Saturday (6 October) was designated International parkrun Day to celebrate 14 years of the phenomenal success that started with just 13 runners in London’s Bushy Park. By coincidence, runABC reporter Alan Newman and his partner Sue James were in Poland and sent us this report from Gdańsk parkrun...
Gdańsk wasn't Poland's first parkrun. That honour belongs to the nearby Baltic port city of Gdynia, where five people ran the inaugural event on 15 October 2011 and the 350th run was held on Saturday. The attendance record is held by Poznan with 1,111 on 27 December 2015 but we chose the 338th Gdańsk event for our parkrun tourism on International parkrun Day.
The first problem for any parkrun tourist is always finding the start. We cheated and used a taxi to the beautiful President Ronald Reagan Park in Pryzmorze district, just off the coastal footpath that links the 'Tri-City' of Gdańsk, Sopot and Gdynia forming the massively underrated 'Polish Riviera', well worth a visit.
We were met by parkrun 'Koordynator', Agnieszka Machalica (call me Agnes), who explained the course in perfect English to a handful of British runners. The special day and our presence was mentioned in the run brief, almost drowned out by the excited barking of Gdańsk parkrun legend Barry – a huge woolly bear of a dog who has completed 210 parkruns and was expertly piloted round the course by his owner, Zbigniew Bąkowski (M65, 25:40).
Suddenly we were off for two laps of mainly flat gravel paths round a lake, past the famous statue of Ronald Reagan walking with Pope John Paul II and back through the 'Fun Zone' or children's play area that doubles as run HQ and bag drop.
First finishers were Maciej Jan Ciesielski (17:34) and Beata Dorsz (W45, 22:40). Fellow tourist Tom Elmer (Tyne Bridge Harriers, 17:57) was third overall and Wren Langford (Newcastle Uni Tri Club, 24:00) was second lady. We were chuffed to find that when the results were spun into age-graded format we topped the list and Sue certainly left her mark with a W65 course best (24:59).
We felt even more smug when we jogged the four miles back to our hotel overlooking Sopot's 500m long pier, opened in 1827, the longest wooden pier in Europe. The final words from Koordynator Agnes were ringing in our ears as we navigated our way: “You must be the first tourists who have not asked me which bus or tram to catch!”.
We kept our earlier taxi ride a secret!
Image courtesy Agnieszka Machalica