05:04PM, Wednesday 28 July 2021
Runners limbering up for the first parkrun event in Maidenhead since March 2020 on Saturday. Photo by Kate Sayers.
Maidenhead parkrun returned to Braywick Park at the weekend after a 16-month hiatus due to the COVID pandemic.
A total of 252 runners were in Braywick Road on Saturday for the first event since the coronavirus crisis struck.
This included regular runners, 32 first-timers to Maidenhead and 13 participants taking part in their very first parkrun.
Parkruns are free, weekly events which take part in towns across the UK, which see runners – and walkers – visit their local park and complete a five kilometre distance at their own pace.
“It was really good to have everybody back,” said StJohn Ford, an event director for the Maidenhead parkrun.
“We had a bit of a false start back in June when the Government delayed the lockdown, so there was definitely a buzz around, everybody was just really happy to be back.
“For a lot of the people, it makes their week.”
StJohn added that 252 runners was slightly below the pre-COVID average but he said this was on-par with other events.
“I guess this is the first mass event that a lot of these people have done outside of lockdown,” he added. “I think there is still that caution, despite us being outside, and we have a few [safety] things in place.”
StJohn urged others thinking about taking part in Maidenhead’s parkrun to have a go, adding it is more than ‘just a group of runners running round a park’.
“We have been trying to build more of a community than a run,” he said. “A lot of the older people have probably only seen immediate family, so it’s about getting back out and seeing the faces that they have known for the last five or six years.
“It is more of a community event than a race.” For one runner on Saturday, the return of parkrun put an end to a long wait for a key milestone.
Tony Merritt has been taking part in the event since 2010 but as the lockdown hit in March, he was stuck on 499 runs completed.
But with the return of parkrun last week, Tony was able to hit 500 and treat himself to a new blue t-shirt to mark the occasion.
“That is a massive milestone,” StJohn said. “I think there is just over 100 people who have hit that.
“Tony had the longest wait in history.
“If you think that we only run on Saturday’s, you can really only squeeze in 50 parkruns a year, so he has run fairly consistently for the last 10 years.”
Visit www.parkrun.org.uk/maidenhead for more information on the town’s parkrun.
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