My name is Ben, but I was known as ‘Harry’ in the Australian Regular Army. I served nine years as an army mechanic. I served in many places including Afghanistan in 2005/2006 as part of the Special Operation Task Group 001.
My wife was on a mission to get fit and strong but I must admit I was a little hesitant at first about the idea of running. However, I promised to join her in training and to do some local fun runs. A friend suggested a brand new parkrun to help with training for the City to Surf event.
To begin with our kids were very small, so we took turns going to parkrun while the other stayed with the kids. I worked full time in our own small business and my wife was working part time and flat out looking after two young adventurous boys. parkrun was a great bit of time to go out and look after ourselves. Turns out, there were lots of likeminded people out doing the same!
It didn’t take very long for the kids to get the bug. As soon as they were old enough they had their own barcodes and we became one of ‘those’ families, getting up early on a Saturday to go for a run. While the boys were young and we took turns running with them until they turned 11 and could then take part in parkrun unaccompanied. Before our youngest was 11, we had each completed more than 250 parkruns. More than 1000 logged parkuns between the four of us! Canning River parkrun in Western Australia is where we can usually be found – I have run and volunteered more than 300 times at that event.
Nowadays, the boys are old enough to run solo, and we all get to enjoy our own time at parkrun, sometimes going for speed, and sometimes running with friends, always hanging about for a coffee after.
I wasn’t looking for parkrun at the time, but it found us. It gave us a sense of esprit de-corp. It led us to find people that were of great standing, and also had that desire to find new adventures in running. parkrun opened doors to running experiences I never dreamed possible on that first two degree morning. I am now an ultra distance trail running coach, having run 30,000km in training and events, stretching from 5km to more than 100 miles of alpine high country racing.
I often cross paths with other military veterans of all services now as a runner. It’s almost a game to spot them in the crowds. parkrun filled a void in my life that I didn’t even know I had, with good people, physical challenge and a place to be a part of our community to a degree that I feel comfortable contributing to.
I am about to complete my 350th parkrun and I have volunteered 30 times too. As someone who was once a reluctant runner, I really can’t imagine starting a weekend without a free 5km and a coffee!
Earlier this week the USA celebrated Independence Day. It’s a day of national pride and celebration, so in our own spin we turn the spotlight on three American parkruns to highlight their unique differences, while at their heart having the same friendly and welcoming core. We start off in Florida, where we have Depot…
98-year-old Colin Thorne has become the oldest person in history to join the parkrun 100 Club. We asked Colin what parkrun means to him, and for his advice on living a long and fulfilling life. My first parkrun was on 21 January 2017, a week after my 93rd birthday. My time was 50:06 that…