When Michèle Riley spoke with Dr Gary Lamph about training for the London Marathon this year, both connected over the love of physical activity. Soon after, they started the Ormskirk parkrun and Edge Hill University (EHU) Initiative to encourage more EHU students and fellow staff to join their local community in the outdoors.
We speak to Michèle about what they hope to achieve with the initiative and how they are motivating the university to participate.
Our local event is the Ormskirk parkrun, which is held at Edge Hill University in Lancashire with more than 200 average finishers every week. I started parkrunning at Ormskirk in October 2016 after completing a Couch to 5k course at Edge Hill Sports Centre. I got hooked with parkrun (going every week) and have even visited other nearby events!
Earlier this year, Gary and I had a brief chat about his training for the London Marathon in April. Gary is Head of Mental Health and Learning Disability Nursing in the Faculty of Health, Social Work and Medicine, where I also work as a Research Support Administrator.
We connected over our love for parkrun, as I am the event director at Ormskirk and Gary had started going to improve his general health and fitness ahead of the London Marathon. We also shared a vision to raise the profile and health benefits of parkrun among students, staff, and their families.
The aim of the Ormskirk parkrun and EHU Initiative is to encourage more students and staff to get outdoors in the fresh air and exercise whether that be running, walking, jogging or volunteering. Just a simple parkrun once a week can be the start of improving physical health and mental well-being, which in turn can help prevent diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancers.
Ormskirk parkrun is free and takes place every Saturday at 9am outside the Sports Centre at EHU. It’s very easy to register online and get your barcode, which gives you a record of every time you take part in parkrun.
I think parkrun is a great place to make new friends and connect with people who enjoy the outdoors. The course here is especially beautiful with lovely views across Ormskirk and Lancashire.
With the parkrun taking place on campus, it’s an easy and accessible way for students and staff to engage in physical activity and it’s also a wonderful opportunity for them to meet and be a part of the local community.
Coincidentally, parkrun’s NHS75 initiative in July was also a big occasion for us. I suggested to Gary that we join forces to plan a special parkrun at Ormskirk in collaboration with Edge Hill University and invite the local community and NHS staff associated with EHU to come along.
Our ‘parkrun for the NHS’ event took place on Saturday 8 July and was a huge success, with more than 350 people parkrunning! I was the run director for the day and felt very proud to have the Vice-Chancellor Dr John Cater CBE attend and speak.
The NHS75 event raised the profile of the initiative across campus and Ormskirk parkrun is now featured weekly on the Student Portal on campus – which is great to see! We’ve received more registrations from students and staff since the event and I was especially proud to see it televised on ITV Granada. It’s also improved the relationship with the sports centre at Edge Hill, who are keen to include Ormskirk parkrun in their events timetable.
Currently, I’m working with Professor Greg Irving to develop an initiative with GPs to raise awareness of the parkrun practice initiative among GP surgeries across the UK. Greg is a parkrunner and a GP in St Helens, Merseyside and regularly prescribes parkrun to his patients.
Now we are coming up to our 400th event this Saturday 12 August, I hope to see Ormskirk parkrun featured in the next university prospectus and will continue raising the profile of parkrun across all universities in the UK as a vital health and wellbeing offering for students, staff and their families.
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