Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Manal Mashaal

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Meet Manal, a regular walker/jogger at Highbury Fields, known for her infectious smile and positive outlook. Manal has completed 60 parkruns, all at Highbury Fields, as well as volunteering at 17 events.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

My first 'official' parkrun was December 10th 2016. My son had signed me up, with Highbury Fields as my home parkrun. Editor's note - Manal's first parkrun was actually in November 2016 but as she only had her barcode on her phone her time wasn't registered!

Why did you join parkrun?

My son encouraged me to join up because he thought it would be good for me to have something just for myself, as I spend a lot of time looking after everyone else in the family. I had never run before, or even walked as part of a group.  I had one friend that I used to regularly go out with, walking down to Angel, shopping and having fun together, but she moved a bit further away, so after that I didn’t really have anyone to go out walking with. So that was why my son encouraged me to join parkrun. He lives in Aberdeen and had been parkrunning for years, he did parkrun tourism in London and he takes his own children to parkrun now.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I couldn’t believe that I had done it. I said that I would do 1 or 2 laps, I would do as much as I can, but I couldn’t imagine that I would complete it, but I did!

What do you like most about parkrun?

The people. They were encouraging me from the beginning, they all knew my name, I did not imagine that so many people would stay in the cold just waiting for me to finish, just to encourage me and give me that push. I couldn’t believe it and I didn’t know any of their names! They really did it with love. I said to my daughter how surprised I was that all these people whose names I didn’t know were there waiting in the cold, clapping and waiting for me, whatever the weather.  I was the last one to finish, but all those people made me so happy. I couldn’t believe how much compassion they gave me. I didn’t expect that much care and kindness every week. That’s what pulled me from home every Saturday morning. Even when I had a migraine, I would take the medication, make myself ready, get up and come out every week. It made me really happy.

I am always cold, so at the beginning I wore my long coat because I didn’t believe that I would get warm, but by the time I had done 5 and bit laps I was surprisingly warm! People did give me some funny looks, like I came from another planet, but they didn’t make me feel uncomfortable! I didn’t learn to do any sports when I was young, so I made sure my children had the opportunity to do lots of sports.  I tried swimming but I didn’t get on with it. So I was really determined to succeed at parkrun. The people really made me confident and gave me the support to do it. At my age it has taken some time to adapt to doing something so positive for myself like parkrun. Now I have taken off the coat, but I have got layers and gloves so I can move freely. It is important for me to look decent, because I like to dress nicely.

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I felt really shy at the beginning, but I enjoyed walking with the tail walkers, they were always happy and encouraging me and we were always laughing and having fun as well as walking, giving me a nice time. People used to come up and hug me and make me happy. Editor's note - the 2 tailwalkers pictured (coincidentally the parkrunner profile co-editors Jo & Deb) have great memories of their Manal tailwalking experience

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I used to volunteer during Ramadan (the fasting month) and one time I also volunteered when I was on crutches. I always like scanning because you get to see lots of familiar faces and everyone remembers me so it is a very sociable role. I enjoy clapping people in and the team is always friendly and very nice, even if we don’t even know each other, especially the volunteer team. I have always found volunteering a very relaxing atmosphere and I have often been asked to join in on the photographs even though I’m a bit shy and I wasn’t actually volunteering that day. It is always a comfortable environment to be a part of.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

On one parkrun every time I passed Gail (Davison), a parkrun friend who was volunteering, I was asking JR, the Run Director that day if I am allowed to kiss her (clearly pre-Covid!!). This caused much laughter on that parkrun! Also the last parkrun I completed was the International Women’s Day parkrun where everyone was asked to wear purple. Also memorable for being the last one. I hope there will be more soon.

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How are you coping without parkrun?

I am missing it very much. My children were very proud of me for going to parkrun. Every time I completed one I sent them pictures and it was a big achievement for me to succeed late in life, so I’m really hoping it comes back soon.

