Wolverhampton park runners delighted to be back

The conditions were perfect and the runners ready to go as Wolverhampton's first parkrun in more than 16 months took place.

The runners get the parkrun underway at West Park
The runners get the parkrun underway at West Park

More than 260 runners of all ages and abilities took part in the five-kilometre run around West Park, one of 500 parkruns taking place across the country as the popular weekly timed running event returned.

The event had been unable to run since March last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and 70 consecutive weekends had passed before organisers gave the event the OK to return, with Saturday, set as the date due to the lifting of restrictions.

For race director Tim Richardson, it was a fantastic feeling to see the volunteers and participants back doing something they loved and spoke about what made parkrun so special.

Race director Tim Richardson gives out instructions about the run prior to the start

He said: "It's the inclusivity of parkrun which makes it so special and what we care about is people coming out and meeting other, having a good time and getting fit in a safe way.

"The last 16 months have been frustrating as we've had several false dawns and dates in the diary that we've had to cancel, but it's fantastic to get back and the excitement has been building.

"I feel fantastic to be here and it's been great to see every volunteer and every runner come here today to take part and we have a good number here without getting overly swamped."

Those taking part in the event had gathered by the bandstand in West Park ahead of the run, which starts and finishes at the bandstand and takes in three circuits of the park.

Runners of different ages and abilities were limbering up, getting stretched and preparing themselves.

Jessica Labhart said she wanted to complete the course and enjoy the experience

Jessica Labhart said she was looking to enjoy her run, with the 32-year-old from Pennfields saying she would complete the course even if she had to crawl over the line.

She said: "It's been a long time and we've all missed it. I was part of a training group called the Jolly Joggers, training up to running the 5k, and ever since then this has been a part of my Saturday morning.

"There's a lot of familiar faces and some newbies as well, which is really nice to see, so hopefully we'll be able to continue doing this and not go back into another lockdown where we can't meet again.

"It's been a long time since I've run this route, but I'm determined to get round and will probably have to crawl the last lap, but I'll get round and I'll enjoy it."

Jai-Anand, Jaz and Kiran Bhogal were ready to get going at West Park

Jaz Bhogal was getting running the event with his wife Kiran and son Jai. The 49-year-old from Penn said he was excited to be back and looking forward to the off.

He said: "I'm excited, but also nervous as it's been a while since I've done this, but I'm here to do the distance and it's all about having fun at the end of the day.

"We've been running again over the last few weeks and we decided to pick up the pace to do this event, which has a lot of community spirit and isn't a race, but more of a fun run."

Mike Hayward limbers up for the parkrun

For 74-year-old Mike Haywood, from Shifnal, parkrun was a chance to run with people in a pleasant environment and have fun doing so.

He said: "I think it's absolutely brilliant that we're here today doing this and I've really been looking forward to it.

"It's just a very special and pleasant event and you do find yourself running a bit quicker when you've got people around you, but it's all about getting out and feeling better at the end of it."

The runners were given their instructions by Tim Richardson before the start of the run, which saw a charge down the path away from the bandstand by the 261 runners.

The first person home was Daniel Richardson, who finished the course in 16 minutes and 57 seconds, with the first woman home being Lucie Tait-Harris in 18 minutes and 45 seconds.

Runners of all ages and abilities were taking part in the event

Mike Hayward completed the course in 27 minutes and 30 seconds and said he was proud of having put in the effort.

He said: "Considering my age, I'm pleased with that time and it was great out there as you wanted to go quicker while running with people as you passed them and kept going."

Jessica Labhart finished in 36 minutes and six seconds and said that while she got a stitch during the run, she still enjoyed getting back out to do the run.

The runners were supported by an army of volunteers

She said: "It's been really good to be back together with other runners and to force yourself to do something on a Saturday morning and I will take the boost from this for the rest of the day."

Jaz Bhogal completed his run in 41 minutes and 31 seconds and said it was tough, but he was able to keep going.

He said: "I kept going, that was the main point, but it was tougher than I remember it being. There was a lot of camaraderie out there and that kept you going."

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