In the last 3 years, the 5km parkrun series has grown massively across the UK and in Hampshire. Many children and families enjoy the longer course of these events. However, for younger children, 5km (3.1 miles) is a little long.
Until today, there were 4 Junior parkrun events typically held once per month in the UK. These events cater for runners aged between 4 and 14 years old on child-friendlier 2km courses.
Earliest this year, 4 times Ironman World Champion, Chrissie Wellington, set to expand the Junior parkrun series and having expressed an interest in setting up a Juniors event in Hampshire a couple of years ago, I contacted Chrissie to express a strong desire to be considered as one of the first weekly-format events.
Fast forward several months and we arrive at this morning's inaugural Southampton Juniors parkrun event. The core team of Emily Smith, Carl Iszatt, Sarah Shave, Donna Lovelock, Steve Robinson and Teri Pragnell arrived early to start preparing the course. The team were soon joined by several regular parkrun volunteers including Gareth Jones and Chris Stocks.
As more of the 25-strong volunteer team arrived, they were joined by lots and lots of Junior parkrunners, their siblings and friends.
We were lucky to have a photographer from the Daily Echo in attendance as well as reporter and 'weather girl' Alexis Green from BBC South. Alexis was recording footage for BBC's South Today and we're expecting to see some coverage in this evening's programme on BBC1 at 6:20pm and extended coverage of the event at 6:30pm tomorrow evening.
As the marshals were briefed and sent out to their positions, GB Triathlete Ant Gritton, led the juniors and their parents in a dynamic warmup. Parents joined their children in this fun and integral part of the Junior parkrun events.
Once everyone was warmed up, it was time to head the very short distance to the start line ready for the 3..2..1.. HONK! Alexis had taken a rather precarious position in the middle of the path to get some action footage. As the air-horn sounded, we're fairly sure Alexis regretted her positioning. Fortunately, no children or TV Reporters were injured as the 68 children and their moving support crews sped off on their 2km timed run with Ant as lead runner (HQ think we're crazy to have a lead runner and I'm sure that following today's event, Ant is tending to agree with this view!!)
The course at Riverside Park consists of a long lap (roughly 1.3km) and then a shorter lap (0.7km). It wasn't long until Ant and Sam Costley past the fork in the path to commence their 2nd lap. In 2nd place, WADAC's Isla Allan (who was first finisher in our trial event) was running well.
In the rest of the field of runners, everyone was putting in a valiant effort and running as well as they could.
Having completed the 2nd lap, Ant led Sam up to the finish funnel (Ant later told us that he'd managed to ask Sam whether he had anything left for a sprint finish, Sam had replied yes. We're sure this was the last thing Ant needed to hear!!)
As each finisher crossed the line, they were given lots of encouraging from the funnel crew. Many received high-fives from the volunteers operating the stopwatches (not strongly advised) as they crossed the finish line.
Of course, parkrun and Junior parkrun isn't just about the run, it's about the community and friendships that are forged at the event. It was great to see children playing together, parents chatting and a great vibe at the event.
Many thanks again to everyone that made the event such a success. The core team have worked hard to organise everything prior to the event. Many thanks also to all the volunteers on the day. We do need lots of volunteers each week so please email southampton-juniorsHelpers@parkrun.com if you're able to help on the 1st December or in future weeks.
This week's stats...
The following runners recorded the best Age Grade scores:
Sam COSTLEY was graded 77.11% for the time 06:44 (first overall).
Isla ALLAN was graded 72.62% for the time 08:07 (second overall).
Margot BROOME was graded 68.76% for the time 08:59 (4th overall).
Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Southampton juniors parkrun Results Page.