There are so many wonderful things that define parkrun that it’s hard to isolate the one thing that draws people back each week. For Chris Thatcher, River Oaks Event Director, it’s all about family!
The one thing that defines parkrun for me personally, is that it is so much about family – about coming together each week to be active, focus on being healthier, enjoy the outdoors, and just coming together as a community.
My very first exposure to parkrun was through my family: my brother, who has been an active parkrunner in South Africa for many years, and has more than 250 parkruns under his belt. He dragged me along to my first parkrun on one of our visits to SA. What really stood out to me right away is that each week, week after week, and for many years now, his family are out running, volunteering or touring a new parkrun (sometimes a new parkrun country), and quite often our father would be along for the walk, and then afterwards they’d all head out for coffee or breakfast. What a great way to bond as a family! This weekly family ritual was really attractive to me and I was delighted to find parkrun in Canada.
When we first assembled our River Oaks team, we were all very closely aligned that we really wanted to embrace the community and family aspects of parkrun. Perhaps not surprisingly, Oakville turned out to be an excellent place to embrace these values – after all Oakville is a very vibrant community of families, many of whom enjoy being active and outdoors together.
It has been wonderful to see our parkrun community grow at River Oaks with a strong focus on families. Each week we will see families and friends come together to run, jog, walk and volunteer, but most importantly to be together to enjoy the wonderful green spaces. We are so lucky to have so many families come together each week, too numerous to name.
It has also been fun to watch some of our juniors, coming out and running regularly with their dad’s and other family members and showing steady improvement throughout the summer and into the fall. One of our juniors is just shy of his 50th run, one of a few of our River Oaks family who are getting close to that milestone. We are looking forward to sharing the celebration with them.
Of course, not all of our parkrun family members are parkrunners, at least not yet. Each week you will see many younger members of our community out with their parents, cheering and providing volunteer support. We all enjoyed being encouraged by our mini-blue “smurf” marshals, and it is a common sight to see some of our young aspiring parkrunners enjoy a cool down run with mom or dad. I have no doubt that these young ones will be our parkrunners (and perhaps Olympians) of the future. And even if they do not end up as our future Olympians, I know they will grow up being active, loving the outdoors and enjoying community.
And of course, our furry family members are always welcome too!
Family has really come to define our River Oaks parkrun – and is such a special part of the weekly experience for all of us, something that I know is shared across our parkruns in Canada and around the world.
Chris Thatcher, River Oaks Event Director
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