Trumpeter Emil Andrews played the theme tune from BBC’s athletics coverage as 103 runners set off on the 100th Parkrun event in Cross Flatts Park Beeston on Saturday (14 March 2015).
Cross Flatts Parkrun is a weekly free, measured, timed 5km run or walk, held every Saturday at 9am. It is run by volunteers and over two years has built its numbers to a regular 80 or 90. For the centenary a few extra people (like me) made the effort and 27 runners (including me) broke their PB – personal best time.
At the end of the run, people retired to the Feel Good Café at Hillside to share tea and cake.
We asked a range of regular runners for their views about Parkrun. Here’s what they said:
For me it’s the simplicity of it that makes Parkrun special and the fact it asks nothing in return. Other than the initial registration there is no red tape. There is no cost involved which means it is inclusive and welcomes everyone. I have also enjoyed seeing people “grow” over time. Not just in terms of running ability but by the way they interact with others and take on new tasks as volunteers that initially they were unsure of. The fact people are always willing to volunteer shows that people are willing to put something back.
I think it’s the social element that brings people back every week. I can go for a run any day of the week but Saturday is a chance to meet and make new friends. I feel Cross Flatts is really special in this respect. South Leeds had no established running groups but Parkrun has brought like minded people together and out of that has come two new running groups: South Leeds Sisters and more recently the South Leeds Lakers. Also it’s not just about the running – we’ve held two Christmas parties and supported each other in other community events such as The Carols in the Park and a great turn out to watch Hunslet in the Grand Final.
Ninety four Cross Flatts Parkruns ago I did my first one – I had started running when a friend sent me a link to a ‘Couch to 5K’ programme on the internet and trudged my way around the park doing just that (not that I had ever spent that much time on a couch to be honest!).
That was way before Parkrun started and I thought I liked running on my own really – I wasn’t fussed about anyone I knew seeing me (in fact as my garden backs on to the park I didn’t even need to go outside the front door). I envisaged that these sort of events were not really for people like me who were not super fit, not under 21, not in prerequisite amount of lycra, didn’t own a fancy stopwatch, water bottle or earphones and weren’t training for at least the Great North Run or the London Marathon!
When I heard we were getting a Parkrun I thought I’d give it a go but had already decided it probably wasn’t for me. Despite that I did (after missing the first 5 get around to going (it seemed churlish not to – after all not every park has a Parkrun) and surprise surprise it wasn’t a bit like that. I came back several times and then someone handed me a card about a local women’s running group, the South Leeds Sisters, suggesting that it was fun and also would help with technique. I wasn’t fussed about technique either but after a while I gave that a go too and suddenly found people who enjoyed running, training and talking simultaneously – what more could a girl want!
Now as I head up to the park on a Saturday morning I look forward to catching up with friends and know that I will run 5K, it might be a slow day or a fast day but whichever it is I’ll feel great when I’ve done it (well not immediately after I’ve done it!) … and then to cap it all – Parkrun keeps a note of my time and so I can see how I’m doing simply by scanning a barcode.
So as 100 of us ran the 100th Parkrun I find I’m 100% more up for running, I’ve met loads of new friends, I feel fitter and healthier (and pretty smug on Saturdays) – what’s more I get all this for free and on my back doorstep. Here’s to the next 100 Parkruns and the next 100 South Leeds residents that get bitten by the Parkrun bug – see you at Parkrun #200!
In years gone by I have always enjoyed the feeling to be had from putting on the running shoes and the personal stereo and taking a run around the coastline of the Wirral, the place in which I was born. Beaches with lighthouses, country paths, farm fields and the sun setting behind the Welsh hills on the other side of the River Dee. Swimming, Badminton and sweat drenched sessions in the gym in a personal world of Nirvana, Neil Young, Ministry, Public Enemy, Pop Will Eat Itself, Air, Jesus Jones etcetera . . . .
