Monday, April 18, 2016

Our adventures at junior parkrun

Volunteering at junior parkrun* is just the best thing I have done in running (well not actually physically running, but you know what I mean) this year. Each Sunday morning the family get ourselves over to the second nearest junior parkrun to us because the start time means we simply have enough time to get there and because it is in the grounds of a National Trust property (Tredegar House, Newport). The location is great, the team are super friendly, the course is nicely contained, the Brewhouse tearoom (and shop) is fabulous after each event - the kids have a minor hot chocolate addiction growing because of it, and the adults likewise a cake addiction.

Keen runners at the startline
Volunteering was a revelation for me, not because I haven't volunteered for things in the past but because of the huge buzz I get seeing the kids run with such freedom and joy shining out of their faces (most of the time) . The weather plays a role each week, and quite apart from the ever changing cast of characters, sets up each run in a slightly different tone. Be that the joy the children get jumping in muddy puddles, the smiles of parents when the sun is out, the stoicism of the volunteers when its windy. There is always something that reminds you of the best sort of human kindnesses and joys in the simply free fun 2k run.

Finish tokens ready to hand out
Junior parkrun has athletic royalty as a figure head, Chrissie Wellington (multiple Ironman distance World champ) who has as her twitter handle @ChrissieSmiles - something apparently she was famed for during her competitions. That is actually, for me, junior parkrun in a nutshell, the secret to the whole thing, smiles - most of the time everyone just smiles.

Our kids have a ball, chase friends, ask for their times, enjoy the hot chocolate (!), and hopefully most of all are learning that sports, sports event and sports participation are something for life and something for smiling about. I certainly feel awful on weeks we can't make it as I miss the buzz, but moreover those weeks we can't go the kids get upset too :-)

The family all in after a rainy Winter run
In a week where events in the UK parkrun world have been shaped by people who perhaps don't fully appreciate all that parkrun is, or all the it gives to a community and try to draw money out of it, I thank my lucky stars that we have something as elegantly brilliant and accessible on our door step. I could write simply pages about my thoughts on the Little Stoke parkrun situation, but instead I will simply enjoy the buzz from yesterdays junior parkrun in Newport and hope that a happy settlement will allow others to continue to enjoy the same free from imposed costs parkrun joy.

* junior parkrun events are run over a 2 km course for juniors only between the ages of 4 to 14 years old.

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