Non-Run Event No.8 – Pam Felton’s parkrun Story

George and I have so missed our involvement with Parkrun during the pandemic as it is a big part of our weekends.

Back in 2003 Kathy Shore and I along with a group of friends did the Race for Life and thereafter Kathy and I kept going out 2/3 times a week running. In 2013 early one morning we were running in Chalkwell Park when this very smart gentleman all booted and suited and walking his beautiful dog solicited us as we ran past him. He asked us if we had heard of parkrun, Kathy replied that we had not and where was it and I asked how much did it cost – that gentleman was Graham Purdham with Storm and the rest is history.

Our home parkrun is at Southend, Gunners Park.  I have chalked up 199 in 9 locations including 2 in Australia. Kathy has done 273 in 56 locations, including a pilgrimage to Bushy Park, 27 in Australia, 2 in France and 1 in USA.

Pam Photo 7

To start with I really struggled with parkrun – I forced myself to go, I had butterflies in my stomach, I felt sick and was worried about coming last. One Saturday after parkrun I was sitting having a coffee over at the Harvester on my own (Kathy must have been on holiday) when Alex Thornton came over and asked me to join him and his family. I was telling them how parkrun made me feel when their eldest son, Nathan, who was 11 at that time, said that it was not a race, that was why it was called “parkrun”, I would not be last as the tail walker was and I was only running against myself. Since then I have enjoyed the whole experience of parkrun. I have to say a very big thank you to Nathan for sorting my head out.

Pam Photo 8

You may be wondering why, so far, I have not mentioned George. This is because for 5 years I got up early on a Saturday morning leaving him in bed. He very rarely stirred and quite often when I returned home he would say that perhaps he ought to accompany me (for any of you that know George well, you will know that since retiring he does not do early unless it is to go on holiday). I always replied that it would be nice if he did and whilst there, maybe he would like to volunteer.

George became a regular volunteer at Southend in August 2018 and then when we heard Hawkwell Junior parkrun was needing volunteers on a Sunday we became regular volunteers there. I have volunteered 102 times mainly at Junior parkrun but also at Southend. George has volunteered 115 times regularly at both Southend and Hawkwell. Kathy has volunteered 106 times and is a regular volunteer at Hawkwell Junior parkrun.

Pam Photo 9

For my 70th birthday last year my son organised for the 3 of us to do Great Notley parkrun. However, unbeknown to me he had also invited friends from my running club, Flyers Southend, to turn up and join us – 23 came, it poured with rain but we had the most amazing  time with lots of fun and laughter (I don’t think Great Notley knew what had hit them). In fact, whilst supporting at the Chelmsford Marathon last year I got talking to a volunteer and she was at that parkrun and said that our group were all having so much fun she ran with some of us. Great Notley did a great job of welcoming us and it was nice to be able to talk to them in the Café afterwards. The funniest thing about my surprise 70th birthday parkrun was that the previous week at Southend parkrun Sandra Stamp and I had gone round together and I must have bored her to tears saying that I was having a surprise 70th birthday weekend away and would be running Great Notley with my son and daughter-in-law. Little did I know, Sandra was helping me celebrate at Great Notley and was the first person to turn up in the car park there – she said that my face was a picture!

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When I heard that Wickford Memorial parkrun was starting up I immediately contacted Sandra and asked her to put George and I forward for volunteering at the inaugural one. It was tipping it down, I have never seen so much mud (I don’t do mud and we were getting splattered as we were handing out the finish tokens and runners were slipping and sliding all over the place) but it was wonderful to be a part of it. We also volunteered for the second one. I hope some day to actually walk/run it but the conditions will have to be right, not too hot and definitely no mud!

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Parkrun has changed our lives for the better. It gets us up and out early, we meet some exceptionally inspirational people, we have such a laugh and we just love being part of the parkrun Community/Family. We have also made some friends for life. It has also given me a wonderful connection with my son and daughter-in-law who run. They live in Yorkshire so I have done one of their 3 local parkruns i.e. Roundhay Park although it is very hilly and I don’t do hills!

Pam Photo 10

However what makes parkrun even more special for me is that when I was a teenager I was obese and at the age of 13 was 13 stone. It was bad enough I got the mickey taken out of me by my peers when we had athletics/games/gym but when my two PE teachers laughed at me as well it did not make for a happy school life.  Therefore to have started parkrun at the age of 64 and still be doing it makes me very happy and will continue to do so when it eventually starts up again.

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Non-Run Event No 7 – Wickford Memorial Park’s Own Story Written by Hazel Powling

Wickford Memorial parkrun had its inaugural event on Saturday 29 February 2020.

