Parkrun gains traction

Invercargill's weekly Parkrun instigator Liz Henry.

RACING is running but running is not necessarily racing.

Every Saturday, people go for a run in their local park. Few race – most run, or jog, or plod, or walk.

The idea of running for fun or health without the pressure of racing is the idea of Parkrun, a worldwide phenomenon which Invercargill has embraced.

Every Saturday morning, up to 150 runners follow a 5km course around Queens Park, with all receiving a time (not so much as a measure of speed, more often a measure of progress from week to week).

All thanks largely to Invercargill lawyer Liz Henry.

Henry attributes the success of the Invercargill Parkrun to the many volunteers who turn out every Saturday morning, but she has been the driving force.

Her endeavours have made her one of the finalists for Administrator of the Year in the Southland Sports Awards.

The finalist honour is recognition of her contribution to Parkrun and confirmation it is very much part of Southland’s sporting calendar and, Henry says, “the contribution of all the volunteers every week”.

It started five years ago with a trip to Australia’s Gold Coast.

“I was visiting my sister who lived there, and she made me go to the local Parkrun (Main Beach). I came last, but when I came through there were 365 people waiting for me to finish and clapping me through.

“I was a bit embarrassed but also thought it was pretty cool.

“Later that year I went to Adelaide for a cousin’s wedding and we all did Parkrun (Torrens). It was a good way for everyone to get together and do something before the wedding.”

She then got thinking about setting one up in Invercargill.

“To set up a course, you need to get a local team around you, design and measure the course and complete a health and safety assessment,” she said.

“The course then goes to be approved by Parkrun HQ (in the United Kingdom). Once approved, a kit is provided to each event.”

It took eight months to get a course finally sorted and it was just about to go live when the Invercargill City Council dug up a key part of the course for drainage.

“So we had to wait another seven months for work to be completed.”

Parkrun is a stress relief, not just for the runners but for her also, Henry said.

“I’m a big believer that positive thinking helps with stress management.

“It’s the one event in my week where I can guarantee a week-on-week experience of positive people. I use Parkrun each week to boost my positive energy stores. It re-energises me when there have been plenty of stresses to deal with at work and I love seeing our community support each other in a positive and supportive way.”

Juggling a busy law practice and a family (a 10-year-old, 7-year-old and husband Ross) with demands of Parkrun may seem daunting, but not to Henry.

“The family is very supportive (the odd cold morning has proven a challenge with the kids not wanting to get up) but Ross and the kids are amazing at event setup and know all the tricks to help with events each week.”