Come 8am tomorrow, hundreds of runners and walkers will be setting off on Hout Bay’s first parkrun.
After years of planning, the City of Cape Town has approved the route for Hout Bay which will see participants tackling a 3km stretch from Victoria Road to Princess Street and back again, as well as meandering pathways through the wetlands.
The parkrun events, which have taken the world by storm, involve a timed 5km run/walk for people from all walks of life, every day of the year.
In Cape Town, parkruns are hosted in Bellville, Big Bay, Bridgetown, Century City, Constantia Greenbelt, Fish Hoek, Green Point, Mitchell’s Plain, Rondebosch Common and Zandvlei, but, according to Hout Bay organiser Hannah Currier, the local event promises to be something altogether different.
“Our route will start and end near Ambleside School and will take participants through the wetlands. For the past two years, we have been engaging with the City of Cape Town, the Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay and other stakeholders and it was decided the wetlands would be the most appropriate area,” Ms Currier said.
She hopes the event would bring people from all Hout Bay’s communities together.
“We have had a lot of interest from people, and almost 700 people have liked our page on Facebook. There has also been interest from Cape Town’s other parkruns, who are keen to take part on Saturday. There are people known as parkrun tourists, who do parkruns all over the world, who are keen to see what Hout Bay is about.
“Since it’s our first outing, we are not sure what to expect, but we could see anywhere between 300 and a thousand people joining us.”
Comrades Marathon legend Bruce Fordyce, director of parkrun South Africa, has played a major role in bringing the event to Hout Bay.
Ms Currier said the route made use of the existing pathways, which had only been slightly widened by the City’s parks department to accommodate parkrun participants.
“We have not created any new paths, and as such we have not had an impact on the environment.”
Ms Currier, who moved to Hout Bay three years ago, has been instrumental in driving the project along with long-time Hout Bay resident Fred Nebe, who recognised the need for such an event in Hout Bay.
“Initially I did not think finding a route would be that hard, but, honestly, it has been the most difficult part. I thought that we could have it down the river and to the beach, but stipulations are that you can’t have participants crossing roads because of safety concerns. That was how we arrived at the wetands,” said Ms Currier.
Because parkruns are not-for-profit operations, with entry free for all participants, the organisers are dependent on funding from the private sector as well as volunteers to act as route marshals.
“So far, we have 15 volunteers, but we will always need more because they work on a rotation basis,” she said.
Mr Nebe has been working day and night to prepare the route. “In one section, it is still quite wet. But I spoke to Bruce, and he said this problem could be resolved by putting down old pallets. This has worked well, so there will be no problem for participants. After each run, we will be removing these pallets from the wetlands,” he said.
Ambleside has agreed to let participants park on the sports field at a charge of R10 a vehicle.
Friends of the Rivers of Hout Bay representative Jackie Wales said she was “delighted” the parkrun was coming to fruition.
“It will give our community a sense of ownership of the wetlands. We want the wetlands to be a recreational area where conservation is highlighted, and, of course, with the area being cleared it will make our jobs easier to encourage conservation,” she said.
The Friends, she said, had emphasised that the route needed to go along the existing pathways, but she did not feel the parkruns would have any detrimental environmental impact as participants would only be running or walking one hour a week.
Participants need to register at https://www.parkrun.co.za/register/.
Those wishing to help with funding or register as volunteers can contact Ms Currier on 084 480 8861 or firstname.lastname@example.org