Park Run Issues (by )

So a while ago now as in more than a year ago I went to the Ignite talks in Bath (part of a Tech festival I believe) to tell the world about why I designed Cuddly Science - the theme was Tech/Science for the wider good or something like that.

Whilst there we came across a group who had made a system for timing people and getting people to run and train and do exercise together. Without it costing the participants a butt load of money because that is a huge issue with exercise - I know when I was younger and even now I never really went to the gym or swimming that much because they cost money.

In fact one of the big draws of working at the campsite was that I got to use the climbing wall, lake, rifle and archery ranges for free after work (which was teaching those things except lake stuff due to pathetic swimming abilities). At uni I wanted to take part in loads of things but it was all too expensive and had a tendency to mount up cost wise but I did manage a bit of caving and Kung Fu.

My own struggle with wheelchairs and walking aids has shown how much of a difference having access to equipment can make not to mention people to encourage you and kind of group learning when you are doing things wrong as well.

Part of my miraculous recovery resulted from me having enough money to get a recumbent exercise bike with back rest and large wide padded seat - with a busted pelvis there was no way I could even get on a normal bike. But the bike, pool, chin up bar, pedometers etc still set me back hundreds of pounds because equipment is not cheap and needing what I did meant I couldn't just wait for free cycle and though social services where brilliant in providing me with bedsticks and aids to get in and out of baths etc... they could not provide what I needed for my physio. (to be fair I have bought all this stuff over like a decade but I did kind of need it in one hit and the thing is that because I was going to have to get a taxi or something to the gym in the first place the cost of gyms for a couple of months was enough to get the bike etc... and I can use it whilst the kids play at home etc...).

I digress some what - the point is there needs to be free stuff our health is kind of dependant on it. People need to climb, swim, run, we need a variety of stuff so those with various injuries or medical conditions which the longer you go in life is more likely to be you, can exercise.

This did not used to be such an issue but it is with modern lives and yes we could argue about that for a millenia and not change a single thing. Bikes are expensive, bikes get stolen or damaged but... there are great projects a foot to refurbish old bikes so they are accessible to everyone - fit free clean transport for the win (just please don't moan about me and my kids being in the cycle lane when the vegetation has grown over our pedestrian bit of path and hey they are scooters anyway! and never mind there is a mobility scooter coming and we all need to navigate the hideous junction with the lorries and more lanes than I can work out).

Back home in Essex and London there is gym equipment in the playgrounds or rather in the parks just outside the playgrounds - for grown ups to use! And people use them - for FREE (except you know they are paid for by taxes and that is the sort of thing I want my tax spent on!).

So bikes good, walks good (whilst we still have access and the national parks to walk in 🙁 ), and we have basically already lost swimming and climbing as free accessible things unless you are really lucky - but running and pull ups etc... there are games set up to help walkers and runners, Bristol even has a playable city!

And that brings us to the reason that I am writing this post - Bristol.

They want to charge the Park Run runner with path maintenance - something most of them will already be paying for in tax. They are saying they can't expect the non-runners to pay for it equally - erm... but community, society, COMMON SCENSE!

Because yes people cause erosion - big problem with some areas of outstanding natural beauty and so on but there is a lot of wear and tear from just WALKING, from dogs scratching, bikes biking, kids scooting... also are they planning on charging everyone to just run? Regardless of weather you are with the Park Run?

Charging for the free sports and exercise that will help people lead fitter and healthier lives - which will drastically reduce the cost on the nhs (injuries costs are minimal compared to long term chronic conditions which exercise can help control (if you can and have access to the exercise!)).

This is more than short sighted - looks like I am not the only one who thinks so.

The same park seems to charge for the football club to use it on Saturday mornings - is that normal practice?

Now obviously we are angry - mainly because as geeks neither of us has liked sport that much - that is because we perceived it as aggressive and bully-tastic - this changed with the Olympics where we got to see it more as striving for personal bests and being the best you can be - a world of self improvement.

We did not see the climbing and shooting as sport they were activities we liked - again that barrier came down. We were no longer doing those things because - money. We spend too much on the kids clubs and activities but that is because we have learnt that a) confidence is important and b) they are both girls related to me and yes they maybe lucky and take after Al but.... they need their core muscle strength and they need good metabolisms and they need strong lungs and hearts.

But we are paying alot for that and many don't have that (we don't really have that and rely on people giving classes or equipment instead of presents for the girls).

And the thing is it isn't just me - Alaric is actually the one who takes part in the park run as part of him sorting his body out - for years he had bad back pain but it got worse and worse - its siatica, he's lucky the Dr spotted the problem - we had to pay a physio to sort it as though it would have resulted in him needing a hip replacement in 2 yrs time the nhs could not pay for the preventative yanking the leg back out of its socket but they would pay for the hip replacement :/ So obv. he had loads of physio ad stuff to do afterwards - it's acting up again which is a bad sign but it is more than the 2 yrs on now - he is working on his general muscle tone and stuff.

He does Krav, that costs money... but he also does park run - he was running by himself but motivation is hard - but park run... that is different.

It's free, it's all together, it's mildly competitive but mainly supportive.

I was/am looking forward to running in it but am still struggling with getting round the block - but hey I am getting round the block and now mainly not weeing myself in the process (yes literally and yes probably TMI). We are planning on including the kids which is another thing taking kids to gyms doesn't work - it used to when I was a kid - I remember sitting at the edge of the gym whilst my dad and uncles weight trained but that doesn't happen anymore - so what do you do with the kids whilst you use the gym?!

So we plan to run as a family but that has to wait on Mary levelling up with Ballet as the times currently clash.

I hope Bristol does not set a trend - it would be a shame and a tragedy to loose something that is designed to help everybody.

(p.s. written whilst Jean was at her pre-school free running club which is fab but not sure how wide spread those are!)

Ok so I side tracked myself a lot but basically park runs make running and exercise accessible to everyone allowing a reduction in the impact poverty can have - it is a good thing why break it. (or course you also need access to tech so we need the libraries as well for people to get the full goodness of the thing and sadly also the foodbanks :(.) Also positive impact on health, attitudes.

Here is the petition.

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