News - 8th May 2017

Wherever I run my parkrun, that’s my home

Natasha Wynand

We ran our first parkrun on the 2nd of November 2013. Our inaugural parkrun took place at Ebotse, in our hometown of Benoni in sunny South Africa. Little did we know then just how important this event would become to us.
A few years came and went and we ran through South Africa’s mostly mild winters and extremely hot +30 degree summers. But still we did not realise how our attachment to parkrun was steadily growing. Back then it was just something we sometimes did on a Saturday.
By 2016 we figured out we were hooked. Running had become an integral part of our life and parkrun was the driving force behind that. Because of parkrun, we had the privilege of running alongside someone we truly admired and one of our country’s heroes. 9-time Comrades Marathon winner and founder of parkrun South Africa – Bruce Fordyce. At that time we mentioned to him our ambitions of moving to Sweden and starting a parkrun for the Swedes.
We misjudged things somewhat. Firstly, we didn’t know that a parkrun would begin in Stockholm just a few months after that conversation. Secondly, we did not take into account just how popular it would be with expats too… what an incredible gathering of international people we’ve seen. And thirdly, we failed to consider the most important thing of all. Minus temperatures and heaps upon heaps of ice and snow.
Adapting to icy conditions was the least of our worries though. We moved to Sweden on 28 December 2016 with no friends, family or connections here to support us. But there was one special thing we could count on… Haga parkrun. 3 days later, on December 31st, as we had every single Saturday for the last few months, we made our way to parkrun. This little bit of routine was indescribably comforting. It was like a security blanket in this exciting but strange new world. And we were not disappointed. Just like back home, the welcome and sense of community we received was astonishing. We immediately felt at home.
Growing up in SA, we rarely ran in temperatures less than 5oC. To us that was freezing! Almost too cold to run! How we laugh at that idea now. Adjusting to running in temperatures of -5 and on ice and snow probably knocked quite a few minutes off our time! It never crossed our minds that it would be so challenging! What an amazing training opportunity it has been.
One thing that was surprising was the space available to run. We ran various parkruns in SA and most totaled 500 – 1000 runners each week. Our home run of Gilloolys averaged 800. Only 36 people braved the cold that day at Haga – but what wonderful spirit! Time and again we hear people marvel at the sense of community at parkrun; everyone is welcome.
We guess at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about for us. Yeah, we do race against our own record every single Saturday, and sure we absolutely love the fika after the run, but most of all we enjoy the feeling of belonging to a group of people who share something so simple with us: the dedication to spreading health and fitness in a fun, free and accessible way.

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