Aaron Mitchell and his son, Thomas, have been a father and son parkrun duo since 2015. The pair hail from Adelaide and their local parkrun is Torrens with its beautiful green riverside course. Aaron says they were immediately welcomed into the Torrens parkrun family and Thomas loved the encouragement in the form of high fives and cheers. From the beginning, they were hooked into the parkrun community.
Aaron began running shortly after his 40th birthday as a means to keep fit, healthy and “in the hope that it would help stave off the looming dad-bod!” Aaron’s determination to be in the best shape as he could meant a quick introduction to running events and parkrun. An injury meant he had to slow down a bit and so he recruited his son Thomas to help him out. Thomas was also looking for a means to keep fit to help him in other sporting pursuits, so Thomas became Aaron’s unofficial recovery coach. Off to parkrun they both went under this new arrangement and so became the father and son parkrun duo.
Now Aaron and Thomas can’t imagine a Saturday morning without parkrun. Aaron is aware of how much parkrun has positively affected their lives. Not just for him and Aaron but for their whole family including his wife, Rosemary. Aaron acknowledges, “parkrun is the central anchor around which I attach all my good habits. Before starting parkrun, half of every Saturday was spent in bed. Now with parkrun as a part of our lives, Rosemary, Thomas and I get up early and meet all our parkrun friends. We have a happy run (or walk), followed by pancakes with banana and Nutella at home and shopping –all before midday when we would otherwise still be in bed.”
Sometimes they run together chatting as they go and sometimes they prefer a more solo parkrun experience. Aaron believes it’s important to not always push and focus on faster times. Sometimes the 5km run can be spent as a bonding time or a time to chat together. Aaron says, “each run is quite varied and nuanced depending on the day. I do my best to be responsive to Thomas’ needs. As the faster runner (for the time being!), I moderate my pace in order to provide Thomas with engagement, companionship and support.” Aaron continues, “running with my son is a physical form of communication that acts to maintain and strengthen the bond between us through a shared experience.”
Aaron has made sure the time spent with his son is as positive as it can be. He thoughtfully uses parkrun as a time to form a connection with Thomas. Aaron is full of praise for the parkrun community and how much it can help people not just with their physical fitness but with their mental health too. “Each week, I see participants greet each other with joy and laughter. There is such great conversation and support; personal progress of any amount is celebrated! There is no single participant that is without improvement between their first and their fiftieth parkrun.” Aaron continues to reflect by saying, “I am positively evangelical in my encouragement of others to join and regularly participate at parkrun! I have recruited many co-workers, friends and family, who have recruited many others in turn. Thomas has recruited other classmates who have recruited their families, relatives and friends.”
Aaron, Rosemary and Thomas also like to participate in a bit of parkrun tourism. Together they have visited West Beach (they love to see the horses gallop alongside the river portion of the path), Lochiel, Mawson Lakes, Victor Harbor and Pakapakanthi. And Thomas has even done a bit of solo parkrun tourism whilst staying with his Grandparents and did Christies Beach parkrun. They have also gone further afield and done Albert Park and Parkville in Melbourne.
After almost four years of parkunning together, Aaron comments, “in our busy lives, it is the one guaranteed thing in our week that we physically connect on; it is a special, shared time. After a decent parkrun, Thomas is happier, calmer and more cooperative. As Thomas continues to mature, it is my hope that parkrun will continue to be an important stabilising point of connection. parkrun has a very strong effect on the quality of my life. I’m fitter, lighter, more confident and happier. And I have a more optimistic outlook.”
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