“You don’t have to run; you can just walk. We just want to get people out and active. Parkrun is all about community spirit and that is something that Southall really thrives on. It’ll be great for everyone.”
Nisha Patel is one of the event directors of Southall Parkrun, which held its first ever event on Saturday, 8 January in Southall Park and will take place there every Saturday from 9am.
It is now the third local Parkrun. There are already two in the borough, at Gunnersbury Park and at Northala Fields in Northolt. Parkruns are free, weekly, community events held in open spaces and parks and they are held all around the world. A 5k route is marked out and people can get around it at whatever pace they like, with friends or family, and have a natter on the way round.
The new event came about after an approach from local residents through Let’s Go Southall, a project run by local community groups and funded by Ealing Council and Sport England. Its primary aim is to get more people active and finding ways to exercise.
“It is something that Let’s Go Southall wanted to do,” said Nisha. “But it’s not something you can do on your own – that’s how I got involved. It is not easy to start up, you need momentum.
“My friend Monica Jaswal was approached. She asked me to help – and between us we have empowered a group of volunteers to help us to train up and bring Parkrun to Southall.
“I got involved six months ago and we have been working with Parkrun on the logistics of making it happen, but prior to that Let’s Go Southall had already been working on it, especially all of the permissions needed, for a while. There are lots of hoops to jump through to set something like this up.
“We have been learning from other Parkruns in the borough and beyond; and we took over the Gunnersbury Parkrun for a weekend as a dry run. Parkrun is a very supportive environment.
“We have worked hard to get here and cannot wait to become a permanent fixture of Southall Park. It is right in the middle of the community, so is the perfect location for it.”
Monica Jaswal, the other event director of Southall Parkrun, who brought Nisha on board, said: “As a local resident it’s a great opportunity for us to get everyone active. The best thing about Parkrun is anyone can do it.
“It inspires and energises everyone. It’s more than just running, it‘s about being part of the bigger Parkrun community, which is not only national but international. It brings people together in the spirit of community and volunteering. It definitely puts Southall on the map and I’m really looking forward to seeing more and more runners join us every week.”
Why should people be excited to go along?
“Southall is the most diverse part of Ealing and engaging the local community in taking part in weekly exercise outdoors, especially at a time where mental health is suffering and obesity rates are high, is paramount,” explained Nisha.
“We want everyone to get moving, including the older community. You don’t have to run; you can just walk. We just want to get people out and active. Parkrun is all about community spirit and that is something that Southall really thrives on. It’ll be great for everyone.
“Everyone who takes part has got the same mentality, it’s very friendly. They say hello and have a chat and lots of people go for a coffee afterwards. It is a nice way to start the morning.
“We want to help people to get out. And we are hoping people will start to have a chat and a bit of a gossip with friends and want to come back each week.”
‘Great way of starting the weekend’
Councillor Josh Blacker, cabinet member for healthy lives, took part in the first ever Southall run and said: “A huge thank you to all of the volunteers and officers who worked so hard to get this amazing event up and running Southall, The event is for anyone, no matter their experience. You can walk the 5k if you want to – or even volunteer in helping put together the event.
“This event being held every week is a great step forward in creating more opportunities for residents in Southall to get active, so I would really encourage you to come along this Saturday no matter your level or ability.”
Southall parkrun is every Saturday from 9am at Southall Park (UB1 3AF).
Let’s Go Southall
Let’s Go Southall’s aim is to encourage and support residents to be more physically active. The majority of the volunteers at the park run come from the Let’s Go Southall Active Communities Team, which is the movement driving activity and change in Southall.
The town is one of 12 areas across the country to have been chosen for a Sport England programme to help people to choose more active lifestyles.
To get involved and to find out more go to the Let’s Go Southall website.
Parkruns are free, weekly, community events all around the world, with a large number of events taking place every weekend across the country. Anyone can turn up at any ability level.
Find out where your nearest parkrun is on the Parkrun website.