Perth junior parkrun is a free 2km run for children aged 4 to 14. It began in April 2016 and is held every Sunday morning at 9.30am at South Inch. Just like the adult parkrun, it welcomes runners of all abilities, and the primary aim is simply to have fun. All you need to do is make sure your child registers their details with parkrun in advance of their first run, and brings a printed copy of their barcode with them each week.
I’ve been attending Perth parkrun for several years and from time to time I would take my son James along in his mountain buggy. But when he turned four years old, I reckoned he was ready for junior parkrun. The poor boy – forced into strenuous exercise at such a tender age by his super-keen mother! But I enjoy running so much I figured James might like to give it a go, and I was determined to place no pressure or expectation on his little shoulders.
The primary aim is simply to have fun!
The day after his 4th birthday (I know, he’d barely finished his cake) we trotted down to South Inch ready to take part. James likes to have a snack in between snacks, so I came prepared with enough food to fill a shopping trolley, and plenty of juice and water. It was a warm, sunny day and a large crowd of enthusiastic kids was gathering at the starting line. Younger children, like James, are likely to need an adult running alongside them but the older ones tackle the course on their own. James and I met with the run director who was giving first-timers an introductory talk, and it was reassuring to have someone describe the route and answer our questions.
A quick group warm up, and then we were off! I had done my back in the week before and was feeling like an old crock. James had the advantage of youth, but also seemed in favour of a ‘relaxed’ pace. We started at a steady saunter, and blithely ignored the thunder of trainer-shod feet as the rest of the field surged past us. We reached the first marshall without incident and had rounded the corner before James announced “Mummy, I’m tired”. Given that we’d been moving for about three minutes at that point, I gently persuaded him to keep going.
I was grateful to the second marshall who gave James a big high-five and some welcome encouragement. I was starting to see 2km through the eyes of a child, and it suddenly seemed a considerable distance. However, James was happy enough, and we mozied on. Over the next ten minutes I employed my entire arsenal of finely honed parenting skills and motivated him with a mix of positive feedback (“you’re doing so well”), bribes (“I’ll buy you an ice-cream at the end”) and scaring the living daylights out of him (“the baddies are after us – run faster!”). We chased each other’s shadow and counted the coloured cones marking the route.
Towards the end of the first lap I really did wonder if we should call it a day. I was afraid that the volunteers who dedicate their time to managing the event might end up missing their Sunday lunch, and potentially have to cancel evening plans. But James made it clear that he wished to continue. And so, pausing occasionally to pick a dandelion or chat to a ladybird, we carried on.
James wobbled valiantly on to the end and earned himself a cheer from the crowd.
The second lap is shorter than the first and before too long the finish line was in sight. We were now keeping the tailwalker company, and the rest of the runners had already completed the course. James wobbled valiantly on to the end and earned himself a cheer from the crowd. As he collected his finish token and had his barcode scanned, I reflected that he had navigated the course entirely on his own two feet, without a single ‘horsey-back’ and with an impressive degree of determination.
You can find out your child’s position and time by checking online shortly after the event. Many of our Perth junior parkrunners are turning in amazing results, and attending regularly. Upon reaching certain milestones they are given a shout-out and a colourful wristband. As with the senior parkrun, I love that runners are rewarded for their effort and commitment, rather than sporting prowess. After almost 25 minutes, James finished 91st out of 92 children, and I was a very proud mum.
With South Inch as its home, junior parkrun is perfectly placed for its participants to enjoy the pavilion café and playpark afterwards. The café is a delight following its recent makeover, and was full of children enjoying a well-deserved ice-cream. James and I sank to the grass after our exertions, quaffing juice and generally acting as though we’d completed a marathon. To be honest, I spent the rest of the day feeling slightly ragged, but James polished off a vanilla cone with a flake, and was as fresh as a South Inch daisy.
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