parkrun – changes lives

Last week we shared how being mindful of sport and the role it plays in improving the lives and the health of our nation. The best example of this is parkrun (always lower case as though to emphasise how simple it is).

parkrun is for everyone – from beginner to Olympian. Depending on the venue parkrun is for those in, and pushing, prams, wheelchairs, the blind, the deaf and other physical conditions.

 Bruce Fordyce, 9 times Comrades Marathon Champion who brought parkrun to SA in 2011 tells all and sundry that, “There is nothing, no substance, nothing more addictive than parkrun. So beware!”

In November 2011, Bruce Fordyce started the first South African parkrun at Delta Park in Johannesburg with 26 runners. On 12 August 2012, I started Nahoon Point, East London with 81 runners and a handful of volunteers. There are currently 126 parkrun venues in RSA and by the year end there will be close to 200. Worldwide there are currently 1236 venues in 16 countries with 4.2 million registered parkrunners internationally. South Africa currently has around three quarters of a million (750 0000).

More than being just a 5km timed run, parkrun offers incentives to keep you coming back:

  • First parkrun is the most perfect family activity and is not selfish.
  • On the completion of 50 parkruns you receive a RED 50 club T (Free)
  • On the completion of 100 parkruns you receive a BLACK 100 club T (Still Free)
  • On the completion of 250 parkruns you receive a Bottle Green 250 club T and on 500 a blue one.

Competition and incentives aside, parkrun has been life-changing for many people. Obesity, Diabetes, High Blood Pressure and Depression are just some of the issues that parkrun has played a role in overcoming or containing.

One local man, by the name of Henry, had not run a step since completing his schooling. He arrived at the Nahoon parkun, overweight and diabetic, in September 2012 and started walking/jogging. He was quickly hooked on the good feeling he received from being active again. His first attempt saw him finish in 37:54. One month later he was down to 31:20. Another month and he was down a further 2 minutes to 29:20 and in the first 4 months had improved a massive 11:01 to 26:53. He has reached 250 parkruns – a huge milestone! It was, however, not the once a week parkun alone that saw him beat diabetes, but the change of lifestyle prompted a change in eating habits and more regular exercise.

Another success story is our man Noel. Noel was the original definition of a Couch Potato, and driving a 4×4 every now and then was the only “exercise” he was interested in. Running or walking was not on his radar, let alone his bucket list. His wife, Annamarie, somehow convinced him to accompany her to the first Nahoon Point parkrun in August 2012 and promised to walk with him. Noel walked his first 5km in 52:55. Mumbling and grumbling at the finish he was never the less back the following week and the week thereafter. By the end of 2012, Noel’s time had come down by over 9min. By the end of 2013, he was run/walking and his time fell by a further 9 minutes to a highly respectable 34:08. Today, he has a personal best time of 29:38 and a pace of under 6min per km.

A third success story, Tiamarie, lived and now truly lives in an idyllic setting at Sunrise-on-Sea. She had major health problems and was a smoker. She too had done nothing since school days when her son challenged her to start walking. Challenged by her son, she walked the Sunrise-on-Sea parkrun. She was at the inaugural Sunrise parkrun and is the only person in South Africa that has not missed one solitary weekend of parkrun in 5 years and has 268 behind her name. She ran her first half marathon in September 2017, with plans afoot to run a marathon in 2018.

Tiamarie’s progress is remarkably similar to that of Henry and Noel, proving that the buy in to regular parkrunning transforms lives.

parkrun offers hope.

parkrun transforms lives.

parkrun changes lives.


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