A New parkrun in Middleton could be on the Horizon
The parkrun phenomenon started back in London in 2004 as a time trial exercise amongst a group of mates in Bushy Park. Fast forward 12 years and the free, weekly, 5k timed run has spread worldwide, reaching 2 million active runners in over 1,000 parks to date. Local parkrunner Mike Wallis wrote a great introductory article on the phenomenon for Run Leeds a while back.
To isolate the ‘thing’ that has underpinned the success of such a simple concept isn’t easy because it’s apparent that there are quite a few. Our kid Nicky Best had a good crack at exploring these with his article parkrun is the most important sporting event on the planet. For any readers yet to experience parkrun and still unconvinced I urge you to get down to one of 5 adult inner city parkruns in Leeds, or one of 4 junior ones, to make up your own mind.
In 2007 Woodhouse Moor Park became the home of the first parkrun in Leeds, and the first ever parkrun outside of London. Since the inception of Woodhouse Moor, with support of the likes of Sam Dooley – parkrun ambassador for Leeds, four other parks across the city have come on-board, hosting senior 5k park runs every Saturday, and junior 2k parkruns on Sundays.
The growth of parkrun in a Leeds has been gradual and steady. It was over three years – in 2011 – before the second parkrun at Roundhay Park was launched. But as demand grew, so did parkrun. Two years later Temple Newsam and Cross Flatts parkruns started, and in 2015 the youngest of the current parkruns commenced in Bramley. Today, over 1,400 runners and 100 plus volunteers regularly enjoy the benefits of parkrun in the city.
As this growth is predicted to continue, Sam believes it’s time to offer a new event.
My role is to support the development of new events. I help ensure that new events are in the right location, are safe, and have a core volunteer team that can deliver the event every week – whilst embracing the values that everyone has come to recognise as part of the parkrun experience.
There’s no rush, it’s important to get everything right before we launch, so that everyone gets to enjoy it from week one…
Adjusting the microscope to inner South Leeds there is no doubt that Middleton Park is not lacking visitor appeal; ancient woodland, a fishing lake, and a scheduled ancient monument mean the park is a place of variety in terms of landscape, history and potential in hosting new activities. A friends group of the park has been promoting this potential since 2003. Frances Jones of FoMP works closely with Leeds City Council’s Parks & Countryside Service who manage the park.
Frances from FoMP commented:
Our mission at Friends of Middleton Park is to promote this fantastic green space in the heart of south Leeds. It is one of the biggest and most varied parks in Leeds and offers scope for a wonderful parkrun. FoMP puts on a programme of free events every year to entice people into the park, so parkrun fits perfectly with what we do.
Since the council was awarded funding as part of Parks for People project, Middleton Park has gone from strength to strength. Thanks to the Friends of Middleton Park and others, the park now provides a wide variety of events. parkrun would be a welcome addition to the suite of activities in Middleton Park.
In most recent times the park has played host to regular physical activity events including GO TRI taster Duathlons and the yearly Running for Skye fundraiser – elements that are all contributing to a positive image of this beautiful park while influencing a new audience to give different sports a go.
Jeremy Hayes, founder of Cycle Pathway CIC has put the former golf club house to use, accommodating social running and cycling sessions every week. These are the seedlings emerging from a grander plan to transform the park into a hub of cycling and running.
Cycle Pathway has been working closely with Leeds City Council to develop an Urban Mountain Bike Trail Centre. With trails to suit all abilities and a re-vamped club house which will be the social heart of the facility, providing a friendly environment for all our activity groups to enjoy – even those just wanting to catch up over a coffee.
With the park showing a vigour for social and physical activities, a steering group are exploring whether a weekly parkrun in Middleton Park could be a possibility. Directing (that’s the official title) a parkrun is the key lead role, equally important are the volunteers that turn up week on week to fulfil essential parts including: marshalling, timing, token scanning and sorting, pacing and tail running.
You might be surprised (but shouldn’t) to know that you don’t have to be a keen runner or even be a runner at all to volunteer – a testament to the inclusivity of the event. If you are someone with drive, determination and good organisational skills then you might just be the person that can take this idea to the next level.