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Bressay set for inaugural ‘parkrun’ event

After two trial runs, the first official Bressay 'parkrun' takes place this Saturday. Photo: John Bateson.
Bressay parkrun. Photo: John Bateson

SHETLAND has joined hundreds of other communities around the world in establishing a “parkrun” – with the first 5km running, jogging and walking event set to take place in Bressay this weekend.

Set up by Kate Wills, who became accustomed to taking part in parkruns during a year living in Australia with her young family, the free-to-enter event will occur every Saturday morning from now on.

Parkrun was founded in 2004 and the concept is simple: turn up and run or walk 5km. People can register online to take part, and Kate is hoping to attract parkrun enthusiasts from outwith the islands to participate.

The 29 year old, who works for the SIC as a social worker and is also a retained firefighter, said she and her husband Kevin had found parkrun to be a great way to meet lots of other young families (they have a daughter, Cleo, and a son, Robin) during their time in Newcastle, New South Wales.

“We had heard of it before but didn’t realise how much fun it could be until the beautiful Aussie climate spurred us on to give it a go,” she said. “Kevin and I took it in turns to either run it or jog/walk it with our double buggy and two children. The kids got really into shouting encouragement to the crowds and offering a high five to the passers by.”

Kate said that, as someone who is not naturally athletic, her “favourite bit about our parkrun routine was sitting down as a family with our parkrun friends at our regular café to have a well earned breakfast!”

“The thought of missing out on our family parkrun routine entirely due to living in an isolated place like Shetland was not appealing so I decided to do something about it.

“I decided I wasn’t going to let our less appealing weather stop me enjoying what I had enjoyed in Australia and therefore began the process of starting the Bressay parkrun.”

Although she and her family now live in Lerwick, Kate opted to base the weekly event in Bressay, a short hop away on the ferry, and admits she is “very nostalgic” about the place.

“I grew up there and owe a lot of my happy childhood memories to that lovely community,” she said. “Unfortunately, Bressay has taken a few knocks in recent years with the closure of our primary school and our spa and a general lack of investment in the isle.

“Starting a parkrun there seemed a great way of getting people thinking positively about the place again and helping regenerate it.”

The 5km route takes in “as many amenities as we could manage” including the heritage centre, marina, hotel/pub, church, shop, playpark, football pitch, hall, café and abundant coastal scenery. It is on flat tarmac and is “fairly flat with two slight inclines”.

Funding to set up the parkrun came mostly from Bressay Community Council and Tesco’s “bags of help” fund, while Shetland Islands Council was supportive of her plan throughout and gave permission for the route to be used.

She said people in Bressay generally hadn’t heard of parkrun “until I started banging on about it”, but after two successful trial runs since the new year she is “very confident” there will be plenty of participants to make her effort – and that of other volunteers – worthwhile.

“I’m not worried if not many folk come as that might be easier for our volunteers and they say the most successful longstanding parkruns start small,” Kate told Shetland News.

“Given the interest it’s had, I’m more concerned that we’ll have loads of people and be a bit overwhelmed by it all. The quieter months might be a nice break for the organisers!”

And for any tourists considering a visit to the UK’s most northerly parkrun, she has the following advice: “You need to prepare yourself for the fact that getting to Shetland, whether by NorthLink boat or by plane, can be a bit expensive. It’s 100 per cent worth the money though!”

  • Bressay’s inaugural parkrun will take place starting at 9.30am every Saturday. The free, timed 5km walk/jog/run is open to all ages and abilities and organised entirely by volunteers. You can register before your first visit online at www.parkrun.org.uk/register.