PARKRUNNERS in Bognor Regis are seeing stars.
The entrants in the popular weekly events have covered a distance – 192,445km- equal to a journey halfway to the moon.
The 270 who turned out for the fourth anniversary run at 9am last Saturday added to that total for another successful session in Hotham Park.
The first runner home after the 5km circuits was Felpham resident Mark Steven in 17min 45secs. The 26-year-old was putting his studies for a PhD in exercise psychology into practice.
He said: “Coming first is not the most important thing here. This is my 30th-something Bognor Regis parkrun and I’ve come first before.
“It’s a lovely, friendly feeling at parkruns. You can go to any one of them anywhere and you know the people there will welcome you. It also gets you out of bed first thing on a Saturday morning.
“Part of my course involves studying how to get people motivated to run. I did a study on parkrun, looking at the importance of groups.
“Parkruns are excellent events. A parkrun has an identity and that helps to motivate people to keep participating.”
The anniversary run was the 201st to be staged since the first on the last weekend of May 2014. Since then, 5,502 runners have joined in.
Those at the anniversary event included first-timer Claus Capes, 56, of Bognor Regis, who finished in around 32 minutes. Unusually, he made his London Marathon debut first in April.
“I entered the marathon for the Children with Cancer UK charity. I completed it but it killed me. It was so hot and I ran out of water but I was determined to finish and I’ve raised £2,600 so far.
“I then did the Bognor Prom 10k road race on May 19 and, when I was there, someone told me about this parkrun.
“I’ve lived here for seven years and didn’t know about it – but I’ll definitely be back. It really interests me in keeping fit.
“I work in a cake factory and I can eat cake all day long if I wanted, which doesn’t help in that respect.
“The park is a nice place to run in. It was hot at times in the sun, without any wind, but then you would go into shady areas, which was nice.”
One of the parkrun’s founders, Ben Bowers, was the race director last Saturday in addition to his role as the event director.
He said: “I thought the parkrun would still be here four years on when I helped to start it – but I didn’t think it would be as successful as it has been.
“The number has increased up to about 300 runners a week. It has dipped lately because we’ve had to cancel a few runs because of work in the park and events taking place. But I’m expecting the numbers to pick up again now.
“Taking part in a parkrun is all about the community and the spirit of the occasion. It’s open to everyone, it’s free and it’s first thing on a Saturday morning to get it out of the way. Everything about it is simple.
“I don’t see any reason why it won’t continue for another four years. The numbers will level off now but it has made running accessible to so many different people.
“I know a lot of people have started off here and then gone on to 10k races and longer distances. One, Anita Watkins, didn’t do any running before she came here and is now going to be taking part in her first ultra marathon this year.
“Parkrun has changed the image of Bognor. Wherever you drive around the town, you see someone running. That never used to be the case.”
Being part of the parkrun network saw visitors from Newcastle, Horsham and Margate among those joining in last week. Previous participants have taken part during holidays from the USA, New Zealand and Australia.
But there was only one Wonder Woman at the anniversary – and that was Felpham resident Josie Fagetter. As well as the race’s milestone, she also celebrated her 50th parkrun in a year and completed it in 23:52. Her 11-year-old twin son and daughter also ran.
The University of Chichester worker said: “Parkrun is lovely because you see someone you know all the time.”