This week’s profile is from Rachel. A founder Billericay parkrun Core Team member, uber volunteer and part of the very fabric of our event
parkrun vital statistics
Number of parkruns: 166
Number of different events visited: 35
Number of volunteering stints: 229!
When did you first become aware of parkrun and what was run #1 like?
I first became aware of Chelmsford parkrun in 2014 after Googling local exercise groups, but I hadn’t passed my driving test back then so regrettably I didn’t sign up as I had no way of getting there! A few years later, my friend Lucy (who I’ve known since I was 7) finally convinced me and dragged me along with her mum Rachel and brother Tom.
The first run really wasn’t pretty but I remember being so ready to go back and improve my time the next week. I loved the togetherness of the community and that it is a place where everyone’s achievements are respected and celebrated.
You’ve visited quite a few different parkruns, what have been your tourism highlights and what are your ‘must visit’ targets?
I enjoy each event I go to and I’ve been to so many places I never would have seen otherwise. Aside from the group Billericay parkrun trips, the parkruns that stick in my mind are Crosby parkrun which is next to Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ installation on a beach near Liverpool and Whitley Bay parkrun, which has a beautiful course along the seafront and an even more beautiful independent gelato shop as its official cafe where you get a discount if you show your barcode!
The one I really want to do next is Fountains Abbey parkrun in Yorkshire which is around a beautiful medieval monastery and water garden.
What are your most memorable moments from Billericay parkrun?
There have been so many that I can’t really choose. Though it’s obviously very rewarding to see the more orchestrated things like the Bushy and Barry trips, our VI guiding event and the event birthdays coming together, I think my favourite memories are in the quieter moments - like seeing someone ringing the PB bell or achieving a milestone, conversations at our Christmas drinks, or just someone saying how much they’ve enjoyed the event and what it has meant to them.
Rumour has it, you were the architect of the truly epic trip to Barry Island parkrun for the Gavin & Stacey parkrun in 2018. What were your highlights?
There were a lot of architects of that day, especially Lyn and Ian from Barry Island who put on the most amazing parkrun event I think I’ve ever been to. Not to mention that the most ambitious part of all was attempting to do it as a day trip with a 3:30am wake-up, which definitely wasn’t my idea!
So I really can’t claim all the credit, but it was certainly quite surreal hearing about it on the radio and opening up the BBC News app when we were in the car home and seeing the story right there on the homepage.
There was such a special atmosphere that day, I think because everyone was there for the fun and silliness of it so it felt like one big in-joke.
You’ve volunteered 229 times in almost every role possible. What are your favourites and why?
Of the roles on the roster, I enjoy them all but it would have to be Run Director, Timekeeper or Pacer. I like the interactions you get in those roles and the chance to see people enjoying the event and achieving their goals.
Overall though, my favourite role is probably ‘core team member’. Being part of a parkrun team is such a fantastic experience because it’s so full of variety and so much goes into the event - a great deal of it unseen. I love the freedom and creativity of making it happen with little to no money and I’ve found myself doing some very strange and unexpected things along the way, like being on the radio and inviting the Queen to our birthday party!
I don’t really know what I expected when I signed up for this, but I have learnt so many new skills and most importantly have met some incredibly kind and talented people who have taught me so much - I feel very grateful for them all.
What motivated you to push for a junior parkrun in Billericay and what are the key differences between the 5k and the junior format that you most enjoy?
I’d done quite a lot of parkrun volunteering before we started Billericay and almost all of it was at junior parkrun, so I’ve been around it for quite a long time.
Junior parkrun is organised in the same way as Saturday parkrun with the same website, barcodes and tokens - only it’s at 9am on a Sunday, it’s a 2k course and it’s for 4-14 year olds. The key difference is that kids of any age can run or walk without an adult if they want to, as every part of the course is within the sight of a marshal.
There’s such a sense of joy and fun which seems to flow through junior parkrun events - and where else could I lead a warm-up with a huge T-rex next to me (deflating slightly with every sun jump!) We have a brilliant core team and so much support from the community, including many regulars from this event.
On a more personal level, I’m passionate about keeping young people involved in sports. I was very sporty while I was at primary school but found PE really offputting when I got to secondary school - not least because of the horrible clammy kit we had to wear! - and I think I lost a lot of confidence with it then. I hope the kids at junior parkrun will have a love and fearlessness when it comes to running (and fitness generally) that will last throughout their lives.
What do you do outside of parkrun stuff?
I am training as a solicitor at one of the large law firms in the City and will qualify in March next year after about four years of exams and training. I mainly work on large mergers and acquisitions and really enjoy working across lots of different sectors with people all round the world.
Outside of work, I enjoy playing and arranging music. My main instrument is the oboe - I was in the university symphony orchestra and have also spent a lot of time playing in chamber music groups and in pit orchestras for operas and musical theatre productions around London. My best moment was when I got to play the cor anglais solo in the New World Symphony, best known as the song from the Hovis advert!
I also play the piano and mainly focus on that now as it is more difficult for me to get to orchestra rehearsals these days.
We understand you’re a parkrun ambassador, what does that entail?
I’ve been an ambassador for over two years now and I am actually one of two ambassadors on the Billericay core team, along with David. It’s a programme organised by parkrun Head Office where you are matched up with the core teams of other local events and you act as a friendly ear to support them as and when things come up. I know from my own experience of being an Event Director that it’s often quite helpful to have a person to go to for a second opinion or to bounce ideas off of, and that’s what I hope I am to the events I support.
Ambassadors also help to start up new parkruns. I had the chance to do this recently both with Lake Meadows junior parkrun and Northlands junior parkrun in Basildon, which I really enjoyed.
I’ve met so many brilliant people from being an ambassador and it’s great to have the chance to be a small part of other parkrun communities outside of Billericay.
What are you most looking forward to when we get back?
I’ve been doing quite a lot more running so I’m really looking forward to having another go at the course and to gradually chipping away at achieving the green 250 shirt. Most of all though, I just want to see everyone and to be together in the park again.
Thanks so much to Rachel.
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Until next time!
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