Highbury Fields parkrun is cancelled on 2021-04-17 – COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Highbury Fields park runner profile – Erika Orsagova

Mile End

Erika Orsagova is a familiar face not only around Highbury Fields but around the UK and overseas. She has run a total of 268 parkruns and completed 40 volunteer tasks at 36 parkrun events. She's even bumped in Paul Sinton-Hewitt along the way! Here's her story....

What prompted you to join parkrun?

One of my hobbies is playing chess. I played a game and as is often the case you have a social drink in a pub with your opponent after the game. We got chatting and my opponent mentioned he had being doing parkrun since March 2006. This opponent and now long-time friend was Neil Davies, who has done an impressive 566 parkruns and has also been a regular visitor to Highbury Fields parkrun over the years. My first parkrun was 3 weeks later as I wanted to use it as training for a 10k charity run I was about to do. Since then parkrun has become a healthy addiction.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

My first ever parkrun was on 28th June 2014 on Hampstead Heath. I was very impressed as to how friendly and welcoming everyone was. It was exactly how Neil had described it. I got hooked.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

It is difficult to narrow it down to one as I have run 268 parkruns in total so far, in 111 different locations across the UK and abroad. Some stand out for different reasons, for example very muddy or extremely difficult weather. Here's the most memorable of my parkruns:

Highbury Fields. To my surprise, I won best costume, dressed as a pirate. This encouraged me to dress up for future running occasions.

Mile End. A pleasant surprise as I met the parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt.

Fulham Palace. My 250th parkrun where many friends from all corners turned up to celebrate my special day.

Castle Park parkrun. This was on parkrun World Tourist Day.

Newport parkrun. I met Nick Davies (bus driver) and the following week he came for a parkrun at Bushy Park with his family and I introduced him to my biggest parkrun inspiration, Neil Davies (no relation!).

Krakow parkrun. My first parkrun abroad. Since then my journeys abroad have been and will be planned around parkrun locations!


What do you like most about parkrun?

So many things! Through parkrun I have met a number of wonderful people who have become friends - I would never have met them otherwise.

The concept of the parkrun is amazing! I like the fact that you can recognise fellow parkrunners from a distance by what they are wearing and then start a conversation. It is a community that keeps each other in good spirits not just in a good times. It inspires and encourages people with health issues to change their habits to improve their physical and mental health.

It has become part of my training for longer distance runs, so much so that I have completed a few half marathons and a marathon.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I initially volunteered at parkrun when I was injured, I felt that I should give back to the community. My favourite volunteer roles have been as tail walker and running as a buddy with a blind partner. My pregnancy did not stop me from running and jogging at parkrun and in the later stages I continued walking and volunteering.


How are you coping without parkrun?

Never in a million years did I think that I would have such a long break from my favourite morning. It has not been easy without parkrun but as parkrunners do not give up, they created an unofficial parkrun instead – (not)parkrun.

I have to admit that since then my biggest inspiration for running is my little buddy runner, my son, who enjoys being pushed in the stroller but lately wants to run alongside mummy.


Any other thoughts?

Covid has highlighted the potential for parkrun’s very important role in the community. Highbury Fields parkrun has always been a great leader in this respect, both with their foodbank events in prior years and recently their vaccination volunteering activities.


Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Rachel Day

Rachel insta story

Rachel Day has run 56 of her 93 parkruns around Highbury Fields but sadly (for us) moved to Norfolk (pre-pandemic) before reaching the 100 parkrun milestone.

She has also completed 53 volunteering tasks at 44 events, all but one of them being at Highbury Fields parkrun or Highbury Fields junior parkrun (the 'one' was at Catton parkrun in Norfolk).

Rachel's infectious smile and happy demeanour is remembered as fondly as her hotdog and mustard fancy dress outfit.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I signed up for parkrun and got myself a barcode long before I finally made it to Highbury Fields parkrun many years later in September 2016. A friend of mine talked about her local parkrun and it sounded like a way to motivate me back into running.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I was amazed that such a well-run event was happening every week led completely by volunteers. The friendly welcoming atmosphere could be felt as soon as I arrived.

