Highbury Fields parkrun is cancelled on 26 September 2020: COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Kim Butler

This week’s parkrunner profile features Kim Butler; a regular face at Highbury Fields parkrun since 2012, Kim has been a core team member, a keen fancy-dresser at celebratory parkruns and London Heathside runner.

Kim’s love of running has now extended to her becoming a running coach. Here she tells us her parkrun story.

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When and where did you start parkrunning?

It was 21st April 2012 at Bromley parkrun, the day before the London Marathon. I wasn’t running the marathon the next day (I wasn’t sure if I could even complete 5k) but some of the parkrunners were and you could sense the excitement in the air.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I’d run Bromley parkrun at the request of a friend who lived nearby, I absolutely loved it and decided to research parkrun a bit more which is when I discovered there was one local to me in Highbury - perfect!

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What did you think after your first parkrun?

I really enjoyed it and spent the remainder of the morning refreshing the results page because I just couldn’t wait to see how my friend and I had done.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

Oh there’s loads! From the anniversaries to the trips to parkrun abroad, from the PBs to the themed runs and volunteering mishaps. One day that sticks in my mind was in June 2012; the London-based parkruns would host a series of parkruns on the day of the Summer Solstice - it didn’t count towards your results, I guess you could look at it as a series of freedom runs. I did Highbury Fields, Hampstead Heath and Mile End that day - some ran between the parkruns too! It was good fun and nice to meet fellow London parkrunners in the community.

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What do you like most about parkrun?

100% the people. You meet people from all walks of life but you’re all united through this bizarre love of running 5k every Saturday morning at 9am. I’m certain if it wasn’t for parkrun I wouldn’t have had the privilege of meeting so many people who are in my life now - and I wouldn’t have become a running coach either!

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Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

Fun, easy and I would definitely recommend. I remember having shakey knees when I delivered my first ever Run Director speech. A couple of weeks later I’d stopped shaking and I was able use this new found public speaking skill when giving presentations at work. Plus it’s nice to give back from time to time right?

How are you coping without parkrun?

parkrun has allowed me to spread my wings as a runner, so although I don’t participate as regularly as I once did I still find it very special and not a Christmas or New Year will go by without me taking part! In the meantime you can catch me clocking the odd solo 5k run around Finsbury Park.

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Any other thoughts?

I’ve seen a lot of runners’ motivation yo-yo in the current climate, myself included. As a parkrunner and a coach all I’d say is don’t put pressure on yourself to perform - some days just getting out the door is an achievement, regardless of speed or distance. Didn’t get out the door this week? No biggy, there’s always next week - that’s the beauty of parkrun!

 

 

Highbury Fields family parkunner profile – Conny, Julian, Mia and Yuki Oyesiku

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Our first Highbury Fields family parkrunner profile features the fabulous Oyesiku family; Conny, Julian, Mia & Yuki. Between them they have run a total of 461 parkruns (437 at Highbury Fields) as well as volunteering a combined total of 91 times. A true parkrun family.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

Julian and Mia, then aged 12, joined parkrun at Highbury Fields in February 2016. Little sister Yuki, then 10 and Conny joined a few months later.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

We had never heard of parkrun until Mia wanted to run the London Mini Marathon. Highbury Fields parkrun is used for the Westminster team trials, so she was asked to sign up. Eventually the whole family got involved, with little idea of how much it would change our weekends. At the time there were about 200 runners on average - it seemed very busy!

What did you think after your first parkrun?

Julian: A great alternative to running on the treadmill, something I really enjoyed at the time. And such a great community event! Now I wouldn’t dream of running on a treadmill - what was I doing?

Mia: Just proud that I finished 5 km and I knew I wanted to do it again!

Yuki: I thought I was going to die!! But I was really proud that I did it. The second parkrun was even worse, I kept crying but still really wanted to do it and I fell out with my dad who was running with me. He said either stop crying or stop running and that I make him look like a slave driver and pushy parent and he didn’t like it. So then my mum signed up to run with me!

Conny: I only signed up so Yuki could keep running. I had never joined a gym or done any regular exercise and was quite apprehensive. Luckily I had a 10 year old as an ‘excuse' to take it easy, it would have been much more daunting otherwise. So, we walked/jogged slowly round the course and it was surprisingly easy. That changed when I ran by myself for the first time - it felt like torture but seeing everyone else work hard at their own pace really helped me to keep pushing myself and it just felt incredible when I finished!

