Umdoni parkrun on the KwaZulu-Natal coast launched on 8 October 2016. Since then over 5,500 different parkrunners have completed the course. Co-Event Director Gail Keevy tells us more:
How did Umdoni parkrun come about? I and my husband Mike started participating in parkrun at Ebotse in 2014. We then moved onto Boksburg when it started and eventually became part of the core volunteer group. When we decided to retire to Scottburgh in KZN, we knew they had to start a parkrun there.
We moved in September 2016 and the parkrun opened a month later.
A good number of months of preparation went in to find the right route and fulfil all the necessary requirements from the far distance of Boksburg! Corrie van Wyk was living in Scottburgh at the time, and had never had the opportunity to do a parkrun, but expressed her interest to Bruce Fordyce, who put us in contact and the three of us got it started.
What have been the highlights of your event so far? Finding a venue was the main highlight. Everywhere we tried they were wanting to charge an entry fee. We went to the Umdoni Golf Club Manager and asked if he had heard of parkrun South Africa. His response was, ‘When can you start?” The amazing support from the Umdoni Trust to allow us to use the Conservancy for a parkrun is so appreciated. They maintain the route and allow us to keep up our direction and km arrows permanently.
Are there any memorable or funny moments? Being a conservancy, we have very limited parking. It is great for the term times of the year for the locals, but when holiday season arrives, parking becomes a problem. In December 2018 we had 516 participants. We still don’t know how and where we managed to park all the cars!
Who helps to make Umdoni parkrun a success? All of our volunteers are special. When we started Umdoni parkrun, we knew that the answer to keeping it working well was to develop a strong core of volunteers who did not feel overworked.
I trained up 3 more Run Directors. I drew up a monthly roster for volunteers where everyone had a turn once every 3 weeks. As the volunteers grew, we now each only have a duty once a month. Every volunteer has been trained in every position, so we can manage any week of duty.
We now have a 2 monthly volunteer list in place the month before, whereby each volunteer knows the 2 days they will be working. This works incredibly well.
We have braais once a term. The volunteers all give input into how to improve our parkrun and now they own it themselves. The braais also serve as a feedback session from national/regional levels to the volunteers. They are also used as training sessions, e.g. first reaction to injuries, position training.
What makes Umdoni parkrun unique? It is run in a natural indigenous forest winding in and out via short bursts into the open in a one lap, circular route. In some areas you are completely shaded by trees and can hear the birds and sometimes see the small buck. You then break out into a clearing on grass or gravel and then are back in the forest again. There is a Gorge in the first km that is beautiful to see if you want to stop.
What is the route like? It is a forest trail, with a generally uneven surface, consisting of sand, small stones, roots and sometimes grass, so you have to watch your step carefully. It is undulating, so it is a medium challenge, with the only steeper hill being the 40m Umdoni Pollyshortts near the end.
What are the typical parkrunners who come like? We are in a retirement area on the South Coast of KZN, so a lot of people are retired. We do have families and couples and individuals. The mix of runners, joggers and walkers is always there.
Our visitors are mainly holiday makers from all over South Africa. There is someone from out of town each week. We always have visitors from overseas too.
What are the facilities like? We start and end at the Environmental Centre in the Umdoni Trust. There are 2 outside taps with spring water and 3 toilets. We end in a beautiful bush enclosed area with a long wooden walkway into the area. People sit on the side edge of this walkway as well as the wooden table and chairs to have their chats afterwards.
The Umdoni Golf Club Restaurant is on the premises and they give a discount voucher for eating at their restaurant. Botha House is part of the Umdoni Trust on the premises and they give a 10% discount to anyone wanting to stay there (2 km from the start) if they produce their barcode.
How much space is there for parking? Being a Conservancy (including a golf course), parking is a problem as we cannot encroach into either the forest or the golf course. As we are becoming more well known in the parkrun community, our parking is becoming more of a problem, as we can’t increase the size.
There is no single parking area – cars are parked on the service roads. The earlier people arrive, the closer they are parked to the start/finish.
We always ask people to please travel in cars together. We also ask them to please listen to the volunteers telling them where to park, so that we can fit in the maximum number of cars. We request everyone to be at the start by 7.40, as that helps with the parking of the last cars to arrive, as the distance to the start from that area is about 500 m.
We also run in the direction of where the people arrive, so we have to hold people back at 7.50 for safety reasons for the runners. These people are allowed to join in as the runners have come past that point.
During April and December school holidays our numbers swell and parking is a bigger issue. We can only park 150 cars. We request you to please be there by 7.30 at the latest. Cars have to also then be parked at the Golf Clubhouse once our parking is full. This is about a 1 km uphill walk to the start line.
What is the one thing a first timer to Umdoni parkrun should know? Please be there early for parking and help us to fit in all the cars as directed by the volunteers.
Being a conservancy, no dogs are allowed. Only big-wheeled pushchairs can traverse the forest terrain.
The forest can get very humid in summer, so please ensure you are properly hydrated.
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