parkrun’s reopening in New Zealand on Saturday was a double celebration, not just of the return of our beloved Saturday morning activity, but of the rest of the global parkrun family we all belong to.
The occasion was marked by many events ‘adopting’ a parkrun country by dressing up in that nation’s colours, flying flags, making food and even speaking the language in the pre-event welcomes. Here’s a snapshot of the way that New Zealand parkrunners showed their solidarity and sent a message of hope to the rest of the parkrun world. He waka eke noa — We are all in this together.
The concept was the brainchild of Jason Chapman, co-Event Director of Puarenga parkrun.
“I’d been seeing all the different country profiles that parkrun had been putting out on social media and in the newsletter and it planted a seed,” Jason says. He posted the following message in a group chat of New Zealand parkrun Event Directors and instantly captured the imagination of parkrunners across the country.
The idea was for New Zealand parkrun events to represent another parkrun country and dress up in that theme, in either flag colours, national dress, or anything else to do with that country. Then it was decided to record video to share with parkrunners worldwide.
Jason’s co-Event Director at Puarenga parkrun, Alison King says “It gained momentum because it included parkrunners everywhere, those not in NZ knew that we were parkrunning for them, that we could be seen as a beacon of hope. parkrun is all of us, not just some of us.
“At first it was just us discussing in a group, but as we posted on our pages about adopting a country it soon spread. I saw it talked about in parkrun discussion groups around the world. People commenting wanted to know which parkrun was representing them. It’s created many new relationships, within events and with our adopted countries.
“At Puarenga we ‘adopted’ Germany. We have a German family and another German expat, but we also had a German who is stranded here (unregistered!) and a Swiss German couple who also have been stranded.”
Anderson parkrun (adopted Scotland)
“There was no particular reason for choosing Scotland,” says Trish Cummins. “I sent our Run Directors a list of the countries still available and one suggested it might be fun to run in a kilt. I was rather sceptical about the number of people with kilts in their closets but we just went with it!”
“I was amazed by the effort that many of our parkrunners put into it. One person made complete outfits for herself and her husband. Another bought fabric at an op shop and outfitted her family and others as well. Several kilts and Scottish flags appeared (including a string of flags for the finish funnel). Some resorted to tartan boxers or scarves. One was a character from Braveheart. One of our parkunners is a genuine Scottish lass so we asked her to deliver our ‘shoutout’ message. We played the bagpipes on YouTube.
“The whole experience was far more rewarding than I imagined. I have suggested to our event team that we consider making the first Saturday in July each year Scotland Day.”
“We have had a phenomenal number of messages from all over Scotland. So far 29 specific parkruns (including the northernmost, the southernmost and the smallest parkrun in the whole UK) have sent greetings and thanks, and many others posts represented whole towns or regions, or just themselves. Several parkruns shared our videos, our photo album and even our run report.”
Glen Chalmers, the parkrun ambassador for the Aberdeenshire and Angus areas in Scotland messaged to say “I am ecstatic to hear of you adopting Scotland for parkrun. We all miss parkrun so much and I’m sure you’ve all lifted our spirits enormously. From the comments above you’ve clearly attracted lots more followers and hopefully one day some of us may well visit your event and thank you in person.”
Scottish parkrunner Caroline Hughes posted “Love the photos and looks like a fabulous parkrun! What a brilliant thing to do, we’re missing our parkrun so much, and this is just lovely. Thanks for adopting Scotland.”
Invercargill parkrun (adopted South Africa)
“We have a community of South Africans who are parkrun regulars,” says Event Director Liz Henry. “As soon as we announced our adopted country we had immediate support and positive messages coming to us from our local parkrunners, but also from all over the world, and in particular from parkrunners in South Africa. We thank you all for your amazing messages of support, it truly has demonstrated what an amazing international parkrun community we have!
“Our parkrunners wore a rainbow of colours and we also had several volunteers dressed as safari animals including 2 giraffes and 2 gazelles. Two of our parkrunners, Regan and Ruth Prattley, painted a large flag which we had at the briefing and finish line as a reminder of who we were representing.”
Here are some of the messages received by Invercargill parkrun:
“I cried when I saw my home flag, I have been restricted from travelling and I miss my family.”
“It means a lot to me as a Kiwi parkrunner that we are acknowledging that not all of our community is able to parkrun at the moment.”
“I truly had no idea how global parkrun was, when you shared posts about some of the events in South Africa I checked them all out, and also looked into what other locations parkrun was in. 22 countries worldwide, I am excited for them re-opening, I now have another reason to travel in the future.”
Pegasus parkrun (adopted Wales)
“We decided on Wales as our adopted parkrun for a couple of reasons,” says co-Event Director Jackie Hancock. “I am originally from the UK and have links to Wales, many happy childhood memories of holidays there and my sister and husband both went to University in Wales. My cousin still lives in Wales too.”
“We dressed up in Welsh costumes – including Tom Jones, a red Dragon and a giant daffodil! We also had one of our regulars, Dai, speak in Welsh and teach us how to count in Welsh to start the event off! I also emailed all of the Welsh parkruns to let them know we were thinking of them and had adopted them – we had some wonderful messages of support from them which were very moving and made our restart even more emotional and special.”