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

Conny: Probably our joint 100th parkrun at Highbury Fields - it felt great to have stuck with it for so long and simply to have timed it well and be able to do it together.

Julian: Our joint 100th parkrun at Highbury Fields but also seeing dolphins with Yuki at Aberdeen parkrun.

Yuki: I liked the Highbury Fields parkrun with the 80s dress up theme!

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What do you like most about parkrun?

Conny: Without a doubt the community! I thought I wouldn’t like running in a pack but it is actually much harder to slog on by yourself. The sociable aspects see you through the hard part, the actual running. And after the run (never before!) it’s such a great feeling to have started the weekend with a healthy family activity, regardless of the weather. I also love the fact that it’s free and accessible, without any strings attached. That really minimises any barriers and it’s great to see so many people of all abilities, ages, shapes and sizes who are not the 'classic' runner type. It’s those parkrunners who are my biggest motivation to keep going when my inner voice tells me to go and sit on a bench on lap 3 or 4.

Mia: 100% the community! Everybody is so supportive and proud of each other’s achievements. And I’ve even made friends in my age group along the way.

Family parkrunning - how does that work for you?

Conny & Julian: Doing parkrun as a family is fantastic and has been such a positive shared experience, both when running and volunteering (give or take a bit of moaning around 8.00am!). At first, we took it in turns to run with the girls and as they have got older, we have tended to run independently at our own pace. Occasionally we still pair up and run together. Now that the girls are teenagers (14 and 16), things have changed. Mia had to stop running due to an ongoing knee injury but sometimes joins us to volunteer. Getting Yuki out of bed on a Saturday morning has become a real challenge, with intermittent success, particularly since she has passed her 100 milestone. But to her credit, she still turns up, often preferably for volunteering.

Yuki: It’s nice to have the family there to support you, especially in the beginning when you don’t know anyone. They’re there to cheer you at the end and help you along.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

Conny: We started volunteering early on, primarily to give back and simply because we realised parkrun wouldn’t work without volunteers. The core team make a massive contribution to the community (thank you!) and not only does it feel good to do your bit, it’s actually a lot of fun. And there’s a sense of relief on those mornings that you don’t actually have to run!

Julian: I’m proud to be part of a community-driven and now global health initiative which any government would be proud to have developed.

Mia: Volunteering feels like a valuable contribution and is as rewarding as running. There’s such a sense of community and volunteering helps you to get to know other parkrunners and to meet members of all ages. I would also say that volunteering in pouring rain and icy winds is character building - you really feel like you’re giving back!.

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How are you all coping without parkrun?

Conny & Julian: We have kept up our weekly 5 km runs locally along the Thames but it’s just not the same as a proper parkrun. In the meantime, our children are rapidly losing muscle mass, being horizontal with their phones or online for their school work most of the time. We can’t wait for parkrun to start up again!

Any other thoughts?

Conny & Julian: We’ve often felt that the main distinguishing feature of Highbury Fields parkrun is down to its geographical limitations. We all know how crowded it can get on the busy short laps course, with the inevitable lapping only increasing the pressure. But by running multiple laps in a small area we keep passing the volunteers and each other all the time, rather than only meeting at the start and finish. So, we get cheered along and interact whilst running, much more than we would do on a wide and beautiful one-lap course that may be more stunning but less sociable. At Highbury Fields parkrun, even the fastest runner comes across the slowest and vice versa and that must be good for the community. So there’s beauty in its constraints!

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Steve Latham & Bethan Ashmead Latham, our parkrun bride & groom

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On their 5th wedding anniversary, we bring you the story of Steve & Beth, who ran Highbury Fields parkrun in wedding clothes on the morning of their wedding, together with quite a few of their family & friends. Here's the story that led up to that memorable day.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

Both in 2012, Steve’s was Highbury Fields event #39, Beth’s was a hungover affair in Finsbury Park.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

We were mid-twenties and didn’t feel very connected to any London community. We were already runners, each with a few marathons and halves under our belts and loved the idea of an inclusive, regular timed run within a friendly group of people. Plus, the 5k distance is so good for you and has definitely improved our running.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

“I can’t believe this thing happens every week! For Free!”

