Written by Charlie Cox
9th June saw Hanley parkrun joining hundreds of other parkruns across the country in celebrating seventy years of the NHS. This brought together three outstanding public health institutions from three different centuries.
Nineteenth century Britain saw huge increases in industrialisation and rapid urbanisation as people moved from farms and villages to towns and cities, seeking reliable wages and a better standard of living. These aspirations were often not realised, and many people ended up living in squalid conditions and abject poverty. As the century wore on, the rich industrialists gradually became aware of the plight of their workers (prompted by Charles Dickens, amongst others) and realised that access to green space was essential to their health. Britain’s first purpose built public park is said to be Derby Arboretum; it was donated to the town in 1840 by philanthropic industrialist Joseph Strutt, who wanted to thank the people of Derby for helping his family to amass their fortune. Entry was free on Sundays and Wednesdays, the days that working people had off at that time, to allow them to appreciate the natural world and breathe fresh air.
Hanley Park was developed during the last decade of the century on former wasteland, and opened in June 1897. It was built by the town of Hanley; it would be another 13 years until the federation of Stoke-on-Trent with the other five towns. The bandstand, which is currently away for restoration as part of the £4.5m park regeneration project, was originally paid for by local pottery owner George Howson.
The first half of the twentieth century was punctuated by the two world wars, which obviously lead to huge loss of life. If anything positive can be said to have come of these horrendous conflicts, it is the development of healthcare that they accelerated. They also prompted an expectation amongst those who had fought for their country, or had lost relatives, that their sacrifice would be rewarded with better living conditions including healthcare. There had been a gradual increase in free healthcare provision through the first few decades of the twentieth century, but this was sporadic, being provided on a local level either by local authorities or by charitable organisations.
The National Health Service was founded on 5th July 1948, based on the core principles that it meet the needs of everyone, that it be free at the point of delivery, and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay. The available healthcare has increased enormously in the 70 years since then, with incredible advances in equipment, medicines and procedures meaning that conditions that were fatal at that time, now being routinely treated. This has put incredible pressure on the NHS, but it continues to deliver world-class quality and value.
The big health concerns of the twenty-first century (so far) are diseases related to obesity and inactivity, and also mental health issues, often related to feelings isolation in the busy digital world.
Anyone who has been to a parkrun will know that it’s so much more than just a free, timed, 5k run/walk. The 530 parkruns that take place across the UK every week mean so much to so many people. They are a reason to get up and out on a Saturday morning, a challenge, a fitness test, a chance to catch up with friends, and to make new ones. The impact of this on the mental and physical health of the nation is enormous. Over 135 thousand people completed a parkrun on 9th July. This is a significant number of people, and is making great use of the UK’s parks to ease the pressure on the NHS.
So, to the run itself. Other than the evergreen Adri Hartveld, I couldn't see any of the usual first-finish suspects as we gathered for the pre-run briefing. I thought this might be the day I finally got to the funnel first, and as I took the lead approaching the top car park, it seemed almost likely. Then, suddenly, I crashed back to reality as a proper runner came past me up the hill as if I was running through treacle. And not just and proper runner, but a proper female runner, making it all look pretty easy.
The first thought that went through my head is unprintable. My next thought (with the expletives removed) was WHO IS THAT? She had come past so quickly that by the time I realised she was there, I could only see her back. By the end of the first little lap, she was 50 meters ahead of me, with a male runner between us, and run director Kirsten was at pains to make sure that I was aware of the gender of the runner out front.
As the run continued and she disappeared into the distance, it occurred to me that it must have been Kate Holt. As the female course record holder, Kate is the only woman with a faster Hanley parkrun PB than me, so I was hoping that it was her, as she was clearly going fast again. Her identity was confirmed as the results came in, showing that the City of Stoke runner finished nearly a minute clear of the next runner. This may just have been a training run as part of her international career, but we can now confirm that her time of 17:08 was the joint fastest parkrun by a woman on that day. The other run on that time was at Hull where the total elevation gain is just 11 feet, so this was definitely a better performance considering the 183 feet we all grind our way up at Hanley.
The first male finisher this week was Simon Ford of Newcastle (Staffs) AC, who clocked an impressive 17:56 on his first run at Hanley. I ambled in next, exactly two minutes behind Kate, followed by Ian Heath of Trentham RC in
19:42. Two junior City of Stoke runners completed the top three females with Aria Aberley-Barker (20:38) and Katie Williams (21:15) both impressing on their first attempts at Hanley parkrun.
There is no parkrun at Hanley on 16th June due to another event in the park. See you at Congleton, Crewe, Cannock Chase, Macclesfield or The Wammy!
Can you help?
The event was made possible by 28 volunteers:
Laura Joan CARPENTER • Liz TIDESWELL • Kirsten OWEN • Beth DAWID • Graham FLETCHER • Julie FLETCHER • Philip DAWID • Jonathan TIDESWELL • Emily SMITH • Sean LEWIS • Jen RILEY • Ruth PARKES • Charlie COX • Lucy CORBETT • Grahame STANLEY • Paul COTTERILL • Dan OXLEY • David HEBB • Craig CARPENTER • Andrew LEE • Amy CONDLYFFE • Jane LEE • Linda SHEFFORD • Rachel WANFORD • Katie LEE • Andrew SLACK • Katherine TRAVERS • Emily CURTIS
If you would like to volunteer then please tell any of our run directors or contact Hanley parkrun and they will be more than happy to put you on the roster. There are a range of ways to help out and volunteer; you could scan barcodes, hand out tokens or you could marshal. It doesn’t matter what you do, every volunteer role is greatly appreciated. Please get in touch via Facebook, send us an email (email@example.com) or speak to the run director after your next run.
This week 310 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 45 were first timers and 38 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 23 different clubs took part. A full set of results can be found here.
Hanley parkrun started on 24th September 2011. Since then 7,588 participants have completed 59,930 parkruns covering a total distance of 299,650 km, including 11,186 new Personal Bests.