Solent University’s huge lecture theatre screen gave the 100 + guests attending an evening with Mr Parkrun himself, Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE the opportunity to watch and hear from a man who has realised his running vision. Hosting the evening was Mathew Fleet (who’d invited me) a lecturer at Solent, a fellow Fareham Crusader and an avid parkrun enthusiast.
Mathew underlined just how parkrun Southsea has had a huge positive effect on his family with photos of him running with his daughters and his brother, a nice personal touch when introducing Paul. The photo below is of our host, our speaker and the funky Solent University.
The running community were out in force this evening, bloggers, parkrun directors, junior parkrun directors, running event organisers, dedicated parkrun volunteers and park runners. I recognised a good ten people from our local area.
What I liked most about the evening was that Paul Sinton-Hewitt (lets go with PSH) charted the emergence of parkrun right up to its current position of potential world domination with frequent references to the many contributors that make up the slices of a parkrun pie.
Naturally a large slice is PSH himself, he currently holds the title of Founder which seems to suits him very well in that he can spend time talking to audiences such as ours, while still having an influence on the wider activities of this ever expanding phenomenon.
The parkrun pie first came out of the oven on October 2nd 2004 with 13 runners attending the Bushy Park time trial. This free, timed, 5K run with results and coffee to follow was pretty much the same as it is today. It expanded through the London suburbs, spread to Leeds via Marathon Talks Tom Williams, through the UK and around the world.
The ingredients for the parkrun pie haven’t really changed from the list PSH cooked up in 2014. Community running for absolutely anyone in the community, no charges and an open invite to return whenever it suits you.
From listening to PSH he talked with both affection and pride regarding probably the biggest slice of the parkrun pie, the volunteers. After all the runs quite simply wouldn’t function without these guys. When he said parkruns were free in every sense of the word ultimately I guess volunteers are free to come and go but they appear to have built up their own separate community. Paul used the phrase “giving something back” which sums up the volunteers contribution.
He mentioned the fact that naturally runners volunteered but many of the people who contribute never run themselves.
With PSH developing the registration system from his IT background then this really did enable him to keep everything at the grass roots level. Paul also acknowledged that the post run coffee and conversations were as much a part of the volunteering as the encouragement.
I’ve only volunteered once but I must admit but they certainly were “giving” me all I needed.
Finally the runners, walkers and joggers slice of the pie comes in all sorts of flavours . PSH noted the positives, female participation is higher in parkruns than club races, families run together, Dads cheer on their wives and kids, both parents look on with pride at the junior parkruns, buggy and dog runners are welcome, disabled runners are catered for and the list goes on and on.
The nature of a weekly event means progress can be measured from walking to jogging to running. Whether this translates into entering races is more of an invitation than an expected consequence.
Most importantly a parkrun is just that, a run, through pleasant surroundings and not a race. PSH clearly felt this was a major key to its success.
With parkruns in prisons, parkruns in less advantaged areas and doctors being urged to prescribe the running social engagement of parkruns rather than pills the future looks bright.
So in summary his audience listened with 100% attention and followed it up with a variety of interesting questions. I intend to post this blog to as many non running social media outlets as running ones because parkrun has so much to offer the people that haven’t discovered it. Thanks for reading.
Generally speaking pies are frowned upon were healthy living is concerned but the parkrun pie has changed lives, probably extended lives and developed a community that’s free to access at 9am every Saturday.
An inspiring evening from an inspiring man.
PSH …….Mr Parkrun, thank you.