welcome to this week's newsletter
In this week’s newsletter BOB announce their competition winners, Ally Robb pops down from Scotland, there’s plenty of Feedback from the Field, we put out a call for mile volunteers and I explain a little more about our junior runners.
First of all this week I'd like to thank everyone at Cannon Hill parkrun for a wonderful event on Saturday morning, it was an honour to complete my 100th run with you. I'm sorry I couldn't join you for coffee afterwards, unfortunately I got called away to support another parkrun team the moment I crossed the line.
Two weeks ago this newsletter broached the subject of children under the age of eleven taking part in our events. Unsurprisingly it generated more feedback than anything I've previously written, far too much for me to reply to individually, so I thought this week I'd cover some of the key points.
Firstly, many of you were supportive and suggested we should provide a little more clarity to the rule itself. We will therefore be adding some detail and my current thinking is that our position will be along the lines of 'Children under the age of eleven must be accompanied at all times by a parent, guardian or appropriate adult of the parent's choice'.
This is not a new rule that has just been implemented. When parkrun started back in 2004 we were about as relaxed an organisation as you could imagine and were more than happy for children of any age to take part in our events. However, sometime around 2008 someone raised the issue that according to UKA guidelines children under the age of 14 weren't allowed to compete in running races of longer than 4,000m (forgive me if my memory hasn't got that quite right, the rule has since changed) and as such should not be allowed to take part in parkrun. Although we completely supported the UKA ruling when talking about races, we felt that the culture of parkrun events as runs not races (one day I'll be brave enough to tackle that in the newsletter) meant it would be appropriate for children to join us.
Although we valued our affiliation to UKA we also saw our events as runs not races and felt that difference in ethos made them suitable for children. A series of discussions followed and it was agreed with UKA and their insurers that children would be allowed to take part in our events as long as they took part within the parkrun spirit and that if they were under the age of 11 they would be accompanied at all times by a parent or guardian. I realise that some 13 year olds might not be responsible enough to run on their own and some nine year olds would be absolutely fine, but we had to choose a cut-off point that we thought was appropriate and that was it. Largely it's just what we felt was right, and we still do, but speaking to Chris Wright (Previous Bushy parkrun Event Director and first ever parkrun employee as general manager for the UK, who was behind this rule at the time) he offered the following background...
“As far as the under 11 cut-off point is concerned, I was very aware that any cut-off point would be arbitrary, so I looked for relevant precedents, and settled on secondary school age as useful: primary school children are generally taken to school, while it’s generally considered acceptable to allow secondary school children to make their own way. I was aware that Scottish secondary school starts a year later than English/Welsh/Northern Irish secondary schools, but wanted to keep the policy as simple as possible.”
There are many similarities in life, some 17 year olds would cast an informed vote, some 16 year olds would be responsible drivers and some 18 year olds really shouldn't be allowed to drink, but that's just the way these things work. I learnt to drive in Africa when I was 15… I did fail my UK driving test three times though! With many things in life there comes a time when an arbitrarily defined moment opens up an opportunity to do something new.
I also realise that there is a big difference between an experienced ten year old running 21 minutes on a three lap course of 300 runners where they know most of the adults and a five year old first timer running alone on a one lap course with 30 runners. Unfortunately, as we have grown to the size we have we find ourselves constantly challenged by people wanting to push the boundaries of our guidelines and the most worrying of those two scenarios has become more common. Please forgive me if I sound a little strong here but on more than one occasion I have been required to defend our policies to child protection units. They have always been happy and I have always been proud of our amazing volunteers.
Some people have suggested that it should be entirely down to the parent's discretion whether or not their children are accompanied and that 'risk of abduction is extremely small'. However, as an organisation we clearly have a responsibility to define our basic standards that all events subscribe to, parents then have the right to decide how their children participate, within those regulations. I can assure you that if we left it to a complete free-for-all that we would soon have four year olds running around parks completely unsupervised, not supported and out of sight of any adults. As much as you could argue backwards and forwards whose responsibility that really is, and people have tried, I'm afraid it's quite simply not in any way appropriate and I'm not prepared for that to happen at our events.
