News - 19th January 2021

Worth the wait


While many people were excited for the return of parkrun in Melbourne, one parkrunner was ready to take the course at Albert Melbourne parkrun by storm!


Claudia Stevenson ran her 49th parkrun at Newport Lakes on the 14th of March, 2020 – the last parkrun in Melbourne before the lockdown began. She ran with Andrew Turner, a guide from Achilles Melbourne – a running club that pairs runners with vision impairment with sighted guides. Claudia said “This was the most challenging course vision wise I have ever done. So many elements in close proximity; tree roots, overheads, narrow (path)…”


Following the event, she had planned her 50th parkrun celebration for Chelsea Bicentennial parkrun, but before that could happen, the pandemic hit Melbourne and all events were cancelled. A nine month wait followed until she could take on parkrun again.


During lockdown, Claudia was able to continue running on a treadmill and with an Achilles guide following COVID-safe guidelines. She also took part in virtual strength classes, a volunteer led initiative of Achilles Melbourne to keep members active during the months outdoor exercise was limited.


As restrictions began to ease and Melburnians could return to training together in groups, Achilles organised their annual end of year celebration – a race called the Tan Handicap. An exciting staggered start lap of the Tan that sees the participants on the course catch up to each other in the final sprint for a close-call finish!


Claudia had been training hard and the results showed! She said “today the work paid off. I took out first place in the third annual Achilles Tan handicap!I ran really strongly and had some left in the tank to overtake my good friend Peggy Soo just before the finish line.”.


But she wasn’t done yet! Claudia followed this with “I have still a bit to go before I can achieve my next goal, sub 30 minute parkrun 16 January”!


She chose Albert Melbourne parkrun for her 50th milestone run, and put the call out to Achilles members to join the parkrun party! It was a cool grey morning and the sky looked stormy, but despite a little light rain, the conditions turned out great for a run. There was a big group of supporters in Achilles-yellow shirts ready to call out “Go Achilles”, a catch-cry for the club. Among them was Monica Wong, a regular volunteer at Albert Melbourne parkrun and Achilles guide, who took along bright red and yellow balloons with “50″ printed on them in celebration of Claudia’s attempt.


As all the parkrunners stood socially distanced in the vast starting field, Claudia and Monica were joined by Jenny Leslie and guide Sonia Robinson. She said “Sonia, Monica and Jenny coached me the whole way and cajoled me over the finish line. Sonia tried to tell me about a Steven King story where I would be shot if I fell off pace!!!” While Claudia’s most recent parkruns had been around 36 to 38 minutes, she smashed them and came very close to her sub 30 goal, saying “My previous 5k personal best was 32.44 in 2018. Today to mark the milestone of 50 runs I ran 31.9!”.


With Claudia’s determination and dedication, it won’t be long until she conquers her 30 minute parkrun goal, with more fabulous celebrations to follow!


Rhiannon Boulger

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