What’s your most memorable parkrun? 

One of my most memorable may have been tail walking in the rain while very inappropriately dressed in 70s gear, made all the more pleasant by a lovely chat with regular parkrunner Manal. The editors think that the parkrun when Rachel was dressed as a hot dog with mustard was pretty memorable too!

Rachel hot dog

What do you like most about parkrun?

The people of course! When I decided to leave London, I knew that one thing I would miss the most would be rolling out of bed on a Saturday, hungover or not, with the knowledge that I'd be spending the next hour or so in great company while getting in some good exercise, breakfast and coffee!

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I love volunteering as much as I do running at parkrun (sometimes more!). It's a great way to feel more involved and get to know people better. I loved learning how it all worked and I was genuinely flattered when I was asked if I would join the core team! Editor’s note: any time you want to make a guest appearance back in the core team you’ll be welcomed with socially distanced open arms!


How are you coping without parkrun?

I miss the smug feeling you get after a Saturday morning parkrun and running alone or in small groups is just not as much fun!



Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Paul Kelland

This week’s featured parkrunner is Paul Kelland. He started parkrunning at Finsbury Park in 2011 but has done the vast majority of his 295 parkruns at Highbury Fields. 
A long time runner, he tells us how parkrun has added to his running life and about the joys of age-grading as you get older.

250th parkrun

Roll through the decades of running mostly by myself and competing in the few races that were about. The early London marathons were really wonderful, as was the first unified Berlin marathon. No shoe chips to contend with, you just had to get near the front to get a good time.

My first parkrun was Finsbury Park and it felt like the very first cross country schoolboy race I ever did. A few weekends later, on 3rd December 2011, I joined Dave Mason at the 4th Highbury Fields parkrun, with 22 of us going round and round and round and round and round and a bit.

The field of runners back then was so small I even came in first a few times. 
It wasn’t long before I realised that the age graded % was a thing - this is a way of measuring a runner’s performance taking into account their age. The higher the percentage, the more impressive their running ability. I know it’s a niche market but for some of us it allows competition across all ages and genders. Aged 50 it only gets better if you keep running! Editor's note: Paul’s age grading stands at well over 80%!!

The post-run coffee in a local cafe is also a way of talking running when my whole household got bored of that decades ago.

I think that parkrun is such a brilliant idea. It allows all types of runners to participate and on behalf of the overly competitive ageing man gang I am allowed to get on with it.

Over the years I have run all over the country. The most beautiful parkrun I have done is Mount Edgecombe in Plymouth which you get to by ferry. 

mount edgecombe parkrun plymouth

Through parkrun a speed training splinter group has developed, which has also nourished several quick young runners. 

We also have a long run Sunday group that goes all over London searching out historical sights and sounds. I now have a whole group of parkrun friends and a real highlight of this year was helping some of them in the virtual marathon. 

It is not overstating it to say parkrun and its spinoffs have kept me sane through the pandemic. My work as a GP in Hackney has been so challenging and these runs have allowed me some respite from the stress. Some of my patients now participate in parkrun as we are a prescribing practice.

Whilst I know that competition is now officially frowned on, segment sniping on Strava is a real thing, and I can't wait to get 500 parkruns done – and more.


Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Jen Glassford


Jen insta story

Jen Glassford is a parkrunner at home and overseas, a HighburyFields parkrun volunteer, a HighburyFields junior parkrun volunteer, an international parkrun volunteer, a Mama Mermaid, a member of the #hackneyvaxpack and all round bundle of happiness and positivity.

She tells us how, for her, like so many others, parkrun is so much more than a 5k run on a Saturday morning.

When & where did you start parkrunning? 