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Unfortunately, we were only able to host three events before life set some new boundaries and challenges for us all.  But with many of us now able to enjoy our beautiful parks again (adhering to social distancing at all times) I thought that I’d share some facts about our beautiful Memorial Park you might not have known.

  • The Park officially became known as the Wickford War Memorial Park in 1949 and the Avenue of Remembrance was planted with 49 trees.
  • The memorial gates were added in 1951 and were designed by a former RAF serviceman who had leant architecture whilst held as a POW in Germany, having been shot down during a raid.

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  • A further 36 acres were later donated.
  • In the 1970s the bowling green was added, and in 1975 a brick built pavilion, whilst 1978 saw the opening of the crazy golf.
  • The first meeting to plan the towns war memorial to commemorate those who never returned from World War I took place on February 13, 1919 at the Public Hall.  The memorial was opened as a nurse’s home on July 19, 1922.  Sadly in 1976 the home was demolished to make way for a bypass.  However, the original tablets were saved and relocated to Memorial Park.
  • 2004 saw the formation of the Wickford War Memorial Association which took the lead in campaigning for a new memorial, more in keeping with the sacrifices they represented.  Finally, on November 4, 2011 the new memorial was unveiled.

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  • 23 May 2014 saw the unveiling of the newly restored Avenue of Remembrance and Home Front Garden.  The restoration works cost £150,000 and took ten years to complete.
  • As part of the restoration of the Home Front Garden 11 new trees were planted representing each of the civilians killed including Wickford's youngest casualty aged just 10 between 1939 and 1945.
  • Each tree, of which there are now 66, has a plaque telling the story of how each soldier, sailor or airman was lost, many have pictures of the man included making Wickford's Avenue of Remembrance a very unique war memorial.

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And the park makes it on to Trip Advisor:

“This is a lovely park which has a tasteful memorial walk, many activities for all ages, and well kept grounds. Walking alone I felt safe and enjoyed the different views along the path. Seems to be a dog owners hangout and since there aren't leash laws many pets were happily running around.”

“As a family we are regular visitors to this lovely park. Cycling, crazy golf, basketball, tennis, playground and woods to explore. It has it all, take a picnic or try the cafe and watch some cricket. It’s a lovely family friendly place to visit.”

We look forward to seeing you all again, but in the meantime enjoy the park and its history, stay safe and well.

Hazel 5 (2)


Non-Run Event No 6 – Louise’s Story

My Parkrun Story

I am often asked why I started the ball rolling for a parkrun in Wickford.

At the time of starting the process I had run 1 parkrun at Raphaels in Gidea Park in 2018 with my running fanatical friend Emily.

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I have the audacity to boast a relatively low 6 digit athlete ID number having registered for the event several years previously in Chelmsford, but not actually attended and to this day have still not done that particular parkrun.

Don’t get me wrong, I spent a lot of time running in my younger life and still went out on my own running but it was all very sporadic and on a whim stuff.

So on a Wickford FB chat group one day in October 2018 I randomly read a comment “why hasn’t Wickford got a parkrun?”

For some reason and I’m not sure why, this comment kept going round in my head and somehow got right under my skin.

So what was I going to do about it, pretty much now a non-runner and at the time had never volunteered either?

First steps first, I needed to find out more about the process. I emailed our lovely neighbours, Basildon parkrun. I got an almost immediate reply from Kalli, the Event Director at the time, who invited me to meet her for a coffee the following day along with her fiancé Charlie. What a font of all parkrun knowledge Kalli and Charlie were, giving me all the information I needed to go off on my merry (and sometimes stressful) parkrun journey.

Herein started a long process of reaching out to Basildon Borough Council (BBC)and attending several meetings in the park to talk over the best location between the Wick Country Park and Memorial, logistics, potential obstacles such as lack of parking, residential complaints etc..

BBC were always keen on Memorial Park as the location, due to its facilities and after a few weeks I got the thumbs up and permission was granted. Hurdle no.1 truly overcome and a very happy me.

Next step was to start getting the funding in place. £3000 needed to be raised via official groups which was eventually achieved, after numerous grovelling emails with the help of the following sponsors:

Basildon Borough Council

Active Basildon

Rotary Club Wickford

Essex Community projects

Wickford Community projects

Nuclear Races

Vintage Inx

High 5 children’s services

During all this going on I received a lovely message from Sandra Stamp, my co-event Director, telling me how passionate she was about parkrun and would love to be involved. This was perfect timing  as I was relatively new to Wickford so didn’t have a great network of people to fall back on and I was starting to realise the enormity of what I had taken on alongside working full time at that time and many other commitments. A helping hand would not go amiss and the best thing to come out of the whole process is the solid friendship that has formed between Sandra and I from working on this together.

