A Leicestershire Parkrun has held a special ‘VIP event’ to celebrate its participants aged 70 and over, including one who’s recently completed his first 47 mile ultra-marathon.
Watermead Country Park Parkrun held the event on Saturday (September 30), with 30 VIP participants turning out to run or walk the 5k route. Nine VIP volunteers also lent a helping hand on the day, which was designed to coincide with Watermead’s 100th milestone event.
295 runners turned out overall, and enjoyed celebratory cake and songs from the 70s to spur them on. The VIPs were also treated to goodie bags, half priced coffee and a special red carpet finish.
Among those who took part, was 72-year-old David Richards, who recently completed ‘The Lap’ – 47-mile run around Lake Windermere.
“Running gives you a great sense of freedom and an amazing buzz. You can get out and forget about all of your worries and cares – just shed them all and simply think about putting one foot in front of the other,” he told the Leicester Times.
“When I did the ultramarathon, the only thing I was concerned about was me and the person I was running with getting through the trials that the run presented – the next big hill and then enjoying the view.
“We finished at one in the morning and having been on the go for 19 hours, it took me over an hour and a half before I could get myself to leave the atmosphere and everything and go and shower and sleep!” he went on to reveal.
“I was buzzing for another three days!”
Mr Richards has been running for over 60 years and has been involved in coaching for 45 of those.
Today he enjoys helping runners of all abilities to achieve their running goals and smash their personal bests at Watermead Park Parkrun.
“Parkrun is the greatest thing that’s happened to the running world – ever,” he said.
“It brings so many people together and the atmosphere is incredible – especially at Watermead. There’s a core group who are constantly coming up with ways to motivate people. I think they’re fabulous.”
Another runner that the Leicester Times spoke to was 75-year-old Ray Draycott who has completed 290 Parkruns and counting.
He credits running with turning his life around.
“I started when I was 40 and weighed 15 stone. I got on the bathroom scales and thought ‘Ray you’re killing yourself, you have to change,’ he revealed. “Then I went out for a jog – seven minutes at first and gradually built it up.
“If I carried on with the lifestyle that I had when I was 40 then I don’t know where I would have been,” he added. “Running is a way of life and I guess you could call me a little obsessed!”
Glenda Barratt, is a regular fixture at Watermead Country Park Parkrun – a volunteer so dedicated that she even has a section of the course named after her!
“I stand in the same spot every week and love encouraging the runners as they come past,” she said. “They call it ‘Glenda’s Junction,’ which is quite amusing!
“It’s a lovely atmosphere at Parkrun and I’ve made so many friends here. Whether you’re standing in the wind, the rain or beautiful sunshine, it makes it all worth it when people come past and make the time to say thank you. It’s just a wonderful, inclusive event.”
Scott Brownlow, one of the organisers called Saturday’s VIPs “an inspiration” to the Parkrun community.
“I guess at times they may look at the fast guys at the front and think, ‘I wish that was me,’ but I can assure you 100 per cent that the fast guys are looking at you and thinking, ‘I hope that’s me one day.’ You are an inspiration to us all!” he said.