My first parkrun was at Highbury Fields in October 2014. I arrived nervously and early at the start line as I had never participated in an organised run. A friend had told me about this free community run but I thought I must have misunderstood as no one was there.  I was so relieved when I realised that people congregate at the finish line and only arrive at the start a couple of minutes before 9. It was so exciting to see more than a 100 people arriving for a morning run.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I was never a runner - it was always something that other people did...until my husband bought me an amazing book 'Running like a girl'. I loved Alexandra Heminsley's story of learning to love running and it encouraged me to give it a try. A year later (I am a slow learner), I bought running shoes and slowly started to run around my neighbourhood. I started to enjoy myself but I also knew that I needed some structure and goals in order for it to become a routine. My friend Andy, a very keen runner, was the one who recommended parkrun.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I was amazed that I had finished 5k and that I wasn't the slowest person there. Even though I didn't know anyone I felt this wonderful feeling of achievement and fun. There was also the atmosphere of welcome and encouragement which made me want to go back. So before I knew it, no matter how many other activities we were doing as a family, Saturday always started with parkrun.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

Like most people I have many memorable parkruns - getting my 1st milestone shirt, those 1st PBs, parkrun tourism in Montreal, Vancouver, Perth, WA and especially the girls weekend at Jersey parkrun - the list is wonderfully long. If I have to choose a specific run though I would select the New Year's Day Double - 9:00am Highbury Fields followed by 10:30am at Southwark. Even though I am not a huge fan of New Year's Eve there is this wonderful sense of optimism and new possibilities on January 1st. The idea of going for a run with my parkrun family is so uplifting and then the sense of adventure mixed with a little craziness as we all rush to catch the train to get to Southwark to do it all over again. I can honestly say it was one of the best ways to start a year.

Jen Jersey 1

What do you like most about parkrun?

For me, parkrun is all about the people. I joined this community event in order to develop a consistent, healthy running routine and ended up forming lasting friendships with an amazing group of people. Although I have lived in London for more than 30 years, I can definitely say that the simple act of joining parkrun has transformed my sense of belonging. I know that every Saturday, whether running or volunteering, I will get to catch-up with some friends, meet new people and contribute to the parkrun experience.  At the end of every parkrun I leave with a smile in anticipation of the next parkrun event.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

For me volunteering is the best part of parkrun!

In the beginning, volunteering was simply my way of giving a little back and making sure that the event could happen every week. I decided that I would try to volunteer after every 10 runs. I found that I really enjoyed parkrun even more as a volunteer, as I got to meet new people and I was able to contribute to the welcoming and fun atmosphere. It turns out that my extroverted Canadian (loud) voice works well for cheering & funnel management.  I particularly love being the funnel manager (cheering with a little bit of traffic management) or handing out finish tokens in which you can congratulate everyone for achieving another (or a 1st) parkrun.

Volunteering soon became a family affair, as my son Felix started volunteering as part of his Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) program. He started volunteering on Sundays at Highbury Fields Junior parkrun and by the time he was doing his Gold Award he had joined the Highbury Fields parkrun core volunteer team and his sister Ruby had started her Bronze Award. I injured my foot in 2019 so volunteering at parkrun turned into a family event that culminated in post-event breakfast & token sorting.

Jen 1

How are you coping without parkrun?

Like most people, I really miss my parkrun routine, whether this was running or volunteering, I loved starting my weekend surrounded by my parkrun community. My family and many friends are in Canada and Australia, so not being able to travel has been a real shock to my system.

Even though we have not been able to take part in our regular events, I can't imagine what life would be like for me without my parkrun friends. At the start of the pandemic it was the simple joy of bumping into parkrun friends on the street as we adapted to local lockdowns. As we realised that the pandemic was here for more than a couple of weeks, we adjusted our routine so that we cycled, walked or swam in small groups. Big shout out to our #FridayWalkTalk group - 6 of us walking the co-editor of these profiles, Jo Hislop, to school on a Friday morning and #SwimmingFeminists - 4 of us who 'discovered' the Amazing West Reservoir and continued swimming until Jan 1st and a water temperature of 4 degrees! I can't wait for swimming to re-open and to be allowed to be with 6 people again.

