Runners speed their way into 2015 in Bognor Regis

C141489-7 Bog Jan8 Parkrun  phot kate''Mike Houston, left, who was second to complete the run, John Leonard, who was the first, and Zteve McLoughlin who was third.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C141489-7 SUS-150101-175538004
C141489-7 Bog Jan8 Parkrun phot kate''Mike Houston, left, who was second to complete the run, John Leonard, who was the first, and Zteve McLoughlin who was third.Picture by Kate Shemilt.C141489-7 SUS-150101-175538004

CAROLINE Wood achieved a unique sporting double in Bognor Regis.

She began 2015 by becoming the first woman home in both the town’s parkrun and the parkrun at Chichester. New year’s day was the first time both runs had been held at the start of the year. It was also the only day when parkrun entrants can take part in more than one of the 5km runs.

Runners at the Bognor Event which was held on the same day as Chichester's

Runners at the Bognor Event which was held on the same day as Chichester's

Arena AC member Caroline, 51, from Hove, said her double success had been the perfect start to the year.

“It’s nice to be the first woman home in both races on the same day. It’s worth travelling to do this.”

She was probably the only woman around the country to have achieved the feat.

Caroline first completed the 9am Chichester parkrun in 21 minutes and 15 seconds. She was on the starting line in Hotham Park at 10.30am. She completed that course in 20 minutes and 43 seconds to be the 11th finisher overall.

“Most of the Chichester course is off-road,” she said. “The Bognor one is a firmer surface but it’s got a lot of turns in it.

“I enjoy parkruns because they are very friendly and a good way to meet a lot of people. They are a real community of all ages and very supportive.

“It doesn’t matter how fast or slow you finish in because it’s a run, not a race, though everyone tries as hard as they can.”

Caroline is a race manager at the Brighton and Hove parkrun. Her new year’s day feat came after she was the first woman home at the initial Christmas Day parkrun in Bognor the previous week.

That was her 100th finish as the first woman in a parkrun.

The second woman home was her clubmate Jenny Hughes in 22:44 and 25th place. The first male finisher on new year’s day in Bognor was John Leonard. The 24-year-old from Elmer went round in 18:46.

He said: “This is about the fifth time I’ve entered the Bognor run.

“I’ve done the Southampton one a few times.

“They are really easy to do. You just turn up and they are free, which is always a good thing. Hotham Park is a good course. It’s flat but it was a bit windy today.”

The runner-up was Mike Houston in 18:48. Steve McLoughlin was third in 18:50 as the first Tone Zone Runner to finish.

Bognor’s parkrun began last May as part of a national organisation. It usually held at 9am on Saturdays from the park’s boating lake and attracts more than 100 runners. But the volunteer organisers decided to stage the special runs on Christmas and new year’s days as well.

A total of 140 turned up on December 25 and 145 went along last Thursday.

Jason Rae, the joint event director, said: “Parkrun has been such a phenomenal success in Bognor, with the community we have built up, that we felt we should put the runs on for everybody.

“We need 16-20 volunteers for each race.

“Everyone gives up their time to do that but it’s a pleasure to be here because we’re all enjoying ourselves.

“People turn up who’ve never run before and they go on to take part in half marathons and the Great South Run. Runners take part with their children as well as with their dogs.”

The runs are always followed by coffee and cakes for those who want to stay.

For Middleton resident Matthew Copeland, 53, new year’s day was his 32nd parkrun. His wife, Julia, was a marshal. Most of his runs have been in Bognor but he has also taken part in Yorkshire and Bushey Heath with 1,000 runners.

“They are a great community atmosphere and you can just come along,” he said. “It’s no problem if you are fast or slow. It’s something that sets the weekend off nicely. This one on new year’s day, is a good kickstart to the year.”

Volunteer Derek Winslow, 81, of Aldwick, has helped at every parkrun in Bognor except for Christmas Day.

He helped to ensure runners kept to the course on new year’s day. “I’ve been to every regular parkrun. I’m having an operation for a new right kneecap next week and I hope to be back running in the summer. I don’t mind volunteering. It keeps me in touch. A lot of the Tone Zone Runners like me come here. It means I can see them and chat to them.”

The two special parkruns meant five were held in Bognor in 15 days up to last Saturday. The success of the holiday occasions means the organisers have pencilled in next December 25 and January for repeat successes.