Lucy Marris began volunteering at junior parkrun to help her local event and quickly learnt how important and enjoyable they are for children.
But she discovered a different perspective towards parkrun after her community rallied around her during a serious illness that rendered her immobile for weeks. Lucy shares her thoughts on junior parkrun and the positive impact it’s had on her life.
junior parkrun has brought just as much joy to my life as the junior parkrunners, who are supposedly the main beneficiaries. However, there was a time when I didn’t know about how much joy junior parkrun could bring to my life.
I had a sense that I wanted to contribute to parkrun, as it changed my life for the better. I was apprehensive about how I might be received – would people find it odd if I was volunteering at a junior parkrun when I didn’t have any children myself?
I couldn’t be more wrong! I was welcomed with open arms to my (then nearest) junior parkrun at Graves Park, Sheffield and I found myself stepping into the wonderland that happens all over the UK on a Sunday morning.
It’s difficult to write how much fun junior parkrun can be. The camaraderie of meeting the other volunteers, people from your neighbourhood you might walk past every day. But now you are sharing this positive experience and you feel like you’ve known them all your life.
However, my participation took on a whole new perspective last year. I was really ill during lockdown, and experienced serious medical complications that left me housebound for a while and using a wheelchair for many weeks.
Gradually, I became a bit more mobile, but I had to use a Zimmer in the house and a rollator to venture outside. I desperately wanted to re-engage with people, but how?
The Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park junior parkrun community was just amazing in helping me get back involved. They started off by giving me a marshal point very close to the car park so I could manage to get to it with my rollator. They then dispatched juniors with a high vis for me to wear so I didn’t have to go to the main assembly point, which would have been too far.
The juniors would then keep me company until the start of the run. At the end, they collected my high vis and wished me well. This went on for many weeks. Over time, as I could manage slightly further distances, I made it to the finish area to give out finish tokens – a job I could still do seated.
Eventually, I took on marshal points at gradually increased distances depending on how far I felt able to walk. They did all they could to accommodate and encourage me, and were understanding if I had to cancel at short notice.
In fact, I never had to. I think largely because I knew I was going into a supportive environment where I’d be helped if things were hard to manage. In my experience, junior parkrun is a great example of creating a positive and inclusive environment for both volunteers and participants alike.
Volunteering at any parkrun is super fun of course, but volunteering at a junior parkrun is on another level. I can’t think of another activity that has you crying with laughter and leaves you super charged for a whole week.
My favourite role? It’s impossible to choose. I love doing the first timers’ welcome as you get to introduce new parkrunners to something potentially life-changing. I adore leading the warm-up because my inner child comes out!
Then again, cheering the juniors en route swells the heart. I’m amazed each week at their adventures on the way, whether that’s someone who has decided to skip the whole route or the juniors who put on a greyhound sprint leaving their adults for dust. Try them all out for size, find your happy place.
Taking part each week honestly reminds me, in times which have sometimes seemed bleak, that there is still good in the world. What’s more, you can access it at a park near you every Sunday.
Through supporting junior parkrun, you are part of a movement that increases wellbeing in young people. This secures the future of parkrun as a new generation grows up with an appreciation of the values of inclusivity and volunteering as well as a love of being active. It’s important and rewarding to cheer on those youngsters who might never enjoy being active, who are won over by the supportive environment they enter every Sunday morning.
It is a rare privilege to be able to spread and receive positivity in equal measure. We may have Paul Sinton-Hewitt to thank for our Saturday parkrun fix, but thanks should go to Paul Graham too, who was behind the launch of junior parkrun.
There is a whole new world, waiting to welcome you in, Sundays will never be the same again!
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