08:00AM, Tuesday 01 August 2017
She may have World Championship and Olympic gold medals to her name, but former rower Dame Katherine Grainger still brought up the rear as this weekend’s Maidenhead parkrun.
However, rather than experiencing a dramatic loss in fitness, the 41-year-old was actually taking part in UK Sport’s #teamparkrun event, acting as the ‘tail runner’, to ensure that – as is the parkrun ethos – no-one finished last.
On August 19 UK Sport is encouraging National Lottery funded athletes to follow in Dame Katherine’s footsteps and be a tail runner at their local parkrun as a way of saying thank you to the millions of people who buy play the National Lottery each week and, in doing so, help fund elite sport in the UK.
Dame Katherine attended the Braywick Park event at 9am on Saturday, and highlighted the difference funding has made to elite sport in the UK.
“The rest of the country have been supporting us athletes for years, so it’s time for us to give something back and it’s a really nice message to spread,” she said.
“It’s massively important for us to say thank you. You often see athletes at the big events saying that they couldn’t do it without the National Lottery or UK Sport funding, and it’s so genuine.
“I’m old enough, I started the year the funding I came in, so everyone I knew was in debt, they couldn’t train full-time, there weren’t full-time coaches, it was a really different sporting landscape then.
“But the funding has come in and the people buying Lottery tickets genuinely make a massive difference to athletes’ lives and mean we can be as successful as we’ve been recently.
“We benefit every day from it, but you don’t often get the chance to say thank you publicly, so moments like the Olympic and Paralympic parades are lovely to thank the public, and this is a really nice way of getting involved, too.”
Parkrun is a nationwide network of organised, free, 5km timed runs that take place every Saturday morning and encourage anyone, of any ability, to get active – with a volunteer tail runner, such as Dame Katherine, at the rear to ensure no-one finishes last.
Dame Katherine had never previously participated in a parkrun, but having now experienced one she can see why they have proved so popular.
“I’ve got a lot of friends who have done it in different places across the country. I’ve been a little bit busy being in the river myself or doing other things, but it’s great to be involved now,” she added.
“When I was doing my parkrun on Saturday there were loads of people around, really social, really friendly, really supportive to the hundreds of new friends I’ve made.
“So it’s a nice way to not just thank the public, but also to be engaged with them and join in with their activity.”
*To thank the public for their support through playing The National Lottery, Britain’s top athletes will volunteer as Tail Walkers at parkrun events across the UK on Saturday August 19. Everyone is welcome at parkrun - be part of it! www.teamparkrun.com
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