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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.