If we are unable to live up to our promise that children under 11 will be accompanied at all times (a promise that I personally fully believe in, particularly as the father of a one year old girl who I'll have to find company for for the next nine years) then we risk losing (rightly) our UKA affiliation and along with that the insurance required to do what we do. Please don't assume this is just an 'insurance thing' though, it is a policy that I, Paul Sinton-Hewitt and the vast majority of parkrunners believe in. If you would like to read more about the UKA's position on children under the age of 11 please see the '2012-2014 UKA Rules for Competition' and go to rule 207 part 3. I should add at this point that I am fully supportive of the UKA position regarding participation in races.
I did also hear from a surprising number of parents suggesting that I was stopping their children from running. The complete opposite is actually true, at parkrun HQ we work hard everyday to provide an opportunity for children of all ages to participate in parkrun, there are many solutions to this issue.
- Children, just like adults, are capable of running slower than their PB. At parkrun we believe in the power of doing things together and slowing down to run with your folks once in awhile is something to be encouraged and cherished. My times running with my Dad may be amongst my slowest but they are also amongst my proudest.
- We do have some pretty speedy kids and I'd be proud if parkrun could foster their talents and give them an opportunity to push themselves alongside faster runners when perhaps their schoolmates don't offer that option. In this case if the parents can't keep up then they should designate a responsible adult to accompany their child to the faster time. Over the last five years I've supported many a friend's speedy junior to a parkrun PB. Importantly, my experienced head has on more than one occasion persuaded an enthusiastic junior that perhaps it wasn't the right thing to push on through an injury and that it would be better to live to fight another day. Every one of our events provides a wonderful community full of amazing people, why not get to know your fellow parkrunners and see who might help?
- parkrun isn't just about running, it's also about volunteering. In fact I'd go as far as saying that when we're talking about junior runners the potential life benefits of regular volunteering could outweigh those of a weekly 30 minute run. When I think about Rosie's future childhood I'm most excited about the volunteering opportunities that parkrun will give her and the associated life skills that being a valuable part of a real (not virtual) community will bring.
Most importantly parkrun is about providing opportunities for people to do things together as a community and if you embrace that community I promise that the future of junior participation in parkrun events is safe and secure.
Thanks for your amazing parkrun passion, I hope my thoughts here have helped you to understand our vision for the continued participation of children of all ages.
Tom (get in touch)
BOB winners announced!
The BOB competition allowing parkrunners the chance to win one of three BOB running strollers is now over. After a huge number of entries we are pleased to announce that the following parkrunners have won and BOB have contacted them to confirm their stroller choice and colour:
- Anna-Clare Lee of Hackworth parkrun
- Gerald Kelly of Belfast Victoria parkrun
- Jessica Jones Nielson of Wimbledon Common parkrun
The BOB Ironman and BOB Sport Utility Stroller are specifically designed for running with your child, allowing you to complete your parkrun safely. Anyone purchasing one of these running strollers from the BOB website will also be contributing to parkrun. To learn more about these running strollers please visit the BOB website
The Westminster Mile - Volunteers Needed
Our friends at the London Marathon are after some volunteers for the baggage area of the Westminster Mile, a new one-mile running event around London's St James's Park that is being delivered by the Marathon in partnership with Westminster City Council. There are categories for all ages and abilities so that everyone can take part. Lunch will be provided for volunteers as will a t-shirt marking the day.
The series of 30 one-mile races will be held on Sunday the 26th of May starting on The Mall and finishing outside Buckingham Palace. With the first race starting at 9.30am and the last at 3.00pm. The action throughout the day will be intense and include the UK Mile Championships with some of the UK’s top senior and junior athletes.
If you would like to help out next Sunday, you’d need to be there from 9.00am until the races end, then Claire Larbey (Volunteer Coordinator for the London Marathon) would love to hear from you, by Tuesday if possible, on firstname.lastname@example.org
Please check your event’s news pages for the most up to date information.
Cancellations and course changes this Saturday:
- Medina IoW parkrun has relocated to Appley in Ryde to make way for the Isle of Wight Festival.
- Carlisle parkrun is cancelled due to a Horticultural and Craft Fair.
