Running with the right crowd -parkrun 2014

For any amateur runner who pounds the tarmac or mud on a regular basis training to run 10k’s, half and full marathons, possibly the pinnacle is to run the London Marathon.

parkrunSo it might seem a little strange that Crossgates Harriers runner Richard Whitehouse turned down a free ‘club’ place in favour of a ‘charity’ place where he now has to raise £3000.  And if that’s not confusing enough another local running club, St.Theresa’s are helping him do it!

Richard explains, “My son Lewis is autistic and I’ve seen first hand the support the National Autistic Society can offer so I really wanted to raise some money for them. He’s fourteen now and was diagnosed eleven years ago and we soon realised that our lives would drastically change and things families take for granted would not be accessible for ourselves.”

Richard hopes to have a few events lined up before the marathon which takes place on 20th April. They’ve already had a ladies night and a Christmas raffle and combined with Richards justgiving page, they’re about half way there, next up is a race night which takes place on 25th January at the Barnbow Pub and one of the people who have helped organise these events is Nicki Coop who runs for St.Theresa’s.

Richard and Lewis

Richard and Lewis

“Most running clubs are affiliated to England Athletics, which offers every club a free place in the London Marathon which is usually sorted by a draw. If you take a charity place you have to raise a fair bit of money to take part. I think everyone who heard about Richard turning down a free place for the London Marathon was a bit in awe, most of us knew him from the parkruns at Temple Newsam and we are all happy to help in any way we can.”

Nicki is also running the London Marathon. She was due to compete last year but a broken coxis forced her to pull out, fortunately her place was deferred for a year and she’s competing to raise money for the British Lung Foundation. She took up running just to get fit two and a half years ago but has certainly been bitten by the  bug. “I’m the ladies captain for St.Theresas, I might not be the fastest but I enjoy the motivational side of things and I’m not one to hang about in the shadows, in fact I’m the first to admit I’ve got a bit of a gob on me but I like to put that to good use in trying to get people round a course that bit faster. I’ve also made a point of been active in recruiting other ladies to the club.  It’s much safer to run with a group for all sorts of reasons and it’s less of a lonely pursuit with others around offering support.”



Richard is a relative newcomer, only taking up the sport earlier this year after years playing local football but as well as the London Marathon, he’s also signed up to run the Adidas Silverstone Half Marathon in March and also will be part of a team from various clubs doing the Adidas 24hour Thunder Run in July.

“The Thunder Run is an off road relay against the clock which takes place every year in Walton-on-Trent. We’re running as a team of five and we’re all from different clubs. Basically we set up camp and one of us has to be on the circuit at all times. It won’t be easy, there’s everything from bogs to steep hills and obviously running at night won’t be easy.”

Although St.Theresas is the bigger of the two running clubs, they have about 130 members and the Crossgates Harriers have around 35 but in this case size really doesn’t matter. Runners have always shared a common bond, whether it’s just the slight nod as they jog pass each other in the street or helping each other out when they hit ‘the wall.’ But in the last few months, everyone seems to have got to know each other a little better and that’s down to one man, the inspirational Ronnie Bray.

Ronnie set up Temple Newsam parkrun last February. parkrun is a voluntary world wide organisation which puts on free, weekly, 5 km timed runs, not only throughout the UK but throughout the world. Temple Newsam attracts about 120 runners every Saturday and it’s still growing.  Both Richard and Nicki have become part of this as Richard explains.

“It has brought runners and running clubs closer together, we’re all helping each other out but Ronnie is a truly inspirational character and deserves recognition for what he’s achieved with Temple Newsam parkrun.”

Ronnie Bray

Ronnie Bray

And recognition is what Ronnie has got as he was recently awarded “The UK parkrun Male Personality of the Year’ for 2013.”

“What Ronnie has done is fostered a togetherness. The runs are against the clock and a good experienced runner can be finished in under twenty minutes. But it’s not as if they pack up and go home then, everyone waits for the last one to finish, cheering them on and encouraging them for next time. It’s developed into something really, really special and we’ve got Ronnie to thank for that. He really does deserve the award.”

There’s a web site and facebook page where everyone can interact with each other, all times are recorded and again, it’s just another way of bringing people together.

A clearly embarrased Ronnie insists  “Its really all the runners and volunteers like Richard and Nicki who are the inspirational team, I am just a guy that got a parkrun in Temple Newsam.”    But whatever it is, there’s clearly a lot of affection for him and many parkrunners were shocked when Ronnie suffered a major heart attack last summer. His son administered CPR, in fact the whole family did their bit while the ambulance arrived and he was unconscious in hospital for a few days. He received hundreds of good wishes from ‘parkrunners’ all over the globe. But you can’t keep a good man down and Ronnie is well on the way to making a full recovery and amazingly has started running the event again. As Richard said, truly inspirational stuff.



Every Saturday 9.00am

Come along, It’s free! but please register before your first run.


Race Night Sat 25th January at the Barnbow Pub. Admission £5 a ticket which includes Pie & Peas. Contact Richard on 0773 863 4885



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One Comment

  1. Great article, great video. Thanks to parkrun and east leeds magazine.

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