welcome to the newsletter
I’m Tony O’Connell, Territory Director for Gippsland in sunny Victoria, but everyone knows me as TOC. My parkrun journey started in Merimbula almost two years ago with Donella and her team while my wife and I were visiting on a holiday. We stumbled onto parkrun and I was hooked on the great community vibe pretty well straight away. For someone who was a non-runner, the experience of being able to turn up at an event and be made to feel part of a big team was incredible.
At that stage there wasn’t a parkrun in the whole of Gippsland, our nearest being Berwick Springs about an hour and a quarter away.
From there I met up with a great group who were also keen to establish a parkrun: Glenn Sullivan, Lynden Costin, Les Corson and Kat Denny, and just over a year ago in September, Inverloch parkrun was launched to the world, with an international tourist running her 100th parkrun at the launch!
Since then I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with teams from Pakenham, Traralgon, Warragul, Sale and Phillip Island. From no Events or parkrunners in Gippsland just over a year ago, to last weekend’s whopping 816 participants across the 6 events, Gippsland really is on the move! In this time we have seen Traralgon treble their weekly participants and now have nearly 300 finishers – all that in just 6 short months since they launched. With a couple more events in the planning stages in our region, it won’t be long before we see more than a thousand participants each and every Saturday.
In the last couple of weeks we have celebrated two parkrun first birthdays at Inverloch and Pakenham. It’s such an awesome feeling to be part of the parkrun community at these events, and to sit back and watch the way each event has developed their own identity: quicker runners supporting the runners and walkers; high fives on the track; younger people mixing freely and chatting with more mature members; and people that probably did not know each other 12 months ago just sitting around after an event for a catch up chat.
I think this is the very essence of what makes parkrun such a big part of people’s lives and why so many people keep coming back for the weekly, free run or walk!
Every event has such a huge range of personalities that all mix together to make it unique and fantastic. So many people contribute so much to our parkruns, and each week I see people setting examples, like Michelle Peters from Pakenham who has volunteered 46 times in the last year alone, to people like Lynden Costin from Inverloch who regularly drives almost an hour and a half each way just to volunteer at our event.
Over the last 18 months I have had the pleasure of running at 19 different parkruns across Australia, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that at each and every one of them I have been made to feel welcome and have enjoyed a post-run coffee.
Essential Stats for Australia & Singapore – 03/10/2015:
Number of locations – 135
Number of runners – 18,386
Number of PBs – 2,539
Number of first timers – 3,328
Number of volunteers – 1,243
All time registrations – 241,670
Club shirt update
We have received quite a few enquiries lately as to the current situation with allocation of our milestone / club t-shirts. Essentially the message is still the same as when we provided the last official update back in August.
As of 1st July this year we had about 35,000 parkrunners in eligible countries worldwide with a claim to a milestone t-shirt. Our initial delivery of 20,000 t-shirts meant we couldn’t possibly fulfill 100% of the demand straight away. Our solution (and the one we felt was fairest and most transparent) was to activate profiles of those parkrunners who had qualified for a t-shirt longest ago first, gradually bringing the date forward and activating more profiles when we knew stock was available.
At the time of this post we have activated close to 20,000 profiles and have caught up to 21st February 2015 in most categories. If you qualified for a milestone club before this date and your profile page is not currently showing a link to redeem your t-shirt, this is because we have activated as many profiles as we have stock available in your category. Your profile will be activated as soon as we have sufficient stock available.
The only change to the above is that Junior 10-club shirts have been pushed back to early-2016, apologies for this delay.
If you’ve got a question about your milestone t-shirt, please head over to our Q&A site.
‘A parkrunner with a difference’ by Brandan Ah Tong & Michael Soutter
On 30th May 2015, Pakenham parkrun hosted a runner with a difference - Brandan is blind.
Brandan Ah Tong was born with full vision, but due to a genetic condition his vision was gradually lost. His vision impairment started with his peripheral vision and changed slowly so that he didn’t really notice it was happening. Brandan recalls how he would be driving the car and would ask his wife whether the traffic light was red or green, as a joke. But really, it was no joke – he really couldn’t see them. He now works for Vision 2020 Australia as the Director of Policy and Advocacy, working to eliminate avoidable blindness and ensure people who are blind or vision impaired are supported to remain independent in the community. In recent years, he has wanted to get back into fitness and running, but wasn’t sure how to get started as he didn’t have any contact with the running community. He reached out through Blind Sports Victoria to see if somebody could assist him.
Jodie Soutter was contacted to see if she knew anyone who would assist with the training of a vision impaired runner to run an event. Brandan wanted to run the 8k Mothers Day Classic in Albert Park Melbourne (10th May 2015) – but needed the running support and training to achieve this goal. Jodie knew her husband, Michael - an enthusiastic runner – would be interested in helping him out.
