Today, on a damp, drippy and occasionally downpoury morning, Birkenhead Parkrun celebrated its 300th event. Perhaps it would have been nice to have had the balmy warmth of last Saturday’s run but despite the cooler and wet conditions, there were still almost 400 participants running or walking around the two laps of the course.
I stood with another volunteer, Dave I think his name was, who sported a rather fine werewolf mask that he’d pushed to the top of his head to keep from scaring the punters. We clapped everyone round, from the fast to the fresh air imbibers, beyond the point where my hands felt numb from the cold. The final person came into the finishers funnel after just over an hour.
And this is exactly why I love Parkrun.
In the very first event in London, October 2004, initially known as the Bushy Park Time Trial, the thirteen participants were all rewarded, including the final finisher. As the organisation has grown, and spread to well over 1000 Parkruns in this country alone, that inclusivity has been kept, with the volunteer position of ‘Tail Runner’ officially called the ‘Tail Walker’ in 2017.
Chrissie Wellington, a phenomenal former Ironman champion wrote a blog about this idea of encouraging the walkers.
“In 2012 in the UK, there were just over 2,500 walks at parkrun. This figure has climbed rapidly year on year and in 2019 stood at over 140,000.
In other countries, the proportion of walkers is even higher than it is in the UK. In South Africa for example, it is not uncommon for about 28% of all participants, young and old, to be walking the 5k course.”
A number of stats show that lack of any exercise kills as many people as diabetes or smoking, but while we might advise friends to quit the cigarettes or change their diets, we’re less inclined to call out a person’s sedentary lifestyle, as that is seen as normal.
So for all the people getting out there and braving the rain, and building their new normal, all I can say is, a massive well done.
Of course when I had opened the curtains this morning, I was wondering if I had any good excuses to bail. I did have a knot in my calf muscle that left me hobbling home yesterday after a curtailed long run.
But I could walk normally now so I zipped up the woman-suit, better known as my waterproof jacket, and looked for my wellies. Then I remembered that they were still soaking after several close shaves with Welsh waves from our holiday this week. So I found a pair of old trainers that had a toe-hole in exactly the same place as the hole in my sock allowing a pink nail to show through. Not the best for keeping dry but they were comfy, and mostly kept me warm.
I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to find the official date for the inaugural run, but according to my rough calculations, taking the Covid hiatus into account, the Birkenhead Parkrun was kicked off around September 2015.
EDIT: since posting originally, I’ve been reliably informed that the official start date was July 18th of that year. With 223 finishers and 17 volunteers
I’m not a regular Parkrunner by any means but I am glad that it is there, in our local park, every Saturday ant 9.00am (barring the odd pandemic). And if it can attract nearly 400 runners on sopping wet days like this, then it’s doing alright.