A WEEKLY running event in Woodley will celebrate its fifth birthday with a party in Woodford Park next weekend.
Woodley parkrun, which is part of the global parkrun series, encourages runners of all ages and abilities to run, jog or walk 5km every Saturday morning.
Now, the community has grown from humble beginnings to more than 300 people taking part each week.
Kerri French helped to set up the Woodley chapter on October 13, 2012 after being approached by Woodley Town Council and Woodford Leisure Centre, who wanted to see a local parkrun take shape.
Since then, more than 7,000 people have taken part in 264 runs, running a total of 301,820km.
Kerri said: “I started as Event Director and looked after the event for the first four years. We had a core volunteer team of 10 people to begin with. Over time we’ve grown the core team to about 20 people who work in four sub teams with a Run Director.
“The first event had 148 runners, and we just get over 300 most weeks now.”
Kerri says that parkrun means more to people than just getting some exercise on a Saturday morning: it has helped people connect with their local community.
She said: “I wanted to give something back to the local running community, parkrun has inspired me to be more habitually fit and active and now more and more people are gaining the same by having a free community run on their doorsteps.
“I also get people saying that before Woodley parkrun they didn’t know anyone in Woodley and now they know so many people and feel part of an extended family.
“It’s far more than just a run in a park. Everyone is welcome regardless of age, shape or speed. parkrun truly breaks down barriers to participation.
“I’d really like to thank Wokingham Council and the Inspire Wokingham grant, Woodley Town Council and Woodford Park Leisure Centre and anyone that has ever run, walked or volunteered at Woodley parkrun.
“To celebrate the fifth anniversary, we are having a big party on October 14 where people can come dressed up, followed by a picnic in the park after the run.”
And Kerri’s advice to anyone who is thinking about joining parkrun: “Come, don’t think about it just come & bring your parkrun barcode.”
To find out more about Woodley parkrun visit www.parkrun.org.uk/woodley.