While parkruns have been on hold, most of us have been able to keep walking, jogging and running while sticking to the restrictions in place in our local areas.
Backyard marathons, virtual runs, walking all the streets or the boundaries of our suburbs and (not)parkrun – there’s been plenty of incentive to keep moving during the pandemic.
For many though, not only are they missing the walking, jogging and running aspect of parkrun, it’s putting on a high vis vest and volunteering.
In true parkrunner spirit, many have taken on a variety of different volunteering roles during these incredibly challenging times by helping others in need.
Chermside parkrunner Bob Sainsbury took up parkrun in 2015 after a 30-year hiatus from running. Instantly impressed by the friendly vibe, he soon became a regular – including on the volunteer roster.
“Being of service has always validated my existence and provided me with a sense of worth. Never so much more than in the current pandemic,” Bob said.
“A smile or nod of acknowledgement from a struggling runner who perhaps picked up a little after a word of encouragement while I was volunteering at parkrun is appreciated but not expected.”
While parkrun has been on hold, Bob has been delivering meals on wheels. “Similarly now, a smile or a nod from a vulnerable person I’m supporting or a disadvantaged person to whom I am delivering a meal and who just may have a better day as a result is always a bonus,” Bob said.
Like many though, Bob volunteers not to “give back” but rather for the joy it brings him. “I don’t volunteer for the thanks that others give me. I volunteer for the thanks from my soul,” he said.
Debra Walz was at Noosa parkrun’s inaugural event in 2014 and has 140 parkruns to her name as well as 116 appearances on the volunteer roster.
“It didn’t take me long to realise, by participating each Saturday morning, I had developed a sense of belonging by meeting like minded people who quickly became friends,” she said.
“The opportunity soon presented to become increasingly involved by volunteering which led me to becoming the volunteer coordinator – a position that allowed me to become more intimately involved in the mechanications of organising our weekly parkruns.”
As well as getting great personal satisfaction from volunteering, Debra has also had her “health and wellness journey positively enhanced” at parkrun. “In late 2014 I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. Once the necessary medical interventions were dealt with, I returned to parkrun. I was welcomed back by a unique community who supported me through my recovery,” she said.
“In late 2016 cancer returned in the form of stage four breast cancer. After a considerable time going through surgery, chemo and radiation I returned once again to my parkrun family. I attribute my ongoing recovery to the amazing, welcoming, supportive, non-judgemental, and encouraging nature of the people who are Noosa parkrun,” Debra said.
To fill the volunteering void during the COVID-19 crisis, Debra has been volunteering at the Noosa Community Garden.
“This volunteer position is vastly different to parkrun though,” Debra said. “I am a gardener at heart and enjoy weeding, planting, digging, feeding worm farms, trimming fruit trees, mowing grass, transplanting, paving, composting and harvesting.”
“Sharing this time with like minded people has provided fantastic social interaction, sharing of ideas and focus on nature. I will always value being a runner, a gardener and a volunteer and feel grateful for the privilege to be part of the wonderful communities of parkrun and the community garden,” she said.
In December 2018, Kay Rowe discovered East Richmond parkrun through a friend in a bushwalking group. In early 2019 however, she broke her foot which sidelined her for a significant amount of time. During her recovery, she started volunteering at parkrun.
“Volunteering got me out and about and involved, lifting my spirit and made me feel part of this great group of people again. I have now completed 14 parkruns and am waiting patiently for that Saturday morning when we can all gather once again,” Kay said.
Kay has been able to keep volunteering through her involvement with Blazeaid, a volunteer organisation that works alongside families in rural Australia after bushfires.
“Volunteers help rebuild fences and lift spirits of people who have suffered devastating losses through bushfires,” Kay said.
“My husband and I volunteered in the small New South Wales town, Willawarrin, which was devastated when fires came through in November 2019. We have been working with like minded volunteers and go out to properties and work alongside farmers to replace their fencing. It has been a wonderful experience helping families, many who have lost everything, giving them the opportunity to restock their farms and start to rebuild their lives.”
“It’s been a wonderful way to get through this unbelievably difficult time we are all experiencing.”
Run Director at Queen Elizabeth Casino parkrun Robyn Chapman is also no stranger to volunteering outside of parkrun and has used this time to put her crafty skills to good use.
A Country Women’s Association member and a volunteer at several other sporting clubs – all of which also shut down due to the virus – Robyn said she all of a sudden had plenty of spare time on her hands.
“I like to do things to help my community and felt a bit helpless during the lockdown, so I started sewing scrub caps and facemasks for nursing staff as a way to help out,” she said.
Like others though, Robyn said she was very much looking forward to both running and volunteering at parkrun again.
“I miss the social and community aspect as much as the exercise,” she said.
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