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Paul Collyer

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Introducing Paul Collyer, former Highbury Fields parkrun regular, currently living & running in Sweden. Paul has run 128 parkruns. He's also been seen in the parkrun hi-viz on a number of Saturdays & Sundays around Highbury Fields.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

My first parkrun was Highbury Fields in March 2013. It was snowing. It was the longest I had ever run and I did it in just under 25 minutes. I was hooked.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

Until 6 months before my first parkrun I was overweight & in my early 40’s. I had never enjoyed running. In September 2012 I downloaded MyFitnessPal and started walking 30 minutes to work and back each day. The results amazed me. From 100kg at the start I was 90kg by Christmas and about 85kg by my first parkrun in March. I had started doing a few 15 minute runs around the fields in the new year and had wondered what was going on each Saturday morning as a growing number of people were running together, visible from our house. So I investigated and signed up. I took the plunge that snowy Saturday morning on 23rd March 2013. Infuriatingly that was just before I joined Strava and I think I only recorded it on some obscure long lost iPhone app.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I was surprised at my time and also hooked! It made me think running might be something for me to have a crack at. I started training regularly and every 2-3 weeks or so would test my progress at Highbury Fields parkrun. Things went so well that within a year I was doing the Copenhagen Half and soon after that my first marathon. I cannot stress how much parkrun has helped me in terms of health and self-confidence. If I were a doctor I would be prescribing it regularly!

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

There are a few...

At Highbury Fields, my first sub 20 minutes run in December 2014. It was amazing. I would have laughed at the idea a couple of years before that.

I have also enjoyed the series of parkruns last year where I pushed my baby daughter around the fields in her buggy – great training and a real laugh!

Oh and the couple of occasions I have managed to finish ahead of Paul Kelland were nice. Sadly his age grade performances are beyond me for the foreseeable!

Overall, maybe finishing first at Örebro parkrun in Sweden (near where my in-laws live ) early last year.

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What do you like most about parkrun?

The fact it can be whatever you want it to be. A race, a jog, a social. No rules, just lots of respect. I have met some lovely people at parkrun and there came a point, about 3 or 4 years ago, where I was probably addicted to running at a parkrun every week. I also think that junior parkrun is a fantastic idea. Now that we live in Sweden I really hope they consider introducing it here too. I also totally love parkrun tourism. I was on a bit of a roll with it in 2018 until child #3 came along but for now parkrun tourism is only on the back burner!

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Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I enjoy it. I have only volunteered 20 times, all at Highbury Fields & Highbury Fields juniors. I have also coerced my eldest into volunteering a couple of times! I think I enjoy timekeeping most but I have had a couple of 'mishaps' so I'm not sure if I am 100% trusted yet! Editor's note: we always have 2 timekeepers just in case of 'mishaps' but most can be easily resolved anyway! 

How are you coping without parkrun?

It’s totally frustrating! Ironically, it feels further away in Sweden than in the UK right now as they have been very consistent and strict on gatherings of 50 people, or 8 for the festive season. And it’s not just parkrun, it’s racing in general too. It is very hard for me to stay motivated without a target. I need to see that light at the end of the tunnel and get properly fit again!

Any other thoughts?

My family moved to Sweden in the Spring as my wife’s family needed us to be closer during this difficult time and also it is better for the kids in terms of school stability etc. I’m not sure yet if we will come back to the UK in a few years, we’ll see. But I will miss Highbury Fields parkrun as much as anything else in London. Fortunately, Haga parkrun is about 20 minutes jog from our new home, so that will become my new parkrun for a while. Obviously any weekend visits back to London will involve a Highbury Fields parkrun and a few high fives and hugs (remember them? ) where possible!

 

 

Introducing the parkrunners behind the profiles – Deb Roback and Jo Hislop

Ever wondered who’s been editing and posting the weekly Highbury Fields parkrunner profiles? Well wonder no more! This week, as the final post in what has been a quite extraordinary year, we thought it would be nice to tell you a little bit about ourselves!

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We met at Highbury Fields parkrun back in 2013 or 14. We were just 2 women in a fairly small field in those days, when an average week saw 100 or so runners. We ran at a similar pace, towards the back of the field, discovered that we are both “chatty runners” and the friendship was born.

Over the years we have continued to run together, in and out of parkrun, including a weekend in Jersey with some of our other Highbury Fields parkrun friends (which naturally included Jersey parkrun). We have also become more involved with volunteering. Deb is now one of the event directors, along with her husband John, while Jo continues to run and volunteer regularly.

