We hear of many motivations for starting a new parkrun event, but this is one of the most moving. Jenny Chambers was a lively and indefatigable member of her local parkrun community in England right up until her death in 2015. Thousands of miles away in Louisville, Kentucky, her daughter, Natalie DeRatt, was inspired to launch a new parkrun event, creating the same warm, welcoming, healthy community that her mom so loved. Natalie tells the story of Joe Creason parkrun, a new free, weekly 5k run/walk, and how it will be a special legacy. We also found some of Jenny’s contributions to early parkrun newsletters, which give a sense of the person who inspired the 20th parkrun USA event.
Life is busy. In fact, life sometimes feels like it’s hurtling at one million miles an hour. But there’s always 9am on a Saturday morning. At that hour – rain or shine – my mom, her running club, and nearly everyone’s families met on the start line of the Sheffield Hallam parkrun in Sheffield, England to run their weekly timed 5K. Sometimes – the weeks they were training for a race – they would speed around the course, aiming for PRs and section records. Other times they jogged casually and caught up on what they’d missed in the week. There were some who ran with their kids – or even after their kids – and then there were spouses/boyfriends/girlfriends who dutifully waited at the finish line with discarded water bottles and outer layers. Either way, there was always a time – no matter how busy everyone got – when they all got to spend together.
I think that’s why my mother loved the parkrun so much. That, and the promise of a cup of tea and sticky bun at the end of it. In fact, she celebrated her 60th birthday at parkrun and she was devoted enough to earn her 100 parkrun t-shirt and wore it with pride. Unfortunately, my mom died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer at Christmas 2015. Even though she lost a lot of strength, it didn’t stop her showing up every Saturday morning at 9am to see her friends and catch up on what she’d missed. She even helped to plant some daffodil bulbs along the route as something to remember her by when runners raced around the course.
Planting 100 daffodil bulbs near the route of Sheffield Hallam parkrun
The daffodils at Sheffield Hallam parkrun are a springtime reminder of Jenny Chambers’ spirit. Now Joe Creason parkrun, thousands of miles away in Louisville, KY will be a year-round legacy.
After she died, her running club – the Smiley Paces – suggested that I help organize a parkrun in the US in her memory, but it wasn’t until we moved to Louisville that I found the perfect place. Spending time in the many local parks here, I noticed loads of groups of local runners of every age and variety. I’d see them before work when I was walking the dogs, after work when our running group went out, and even in the pouring rain at the weekend. After a few emails with the US parkrun team, I learned there was other interest here in Louisville, and so the project was born!
Due to the wonderful support of the Louisville Parks & Recreation Department, we settled on Joe Creason Park as the venue for Louisville’s first weekly parkrun. It’s a cute, smaller park with lots of local wildlife, a great paved path around the outside, and even bathrooms and a playground. Although there is a bit of long hill on one side, it didn’t seem to put off the locals, so I knew it wouldn’t put off the parkrunners.
Joe Creason parkrun is a free, weekly, timed 5k run/walk, starting at 9:00am every Saturday, year round, at Joe Creason Park in Louisville. One-time registration at parkrun.us gets you a free personal barcode. That is your ticket to Joe Creason parkrun and to over 1000 other weekly parkrun events worldwide. Walkers, joggers, runners, volunteers, dogs (on a short leash), and strollers are all welcome.
You can follow Joe Creason parkrun at:
We’re excited to hold our first official parkrun on April 28th, and and after the event we look forward to heading to North End Cafe – one of our generous event supporters – for the post-parkrun coffee and brunch that will be a weekly feature of the parkrun. I can’t wait to start seeing the same community build up here that my mom so loved in my hometown parkrun in Sheffield, England. Be it individuals, families, kids, dog-walkers, or just those wanting to exercise regularly, we will work hard to make Joe Creason parkrun a welcoming place for everyone.
See you out there!
Natalie DeRatt, Event Director
Here are a couple of Jenny’s contributions to the parkrun UK newsletter that give a sense of her spirit.
Hi parkrun UK,
I will be running my 60th parkrun on Saturday the 19th of October at Sheffield Hallam parkrun which will coincide with my 60th birthday. I’ve made a lot of friends in the running community over the last half century and so I will have lots of birthday cake for all of them to have! I will adorn myself with balloons so I will be easy to spot!
I was on my way to my local parkrun a couple of weeks ago (running as it’s only 20 minutes jog away from my house) and I had just got into the park when I tripped up and fell over. I landed right on the points of my knees and it was very sore, so I moaned a lot and ran my parkrun anyway. I finished in 22:57 which isn’t too bad for someone who is nearly 58, and duly went home after a good natter with friends.
A week later when my knee blew up I went to the hospital and found after being x-rayed that I had fractured my kneecap! So now I am sidelined for 6-8 weeks, and missing all this lovely late summer weather! I’d just like to claim my 22:57 as a world record with a fracture! Or can anyone beat that! Missing you all at Sheffield Hallam parkrun!
Viveka from Sweden is a self-proclaimed non-runner, but she shared the story of how she became a parkrunner. She volunteers more than she participates and more often walks than runs, which is true for many parkrunners around the world. No matter how you participate, if you do, you’re a parkrunner and you’re always welcome. …
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