Taree parkrun turns three

TAREE’s parkrun marks its third anniversary on Saturday and the weekly event’s popularity continues to grow.

Officially the 5km run along the Manning River Foreshore averages a healthy 106.4 starters each week. However, event director Margie Lewis, who introduced parkrun to Taree in May 2015 along with Janelle Jefferies, said this has grown to around 130 since Christmas.

“We were getting 125 to 150 starters over Christmas/New Year and we thought that was probably due to the number of tourists in the area,’’ Margie said.

“But the numbers are still up there and we’re still getting up to 20 first time runners each week.’’

The figure doesn’t include those who only complete one lap of the course. It’s not compulsory to finish the 5km and each week there's plenty who are happy to walk or jog half the route. Starters range from competitive runners who finish in sub 20 minutes (the record is 14.33) to those who take an hour to stroll to the line.

Margie explained that parkrun continues to grow around Australia and will soon secure its 300th venue.

“So it’s getting easier for people to find a parkrun. And it’s the same everywhere, visitors are made welcome and immediately feel at home. That’s just the way it works,’’ she said.

Taree was the first parkrun on the Mid North Coast, followed by Port Macquarie and Forster-Tuncurry.

It’s a free community event and that’s why it is successful, Margie reasons. 

Each week up to 12 volunteers are required to ensure the run goes ahead. Tasks include run director, who is in charge of the event, to barcode scanning to record the time when the runners finish, while there are marshals are various points along the 5km course. Margie said positions are usually filled well in advance.

“A couple of weeks ago two volunteers had to drop out on the Friday night. We put a call up on Facebook and the positions were filled within 10 minutes,’’ Margie said.

“I've noticed that now even those who are injured and can’t run are putting their names down to volunteer. I think that’s the community aspect – they just want to be there on the Saturday morning and stay involved.’’

When parkrun started Margie and Janelle were the only two run directors. Now there are 10 while Steve Morton has nominated to be co-event director.

Saturday’s run will have a red and black theme. Once runners reach the 50 and 100 run milestones they can order shirts – red for 50 and black for 100. As ever the field will be away from 8am this weekend although there’ll be a few extra formalities first to mark the occasion. It’ll be the 158th run conducted in Taree since the first in May 2015.