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When lockdown struck back in March, we acted on a suggestion of one of our parkrunners, Connie Osbourne, that it would be lovely to share the stories of the wide range of people who call themselves parkrunners. So many people, of all ages, from varied backgrounds and lifestyles, united every Saturday because of parkrun.

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The stories tell you everything you need to know about how this simple idea of a free, timed, weekly 5k walk/jog/run has impacted millions of people over the past 16 years.
We can’t wait til parkrun can safely start up again, but in the meantime, we will continue to keep connected by publishing profiles for as long as there are parkrunners out there wishing to be featured!

Happy Holidays to you all from Jo & Deb

P.S. If you are interested in taking part in our parkrunner profile series, please email us: highburyfields@parkrun.com

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – The Berrisford Sweet family

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Introducing another one of our fabulous parkrun families; mum Jenny Berrisford, dad Alex Sweet, sons Gregory Berrisford Sweet (age 13) & Theo Berrisford Sweet (age 10). Between them they have done a whole lot of parkrunning & junior parkrunning.

When & where did you start parkrunning (this includes junior parkrunning of course)

Jenny: I started parkrunning in February 2012 at Finsbury Park.

Gregory: I first did a junior parkrun at Highbury Fields in April 2016, aged 8.

Editor's note: Gregory has since completed 102 junior parkruns and 75 parkruns. Theo has not answered the questions but he has completed 44 junior parkruns and 3 adult parkruns.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

Jenny: I’ve always done a bit of running as an adult and in 2011 I had two very young children and was a bit out of shape. It sounded like a really good idea so I gave it a try.

Gregory: I wanted to do some long distance running and my parents already did it. They took me along most weeks to the adult Finsbury Park parkrun, so I was used to the atmosphere.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

Jenny: I remember being pleasantly surprised to enjoy running in a large group and I enjoyed the atmosphere. I also remembered thinking ‘this could be a really good routine for me to get into’.

Gregory: At first junior parkrun was quite tough and for several months I was quite slow but then I really started to improve. I felt exhausted but proud of myself. I had to do the adult parkrun with my mum until I was 11. For the first few times I slowed her down but it changed quite quickly and she started to slow me down, so sometimes I ran with my Dad.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

Jenny: I have a few. My 100th was lovely and so was the time my son and husband did their 50th together and I volunteered. I think getting a great PB (a few years ago now) was pretty memorable too. I got into a bit of a competition with a guy running near me and we shook hands afterwards and I thanked him for pushing me towards a PB. I also enjoyed running with Gregory when he was under 11, as he really helped me to improve my times.

I have also particularly enjoyed watching Gregory improve. Seeing him race neck and neck for first place on a few occasions has been really exciting. Editor's note: yes, yes, we all know it's not a race but we also know that quite often we have our own personal races going on in our heads.

Gregory: My Grandma’s 250th parkrun. We all went to Hampstead Heath, her regular parkrun and did a great parkrun as a whole family, before going to the café for croissants and a 250 cake afterwards.

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What do you like most about parkrun?

Jenny: I love the community spirit and catching up with friends and fellow runners. I also like the fact that, for me, it’s an excuse to push myself to run a bit faster. It’s also a great reason to get up on a Saturday morning.

Gregory: My favourite thing about parkrun is probably the adrenalin rush in the last section; when you know it’s a PB, it drives you to keep on running and victoriously glide through the finish line.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

Jenny: I enjoy volunteering. I’ve done lots of junior parkrun volunteering and I do more adult volunteering now that Gregory is old enough to run unsupervised. I think it’s an important role and very rewarding. I’ve volunteered a couple of times on Christmas Day at Finsbury Park and that has been great fun. My kids also enjoy helping out and that gives me a good feeling!

Gregory: I love volunteering and making the runs possible for everyone else, but I also love running them. So my favourite scenario is joining in with the scanners/finishing token sorters when I finish junior parkrun before the majority of other junior parkrunners have come through the finishing funnel. I also sometimes help to manage the funnel at Finsbury Park parkrun – it was pretty busy before lockdown!

