At the very least, a parkrun will take you on a lively jaunt through a pristine forest or lush gardens. Other times it can take you half way round the world to a landscape you hardly recognize. Dedicated parkrunner Anine Eschberger Wortmann’s journey began in the sunny and hot trails of Pretoria, South Africa and, 100 parkruns later, has led to the (at times) icy and snowy parks of Montreal, Quebec.
Anine took her first steps when a gym-mate informed her of a free event just down the road from her house. Keen to explore the outdoors with like-minded folk – without a strain on her pocketbook – Anine signed up for her first parkrun at the Pretoria Botanical Garden in early 2016.
“I clearly remember the welcoming talk given to newcomers and how they announced that once the parkrun bug bites, you will be addicted forever!” Before that first run, Anine didn’t know how true it was, but a little mid-route motivation was all it took.
“On the scenic meandering garden route, when I was completely out of breath,” Anine says, “I spotted another runner sporting a parkrun ’50 Club’ Red Shirt with the South African flag. I knew in that moment the parkrun bug bit and I was determined to earn my very own shirt!”
It wouldn’t take long for the dream to be realized when, just 18 months later, Anine received her very own Red Shirt at her 50th parkrun at the inaugural Midstream parkrun, in Johannesburg.
parkruns took her around South Africa, visiting more parks around Pretoria and Johannesburg and even down to Cape Town. Each run offered new tests, but also came with equal if not greater rewards. “Each course has its unique challenges like tarmacs, rocky paths, bridges, and of course, the hills,” Anine says. “Furthermore, each route has its unique dose of scenic views of either cities or nature.” The constant discovery, and the motivation that comes from all runs being recorded in a central database, made sure parkruns would follow her wherever she went.
First up was London. “As a true parkrunner, I deliberately booked my hotel close to a parkrun and made sure I got my first international parkrun, in Southwark, under my belt.” She had no idea at the time that the UK wasn’t even close to as far as she would get to expanding her international parkrun pedigree.
In 2017, Anine suddenly found herself moving to Montreal. “I had to contact parkrun HQ to change my home run from Botanical gardens parkrun to Frédéric Back parkrun!” she recalls. As it happened, parkrun was just getting going in her new city, and Anine found herself in a position to help grow the sport she’d come to love. Back in South Africa, Anine learned to love volunteering and “the art of handing out cupcakes at the finish line.” Since then, she's also come to enjoy the camaraderie of being a Tail Walker, encouraging finishers over the line.
Then, on August 11 of this year she found herself over that finish line for the 100th time. She got to don the famous “100” Black Cape and the run was followed by huge celebration with balloons and cake – all courtesy of the Frédéric Back volunteers. “Admittedly, it was a bit hard to run with this thing looking like a bat woman,” Anine laughs. “But it was an amazing experience for which I am grateful. I had finally not only achieved, but exceeded my initial goal.”
There was more cake the next week when parkrun celebrated two years in Canada. It’s thanks to ambassadors like Anine that parkrun will continue to grow here, and all around the world.
Ready to start your own quest for 100? It’s as easy to join a parkrun in your community as it is to show up! If there isn’t a parkrun already in your favourite park, why not get one started? It’s volunteers like Anine (and you!) that make it all happen. Visit parkrun.ca for all the details.