Stuck for ideas? There’s a book out this year that will be the perfect gift for everyone who’s ever done a parkrun. Or even better, for those who have thought about it, and might even have signed up for it, but not actually been and done a parkrun yet.
How parkrun changed our lives * is a story book, a book of stories about people, their triumphs and sorrows, and how parkrun has had an impact on who they are and what they have become. And it emphasises the message that parkrun is about MUCH more than just running.
Here you’ll meet “the lovely Jaz” who’s not only head of volunteer management at parkrun HQ, but was also the first British Indian woman to complete 500 parkruns. You’ll meet Conrad and Jose who ran parkrun together on the day of their diamond wedding anniversary and crossed the finish line holding hands. At the other end of the age range are the delightful Pout twins, Hugo and Rory, who are popular on the parkrun buggy-scene; and Dexter who was the first ten-year old to complete 250 parkruns.
You’ll meet the people who got married during a parkrun, the crazy guy who runs it backwards, the blind man who found a new life through parkrun, and the woman who wouldn’t have cope otherwise after her husband died.
There are the volunteers who talk about the sheer joy of being there every week to do the timekeeping or marshalling. There’s the doctors who literally prescribe parkrun for a range of physical and mental health problems.
You’ll meet some running reverends who discuss if parkrun is a new religion, and – of course – you’ll meet PSH, the founder, the man who came up with this great idea for a free timed run every Saturday that now happens in 22 countries around the world.
** Eileen Jones, a member of the Gritstone Publishing co-op, is a journalist and PR working in the Lake District. She’s head witch at parkrun and will turn into a toad anyone who spells parkrun with a capital P.
IMAGINE going for your first ever trail run in the Lake District. Now imagine that you’re going for your first ever trail run, and you can’t see anything.
Dave Williams, a parkrunner and marathon runner, is blind, and has just experienced trail running for the first time, on the slopes of the Old Man of Coniston.
This is a story of determination, of overcoming life’s challenges, and believing that you can do something, and it’s here for the telling thanks to parkrun.
Dave, who lives in Worcester, has done 60 parkruns at 20 different venues, but hasn’t seen any of them. Dave was born with Leber Congenital Amaurosis, which causes sight loss at birth. I heard about him when researching my book about parkrun*; his father, Gwilym, is a member of my club, Clayton le Moors Harriers, now living in Austria, and a close friend of the husband of my running buddy, Judy Sharples.
I heard Dave’s story, and wrote about it, loving his enthusiasm and self-deprecation (his regular guide runner, Bex, is dyspraxic and can’t always tell right from left “so between us, we manage somehow!”) and when the book came out Dave bought a copy for his family. But he couldn’t read it himself, of course, and asked if there was an audio version.
That was something I’d not considered, but contacted the RNIB (Royal National Institute for Blind People), where Dave works, and arranged for a friend, Wayne Singleton – who has the know-how and access to the technical kit – to read the book, record it, and supply the audio files to the RNIB library. From where Dave has recently borrowed it and listened to the whole book.
Then Dave said that he and his family were coming on holiday to Coniston and he asked if we could meet, and also asked if I knew anybody who could take him for a guided run as he’d always wanted to try trail-running. The multi-talented Wayne (who also has a business, The Running Concierge**, arranging trail and fell-running mini-breaks and holidays in the Lakes) is also a qualified running coach, and has experience of guide-running.
And that’s how, on a baking hot morning, Dave Williams had a taste of trail-running in the heart of Lakeland mountain country, with the man who had read the parkrun book to him. He and Wayne ran (and, wisely, sometimes walked) up the side of Church Beck, past the Coppermines Youth Hostel, and into the wilderness of Boulder Valley.
He saw nothing of it, of course, but heard the beck and the waterfalls and the cry of the buzzard overhead. He heard – from the best of all guides – the history of copper-mining in the area, and how in recent times water-power has been harnessed to create electricity, and how the top fell-runners come tumbling down these hillsides at break-neck speed.
