Polokwane Parkrun turned three on Saturday and the healthy servings of excitement, an enticing cake, balloons that invited mischievous popping and red lollies at the en route water stop befitted a toddler’s birthday celebration.
Before the group of athletes set out for the weekly time trial, trophies for male and female participants were bestowed unto John le Cordeur who, at the age of 82 years completed his 128th Parkrun on Saturday and Rita du Plessis, who did her 110th that morning. Afterwards Du Plessis said receiving the trophy was amazing, while Le Cordeur expressed surprise at the honours.
Both recipients, who proudly posed in their black t-shirts claimed after having finished their respective 100th Parkruns, are familiar faces along the route for not missing any event… come rain or shine.
They represent a group of committed individuals who join in the Parkrun spirit early Saturdays to achieve their respective goals of improving a personal best, training for long-distance marathons, keeping fit, spending family time or catching up on fast-paced gossip with a circle of friends.
It usually is a colourful mix of gender and age that takes off at 07:00 in summer and 08:00 in winter to test their ability over a span of 5 km over two rounds through the park situated along the main street.
As soon as the front runners break away, the route gets strewn with lively early morning banter. The ability to appreciate unexpected quips from total strangers remains somewhat of an essential tool for survival.
There are the regulars who either push themselves to the limits, or fall back for a casual stroll. A few dads push babies in prams or watch over overjoyed kids dragged along by barking dogs, while the moms go for their goals. Liquid refreshments get shared. Friendships are formed.
Participation in any of the events all year round undoubtedly grants a window on the world. Somehow Parkrunners have a sort of unwritten code among themselves that dictates no adhering to rules when it comes to finishing goals, giving up running for walking or what to wear. No matter the end result, having completed the required two lapses is bound to land any participant much more than bargained for.
Story and photos: YOLANDE NEL