Huntingdon parkrun in Cambridgeshire launched in April 2013 and since then has welcomed almost 10,000 different parkrunners!
Co-Event Director Stuart Ainsworth tells us more about his home event…
I have been parkrunning since March 14 after much nagging from my neighbour David Irwin who is Regional Event Ambassador for the East Midlands.
I was asked to become an RD September 2015, before stepping up as Event Director in May 2018, Charles Butcher stepped up as Co-ED soon afterwards. I was also an Outreach Ambassador as part of Project PROVE and continue supporting those parkrunners with heart conditions.
Our event is very well supported and has a fantastic spirit. We see new runners nearly every week and it is great to see them getting ‘hooked’; we also welcome a good number of visiting tourists.
My wife, Alison, is Co-Event Director of Jubilee juniors, our local junior parkrun, and as she is also our Event Support Ambassador. I am also an RD at Jubilee too so our weekends are always a bit parkrun busy!
Our two-lap course in the beautiful surrounding s of the Hinchingbrooke Country Park is in the shape of a ‘winklepicker’ shoe and passes over grass, paths and tracks in woodland and open meadow.
We are surrounded by wildlife with many wild birds on the nearby lakes and numerous rabbits, squirrels and other animals. The course which is both fast and flat is always supported by our amazing, enthusiastic and noisy volunteers.
Like many parkruns, we frequently have themed events and these are always well supported. There is lots of car parking – with additional spaces at the local hospital – and a great on-site café which is our weekly meeting point. The course is both buggy and dog-friendly so it really does cater for every sort of participant.
Being close to the A1 and A14, we are also really easy to find so are ideally placed for tourists en route North-South or East-West. Huntingdon station on the main East Coast Mainline, is less than a kilometre away.
With a high water table and being close to the River Great Ouse, we have three official courses so you haven’t really done Huntingdon until you complete all three!
Our standard course is a two-lapper. During the Summer, we have a single lap figure of eight which incorporates the large lake in the Country Park. In the winter, when the river levels rise, some areas of the course are underwater so, if necessary, we have an amended course to avoid the deepest of the flooding.
We also have a new claim to fame since the start of the Free, Weekly, Timed podcast. We have been given the title of ‘the parkrun beginning with H’ due to our frequent inclusions in the broadcast!
We have many characters at Huntingdon parkrun but the spirit and inclusivity of our parkrun family is encapsulated in the Sweet family.
Grandparents Hank and Judy are in their 70s and volunteer (both members of the 25 Club) or participate every week. Their son, Ben runs most weeks with his dog Jackson and their grandson Harry has recently completed back-to-back DofE volunteering stints completing both Bronze and Silver. His brother Cameron also runs with us. A fantastic multi-generation example of how parkrun can do something for everyone and a great way for families to enjoy activities together.
We also have the Irwin family, who achieved their respective milestones with us on the same day, each milestone celebrated with a cake! Alice even returned from Bristol to complete her 100th on the day!
Most weeks with his dog Jackson and their grandson Harry has recently completed back to back DofE volunteering completing both Bronze – a fantastic multi-generation example of how parkrun can do something for everyone and a great way for families to enjoy activities together.
Our parkrun family has grown steadily and we now welcome over 400 walkers, joggers and runners each week. We are supported by local running clubs and groups and draw runners, walkers and volunteers from all areas of the town and local area.
We also frequently provide volunteers to help the Park with tasks like tree planting and weeding, so helping develop it for the whole community.
The Park is managed by an outstanding group of rangers who are totally committed to its use and development. They are fully behind parkrun which makes the management of the event so much easier.
The award of funding from the Leeds Building Society Community Reward Scheme has cemented this relationship even further and the improvements which it enabled are now all in place, benefiting the parkrunning and wider communities alike.
Our most famous landmark is the ‘hill’ (6m above sea level) at the first turn from the start. A regular marshal, Henry Bailey, has made this corner his own and he greets every participant three times during the event and can often be heard from at least 150 metres away.
We renamed the marshal position ‘Henry’s Hill’ and we have a special sign to identify it – he was presented with the original artwork by parkrun Founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt when he visited us in 2017.
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