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How are you all coping without parkrun?

Jenny: I am missing it a lot. During the first lockdown I didn’t do very much running at all (but I did do a lot of Joe Wicks workouts!). In the last few months I have managed to get my running game back and I go out with a friend or one of my sons 2 or 3 times a week.

Gregory: I think I have missed the exercise and I have definitely missed the people. I can’t wait to get started again. I have done some running and track sessions on my own and with friends.

Any other thoughts?

Jenny: I am so looking forward to returning to parkrun in a post-Covid world. It means a lot to us as a family and we have other family members and friends for whom it is an important social event.

Gregory: I just really hope I can do junior parkrun a few last times before I’m too old!

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – James Hislop

This week’s featured parkrunner is James Hislop. A keen cyclist, James only started running after his wife was bitten by the parkrun bug and he decided to come along to Highbury Fields to see what was making her so happy every Saturday morning!

James has completed 182 parkruns, the vast majority at the Fields. Here he tells us what parkrun means to him.

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Where and when did you start parkrunning?

I did my first parkrun in October 2013 at Highbury Fields.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

My wife Jo was doing it. She had read an article in the Guardian about it, looked to see if there was a local one and found that it was less than half a mile away. It almost seemed rude not to. She had been doing it for a few months and was really enjoying it and I gradually thought - seeing as my job is completely sedentary and I was in my mid-40s then - that perhaps I should give it a go.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I had done a practice run or two earlier but was glad to do the real thing in less than half an hour. In fact I did it in 27'14''. I really enjoyed running with other people, even though people at my sort of level were finishing way slower than the first finishers and we had in fact been lapped. My first parkrun hadn't killed me and, even though I had trouble getting down the stairs on Sunday, I felt I could beat my new PB. The next week I got in below 27 minutes. At this point I began deluding myself that I could get quite good at this running thing!

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

That's a hard question. Fletcher's Cove in Washington DC is memorable because it was such a sweaty nightmare; the winter course at Brockenhurst, in the New Forest is beautiful. But getting down to 23'49'' at Highbury was pretty nice. It seems almost impossible now - as if I must have cut a lap off!

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What do you like most about parkrun?

I like that I have made a lot of friends there of all ages. They're a really nice, friendly crowd who have made me very welcome. It's also got me fitter. I often go for a run in the week nowadays and think to myself: 'I wouldn't be doing this at all if it weren't for parkrun.'

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I really like volunteering. It gives you the chance to see the whole field. Often, when running, you see the same people who run at your sort of pace. Standing at the side, you see the whole impressive range, and it's nice to cheer them along. I prefer timekeeping and barcode scanning. With scanning, it's nice to congratulate someone on a time they're pleased with - or commiserate over a mild disappointment - and encourage them to come back next week.

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How are you coping without parkrun?

I'm still running, but I do miss the people I have met at Highbury. I've seen a few of them out and about and our socially distanced chats have all pointed to the fact that the run isn't just a run. It's an important social thing, a fixed point in the week, a chance to catch up, even very briefly, and not having that is a shame.

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Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – James and Natasha Rockliffe

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Our first father-daughter profile tells the story of James & Natasha Rockcliffe.

Highbury Fields junior parkrun Event Director James has run 147 parkruns, as well as completing 468 volunteer tasks at 229 runs.

Natasha has run 19 parkruns, 162 junior parkruns & has also completed 35 volunteer tasks at 33 parkruns.

What a great story they tell!

When & where did you start parkrunning?

James: I first ran at parkrun in 2015 after my wife Angela decided to get fitter. When I realised she was serious, it became apparent that I was considerably less fit than I thought and I didn’t want to lag behind my wife in yet another new way. Highbury Fields was the easiest parkrun to get to by bus and back in those days, I enjoyed the five-and-bit lap course. Mentally checking each lap off in my head meant the 5 kilometres didn’t feel as long as it sounded.  Although, I struggled (and do to this day) to keep track of what lap I was on. This is because I am old and counting to five is challenging, even when I’m not running.