On Saturday 18th April, Michael had his first run with Brandan. Michael soon learned that it was going to be trickier than he thought, so much so that he forgot to start his Garmin! Running with a tether supporting a blind runner means that lots of audible feedback is required – e.g. keep going straight, start veering left, right turn in 50 metres, there’s a bollard in the middle of the path. After a few more runs, this became more and more natural for Michael to guide Brandan and the run became much smoother.
The day of the Mothers Day Classic proved to be especially interesting. Michael and Brandan had never really discussed how to get there, the perils of race day road closures and where to meet on the course. Michael had gotten there early as most do on an event day. Michael was patiently waiting, very confident that Brandan would turn up before the race started. However, Brandan had underestimated the traffic and got there shortly after the race started! The race was a whole new world for Michael and Brandan – navigating the course with hundreds of other people and achieving a personal best. This, of course was successful. Michael and Brandan completed the run in 1h 1m 32s, which to Brandan was a marathon for him.
It is now quite a regular occurrence that Brandan attends Pakenham parkrun – his most recent event was 12th September where he achieved a personal best of 32:16s.
parkdog of the week
Hey y'all! Charlie here, "woof woof huff sniff sniff woof woof". I am a two and a half year old whippet cross. There are so many things in my life that I love. Food, my squeaky pig, car rides, tipping the bin over, sunny spots in the lounge room, my bed and chasing rabbits. But what I love most and what really gets my tail wagging is parkrun Saturday. I am the luckiest dog in the world to get to go to Sale parkrun every week. My devoted carer Courtney and I have training runs during the week in preparation. She doesn't seem to mind when I chase wildlife, I think she likes running an extra kilometre or two to catch me. Every Friday night I get the best dinner so I am prepared to run fast the next day and when I wake up bright and early Saturday, after my morning stretches, I sit by the front door, waiting in anticipation. My day gets even better once my lead is clipped on and we start the 3km walk to parkrun. Courtney is so considerate and she happily walks with me each week to allow me to do my business along the way so I don't have to stop and do it on the course (however I think she has some obsession with my business... she lunges for it with a little baggie before anybody else can get to it, and then just throws it away. I don't understand). I'm not usually a barky dog but I must admit, I get impatient waiting to run. I hurry the Run Director up with the speech that I have heard soooo many times before, by barking all the way through it. I usually start right when they talk about dogs being kept on a short leash. I don't know why they say that, of course I want to be on a leash, it keeps me close to Courtney so I can't be separated from her. I have attended every parkrun that I can and have even donned my fluoro vest when I volunteered. I stood at the finish line and barked everybody home. It hasn't taken me long to fall in love with parkrun. I love the anticipation of the start line, the thrill of weaving my way through other runners and trying to be the first dog across the line. I love getting PBs and seeing others achieve theirs. I love the pats from all the other supportive parkrunners. Most of all I love the big cuddles I get from my friend Courtney after the end of each run. She is always so proud of me. I am definitely one happy and proud parkdog. Over and out, Charlie. p.s. A big thank you to Courtney for typing this for me. She thinks I'm making excuses but my paws really are too big for the keyboard!
Upcoming Special Events
10/10 – Hamilton (Vic)
17/10 – Grafton (NSW), Paradise Point (Qld)
31/10 – Port Macquarie (NSW)
10/10 – Berwick Springs (Vic) 2nd, Kalgoorlie-Boulder (WA) 2nd
17/10 – Brightwater (Qld) 1st, Gungahlin (ACT) 2nd, Kingscliff (NSW) 3rd, Mosman (NSW) 2nd, North Lakes (Qld) 3rd, Murray Bridge (SA) 1st
24/10 – Bunbury (WA) 2nd, Darwin (NT) 2nd, Kawana (Qld) 3rd, Mudgeeraba (Qld) 2nd, Westerfolds (Vic) 2nd
Until further notice – Heirisson Island (WA)
03/10 – Penrith Lakes (NSW)
10/10 – Geographe Bay (WA)
17/10 – Launceston (Tas)
24/10 – Chermside (Qld)
31/10 – Wangaratta (Vic), Penrith Lakes (NSW)
14/11 – Tamborine Mountain (Qld), Shepparton (Vic)
28/11 – Penrith Lakes (NSW), Lillydale Lake (Vic)
13/02 – Geographe Bay (WA)
Feedback from the field
Jenny Fogarty - Just wanted to say that I loved my first parkrun last weekend. Great atmosphere, not too long, not too short, extremely well organised! Well done and thank you for bringing it to Bendigo!
Kerry Haddock - Did my first parkrun at Frog Hollow in Melbourne on 26 September 2015. The volunteers and other runners made me feel very welcome, a great atmosphere. Hoping to make it a weekly event.
Peter Truscott - No particular reason to email but to say how much I love the parkrun concept. I run Parramatta parkrun and absolutely love it. Keep up the brilliant work.
