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90-year-old finishes his 500th parkrun

Bob Emmerson of Northampton, England, has credited the free weekly 5K events with keeping him "mentally and physically strong"

Bob Emmerson finishes 500th parkrun Photo by: parkrun

A 90-year-old British runner celebrated a milestone 11 years in the making when he crossed the finish line of his 500th parkrun last Saturday.

Bob Emmerson of Northampton in central England was cheered on by hundreds of supporters—including his wife of nearly 70 years—in the final stretch of his run at the Northampton Racecourse, where the nonagenerian has notched most of his 500 runs since taking part in his first parkrun in 2012.

Launched in the U.K. in 2004, parkruns are free, weekly community events, now with more than 2,000 hosted in more than 20 countries including Canada. All parkruns are 5K events held Saturday mornings in parks and open spaces.

Emmerson credits the weekly events with helping him stay fit and active as he strides strongly into his 90s. In a congratulatory post on X, formerly known as Twitter, parkrun organizers quoted Emmerson as saying “my enthusiasm for life is down to parkrun and it has kept me mentally and physically stronger than living a life in (my) armchair.”

Although Emmerson first heard of parkrun a little more than a decade ago, he has been running since age 15. He told the BBC News he was a “proper, serious ultra-runner” when he was younger. He has completed ultramarathons and 24-hour races, and boasts a marathon personal best of 2:40:25.

Due to restrictions that forced parkruns to be put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic, Emmerson’s 500-event milestone ended up taking a little longer than he had originally hoped. “I would have liked to have reached 500 by 90 years old,” he told the Northampton Chronicle and Echo. “I said that when I got to 500 I’d stop, but I changed my mind. I’ve made too many friends and couldn’t bear to lie in bed on a Saturday morning and think of everyone running.”

Three reasons to head to your local parkrun this weekend

Emmerson, who these days finishes the Northampton parkrun course in around 50 minutes, added any future parkrun milestones are too far down the road to think about. “I’m not going to do 600, but who can tell?” he said. “You never know. Never say never. As long as I live, I shall be doing a bit of exercise.”

 

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