In January 2007, Darren Wood completed his 100th parkrun and, to mark the occasion, I presented him with a personalised jacket. Of course, when Darren opened the 100 Club, we all thought it would remain as a small, exclusive, group of super-committed individuals who were dedicated enough to turn up 100 times.
Little did we know that 12 years later there would be 70,000 members of the 100 club, another 400 joining every week, and we'd have expanded the clubs to include a v25 Club for volunteering, plus the 50, 100, 250, and now 500 Clubs for walking or running.
As of April 2019 there are a total of 250,000 members of parkrun milestone clubs, with another two million expected to join them over the next ten years.
Perhaps naively, I originally believed we should recognise membership of these clubs with t-shirts and jackets, and that these should always be delivered individually to the parkrunner's local event, and completely for free. As great as this sounds, the financial cost is significant and, as we have grown, has come to represent a major risk to our most important principle; that parkrun events should be free, for everyone, forever.
Some time ago now, and after much consideration and consultation, we decided that whilst the clubs themselves have become fundamental to what we do, and a source of great inspiration across all stages of our respective journeys, the t-shirts are not. Therefore, even if we had the resources to finance free t-shirts for everyone, it would be inappropriate for us to spend that money on providing clothing to, by definition, some of the most healthy and happy members of our communities.
In 2015, we moved to a single global solution for milestone t-shirts, a solution that allows us to better support and understand demand. However, at that time, milestone t-shirts in South Africa were provided by Mr Price Sport, therefore parkrun South Africa was not included in the global system. Whilst we will be forever grateful to Mr Price for their support of these t-shirts, and their belief in our mission, over time the burden became too great even for them. Mr Price Sport remain a committed partner but for some time now we have not been in a position to provide South African parkrunners with milestone t-shirts.
What does this mean for you?
After an extensive period of testing, which included the parkrun South Africa Leadership Team and all parkrun South Africa Ambassadors, we have, with immediate effect, taken the decision to move parkrun South Africa into the Global milestone system, bringing it in line with all other parkrun territories.
From this point forward, when you join a milestone club you will be directed to the global ordering platform, where you will have the options of declining your t-shirt, pre-ordering it if it's not in stock, or ordering it if it is. We will then, where we have stock, send your t-shirt straight to you, significantly reducing workload for our volunteer teams.
Currently, for South Africans in particular, this does present two significant change;
1. Whilst the t-shirt will be free, the cost for postage and packing is approximately R250.
2. With the South African postal system as it is, we cannot guarantee successful delivery.
Whilst I understand that this may be disappointing to you, I am afraid that currently these issues are unavoidable if we are to continue offering milestone t-shirts to South African parkrunners.
I am aware that approximately 11,000 of you have already ordered your t-shirts, in good faith and at the request of parkrun South Africa, but are yet to receive them. Bruce and Gill Fordyce have requested that for those individuals parkrun South Africa itself will, as a gesture of good will, manufacture a one-off batch of milestone t-shirts and ship them to events using the old system. If you are one of those 11,000 people they will write to you directly with instructions as to what to do.
Finally, I do hope you share my opinion that the true value of parkrun is in its ability to bring together communities as they get active in the great outdoors. And that whilst t-shirts are a nice thing to have, they are not fundamental to what we do, and, importantly, providing them at zero cost threatens the future of everything we hold so dear about parkrun and all it stands for.
Many thanks for your parkrun passion.