Natasha:  I started junior parkrunning in 2015 when I was 7 years old. When I got older, I started doing the adult parkrun occasionally. Before lockdown, I completed my 162nd junior parkrun at Highbury Fields.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

James: I used to run when I was much younger, but then I got married and put on three stone.  I was perfectly happy with this until my wife started getting much healthier than me, as I explained above.  When she started running, my competitive streak re-emerged and I had to play catch up.  It took me so long to do so that by the time I got to 50 parkruns, I knew practically everyone who ran and volunteered at Highbury Fields parkrun. It really did take me at least 50 parkruns before I was able to run the 5k without stopping or walking.

Natasha: Mum and Dad decided to take me because they thought I would enjoy it. They weren’t completely wrong!

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What did you think after your first parkrun?

James: That 5k was longer than some motorways.  I felt unwell, my feet, legs and chest hurt and I went to bed at 6pm in the evening. I swore never to return. My resolve lasted for less than a week.

Natasha: Although the running was hard, when I finished it felt like a big accomplishment.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

James: Probably my visit to Black Park parkrun. I am a huge fan of science fiction and in 1980 an episode of Doctor Who was filmed there. It was written by a chap called Andrew Smith who through my affection for the show became a good friend.  And he’s a runner! The course at Black Park parkrun threads through several locations used in the story and Andrew and I ran the course together last summer.  It was a great experience.

Natasha: My most memorable parkrun was when I completed my 100th parkrun. I ran with Jaz from parkrun Head Office who I met when she visited Highbury Fields junior parkrun some time before.

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What do you like most about parkrun?

James: Apart from finishing each run, the community of people I am now part of at Highbury Fields. I can parkrun at the Fields any week (when there isn’t a pandemic) and run into someone I know; parkrunners turn up everywhere – at work or just speaking to your neighbours.  It brings people together and the community is richer for it.

Natasha: I like all the friendly volunteers cheering you on the whole way round especially Khara who was a regular volunteer at Highbury Fields junior parkrun. I started to run with Khara at parkrun and continued during lockdown. She has now moved away which makes me sad as I have to run with Dad instead.

Volunteering at parkrun – your thoughts?

James: The positive impact junior parkrun has on families every week has always been very obvious to me. The first time I saw juniors being organised by Rob (the founder of Highbury Fields junior parkrun) I knew I wanted to get involved.  I did all the volunteer roles under Rob’s supervision and guidance and eventually stepped up to be co-Event Director and I have never looked back. Seeing those kids lap up the encouragement and applause the volunteers and supporters give is the highlight of my week. So many smiling faces on a Sunday morning (even when it’s freezing) never fails to be uplifting.

Natasha: I like volunteering at parkrun because everyone there is so sociable and willing to help.

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How are you coping without parkrun?

James: I have kept running whilst parkrun has been suspended, but running on my own is a different kettle of fish. I therefore love running with Natasha when she allows me to join her – but when she sprints, I no longer have any chance of keeping up.

Natasha: I do miss seeing all the volunteers and runners, but I still get out to run regularly.

Editor's note: James & Natasha can also be found running with James' dad Richard, a regular parkrunner at Raphael parkrun in Romford. Richard is pictured here with Natasha after an Olympic Park even they ran in. It's a real family affair!

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Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Kate Oliver

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Kate Oliver started parkrunning in May 2013, had a couple of years off here & there, then really got the parkrun bug in late 2018. She has run a total of 56 parkruns, 42 of which have been at Highbury Fields. Her PB of 28:58 was achieved at Highbury Fields in May 2019. She tells a familiar story of friendship, community & determination.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

Years ago, at the triumphant end of the NHS Couch to 5k (which I heartily recommend for gradually building up your fitness & confidence!) I tried out a couple of local parkruns, Finsbury Park & Highbury Fields. But the habit didn't stick! Many years later, my friend Cat was going regularly to her local parkrun & we started texting each other our victories on Saturday mornings - turns out the accountability/competitiveness was what I needed to commit! Up until lockdown I was at Highbury Fields every Saturday morning, never cared about finish times but loved seeing that number of parkruns on my profile slowly climb.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

It's so friendly! I couldn't believe I'd actually run a whole 5k. I still get that feeling of amazement even now. It's amazing what my legs have learnt to achieve.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

New Year's Day this year 2020, in the freezing cold, probably still drunk, joining so many others - I knew I must be in deep. A couple of weeks later I finally completed my 50th parkrun & got my hard-won red milestone t-shirt.

