Having recently completed my second marathon, I now take you way back, not quite to where it all began, but to not long after that! It was late November 2012 and I had not long ago taken up running, and completed my first 5k event (more on that later!). I wanted to keep the momentum going, because I’d decided running could well be my thing! I was casually Googling “Adelaide running routes” trying to find a 5k course I could run on the coming Saturday. Something called “Torrens parkrun” came up. I was curious so I clicked on the link. The rest, as they say…
For the uninitiated – (firstly, where have you been?) parkrun (lower case ‘p’ ALWAYS) is a global movement, which started in the UK a little over 10 years ago, and reached Australia in 2011. In a nutshell, it is a FREE, WEEKLY, TIMED event that occurs around the world on a Saturday morning. For more information, and to see if there is a parkrun near you, check out http://www.parkrun.com
All you have to do is register online, print out a personalised barcode (the parkrun motto is ‘Don’t forget your barcode” or #DFYB – without it you won’t get a recorded time) and come out and run! Later on the day you’ll get an email with your results, and each run/walk you do counts towards milestone T-shirts (I have my 50 and am only weeks away from earning my 100 club shirt!)
Anyway, I was suitably intrigued so I headed along for the 8am start (it wasn’t long before running at 8am on a Saturday was a habit and not something I even had to think twice about). There were 44 people there that day for the very first Torrens parkrun, some of whom are still regulars to this day! I ran my fastest 5k time to date, and then a week later took a second off my PB. (My current PB is 21:50, which has stood for 2 years – I don’t seem to be able to get close to it now!)
In my first year I was pretty much a fixture at Torrens parkrun, hence I was lucky enough to win the inaugural Torrens parkrun female points prize! It was my first trophy for running (other than finisher medals)! Since then I haven’t been there quite as regularly, but I still try to get there whenever I can. It is THE BEST way to start the weekend!
In the beginning it was a way to get myself motivated to keep running. Somewhere along the way it became a place to catch up with friends and the run was just a bonus! I have even managed to convince my mum to come along a few times (a work in progress… she has PB’d every time so far!) There are so many wonderful people I have met through parkrun that I now count among my closest friends.
I’ve done 6 different parkrun events now in 3 states. Whenever I am going to be away from home on a Saturday I always try to sneak in a parkrun – it doesn’t always happen but it’s a great way to meet new people in a new place! Even so, Torrens is still #thebestparkrunintheworld without question! (I MAY be biased)
And parkrun can indirectly take some of the credit for me becoming a marathoner. Not only did it keep the momentum going in the very early days, but the seed was first planted in at parkrun. I can’t remember exactly when but I think it was within the first few months. I was chatting to fellow parkrun regular Ros, having recently read about her Berlin Marathon experience in the SA Masters Athletics newsletter. I found out she had only completed her first marathon in her 60s! I decided then that I would, one day, run a marathon. I set myself a fairly conservative goal – to do it by the age of 40. (I was 36 at the time). In the end I got a bit excited and ended up doing my first marathon a little over a year later, at the age of 37.
And now for the advertising spiel (and no, they are not paying me to say this!).
parkrun truly is for everyone. Elite runners, new runners, fast runners, slow runners, walkers, kids, prams, dogs… really, if you have a parkrun nearby, there is no excuse for not giving it a go! (And if you don’t want to do any of the above you could always volunteer!)
I started writing this post earlier in the week. It seemed timely as I had recently been honoured to be asked to join the Torrens parkrun Run Director team (one time dubbed ‘Run Direction’) and I had little hesitation in saying yes. I look forward to giving back to a community that has given me so much.
There’s another reason why this post is so timely. Just 2 days ago, Brian Wyld, SA running legend, the Father of parkrun in SA, the man who brought parkrun to our state, sadly passed away after collapsing during a run. As I have said earlier, I owe parkrun a great deal so I owe Brian a lot too. Not only for bringing us parkrun but also for the role he played in my first City-Bay Fun Run (SA’s biggest running event, attracting around 40,000 participants). I had entered the 12km run (coincidentally I had been lucky enough to win a free entry through parkrun) and I was chatting to Brian at parkrun the day before the big event. He asked me if I had a sub-60 bib. I told him no, as I had not run it before (you need to have run sub-60 minutes the previous year to be eligible) and he told me to come and see him at the expo later that day and he’d sort me out. Sure enough he got me that sub-60 bib which got me into the second start group (behind only the elites), a huge advantage as I didn’t have to contend with ‘Sunday strollers’ getting in the way of my goal to run sub-60. And of course I now HAD to run sub-60, to repay Brian who knew I could do it! I finished in 57:32 (as I didn’t have a watch at the time, I didn’t really know how I was tracking until I saw the clock as I rounded the final corner. I screamed in delight and powered home!) I had done it! In the moment I forgot to look around and thank Brian but later watching my finish video I heard his voice calling my name at the finish line… he had seen me do it! I emailed him during the week and thanked him again… I don’t think I could have done it without his help!
RIP Brian. Thanks for everything. You leave behind a wonderful legacy.