South Leeds Lakers Takeover Cross Flatts parkrun

Amanda Binns

Most people spend Saturday mornings having a nice lie in, maybe breakfast in bed, some even go to work. Then there are the crazies who don’t do any of these things. They leap out of bed and make their way to a park to run 5k, some even travel some distance to do it. These people are known as “parkrunners” and they are taking part in an organised, timed run. parkrun is a free run attended by thousands of people around the world, run in parks and public areas around the world. parkrun was started in 2004 by Paul Sinton-Hewitt and has grown since that first time trial. 


parkrun in South Leeds is held at Cross Flatts Park in Beeston and is a multi-lap course, attended on average by 82 people each week. Into its 3rd year the event has gone from strength to strength after initially being started by local runner Mark Hodgkinson and a team of volunteers. This week Cross Flatts parkrun was subject to a “take over” by the local running group the South Leeds Lakers with 143 runners in attendance. The Lakers took on all the volunteer roles, ranging from run director to back marker.


The South Leeds Lakers are a free running group for all abilities who have been running together for a little over a year, led by Ewan Mitchell and his team of glamorous assistants. They can be seen pounding the streets of Beeston and Holbeck on a Tuesday evening. New members are always welcome to join them at Beeston Co-op on Tuesdays at 7pm.


The times this week ranged from 19:18 to 58:03 with an amazing 19 people getting PB’s. There were also 25 new runners!


On this fine Saturday the regular runners were joined by the Mini Mermaid Running Club – an after school programme to grow self-confidence and self-esteem in girls aged 5 – 11 whilst giving them the opportunity to fall in love (and normalising) exercise. Today’s Mermaids came from Hugh Gaitskell Primary School in Beeston where the girls have worked really hard over 6 weeks to get to a point where there were able to get around the course in any way they chose. Some walked and some ran or skipped or even danced around, most did a combination of all of these things!


As well as the essential jobs that make parkrun possible, some additional roles were filled. There were pacers to allow runners to aim, and hopefully achieve a target time. There were lots and lots of marshals around the course to cheer the runners on and a back marker ensured that no one got lost along the way.


The official film maker had a variety of people stomping around corners, appearing from behind trees and marching along various points on the course to create a South Leeds version of 500 miles. There were plenty of photographers dotted around which attracted the obligatory showboating.


As ever, Cross Flatts was a lovely friendly place to be at 9am on a Saturday. The faster runners calling out encouragement to the slower ones. The marshals cheering all the runners on and making sure everyone went the right way, which is a harder job than you might think.


During a chat along the way, regular attender Sue Richardson told me how she thought Cross Flatts must be the friendliest parkrun in the world – she loves that people know each other’s names and shout these out when sharing encouragement on the way round!


The reactions of everyone on the day indicate a good experience was had by all, one runner, Sharon Mann stated:


It was a parkrun that highlighted perfectly what the Lakers represents: support, encouragement and fun, regardless of age or running ability. Even those not running because they were resting before the Leeds Half Marathon on Sunday came with cakes or just to cheer on the crowd


The official cameraman for the event, Phil Hodgson, commented:


Today was one of the best parkruns ever. Mark Hodgkinson’s vision was there for everyone to see. A strong local group setting a great example and young kids being inspired to get involved – I’m proud to be part of it


Denise Thurlow, regular Laker and parkrunner summarised the day:


Today represented what Lakers is about. Ordinary people achieving extraordinary things. What a great example of a community coming together and having a blooming great time in the process!


At the end of the run there were plenty of delicious homemade treats provided by the talented Lakers. After I crossed the line as the tail runner, all the usual suspects descended on the local cafe for drinks and breakfast.




Run with the South Leeds Lakers:


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