Anyone walking their dog or taking an early morning stroll through Little Stoke Park shortly after 9am on Sunday 7th October may have been surprised to see scores of children dressed as cartoon characters running enthusiastically around the perimeter of the park. It’s not exactly the usual time of day to host a birthday party, but this wasn’t a child’s party, rather, it was a special celebration to mark Little Stoke Junior Parkrun’s 200th event.
Although the venue’s main weekly 5km parkrun event folded in 2016 after the parish council withdrew permission for free use of the park (amid widespread criticism from the running community both locally and nationally), a 2km junior parkrun continues to be staged at 9am every Sunday, attracting an average of 60 youngsters in the 4 to 14 year-old age range.
Children taking part in the milestone event were given the option of completing it in fancy dress and were treated to a specially prepared 200th birthday cake baked by one of the volunteer organisers.
Junior parkrun is open to all and taking part is very straightforward: having signed up for free on the parkrun website and printed their personal barcode, runners turn up at Little Stoke Park shortly before 9am on Sunday, listen to the run briefing, take part in a short, fun warm-up routine, run a lap and a bit of the park, then have their barcode and finish token scanned so that the results can be processed and published later.
There are those who come to achieve a new personal best or a new milestone (and have a free wristband awarded for running the equivalent of a half, full or ultra-marathon). Then there are those who love coming for social reasons – new friendships are formed and kids run together, play in the park and spend more time with one another outside of the Sunday run.
One participant, Ruby, aged 11, said: “I like going to junior parkrun because it’s fun and it keeps you fit and healthy.” So far, she has taken part in 45 junior and 11 standard parkruns and volunteered on eight occasions.
Parkrun is based on two main principles. It’s inclusive, so you are welcome to come no matter what your background or abilities are – and you will never be the last one to finish – the tail walker is always at the end! It’s also free of charge, so it costs you nothing to register, run or to get the time and position listed. The milestone wristbands may act as encouragement for the runners to gain some consistency and form healthy active lifestyles – and – you guessed it – they come free of charge as well! So why not round up your family and come to Little Stoke Park on Sunday just before 9am?
This article originally appeared in the November 2018 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal news magazine (on pages 4 & 5). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.