News - 7th December 2022


Martin Crabb 5

Martin Crabb is chief cheerleader at Witney parkrun and played a key role during the Coronavirus pandemic in encouraging his community to keep active, engaged and logging their (not)parkruns.


Having been a Witney Roadrunners Club member since 1985, I have always been in contact with running mates. When I was told by one of them that Witney planned to have its own parkrun, starting in early 2018, I signed up, got my barcode and attended the test event.


I’d been suffering with hip pain, owing to needing a total hip replacement. I decided to jog around the course, unfortunately in pain, but loved being part of the new event and finding so many like-minded, friendly runners, walkers and volunteers, including many of my run club mates.


When I found out about the tail walking volunteer role, I put my name down for it at the first event in March 2018. It was great to receive so many words of encouragement from those going past us slower ones on the course and having the chance to return some positive comments and cheers.


Martin Crabb 3


While I waited for my hip replacement I participated in the parkrun a few times and did my last parkrun in June, when I achieved my best parkrun 5k time. Sadly, my surgeon advised me not to run anymore and he was backed up by my wife! When the pain got worse, I stopped tail walking and took up the roles of time keeper, marshal and barcode scanner.


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I had the hip replacement in the Autumn. This was my first experience of how caring parkrunners are. I received so many messages of support including virtual hugs.


By this stage I realised I was addicted to parkrun. When I was in the post operation recovery room, I woke up and started to laugh. The nurse asked why I was laughing and I replied that I had just dreamt I was the first finisher at Witney parkrun, if only it was true! We then went on to chat about my new favourite subject.


I got back to parkrun as soon as my hip recovery allowed and was enjoying being a regular tail walker again when events were suspended due to the Coronavirus pandemic. By August 2020 I noticed that not many of my lovely community had taken up the opportunity to log (not)parkruns. This initiative was introduced by parkrun in the absence of the usual Saturday events, so people could still log their 5k efforts whenever they did them.


The Witney core team gave me the ‘Mission Impossible Challenge’ of getting 100 of our Witney parkrun family members to record a (not)parkrun 5k run, jog or walk by Sunday evening on 23rd August 2020.


Well, the response was fantastic and 153 parkrunners logged 201 (not)parkruns. This was just the encouragement I needed to continue. I soon realised with the positive use of social media and all my contacts within my running club we could do better.


With us all facing a difficult period in our lives we needed to look after our health and well-being. We could all check the website to see who was logging their (not)parkruns and be reassured that our friends were ok. Those that stopped logging their activity were checked on when possible and offered support during isolation periods.


Before long I was given the hashtags #makecrabbyhappy and #runforcrabby!


Moving on to present times and a return to normal Saturday parkruns our community here have continued to log our (not)parkruns. Witney have been top of the (not)parkrun UK leader board for the number of weekly logged (not)parkruns for two years now!


Recently I logged my 750th (not)parkrun and will continue as a few of our members, particularly those unable to attend events on Saturdays, are still regularly (not)parkrunning and then logging their 5ks.


I won’t ever forget the loss of friends over the last two years but I will always value the support of my family and my parkrun community during that tough pandemic time.


I was honoured to receive a ‘Chief Cheerleader’ T-shirt and a few celebration drinks from the Witney parkrun core team in recognition for my efforts to encourage our local community to look after their health and well-being during the lock down periods.


Martin Crabb 1


I also lead a weekly Witney Roadrunners walking group. This is for the more mature members who no longer run and those that may be returning from injury or just want to walk and chat.


A group of my retired mates meet weekly to walk the parkrun course, armed with plastic bags so we can  pick up any litter on the way. We have so much fun with our silly jokes and banter, always enjoying a coffee together at a local café afterwards. We have become known as the Diamond Wheezers. We have dressed up on several occasions to tail walk together, just for the fun of it and to give everyone a laugh.


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I am now also part of the core team for Woodgreen junior parkrun. We have just celebrated our first birthday. Of course, I am the regular tail walker there, wearing my fluffy tail and I am the volunteer coordinator too. Taking on these roles at my 72 years of age has helped me develop my IT skills and the regular contact with both adults and children has been so important.


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I can honestly say that my parkrun journey has changed my life for the better. I always describe it as my ‘Happy Hour’ but we all know parkrun is every day of the week!


Martin Crabb

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