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Parkrun

Parkrun: the community changing lives one step at a time

Maggie Gray | November 2020

It’s the fitness phenomenon that has taken the world by storm, connecting communities across the globe.

Parkrun’s concept is simple: turn up, walk or run five kilometres, and join the movement.

It’s a concept that caught the eye of young Australian Tim Oberg, who, whilst living in London, made it his mission to bring the event down under. “I discovered parkrun in my last year living in London. I took my dog along and I remember thinking – this thing’s got legs – literally!”

“I got in touch with the founder of parkrun, and we met up in a café to discuss the possibility of bringing the event to Australia.

“We decided we wanted to launch parkrun somewhere in Australia that had wide open spaces, long sandy beaches, trails, and mountains to run through. The Gold Coast ticked all of these boxes.

“On top of that, after ten years of living in London, I was looking for a lifestyle change. I wanted to live near the beach and live somewhere really active and healthy. The Gold Coast was the perfect fit.”

In 2011, Tim became the founder and CEO of parkrun Australia, and launched the event at Main Beach on the Gold Coast – the first parkrun location in the southern hemisphere.

Today, there are 406 parkrun locations across Australia, nine of which are based on the Gold Coast.

“No matter which parkrun you do here on the Gold Coast, they’re all unique, they’re all at beautiful locations, and they all have fantastic vibrant communities,” says Tim.

Over time, the global parkrun community has changed the lives of people around the globe, and for Gold Coaster Libby Maxwell – it’s a community that saved her life.

“When I was in my early twenties, I suffered a bad back injury which meant I was in and out of hospital and rehabilitation for years,” says Libby.

“I felt like I’d lost control of so many aspects of my life – at one point I couldn’t even dress myself. The only thing I had control over was what I ticked on the hospital menu to eat each day.”

Over the next few years, Libby found herself caught in the grip of a debilitating eating disorder.

Struggling to come to terms with being told what couldn’t be achieved due to her illness, Libby made the bold decision to move her life from Bendigo in Victoria, to Queensland’s Gold Coast.

“I was sick of people telling me what I couldn’t do due to my illness, so I moved to the Gold Coast despite not knowing a single person,” says Libby.

“One day in 2011, I noticed a leaflet announcing the launch of parkrun on the Gold Coast.

“I didn’t know anything about it, but figured athletes are usually very thin, so I’ll fit right in – no one will notice me, and no one will tell me I can’t do it.

“I turned up to the event without having registered and walked the course. When I got home, I felt this overwhelming sense of achievement.

“I don’t know if it’s because I’d completed a physical activity or because I’d achieved my goal of blending in – either way, I couldn’t wait to go back.“Each week, I turned up and my confidence grew. People started talking to me and before I knew it I was planning what I would have for breakfast before parkrun, so that I could improve my time.

“I’ll never forget the first time I ran the course without stopping. It was the best day of my life.”

Gold Coast parkrun takes place every Saturday across nine different locations. The free event prides itself on inclusivity and encourages people of all ages, abilities and fitness levels to take part.

Parkrun events are made possible by the large number of volunteers who dedicate their time to preparing courses, managing timing and coordinating participants on event days.

As an event director of Mudgeeraba parkrun – Libby is responsible for managing the course and overseeing the volunteers on the event day.

“One of the best things about parkrun is that you don’t have to be a runner or a walker to be a part of it,” says Libby.

“There are a lot of people who come each week just to fill the volunteer roles – it’s the sort of event that you feel included in whether you’re running or not. It’s all about being part of a community.

“Parkrun didn’t just change my life, it saved my life.”

With more than 2,000 locations, across 22 countries and 5 continents, parkrun provides people of all ages and abilities with a routine, a welcoming community and in some instances – a new lease on life.

Parkrun registration is free and only needs to be completed once. Once registered, parkrunners can take part in any event at any location around the world.

Gold Coast weekly parkruns are held every Saturday morning at:

  • MAIN BEACH: Hollindale Park, Seaworld Drive
  • KIRRA: Giltrap Park, Musgrave Street (meet in the beachfront park opposite Kirra SLSC)
  • UPPER COOMERA: Tallowwood Park, Rose Valley Drive
  • VARSITY LAKES: Sports House, Christine Avenue
  • MUDGEERABA: Darcy Doyle Park, Somerset Drive
  • BROADBEACH WATERS: Gold Coast PCYC, Monaco Street
  • SURFERS PARADISE: Evandale Parklands, 135 Bundall Road (meet near lake)
  • PARADISE POINT:  Paradise Point Parklands, The Esplanade
  • PIMPAMA: Gainsborough Greens, Aquila Park

For more information on parkrun and to register, visit:  https://www.parkrun.com.au/

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