Fires, floods, pestilence and a heart condition could not hold back Gympie parkrunner Tony Jennings from finally making it to Queen Elizabeth parkrun, Casino recently.
“I’d been turned back three times due to bushfire smoke, floods and COVID-19,” Tony said. Nothing was going to stop him this time and his journey from Gympie explains a lot about Tony’s determination. “I’ve got my own agenda to do as many parkrun events in faraway places,” Tony said.
“And I do them in the hardest possible ways.”
To add to the Casino challenge Tony drove from Gympie, left his van at Brunswick Heads, jumped on his bike and peddled to Casino to notch up his 145th different location parkrun. Tony and his family’s medical history helps explain his motivation.
Tony’s family from himself, his wife, kids and grandkids all suffer from cardiac-related diseases with a range of genetic and inherited, but not all related, causes! “We just drew an unfortunate lottery of several potentially lethal conditions,” Tony said. “Very rare and unusual.”
Tragically a four-month-old grandson died from a fatal genetic heart condition. “This is a disease that is often only diagnosed after sudden death,” Tony recounted, tears running down his face.
His wife and two kids have permanent defibrillators in place; and a granddaughter who was given three days to live and is now 9, has had seven heart operations.
Tony decided the best way to help his family and other people was to focus on being the best father and grandfather and being there for his family. “The other thing I love is getting away on my own, seeing the world, challenging myself and learning from and enjoying the people I meet on my travels.”
Tony found parkrun was the opportunity to fulfil this goal.
“I like to be good at things I’m not good at and as running was my weakness I figured I’d make it my strength. So when parkrun came along it was a free way to strengthen my running and also an excuse to go to different places.”
“I’ve met people who were a bit lost in life and I’ve introduced them to parkrun. We share information and give each other support. I suppose my big message is not to be a victim to misfortune but to grow stronger through dealing with it.”
After completing Queen Elizabeth parkrun, Casino Tony joined his latest parkrun friends at breakfast at the parkrun café, Zeebras. Then it was back on his bike on his way home. “This is what I like about parkrun; you come here and meet different people. I go away richer for it.” Tony said.
Richmond Valley Mayor Robert Mustow joined Tony on his parkrun visit to Casino and had seen firsthand the difficulties the Casino parkrun has experienced in the last year. “I haven’t done any running since October 2019 due to being busy with the bushfire disaster and the smoke not being healthy to run in, then Covid-19 caused the parkrun lockdown during 2020,” Mayor Mustow said.
“So this morning I fronted up for the 40th Queen Elizabeth parkrun, Casino and was pleased to still be able to run the 5klm course without having to walk. My time was slow but I plan to do a parkrun once every month and hopefully this will improve.”
The Mayor highlighted the many benefits parkrun is bringing to Casino and the Richmond Valley since commencing in June 2019. “During the 40 QE parkruns in Casino there have been over 460 different local and 857 visitor participants enjoying the exercise and friendship on Saturday mornings.”
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