A Parkrun Volunteer of the Year now spends his Saturdays distributing Covid testing kits after Parkrun events were suspended in March.
Nick Blanchard, 60, has replaced his usual Saturday mornings volunteering at Bushy Park’s weekly 5km race to administer kits to Covid-19 patients at Twickenham Stadium’s Test Site.
In March, Parkrun suspended all events throughout the UK due to Covid-19 and seven months on, events are still yet to return.
In the meantime, Blanchard is working at Twickenham’s drive-through test facility three or four days a week.
He said: “That’s keeping me busy on a Saturday morning but I can’t wait to say, ‘I’m busy at Parkrun.’”
Last weekend, Bushy Parkrun celebrated its 16thanniversary, but for the first time in its history, the annual celebration was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Blanchard is one of many mourning the loss of the race.
The self-employed networking manager has volunteered at over 150 Bushy Parkrun events over the last five years, and has become a much-loved member of the Parkrun community.
In 2016, he won Parkrun’s Volunteer of the Year award.
He said: “I was so chuffed, I was not expecting it at all.”
Blanchard first ran the event in 2010 after turning 50.
He said: “I turned up, ran it in about 42 minutes and it took about a week to recover.”
Since then, Blanchard has run 190 Parkrun events and successfully encouraged sons Thomas, 23, and Oscar, 20 to join him.
In 2015, Blanchard became a Parkrun volunteer and week-in-week-out, he welcomed hundreds of runners across the finish line.
He said: “I just loved it.
“It became an addictive part of my Saturday morning routine.”
Since the inaugural event in 2004, Bushy Parkrun’s numbers have exploded from the original 13 to a weekly average of 1,500 runners.
The Parkrun phenomenon has spread worldwide, with events taking place in over 20 countries with millions of runners having participated.
Blanchard is a self-proclaimed advocate and ambassador of Parkrunand believes he will be involved for life.
Blanchard said: “It literally is for everybody, for young, for old, for those with prams and those with dogs.”
“It’s a wonderful institution and I’d be lost without it.”
Blanchard is committed to his work at the Covid-19 test facility, but admits he will welcome news of Parkrun’s return.
He said: “There are hundreds of people who I can’t wait to see again.
“I can think of two dozen people I cannot wait to hug.”
Featured image credit: Andrew Howarth