Last week I decided that it was about time I visited Barking and Dagenham juniors as I had met their Event Director and Ambassador but never been to the event myself.
Sadly, Kresh Veerasamy, their fantastic ED wasn't there but the lovely Sharon, Run Director for the day gave us me a very warm welcome. It was a case of starting as you mean to go on, as the whole volunteer team seemed extremely happy to be there. The camaraderie between them was clear for all to see, making for a relaxed and happy atmosphere.
Kresh’s whole family is involved in the event, and the first person I saw was his Dad, Sam putting out the cones for this junior parkrun course around Central Park.
After the children had gathered, it was time for the warm-up - with an extra special star jump for a birthday boy who appears in this picture.
Then it was ‘ready, steady go’ and off we went. I was the Tail Runner and a slight panic rose inside me as I wondered if I could keep this, rather rapid, speed up for 2k... However, once the initial burst of enthusiasm wore off I felt more comfortable
I loved chatting to the children as we went round and I decided I would conduct a little ad-hoc research into why the children like the event. Not all the children are natural athletes but something keeps them smiling and coming back.
The first little guy I asked told me, quite simply, that he likes running and he is now a better runner than a lot of his friends. When I asked how many he had done, he waved a wristband at me.
Another junior was there for her first time. She was quite nervous about completing it as she has asthma, but she did so well! Her bursts of running were speedy and she seemed really keen to return.
One little girl said she liked junior parkrun as she liked the 'peace and quiet'. I know exactly what she means! Another regular runner loved the friendly atmosphere with no pressure to perform (she is a speedy one!).
Finally, I spoke to a little girl who was also there for her first time and had forgotten her barcode. She told me she loved the running and once we explained to her the importance of carrying her barcode, she was keen to come back so that she could see her name in lights (on the website!)
Barking and Dagenham is one of our smaller events, in terms of the number of children that attend, but that makes no difference to the experience of our juniors. It’s the quality of the experience that counts, not reaching some arbitrary target for numbers of participants. I also realised that there was not a single occasion where I heard any pushiness from a parent, which was fantastic – everyone was encouraged regardless of the finish time or effort level.
If you are in the area, I recommend you head down to Barking and Dagenham and experience this Eastenders event for yourself!
See if you can find a finish like this...