Heaton parkrun in Manchester has just celebrated 10 years of parkrunning!
Having now reached double figures, Co-Event Director Rick Bennett tells us more…
I was introduced to parkrun in February 2008 by my sister in-law Alison Brownhill (now one of the Run Directors at Upton Court parkrun). We were visiting her for the weekend and planning some runs.
She said we could run a free 5k in Richmond Park called parkrun, at 9:00am on Saturday morning. I signed up online, and the next morning we ran to Richmond Park.
Just before 9:00am a team of people in hi-viz turned up and, after a few welcoming words and instructions, one of the volunteers marked a line on the path with her foot and we were off.
After the run we waited in line to give our details to someone on a laptop, and hand in our metal disc with our finishing position on. Later that afternoon I got an email with our results. How fantastic was that I thought?
Just over a year later, with a couple more parkruns under my belt, I decided to have a look at starting a parkrun at Heaton Park in Manchester. On Saturday 20 June 2009 thirty-two people crossed the finish line of our first Heaton parkrun.
We’ve now reached our 10th year and have seen our numbers steadily increase each year to the point where our average attendance is between 600 and 800, with a record turnout of 1001 walkers, joggers and runners one Saturday in March 2019. We also regularly have 40-50 volunteers helping each week.
We couldn’t have reached these numbers, and changed so many people’s lives without the help of all our amazing volunteers, so a big parkrun thank you to each and every one of them who have taken on that role over the years.
What do I love about our parkrun? It’s set in beautiful Heaton Park, which is the biggest in Manchester and the largest Municipal Park in Europe. I love to see all our volunteers, and parkrunners each week, and of course have a catch-up afterwards with a coffee in the cafe.
If you’re coming to Heaton parkrun for the first time, there’s no need to worry. You will be made to feel very welcome when you arrive. We meet at the Pavilion Cafe by the Lake from 8.30am, and our first-timers briefing takes place at 8.50am where we will make sure you know exactly what to do and where to go.
You’ll love our course, which has some hills but is nearly all on good, tarmac paths. From the lakeside start, there is a short lap of about 2k before the climb up to our highest point as you run past the front of the spectacular Heaton Hall.
On a clear day there are views across the skyline of the City of Manchester and over the Pennines to Yorkshire. After Heaton Hall you can look forward to the fastest part of the course as you follow a path around the edge of the park’s Golf Course before the long downhill for 1k back towards the lake. A final lap around the lake and it’s into the finish where you started just before the cafe.
The most famous landmark on our course has to be the Grade 1 listed Heaton Hall, built in the 1700s with its iconic lions on the south-facing side. This was our meeting point for many years before our recent move to the lakeside.
After parkrun we meet for a coffee and catch up in the Pavilion Cafe, which is right next to our start and finish area.
With such a large regular turnout we have parkrunners from all sorts of backgrounds. One of the most interesting characters is John Consterdine, who is the only Blue Badge qualified, Black Cab driving tour guide in Manchester.
John has run with us over 300 times and never fails to spread the word about parkrun to his customers, who come from all over the world to visit Manchester, and on his regular local radio appearances.
I think the impact our parkrun has had on the local community has been immense. The sheer numbers attending bear witness to that.
I still love how it can bring people from all backgrounds together and change lives.
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