Ashburton parkrun near Pietermaritzburg launched in June 2018, and since then has seen parkrunners complete more than 50,000km. More than enough to run from the parkun to the equator, round the world and back! Event Director Mark Mann tells us more:
How did Ashburton parkrun come about? In September 2017, I was sitting having a drink at the pub at Ashburton Race Horse Training Centre and surveying the very pleasant surrounds and thinking that it would make a fantastic parkrun venue. I knew that another venue was wanted in the Pietermaritzburg area, because Robin Archer had told me while we were tail walking at Dusi one day. I mentioned the venue to Robin, thinking that he’d know just the right people to set it up.
Before I knew it I was saddled with the job I intended for anyone else to have! Robin helped with suggestions for the route and so did Sharon Banche and Bridget Dinkelmann and we did several reconnaissance walks before deciding on the present route. The Goldcircle management at the venue were amazingly supportive and continue to be, even now, as we approach a year of using their grounds. The launch was on 9 June 2018 with 364 people visiting from around South Africa (some to do Comrades Marathon the following day), and it all went very well. In fact we are very fortunate that so far all the events have gone off more or less without a hitch and our email inbox is pretty much under utilised by the public, with queries and complaints being scarce.
Who comes to Ashburton parkrun? We are now averaging 177 runners every week. Ashburton parkrun seems to have a strong family vibe and this can be seen among the participants and also the volunteers.
What is the course like? The route looked flattish when we first surveyed it, but the more I do it, the steeper the hill (known as “Gentle Polly”) becomes. The hill has been said, by better runners than me, to keep a person honest. The route is mostly grass and gravel track, with a few occasional muddy patches thrown in. It is pram friendly, but we can’t allow dogs because of the race horses, zebra and wildebeest. Once in a while we have to change the route a bit to avoid dodgy sections during, or after, heavy rain, but with all the space available we are spoilt for options. There is plenty of parking across the road from the start and finish, which are 50m apart.
Who makes Ashburton parkrun the success it is? The Ashburton parkrun crowd in general are very keen to volunteer and we seldom have a problem filling our roster, even with regulars from as far afield as Pinetown. It isn’t possible to single out any volunteer as being more amazing than any other, because they all are enthusiastic, which rubs off on the participants and everyone has a brilliant Saturday morning.
What are the facilities like? The Zebra and Porcupine Restaurant is also at the start/finish area and many parkrunners enjoy a well-earned breakfast after their Saturday morning efforts. The ablutions are at the restaurant, which is pretty convenient for the less die hard among us.
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