parkrunner profile – Joanne Welling

And now we have international woman of intrigue, Joanne Welling. (In the valley behind Jo is the equator line.)


How did you get started at parkrun?

Between 1998-9 while living in Quito, Ecuador, I somehow managed to have 3 children in 2 years. I know some of you die-hard pram-pushers will call me soft, but with an Ecuadorian mountain-guide partner who was usually away scaling the Andes, it took me a good 14 years after becoming a mum to find the time to exercise. By then I was around 10 kilos overweight and on the verge of depression. The mantras from the Run Fat B!tch audiobook drove me to the park each morning after dropping 3 stroppy teens off at high-school for a 7.10am start. Then it was just me, the eucalyptus trees and my iPod: it doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop. At first, I shuffled along the sandy paths for 3 tunes max. Soon I could jog along to 5 tracks, then 7, then 9. Pounds dropped off and my head cleared (somewhat - I was still single mum to 3 teens at this point, remember); eventually 45 mins. of actual running plus 15 mins. stretching in the bright morning sunshine set me up for the day, kept me sane and became the keystone for that segment of my life.

What´s that you say?  It´s not an actual parkrun if there’s no RD, no official course, no barcode? Well, as far as I can tell, even now the nearest official parkrun route to Quito is a 14-hour flight + 3 connections away, so please pardon me the transgression. I´m guessing my first 250 runs came into the category of unchartered Freedom runs where I DID forget my barcode, but at least I was in an actual park! Thanks to Danny Baker´s podcast which I listened to avidly back then, I felt as much a part of the parkrun community as any one of you, though that didn’t stop my sister, Claire (a Roundhay Runner), from pulling my leg for being a total parkrun geek when I finally clocked my first - and fastest ever – official time of 28:13 in August of 2015.


What does parkrun mean to you?

As I´m only back in Yorkshire once in a while, it´s a chance to meet people in Knaresborough (near Mum’s) and Chapel Allerton (near Claire’s). Running has hoiked me back from obesity, depression and isolation so it´s heartening to run alongside other people with similar stories or struggles. While I’m still around during Lockdown, I’m running Nidd Gorge regularly for exercise and sanity. I love the woods, the water and the steep winding paths. Once I´m back in Quito, I’ll keep an eye on parkrun happenings through the email updates so I can blend back in seamlessly on my next UK visit.


Do you have a favourite volunteering role?

I love being the marshal across the bridge at Conyngham Hall. You have people coming at you from three different directions which is a little mad at times, but they all pass you six times, so you get a really good feel for how the morning’s run is treating everyone. Besides, you´re only having to tell them all to “Stay Left!” so your right arm gets a good workout, which takes care of my physiotherapy session for the day – win-win, innit?


What did you do on Saturday instead of parkrun?

TBH I´ve lost track of the days of the week during lockdown. I´m Staying Home with mum and my daughter, Tamia. We’ll often emerge for a late brekky and a board- or card-game at the weekend, having had a lie-in and catch up with news, friends and good books from the comfort of bed. We play backgammon for points on the doubling dice and the loser has to pay into a piggy bank for  As such, Mum says she can´t afford to have us here much longer, and I’m not currently able to travel back to Ecuador, so if anyone’s looking for a Lockdown room-mate, please get in touch!


Do you have an amusing/odd/wonderful parkrun anecdote to relate?

Tami´s twin sister, Zara, ran the 2nd ever Conyngham Hall parkrun with you all, but 2½ years previously, she had run against me at Preston Park in Brighton (where I was born and raised). It was a real case of ´the tortoise and the hare´. She bounded off on her long legs, with her hair streaming behind her looking every bit like the BFG crossing the countryside in few effortless strides. I sighed and just did my thing of putting one foot in front of another again and again and again. Whenever she stopped for a breather, I´d overtake her temporarily, which happened 3 or 4 times over the course. She was a couple of hundred metres behind me on the home-straight and had intended to sprint past and pip me at the post but came in a few sorry steps behind me. A real victory for middle-aged mums, I feel.


Do you have a favourite parkrun photo?

I have lots! This one captures my daughter Zara, her friend Fernanda, my sister Claire and my son Tom (aka The Visiting Ecuadorians) crossing the bridge at Conyngham Hall last July when I was marshalling (and accidentally set off the walkie-talkie alarm - sorry Mark!)

Fer Zara Claire and Tom

Next we have Claire and Zara getting ready to run in onesies to support Type 1 Diabetes Reseach, one of Claire´s passions.  When Zara was doing her BTEC at Harrogate High School, two things that were guaranteed to save her from becoming too homesick were sport and time with her lovely aunty Claire.


Then  International Womens´ Day at Conyngham Hall. Claire, Tami and I all ran, while mum volunteered as marshal. It was my first timed run since a slipped disc last summer, so I  was very happy to manage 5k perfectly OK that day.



Lastly, Jo has added a question of her own for you all.

What’s your wish for (CH) parkrun after the COVID-19 crisis ends?

I would like to get the crown* for Best Corona Improver, i.e. last parkrun time before lockdown divided by first parkrun time after lockdown on the same course, so as to give a % ratio. I´m aiming for 31:56 / 29:30, so 1916 seconds / 1770 = 108%.  I´m not sure how scientifically sound that maths is, but it appeals to my parkrun geekiness - and maybe to yours too? Anyone fancy a challenge?

* it does indeed need to be a crown not a medal nor any other kind of prize because crown in Spanish as spoken in Ecuador is…. you guessed it…. corona!