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“I would never have run if I hadn’t started at Parkrun.” – The event that Cheltenham runners miss dearly

It’s been 345 days since Cheltenham runners took to Pittville Park to take part in the weekly parkrun event.

The event held every Saturday at 9am once played host to over 700 Cheltenham residents but now runners are left wondering over its return due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With the last race taking place on 14 March 2020, the sense of community and togetherness created by the event is certainly missed.

We caught up with runner and frequent parkrun attendee Debbie Kirkham to discuss the event’s importance, her personal journey with running and more:

“It’s massively missed! I started going because I wasn’t very good at running. It was the first time I had done it and Janine [Debbie’s sister and volunteer at parkrun] made me go. The community spirit and the fact that it doesn’t matter how fast you go or if you walk was great. There’s real encouragement there.”

“It’s annoying that it’s not happened since but I’ve managed to carry on. I go off on my own now, which I never ever thought I’d be able to do. 

Debbie Kirkham

As we approach a year without parkrun, outdoor running has had a resurgence with people unable to go to gyms or play organised sports.

As reported by Fortune, running brand Hoka saw a rise in sales during the first three months of 2020, up 52% year over year.

This has left Debbie feeling encouraged that when parkrun eventually return, people won’t need to be asked twice to get involved:

“I think people will want to get back out there and do it especially with the weather getting better. I think there will be a surge of people interested in parkrun.

“I think a lot of people that haven’t done it before will start and I don’t think they’ll have any trouble in getting people motivated to go back to it. Actually, there’s so many more people out running as that’s all there is to do.

“It’s much more difficult to just go out on your own. There’s nobody encouraging you and spurring you on. It was really motivating and encouraging especially for people like me who hadn’t done it before and felt quite embarrassed – I was probably one of the last to start with!”

“I would never have run if I hadn’t started at parkrun. I wouldn’t have bothered doing it. I’ve tried to run three times a week since.”

Since it’s arrival at Pittville Park in 2013, the event has gone from strength to strength with regular volunteers and a growing number of runners taking part.

With that being said, it’s importance in the community is undeniable:

“I think so, a lot of people knew each other and became friends. I know there were a bank of volunteers that would go for coffee after. People miss it massively. Let’s hope it can be open again soon.”

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