THE Hunter is in the throes of a running revolution, and much of the credit can be laid at the feet of enthusiastic runner and physio Dave Robertson.
Robertson – affectionately known as Robbo – is one of the region’s runners leading the revival.
He is responsible for bringing the ever-popular Newy parkrun to our shores, and has played a role in establishing the subsequent parkrun events at Lake Macquarie, Blackbutt Reserve, Fingal Bay and soon, Maitland.
Robertson first heard about parkrun – a free, weekly, timed five-kilometre run – when he was living in the UK.
Shortly after returning to Australia, a parkrun event began on the Gold Coast. Robertson was eager to participate.
‘‘Before I’d even finished, I was pretty enthusiastic about starting one here in Newcastle,’’ he said.
‘‘By the time the Newy one was set up, we were the seventh event in Australia.’’
Newy parkrun takes place on the shores of Throsby Creek in Carrington. It got its name because Newcastle in the UK already had a parkrun.
There were 77 people who turned up to the first event – from there it grew and grew.
‘‘The Hunter, or what we’re calling the ‘Region of Runners’, has grown at a pretty staggering rate – not only with the number of events, but the number of participants and registrations,’’ Dave said.
Now close to 1200 runners participate in the four established parkrun events in the region each Saturday morning.
To put that in perspective, there are just over 5000 runners who participate in parkrun events Australia-wide.
‘‘It’s a large enough regional area, but such a small, tight-knit community, that the word has spread around Newcastle and the Hunter.’’
Anyone is encouraged to participate.
It attracts established runners, walkers and beginners of all ages, people with dogs, and pram pushers.
The registered physio hosts ‘‘Run Better’’ workshops up to twice a month.
‘‘I’m passionate about getting people into running but also using my skills as a physio and my knowledge about how the body works to help people improve their technique so they can hopefully, stay away from injury,’’ Dave said.
He is also one half of The Naked Runners – a movement that promotes running through social media, podcasts, and online videos.
‘‘Whilst keeping your clothes on,’’ he laughed.
‘‘People always ask – ‘Are you really naked?’ No matter how we answer that, straight away you’re engaging in a conversation about running, which is great.’’
Dave would like to see as many parkruns in the Hunter as there are McDonald’s restaurants.
‘‘When Maitland parkrun kicks off on November 2, by my estimation the score will be 29-5, so we’ve got a bit of ground to cover, but we’re optimistic we might be able to level it up one day,’’ he laughed.
There is already talk of a parkrun event being set up in Belmont.