When Dame Kelly Holmes gets behind an event you just know its going to be a success. And when that event is the 70th anniversary celebration of one of our most revered institutions, the National Health Service, combined with our favourite past time of parkrun there can only be one outcome – it's time to party!
Double Olympic champion, Dame Kelly Holmes, used her local Tonbridge parkrun on Saturday (12 May) to launch NHS70 parkrun – a birthday celebration for the NHS hosted by parkruns across the nation to encourage healthy physical activity and help connect more people with their local parkrun.
Speaking to BBC South East about the initiative, Kelly said: “I think its really important that we use things like the parkrun as medicine. And there you can be a volunteer, you can run for the first time, you can meet people, you can socialise and you can have a coffee at the end of it. And actually that's more important, to get people to feel good about themselves.”
Kelly joined 641 other parkrunners in the special event and if she was the 25-minute pacer she did a perfect job, finishing 134th in 25:00 exactly! The first finishers were Tom Fairbrother (Ranelagh Harriers, 17:48) and Maria Heslop (W50 Tonbridge, 18:25), who was also the highest age-graded at 91%. Sue Kingston was the tail walker in 55:45, just behind first timer Phil Parrish (Beginners to Runners).
Saturday 9 June 2018 has been declared NHS70 parkrun day. As was the case at the event launch at Tonbridge you can expect to see NHS staff and patients attending as participants or volunteers and some events will have an NHS 'volunteer take over' for the day. There will also be healthy exercise information; healthy eating advice; balloons and possibly even cake (all things in moderation).
At the Tonbridge launch there were many NHS staff in attendance and some even ran in uniform. This was entirely in keeping with the increasing trend reported amongst GPs to 'prescribe' parkrun to their patients for a variety of conditions ranging from mental health and depression to weight control and diabetes. The NHS spends more than £6 billion on overweight-related ill health every year in England alone.
Already 150 parkruns have signed up to the initiative and more are being added daily. Is your local event participating? To find out, visit the NHS70 parkrun website