Almanac Exercise: Patawalonga parkrun


Photo courtesy of Mickey Randall


The race director stands on a chair beneath a gum tree.

Speaking into her microphone she itemises the logistics: safety, prams, dogs, coffee, the defibrillator.  

Wait. A defibrillator? Oh.  

I’m here for the 79th edition of the Patawalonga River parkrun. It’s my debut.  

There are loose knots of folks in the shade. I meet Rohan. He lives just down the road from us and is a veteran of about seventy parkruns. He’s encouraging and affable in his San Francisco Giant cap. I’ve got on my Denver Broncos hat.

At 8am on the dot we’re away! Within moments the young ones and the lithe old ones have scampered. I keep left, as instructed by the race director. It’s mercifully flat (running by a river helps with this), and vested volunteers take photos and offer cheery encouragement.

We ease on past the treatment works (what a treat typing this noun group is) and towards Glenelg. Blokes pushing prams motor by me. In one pram the baby grasps a pear. I had a pear yesterday at work. It was a highlight.

A Jetstar plane approaches the nearby runway, and I can already hear the silent screams of those passengers whose luggage is instead going to Broome or Wagga or Alice. I pass Rohan and nod at him, ‘Keep going!’ He replies, ‘Good work, Mickey.’ When you’re new, you only need one friend.

It’s still on the river. Hardly any kayaks. Overhead, no seagulls. I am often surprised by this, especially on the beach. Maybe it’s the absence of proximate hot chip retailers. Attenborough could tell us why.

A big fella with industrial braces on both knees strides past. I’m reminded of Shaun Rehn in the 1997 Preliminary Final against the Bulldogs when he ripped off his supports and inspired the Crows to victory. I give him space.

Approaching the King Street bridge, I reflect on this moment, and hope it’s an expression of love for Claire, the boys, our shared future, myself. It’s an investment in a better me and a brightening horizon and unfolding joy. I then think about today’s Gawler races and the time-honoured Bung Fritz Cup. The race that stops a smallgoods-loving nation.

Our finish line at the baseball club swims into fuzzy view. I’ve been tailing a wiry, little bloke. He reminds me of Tommy Hafey but in a black shirt. I want to catch him. I dig in.

He powers on and gets there by a cricket pitch. But I’m happy. I’ve finished the five kilometres in 28:34 and come 45th out of 110 runners.

Beforehand I’d prepared a paragraph in which I described winning the Kapunda-born, left-arm decidedly pedestrian medium pace bowling, English teacher category for my age group. However, the record shows that I simply won my age group. I thank the other participants in the 55–59-year-old male section. Both of you.

The parkrun is brilliant, and I’ll return.

Some of the participants go to a coffee shop but we’ve passport photos to sort. Italy beckons.  


To find out more about the Patawalonga park run click here.

To read more by Mickey Randall on The Footy Almanac click here.


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About Mickey Randall

Now whip it into shape/ Shape it up, get straight/ Go forward, move ahead/ Try to detect it, it's not too late/ To whip it, whip it good


  1. Peter Fuller says

    Loved this Mickey; congrats on your success, and I hope that you will continue your involvement.
    I’m a keen – and fairly regular Parkrunner – after formerly being dismissive of it. My take was that just as Naomi Campbell wouldn’t get out of bed for less than 10 gorillas, I wouldn’t get out of bed to run less than 10k. I covered that objection, since I am 2.5k from the start/finish line, so the run down and home fulfils the 10k target (although, most weeks I now cycle there and swing by the newspaper shop).
    I had also spent forty years considering running a solitary pursuit, but I’ve now realised how rewarding it is to share the Saturday morning ritual.
    It’s worth mentioning that many participants walk the 5k and it provides a worthwhile gentle fitness and social option as an alternative for those who aren’t obsessively competitive.

  2. Thanks Peter.

    Just got home after this morning’s parkrun (apparently the stylised lower case represents accessibility for all) and enjoyed it again although it was hard work in the sultry weather. I agree with you about the sense of shared purpose and community and it’s in ample evidence in my local event. It’s both inspirational as there was a chap participating who was mid-eighties and humbling when a chap pushing a double pram finished about ten minutes in front of me!

    Before we began, I overheard two older blokes chatting and one said, ‘Yes, but I’m about twenty years older than you Don. In fact, I’ve always been twenty years older than you.’

  3. Good work Mickey, that is a pretty good time. I hope to get to my 50th parkrun next week having just done one in NZ. My time is well down since the chemo last year but the encouragement is always there. There is always a positive. A few weeks a go I did a post chemo PB. I managed first in 60-64 “show me the medal” one time. The competitive nature never goes away….

  4. Mark Duffett says

    On my most recent return to my state of origin I thought I’d give Cleland parkrun a crack for something a bit different. Is it ever. I thought I’d be reasonably conditioned by Tasmanian parkruns for a bit of topography, but they’ve got nothing on this monster. I hope the run director has the Pat parkrun’s defib supplier on speed dial.

    You’re spot on about the sense of shared purpose and community, Mickey. I’ve been to well over a dozen parkruns in multiple states now, and it’s the same everywhere. Though for all the mutual encouragement and “it’s a run, not a race”, no one can hold back the competitive instincts that kick in when the finish is in sight. My achilles is still paying the price for an ill-advised sprint to the line over a month ago…

  5. Shaun Rehn. Love it!!

  6. Thanks all for your comments.

    Great to read that you’re running and have just finished a parkrun in NZ Noelmc. Trust your upwards trajectory continues. We’ll be in Milan on an April Saturday, so I’ll try to join in there. The European parkruns start at 9 and not 8am, presumably because it’s still dark at the earlier time in winter.

    I’m pleased to be on a flat track down here, Mark. As the Seacliff run is entirely on the esplanade, I might venture down there one day. Hope that Achilles mends well!

    The grumpier he got, the better Rehnny played, Smokie!

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