In 2004 when Paul Sinton-Hewitt had the idea of a free timed 5k run in a park each week, you would be forgiven for thinking that it didn’t sound exactly an earth shattering idea. But it turns out the concept is inspired and you have only to look at the stats on the parkrun website to realise that it has transformed the sport of running as a mass participation activity.
When my wife and I started going to parkrun in 2008 in this part of the world it meant going to what was called Leeds Hyde Park (now Woodhouse Moor). I love telling people what it was like back then in a “when I were a lad” sort of voice; there were no barcodes, you had to queue up before someone with a laptop who would record your position. The timer used what looked like a desktop calculator that even produced a printout. The principles have always been the same though, a free weekly community activity with a massive sense of support and belonging whatever your level of athletic ability.
There are none more friendly and supportive than our local Temple Newsam parkrun. Regular runners at Temple Newsam are made of hardy stuff; it is famous for its massive hill up to the house which is great for fitness and is “character building”. Of course, what goes up must come done and you are rewarded with a super-speedy down hill section! However, these hilly sections are susceptible to ice in the winter but the clever organisers have a solution; a four lap route around a field near the house and car park, which is where we ran today. Now you may think that this flat course would be fast but a field that a few days ago would have been well churned up with mud and then frozen is quite tricky and I was glad of my trail shoes which I had packed just in case (we guessed it might be the field today).
Nevertheless, we are thankful that they do have a standby option because we know that quite a few parkruns around the region were cancelled today because of ice.