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Ambleside Parkrun knits together West Vancouver community

This month the free, community-driven running event will celebrate its first anniversary
Jatinder Sidhu initiated the West Vancouver version of global fitness event Parkrun one year ago. | Parkrun

With its pristine ocean views, flat landscape and tight-knit community, Ambleside is a “no brainer” location for the free, fitness-focused event Parkrun, said Jatinder Sidhu, director of the West Vancouver event.

The five kilometre run or walk, which starts and finishes behind Ambleside’s iconic Ferry Building every Saturday morning, was instigated by Sidhu in July last year.

Since then it has clocked more than 800 registered participants and has had “overwhelmingly positive feedback” from the local community, he said, a response he puts down to the event’s approachable and social nature.

“An absolutely critical part of Parkrun is that it is not a race. We do not talk about winners or losers,” he said, adding how, while the event is timed, the event’s driving force is more on the community gathering together than it is crowning those who come first.

Sidhu said participants should approach the event “without barriers in their mind.” Unlike daunting events like marathons or sporting competitions, he said, Parkrun is uber inclusive and open to those who want to run, walk or push a pram with friends, and those of all ages.

For those who don’t want to take to the track, there is equal opportunity to be involved from a spectator or volunteer standpoint, with both groups being “vital” to the Parkrun community, said Sidhu.

Since it started in July last year almost 100 people have signed up to volunteer for the weekly Ambleside event, with between six and 12 volunteers running the operation each week. Comprising people from all walks of life, they include teenagers looking to build volunteer hours, retirees hoping to give back to their community, runners who are too injured to take part, and families of those runners who are taking part.

When all participants and volunteers come together post-event for a coffee at the Bean Around The World cafe on Marine Drive, the event serves as a mixer for various people whose paths may not have otherwise crossed.

“There is a sense of occasion, there is a sense of coming together as a community,” said Sidhu.

“Part of the social aspect is that we go to a cafe afterwards and you can just chat and meet people you might not otherwise meet. It’s a really interesting mix of people from different places, from all over the world.”

A global movement, Parkrun was founded in 2004 in London’s Bushy Park in the U.K., and has since gone on to take place in 20 countries around the world. It launched in Canada in 2016, kicking off in Whistler, before going on to set up shop across the city, with locations in Coquitlam, Burnaby and Richmond.

It was Sidhu’s overseas experience that compelled him to initiate Parkrun in West Vancouver, as a former regular on the Parkrun courses in London before he moved to Vancouver from the U.K. four years ago.

Last month the event celebrated its 50th edition, simultaneously celebrating its highest turnout of participants since it started. It is a number only expected to grow this month, when the event celebrates its first anniversary, July 8. Click here for more information

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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