parkrun is many things to many people. For some it’s a way to track their progress, get faster and commit to running every Saturday morning. For others it’s friendship and being a part of something they love.
parkrun is fundamentally a running event, but it’s also so so much more, it’s about health and community. parkrun’s tagline is “A healthier, happier planet”, so this week I want to focus on those people who don’t run or jog, but instead help make the world a healthier happier place, the ones who do it because they want to be a part of a community.
There are many different people who don’t collect finish tokens, from babies and young children who travel the course in a stroller to Event Directors who spend their evenings and weekends ensuring the event goes off without a hitch every Saturday morning. Without these people parkrun might not happen, and it certainly wouldn’t be the fun and friendly event it is.
At Kanata we have Mary-Frances Laughton who has volunteered 64 times and never once jogged or walked parkrun. Her typical volunteer role is to hand out the finish tokens, probably the most rewarding volunteer role and certainly the role that provides the most opportunity to directly interact with parkrunners.
Mary-Frances is a stalwart of our volunteer team and whenever she’s not there everyone will be missing her and asking where she is. She’s been one of our ‘featured’ Kanata parkrunners and when I asked her if she would like to be featured in this blog post she provided me with this quote:
“My Saturdays now start with an hour or so of fresh air, either very hot in the summer, very cold in the winter or very pleasant in the spring or fall. No matter the weather, I am spending time with wonderful folks who are becoming my parkrun family. I can’t run due to my disability, but I can participate as a volunteer.”
And that’s what parkrun does, it creates a family, a community of “wonderful folks” who come together to make the world a better place.
Another one of our stalwart volunteers is Louise Gabell, who has volunteered 41 times, tail walked once and only once completed the 5 km as a ‘regular’ parkrunner. Louise brings a fantastic cheery presence to our parkruns, in addition to taking every opportunity to share her baking with everyone. She most recently produced a fantastic cake to celebrate Kanata’s 2nd birthday. There’s no section on baking in the parkrun guide but when volunteers go that extra mile it makes events truly special and memorable.
For Louise, parkrun gives her a reason to get up on a Saturday:
“I never thought I’d be up and out every Saturday morning to do something connected to running. I don’t run, well, not fast and not far, but being involved in parkrun has me doing just that! Pretty much every Saturday morning you can find me at the Beaver Pond, phone in hand ready to scan barcodes, once I’ve cheered on and directed our parkrunners of course! My Saturdays would not be the same now without parkrun!”
We never want to forget that making parkrun an enjoyable experience for our volunteers is just as important as ensuring our runners cross the finish line, because without them we wouldn’t have our wonderful community. parkrun provides something for everyone as we can see from the recent blog posts about family time and how it is not just for runners.
Volunteering also makes people happier as a recent independent survey of parkrunners in the UK found. As I read over this blog it sounds a little schmaltzy, but the truth is, it’s how I feel about parkrun and our volunteers. As Euan Bowman reminded me at last weekend’s Ambassadors conference “we need people just like you”. So I am unapologetically sentimentally proud of our volunteers and the community they have created for themselves and all our runners here at Kanata.
By Tristan MacLean, Kanata parkrun Event Director and parkrun Ambassador
How did you first hear about parkrun? James and Jodi from Taber, Alberta, share their story about the influential role James’ Dad played in the founding of Trout Pond parkrun. This time last year we would’ve just held our 2nd parkrun, still trying to get used to juggling the scanning, timekeeping, token hand…
Comment avez-vous entendu parler de parkrun? James et Jodi, de Taber, en Alberta, racontent leur histoire au sujet du rôle influent joué par le père de James dans la création du parkrun de Trout Pond. L’année dernière, à ce moment-là, nous aurions organisé notre deuxième parkrun, essayant toujours de nous habituer à jongler avec…