For Dave it was a morning he’ll never forget. “I’m a road runner, I’m used to listening out for traffic, and being told where there’s a pavement step. I thought the hardest part would be the heat, and the steepness of the hills, but it was the terrain under foot that was the toughest.”
Dave told Wayne: “‘You can take what you’re given, and survive, and be happy with that, or you can work at it. There are blind lawyers and doctors. Don’t let it be a barrier.”
For Wayne it was a humbling experience. “It’s amazing to be trusted to guide someone with a visual impairment, and presents all sorts of challenges that I wouldn’t normally think of. There’s a constant commentary to ensure that Dave didn’t trip or stumble, as well as making sure he didn’t get branches in his face. It’s awesome to be able to try and describe our scenery to someone, in an appropriate richness, to enable them to ‘see’ through words. It’s also interesting to learn about vertigo from the perception of a person who can’t see the drop. It presented me with equal amounts of joy, terror and glee to have the responsibility of guiding Dave today, and it was topped off by being introduced to his family, and sharing a paddle in Coniston after our run.”
And for this experience, for this meeting, for this connection: the power of parkrun. It really does change lives.
The most important part of any book is the cover. No matter how terrifying the thriller, how marvellous the mystery, the reader has to be invited in first of all.
A new book about the world’s favourite Saturday morning pastime, parkrun, has just been published and the cover photo is the talk of the running world.
It’s a striking picture, loosely based on the famous evolution of mankind image, featuring four runners on a beach below sand-dunes.
But look again. There’s actually just two runners, twice, husband and wife team Laura and Dave McGuigan close to the route of one of their favourite parkruns at Woolacombe Dunes in Devon.
And the photographer is…Laura.
She’s developed a style that she calls bespoke movement imagery, which combines multi-exposure and chronophotography techniques, and has applied it so far to a series of joyfully presented books about not just running but moving, happily, freely and playfully.
Laura and Dave have developed a philosophy of living based on everyday adventure, and have been encouraging us all to revert to more child-like ways of enjoying the outdoors.
They call it an adventure into the world of natural human movement, encouraging readers to “marvel at the sense of joy and contentment you can attain simply by moving your body in the ways it was made to move, in settings it was made to move in”.
There’s a new website, http://everydayadventurous.com/ through which Laura and Dave aim to encourage anyone who loves to spend time moving around outdoors in nature to rethink and redesign their lives, so they can get out more and make the absolute most of it.
Laura is currently putting the finishing touches to a series of video tutorials to show others how to make pictures like hers and she’ll be inviting people to send in their own photos from which she will create bespoke works of movement art just for them.
Meanwhile, the four books she and Dave producedin the Adventures For Adults serieshave been combined intoMove Forever to provide an entire year of guided movement adventures. There’s more than 250 images to inspire readers to get out and get moving more adventurously; all you’ll need to do, they say, is keep the momentum going once you’re out there.
The cover for How parkrun changed our lives was a collaborative effort, beginning with an idea from David Burnip, the son of the book’s author Eileen Jones. His picture was used as the basis for Laura’s photo, which in turn was created into the stunning book cover by designer Ellen Longhorn.
Two veteran runners, both in their eighties, were the star attraction at Fell Foot Park for the first anniversary of the weekly parkrun.
John Nettleton and Conrad Slater were awarded jointly the Race Directors’ Shield which will be presented annually to the most supportive volunteer.
The award was made as more than 200 runners lined up for the birthday event at the foot of Windermere which is hailed on the parkrun circuit as the most scenic in England.
Joining in the celebrations were the Dalton Brass Band playing by the lakeshore as the runners came in to the finish. And among them was trombonist Stuart Wallace who ran the parkrun first before joining his colleagues in the band.
There was a party atmosphere with cake for all the finishers sliced by staff from the National Trust who helped set up the event.
Parkrun is a worldwide association of free timed 5k runs which start in England at 9am in parks throughout the country.
Pictured are Conrad Slater and John Nettleton with race directors Cecilia Flint, David McGuigan, Ron Eadington and Karen White.
Below: Stuart Wallace, playing trombone in the brass band still wearing his running shoes.