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?