12 May 2023

Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of participants later, Shellharbour parkrun marks its 400th

| Dione David
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Julie and Gordon Turner at the Shellharbour Parkrun

Julie and Gordon Turner attended the first Shellharbour parkrun in 2014 and between them have completed 775 parkruns at Shellharbour and around the globe. Photo: Shellharbour parkrun.

As the Shellharbour parkrun completes its 400th run tomorrow (13 May) it’ll be a significant milestone, but just one of many from over the years.

Since it kicked off in 2014 almost 9000 registered individuals have completed the 5 km course at Shell Cove’s picturesque Killalea Regional Park.

Total registered completions of the course sit at around 76,000 – meaning registered runners have walked, jogged and run a collective 380,000 km. That’s the length of Australia’s coastline about a dozen times over.

Some of them have completed the run more than 300 times.

“All of it made possible by 766 volunteers over that time,” volunteer event director Olly Spake marvels.

“Of all the numbers, I reckon that’s the best one.”

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Parkrun has been established in more than 20 nations worldwide as a free, community-based active movement.

People can register once, giving them a unique barcode to track their results at any parkrun – though this step is entirely optional.

‘Parkrunners’ can register as young as four, and the Shellharbour crew have had their fair share of those. They’ve also had people in their late 80s.

“Peter, a regular who I think has consistently finished his 5 km course in around 35 minutes, is in his mid-80s,” Olly says.

“We have had and still have some amazing individuals running with us.”

Shellharbour Parkrun

Grassy gullies and that Farm Beach view at the “point break” turnaround – the Shellharbour parkrun is billed as one of the most scenic on the global parkrun map. Photo: Shellharbour parkrun.

Jye Edwards, who went on to the Tokyo Olympics, holds the Shellharbour parkrun male course record of 15 minutes and 44 seconds.

Former Olympian Jessica Hull held the female record until Amy Bunnage, who Olly says “in every likelihood will make it to the big leagues”, ran the course in 18 minutes and 32 seconds.

But as fun as it is to talk about the group’s records and the famous athletes among its ranks, Olly is adamant that’s not what a park run is about.

“We’ve got over 10,000 individual PBs (personal bests) on record, 10,000 moments of great personal pride,” he said.

“At the same time, parkruns are not all about speed; they’re about whatever you’re looking to get out of them.

“For some that’s fitness; for others it’s just a walk and a talk with a friend.”

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For almost the entirety of their nine-year history the Shellharbour parkrunners have run the same route, which is billed as one of the most scenic on the global parkrun map.

Kicking off at Killalea’s kiosk, it heads north along the path and down into a grassy gully before turning around at about the 1.6 km mark, near the lagoon.

Parkrunners then return along the same path and head south, travelling about 650 m past the start/finish area before swinging down a grassy hill for a short return leg to take in the Farm Beach view at the “point break” turnaround.

They then take a short climb back up the grassy hill before returning along the path for a final 650 m to the finish area near the Farm Cafe, where many will then enjoy breakfast.

The run is complemented by other activities in this popular spot such as a weekly Saturday meditation group kicking off at 6:30 am called “The Sit” and Pines Surfing Academy, which provides lessons and group events at the Farm Beach.

“Invariably for everyone, it’s a terrific place to make the most out of your Saturday morning,” Olly says.

As has been the recurring tradition for many of its 50s and 100s milestone events, Shellharbour’s 400th parkrun will see the group’s juniors taking over its key volunteering roles tomorrow.

As Killalea Regional Park is a regional park managed by National Parks and Wildlife Service, domestic animals are sadly not allowed on the run.

The weekly Shellharbour parkrun begins at 8 am on Saturdays, following a first-timers welcome briefing at 7:45 am outside The Farm Kiosk on Killalea Drive, Shell Cove. Register here, or just turn up.

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