Phil Cairnduff, Stormont parkrun

In October 2004, 13 people in London were taking the first steps of what would become a global running phenomenon.

On the other side of the Irish Sea, I was taking my first steps since receiving a new liver.

I had just turned 18 and everything happened within the space of a week. I had been in Botswana for two weeks with 11 other members of my church, building low-cost housing for people in sub-standard living conditions. On our last day I began to feel unwell. I didn't think it was anything serious but as I began the journey home, which involved an eight-hour bus journey to the capital Gaborone and three flights back to Belfast, my condition worsened rapidly.

After spending two nights in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, during which time I became oblivious to events, I was transferred to Kings College Hospital in London as there were signs that my liver was deteriorating and a transplant might be necessary. Five days after my 18th birthday my liver failed completely, and had I not received a transplant within eight hours I would have died.

Luckily for me an organ became available and following 11 hours of surgery I had a new liver.

Running had always been the sport I enjoyed the most, so getting back to physical fitness was really important to me. The first few painful steps were from my hospital bed to the door, along the corridor, and up and down a few flights of stairs. I then tackled short walks outdoors. These gradually increased in distance, and nine months after the surgery I was finally ready to tackle ten miles of the Belfast Marathon Walk. It was another year before my first running race, a leg of the Belfast Marathon Relay.

When I first heard about parkrun, the idea of getting up for a run at 9:30am on a Saturday didn't appeal to me I must confess! But when a couple of church friends suggested we go together I decided to give it a go, and I knew immediately that parkrun was how I wanted to spend my Saturday mornings.

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I love an excuse to travel somewhere different, so 'parkrun tourism' quickly appealed to me. My first few runs were at Stormont parkrun in Belfast, but then I ventured to other events further afield. The atmosphere at parkrun is very appealing, there is a friendly vibe, and it’s great that everyone is encouraged to run or walk at their own pace. I have also enjoyed volunteering on a few occasions.

Last year I was selected for the World Transplant Games in Argentina where I competed alongside athletes from 44 countries, winning two silver medals in the 5000m Walk and 5k Road Race.

This was a really significant moment, because a fitting way for me to pay tribute to my donor and their family has always been by demonstrating a healthy and active lifestyle. The World Transplant Games is all about celebrating the donors who allowed us to be there in the first place, and I live every day in gratitude knowing that without a donor my life would have been cut short at a young age.

Winning lots of awards or being the best isn’t important; but achieving personal goals that I am proud of is one of the best ways of showing my gratitude.

Phil Cairnduff

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Opportunity to be part of a new ‘parkrun youth panel’

parkrun UK are inviting young people aged 4 to 17 to be part of a brand new youth panel.

What is the parkrun youth panel?

The parkrun youth panel is being created to give young people the opportunity to help us shape the future of parkrun, particularly on matters which impact on juniors.
 

parkrun youth panel image

 
How will it work?

There will be two sections of the youth panel, divided by age: a junior youth panel for 4 to 11 year olds (primary school age), and a senior youth panel for 11 to 17 year olds (secondary school age+).
 
All ‘meetings’ will be virtual, and the youth panel won’t physically get together in the same room. Instead we’ll utilise technology and other formats to offer the best experience possible. The youth panel will ‘meet’ three times each year, in line with school half term holidays (October, February and May), and each ‘meeting’ will involve a mission to complete.
 
Each mission will be fairly small and achievable within the half term holidays, but valuable and fun to do. Each mission will result in an outcome that will genuinely be used to shape and develop parkrun, for example mission one will be focusing on developing an anti-bullying policy.
 
Who will be on the youth panel?

Anyone aged between 4 and 17 is welcome to be on the youth panel, and we will not turn anyone away who wants to be involved.
 
Young people can choose how much or how little they wish to input to the panel; they can engage with all three missions or pick and choose which missions they want to get involved with.
 

youth panel

 
How do I get involved?

