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!
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!.
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!