Waking up twenty five years later in a different body, that of a 42 year old diabetic, mild end of the spectrum, with two jobs, three children and the cumulative aches and pains of a decade long sedentary job I realise that true hope lies in such organisations as Parkrun. The opportunity for the picturesque solitude of running through the rural countryside is now a distant memory as I navigate instead the clogged arteries of long days in the city. Instead what I have discovered through Parkrun is the companionship, inspiration and determination of people with aims and aspirations.
Each Saturday as I rack up the miles on the physical clock I feel time slowing down and the psychological effects of the ageing process become less of an issue. Parkrun represents not just the potential for a reversal of the effects of ill health but also a relief, a break from routine and an opportunity to mix with people whose nature is one of encouragement and enthusiasm. I have to admit that I have my wife Debs, known in some circles as Roseytints, to thank for introducing me to this, but I have Parkrun to thank for rekindling a love of running that I had believed to be lost a long time ago. Vive Le Parkrun!
I’ll be honest, when I first heard of Parkrun coming to Cross Flatts Park, it wasn’t for me. I was relativity new to running and there were a couple of things in the way of me joining in. Firstly, if I ran at the weekend it was on a Sunday not a Saturday. Secondly, the idea of starting a run at 9am felt daft. I had already become used to getting up early, going for a run and being back home ready to start the day before Parkrun had even started. Thirdly, I training for my first 10k and then my first half marathon and 5k, the allotted Parkrun distance just didn’t feel far enough to fit into my plans. Finally, I ran alone. Groups were for race days, not runs around the park. Parkrun was not for me.
I’m not sure if I could have been any more wrong. I insist that I did the right thing by sticking to my training schedule, but I was wrong about 5k being too short a distance for training. I was wrong about giving myself time to have breakfast before running, and I was wrong about group running. Parkrun is not just about running around a park, sure that’s part of it, and there is the illusive PB to achieve, but the community aspect of Parkrun is the reason I keep going back.
The camaraderie between runners of all abilities is more addictive than running itself. Comparing first hand notes on technique and nutrition is much better than researching on the internet and being cheered on by strangers who want you to do well is intoxicating. I’ve only been to 25 of the 100 Cross Flatts Parkruns, 8 of those as a volunteer, but I really feel like part of the Parkrun family and can’t wait for the 200th anniversary to come around.
Park Run is a little local miracle. When the three of us met with the national coordinator to learn about setting it up, it seemed a bit like a shot in the dark – we had very little sense how or if it would take in the local area. But in just two years, it’s become this vibrant, friendly, and highly cooperative venture with a beautiful sense of community. Loads of regular people who’ve never been into running have found it welcoming and positive. And there are scores of enthusiastic volunteers involved; so nowadays, I’m rarely needed to help out – which is great, except it means I don’t have an excuse for not running anymore!
The Cross Flatts Parkrun was for me a step into the unknown. When it began, I felt unsure about many things: I was already very busy and had 2 very young children and was concerned about how much I would have to commit to make it work; would people come; would we have enough volunteers; would I have to be in the park every Saturday morning at 9am. Despite the concerns we pressed on and I can honestly say that Parkrun has been one of the best things I have ever been involved in. The statistics speak for themselves – over 1240 different runners, 100 events etc – but as ever the numbers and the stats don’t come anywhere near to telling the story. For me Parkrun is all about the people. Occasionally I run – and through Parkrun I have undoubtedly become fitter and faster and it certainly feeds my competitive tendencies to beat myself every time I run – but far more often I arrive at the park with my family to volunteer and to see people who have become very dear to me and my family – special friends who if it hadn’t been for Parkrun I would never had met. And the great thing is I don’t think this is just true for me. I’m not that interested in Cross Flatts Parkrun growing in numbers. I would much rather see friendships grow and Parkrun continuing to be a place where people are welcomed into what is becoming a very special extended family.
Tell us what you think of Parkrun by adding a comment below.