If the youth panel is something that you'd love to be a part of, you can apply by filling in this form and by sending us a very short video (up to 30 seconds) telling us 'what you love most about parkrun/junior parkrun'. Please make sure you introduce yourself by including your first name and your home parkrun on your video so we know who is who!

 

Videos need to be uploaded here and please include your name and home parkrun in the file name so we know who the video is from.
 
Before making your video, please make sure you have permission from a parent or carer. Better still, why not ask them to help you make it. It’s important that you, and they, understand that we may use this video on our website, or social media channels, to help positively promote parkrun. Your full name will never be associated with your video and if you or your parent/carer would rather this didn’t happen then please don’t feel like you have to send us a video. We won’t mind and you’ll still be invited to join the youth panel!

 

Quick tips on how to make your video:

     

  • It can be as simple or as extravagant as you like and can even be filmed using a smartphone.
  • Make sure you don't use your full name, for example just introduce yourself by saying "I'm William from Alexandra junior parkrun"
  • Film your video at your local parkrun or outside in your garden, please don't film your video in a private place like your bedroom - it gets you out of having to tidy it too!

 

We look forward to hearing from you and what you love most about parkrun.
 

If you want to be involved in the summer holiday missions, please submit your form by Sunday 31st July.
 
The youth panel will be facilitated by Rowan Ardill (parkrun's Engagement Officer) and Clare Fowler (parkrun's Safeguarding Lead).

 

Announcing the closure of Little Stoke parkrun

It is with great regret that we are announcing the closure of Little Stoke parkrun.

This is a disappointing outcome for everyone at parkrun, the dedicated team of volunteers who have worked so hard on the event since 2012, and of course the participants who have benefitted so much from a free, local, accessible 5k every Saturday morning in Little Stoke Park.

Since the vote, on the 12th of April, by Stoke Gifford Parish Council to introduce a charge for Little Stoke parkrun, we have made attempts to engage with the council to offer alternative ways of contributing to the sustainability of the park. Every parkrun is a partnership between the landowner, the volunteer team and the local community, and unfortunately we were unable to convince Stoke Gifford Parish Council of the true value of the event. Our intention has never been to force parkrun onto the Council, but instead to demonstrate the benefits that weekly, free, fun, physical activity provides to their community.

Therefore, as the Council has now revoked our permission to run in Little Stoke Park for free, we have taken the difficult decision to bring things to a conclusion and, for the first time, permanently close one of our free, weekly, timed runs.

Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer for parkrun, said:

"Over the past 12 years parkrun has grown from 13 runners in one park to 150,000 runners at 900 locations around the world, every week. Key to this success has been our determination to remove as many barriers to participation as possible, with cost being one of the most critical. Stoke Gifford Parish Council's initial request for us to charge our runners £1 per week went completely against our most fundamental principles and, as a free event, their subsequently revised requirement for parkrun to contribute financially to the maintenance of the park is also something we are unable to do. From the outset, and despite significant efforts from many people inside and outside of parkrun, we were unable to convince them of the true value that a parkrun event provides to its local community.

“Personally I feel a great sense of sadness, however I also feel a phenomenal sense of pride in how the Little Stoke parkrun community has dealt with this extremely challenging situation. From start to finish they have gone above and beyond what I would ever have expected from a volunteer team, and they could have done no more.

“If there is a positive to be taken from this experience it is surely that we have all been motivated to consider what our wonderful areas of open space mean to us, and how important it is that we do everything we can to ensure they remain fully accessible to their local communities. It is also critical that we do everything we can to support our local authorities and landowners, ensuring our parks are there for future generations to enjoy just as much as we do.”

Becky Bushnell, co-Event Director of Little Stoke parkrun, said:

“We are all really disappointed that Little Stoke parkrun has found itself in this position. The past eight months have been a difficult time for the volunteer team as all we have ever wanted to do is run, jog and walk in the park with friends. We are feeling the huge sense of loss of the community that has built up over three and a half years.”