The following article is in the newsletter I just received from parkrun. I found it to be very touching and quite inspirational.
Last Saturday I took part in the 105th Bradford parkrun, an event where they smashed their all-time attendance record as almost 400 people celebrated the life of Arthur James. Arthur ran his first ever parkrun at my home event of Leeds back in March 2009 at the wonderful age of 73, and on Saturday the 5th of May this year picked up his 100 club t-shirt and jacket at his home run in Bradford. That night Arthur passed away peacefully in his sleep.
I thought I’d share a story about Arthur and in doing so provide us all with a nice reminder of what it really means to run.
Every year at Leeds parkrun they put on what is called the Red Welly Relay, an event where the 25 male and 25 female parkrunners who have participated in the most parkruns that year are invited to take part in a boys versus girls handicapped 25 x 200 metre relay directly after that morning’s normal run. The ladies are given a head start based on each person’s parkrun PB, off the top of my head this is typically around four minutes, with the baton being a red wellington boot in honour of the statue in the park where someone’s coloured in the Duke of Wellington’s boots. At the end of the race the losing captain has to hand their boot over to the opposing number and the victorious team then own the boots for the following 12 months. The first year this took place was 2009 when on a cold November morning Arthur found himself as the lead-off runner for the men’s team, opposite Tess Hornsby-Smith for the ladies.
I had the honour of setting the runners off and made it very clear to both Tess and Arthur that, in true Gladiators style, Tess would go on my first whistle and four minutes later Arthur would go on my second whistle. It was clear from Arthur’s enthusiasm that he was up for a good old fashioned burn up that morning, but he assured me that he’d wait for the signal. Anyway, counting Tess in and reminding them both that it was only Tess who should start I shouted go… only for Arthur to set off instantly in hot pursuit. Overcome by his passion to ‘run because he could’ he delivered a sprint start that would teach Usain Bolt a thing or two and promptly set off up the course to the sound of all the spectators shouting ‘come back Arthur’ at the tops of their voices. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to chase down a sprightly septuagenarian but it wasn’t what you’d call easy!
Arthur taught us all a great deal that day, he taught us what it really meant to get lost in the moment and just run, completely care free and with no inhibitions. It was an absolute joy to watch and will remain with me forever.
Wherever you parkrun next, run like Arthur.