Who is the man behind the challenge?
If you’re looking for your next parkrun challenge, take heed and inspiration from Mr Andy Sparrow. A local of Bletchley for 17 years and member of the RAF for 38. The RAF took him to many places a travel agent would advise against, and those found within the pages of a holiday brochure. I’m sure there are many stories worth hearing. So if you ever find yourself on a run alongside him (his most enjoyed being the Friday discovery runs) maybe you could say hi and ask him to tell you one?
A Redway Runners member since 2021, Andy caught the park run challenge bug and set himself on a journey. That journey would see him through a year of parkrun tourism. The aim? To never revisit a single location and get a new run each week.
Signing up to Redway Runners to join others, it’s easy to see how Andy fast became part of the community by setting himself this exciting goal. I mean, a year is a long time to dedicate to fresh, unknown runs without a return to a single one!
The joy of running fits around his other sporting interest- Hockey. He’s played for 35 years and is also a hockey umpire. You’ll find him either on the pitch or tutoring future umpires, mentoring juniors and coaching others. Mr Sparrow dabbled in league squash and although now he doesn’t play competitively, he enjoys a social squash game as a hobby. There appears to be a sporting talent in the sea of green! So if you share an interest in hockey or squash, you’ve found your guy.
So, a year of parkrun tourism… What’s the story?
As always it’s best to start at the beginning – so there we shall start.
A year before Covid struck, Andy took to running as a means of getting some kind of fitness routine back. He began slow and steady with a couch to 5k after recovering from a foot and calf injury. Not long after deciding to become a Redway Runners member in 2021, Covid hit which sent him back running solo. His individual Covid runs saw him clocking up 400km per month (that’s good going in anybody’s books if you ask me). Maintaining that for 2021, he was introduced to parkrun whilst in the Falklands.
The idea was born to do a year of parkrun’s when he was limited to 2 venues, deciding upon return to the UK he would run a new venue every week. The summer of ’22 saw him visiting parkrun’s in the opposite direction of his other sporting love. However, September ’22 onwards saw his chosen location closer to his hockey fixtures, making the parkrun’s work around him. Balance at all costs!
The dedication followed him on holidays and visits to see friends where he always managed to fit in a suitable park run, proudly wearing his Redway Runners green!
The lowdown in figures:
51 venues including a closed run in Cyprus
|Local County Summaries|
|10 of 11||8 of 9||3 of 9||5 of 9||6 of 12||5 of 14|
13 elsewhere in the UK
|East Mids||East||London||North West||South East||South West||Overseas|
Keeping to his challenge, he’s yet to revisit a venue since April of ’22. As a runner, we all know that’s incredibly exciting and also – a real challenge!
For those inspired to do their own year of parkrun tourism, Andy uses the apps: Runningachievements, 5K and park runner.
What does the future hold?
“Hopefully more parkrun challenges while I have the excuse to venture to locations! Another Marathon maybe?”
“Continue touring – yes. I can probably get to 100 venues before travel time becomes an issue around my hockey. Nine of South East remaining north of the Thames and four East of England inside the M25” States Andy.
His parkrun alphabet challenge should be up, having had ‘E’ and ‘Y’ required with anticipation for closure in April this year. Andy hopes to complete the nearby counties but decided Oxon and Berks will have to wait for hockey fixtures.
There’s also word on the running streets that he could get another closed event in Belgium, currently being organised as a community run in the process of becoming a parkrun.
Final thoughts and reflections…
I asked Andy why he wanted to share his story and he explained it’s ‘so others can see what others are doing.’
In any community with a shared interest, it’s exactly the reason to share our journeys. To create a sense of knowing, understanding, inspiration and belonging.
Being a part of Redway Runners has given Andy friendships, road trips, motivation on group runs and challenges. It’s about personal progression and wondering what you can do and if you can maintain it. He’s overcome running in snow and on ice. Achieved his first marathon in March ’22 in the Falkland Islands.
For those seeking their own challenges, Andy suggests completing an event on your birthday or the event numbers of your birthday (D/M/Y)
Upon reflection of sharing his story, his advice to other runners is: “Don’t worry about what is right for others; think what is right for you. Speed doesn’t matter – doing matters.”
A huge thanks to Andy for sharing his wonderful story with us, and a huge congratulations on completing an entire year of parkrun tourism!
Written by Michelle Bella
Do you have a story you’d love to share with the Redway Runners community? If you are a runner and you have a membership – you have a story. Pop an email to us for the attention of Michelle