When Leigh Fettes looks back at her social media memories from a year ago, they’re full of enthusiastic posts about parkrun, and wonderings of whether they could ever establish one in Huntsville.
We’re pleased to report that the answer is a resounding YES!
What a first year we’ve have at Avery Beach parkrun, in Huntsville. As we wind down for the season (we don’t have a suitable year-round route), it seems the perfect time to reflect on 2019.
After we made a few inquiries about the possibility of bringing parkrun to Huntsville, we were contacted by parkrun Ambassador, Aneez (Whitby parkrun). Aneez was incredibly supportive, particularly as we worked with our town to find a way to have the trail permit fee waived.
We had to narrow down a route, and chose to run along the lake, as it was far more scenic. We think we chose well as many people waded and dove into the water, after running, on those hot summer mornings.
Early in the Spring, on a chilly day, us Event Directors hit the road, bound for North Bay parkrun, to learn the timing and technical ropes. We were greeted to a warm welcome (and we may have tried to poach runners by convincing them to visit sunny Muskoka in the summer), and learned enough to feel ready to launch a few weeks later.
Our start date ended up being pushed back a few weeks in May, because of the ‘hundred year flood’. This flood (which actually last happened 6 years ago), saw lake levels rise by several feet. Unfortunately, this meant that much of our route was completely under water. Once those waters receded, many old logs from when logging was actively happening in our area, washed up on shores, including along the Avery Beach Trail.
To say that Huntsville had a few very difficult weeks, including a state of emergency, would be an understatement. Our town did a magnificent (and quick!) job of clearing the large debris, and a small but mighty team of people were keen to get parkun going, tackled some of the smaller pieces and garbage.
We finally launched (better late than never!) on May 18th with a wonderful gathering of friends, family, tourists and folks who were completely new to the concept of parkrun. Throughout the Spring and Summer, we were so fortunate to welcome many different people to Avery Beach parkrun. We got to know locals (and missed them when they were away for a week), met people from across Ontario and Canada, including people from other parkruns,
We welcomed tourists from throughout the UK, and some runners from Australia (one celebrated his 100th parkrun with us!). We were always particularly astonished to welcome people from out of country, and in fact, felt (and got) a bit giddy! It’s amazing that this thing called parkrun can bring people from so far away, to our little town.
Throughout the season, we were supported by our local running club (MARs – Muskoka Algonquin Runners), and our wonderful Triathlon Club (TriMuskoka). Our local high school encouraged their runners to come out, and this fall, we were joined by some nordic skiers for some of their dryland training. We found that we didn’t tend to visit the coffee shop as we’d planned during the summer, but rather enjoyed our incredibly scenic site to visit, while eating home-baked goods and fruit, and many even took a cooling wade or dip in the lake. We were also treated to a lemonade stand one sunny summer morning!
We’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had a brilliant base of volunteers, including friends, many high school students, cottagers here for the summer, and of course our families. We were especially lucky to have a third person join our RD team, Doug Allan. Together, we’ve become a local parkrun family, part of a global one. We are so very grateful.
As we look ahead to 2020…
We’d like to draw more participants who are new to running and encourage those who are looking to find ways to be active in a group setting. parkrun offers the perfect opportunity for people to get out and get moving on a Saturday morning. Whether people are participating or volunteering, spreading the ‘parkrun love’ across Muskoka is gaining momentum as more and more people find us through word of mouth or our active social media.
Our core volunteers have become ambassadors in the community, encouraging others who might be somewhat intimidated by a ‘running race’, but once they experience the event, become regulars. We discovered this year the importance of training others to help with the various roles. Having people we can rely on for the more involved tasks made the morning go more smoothly, and got better every week. We’ve been delighted at the response by our town, and hope to draw on our successful first year.
Over the winter, we hope to fine tune things – and use the down time to find creative ways to enhance the experience.
We thank our supporters for a great first year, and can’t wait to see them all in Spring 2020 – And some new friends too!
By Leigh Fettes, Kati Strickland, and Doug Allan – “the parkrun 3”
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