- Grovelands parkrun is cancelled due to another event in the park.
feedback from the field
Hi parkrun UK
At Bradford parkrun on the 4th of May was a truly memorable day. Well over 450 parkrunners turned out to celebrate the life of one of our most amazing and inspiring runners, Arthur James, who died one year ago. Everyone had a fabulous morning talking about Arthur and how he encouraged people to take up running and keep on running. There were a few tears too which was only to be expected for a man who meant so much to so many people. Thank you and remember keep running “because you can”.
Hi parkrun UK
On Saturday our most reliable volunteer Swee Chern Khoo will be moving away and this past Saturday was his last parkrun. We sent him on his way with a mini celebration of a small gift and cake and I wanted to say thank you on behalf of everyone at Brockwell parkrun. He is affectionately known as Khoo and has been a volunteer for nearly two and a half years at almost every event in that time. He didn't ever run himself but got the equipment out of storage, set up the banners at the start, moved them to the finish, set up the tunnel and took it down at the end. He was also our timer every week. He will be greatly missed for his dedication, reliability and for being a very nice guy.
Hi parkrun UK
I started a Couch to 5k program in October last year and went on to take part in my first ever organised run at Swindon parkrun to celebrate my 61st birthday in February. The first run was very tough for me but it has got progressively easier and I now enjoy my Saturday runs even more. Additionally, last weekend I managed to run the Bristol 10k!
I have also run at Brueton parkrun and would like to thank all the organisers at both parkrun events.
Hi parkrun UK
Just wanted to say a massive thank you to everyone at Falls parkrun in Belfast. As a relative newcomer to parkrunning, having done just under a dozen at Bushy parkrun, I thought I'd try out the parkrun at Falls Park whilst on a trip back to see the family. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming. The course itself is in the shadow of the Black Mountain and is pretty stunning. If they could just get rid of all the hills on the course it would be perfect! Thanks again for making a Bushy parkrun tourist feel very welcome and I will hopefully see you all again soon.
Hi parkrun UK
Before I started parkrun I ran cross-country events and even did my first marathon at the age of 20. I went off too hard in that marathon but I managed to pace myself more evenly in the ones I’ve done since, having learned to do that at parkrun. I'm now hoping to get the Championship qualifying time for the Virgin Money London Marathon in the near future.
Hi parkrun UK
I first ran at Braunstone parkrun at the end of March last year after a family member talked me into it. I always loved the idea of running but was too lazy to actually do it! It took me a few goes to be able to run all the way round the 5k but once I'd managed it I was then hooked. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming. In November I decided I needed a 'Before I'm 40' challenge so signed up for the Milton Keynes Marathon with my brother. I started training at Christmas and am delighted to say that on Monday 6th May I completed my first ever marathon! If it wasn't for parkrun I’d probably still be sat on my bum thinking about going for a run!
Hi parkrun UK
I would like to thank Dulwich parkrun for their event today. I only tend to go when I'm visiting my parents but my two most recent events there have had pacers. Thanks to them I've run two PBs but I certainly wouldn't have had the motivation to keep up the pace had they not been there. I’m still off my personal target time but it has helped me believe that it's achievable.
Hi parkrun UK
I have just received my voucher for the Sweatshop Monthly Prize at Tilgate parkrun and would like to thank you very much for this. It is much appreciated as my current running shoes are on their last legs! I have been looking to buy a new pair for some weeks now. Good job I hesitated! Once again, many thanks indeed.
Let us know if you have an interesting parkrun related fact, happening or comment that you would like to share with all parkrunners.
parkrunner of the week
Name: David Stride
Club: David Lloyd Redway Runners
Home parkrun: Milton Keynes
Occupation: Duty Controller for Network Rail
Number of runs: 68
Favourite volunteer role: Timekeeper
What do you do at parkruns: I have done all the volunteer roles with the exception of Run Director.
How has parkrun changed your running: I now enjoy running as part of a group.
What do you like about parkrun: I set a PB in March of 2011 and then the following week I injured my achilles which put me out of running for seven months. parkrun allowed me to keep involved in the running community as I volunteered every week (when my work shifts allowed). On returning to running I had put on weight and after a very poor half marathon in Barcelona I decided to lose this weight and the result was 15 lbs lost and three PBs in a row. The last was my fastest ever 5k.
Most memorable or funniest parkrun moment: The most memorable would be my PB on the 20th of April this year as part of the ‘hat-trick’. After not getting one for two years to get three in a row was great.