A group of running enthusiasts have celebrated a successful year since they brought the parkrun revolution to Wigan.
In the last few years, parkruns have become a popular weekend hobby for many attracted by the simplicity of a group of people of all abilities meeting in a park and going for a 5k run.
But it wasn’t until October 31, 2015, that a parkrun was set up at Haigh Hall by Jenna Taylor and a group of willing but inexperienced volunteers.
She said: “I decided to look into setting up a parkrun in Wigan because running changed my life, and parkrun was part of that.
“Having almost tipped the scales at 19st, I started to lose weight, firstly by healthy eating, then walking which progressed to running. At that time I was introduced to parkrun, I met many friends, gained confidence in myself, and had experiences which you don’t get from a sofa.
“I contacted parkrun, wanting to know the process of how we go about getting a parkrun in Wigan – Bolton, Warrington, St Helens and Leigh all have one.
I decided to look into setting up a parkrun in Wigan because running changed my life, and parkrun was part of thatJenna Taylor
“I thought Wigan is getting into this running lark, we have quite a good sized 10k event staged in our town now, so it makes perfect sense to have a parkrun, have a place where beginners can go on a weekly basis, to build themselves up. Likewise seasoned runners can come along, push themselves each week to be better, or incorporate the run into a longer run or a training plan.
“That’s the joy of parkrun, we welcome everyone, and I wanted that welcoming family to be accessible to the community in which I live.”
The free event now attracts between 80 and 90 runners every Saturday at 9am, but for its birthday event last weekend, more than 141 runners turned up.
Volunteer Sarah Edwards said: “It was a fantastic morning, we had around 50 runners more than usual. I had decorated the start and finish with balloons and bunting and sent the marshals out with flags to wave.
“Lots of people donated cakes and treats, as well as what we had made, so there was plenty more for afterwards.
“We did think the rain might have put people of hanging around or even coming along at all but it didn’t seem to bother anyone.
“Even with the rain people hung around for cake and a chat which is what we wanted to happen.”
The event was also attended by Wigan MP Lisa Nandy and parkrun ambassador Paolo Dale.
The first ever parkrun event was in Bushy Park, Teddington, near London, when 13 intrepid parkrunners got together on October 2, 2004. It took nearly two years before parkrun spread beyond Bushy. Wimbledon was the chosen venue and organisers had to prove they could manage more than a single event at a time.
To begin with all results were collated on paper and the finish tokens were washers from the local hardware store! But eventually the parkrun registration and barcode result system was born.
The parkrun community is growing all the time – but it’s all still based on the simple, basic principles formed from the start: weekly, free, 5km, for everyone, forever.