There is nothing that makes you appreciate what you have more than the thought that it could be taken away. And this is what has happened this week to the parkrunners of Stoke Gifford in the UK. In a mind-numbingly silly decision, the local Council have decided to charge participants for using the park. Which is provided for the use of the local population. Of which, the local parkrunners are an important part. Silly.
I don’t want to talk about that particular Council and how narrow minded, short sighted and generally thoughtless they are. Instead, I want to tell you about exactly why I love parkrun and what it has meant to me.
I started running in 2009 – I really don’t remember why or what actually got me out the door. I’d lost a heap of weight and was looking for an exercise option to help keep it off but aren’t sure why running sprung to mind as I’d never, ever been a runner before. I soon found I loved it and did a few events but, after a few months, I stopped. Sure, I’d sporadically sign up to events after that but I only actually went to a couple of them and, soon enough, I was back to doing no exercise at all.
Towards the end of 2013, I signed up for the Sussan Women’s Fun Run and decided to get back into it. At a similar time, I found out about and signed up to parkrun although it took me months to be brave enough to actually attend an event. I spent a long time checking out times to make sure I wouldn’t be the slowest and found an event that was perfect for me. Then I put it off a bit more. Finally, I got up early and headed out. And I’ve never looked back.
Last weekend, while on holiday in Perth, I got up before dawn, walked a kilometre to the train station, caught a train then walked another kilometre then ran my parkrun #46 on a beach in Cottesloe with a bunch of strangers and a very real possibility of coming last. And I loved it. What parkrun has done for me is encouraged me to stick with exercise and make it part of my routine. Saturday mornings don’t feel the same without it, whether I’m at home or travelling. It’s also given me confidence which has seeped beyond my running life and into other areas. parkrun has introduced me to a wonderful world of new friends who I hang out with on Saturdays and beyond. It has also guaranteed a warm welcome in whatever random place I choose to turn up at 8am on a Saturday.
The consistency, warm welcome, friendships and feeling of achievement that parkrun have provided have meant that I have kept this running thing going for nearly 3 years now with no sign of stopping. As well as being very beneficial to my physical health, it is even more beneficial to my mental health and wellbeing. I am grateful beyond words. That such a simple concept could provide so much to so many is wonderful and I would like to thank every person responsible, from Paul Sinton-Hewitt for founding the event through to every single volunteer who scans, marshals and ensures all participants finish safely each week in thousands of locations. #loveparkrun