Royal Tunbridge Wells (RTW) parkrun in Kent has been part of the local community since April 2014 and has welcomed nearly 7,000 parkrunners in that time.
Richard Woodfield from RTW parkrun takes us on a tour of his home event, but first let’s meet Judy, the volunteer coordinator…
Judy, as well as coordinating the volunteers, has herself volunteered as barcode scanner more than 200 times since 2014. She loves the feel-good factor of the RTW parkrun: “We’re in great surroundings in Dunorlan Park; it feels good to be part of parkrunners’ journey.
It’s very satisfying to be part of an event solely run by volunteers, and it also feels good to meet so many different people from right across the community.
One of my highlights was the NHS 70th anniversary parkrun celebrations in 2018. Everyone entered into the spirit – we had parkrunners wearing scrubs and stethoscopes, the Run Director in a historic nurse’s uniform and Dame Kelly Holmes took part, giving generously of her time to the seemingly unending queue of people hoping for selfies.”
Our parkrun is a very well signposted two-lap course – it would be quite difficult to get lost! You get to see much of Dunorlan Park – including a couple of times round the lake.
There are several uphill stretches, but none of them long. There is a short but steep uphill as you finish – but you often get massive encouragement from the volunteers as you complete those last few yards, and especially for those who are looking out of puff.
We’ve got a fabulous lake and just enough undulations to give you great views across the park; our route passes magnificent specimen trees and through elegant formal parkland as well as wilder areas of hedgerows and fields; we’ve a mixture of running surfaces, both hard and grassy.
Visitors do tend to comment about what we’ve dubbed “Heartbreak Hill”, a short but rather steep uphill stretch just before the finish funnel. It can pack a surprising punch, especially if you’ve been a bit over-ambitious with your pace on the first lap!
But we love Heartbreak Hill – it really does boost our sense of achievement at the end of a parkrun.
After parkrun, we make our way to the Dunorlan Park café, right next to the start and finish area. In summer months you can take your post-parkrun tea or coffee out onto the balcony with grandstand views over the lake.
One of our regulars, Mark, has been parkrunning with us since we started in 2014. He’s completed more than 200 parkruns at our event and is also a regular volunteer, with a penchant for pre-event setup,
On the Tuesday before our inaugural parkrun he and some friends set themselves the challenge of seeing who could run at least 5k every single day for the longest. As the years passed all but one of the others gradually dropped out…
Shortly before Christmas 2018, Mark passed his 1700th consecutive day of 5k+ running. He did have one close shave when prompted by a reminder from his wife, he had to jump out of bed not long before midnight, don his running gear and just squeeze in that day’s 5k.
As a paramedic Mark is well placed to keep an eye on any injuries – and early in 2019 he finally decided it was time to give his body a bit more recovery time!
In 2016 RTW parkrun won the Best Group award in the Tunbridge Wells’ Love Where We Live awards “which celebrate the people who make the Borough a great place to live.”
It was fantastic to have recognition of the contribution made by all our volunteers – ranging from children and teenagers to 80+-year-olds – who help to make our parkrun a highlight of the week for so many people.
We’re especially pleased to host so many Duke of Edinburgh volunteers from the local schools – we can offer really varied and well-structured volunteering opportunities.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is really supportive of our event and we’re very grateful for that. Long may it continue!
In April this year our founding Event Director, Joe, stepped down after five years in the role – and it was great to have a really large number of parkrunners turn out to express their appreciation of his service in getting us “up and running” and leading us through these formative early years.
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