More than a run in the park

Stephen Lloyd-Jones on why a simple idea is helping people in Enfield get fit and have fun

Grovelands Park Parkrun

The Grovelands Park Parkrun is more popular than ever, with nearly 200 runners taking part in recent weeks

Enfield is one of London’s greenest boroughs in terms of its total area of parks and woodland. But like anywhere, we also have people living busy lives or with health or economic issues that affect their ability to achieve the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

Add in Enfield’s great community spirit and you have the ingredients for us to be part of one of the country’s most successful mass-participation exercise and volunteering programmes, Parkrun. It offers free, volunteer-led weekly 5km runs every Saturday morning and is open to people of all ages and abilities.

Enfield has two well-established Parkrun events at Pymmes Park in Edmonton and Grovelands Park in Southgate. I’m a regular at Grovelands and am about to reach a personal milestone of 250 Parkrun finishes – you get a free running shirt after completing 50, 100, 250 and 500.

Like many, I was fit in my younger days, but a busy work and family life soon meant middle-aged spread and general aches and pains were creeping in by my mid-40s. But Parkrun fits my needs perfectly.

On a recent visit to the Pymmes event, I heard great stories from run director Gareth and his team of volunteers and from runners of all backgrounds. Many have been involved since the first run there in 2011 and numbers have risen steadily, from 30-40 per week, to a peak of 112 this summer.

Father and daughter Alkin and Kayla take on the role of ‘tail runners’ to encourage slower runners at Pymmes Park

One participant, Mark, was on his fourth run following medical advice to lose weight, and admitted being nervous at first, but said he finds the volunteers and other runners totally supportive. He is aiming to finish in under 30 minutes soon. I also saw Tim, of Bush Hill Park Runners, celebrate his 100th run – a great achievement.

Father and daughter team Alkin and Kayla took on the role of ‘tail runners’ to encourage slower runners like Mark around the three-lap course. Kayla, aged eleven, has run over 50 times herself with her dad, mainly at Grovelands.

Pymmes is a flat course, but Grovelands has a fairly challenging hill. At the top, you are rewarded with a view of the Grade I listed Grovelands House (now Priory Hospital) and of the large lake. Numbers at Grovelands have also grown steadily in the last couple of years to average 180 runners per week in 2018, with a course record 232 set this month. Regulars include a lady in her 70s who has now finished 175 runs, people pushing baby buggies, a wheelchair user, a deaf-blind runner who runs with a guide, and 20 runners under the age of 15.

So why not give it a try? You will definitely #LoveParkrun!

For more information on the Pymmes and Grovelands Parkrun events, held each Saturday from 9am: