Sheffield's running community is buzzing in anticipation as Parkrun set to return

For most of Sheffield’s athletic community, the loneliness of the socially distanced runner is now long forgotten.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 12:00 am
Updated Monday, 19th July 2021, 1:51 pm

Andy Davies, founder and events secretary of the new Hillsborough and Rivelin Running Club, says runners have been very patient since the early lockdown rules meant they could only run alone, or with a fellow household member keen enough to pound the Outdoor City’s distant footpaths at dawn or dusk, to keep the then prescribed 2-3 metres plus from everyone else.

Andy recently organised Sheffield’s first post-pandemic competitive relay event for city running clubs, with the inaugural Rother Valley Relays attracting over 500 runners, from 21 different running clubs, to race in relay teams round a 4.8km circuit of Rother Valley Park. Set off in age waves to reduce contact at the start, Andy said the event had been so well received the HRRC club is now looking at a second local relay event this year, perhaps at Wyming Brook.

“All running clubs love a relay because it gives you the chance to work in a team in a mainly individual sport,” he says.

Parkrun trial at Millhouses Park

The closure of gyms and advice to exercise locally led to a big increase in running last year, Andy believes.

“I saw a lot more people running round places like Damflask, including a lot more women than I’d seen before, and people of all shapes and sizes, many who’d never done any running before.”

If parkrun had restarted last summer, Sheffield’s most popular Saturday run at Endcliffe Park could have been overwhelmed, he says.

As it is, with most of the city’s parkruns due to start next week on Saturday 24th July, (unless there are any last minute changes in Covid policy) Andy still thinks attendance could be well up on pre-pandemic times.

Andy Davies of Hillsborough and Rivelin Running Club and runner Sarah Ward at Wyming Brook.

“Sheffield’s running community is buzzing in anticipation of the parkruns restarting,” said Kate Scott, who helps at the Endcliffe parkrun. “There’s plenty of chatter within the running clubs about trying out the new route at Endcliffe, and my friends and colleagues who are planning to try parkrun for the first time are asking me which course they should try first?”

They’ll only have four Sheffield runs to choose from on the 24th, at Concord, Manor Fields, Endcliffe, and Graves parks, because Millhouses and Hillsborough parks will restart on the 31st, as they have other plans on the 24th. (Festabubble at Millhouses, and something by the name of Tramlines at Hillsborough).

“A lot of time and effort has been put in to bring parkrun back safely and we are all looking forward to returning,” said Finlay Cooper of the Endcliffe parkrun voluntary organising team.

“We have all missed the routine and the atmosphere of parkrun on a Saturday morning, seeing so many smiling faces, chatting with the many friends we make through the parkrun community and enjoying the shared outdoor social experience,” said Finlay’s colleague, Louise Dale-Hughes. “We are excited for the day to arrive.”

Hannah Rawlinson at More Hall reservoir. Andy Davies.

During the pandemic at least two new local running clubs have been formed (Dronfield and Hillsborough & Rivelin) by members of existing clubs looking for a slightly different approach to training or events, or providing a focus at new locations.

Richard Pegg, of the city’s Steel City Striders running club, says exercise advice over the last 18 months may well have boosted new runners in Sheffield, but he reckons more people now recognise the mental health and social benefits of running too.

Clubs like the Steel City Striders and HRRC organised virtual events in 2020, including run anytime challenges for 1-6 people to suit different lockdown regulations, exploring city trails or weekly running quests spotting fellow club members or logging Strava art.

“Being in a club helped people keep their friends and contacts going during the last year,” Richard said. “I think Sheffield will come out of this with more runners, and more running clubs.”

Zoe Dickinson at Wyming Brook. Catherine McKeown.

“For anyone who’s ever been a runner, this is a boom time,” said Andy Davies. “And if our society has more people running, that’s got to be beneficial for the NHS and the whole community.”

> The next HRRC event (for trail running veterans or beginners) is the ‘Wharncliffe Sider with Rosé’ 5 mile trail race on 11th August. See https://hillsboroughandrivelinrunningclub.co.uk

Runners at the Concord Parkrun course in 2018. David Bocking.
One of the wave starts at the Rother Valley Relay races in June. Nicola Allen.
LtoR: Winston Southwell, Andy Woffindin and Dave Rooney about to take part in the Limb Valley trail run - withh dog Jazzy. David Bocking.