PUBLISHED: 16:53 26 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 26 April 2019
Phil Henry, left, watches on as runners prepare to start the first Lingwood parkrun
Keen runner Phil Henry, below, has lived in Lingwood for 30 years. After four years of being involved in parkruns – the free weekly timed 5k that has taken the nation by storm – he decided to set one up in his own village. He told Nick Richards how he went about it
For some time I had been involved at Brundall parkrun, from being part of the core team who established it in 2015, to taking over as event director in 2017. This weekly activity became a great passion of mine. I have made many great friends through it and was proud to see it develop into the great community event it has become.
Last May there were a few initial conversations about creating a brand new parkrun in the village of Lingwood, which has been my home since 1989, I simply had to get involved so I got on the case and investigated further.
On Your Marks…
The journey started during the long hot summer of 2018 with a phone call to Lingwood Village Hall, where it was to be held, and this was quickly followed by a visit to meet the chairman of the Village Hall committee, Ben Bethell and Kerry Sturman, who works in the office at the hall.
My initial concerns about a multi-lap parkrun being held on a sports field were allayed when I discovered that the Village Hall committee also owned the field behind it, which had a raised bank on the outer edge and I immediately envisaged a winding cross country course through it with use being made of the bank.
I next made contact with Andrew Lane, the parkrun ambassador for the East of England and he appointed an event support ambassador – Trevor Rawson – to support and advise on the process to activate a new parkrun.
In addition to a lot of drive and determination the requirements to create a new parkrun are:
n Permission from the landowner
n Funding of £3,000 towards the set up costs
n An event director (me) supported by a core team to organise things.
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I quickly set about contacting some of my running friends in the area and a few warm leads from Ben identified some others and we soon had an enthusiastic team in place and held our first meeting in July.
For fundraising, Dan Goodwin at Broadland District Council was great in advising on how and where to apply for grants and me and Ben also approached the local parish council to ask for funding towards the set up costs.
With the Village Hall trustees contributing towards the set up costs and granting permission for parkrun to be held on their land we had everything we needed to bring parkrun to Lingwood.
There was still the matter of the course to create and a number of tentative designs were put forward with the core team before we settled on one that made best use of the available space. I still have vivid memories of wading waist deep through nettles and thistles with Dan and Trevor and a measuring wheel last autumn as we set about working out where the new track would go.
Fortunately Ben has some very useful contacts and one of them did a remarkable job of making the initial cut of the course with a tractor and some sharp blades after being given a basic explanation of where it was to go.
Things quietened down towards the end of 2018, but the money from various grants began to roll in and we got the news we wanted with approval from parkrun HQ and an inaugural date of March 2.
During January, Trevor and I did the official course measure, I submitted the information required for the Lingwood parkrun website and completed the risk assessment and emergency templates. We planned to hold a trial event a couple of weeks before our launch, but there was still the need to flatten out some of the worst lumps and bumps on the course to make it safe. Ben and his father borrowed a roller and we rounded up a group to help shovel and spread chippings on the course early on one cold and wet Sunday morning in February. Our trial event was attended by 35 runners and volunteers and the feedback afterwards was positive and helped us make a few tweaks before our launch.
It was strange in the weeks before we opened to keep the launch quiet to avoid the risk of being swamped by runners desperate to add an inaugural event to their parkrun CV, which is in line with parkrun UK policy. I was a little apprehensive that not many would turn up, but I need not have worried as 141 runners helped to get things off to a great start. We also had the happy coincidence of our first ever first finisher (Ryan Lingwood) having the same surname as our event!
I’m extremely proud of my association with parkrun and have also signed up to be an Event Support Ambassador, but it is unlikely that anything will ever top the feeling of launching a new parkrun where I live. If you are reading this and thinking how nice it would be for somebody to create a new parkrun where you live then my advice to you is stop waiting and be the person to make it happen!
Parkruns are free weekly timed 5k events that take place on Saturday mornings across the country at 9am. There are 15 in Norfolk. Find your nearest one at www.parkrun.org.uk
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