Monday, February 18, 2013
It all began with a straggle of self-conscious joggers attracting more than the odd quizzical glance on the seafront.
Nearly four years later, on a spring-like Saturday befitting a celebration, Gorleston’s Parkrun ‘family’ ran, jogged and walked the 200th 5km time trial to be staged on the scenic course of cliffs and promenade.
The special birthday attracted a record field of 180 participants in a free event which could aptly be called the human race.
For outnumbering the lean and speedy club runners were dads with daughters, mums with dogs, silver-haired pensioners and a posse of children as young as 10.
In keeping with the quirky humour of the event, some marked the landmark by sporting odd socks and even odd trainers.
Dave Kelf, 66, one of a loyal band of 10 volunteers who organise the event, said: “We only had 10 runners the first time and now we regularly attract more than 100.
“We were the 12th Parkrun to start in the country and the first in Norfolk. Now there are about 160 nationally and six or seven in the county.”
Mr Kelf, of Cliff Hill, Gorleston, a runner himself for more than 50 years, said the age profile in races had grown progressively older in recent decades - Parkrun had changed all that by attracting a new, young generation to the sport.
Fellow volunteer Ken Overy said: “When it started I was sceptical people would be prepared to give the commitment every week to make it last, but I could not have been more wrong.”
Now the runners and spectators brought the seafront and cafes to life every Saturday morning whatever the time of year.
Ken’s son Nick, 45, who lives in nearby Bradwell, has the distinction of having completed the most Gorleston Parkruns - and yet he only started as a way of encouraging his 10-year-old son Sid to get fit.
He said: “I have done it 196 times and won it once in a time of 19min 16sec. I have managed to lose 2st and it even prompted me to try to get in the London Marathon this year.”
Crossing the line first in a time of 17min 11sec was Mark Thompson, 27, of Caister.
Although himself a keen member of Great Yarmouth Road Runners, he said the appeal of Parkrun was the way it encouraged community participation.
Bob Arnell, 69, of Oulton Broad, has chalked up more than 150 Parkruns including one in London’s Bushy Park where the first Parkrun was held in 2004.
Now an international phenomenon, with events in countries as far afield as Afghanistan and Australia, he confessed that he wished it had been around when he was younger.
He said: “Ladies have come along to lose weight and run around with me.
“They succeeded in losing their weight but two years on they are still running.”