Landmark day for Endcliffe parkrun, Sheffield, as hundreds start year at 500th event

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We may have had a public health crisis with the Covid pandemic.

But the Endcliffe Park parkrun is still going strong, and this weekend, its army of runners and organisers had a landmark to celebrate – with what was the 500th running of the famous event, with some marking the new year with new fitness plans

First started in 2010, the Saturday morning tradition is now run by civil servant Louise Dale-Hughes. She hopes there will be another 500 in the future, and that he’s still involved.

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PICTURES: Hundreds show up to first Sheffield parkrun in 18 months
Runners get started at the 500th Endcliffe Park parkrunRunners get started at the 500th Endcliffe Park parkrun
Runners get started at the 500th Endcliffe Park parkrun

Louise was not there running that first event, but her running shoes were pounding its route by its seventh week.

Today, she herded around 500 people to the start line for the second run of 2022, before sending them off on the 5km course through the park.

The quickest of the runners had completed the run inside 17 minutes.

Others take longer, with a wide range of participants.

Rosa Bryant. Endcliffe Park marked its 500th parkrun.Rosa Bryant. Endcliffe Park marked its 500th parkrun.
Rosa Bryant. Endcliffe Park marked its 500th parkrun.

Louise said: “We started in July 2010, It’s number 500 today, and I never thought we’d get here, with Covid.

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"I started in about week seven, as a runner, and then I became a run director about four years into it, and then an event director just as we started going into Covid.”

When Covid started, she says people missed parkrun, and the organisers tried to keep interest with run reports. Many of those who took part instead did what they called ‘not a parkrun’ when they were allowed to be out on their own. But when the lockdown eased, the organisers were inundated with calls asking when it would re-start.

That finally happened in July 2021.

Deb Laurent. Endcliffe Park marked its 500th parkrun.Deb Laurent. Endcliffe Park marked its 500th parkrun.
Deb Laurent. Endcliffe Park marked its 500th parkrun.

Covid infections started rising recently with the arrival of the Omicron variant, but organisers insist that has not dampened enthusiasm among participants. Far more important a factor on numbers is the weather. They were down when heavy rain arrived in the city recently.

But the frosty conditions which turned the ground white on Saturday, crunching underfoot, did not put off the runners. But it did make it tough for the organisers, as equipment like flags, which had previously been wet from the last run, had frozen together.

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They encourage runners to keep a distance, but are aware of the official advice that being outdoors is one of the safest places in terms of transmission of the coronavirus.

Usually they try to keep the introductory talk before the run short, but this week’s was longer to mark the special event.

Covid reduced numbers at parkrun

Before Covid, at the start of the year, the runs would have attracted as many as 900 runners. But that has dropped down since the lockdowns.

"We’ve halved that, so I suppose that has been the effect of covid on us,” said Louise. “We’re now averaging about 400, less than that last week. But I think we’re going to peak today, partly because of the New Year, and also because I’d heard Millhouses parkrun was cancelled due to ice today. “

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She said she would love numbers to pick up, but the current figure was a comfortable number to manage. But everyone was welcome to come down, whatever their age.

“We have little ones – we have people pushing prams so we have babies here although obviously they’re not runners,” she said. “We have six and seven year olds. It goes up into people in their 70s.

"We have people who have had heart operations who have used the park run to get their fitness levels up and get themselves well again.

Runners taking part in the Endcliffe Park parkrun, which has marked its 500th runningRunners taking part in the Endcliffe Park parkrun, which has marked its 500th running
Runners taking part in the Endcliffe Park parkrun, which has marked its 500th running

"I love parkrun. It’s for people’s mental health, for their fitness. The number of friendships that have formed through this, and above all. I’ve gone on holiday with people through this, and I know others have too.

“We want a friendly atmosphere and lots of cheering.”

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In the last year, changes to the route have been made which mean it is entirely within Endcliffe Park. In the past, some stretches had been along Rustlings Road, which had upset some motorists.

Some of the local schools are involved in marshalling the events, through their Duke of Edinburgh awards. Louise says they have been vital and is grateful for their help.To volunteer email [email protected].

New year boost for parkrun

Will Woof, of Crookes, was taking part for the first time. He said: “It’s a new year, I’d like to get better at running. I’ve tried to do it on my own before, but I much prefer it with a community atmosphere.” He said his mum had done parkrun in the past. “I love a bit of new year’s resolutions,” he said. “Hopefully it will stay.”

Rosa Bryant, from Ecclesall Road, was also doing her first parkun. She said she was taking part while training for a marathon. “I was supposed to be doing a 5k today anyway, so I thought I’d come along and do it. You’ve got to be here at a certain time so it gets you out of bed on a Saturday morning.”

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Morgan Heaton usually runs in Doncaster. She said she was doing the Sheffield half marathon at the end of March, so it was good training. She’s been doing park runs for a year. “It’s a bit higher here compared with Doncsater – and I’m also doing 50 miles this month for prostate cancer. I do it for fun, but I’m competitive with myself to beat my fastest time.”

Deb Laurent, from Grenoside, said: “It gets me out of bed on a Saturday morning, and its a great community event and it keeps me fit.” She said she liked the atmosphere and the sense of achievement she got at the end.

Quickest around the course on Saturday was Alex Mason, from Crookes in 16mins 21 secs, just ahead of Tommy Power.

Alex said: “It’s nice to get out on a Saturday morning. I’m coming up to 50 parkruns.”

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