Next time you head to your local park for a weekend run, there may well be an Olympian or Paralympian bringing up the rear for you to keep an eye on.
In fact, if you’re a regular on Southampton Common on Saturday mornings, you may well have jogged alongside Paralympic bronze medal-winning sprinter David Henson, who has become something of a regular at the weekly run.
Henson took part in the Southampton 5km parkrun last weekend, as part of #teamparkrun’s initiative to get as many people away from their screens and running around in the great outdoors as possible.
And while the 200m runner knows what it takes to dominate on a track, the park’s provided arguably provided a much tougher challenge for the 33-year-old.
“I’ve taken part in park runs before on my own,” he said.
“I refuse to use the barcodes – I don’t want other people to see my time, I think everyone thinks I’m supposed to be the fastest person round the 5k.
“It’s like a lot of other mass participation events in that you’ve got a lot of people there out to have a little bit of exercise, and a certain type of vibe. I think it’s just good fun, it’s a good way to get that bit of exercise in the morning.
“When I saw the campaign was coming through The National Lottery and UK Sport, I absolutely signed up to take part, I think it’s a great cause and a great thing to be involved in.”
As part of the #teamparkrun initiative, the UK’s National Lottery funded Olympic and Paralympic athletes are once again teaming up with parkrun to encourage the nation to get active, including 2km junior parkruns for the first time this year.
Across the nation a handful of British athletes that are funded by the public through The National Lottery are showing their gratitude by supporting the hundreds of parkruns in person.
And, according to Henson, you don’t necessarily need bank-breaking training equipment to keep yourself in shape, a parkrun may do just the job instead.
“I use them as a way to force me to do the cardio element of my training,” said the runner, who won T42 200m bronze at Rio 2016.
“So obviously I’m training regularly anyway, I go out and do all of my training runs on the track or my sessions in the gym.
“Sometimes I find the cardio element a little hard to get motivation for, so I just go out and do a 5k on a park run as and when the opportunity arises, it’s a great way to force yourself to do it.
“Normally I message my brother and a couple of mates and we’ll just go down together and hammer it out, that’s it, Saturday morning done.”
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 from 18 August to 9 September. Everyone is welcome at #teamparkrun – be part of it! www.teamparkrun.com