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2,000 people now run parkrun in Suffolk, boosting bid to be most active county by 2028

PUBLISHED: 19:51 21 May 2017 | UPDATED: 12:13 22 May 2017

The 200th Bury St Edmunds parkrun. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

The 200th Bury St Edmunds parkrun. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

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boosting Suffolk’s long-term ambition of becoming the most active county.

Parkrunners are not deterred by the weather - runners in Nowton Park out on a damp and misty morning. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT Parkrunners are not deterred by the weather - runners in Nowton Park out on a damp and misty morning. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

The milestone comes ahead of a packed summer of huge sporting events for the county, ranging from the Tour of Britain to the inaugural Great East Run, hoped to increase sports participation and physical activity levels.

The news also comes after Sport England’s last-ever Active People Survey last December showed around 9,000 fewer adults are playing sport since London 2012 in Suffolk. A separate Sport England survey also found 62.1% of people in Suffolk are active, which includes gardening and regular walking. That put Suffolk sixth-bottom out of 45 English areas.

But the parkrun running revolution appears to demonstrate a more positive trend in Suffolk. They are free, community-led, non-competitive 5km challenges.

There are six in Suffolk: Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Kesgrave, Great Cornard, Lowestoft and Brandon. The first four have junior parkruns on Sundays.

Colchester & Tendring's flying trio of (from left) Lacey Bareham, Phillipa Baxter, and Lydia Callan, at the Colchester Parkrun. Colchester & Tendring's flying trio of (from left) Lacey Bareham, Phillipa Baxter, and Lydia Callan, at the Colchester Parkrun.

At least 2,000 runners ran in total from all 10 parkruns in the five weekends prior to May 19/20. The event launched in Suffolk at Christchurch Park in Ipswich in September 2012, with 95 runners.

Jenny Evans, the Kesgrave parkrun event director, said: “’This parkrun thing will never take off’ was one of a few comments by a small minority.

“But this amazing regular event has brought so many people together and led to so many inspirational personal and collective stories.”

Suffolk County Council wants to be the most active county by 2028. It has launched various schemes to achieve this, and is helping to launch the inaugural Great East Run this September. Replacing the Ipswich Half Marathon, it is set to attract over 2,000 runners, thousands more spectators, and worldwide television coverage.

The Junior Parkrun in Christchurch Park, Ipswich celebrated its first anniversary with a fancy dress run. Picture: PHIL MORLEY The Junior Parkrun in Christchurch Park, Ipswich celebrated its first anniversary with a fancy dress run. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

The Great East Swim, in its sixth year, takes place at Alton Water near Holbrook in June. A whole stage of The Tour of Britain, a major cycling event, takes place in Suffolk in September. The Twilight Road Races return to Ipswich in August.

Bryony Rudkin, in charge of sport and leisure at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “These events are growing in popularity and prestige. We are determined that Ipswich plays its full part.”

Rory Marriott, event director of Ipswich parkrun, said he has been “completely blown away” by the success of parkrun in Suffolk.

He said: “That number was so far in excess of anything we thought would happen. We had 95 at our first event. Now it is over 2,000. It is almost ridiculous. You are there watching them every Saturday morning, knowing there are hundreds, and now thousands, all across Suffolk.

Youngsters in fancy dress enjoying the Junior Parkrun in Christchurch Park, Ipswich. Picture: PHIL MORLEY Youngsters in fancy dress enjoying the Junior Parkrun in Christchurch Park, Ipswich. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

“More and more people are realising the benefits of having an active life, and more and more people are now hearing about parkrun. It is no longer the novelty it was in Ipswich five years ago. There has been exponential growth. But parkrun doesn’t do any advertising. It is all through word of mouth and the occasional media story.

“Suffolk has a thriving running community. People come along for a challenge.

“There are no barriers. Some people come along and it is not for them, and others rave about the wonderful community feeling.”

• Watch Ben Parker’s emotional Kesgrave parkrun video online. The dad suffered a second stroke in 2014.

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