Running for fun and friendship

Frank in action.

Every Saturday morning all around the world you can find people of all ages out on a run – but not all of them are just randomly pounding the pavement.

A large group of runners are members of what is called “Parkrun” gathering at a regular meeting place, getting together to have fun and get healthy.

Two such groups meet at Rockhampton and Yeppoon each week and according to Sue McDonnell one of the event directors of the Yeppoon group (along with Amanda McKenna) it’s a lot of fun.

“Parkrun is a world-wide organisation and what it does is provide a free outdoor event which is a five kilometre walk or run and it’s timed as well,” she said.

“So, people will receive an email at the end of participating which will give them their position, id, the time they completed the course in. It allows them to come back the following week or whenever they want, and they can use that time to potentially improve their fitness.

“It’s also available to people who might be mobility impaired they might be able to come along with wheelchairs or wheelie walkers and everybody is welcome at parkrun, and nobody comes last because we have tail walkers as well. We make sure no one is the last person over the line.”

She said the Yeppoon Parkrun is held at the Pineapple Rail Trail each Saturday morning.

“We go up the rail trail and we turn onto a footpath for a few 100metres and then we come back down the rail trail,” Sue explained.

“It’s a really lovely, nature type walk. It’s a bitumen path but it’s really lovely. We actually have quite a large number who walk. Probably about a third of our field are walkers. But we still have runners who are in the 75-80 age group, and they still do quite well. Even people who don’t want to walk or run, we offer volunteering for people which can be as simple as being a marshal and cheering other people on and making sure they turn at the right place.

“It’s pretty much for everyone.

“If people are feeling socially isolated and they want to be part of a community they are more than welcome to come down and join us. It’s just a case of putting on a pair of sneakers and coming down and being part of it.”

So how do you become part of Parkrun? Well, it’s pretty easy according to Sue.

“There is a registration process, but it’s free, it will always be free,” she said.

“If people google parkrun Australia registration they can go on and register their email details and their age-group and they will receive a number and a barcode. They just need to bring the barcode along, it can be on their phone, when they come to do the event and we scan that barcode along with their position token and from that they then get an email later on that morning on how they did.

“It’s really simple, it will never cost you a cent. It’s at 7am ever Saturday morning. It’s just something to come along and join us each week.”

And of course, if you’re a grey nomad you can “collect” events all over Australia.

“Absolutely,” Sue agreed.

“A lot of people try and collect the alphabet of parkrun which makes Yeppoon quite popular because we’re one of the few Ys, so we get a lot of parkrun tourists. We welcome them all and we love having them up on the Capricorn Coast.”

It’s a lot of fun and a way to stay healthy for everyone but particularly for seniors.

“We have a lot of seniors at ours,” she said.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity, come with a friend, come by yourself, it doesn’t matter. You can bring dogs to our parkrun as long as they’re on a short hand-held lead, they are welcome. It’s a great way to start of the weekend and most of us go out for breakfast or a coffee afterwards and you can have a guilt-free day because you’ve done all your exercise.”

The Yeppoon Parkrun has been up and running for about six and a half years and gets between about 100 and 130 people each week.

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