What do you like most about parkrun?

The joy of it. It’s so easy to forget the joy of sport when you’re solely chasing faster times. But with parkrun, the range of people, the range of runners (and walkers), the range of choice makes it more special than any other running event. It’s great to push yourself for a PB like we do most weeks, or just to push yourself to get out of bed and enjoy it.

Tell us about your wedding day parkrun....

We both agree that parkrun put us in such high spirits for the wedding day in 2015. We invited guests to join us, then we dressed up in a top hat and a white dress to run. Other parkrunners were so lovely, friends brought a picnic of croissants and bucks fizz, and our nieces and nephews were bouncing off the walls. We got married in Christ Church Highbury four hours later so it was perfect to kick off with the run on Highbury Fields.

It was a rare treat to run a parkrun together, too. The story goes that Steve made sure Beth crossed the line first - but still complains about what this did to his average time!

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Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

We were both shy about meeting people the first few times, but volunteering helps you get to know everyone. It feels great to encourage other runners, it’s a bit of a ‘thank you’ to everyone who’s volunteered for your own runs and it’s wonderful when your new volunteer friends give you a cheer on your next run. Win, win!

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How are you coping without parkrun?

It’s miserable but we’re toughing it out! Steve’s been running a lot and even created his own lockdown 5k course on Strava. Beth’s been running, cycling and enjoying LOTS of open water swimming since they reopened West Reservoir in June. It’s not the same though, no one cheers your name or asks how your week was.

Any other thoughts?

Exercise seems even more important when the worry about vulnerable relatives and lockdown puts us on edge. Sport is a great outlet and gives a sense of control when the world feels as though it’s running away from us. This means we keenly miss parkrun’s routine, community and normality. We know it could be a while before it returns, but how exciting it will be when it does!

 

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Tynan Parker

Introducing 13 year old Tynan, junior parkrunner and member of London Heathside running club. Tynan is a regular at Highbury Fields parkrun, as well as the junior Sunday event. Keen runner Tynan has some very impressive parkrun stats - a PB of 19.11 at our 5k event and a junior parkrun 2k PB of 6.58.

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When and where did you start parkrunning?

I did my first parkrun at Highbury Fields back on Christmas Day in 2016.

What prompted you to join parkrun? 
Our friends Tina ( who was dressed as a Christmas pudding and turkey hybrid) and Jeff (her husband) had given us the idea to run at Christmas. It wasn’t my favourite idea, so I wasn’t in the best mood. Yet my dad still managed to encourage me to run the full 5 laps and I finished in around 27 minutes. Finishing the run was my favourite part of the day and always will be.

What did you think after your first parkrun?
Although getting up early made me moody, the fun of people cheering you on was great. After doing more and more and realising that everyone is so friendly, I started to enjoy myself. Enjoying myself enough to put myself through the misery of a PB effort!

What’s been your most memorable parkrun?
This has to be Highbury Fields’ 8th birthday, which was full of people dressed in ridiculous 80s clothing including Danny Olive’s long wig and Lycra clothing!

What do you like most about parkrun?
The people. Everyone is friendly, though you sometimes get a parkrunner or member of the public who complains, but you have to forget about them. Apart from them, there are people who will make you laugh and others who will cheer you on.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?
I have volunteered a couple of times and I enjoyed it. There’s no pressure and if you mess it up (Editor’s note - it is very hard to “mess up” so don’t let that put you off volunteering!) one of the core volunteer team will always make sure it gets resolved (Ed - there’s always a way!!).

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How are you coping without parkrun?

I haven’t been able to chase my dream of getting the junior parkrun record. I was doing lots of tiring track training and just as I was getting used to it, Coronavirus said no! However I have been doing hill work as well as long and tempo runs to prepare me for cross country season.

Any other thoughts?
I really like the different t-shirts you get for milestones, I feel like it gives park runners a thing to aim for. Editor's note for those that don’t know, there are milestone t-shirts for 50, 100, 250 and 500 runs, as well as for volunteering at 25 events.

I would like it if there were pace makers more often.