Louise 2a

Sandra and I met up with the regional parkrun ambassador Gerry who guided us through next steps and appointed us a local ambassador to move things on. Gerry was a self confessed parkrun stalker who was very bemused by my parkrun stats of 1 run and a couple of volunteer stints by now and wanted to understand my involvement a bit more. Sandra on the other hand was golden girl with parkrun stats to be proud of ( thank goodness as she balanced out my lack of credits).

Next step was to form a core team so I put feelers out on the FB page I had set up for anyone who wanted to be actively involved as a run director. Somehow we ended up with the perfect team of 8. A great bunch of people who are experienced park runners and all bring something to the team, huge thanks to Rob, Steve, Jane, Hazel, Laura and Matt and of course Sandra, this wouldn’t be happening without you guys.

The Dream Team

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Think Rob took the photo so not in it ☹️ (Rob's input - I was still out on the course with my broom trying to push back the rising water on the path!)

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Fast forward to the end of 2019 and we had expected to be up and running earlier in the year but it was not to be due to a lack of progress from parkrun.

I was by now regularly volunteering at Basildon parkrun and constantly getting asked “when is Wickford parkrun starting” it was frustrating to be unable to give any indication of a start date but our hands were tied.

First ever Run Director stint at Basildon in July 2019 poured with rain!

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We were then appointed a new ambassador David Hayday in December 2019 who is now our complete hero.

David was so on the ball and hit the ground running for us.

Everything was in place and when David asked us if we wanted to start February 29 2020 it was music to our ears. Having waited so long it all seemed to come together so swiftly.

The rest is history as you all know and we launched successfully on that day although it was extremely wet and ridiculously muddy.

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Louise 7

To date we have managed 3 events and who knows when we will be able to resume but everything crossed it’s not too long.

What I do know though is that Wickford Memorial parkrun has been well received by the community and having been involved in it since day 1 I feel this is personally one of my greatest achievements. Bringing something to the community that has the ability to improve people’s’ lives both physically and mentally is just the most rewarding thing ever.

Stay safe everyone and see you soon hopefully.

#loveparkrun #staysafe #mentalhealthmatters



Non-Run Event No 5 – Laura’s Story

This month, it is my fifth year anniversary of running parkrun.  My journey began when I was nearing the completion of a couch 2 5k course with a local running club.

Here is my parkrun life in facts and figures!

First parkrun: 9th May 2015, Southend. I am still friends with runners that I met at my very first parkrun in Southend!  When you make friends at parkrun, you often stay friends.

Last parkrun: 14th March 2020, Wickford Memorial as Tail walker.

parkrun PB: 28:58, Southend.

Number of parkruns run: 110.

Number of times I have volunteered: 47.

Number of different parkrun sites I have run at: 30.

Number of parkruns in Essex completed: 20/23.

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Favourite volunteer role: bar code scanner.

Core Team member: Hawkwell junior parkrun and now Wickford Memorial

Wettest parkrun I have run: Either East Brighton or Wickford Memorial!

Hottest parkrun I have run: Jersey

Hardest parkrun I have run: Hadleigh

Flattest parkrun I have run: York

Biggest parkrun I have run: Bushy Park.

Smallest parkrun I have run: Thurrock

Favourite parkrun: all of them!

My favourite parkrun buddy: Blyton my dog who is a Greek Harehound – one well behaved dog on a short line, of course!

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parkrun site I have run most of my parkruns at: Southend, 37.

parkrun I’d most like to run, but have not yet: Whinlatter Forest.

Favourite parkrun dress up: I have run or volunteered at parkrun dressed as a Christmas elf (at least three times!), a snow ‘woman’. in a onesie, in Hawaiian fancy dress, in neon ‘1980’s fancy dress and as a bride with 15 bridesmaids just before I got married.

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Best parkrun memories: too many to mention, but it was very exciting to see Wickford Memorial parkrun launch!

Why parkrun?: because there is a space for everyone, from the speedy gazelles through to those of us who enjoy a more sedate pace! It has been my training ground for running 10ks, half marathons and two marathons. At the very heartbeat of the parkrun experience is something very special.  For me, it is about the people that it brings into your life – be it weekly at your ‘home’ parkrun catching up with all of your friends or travelling further afield to try new parkruns and to meet different people.  I have met a whole new set of people in our Wickford Memorial Core Team, and volunteers who are all fabulous and will be waiting to warmly welcome you back to our Wickford Memorial parkrun in the future.