Jen walk

More recently the kids and I have joined several other Highbury Field parkrunners (Alex Chase, Deb, John, Colleen, Anthony, Marina, Adrienne, Lizzy P to name just a few) by volunteering at Volunteer Centre Hackney. Once or twice a week we have the opportunity to use our parkrun skills of greeting people, briefing & marshalling them as they make their way through the vaccine process. After months of working from home, it has been such a joy to see people again and to be able to support and help, as well as to cheer the amazing NHS staff. So a big shout out and thank you to Alex Chase for getting the job coordinating the volunteers for Volunteer Centre Hackney and giving us an opportunity to give back and be there for our community until parkrun returns.

Jen collage 1



Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Charles Davie


This week we feature a parkrunner who discovered Highbury Fields parkrun in the early days but then stepped away for a few years. His profile explains why.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

11th February 2012 - Highbury Fields event number 14. In some respects, I was an early adopter of parkrun, but after doing half a dozen in 2012, I had 4 years off before returning as a regular in 2016.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I’ve lived locally in Islington for over 15 years - there used to be a handy Sweatshop under the arches of Holloway Road station that opened in late 2011. One of the staff was keen to get a running community going and mentioned parkrun as being a good option for a running group. I decided to take the plunge only to find no one else turned up!

What did you think after your first parkrun?

It was pretty raw - there were around 40 runners, with most people being first time parkrunners. I hadn’t run something like this since school and it definitely felt like a fairly niche competitive event with only 14 minutes between first and last place. Definitely a runner's event rather than the social event I enjoy today. Nowadays it is as much about high-fiving some friends on a Saturday as it is about celebrating running.

I was fortunate enough to rediscover parkrun in 2016 with fellow parkrun regular Alex Tsirigotis, as part of our training for the Venice Marathon. Alex was fairly new to running at the time and parkrun provided the perfect platform for him to really step up - he was good enough to help me rediscover my love for it too. We’d struck up a friendship after cycling London to Paris together a summer earlier and can now be found most weekends enjoying a 5k at Highbury fields with our families. It’s definitely something to look forward to when parkrun opens again.


What’s your most memorable parkrun?

I always enjoy running on my birthday weekend - parkrun is a great way to check your progress year on year and notice the changing of time. When I set my PB on my birthday in 2012, I never thought it would take 5 years to break it again! Hopefully I will run sub 20 this year for the first time as I’m feeling fitter than ever, but I have never quite hit that milestone.

What do you like most about parkrun?

The sense of occasion. Getting onto a start line at 9am on a Saturday is a heady experience, knowing that everyone is there to simply enjoy running is great. Personally, as a father of a young daughter, that window between getting my gear on, jogging to the start line and coming home is precious ‘me’ time - although I suspect she will try to join me once she’s old enough!

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

Shamefully I’ve never officially volunteered at parkrun, although I’ve been there to cheer on friends multiple times from the side-lines. I am constantly in awe of those who give their time up to build the community and make it accessible for all. I’m very much a clapper of volunteers as I run around, constantly thanking everyone - they’re simply amazing. Editor's note - you'd be a great addition our team of hi-viz heroes!

How are you coping without parkrun?

My running has massively increased since the pandemic hit. Like so many others, running has been my escape from lockdown. Living near the Emirates stadium I’ve amassed well over 1,000 laps of it in the past year, as well as enjoying the many green spaces Islington offers.

I am currently training for Round the Rock, an ultra-marathon around Jersey in August 2021 - I was down to run it in 2020, but Covid made it impossible to travel there so I deferred to this summer. In the meantime, I’m living out my ultra dreams through books; I can highly recommend Running Up That Hill by Vassos Alexander for anyone inspired to run that bit further.

I can't wait to get back to parkrun though, to see some old faces and finally overcome that sub-20-minute effort...maybe on my next birthday?

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