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How about parkrun tourism?

Some of my favourite experiences have been visiting parkruns around the UK when on holiday with Cat. Everyone's so friendly & welcoming. The courses always a surprise: I particularly loved Stretford parkrun, finishing on a stadium running track! The dream is doing an overseas one, one day...

What do you like most about parkrun?

The sense of community & support: all are welcome, all celebrated.  At Highbury we're lucky enough to have our local Mini Mermaids group of girls who complete their 5k challenge with us; they work towards it for weeks physically & mentally, their families are there to support them with homemade signs & drinks stations, it's awesome. This really brings home what running can do for how you feel about yourself.

How are you coping without parkrun?

I've been running & cycling more than ever in lockdown – I had to make the most of that one-hour-exercise freedom! It's been absolutely essential for my mental health, clearing my head & processing All The Things. I'm really missing the parkrun routine & the friendly faces, but (not)parkrun has been surprisingly motivating, as has occasionally seeing other parkrun red/black/apricot t-shirts around to wave to. Editor's note; for "surprisingly motivating" read "ran my first half marathon to celebrate Highbury Fields parkrun's 9th birthday!"

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Any other thoughts?

It's incredible how parkrun still feels like a community & an event to me, despite the fact we haven't actually run together for nine months now. Huge thanks to our ever-generous volunteers for keeping it going come rain, shine or global pandemic!

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Alex Chase and Adrienne Quartly

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This week our featured parkrunners are husband and wife Alex and Adrienne who between them they have notched up an impressive 277 runs and 130 volunteer occasions since they began parkrunning 8 and 5 years ago respectively. Here they tell us how they got involved in parkrun and how over the years it has become an increasingly important part of their lives.

When & where did you start parkrunning? What prompted you to join parkrun?

Alex: Back in 2012 I challenged my wife’s friend from university, (a certain Danny Olive) to a game of Badminton. This spiralled into him deciding to get fit in order to beat me (he didn’t). As a result Danny then introduced me to parkrun at Highbury Fields where he was able to turn the tables.

Adrienne: 3 years later I decided it was time to join in, since most people I knew seemed to be doing this crazy thing every Saturday morning. The end of my Couch to 5K course actually fell when I was working in Manchester, so Alex accompanied me on my first parkrun in Platt Fields Park. He still hasn’t forgiven me for ruining his time there!

What did you think after your first parkrun?

Alex: Before I did parkrun I’d only run longer distances (10k and half marathon) so I wasn’t sure before whether I’d enjoy such a short distance. I soon found out that it can still be a tough distance with speed attached, and I really enjoyed the social stuff that followed every run.

Adrienne: I was amazed that I had managed to run so far without stopping, as I had only managed one other 5k a decade previously, when I was a regular fencer, and had a coach that used to run us ragged 3 times a week with SAS style training …

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

Alex:  My most committed parkrun was Amager Fælled in Copenhagen at the end of November 2015. The stress of directions being given in Danish ensured I went fast so I didn’t get left behind and lost!  I enjoyed the course and the result was my most successful, coming 3rd, missing out on second place, by 1 second. We were all pipped to first place by a club runner with a baby buggy who clearly must have had engines in there somewhere!

Adrienne: One of the most moving parkruns I have been to was was in Salisbury when the local carehome had brought out its residents, showing parkrun’s ethos of inclusivity and accessibility to all. The results table included age grades 100-104, 95-99, and 85-89. Impressive stuff! (and hope for us all).

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What do you like most about parkrun?

I think both of us feel that we’ve been connected much more into the local community and have gained lots of friends. It’s a great way to stay motivated and keep fit, even when working away from home. It creates a community spirit in such a simple way, and can easily reach out to people from all walks of life. Pre-Covid Alex even discovered and attended a popular monthly event based on parkrun in Sri Lanka (where it is currently difficult to set one up).

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Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts? 

