It’s been a big year for us here at Renton parkrun! We held four trial runs, launched our first ever event on November 18th with 81 finishers, and we’ve since seen total registrations climb to 276. Each week we meet new people, see strangers turn into friends, pet a few friendly dogs, and watch children experience the joy of exercise. Friends come for a walk and a talk, fathers run with strollers, whole families walk or jog together, tourists sample our beautiful Renton park spaces, and our volunteers experience the joy of giving back to their community. There’s so much to love about parkrun.
In my heart, every week at Renton parkrun is special but I have to say this week might have broke the mold.
New Year’s Day is a special day for us around the globe. First, because it one of only two events we are allowed to host parkrun on a non-Saturday, and second because not every event holds a NYD run. In fact, of the 15 events in the US, only 5 actually went ahead on January 1st due to some uncharacteristically cold weather in the Midwest and East Coast. Just two days earlier in Eagan, MN, the team called off their December 30th event because the temperature with windchill was a shocking -37 degrees! We are so thankful that of our 8 parkrun events, we’ve only had 1 day with rain.
But it wasn’t just the dry weather or running on a Monday that made yesterday special; it was the collective joy of being outdoors, of doing something fun with our loved ones, and an optimism that is contagious every year on January 1st.
Of our 57 runners yesterday, 22 were joining us for the first time. Some of them were tourists like Kathryn Donkersley who was visiting from London where she is an avid parkrunner with 134 parkruns under her belt. After the run, Kathryn came up to me and said, “I would fly 10 hours all over again just to come back to this parkrun! It’s the best parkrun I’ve ever been to!” My heart might have grown two sizes.
There were also first-timer families like the Koszegi’s who brought their three kids with them. Later that day, Kathy left a review on our Facebook page and our hearts grew even more: “My family and I attended our first Renton parkrun today and it was a great experience! The volunteers were so friendly and helpful for the first timers and I felt welcomed by everyone. The course is well marked, flat, paved and has a nice gravel shoulder. The run was also very kid-friendly. What I loved most about the run was how supportive the other participants were! There were many high-fives and words of encouragement all around. This run is great for new and experienced runners/walkers alike. We will definitely participate in more Renton parkruns. Thank you for bringing this to our area.”
And there were also first-timers with dogs like Tabatha Love. As she passed the halfway point, she said to our volunteers, “She’s only 8 months old and very afraid of hats! We’re working on it!” And though it took 4 or 5 false starts to get past the volunteers with their scary hats, Tabatha and her dog were doing great by the time they reached the finish line. (Even dogs can have new year resolutions!)
We also celebrated the new year with a few of our regulars like the Gano family. Ben and Oliver have been our regular smile igniters since our second trial run in September and we’re so glad they could convince their parents Cindy and Matt to join us too!
Second-timer Greg Nolten crossed the finish line with a bit of friendly competition at his side from Rae Taylor who drove 1.5 hours from Silverdale to be at parkrun yesterday morning. Later over breakfast, Rae said her favorite part of the course was the number of high fives she received and the constant encouragement she was given by every runner she passed on the two out and back legs of our course.
Though we didn’t catch their names, our back of the pack party crew were all smiles from start to finish, proving that you don’t have to go to bed early or be a serious runner to enjoy the outdoors on New Year’s Day morning.
And of course we can’t forget our incredible volunteer team who each week help new runners learn the finish line process. Yesterday Elizabeth Hoekstra helped keep us operational by manning the barcode scanner. Our community is truly a point of pride: over the course of our 8 events, we’ve had 38 people volunteer a total of 78 times. As an event director, I can’t thank you enough for your generosity!
Notably, we also recognized one of our community members who’s regularly attended parkrun and contributed as a volunteer. Nikol Gianopoulos has only missed one event since we started in November and lately she’s been attending with her lovely dog Leo. Nikol’s friendly smile and welcoming personality is exactly the kind of person who truly embodies and represents parkrun, and it was a great pleasure for me and Cathryn to present her with a certificate. You can find her photo on display as parkrunner of the month at Renton Peak Sports & Spine Physical Therapy.
There is so much to be thankful for in 2017 and judging by the first day of 2018, we’re going to do great things. I predict more friendships, more PBs, more registrations, and more coffee! Whether yesterday was your first parkrun or your hundredth, we are so glad you could join us and we welcome you to come back again and again.
Written by Kortney Thoma