 

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Jenny McCullough

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Meet Jenny McCullough, whose parkrun journey has taken her from Gunnersbury Park to Highbury Fields, plus quite a few other parkruns along the way and most recently back home in Northern Ireland to a brand new parkrun in Helen's Bay. Jenny has run 235 parkruns in total, 117 of which have been around Highbury Fields. She has also volunteered at 46 parkrun events. Her PB is 22.37, achieved at Highbury Fields of course.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

January 2014 at Gunnersbury Park.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I had been aware of it but hadn’t done anything about it until I got some gentle encouragement from a friend who has been a stalwart of Sunderland parkrun. I had completed 'Couch to 5k' but wasn’t sure I’d find the parkrun, never mind make it around the course. The first time I went to Gunnersbury I told myself I’d just go and have a look, but on the way there I met a parkrunner who showed me where the start was and then I just got swept along.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I was very tired but very very pleased with myself. I knew I wanted to try again and do it better so I was already hooked. When I told my friend in Sunderland that I was officially a first timer, he texted back "welcome to the congregation". I knew straight away what he meant about the ritual of people showing up to be together and support each other. Years afterwards I had a chat with a parkrunning clergyman, who said "It’s great, isn’t it? Like church, but without the hassle".

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

It’s hard to narrow it down! At Gunnersbury I remember being taken to a scorching PB by a pacer who could only have done more to get me over the line if he’d picked me up and thrown me into the finish funnel.

I did my 100th parkrun when I was feeling triumphant – moving slowly, not yet back on friendly terms with stairs, but still triumphant – after my first Belfast City Marathon.  I thought about going back to Gunnersbury to celebrate but by then Highbury Fields was definitely home. Heading for the start, I hobbled right into my first ever Run Director from Gunnersbury, whose mission to complete the London parkruns had, quite by chance, taken him to Highbury Fields that day.

Another memorable parkrun at Highbury Fields was also a bit painful to begin with – the first one back after I’d been on television talking about an awful time I’d had at work in another lifetime. I was so touched by the parkrunners who offered me their support and trusted me with their own stories that I wept for about five of the five and a bit laps. Being at Highbury Fields also helped me to put things into perspective, though, when I remembered that I was in Islington where there are many people who are on TV all the time!

I’ve got lots of memories of parkruns that marked important times, were marked by extreme weather or that were just great fun. At the moment I hope the most memorable parkrun of all will be the next one.

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What do you like most about parkrun?

I like that it’s such a great illustration of the power of just showing up and giving it your best shot, whether running or volunteering. By 9.30am (or 10.00am in Northern Ireland and parts of Scotland) you’re already winning. I believe that parkrun has enriched my life in ways that go well beyond running – I’ve seen plays, read books, and made great friends because of it. That’s what I like most.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

Volunteering is absolutely its own reward and when I say I’d recommend any of the roles as valuable work and life experience at any age, I’m not exaggerating. It’s a privilege to see how parkrun works, from set-up to results processing and to learn from the core team how to do it well. It’s more important to me to improve as a volunteer than as a runner but volunteering has also given me some of my best laughs and my best views. I’ll never tire of seeing all the different stages of parkrun; from the sprightliness at the start to the palpable exhaustion at the end, the effort everyone puts in is endlessly moving and a complete delight for me.

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How are you coping without parkrun?

In the couple of weeks before lockdown I took part in a brand new event, Crawfordsburn Country parkrun. I’m sad that people are missing out on getting to know the gorgeous and challenging course that was a labour of love for the Event Director and core team to establish and also missing out on having tea and a bun together afterwards!

Apart from parkrun I’ve mostly been a solitary runner and I think that has made it easier to cope. I’m lucky to be able to run along the coast and as I’m missing London too, sending photos of the sea and sky to Sunderland, which was really where parkrun started for me; this all helps me to appreciate what I’ve got here in Northern Ireland.

I do long for parkrun, though and not just when I think of how close I should be to ordering my green 250th parkrun milestone t-shirt. But being able to run at all in this time is a great gift – and thinking about parkrun, which has helped me gather the strength to stand hard times in the past, has become a great sustaining thing for me to draw on. I always thought parkrun was both good living and good training for life and now I have proof.

Any other thoughts?

When I moved back home from London last summer I was too sad to say goodbye properly. I think of Highbury Fields very often and all the more so in the situation we’re in now. So thank you Highbury Fields parkrun for the chance to say I hope you and yours are all keeping well. I send you love from across the Irish Sea!

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