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News - 30th April 2019

parkrun profile: Tonbridge

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Tonbridge parkrun takes every Saturday morning in the market town of Tonbridge in Kent.

 

Event Director Anthony Lester tells us more about the event he calls home…

 

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I have been involved with Tonbridge parkrun from its inception. I had been running at a ‘local’ parkrun (one of only two parkruns in Kent at the time) and word got to me that there were plans and funding for an event in Tonbridge – but no Event Director.

 

I said that I would do it for 6 months, more than 5 years later and I’m still here! In the early days it was all about the run; getting the PB’s and hitting the milestones, but very quickly a community developed, a group of people from many different walks of life that would perhaps otherwise never have interacted.

 

That for me is now the hook, and to be a custodian, to nurture and facilitate that community is why I keep coming back.

 

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Our event takes place off Castle Road, behind the swimming pool in Tonbridge. We first began scanning barcodes on Saturday 9 November 2013, and since then more than 11,000 people have completed our course.

 

To describe our course in the words of our social media star, we are the #veniceofparkruns with 14 crossings of bridges. There are no ‘famous’ landmarks as such but we love our bridge crossings, we challenge all our tourists to ‘count them if you can’.

 

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It is a single-lap, ‘lollipop’ course starting on playing fields, but quickly moving into woodland and then onto a 1-mile loop of our beautiful lake.

 

The paths are all either tarmac or hardcore trail and run adjacent to a body of water and as such there are no hills so very family friendly.

 

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There are several local cafes that runners go to for a post-parkrun coffee, and with 600+ parkrunners every Saturday, we certainly need them!

 

A converted local Old Fire Station, aptly named ‘Tonbridge Old Fire Station’ (photo below) is also a favourite. There is also a local swimming pool cafe where we normally process the results & sort tokens.      

 

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Every participant that we speak to has their own unique story, mirroring every other event across the world there is no way to spotlight just one.

 

Our volunteers are exactly the same, although I still find it amazing that we have two regular volunteers who have never run.

 

In 2018 Tonbridge parkrun held the launch event that kicked-off parkrun’s celebrations of the NHS 70th birthday, which saw Dame Kelly Holmes run the course along with hundreds of others, most of whom were in fancy dress.

 

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There is only anecdotal evidence of the positive impact that parkrun has had on the local community and of course we can sometimes get a distorted opinion based upon the echo chamber effect of social media and the social circles we live in outside of parkrun.

 

But what we do know is that parkrun has facilitated 600+ people to get together and participate in up to an hours exercise each week. It has brought people together who wouldn’t necessarily have done so otherwise. That sounds pretty good to me…

 

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