Parkruns speeding along just nicely in Buffalo City as it marks a milestone

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By DDC –

The past weekend saw parkrun international celebrate 13 years of the phenomenon that started with just 13 runners in Bushy Park, London in 2004.

Bruce Fordyce speaks to runners ahead of East London’s first Park Run race held in Nahoon . Picture ALAN EASON

In two weekends time, on October 21, the 121st South African parkrun, the long-awaited Komani (Queenstown) parkrun, will be launched at the local golf club. The community have been exceptionally patient and are all geared up for a large turnout at the launch, including many of the renowned parkrun tourists.

This will be the Eastern Cape’s 15th such event, the biggest of which, given that Nahoon Point is still not up and running, is PE Hobie Beach, with more than 18000 registered folk who run or walk that weekly 5km route on the beach.

The Eastern Cape has well in excess of 48000 members and will hit 50000 well before the year-end. There is one more parkrun being added before then, which will be in the holiday resort town of Port Alfred and is expected to rival the successful launch of Jefferies Bay just eight weekends ago.

Buffalo City is looking at two new parkruns for the early part of 2018 and is currently sitting on over 22000 registrations. A sporting fraternity almost certainly larger than any other.

The city was the first one outside the borders of Gauteng to host a parkrun, when Nahoon Point became the fourth in South Africa, and was followed five months later by Sunrise-on-Sea, which was the seventh in the land, and where 251 such events have now taken place.

Others include Kidds Beach, King William’s Town and Three Silos.

Prominent East Londoner and former Selborne College headmaster, Sammy Gunn, who was also a highly effective cross-country and athletics coach during his days at Queen’s College, is now a regular parkrunner with 78 runs behind his name. He said after the event at Sunrise this past weekend that: “parkrun is undoubtedly the best thing that has ever happened to this country”. Those are meaningful words from a man who does not go around handing our compliments for no reason.

Internationally, parkrun is the biggest running event in the world, with more than 200000 participating runners every single week across 1200-plus events.

The amazing part of parkrun is that it remains a free event across the world, while the tradition of handing out milestone shirts for those who complete 50, 100, 250 and 500 parkruns continues. Just last week the international body confirmed that despite the challenges of supporting so huge an operation these aspects would never change.

Bruce Fordyce, the nine times winner of the Comrades Marathon, who is CEO of parkrun South Africa, often marvels at the huge growth in this country, with only the United Kingdom bigger in terms of numbers.

South Africa has seven parkruns in the top 10 internationally. Bushy Park remains top, for now, with 38500, followed by Botanical Gardens in Pretoria, on 34000, North Beach, Durban on 32000, Rietvlei, Johannesburg South on 29000, Modderfontein, 29000, Delta Park (SA’s first) 28000 and Root 44, Stellenbosch 26000. Thereafter follows Edinburgh, Scotland; Cardiff in Wales and Marlay in Ireland.

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