My husband, Clive, and I were in Poznan in July to support our son at the U23 World Rowing Championships. Another rowing mom who joined us at parkrun was Wendy Daffern from Rondebosch parkrun. So on 28th July, I joined 215 parkrunners and did my 92nd parkrun in Poznan, and Wendy did her 2nd. (Clive is not a registered parkrunner, although he always goes with me). It was Poznan parkrun’s 6th birthday and their 314th parkrun on the day.
The Polish parkrunners were extremely hospitable and told us that it was the first time that South Africans joined them. I normally walk my Parkrun. In Poznan everyone ran, except me and one Polish woman. Their tail walker, Dorka Lagowska, kindly walked with us. At the end everyone waited for us and cheered us on. Then they took a group photograph. They normally go for coffee afterwards.
The park is called the Park Cytadela, in the middle of the city. It is a beautiful park with green lawns, gorgeous trees and colourful flower beds. There is a war museum and memorial in the park and the path goes past some tanks and planes that date from World War II.
On the attached photograph is from left to right: Clive Mitchell, Wendy Daffern, Louise Mitchell and Grzegorz Tomaszewski, director of Poznan parkrun.
Until the beginning of this year, Peter Knottenbelt was an ordinary Ebotse parkrunner with 14 parkrun finishes to his name. (Well not so ordinary; running in the VM 70-74 age category Peter had a recent PB of 26;33 and a 67% age grading, run at altitude on the tough Ebotse course).
All this changed while Peter was on holiday in the lowveld near Hoedspruit at a lodge on the Olifants River. Peter and friends and family were having fun in the river and decided to wade across to the far bank. They had been assured that there “are no crocodiles in the river and none have ever been seen in this stretch of the Olifants” At the far side of the river Peter trod on the bony head of a 3 metre long Nile crocodile which promptly seized him by the leg and tried to drag Peter off to drown in deeper water. There followed a harrowing battle in which Peter was severely wounded and tried desperately to thrust his thumbs into the crocodile’s eyes. So hard was he pushing that he also broke his wrists with the effort. It must have been a terrifying experience to realise the blood in the water was his own.
Perhaps Ebotse parkrunners don’t taste particularly nice (All that lactic acid from running fast times) but amazingly the crocodile suddenly spat Peter out and tossed him aside. There followed an emergency helicopter flight to hospital and months in a hospital bed. Sadly, Peter also lost his leg as he was forced to undergo an emergency amputation. After that Peter endured weeks of rehabilitation and he was fitted with a prosthesis.
Most ordinary people would have abandoned any thought of participating in a parkrun again but Peter Knottenbelt is not an ordinary person and last month he returned to walk Ebotse parkrun with his artificial limb. I doubt if there was a dry eye at the finish funnel. It took Peter over an hour to complete the 5kms but he was given a hero’s welcome at the finish. Peter we salute you for your courage and look forward to welcoming you at many more parkruns.
One of the major achievements for parkrunners – joining the red 50-club – gained some extra-special significance for Heinrich Mueller, a parkrunner from George. On Saturday 25th August he completed his 60th parkrun in the same week he turned 60 years old. Now that is some fancy timing! Heinz, as he is known amongst local runners, has been running with a prosthetic leg since 2007 and participated in the very first parkrun held at George in 2014. Four years later he’s still going strong and inspiring many parkrunners to let nothing hold them back.
Thank you Heinz for being such a great example of true parkrun spirit!
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As parkrun continues to grow across South Africa, it is not only helping people to get active, but also to bring communities together, and restoring a sense of pride in previously neglected public spaces. Martin Woodbridge tells us how Goodwill parkrun has made a difference: Mahikeng (meaning place of stones), is a medium-sized town and…