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Free 5K parkrun event celebrates 6 years of weekly walk/runs

Positivity, inclusivity, and accessibility are the foundations of the parkrun vision

Two hundred can be a big number.

It certainly is for David Holloway who recently completed 200 runs with the North Bay parkrun group.

“It is one of over 2,000 parkruns in the world. We’ve got about 50 in Canada. We started the North Bay parkrun in 2018, and last week was our sixth anniversary,” explained Holloway who is also the run director.  

“I heard about parkrun from reading about it. It started in England in 2004 and then it spread worldwide. The first one in Canada was in the western part of the country and then we managed to get one going about a year after the first one in Canada.”

North Bay parkrun is a free, five-kilometre walk or run.

Participants meet at Veterans Fields at the bottom of the overpass in West Ferris on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m.

They leave as a group, making their way along the Kate Pace Way.

“We turn around at Marshall and head back to the start. There is a barrier at Marshall, but we don’t go past the barrier.  From Veteran’s Field to Marshall, it is 2.5 km.”

People of all ages are welcome to join.     

 “We’ve had children under 10 years taking part. One of the best, fastest females is 14 years old, and we have a lady here over 80 who did it quite a few times,”  Holloway pointed out.  

Jennifer Wieggers has been running with the local group since its inception.

“It is a place to always show up on a Saturday morning. It doesn’t matter how the week has gone or how life is, I know this will be here for me,” shared Wieggers.

“And whether I want to do it competitively or just with friends or I have even walked sometimes, it doesn’t matter, you have an option on the day.”

People show up solo, with a friend, or as a family.

Andrea Loewen was looking for a way to stay active and signed up two years ago.

“During the pandemic, I started walking to get active and to get out of the house a little bit, and once things opened up I thought, ‘I need to join a running group, join a club.’ And so, I found this online and started coming, and it is wonderful. I love the people here, I enjoy the course, it is just a really fun way to start a Saturday.”

Loewen and her husband have made it a family affair, often bringing their five children who range in age from five to 14.

“Sometimes they bike or rollerblade or what have you, because some of them are quite young, but our oldest son who is 14, he’s been coming pretty consistently, and he does it as part of his training for track and field.”  

The youngsters get more out of participating than just exercise.   

“They feel like they belong, and they feel like they are part of something special, something different and even our 10-year-old, she wants to go faster because it is timed. She’ll say, ‘I want to beat my time from last week.’ It is just something fun to get out and do.”

Enrolling in the weekly event is a simple one-time process.  

“All you have to do is register at and you get a bar code which you bring to the run and then we time people. Some people treat it as a fast run, other people walk it, and other people just do it to keep fit and meet other people. It is whatever you want to do, there is no pressure, but there is definitely some competition from some people,” laughed Holloway.

“People like to beat their time from the previous week whether they’re fast runners or not. If you do it every week, you get fitter, and your times come down.”

There is a volunteer timer.

“When you cross the line, you’re given a token which you take with your bar code to be scanned and I put them on the website and within about an hour, every runner gets an email confirming their time.”

The bar code is accepted at parkrun events around the world.  

“So, a couple of our regulars have been down in Florida for the winter, and they’ve done a parkrun down there, and they use the same bar code,” shared Holloway.

It is not unusual, especially in the summer to find visitors to the city, joining in the activity.  

“We’ve had people from the UK, we’ve had people from South Africa, Australia, a variety of places.”

Originally from England, Holloway participates in his local run when he is back home for a visit.  

“They usually have about 400 every Saturday, so this is a bit different. Hopefully we’ll build it up and we’ll get more people. It is amazing how word spreads. Even last week when it was pouring rain, and cold here, we had a couple of newcomers. And one of the new runners last week was pushing his child in a buggy, (stroller) so they’re welcome. As well, people with dogs are welcome as long as the dog is on a short leash.”   

At this weekly event, there are no medals or prizes.

“Some people will walk it every week. They may take an hour whereas the fastest runner may take 18-19 minutes. They want to keep fit, that’s fine by us.”

The weather tends to dictate the turnout.  

“Today is cool, so we’re looking at about 20 or 25 participants. In the summer we get up to about 60. Canada is relatively small compared to some of the other countries. For example, in Britain, South Africa or Australia, they might get 15 hundred to 2-thousand people. They have more volunteers than we have runners,” explained Holloway.   

“During the winter, we still get our regulars. Regular runners come out whatever the weather. Even in the winter, we’ve had about 20 most weeks. We had to cancel once last year because the temperature dropped down to the minus 30s.”

Jonathan Loewen who prides himself with having an active lifestyle, is a willing participant.  

“I do exercise, but my wife told me it was timed, so I came out and got competitive. For me, I feel better at 42 than I did at 36 in terms of fitness, so it has been great that way.”       

Set your alarm for a fun way to spend your Saturday morning.