JUNE 2020: Mark Brocklehurst is pretty well-known on the Brighton & Hove running scene, particularly from working on several of the parkruns within the city.
With several marathons planned, all surrounded in uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mark remains hopeful that they will go ahead, and he continues to train towards them.
Where did your own running begin, Mark? Have you always been sporty?
Nope. In fact, before Christmas, I went home to a park that I had to run around when I was at school there. I always hated it and now it has its own parkrun. I love it!
I believe you were born and bred in Manchester. What brought you to Brighton?
I worked overseas as a tennis coach for Neilson Holidays. When that ended, I fancied something different to Manchester. That was 15 years ago and I’m still here.
I understand you now work for a company that organises running events. It must be a tough time, with so much uncertainty surrounding forthcoming events, owing to the coronavirus pandemic?
The hardest thing is explaining to everyone why decisions can’t be rushed and pushed through. I do believe I have a great position, though, being a runner myself. The clamour for information is the same as I have in respect of the events that I’ve entered.
What races did you have in the diary for yourself, this autumn, and are you still training towards them, even though they might not go ahead?
Like everyone, my race calendar has been decimated as, marathon wise, I had Brighton, London, Eastbourne, Brisbane and Chicago all booked up. Eastbourne and Brisbane are deferred until 2021 and, whilst I wait for news from the other three, I have to carry on with my training, as I’ve never had the Mo Farah build!
How many marathons have you run, to date, and which one would you say was your favourite?
15, so far, and very hard to choose. I’d probably go for London, as it’s an event I can volunteer at beforehand and then jump into the pen and off I go! Everyone watches London and I’ve had some incredible moments out on the course, being seen by my friends.
What’s your exact role with parkrun and how much of your time does it take up?
I have many parkrun roles. Aside from being Co-Event Director at Hove Prom, I’m also the Regional Event Ambassador, which means I head a team of seven ambassadors, all of whom provide a link between the teams that put on the parkruns each week, and HQ. Also, I help out occasionally on an unofficial parkrun podcast called ‘With Me Now’.
Are there any particularly memorable experiences, as regards the parkruns you’ve been involved with?
Being involved in the set-up of Hove Prom parkrun, which turns five years old on July 11th, will always be something special. And, as an ambassador, I have similar feelings about the launch of Worthing parkrun too.
For pure comedy, on New Year’s Day, I almost took the mickey out of a parkrunner called Andy Murray, but thought twice about it… I’m so glad I did, as Sir Andy Murray just happened to be visiting, that day, and was actually standing behind me. That could have been awkward!
What about other notable running-related experiences?
I’ve loved helping out at a number of local races. And I was a volunteer at the 2017 World Championships in London… I still wear the hat with pride! Helping out at London Marathon is always a buzz too.
You’ve spoken before about running & mental health. The recent lockdown has been a lonely and challenging time for many people. What has been your own experience and how do you think running has helped?
Running has been the escape we’ve all needed – a little touch of normality, accessible each day for 30 minutes or an hour. It’s been a way to see friends from a distance, in passing, knowing that, whilst we’re separated for the time being, our love of running means we’re never apart. As someone who works from home, the effect on my mental health is vital.
Mark, thanks for the chat. And particularly well done for everything you do to support the parkrun community. Good luck with your own training and let’s hope some of the races scheduled for later this year are able to go ahead.
By Mike Bannister