Do you have a friend who you should bring to parkrun?

parkrun #503 – 12th January 2019

The park had really dried out a lot today – there was not even much of a puddle at the 600m corner! And at a mild 9 degrees C it felt more like spring than winter, many people were out in shorts and even vests.

775 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 52 were first timers and 82 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 35 different clubs took part. We have to say a big congratulations to the volunteers for the introduction of the double funnel – as the number of people finishing now needs that amount of space to cope with the sheer volume of people.

Stories from the park

The thing that always strikes me as funny about parkrun is that you have a strong sense of the stories of people in your part of the field, but little idea on what goes on in other parts of the field.

Obviously there was much excitement last week when Pippa Woolven came back and broke the female course record (which she had already held for 7 years from her previous run). She took over 40 secs off her previous run to record a tremendous 16:32, but apparently has said that she may be back for more since the UK female course record was also broken last weekend with 15:50 run in Cardiff by Charlotte Arter! Amazing and inspiring running! And whilst we are on impressive ladies results – congratulations to Jill Collett of Datchet Dashers, who was the first finisher overall today in a time of 18:26. In the men’s today, there was a big sprint finish for first male between George Taplin and Steven Jacobs, both finishing at 18:37 but George edging ahead and also getting a PB.

But I wanted to share stories from the part of the field in the 45 minutes and beyond. These are people who walk, or do a mixture of walking and jogging and running. There are families, dog walkers, couples, friendship groups and individuals. There are many there who are working through injuries and illness – staying active in the face of very challenging illnesses, or trying to work through recovery from surgery, or rehabbing and injury without surgery. There’s lots of chat, support, laughs and practical idea sharing. Sometimes there is group problem-solving – what to do when you are really not getting to sleep, or when you are not sure how to progress next with the medical challenges, and experiences with other types of exercise (does aqua-jogging work? how to swim or stationary bike without pain etc.) and other therapies that people have had success with in getting rid of pain.

Some of the experiences made me think about sharing it more widely – especially after the regional England Athletics endurance coach joked this week about the ‘church of parkrun’! For many people places of worship (of every faith) are a place where they are a part of a group who will support them through the highs and lows of life, where they can get practical advice and emotional support in tough times and a place and a time every week where they can go. For many of us in the 45 mins + part of the parkrun field, this is also a role of the weekly parkrun.

The dark side of depression (which Mind say affects 1 in 4 of us in the UK each year – regardless of age, gender, background) is that getting out of bed, getting active and finding joy in anything becomes increasingly hard – even though it is one of the key parts of fighting back against depression. And those that are very active before can fall hard when injury or illness strikes. One parkrunner talked about the fact that all of his friends were runners and when he got injured, he became increasingly lonely and depressed, to the extent that when he had a week’s holiday from work, he did not leave the house at all for 9 days. The injury and the weight that he has gained means that getting going is harder and lonelier than ever. But fortunately a friend has got him out and they are visiting lots of different parkruns to walk where he has no previous PB or experience to benchmark against.

Another parkrunner likened parkrun to Weightwatchers – “you come every week”, she says “and try your best, hoping that your hard work through the week will be rewarded with a PB. And there is a photo for you to see whether you are walking with better form (as per the physio’s instructions) and whether you can see any weight coming off. And you don’t even think of not coming, as friends will be on your case all week – even if it is a PW time, the chat and the fresh air is uplifting and gets you focussed for another week of doing those physio exercises and being good on nutrition and hydration.”

This sense of positive impact echoed a beautiful article in last week’s Sunday Times magazine on Emma Mitchell’s book ‘A Wild Remedy: How Nature Mends Us’. She talks about both the scientific evidence and her personal sense of beauty to show how walking in the woods is one key component (alongside antidepressants and talking therapies) to prevent her depression from being overwhelming. She says “when life is incessantly exhausting, has thrown you a terrible gluey lump of pain and you feel dreadfully, dingily sad, a leafy place and the sight of a bird can divert, and begin to heal the mind”.


So this brings me to my question in the headline – is there a friend that you know, for whom the set time of turning up, the company of others and the beauty & healing qualities of a walk in the woods could be a part of helping them to gain more optimism in 2019?


If so, do bring them along and introduce them to one of the walkers in the field – there is always the tail walker in the bright orange bib, who will be happy to walk and chat, plus a group of walkers with the Nordic poles, always ready to share the experience with others. And if walking 5K is too much, there is a brilliant camaraderie amongst the volunteers (many of whom are also working through illness and injury rehab) – and there are some jobs where you barely need to move (in case that is difficult), or jobs where you can just stand, or just sit… just email the


We also congratulate our new members to the parkrun milestone clubs:

50 Club – Roger GORHAM, Oona HEMPENSTALL, Susan WOOD

250 Club – David Thomas MARSHALL

Today’s parkrun was all made possible by 26 volunteers – a big cheer for them:

Barbara ALLEN • David PRIDDY • Fred ASHFORD • Andy TORRANCE • Vince ELLERBY • Ian SMALES • Chris ZAREMBA • Zoe SMITH • Freya SMITH • Kenneth BROWN • Carol COOMBS • David COOMBS • Andy SHEPHARD • Ian GILHAM • Nick ARCHER • Sophie GREATOREX • Heather PIPER • Charlotte PEDRICK • Raymond John HOYLE • Andy SMITH • Alexander MILL • Audrey PARSONS • Paula KELLY • Sam LOWE • Richard GOBLE • Lotte VISSER • Holly PHILLIPS • Tommy LAWS-BARRETT • Marie KOUHI • Isabella AMITRANO • Louise HEATHER • Callum PATERSON

Achievements this week:

There were some age graded results that deserved a huge cheer:

  • Kevin MCDONALD (VM55-59) of Hillingdon AC with an age grading of 83.0% on his 80th run
  • Jill COLLETT (VW35-39) of Datchet Dashers with 81.4% as the first overall finisher (and obviously first lady!)
  • John SMITH (VM75-79) with 77.7%
  • Margaret MARDALL (VW70-74) with 76.2%
  • Liz Lee (VW45-49) of Datchet Dashers with 75.6% and will do her 150th parkrun next time

Although the amazing Margaret Moody still holds the course record of 92.5% set back in April 2014.

And finally…

Thank you to all of the people in the 45 mins + part of the field – I did not attribute stories to individuals, but know that you will recognise them. Our group of run reporters always wants to bring to life some of the different experiences of different individuals and groups within Black Park parkrun. If you would like to tell a little of your personal story, please do email and we will hopefully catch up with you at Black Park and feature your story.


The male record is held by Ben LIVESEY who recorded a time of 15:09 on 10th March 2012 (event number 140).
The female record is held by Pippa WOOLVEN who recorded a time of 16:32 on 5th January 2019 (event number 502).
The Age Grade course record is held by Margaret MOODY who recorded 92.51% (22:15) on 5th April 2014 (event number 250).

Black Park parkrun started on 18th July 2009. Since then 18,265 participants have completed 193,949 parkruns covering a total distance of 969,745 km, including 30,175 new Personal Bests. A total of 747 individuals have volunteered 9,109 times.