COMMENT:

On June 15, Elliot Jones competed at the New Zealand Secondary Schools Cross Country Championships in Timaru as part of the Whanganui Collegiate junior boys team.

Two weeks later, the 14-year-old was running in a 5km park run on the island of Bressay in Shetland, Scotland.

In the space of a fortnight Jones competed in the most southerly schools national cross-country championships in the world as well as the most northerly park run in the UK.

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Parkrun is a collection of 5km running events that take place every Saturday morning at more than 1400 locations in 23 countries across five continents.

Parkrun events are free to enter and are run by volunteers, supported by a small group of staff at its headquarters.

The Parkrun on the island of Bressay in Shetland is a must do for many runners.

However, it doesn't take place in a park and it takes a seven-minute ride from Shetland's main town Lerwick to get to the start. This is part of its international appeal.

Lerwick is also the home town of Elliot's grandmother and the Jones family were taking a family holiday there.

Bressay presented similar logistical problems for the Jones family that I had faced a fortnight earlier in Timaru.

With the regional relays on Sunday morning, our girls boarded the bus hurriedly after their run to make sure the team made it to Picton for the ferry.

A group of boys travelled separately on flights back to the North Island.

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In Shetland, the Jones family had only 30 minutes to board the ferry following the run to get back to Shetland and catch their flight to Glasgow 90 minutes later.

In Timaru, Elliot was the fourth member home in his team that finished tantalisingly close to a medal in the six to score team event.

His team finished fourth and he placed a highly creditable 55th in a strong field.

As I mentioned last week, being part of a team is so important in terms of development for young runners.

Jones is a real team person and he will be able to develop his running by being part of this team environment.

On Bressay, Jones finished second out of the 64 runners taking part.

He had hoped to complete the 5km on the tarmac roads in 20 minutes on Bressay, matching closely to his kilometre rate in Timaru over 4km.

Jones perhaps paid the penalty of running the first couple of Kilometres too fast when running alongside a more experienced senior club runner.

He fell back a little over the second half of the run and ended just 18 seconds shy of his twenty minute target in an excellent second position.

In Timaru, Jones was part of a large Collegiate team that had boys and girls from every year making the coeducational and multi-generational event a unique experience.

On Shetland, Elliot was part of "Team Jones" with all the family taking part.

Younger brother Oliver and father Gareth finished in third and fourth respectively with mother Lesley the leading female in her age group.

Running is a special sport that allows the whole family to take part in the same event. It is this concept that has been very much part of the parkrun concept.

It was a real pleasure to return to Shetland where I had holidayed on more than one occasion, the last time when I was the same age as Elliot.

It was also great to catch up with the Jones family and to be able to visit and watch the family participate on Bressay.

It is certainly a small world as on the day prior to the run, Elliot's grandparents were also in Lerwick when their cruise ship was in port for the day.

It was good to have reaffirmation that running can be an individual, a team and a family sport.