Adrienne: Even if you can’t run, it’s a great way to stay engaged with people, or join in and is fun to do. Volunteer tourism is also a great way to keep up with friends if you can’t physically join in as well.

Alex: As I am privileged to be on core team at Highbury Fields parkrun, I have really seen how Highbury (and parkrun inself) has grown over the years, and seen, encouraged, and congratulated so many runners on PBs first time finishers, or even just making it out of bed for the 9am start.

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How are you coping without parkrun?

Alex: Losing the routine of parkrun was really hard, but as time has progressed, working to find new ways to interact with the friends made in parkrun and stay fit has been key to moving forward and that has been a shared experience. Globally I have seen how creative people have been, in trying to keep up shared sporting experiences, which has been really positive, with great virtual challenges.

Adrienne: working in the Arts has predictably meant that work has slowed down quite a lot during this period, but it struck me that pretty much all of the things that have kept me sane in this time have almost exclusively involved people from the parkrun network, whether that’s been discovering outdoor swimming in the West Reservoir, or being part of cycling challenges across London.

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Kath Donkersley

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This week we introduce you to self-confessed parkrun addict Kath Donkersley. Almost 6 years after her first parkrun, Kath tells us about the huge impact it has had on her life, not just for an hour on a Saturday morning, about the informal Cally-Camden lockdown (not)parkrun (now immortalised on an apricot T-shirt) and celebrating her 250th parkrun (unofficially!) during lockdown.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

My first parkrun was on 10th January 2015 in Daventry.  I did it with my Dad.  The following week I went to my then local - Ally Pally - but was a bit of a princess about all the hills and mud so didn't get to another London one for a couple of months.  Despite several closer events I then picked Highbury Fields on the basis of there being a door-to-Fields bus.  I absolutely loved it, volunteered for the first time a few weeks later and have been a fully-fledged parkrun addict ever since.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

I was training for the London Marathon at the time and it seemed like a fun way to mix things up a bit.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

Why is my dad so much faster than me?!  Years later and having just turned 65 he still is - I'll catch him one day!  I believe thoughts two, three and four were: how much fun it is, I can't believe it's free and I'll have to find one at home in London next week.

Donkers & Dad

How, if at all, has Highbury Fields parkrun changed over your years of being involved?

It's much busier!  And I now live a lot closer so the bus is no longer necessary.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

Oh that's a hard question - far too many to choose from!  Highbury Fields aside (which is obviously the best of all!), I've absolutely loved my couple of pilgrimages to Bushy (the home of the original parkrun) so that's pretty high on the list.

What do you like most about parkrun?

Gosh, how long have you got?!  I could go on all day about all the wonderful things about parkrun, but for me the absolute number one is the local community at Highbury Fields. All of those little friendly chats about how your run was add up to so much more than the sum of their parts.

Nearly six years later it's no exaggeration to say that the parkrun community has changed my life for the better.  Many of my closest friends are from parkrun and there are so so many great things in my life now as a result of that community.  There are so many examples.  The big ones - I've been on two running trips to Kenya with parkrun friends, something I would've never experienced otherwise.

Donkers in Kenya

So many fun travels for races and parkrun tourism - I have lots of happy memories of early Saturday morning roadtrips!  It's through parkrun friends that I became familiar with the Running Charity - I've been trustee and treasurer for the last two years and getting involved with them is one of the most rewarding decisions I've ever made.  And all the times my parkrun friends have been there for me (and I hope vice versa!) when things have been a bit tough - putting me up when I found myself stuck between flats when moving home, visiting and cheering me up when I injured my back and couldn't get out... I could go on!

And then there's all of the little examples which are possibly even more important.  The countless runs, coffees, cakes, sausage rolls, beers, walks, Netflix dates, hours spent cheering the junior parkrunners round on a Sunday morning... individually these things are small but what being part of such a wonderful local community has brought to my life is huge.  I'm grateful for it every day.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

I love it!  My favourite thing about volunteering is that it's the best way to get to know other parkrunners - in reality it often proves to be a morning of chatting with a bit of barcode scanning or similar thrown in for good measure.  As I also love running I tend to volunteer on a Saturday when I'm tapering or recovering from a race, or injured.  A lot of the parkrun volunteering I've done is at the Sunday junior event.  There's a super group of Highbury Fielders who regularly volunteer on a Sunday and it's a lot of fun.

