First parkrun of the New Year attracts more than 18,000 newbies worldwide

by Zoë Johnson

More than half the UK’s population make New Year’s resolutions, according to comparison site Finder, with 1 in 4 people taking steps to become healthier.

Some like to hit the gym, others focus on a healthy diet, while on the first Saturday morning of 2023, some waited nervously to start their first parkrun.

Happy parkrunners! Photo: © Ian Edwards

Parkrun is a free 5k event that takes place every weekend. On Saturday 7th January, more than 18,000 people around the world laced up their trainers to run, jog or walk their first parkrun. Amongst the first-timers, completing her parkrun debut at Colney Lane in Norwich, was Tanya Collins.

After suffering from long covid, Tanya was unable to run for two years, which she described as “really disabling”. She had to learn how to breathe again at Norfolk and Norwich hospital, and then began walking in August 2022, with her sights set on running the first parkrun of 2023.

As well as regaining her physical health, Tanya also spoke about the mental health benefits of parkrun.

“Mentally (I feel) absolutely brilliant, I feel wonderful. I think I was probably one of the last ones in, but you know I did it, and that in itself is encouraging.”

First-time parkrunner, Tanya Collins.

Another first-time parkrunner, Dawn Legood, explained how her sister, Josie Bunn, persuaded her to go. Josie spoke about how friendly the atmosphere was: “The people who passed us would say well done, and I just think that’s brilliant.”

Dawn said that the marshals remembered her name and cheered her on as she ran. Speaking about mental wellbeing, Josie said “it clears your head”.

Josie Bunn and Dawn Legood (left) finishing the first parkrun of 2023, cheered on by four amazing volunteers.

One of the people behind Colney Lane parkrun is Ian Edwards, co-event director alongside Grant Wheeler.

As someone who has experienced depression, Ian was keen to speak about the benefits parkrun has on mental wellbeing. You can listen to the full interview below:

Ian Edwards describes how parkrun benefits mental health.

Volunteer Madeline Heppell pointing runners in the right direction.

If running isn’t for you, you can always volunteer, like Madeline Heppell who cheered runners, walkers and joggers along as a marshal on the first parkrun of 2023.

Madeline likes to volunteer to “give something back”. As a keen runner, she feels it’s important to give up her time, so that others can enjoy it.

“For me to run, I need other people to volunteer, so therefore if I volunteer, other people can run.” Madeline really enjoys it, saying “you just get a buzz because people are so friendly”.

Madeline Heppell, runner and volunteer at Colney Lane parkrun.

“Parkrun is for absolutely everybody” is the key message that co-event director Ian Edwards wants to spread, and it couldn’t be easier to get involved. Simply head to the parkrun website to register!

Parkrun volunteers scanning race barcodes and time chips at the end of the run.

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