News - 27th June 2018

parkrun profile: Aliwal North

Aliwal North

Aliwal North parkrun began in June 2015. This friendly parkrun is located in the Eastern Cape, next to the border with Free State. Core volunteer, Chantel Lombard, tells us more:


How did the parkrun come about? Aliwal North parkrun began on the 27th of June 2015. Linda Whittal and her husband, Cecil started parkrun, for Linda it was a “new baby” to care for after all her “babies” left the nest. Linda and Cecil have raised the Aliwal North parkrun baby to be a beautiful, strong toddler. Since they started it with a handful of committed volunteers its has grown to include 3 more run directors and a long list of volunteers.


What is the best part of Aliwal North parkrun? parkrun in Aliwal attracts runners and walkers from all walks of life, from all the communities in Aliwal, and this is what makes it so great. Nobody believed that it would last, things in the small town of Aliwal usually do not last. parkrun is lasting and growing, it is now in its third year with the average participants of 60 in winter and 80 in summer. In big places this sounds small but in Aliwal where the running club only has about 15 active members, it’s big!




What sort of people come to Aliwal North?  All the runners and walkers who have become active and regular participants. Most of the participants had never been active sportspeople or even runners. We have “Uncle Bob,” a retired Catholic priest, who came to his first event wearing slacks and grasshoppers walking with his cane (he was 72 then), finishing in a decent 45 min, but almost passing out. Uncle Bob became a regular, now at 74 he is on 109 runs, no longer with a cane, rocking takkies, earphones and sporting gear with a pb of 34:31 and average of 36 mins. Then there is Alistair, he arrives promptly at 07:30, parks in the same spot and then waits under the tree doing his stretches every event, if Alistair is not there parkrun feels weird.


The “walking” community is also quite large, the walkers average at about 45-50 min and this is the most competitive “time category” at the event. Mick du Bruyn comes to mind here, she started parkrun also in non-sporty clothes, she became a regular and after her third run where there was a 50th milestone celebration, she decided she wanted to reach this and has almost never missed a parkrun since then. She received her 50-milestone shirt, and this was her first ever running shirt. Mick completed her 100th run on our third anniversary.


Who makes your parkrun unique? No Aliwal North parkrun story will ever be complete without mentioning the best volunteers in the world, Oom Lompies and Oom Gane. Without these two pensioners parkrun is not the same, they are also the only two volunteers that are upset when they are not working. These two always do the pre-event set-up. They usually arrive at the venue at 06:00 for set-up, and have coffee ready for the volunteers when they finish! They are true heroes.


What should visitors to Aliwal North know? This is a family friendly parkrun. The route is challenging enough for the serious runner with a nice big hill at the finish but still easy enough for youngsters. We have had kids as young as 5 completing the run without being assisted by their parents. The start and finish area has toilet facilities and a small clubhouse. Two coffee shops in town boast parkrun specials on Saturdays.

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