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The beauty of parkrun is those that come every week, rain or shine, to both volunteer and to take part and keep coming back.   And we will be back. And we will all take part together again.

Laura 6


Non Run Event No 4 – Matt’s Story

parkrun vital statistics

Number of runs: 173

Number of parkrun events visited: 37 in 3 countries

Number of volunteering stints: 44

I started my parkrun journey back in the summer of 2015 as training for the local youth football team I managed, was over for the season. So, to maintain fitness, my son & I choose to complete our nearest event at Hockley Woods which had started earlier that year. Although a self-confessed ‘non-runner’, I managed a respectable time of 28:08, albeit finishing a distant 5 minutes behind my son.

With Saturday morning football training resuming, the opportunity for my second parkrun wasn’t for some 4 months later, on Boxing Day! I, like others, clearly thought it a good idea to work off some of the previous day’s excess, which resulted in Hockley Woods having its then largest attendance of 245 runners. Despite my obvious virtuousness on Christmas Day, a PB strangely didn’t materialise!

Football training would again delay my parkrun journey, with my third run 6 months later. Football training was then moved to mid-week, meaning I could re-start my parkruns in earnest, managing to fit in 18 parkruns in the rest of 2016. As ever my parkrun journey was never going to be straightforward, culminating in damaging my Achilles tendon on the Christmas Eve parkrun. Having established my weekly routine of parkrun for the previous 6 months, & now unable to run for an indeterminate period, I switched to volunteering, appearing as a marshal the next week on New Year’s Eve. Volunteering would continue for the next 16 weeks, whilst recovering from injury, enabling me to take in a variety of the different volunteer roles. The Core team at Hockley Woods are a wonderful, supportive team which made volunteering all the more enjoyable.

Now back running regularly, I mixed running & volunteering throughout 2017, often tail-walking or First Timer/New Runner Briefing which allowed me to volunteer & run. I also managed to get my daughter into parkrun & volunteering, with us tail-walking together at Hockley Woods.

This culminated in me completing my 25th Volunteer & 50th parkrun milestones at the same event on the 4th Nov 2017, not bad for a non-runner.

When I started running, I’d never heard of parkrun tourism & always ran at my home parkrun, as who doesn’t love hills & mud! However, once a year Hockley Woods is closed, so instead I volunteered as tail-walker at Hadleigh, home of the 2012 London Olympic mountain bike course. Tail-walking proved to be a wise decision, as the ‘slight incline’ towards the finish meant I didn’t return to run Hadleigh for a year! I managed to complete 3 more different Essex events in 2017, my first Christmas Day parkrun, ending with 38 runs in 2017.

2018 kicked off with Billericay on New Years Day, but I wasn’t brave or fit enough for the NYD Double!

More tourism ensued with a day trip to Jersey with the Rayleigh Road & Trail Runners (RAT’s) I’d recently joined.

Matt Pic 3a

I supported the inaugural South Woodham Ferrers event, which was originally cancelled due to the ’Beast from the East’, ran my first parkrun in the snow, completed my 100th parkrun milestone at Billericay & ran another 7 different Essex events taking my total to 12, ending 2018 with a modest 52 parkruns for the year.

Matt Pic 4a

2019 started with my first NYD Double at Billericay & Hockley Woods, with plans for various tourism booked in & to complete the Essex set. Disaster then struck with a severe ankle ligament running injury in the first week of January. Not to be deterred from parkrun, it was back to volunteering at Hockley Woods whilst completing my injury rehabilitation. It was at this stage that I joined the Core team to help set up Wickford Memorial parkrun which was anticipated to start in 2019. Despite the injury, my parkrun journey needed to continue, managing to walk Bushy parkun with a cast, as I couldn’t miss out on the coach trip pilgrimage to where parkrun started! Some other countries need to be added to the tourism journey with a day trip to Malahide in Ireland & a 36-hour venture to Zielona Gora in Poland for that elusive ‘Z’! Despite the injury set-back I did complete all Essex events & squeeze 51 parkruns into 2019.

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2020 finally brought the long-awaited news of the Wickford Memorial start date, who had been volunteering behind the scenes at other events in preparation.

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Despite the weather’s best intentions, the inaugural run was a great success, due to the determination & enthusiasm of the core team & volunteers. Volunteering brings a different perspective from running & without the volunteers mine & others parkrun journeys would never exist. It is fantastic to be part of the core team at Wickford Memorial & provide the event for the local community, which has been greatly welcomed.

Unfortunately, after 3 events the Covid-19 pandemic, has temporarily stopped all parkruns.

Wickford Memorial parkrun will return & then we can all continue or start our parkrun journey.


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