Tuesday, 24 January 2012

New contributor: James Saunders

New Contributor: James Saunders

Name: James Saunders
Home parkrun: Eastleigh
Date of first parkrun: 22/05/2010
Total Number of parkruns: 22
Number of other parkrun locations run: None so far
Number of times volunteered: 71
My parkrun history: http://www.parkrun.org.uk/eastleigh/results/athletehistory?AthleteNumber=68619

About me:

By day, I'm a Technical Director for an ecommerce company. I'm also a husband and father to two boys aged 3 and 5. 

Like many parkrunners, I hated running in my teens. This was primarily due to running involving cross-country on wet and miserable days. It wasn't until over 20 years later when I was 39 years old (back in mid-2009) and on the way back from a company board meeting and post-meeting drinks that I saw a poster for a Cancer Research charity 10K run that I decided that I wanted to train to complete the event (the alcohol had some influence on my decision and I'd signed up before sobering up!) I needed a challenge in my life (as if the challenge of being a parent of two wasn't enough!) and the charity run was my ideal opportunity.

With about 12 weeks to go, it meant going from almost zero fitness to being able to run for an hour or more ideally non-stop!

When I started training, I followed the C25K training programme and could run for about 30 seconds before needing a walk-break. Fortunately, the programme was tailor-made to couch potatoes (which I'd become!) and gradually eased me from not being able to run to being able to run for 30 minutes (about 3 miles or almost 5K).

After completing the Couch to 5K (C25K) programme, I extended it to get me running 10K. It was a real achievement to be able to gradually run further and further each week.

Having completed the CR 10K, I kept running on and off for the rest of the year and decided that I loved doing it. However, I knew that if I didn't have a challenge, I'd struggle to find the motivation to continue. With this in mimd, I set myself the goal of running 875 miles (roughly the distance between Land's End and John O'Groats) in 2010 for CLIC Sargent. To keep me on schedule, I set myself the challenge of completing a number of races throughout the year. 

It was either late in 2009 or early in 2010 that I discovered parkrun. The concept of a free, weekly timed run seemed very appealing indeed. A chance to 'race' each week with no need to register each time or pay an entry fee

Unfortunately, at the time, there were none in the local area and, in reality, although I'd love to have set one up, the time constraints of a busy job and family meant that was unlikely. I did contact parkrun HQ though to express an interest.

It was with great excitement that in April 2010, parkrun HQ contacted me to say that a parkrun was due to start in Eastleigh and ask whether I'd like to be involved. At the time, I really couldn't commit to anything but instead made it to the 2nd parkrun at Eastleigh on the 22nd May 2010.
I was instantly hooked. However, somehow, I had to persuade my wife to let me participate regularly.

After running at about 8 parkruns, in late October 2010, the future of the Eastleigh event looked in jeopardy as the existing Event Director's other commitments meant that he had to take a break from the role. As the ED was also the main Run Director, this meant that more Run Directors were needed. Rachael Elliott was also a key member of the team and was instrumental to setting up the event. Rachael was also the main factor to ensuring the event happened each week. (Rachael is the Event Director for Newbury parkrun which has its first event on the 11th February. I'll be making my first trip as a parkrun 'tourist' to that event to support her and her team as a way of thanking her for all the support she gave myself and the other RDs at Eastleigh).

By this time, I was addicted to the Eastleigh parkrun and had started the Facebook page for the event much to the surprise of the existing event team who'd not received my email asking if I could start the page (https://www.facebook.com/Eastleigh.parkrun) and signed up alongside 2 or 3 others to become Run Directors. As the existing Event Director was going on holiday, I produced a Race Director's Manual to help train the other.  Rachael freely shared her experience of many parkruns (both as a participant and volunteer as well as her knowledge of helping set up the Basingstoke and Eastleigh events) to ensure we all had the necessary knowledge to run the event every week.

For the rest of 2010, I stood in for the Event Director and made sure that everything ran smoothly behind the scenes of the event in terms of dealing with the many emails, managing volunteers, making sure Run Directors knew when they were needed and what they needed to do.

In early January 2011, the existing Event Director sent me a text message to offer me the position formally. With agreement from parkrun HQ, I accepted the role and haven't looked back since. parkrun is a truly great idea, very well executed weekly at over 100 locations around the world and an event that's changed my life. I could enthuse about it for hours but will save that for other posts!

However, I will summarise that parkrun isn't just about running. In fact, the real magic of parkrun are the people and the community spirit. I've made some good friends from being involved, and met some great and inspirational people and plan to be involved in the parkrun community for decades to come!


  1. James, thanks for this fantastic introduction into how you went from non-runner to parkrun event director. Lets hope that this inspires someone else to do the same one day.

  2. James, I was thinking of write a contribution myself and am so surprised by the similarities of your story to my own. Fate meant that I became an event director at Brueton after about 7 parkruns. One day I will get around to writing my blog.

    1. Lozbear you will be welcome to share your story on the parkrunfans blog any time you like. Just get in touch via Facebook or twitter.

  3. A great story James. You have made a significant contribution to the Eastleigh community.


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