Hart first MP to reach running milestone

Simon Hart MP Image copyright Colby parkrun
Image caption Simon Hart MP on his way to his milestone 100th parkrun

MPs don't have too much to celebrate at the moment, but Simon Hart is an exception.

The Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP is the first MP to run 100 parkruns. He completed the milestone at his local run at the National Trust site of Colby Woodland Garden near Amroth.

Parkruns are free 5 kilometre runs (not races) held at 9am every Saturday. There are 27 parkruns and 11 junior parkruns in Wales. More than 94,000 people have taken part in one, more than 6,000 last weekend.

In the UK, a staggering 1,471,620 different people have taken part in parkrun since its creation 13 years ago. As Simon Hart ran his 100th, he was among more than 144,000 runners, walkers and volunteers in the UK.

"I'm not really a runner," admitted Mr Hart. "I am someone middle-aged who's slightly overweight who goes for a run on Saturday mornings to have a nice croissant afterwards."

Although I'm a running bore, it's fair to say not everyone is a parkrun fan - some councils have been slower than others to embrace the phenomenon and some other park users such as dog walkers have been less keen on hundreds of runners taking over their local space.

Parkrunners would argue that it does have a wider impact on health, activity, volunteering and community life.

"The general health benefits for the nation must be enormous," said Mr Hart, who, besides running, volunteers "every six weeks or so" and has taken the role of run director. So what's the parkrun appeal?

'Accessible'

"I think that because it is accessible to everybody. You can be a high quality athlete or you can be a slow, slightly overweight middle-aged person and you are on equal terms. If you want to bring your dog or your child in a pram you can.

"I think for me it makes me try a bit harder than I would plodding down the road in London on my own. I have become a slave to it. I won't have a drink on a Friday night as much as I used to."

He may be the first to run 100, but he is far from the only MP to take part. Torfaen Labour MP Nick Thomas-Symonds, has run Cwmbran and Pontypool parkruns.

"What I was struck by was the inclusiveness," he told his local paper. "The runners were of all ages: parkrun is accessible, open to everyone. Even if you are away from home for a weekend, you can find a local parkrun in another part of the country at the same time."

Mr Thomas-Symonds, who would probably not describe himself as a natural athlete, is currently engaged in the "#516 challenge", running 516 km in 2017 to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease Association and Bowel Cancer UK. With under two months to go, he's already close to 500 km. (The 516 was devised by adding the target of 500 km to the year the challenge was set up - '16),

Other parkrunning MPs include Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns (Barry Island), Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith (Pontypridd) and Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith (Bryn Bach).