Most would agree it is harder to get up in the morning in winter when it is both cold and dark.
It is to the huge credit of the organisers of Parkrun that they managed to get the Whanganui event underway in winter, starting in one of the coldest and darkest months of the year.
Last Saturday was the fifth event and, by the end of Saturday, there have been more than 300 participants over the five weeks and 31 volunteers (on Saturday there were 54 starters and 12 volunteers). This is remarkable at 8am in winter and encouraging for how the event might progress as the days lengthen and the mornings are warmer.
New Zealand sport depends on volunteers and Parkrun is no exception. It is good that all volunteers are acknowledged on the national website and receive a thank you email afterwards.
All the participants receive results by email. Results include record performances and track personal bests and the number of starts for all runners. The secret to the success of such activities is developing and strengthening the volunteer pool so that the workload is shared and does not become a weekly chore.
As one of the volunteers, I am glad there is a strong pool to call on, allowing weeks off which will be especially welcome in summer with longer coaching spells and major weekend track and field meets.
Similarly, those involved in organising events for Wanganui Harriers have other Saturday commitments. Volunteers are always welcome and the Parkrun website not only provides free entry for athletes but also includes an invitation to volunteer. The barcode provided can be used for any of the 29 other runs in New Zealand but also in Parkruns throughout the world.
It appears that, in areas where Parkrun has started, there has been an increase in interest in running and participation and an increase in registrations for mainstream running events.
I have certainly seen members of the harrier and athletic clubs run at the riverbank event and certainly last week several runners used the riverbank run as a valuable time trial in their preparation for future major events.
George Lambert, who two weeks earlier had taken the Manawatu/Whanganui under-18 title at the Botanical Gardens at Westmere, set a new course record of 15m 56s before joining his 2nd XV on a bus for a match in Palmerston North.
Morgan Mackenzie, who had won the women's under-18 at the Bason, was 7th across the line on Saturday and took the women's course record from former New Zealand junior representative Caroline Mellsop, daughter of the race director and race founder Judy Mellsop.
Caroline currently nurses in Wellington in the emergency department and will hopefully return for another crack.
Former New Zealand representative and All– American Holly van Dalen was the winner at the first run on July 4 but did push her son in a pushchair for the 5km trip. I am sure she, too, will return - perhaps without the pushchair for a faster time.
Daniel Sinclair, who won the Hamilton Hawks 3000 metre under-16 title in the school holidays, was second on Saturday in a smart time for a 15-year-old (16m 57s). This was Sinclair's 13th Parkrun but was his first in Whanganui.
Lucas Martin has participated in three at Whanganui and is the New Zealand under-20 10,000m walk champion. He has chosen to walk the 5km on each occasion. On week 1 he went to the wrong venue and started 20 minutes after the field but still managed to finish ahead of several competitors.
He bettered this the following week and set his course best on Saturday (23m 57s) in an outstanding effort. His goal is remaining relaxed throughout as part of his preparation for the New Zealand Road Walk Championships later in the year.
Martin will be back in action for the Whanganui Harrier Club at the Halcombe Relay at the weekend where he will walk a 4km leg.
In the meantime, he and other athletes mentioned have Whanganui Secondary Schools as the next challenge and, in the case of Morgan and Lambert, the NZ Cross Country Championships in Dunedin at the end of the month.
For most of the field on Saturday, it was about participation and accepting the 5km running or walking challenge.
Twenty-three recorded a personal best in the still but cool conditions on Saturday. Notable was Tim Watt (27m 16s) who was on his 187th Parkrun.
Next week I will preview the Whanganui Secondary Schools Cross Country, to be run at Whanganui Collegiate on Monday, August 17 at 1.30pm.