A few days ago, parkrun statistics showed that parkrun SA now has a total of over a million personal best times (PBs) As a runner who has chased PBs all his life, I know how satisfying and motivating a PB can be. A few months ago, I watched an elderly lady cross the finish line at a parkrun. As she did so she punched the air with a raised fist.
“PB?” I enquired.
“Yes,” she beamed, “I’ve just broken an hour for the first time in my life. “
Now an hour for 5kms is not going to any give runners in Nairobi or Addis Ababa sleepless nights. After all the women’s 5km World record is 14:11 but for this lady it was a special moment. She had achieved something she once may not have believed she could achieve.
The smile stayed on her face all morning.
So parkrun has helped to bring smiles to the faces of a million people. Here’s to the next million.
None of this would be possible if it were not for the wonderful contribution of our many volunteers. Now most of us are familiar with the volunteer roles at parkrun; scanner, run director, marshal, funnel manager etc but there is another wonderful contribution that volunteers are making. It’s called “making our parkrun more accessible for all and more fun to run.”
Increasingly parkrunners are doing it for themselves. They are clearing bush, building bridges, picking up litter and even building small clubhouses. I was reminded of this when Pierre du Plessis from Somerset West parkrun showed me a photograph of a parkrunners building a bridge over a boggy patch on the parkrun route. This anonymous parkrun volunteer hero just quietly came and fixed the problem at his own expense and in his free time.
This astonishing gesture has been matched at parkruns all over South Africa. A couple of years ago, the parkrunners at Roodepoort rebuilt a ruined clubhouse and lapa in their park. parkrunners at Boksburg parkrun built a solid steel bridge over a swamp on their route, and at iMonti parkrun in East London, parkrun bush clearing allowed firefighters to use the cleared path to fight a fire on a neighbouring farm. More and more parkrunners are becoming “ploggers”(parkrunners who pick up litter as they run or walk a parkrun). We have close to 150 parkruns in South Africa. I am certain there are 150 parkrun stories of parkrunners doing it for themselves and reclaiming our parks and open spaces.
This last fortnight we started new parkruns at Vryheid in northern KZN and at Wolseley in the Cape. Smuts Van der Nest and his team had been waiting many months to join the parkrun family and it was very exciting to see the enthusiasm with which the local community has embraced their parkrun. Congratulations to Smuts and his team for a fun parkrun on the Vryheid golf course. I don’t think I’ve ever run a better signposted parkrun.
Justin Corrans and Dylan Dowell-Ellis have designed a beautiful route through the vineyards of the Mountain Ridge estate near Wolseley and despite threatening rain there was an enthusiastic turn-out for the first Wolseley parkrun. This is going to be a very popular parkrun with the local community and visitors alike.
This Saturday we welcome Westville parkrun to the parkrun family. I will be away in the UK for the parkrun annual conference but I intend to run Westville parkrun as soon as I can.
Cheers for now,
This newsletter’s volunteer heroine is Madz Loots. Madz is married to Jacques and has three children. She has run 159 parkruns and has volunteered in numerous roles over 150 times. She was originally a Kimberley parkrunner and Kimberley is her home run. Now she is one of our most energetic and enthusiastic ambassadors working…
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