Following is an article by Tracey Cullen from the parkrun Australia newsletter 8 March 2016 (reproduced with permission).
I have been Event Director at Riverway parkrun (Townsville) since we launched in March 2013. Just after our first anniversary it had become clear that we had outgrown our original start/finish area so the decision was made to adjust the course. One of the key influencers in this decision was that we wanted it to be more inclusive ie. more wheelchair and pram friendly.
In November last year we had our first wheelchair participant, Zac Schumacher, who provided us with feedback about the course from his perspective and all that was required was a change of position for the finish chute. From that day we now run the finish chute parallel to the pathway allowing runners to finish on the grass (for ease of knowing who is a parkrunner) and the wheelchairs and prams to finish on the path.
Zac advised that he had to go away for more surgery but would be back at parkrun and would attend as part of his training to increase his fitness. Well, he came back 2 weeks ago – Riverway parkrun #150 and brought a friend, Davin (pictured). Davin goes up Castle Hill and down Mt Stuart… this man has NO FEAR!
Last week both Zac and Davin attended again and this time they brought another friend, Ryan! So at Riverway parkrun #151 in the rain when usually we have between 150-170 runners only 63 turned up with 3 of them being wheelchair athletes. They were warned about the slippery pebblecrete on the opposite side of the first bridge and also to look out for broken concrete. This time Davin came in ahead of Zac and both went back to encourage Ryan to get across the finish line.
I was Run Director on Saturday and it would have to be my absolute favourite and proudest parkrun day so far. And I’ve volunteered a lot (59 on record but more in reality because I never saw the point in sending myself a thankyou email when we first started). I got to witness my regular parkrunners supporting each other, going back to encourage their parkrun family to achieve a PB. And there were many PBs set.
A few words from Zac – “Being so young and not being able to participate in sport was really depressing. I was putting on weight and thinking there was nothing I could do to stay active. Then I heard about parkrun from my mates who do it and they suggested that I come try it in my sporting wheelchair. It’s hard to find places in Townsville where you can easily push without driving to the Strand. The Riverway parkrun course is physically challenging and the hills give your arms a good workout. parkrun has been a great tool to enhance my physical, social and mental wellbeing.”
As Event Director at Riverway parkrun I feel a huge sense of achievement that our goal to be an accessible and inclusive event has finally been realised. This is not about me though but more so that you all know that EVERYONE is welcome at Riverway parkrun.
For more information on how to get involved in parkrun, visit www.parkrun.com.au.