Lisa Albert - How awesome, last week I reached my goal of 50 parkruns. I had actually worked it out on the calendar when I would reach 50 at the start of the year. My other goal is passing my brother on the most events list. He is one event in front of me at the moment but that won’t last long. A BIG thank you without you being down the road I would NEVER have gotten out of bed on a Saturday morning or ever gone to another parkrun. I am happy that when my brother told me about a parkrun that had started up at Wishart I gave it a go instead of saying no I don't want to do it. From my first parkrun at Wishart to my PB at Wishart I have cut my time by over 9 minutes and from not being able to run 100 metres without needing to walk a bit to being able to run 5km. Thank you for giving me goals.
Debbie Harvey - This photo of my husband Chris and I (Shepparton parkrunners), wearing our parkrun Tee shirts was taken mid July at Inverness, Scotland at the 2015 Inverness Gala i.e. Inverness Highland Games. Chris and I are pictured with one of the extremely strong competitors (he finished in third place) after competing in events with names such as – Scots Hammer, Inverness Stone, Weight over Distance, Weight over Bar and Tossing the caber. Our competitor knew about parkrun and was more than happy to have his photo taken with us in our parkrun Tee shirts. One of the highlights of our UK holiday was running in two parkruns, Inverness and later Fulham Palace. At both parkrun events the Run Directors and volunteers were so friendly and welcoming. At Inverness the course had to be altered because the Highland games were using much of the usual parkrun area. An altered course was quickly organised and we all set off. Afterwards it was discovered that the calculations had been a bit amiss and we had all run 5.5km – not surprisingly there was not a single PB that morning. The very friendly team at Fulham were very excited to be not only hosting two Aussie from Shepparton but also three Aussie sisters from Melbourne, Armidale and Tassie (G'day Margaret, Mary and Frances). The other mighty thrill about running at Fulham Palace was that parkrunner, Gregory Bailey was competing his 100th parkrun. But this wasn't just any 100. This parkrunner ran all 100 at 100 different parkruns! (check out the Fulham Palace parkrun Facebook for all the details). Amazing. Have we got an Aussie who has done this I wonder?
Sharon Blair - Today I had the pleasure of completing my 100th parkrun at St Peters in Sydney, NSW. St Peters parkrun has grown exponentially since the initial test runs that I took part in with Paul Wilcock, Aaron Pidgeon and Andrew Lennon over three years ago. During that time I've made some great friends and the wonderful vibe still remains today. I look forward to seeing other parkrunners achieve their own milestones.
Scott Bunny - Last weekend was the Waterous Trail by Foot (WTF) 50 mile and 100 mile event in WA. Although much longer than our favourite 5km parkrun distance, both events had quite a few parkrunners entered. parkrunners were well and truly represented along course too, there were parkrunners volunteering at almost every aid station; and many of the pacers for the 100miler were themselves parkrunners, many guiding their competitor over 30km or more of trails at night. Ben Harris (Canning River) took out the 100mile event for men in 21h45m, in his first attempt at the distance. Crystal Shiu (Heirisson Island RD) took out the 100miler for women in 25h54m. Unfortunately, not everyone made it to the finish, but in true parkrun spirit, some of those who DNF'd last weekend will be heading back out soon to finish what was started, supported by even more parkrunners. It's amazing that some who used to think that running 5km was a challenge have progressed to running 82km, 160km or further! What is even more amazing is that whenever they step out onto the trail, there is a massive support contingent from the wonderful parkrun community.
Drop me an email if you have an interesting parkrun related fact, happening or comment that you would like to share with all parkrunners.
Name: Amy McCall
Home parkrun: Warragul
Number of runs: 19
PB: 27:28 (certainly not at the pointy end… yet!)
Number of times volunteered: 29
Most memorable or funniest parkrun moment: I think I’d have to say our recent event titled ‘Spring into Spring’. It was held on the first Saturday of Spring and was to celebrate the coming of warmer weather and to encourage as many people in the community as possible to attend our parkrun and get active in an encouraging and supportive environment. We organized pacers in tutus, and it was also the first time we had over 100 participants (excluding the launch). Oh, and my partner-in-crime, co-Event Director Isabel Murdoch, even brought along potted plants to decorate the start/finish line and barcode scanning area!
I volunteer at parkrun because: It is such a rewarding thing to do. This event offers so much to so many. I enjoy seeing the progress of our parkrunners; the sense of achievement on their faces when they cross the finish line; the support and encouragement that everyone offers each other; seeing families come along together to start their weekend with some physical activity; seeing First Timers come along and become parkrun addicts from here on in; and the tight knit friendships that have flourished… I could continue – like I said, parkrun offers so much more than just a run in the park.
One thing I love about parkrun is: That it is barrier-free. It doesn’t cost anything, which opens the doors for anyone and everyone to participate; it’s for all ages and abilities, not just elite athletes; it’s simple - register, bring your barcode, come along and enjoy; there’s no pressure - come along if/when you want to – but it’s addictive so look out!; and it is what you make of it – a family stroll, a training run, a social jog with friends/family etc.