If you’ve been along for the ride for a while now, you will have heard me talk about parkrun. If you don’t know what parkrun is all about, here is my first post about it from way back when!
In March 2021 I put my hand up to become a parkrun Event Ambassador (EA) for South Australia. Between us we ‘look after’ all the parkruns in the state. I say ‘look after’ because mostly it’s the Event Directors (EDs) who look after the events, we are their ‘go-to’ person if they have any issues. It seemed like an ideal role for me because I love being a tourist so it gives me another reason to travel around to different parkruns (Indeed my first trip to Port Augusta parkrun, one of ‘my’ events, was the inspiration to try to become a ‘Statesman’ once again. Statesman means you have done all the parkruns in a state.)
One of the things that most appealed to me about the role was the opportunity to help set up new parkruns. Now I’d attended a lot of launches (something that is frowned upon these days – the approach now being that launches are not promoted, rather ‘soft launches’) but I’d never really seen what goes into starting up a new parkrun. So I was pretty excited about that prospect!
Within a few weeks of becoming an EA, I was offered the opportunity to help set up a new parkrun in Jamestown. I’d never been there before but it was approximately 3 hours away from home. The thing that sealed the deal for me was that it’s about an hour from Clare, and at the time Clare was one of ‘my’ events. So it made sense, and I immediately said yes!
The co-EDs, Emma and Rosie, and I met via Zoom in April to discuss the process and get to ‘meet’ each other. They had a great story behind how they came to be starting a parkrun in their community. They were involved with the Mid North Suicide Prevention Network and were approaching it primarily as a mental health initiative. Neither of them had ever done a parkrun! I thought this was a really great way to get involved in parkrun, and being such a community minded team, they already had a large core of volunteers ready to get involved – often that’s the hardest bit! At this stage pretty much the only thing they didn’t have (other than funding) was a course – usually that’s the first thing that prospective event teams come up with!
In May they had worked out a course and we organised a time for me to come out in June to look at and measure the course. It would be my first time measuring a course with a wheel – wow, that’s a tedious process!
I went and ran Clare parkrun in the morning and then motored up to Jamestown Golf Course. What I hadn’t realised before I got there was that the course was actually ON the golf course. I’d run plenty of courses that were adjacent to golf courses but this one was actually ON the golf course! This would indeed be a unique parkrun! (Fortunately the golf club is incredibly supportive, and because the golfers don’t start until midday, parkrun and golf can co-exist nicely!)
I was a bit unsure if the course would be easy enough to follow but I loved everything about it! It was quite green and lush at the time, I remember my socks getting very wet, I hadn’t brought spares so I had to then drive the 3 hours back to Adelaide in wet socks! Won’t do that again!
We had another Zoom in November and things had progressed. Emma and Rosie organised to go to Clare to meet the team there and run the parkrun to see what it was all about!
The funding was confirmed and the paperwork completed in December and dates organised for 2 trials and the launch. The first trial was just to test out the course, so I didn’t go up for that one, but from what I’m told it went well. The second trial was the Sunday before launch date which I did attend – it was my first time running the course and I did make a bit of a navigational error but on discussion with the EDs afterwards we worked out how to mark it better on launch day. Also it was really hot and I was totally inappropriately dressed – I apologised to all the runners/walkers/volunteers for the heat as it was because of me that they put the trial at 10am, not the traditional 8am, which would have been a lot cooler! 38 runners/walkers attended the trial which was more than expected. Initially I only put 25 finish tokens on the holder (we had 300 tokens but probably – hopefully – will never need that many!) but as the crowd built up I kept adding more, in the end I put 50 on there and that was plenty. It was really cool to open the box with all the brand new kit in it – feels like the unboxing should have been marked with a YouTube or TikTok video!
I was not about to drive 3 hours for an 8am start on launch day (although there was a group who drove 4 hours on the morning of the launch – now that’s dedication) so I drove up the day before, stopping as you do in the Clare Valley for a wine tasting at the first winery in the region (and learned that Clare Valley is the birthplace of the screw cap!) and staying at Belalie Wines B&B with a very friendly cat called Simon who wanted to come home with me!
I met Emma at the golf course and we walked the course, putting some flagging tape on some trees to make the course a bit clearer. She’d put some lines on the ground earlier to point people in the right direction. After the walk through I was confident I’d be able to follow the course on the day!
We then had dinner at one of the local pubs (a very nice cheeseless vegetarian pizza – vegan food is not very common in these parts but I was very happy with what I had!) and on the way home I went to check out the wind farm – so photogenic at sunset!
Launch day turned out to be a very beautiful day, I went for a touristy walk around the town centre (actually it was a bit cold at that stage, my fingers were numb and I only had warm weather running gear with me!) before heading to the golf course at 7:30 where the crowd was already building.
We had tried very hard to keep the launch quiet (other than among the local community, who we WANTED to encourage!) but of course the website was live on Friday and the die-hard tourists check the events map every week for new events popping up, so we knew there would be some tourists. Emma thought we might have about 70 people at the launch. We were hoping most of those would be locals (because they are the ones who will be there week in, week out!) The local footy club had a big contingent because the coach told them if they get 25 of them out to parkrun, they won’t have training on Tuesday! I think they were just short of this number but the coach promised an easier session as a bit of a compromise!
I managed to follow the course OK this time – the markers worked a treat! I then jumped in and helped with barcode scanning, something I can do in my sleep after doing it so many times while injured! We got a bit excited because as time went on we realised we might actually crack 100! I think it was probably a little bit hectic with the early finishers – there were a LOT of fast guys out there – but after I finished the scanning seemed to go pretty smoothly!
Eventually the tail walker came in – participant no. 102 – and we made our way up the hill to the club house, where there was a coffee van and the local Apex club were doing bacon and eggs – pleasingly a lot of people were still hanging around! Thanks to the girl (I can’t remember her name) who bought me a coffee – much appreciated!
We had a few technical issues with the results – after everyone left Emma, Rosie and I went off to sort it out as best we could, and eventually just before midday we got the results in – and we all agreed the launch was a huge success!
I was a bit blown away when they presented me with a gift to thank me for my time, blown away AND hugely appreciative – but really all the work was done by them – I see parkrun as their ‘baby’ and maybe I’m the godmother? (even that is probably giving me too much credit!)
This is and will continue to be a unique and fantastic event for the community and also a great one for the tourists – I don’t know of any other parkruns in Australia that are entirely on golf courses! It’s certainly the only one in SA! I would highly recommend a trip and I look forward to seeing this event grow and coming back to visit again soon!