity over the years, the sheer number of people qualifying for milestone t-shirts has meant that ensuring we have enough stock available of all milestones, in all sizes, and at all times, has been almost impossible to manage.
In South Africa, over the last three years, 25,000 parkrunners have joined a milestone club, and our forecast suggests that another 22,000 South Africa parkrunners will do so in 2018. Looking even further forward, and as a result of parkrun South Africa being the fastest-growing parkrun territory in the world, we are forecasting that over the next five years almost half-a-million South Africans will join a milestone club.
Looking forward, we are aware that we have created a culture where people are hugely dedicated to their pursuit of joining our various milestone clubs. We are also aware that we have set the expectation that everyone who reaches a parkrun milestone is able to claim a t-shirt to mark their achievement.
MRP Sport have done a wonderful job of providing our milestone t-shirts through 2016 and 2017, however the demand has now outgrown our arrangement with them and we have therefore mutually agreed that going forward we will look to source an alternative solution. Importantly, we would like to thank them for the thousands of milestone t-shirts they have given to our community to date. MRP Sport will continue to support parkrun as a top-tier sponsor, where their continued financial support will help us keep parkrun free, forever, for everyone.
Until we have a solution in place there will be no milestone t-shirts available in South Africa. Whilst we know that this will be disappointing to many of you, I hope you can also understand that this decision was taken with the ambition of finding a solution that supports the t-shirts going forward. Importantly, this needs to be done in a way that is sustainable and therefore does not create unmanageable financial burden.
We appreciate that many of you have been waiting some time for your t-shirt, and some of you may not receive yours for a while yet, and for this we can only apologise. Nevertheless, we wish to assure you that we are working as hard as we can to find a solution that resolves any outstanding orders and ensures the future of the milestone t-shirts.
In the meantime please continue to order the shirts while we still have some stock available in some sizes.
Please will you also welcome the following ambassadors to our team:
Roland du Plessis, Hansie Louw, Riley McCabe, Charli Wiggill, Clive Smart & Brenda Casey.
Cheers for now,
My message in this week’s newsletter must be dominated by the recent parkrun conference from which I have just returned. Gill, Cara, and I were fortunate enough to be able to join 250 parkrun delegates from around the UK and the world at the conference at Warwick University. This annual three day event is…
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