Fringe Box



Saturday’s Run In The Park Is Great Fun For All

Published on: 4 May, 2013
Updated on: 4 May, 2013

Report and pictures by Peter Bullen

At nine this morning (Saturday, May 4), a record 190 men, women and children lined up at the start of the 58th Guildford parkrun in Stoke Park, despite cloudy skies and a biting wind.

Ready to start.

Ready to start.

The race is held at 9 am every Saturday throughout the year when runners of all kinds, from kiddies to grandparents, meet to run, jog or even walk, 5,000 metres, or about three miles. What is more, it’s free, it’s friendly, and it’s healthy!

They're off!

They’re off!

The emphasis is on fun, with children competing on equal terms with adults (although under-elevens must be accompanied by an adult at all times and dogs must be kept on a short lead and no more than one per runner.) Absolute beginners are welcomed as well as committed club runners who soon streak away in front.

On their way...

On their way…

It began 14 months ago, on March 10, 2012, when the then record of 184 competitors was set. Practically every Saturday since then (apart from when major events using the park prevent meant it taking place) the race has started at 9am come rain, snow or shine.

Some of the volunteers.

Some of the volunteers.

Every week, an average of just under 100 people join in the Guildford event which now has 1,677 registered runners. The average run time is just under 27 minutes but the race record in Guildford is 15.30 minutes for men and 19.28 for women. However, the successes of slower runners, who may take closer to an hour to complete the course, seem to be celebrated just as much as those of the fastest.

The small band of Guildford volunteers who lay out the course, act as race stewards and timekeepers, collect and report times and positions and do all the other organisational tasks, have built up such a reputation for the Stoke Park event that in the past year it has already won two awards: Guildford Borough Council’s award for service to the community in 2012, and last month, the Mayor’s star.

Half-way mark for some.

Half-way mark for some.

Event director, William Blair, was overjoyed at the record turnout this morning. “I’m delighted,” he said.  “Recently, the numbers have been building up so I’m sure we’ll soon pass the 200 runners mark.”

Riley rests after his exertions.

Riley rests after his exertions.

He added he was also grateful for the loyal group of voluntary helpers who stage the race and to Guildford Borough Council for providing the venue.

First man to finish in 17.04 minutes was Matthew Jones, of Woking. Sophie Lovell, of Guildford, was first woman home in 20.51. Last to finish was, unsurprisingly, a Guildford mum – but she was pushing a heavy pushchair containing two-year-old daughter, Jessica, while also shepherding son, Corwin, aged six, who ran every metre of the race.

Among four-legged competitors taking part were Riley, a poodle-golden retriever cross, with owner Steve, of Guildford; and jack russell, Mutley, with Andrew and his daughter, Lottie, of Guildford. Long legged Riley finished in around 23 minutes with feisty Mutley coming in a few minutes later.

All these runners and volunteers are taking part in what is a steadily growing running revolution, not just in Guildford, or Britain, but around the world. More than 312,000 runners have registered in some 20,000 parkrun clubs world wide for the Saturday morning races.

Mutley ready to do it all again.

Mutley ready to do it all again.

It all began in Bushy Park, Teddington, Middlesex, in 2004 when the first, experimental, parkrun attracted just 13 runners. By its eighth birthday run last year, that figure had shot up to 1,000.

Donna, son Corwin, and Jessica in the pushchair.

Donna, son Corwin, and Jessica in the pushchair.

The idea soon took on all over the country out of which a national organisation was born which says it aims to reduce all barriers to running and make participation in its events as simple as possible. It adds: “We love running and want as many people as possible to join us, regardless of age, gender, race, religion or ability.  Our events are organised for and by local communities drawn from every conceivable background, and united by a love of running.”

It also tries to make its events as accessible as possible to runners and volunteers with disabilities.

And it is the small bands of local volunteers in every town or city who enable the weekly races to take place entirely free to runners. All that runners are asked to do is to register on-line and print out their individual bar code numbers which are collected when they finish a race so that their running times and positions can be recorded. Once registered, a runner can just turn up and compete in any event anywhere in the world.

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Responses to Saturday’s Run In The Park Is Great Fun For All

  1. Linda Cairns Reply

    May 4, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    New runners are welcome. Just sign up for free and print out a barcode which we use to give you your run time.

  2. Nicky Hack Reply

    May 5, 2013 at 11:19 am

    What a great article!

    ‘Parkrun’ is fun and it does have a real community feel. Everyone is friendly too! Well, the runners/walkers who are gasping at the end at the same time as me (around 30-31 mins) are!

    I’m sure the faster runners are friendly too but I don’t see them when I finish. They’re probably at home, feet up and already having a cup of tea!

    Well done everyone.

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