Donkers JPR volunteers

How are you coping without parkrun?

When it first stopped, even though I knew it was the absolute right decision, on a personal level I was devastated.  Saturday mornings have become easily my favourite time of the week and the absence of parkrun definitely left a hole in my life.

However, I'm all for making the best of whatever life throws at you.  So in the week between the last parkrun event and the following Saturday I worked out a 5k loop starting and finishing at my door and have done it every Saturday morning since (aka Cally-Camden lockdown (not)parkrun - it now even has its very own apricot t-shirt...).  For the first few months I did it on my own but once we were allowed to meet outside in small groups again a few Highbury-Fielders have joined in.  So we now have our own miniature non-parkrun to help fill the hole and Saturday morning is back to being my favourite time of the week.  One of those events was my "fake" 250th parkrun.  No green t-shirt (yet!) but having my wonderful parkrun friends come along for a run, cake and prosecco in the park to celebrate anyway during that crazy time meant a lot to me.

In fact, six months on I look back and consider myself to have been extremely lucky in what could've been a very difficult year - and has been for so many people.  I've never been more grateful for the parkrun community than during lockdown.  Admittedly it had to move onto zoom for a while but it never went away!  Almost by definition, the parkrun community is a very local one so just as soon as we were allowed to meet another person outside again it was extremely easy to do so.  Without my parkrun friends I could quite easily have gone many many months without seeing anyone in person.  However, that hasn't happened and if anything I feel closer to my friends now than I did before the pandemic started.  Strange and difficult though it's been, the last year has shown how kind people can be and how amazingly well local communities can pull together in a crisis.

Any other thoughts?

I just can't wait for my green (250) t-shirt....

 

 

Highbury Fields parkrunner profile – Gail Davison

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This week we introduce you to Gail Davison who is relatively new to the Highbury Fields parkrun experience both as a runner & a volunteer. Gail's parkrun journey started with volunteering but has since moved on to running around Highbury Fields as well as parkrun tourism both locally & further afield.

When & where did you start parkrunning?

I started getting involved with parkrun in 2017 at Highbury Fields.  Since then I’ve also been to Finsbury Park, Pymmes, Dulwich, Whitstable, Clacton and the Eden Project.

What prompted you to join parkrun?

Chris Peacock, a regular at Highbury Fields parkrun, heard I was thinking of taking up running and he persuaded me to come along.  I started by volunteering because I was too scared to run.

What did you think after your first parkrun?

I loved it from Day One.  Everyone was so friendly and it was a lot of fun.  I was hooked.

What’s your most memorable parkrun?

The Eden Project.  It was the first one where I actually ran.  My brother drove me from our holiday cottage for an hour to get there and he, my niece and nephew ran with me. It was a first parkrun for all of them.  As you start to run you are level with the tops of the biodomes - it was stunning and we were all full of excitement.  Then I realised that if I was running downhill, I would have to run uphill too….so I walked most of the uphill!  I finished in 39:18. We all loved it so much that when we met up with cousins who live nearby we signed them all up to parkrun. It was after running at the Eden Project that I decided to do a 0-5k class and that’s the best thing I ever did.

What do you like most about parkrun?

I love the people, the buzz during the run, the feeling of happiness at the end of an event and being part of something that makes a difference. It has encouraged me to keep fit. It’s a marvellous thing.

Volunteering at parkrun - your thoughts?

If you haven’t done it yet, have a go!  There is nothing nicer than seeing the look on someone’s face when they finish their run. I also like to hear the stories from runners about why they are running or how they have overcome adversity to do so. It’s all so uplifting. Without volunteers parkrun can’t happen, so I would say to anyone reading this please come and try a volunteering role when parkrun restarts, you won’t regret it.

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How are you coping without parkrun?

I’ve found it hard to keep running without the discipline of a parkrun to go to, but I need to keep going so I am ready to run when it returns.

Any other thoughts?

The virus has caused me to reassess what’s important and to make some changes to my life. Keep fit and be kind.

 

 

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