In her series of articles, Angela Kelly talks to local sportsmen and women about their love and commitment to their chosen sport. This week, she chats to one of Bolton’s top sporting organisers Rowan Ardill
ROWAN Ardill’s commitment to running is so great that he even turned up to help organise Bolton’s parkrun on the morning of his wedding.
“Yes, I got a round of applause for that,” he laughs.
Modest Rowan, aged 26, is the man who first started the town’s parkrun in Leverhulme Park three years ago. And when you realise that it’s grown from around 56 runners to 250 turning out each Saturday morning for a 5k run against the clock it’s perhaps easier to understand the connection he feels with it.
Shropshire-born Rowan has an interesting sporting background: as well as enjoying running, he is also a talented footballer and played in his teens for TNS FC, the Welsh Premier champions who have played Manchester City and Liverpool.
Although life as a footballer beckoned, Rowan decided instead on the education route and took sports development and physical education at Leeds University.
After qualifying, he worked first in Chester then in Tameside before moving to Bolton and the Get Active programme, originally run by the NHS but now by Bolton Metro. His then girlfriend Amy is from Bury, so the couple made their home in Tottington.
Rowan started taking part in a parkrun at Manchester’s Heaton Park, and was so impressed he decided to start a group in Bolton, initially through his work.
“It just seemed a great way to get people running,” he explains.
“Maybe they’re experienced runners, or just starting, or perhaps never run before, but parkrun gives them the chance to run together.”
He organised the initial run and then took over the organisation as a volunteer. Since then, he is gradually enlisted other run directors, including his brother David, and a band of reliable volunteers. As well as helping on the day, they also post times online in a well-organised system that keeps everyone involved.
“I loved the idea of parkrun from the start,” states Rowan. “It’s just a run in the park, on mixed terrain but avoiding roads. Some runners can do it in around 16 or 17 minutes, but it’s not a race – it’s about everyone doing what they can and enjoying it.”
The Bolton parkrun is part of a national initiative sponsored by Adidas and Sweatshop. Each month, one parkrun participant is awarded a free pair of Adidas running shoes and there are t-shirts for juniors and seniors at milestones like 10 runs, 50 runs and 100 runs. “There’s also one for 250 although we’ve not had anyone who’s done that yet,” adds Rowan. “Although some are close.”
The runners themselves are a mix of accomplished amateur athletes, improvers and beginners. But the growth of the journey from the start of parkrun has not just applied to the group.
Rowan’s own achievements have also grown. As well as receiving a volunteer award, he is now a parkrun ambassador for the North West and helps to set up groups in other areas. He has also started another group called Jog Bolton which meets each week at Leverhulme Park and is mainly for beginners.
Rowan himself has taken part in triathlons, did his first Ironman UK in 2012 and is taking part in this year’s national event. He easily shares his own enthusiasm for running – “It’s just so easy to do as you don’t need expensive equipment. All it takes are some decent running shoes and just getting out there.”
He loves the enthusiasm and commitment of his fellow parkrun members, and is quick to praise all the volunteers who give their time, and the “great community atmosphere” of the Bolton runners.
They come in all shapes, sizes and ages, some run with children and some run with their dogs. What they all share is an enjoyment of this fun, organised event. And Rowan has made that possible.
z To find out more about the Bolton parkrun go to www.parkr un.org.uk/bolton. See Your Sport page 11 for a report of Saturday’s event.