Number of runs: 45 by Mark, 52 by Gill
Number of different events visited: 10
Number of volunteering stints: 38 by Mark, 2 by Gill
When and where did you both find parkrun and what were your first impressions?
Mark - I discovered parkrun just by chance when someone mentioned there was a weekly organised and timed free running event available for everyone. I was just getting into running on a more regular basis and immediately looked on the main website to see what parkruns were available. At that time, Billericay was not up and running, so I regularly travelled either to Maldon or Great Notley. My first impression was "wow", what a great idea and how friendly everyone was. That was around 2014.
Gill - I heard about parkrun through Mark and what a fantastic event it was. I was a bit nervous at first about coming along as I was not a runner, but as soon as attended, I knew this was an event for everyone.
How did you hear about Billericay parkrun?
Mark - I just happened to hear about Billericay parkrun locally soon after it started and the first time I came along, I think there were less than 200 people taking part. That number quickly increased each week.
Gill - Quite often on a Saturday Mark would come back from parkrun and tell me what a great opportunity it was to keep fit and a real community feel it and I should come and see. Eventually, I went along as well and never looked back. At first I started by walking the course and then gradually, a walk run and after a while I was able to run the whole course without stopping and my fitness has really improved.
What are your favourite memories from the event?
Mark - My favourite memories have been to see so many first time runners come along to Billericay and then to see them return each week and gradually progress and improve their times. I also love to see whole families taking part and encouraging each other at the finish line.
Gill - It has to be the Christmas Day run. Everyone is extra excited and many runners are in Christmas fancy dress and Santa hats. It's a fantastic start to Christmas Day and a great excuse to even indulge a bit more later on! Hopefully we can look forward to that next year.
When you've volunteered at parkrun, almost all of your stints have been VI Guiding or Pacing. Please tell us what you like about these roles and how you approach the respective challenges?
Mark - I am a licenced guide runner with England Athletics and having been a runner for so long, I decided to enrol and take the course so I could act as a guide runner for visually impaired runners and offer some free time. I enjoy running so much that I would be devastated if I could not run and never forget how easy it is for fully sighted runners to just put on the trainers and go for a run.Sadly that's not possible for everyone. When I guide at a parkrun and hear afterwards from my assisted runners how this event makes them feel included and good about themselves and how much they had achieved personally, it can be so rewarding.
As I am an ultra-runner by choice, I do a lot of weekly mileage generally so always happy to share the parkrun experience with others. I actually think parkrun is the perfect event for visually impaired runners as it creates a "run event" experience with lots of other participants, but does not come with the pressure you sometimes feel with a lot of road races and is more suited to all abilities.
More recently I have started to volunteer as a pacer knowing how this really benefits everyone chasing a particular time. It’s a great way to try and run at a specific pace and to get a feel for it and it does not matter if you can only maintain it for a short while as it all helps. It's also a food opportunity to test yourself. I do remember one week getting my pace time completely wrong and ended up having to sprint the last half lap, so I apologise if you were following me that week!
Gill - I have volunteered a few times looking after some of the guide dogs and as a marshal. It's always great to get more involved and so easy to forget our the team at Billericay parkrun are giving up their free time every single week and we tend to think parkrun all starts at 9am, but the course needs setting up and taking down which can make for a long morning for the volunteers.
What memories do you have from the other parkruns you've visited? The hardest? Most scenic? Most memorable?
Mark - I have run Notley Park a few times and it's a very scenic route and initially deceiving as quite flat and fast to start with. It's a two lap course and on the second lap you are suddenly confronted with a very big hill that you have to run up which can be a real challenge at such a late stage in the run. I think we both really enjoyed running the Clacton-on-Sea course. Its right on the seafront and somehow makes the run itself seem very different.
Gill - Whilst Billericay is my favourite parkrun, I do also like the Maldon course and its route along the river in part. It's also quite flat so good to work on those PBs'.
What do you both do outside of parkrun stuff?
Mark - I am a property lawyer working in the City, although more from home now, so for me I have found running is a great release from the stress of work. Although I only starting running to increase my general fitness, I was so taken by it, that I soon starting running greater distances and I now specialise in multi day ultra-marathons travelling to some fairly remote places around the world. I have run across the Sahara desert in the quite famous Marathon De Sable, a six day self-sufficient race and have also completed multi day races in Bhutan, Peru and the jungles of Vietnam. The training takes up a lot of my free time, but otherwise my other hobby is cooking all types of food.
Gill - I work for a local firm of solicitors in the High Street so have a bit more free time. I do a lot of walking locally and some running with friends and enjoy my weekly yoga class. Our daughter is due to have her first child on Christmas day, so we might soon have another hobby to enjoy!
How have you both been keeping active since March?
Mark and Gill - We have both had more free time since March as working from home has saved on Mark's commuting time into London. As a result we have been out running more together and enjoyed having the time to find new places to run and explore. It's been great to see so many other local residents running and enjoying our local neighbourhood.
What are you most looking forward to when we come back?
Mark and Gill - When parkrun does return, we are both looking forward to catching up with all the familiar faces and friends we have made through the parkrun community and enjoying that post run coffee in the local cafe. There is such a great community feel about parkrun and it will be nice to hear what others have been up to and we are quite sure that once we can return, there will be so many more local residents and parkrun visitors wanting to become involved.
As we approach the end of our series of Billericay parkrun profiles, what have you learnt about our local parkrun community?
Mark and Gill - We hope we can soon focus on returning to our weekly parkrun in 2021 as things improve in the UK and we are quite sure there will be lots of celebrations, stories to tell and plenty of cake when we can all meet again at 9am on Saturdays!
The Billericay parkrun community makes everyone so welcome. To think just a few years ago we did not have parkrun and now there is such a big and warm parkrun team and community! Everyone looks out for each other and there is always so much encouragement. It really shows how this event can bring a community together who otherwise may have remained strangers. We particularly like the fact that you can come along with your friends or family or just on your own and feel just as included, whatever your age or ability.
Huge thanks to Mark and Gill. More fantastic members of our Billericay parkrun community.
If you'd like to read more profiles, here are the others from this series so far:
The Billericay core team are:
Please check our Volunteer Roster to see if you are able to help out at anytime, there are plenty of roles available to do and all are rewarding and great fun. If you want to volunteer, email us at email@example.com
As well as checking on this site regularly for the latest information and updates, don't forget you can also find us on Facebook.
Why not trade up your paper barcode to some of those snazzy plastic barcodes and wristbands? You can get them at the parkrun barcode website and never worry about soggy paper ones again! ICE details can also be printed on them as well.
If you would like to donate to this parkrun you can find out more HERE