Introduction, October 2020
Today, 3rd October 2020, marks 11 years since my first parkrun, a day that changed my life, and the lives of 22,429 of you, predominantly residents of Milton Keynes. That is over 10% of the population! I have told the story many times before, and it is funny reading some of those stories now, almost a decade later. The following piece, which will now be part I of many, first appeared on the June 2011 edition of ‘Time Aside’
It is the seemingly insignificant actions that change our lives
In 2009 I spent a day training gym staff in Teddington, West London. Overestimating M4 traffic I arrived some time before the facility was even open. The obvious choice in this situation was to go for a run, and having noticed a patch of green in the A-Z, I headed off towards Bushy Park. It is deer park in West London with enough trails to keep you interested on repeat visits, and a couple of routes of 5 and 8 km around the periphery. I had a lovely little run around, surprising myself as I came across a deer herd, forgetting that London has deer parks for a reason. A few weeks later two articles about Paul Sinton-Hewitt caught my eye. They were about ‘parkrun’, a free, timed 5km run around Bushy Park every Saturday morning at 9am. “Hang on”, I thought, “I’ve run around there”, then I read all I could about parkrun.
Think of the possibilities
I couldn’t sleep, all I could think about was the possibility of a community event in Milton Keynes, where I could really make a difference in helping more people get active and feel good about their achievements. I got in touch with parkrun office, and their event at Black Park, Slough, so I could get a taste of what I was getting myself into. October 3rd 2009 was Black Parks 12th run, and I was one of a seemingly massive 91 runners. The same day was Bushy’s 5th Anniversary, and they had a record 806 runners. Good grief, what was I thinking of? The following week I returned to Black Park as a volunteer but by then my decision was already made. After talks with the lake management company I was able to set up the course around Willen Lake. I ran dozens of routes, finding problems with flooding, closed paths, broken paths, confusing detours and aggressive wildlife before settling on a technically challenging, but incredibly beautiful, course from Willen, along the canal, past the Peace Pagoda and around the south lake. January the 16th 1010, a week after a snow blanket across England put plans on hold, saw our inaugural run, a great success with 44 runners. By our first anniversary we had broken the 200 mark. We even had 64 turn up on Christmas Day!
Over 1700 runners have now taken part in my event, covering a distance of more than 45,000 km (over 1,000 marathons).
The times have varied between 65 and 15 minutes, it is truly an event for all abilities. We have regular runners in their 70’s and as young as 6. We have also had visits from two Olympians, the triathlete Tim Don, and 1960’s and 70’s running legend Dr Ron Hill.
I set up Milton Keynes parkrun to challenge myself as well as you. It is one of my proudest achievements and I hope this tale has set a spark in your mind, whether to come and join a run, or to set your own dreams in motion.
parkrun is a free, timed, 5km run for all ages and abilities. Once registered at parkrun.org.uk you can run any event in the country. parkrun is reliant on the gift of your time. Without volunteers the event cannot succeed.