Among the many positive comments from Welsh parkrunners were the following:
“Brilliant, sounds amazing. Diolch am feddwl amdanom ni! Thanks for thinking about us! Pob hwyl! All the best!”
Deio, Hafan Pwllheli parkrun
“That’s brilliant, thanks Pegasus! Best of luck for your re-start, I think we’re all out of practice! Copied and pasted your email to our Facebook page and there’s been a fantastic response, some people feeling quite emotional about it! Oh, and lots now want to go to New Zealand! Thank you so much, it’s just what we need right now.”
Anita Worthing, Aberystwyth parkrun Event Director
Queenstown parkrun (adopted Japan)
Co-EDs of Queenstown parkrun, Chris and Jamie, have travelled to Japan many times for holidays and business over the years and love Japanese culture. They have participated in a few of the parkrun Japan events and really enjoyed them.
“The Queenstown parkrun community loved the idea of adopting another country as our town has a very international population of residents and tourists. Plus, we love any opportunity to have a themed event,” they said.
“We want our friends at parkrun Japan and around the world to know that there is hope to get through the current crisis. Our hope is that you will be back to parkrunning sooner than later!
“Our Tail Walker for the day, Dani Moynes, completed her 100th parkrun and 25th volunteer effort while wearing a Sumo costume and a Tako(octopus) hat.
“One of our other most dedicated parkrunners and volunteers, Andre Chalmers, made some Japanese themed marshal signs that we will be using every week until parkrun Japan can start their events again.”
Western Springs parkrun (adopted Poland)
Western Springs parkrun adopted Poland because Event Director Michael Jenkinson has a set of Polish grandparents, plus the event has some regular parkunners who are Polish.
Julie Collard, a Run Director at Western Springs, said the dressing up was the easy bit especially with so many parkrun 50 shirts.
“Choosing fellow parkrun countries to represent through this hard time enables us to really feel how small the world becomes through parkrun. Connecting with the parkrun Polska team was easy and their response was amazing! I’m still getting over the fact that they all speak perfect English!
“Just before our first parkrun back they shared with us this wonderful message made with all their love and best wishes. Then, with the array of Polish colours, white red, worn at Western Springs on the day, it was easy to make a picture collage to share right back at them.”
This picture collage on FB has had an amazing response after being shared around the Polish parkruns, reaching more than 6500 people.
Hagley parkrun adopted Ireland and Northern Ireland
Richard Malloch says “Paul Bisset from Ardigillan parkrun in Ireland sent us this message at Hagley parkrun that showed how connected we are:”
A few years ago we had one of your regular parkrunners, Lisa McGonigle, volunteer with us in Ardgillan parkun in Ireland while she was home to visit her parents and run the Dublin City marathon. She brought her parents up with her to their first parkrun and they got hooked. Her dad Ben recently did his 100th and mum Alison did her 50th and they are here most weeks. They have paid a few visits to Hagley while they were in New Zealand, Ben got this feature in the parkrun Ireland blog and Hagley gets a lovely mention in it.
Millwater parkrun (adopted Italy)
Claire and Rhys at Millwater parkrun chose Italy and were overwhelmed with the response.
“The love, passion, and energy we have felt from Italy has been amazing, so we made a great choice,” says Claire.
“Knowing we were the only country able to reopen parkrun again was very humbling, and the idea of scooping up the rest of the global parkrun family and allowing them to be part of the occasion, albeit differently to usual, was really very special. We hope that by reaching out to our adopted country they feel that sense of community, support and encouragement parkun is known for.”
Millwater had Italian themed decorations and lollies to set the scene and co-Event Director Rhys did an amazing job delivering the Pre Event Welcome in Italian.
Claire says “The highlight has been the response from our local and international communities. Our Italian parkrunning friends have sent photos and messages of love and support, even donning themselves with NZ regalia for their non-parkruns. Being connected in this way has been really emotional, and we thank their Country Manager, Giorgio Cambiano, for sharing our event over there and promoting this partnership. We hope that they do not have too long to wait until they can also return and, when they do, we will look forward to celebrating with them!”
Cambridge, NZ parkrun (adopted England)
“I just happened to be online when Jason from Puarenga suggested the idea,” says Brian Prescott. “I chipped in that Cambridge NZ could do Cambridge UK. We already had a relationship with that parkrun and we ended up adopting England.”
“The great array of flags, English or British sport supporters shirts and smiling faces was amazing, but the biggest highlight was having the Cambridge UK parkrun core volunteer group on a zoom call to start our first parkrun back.
“It was great to see everyone posting their favourite UK parkrun before the restart, and being able to look them up on Facebook and check their course and photos. It was quite emotional at the start on both sides of the world and we have promised to help Cambridge parkrun when they restart.”
Balclutha parkrun (adopted Canada in the week they celebrated Canada Day)
This photo says it all!
We’ll leave the final message to Anja at Puarenga, which you can watch here.
This two-minute video has a short clip showing how each New Zealand event showed their support for their ‘adopted’ parkrun country.
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