Unsung heroes….a view from Ian Anthony

A view from Southend parkrun’s most supportive runner award winner 2016


With loads of great run reports since the Flyers website was set up, I thought I’d write a report of a different kind! With the weekend just over and seeing all the great feedback from the Royal Parks Half Marathon and what great fun was had by all, along with the parkrun birthday celebrations, inspired me to jot this down.

Without the dedication of so many people, these events, races, training evenings, LSR’s just wouldn’t happen. There are too many people to mention but I just wanted to highlight a few from my own point of view. Sorry to the people who may get embarrassed by my words!

Firstly, where would we be without the legendary Keith Passingham.




A true gentleman who started off the Flyers. Not an affiliated running club, some may call it a joggers club (from the big club perspective) but also a great way to broaden your social circle. It has no limitations, if you want to run whether you’re fast, your welcome. If you poodle from the back with a smile on your face and a good conversation, again come and join the party!

There is no expectation to hit certain targets to qualify. There is no qualifying system! Everyone is welcome, no one is “slow” enough. What’s more, it’s completely free, not affiliated means no joining fee, just buy your kit and off you go. Added bonuses are loads of social gatherings, not just running related. Keith probably never in a million year expected the Flyers to become such a strong, close knitted community. People look out for each other, help out when possible and are just generally a very good bunch. The work Keith puts into this speaks volumes about the man. As he says, never a super-fast runner himself in his younger days, but here he is, still going strong. He has helped numerous people achieve goals many times over. From 5k to marathons and beyond. Every week, he can be seen helping newer people to the sport, training for various events. Not just setting up training plans, running them with the group, using his wealth of experience to pass on.

Alex Thornton, or as I like to call him, Professor Smokey! The face of Southend parkrun.




Without Alex’s hard work and dedication, none of us would be able to just turn up for a free timed 5k event, every weekend. It’s not just about setting up the event. He is the man (along with the core team) that has made this so successful. The person he is, comes out in parkrun. He has created a fun, friendly place where many people who would probably have never thought twice about giving running a go, somewhere to try it out. With such an amazing atmosphere, it loses the stigma of not being fast enough or having pressure from people who are faster that they feel as if they can’t participate. From humble beginnings, it now amasses a huge turnout every weekend. People from all walks of life can get together, have a run, jog, walk or just turn up and support. It’s a social gathering that spreads beyond running and has opened many more doors for people.

Graham and Anne Purdham. What amazing people. Always a smile on their face when you see them.




Willing to go that extra mile to help if they can. From pacing at parkrun to encouraging words to everyone they come into contact with. They have frequently held gatherings at their home. Christmas parties, bbq’s to general gatherings after a LSR. They’re always around to listen if you just need to talk about whatever. They are supportive and give words of kindness, encouragement and their door is always open to those who need it (not literally, if you go round, you’ll have to knock!)

Not too long ago on a LSR, I was in a difficult period in my life. Graham and I just got chatting and he was brilliant in listening and understanding what I was going through. Giving excellent advice and asking how I was doing, making sure I was coping as best I could.

Anne is equally lovely. We were having a chat in the Harvester after parkrun when she was telling me about running the Royal Parks Half and how she had raised a huge amount for charity, not just beating her target but smashing it out of the stratosphere. No ego in our chat, just a really honest, down to earth amazing lady. She also does so much for everyone. While chatting we were talking about how far she has progressed over the last few years. Anne has experience in athletics as well, having competed as a pentathlete in her younger years. Like Keith, she has a wealth of knowledge, advice. I remember watching the Southend 10k a couple of years ago when Anne set a PB by going under 60 mins.  I just said it was brilliant and well done. I was stunned by her response (in a good way) with “Wow, that’s made my day coming from you,” or words to that effect.

Being one of the quicker runners, for me, it can be just as rewarding to see someone work hard and achieve a PB. It’s not just about going quick and finishing high up the race list.
From pacing people to a PB, organising painting and knitting lessons to running the monthly handicap. All done in Anne’s own time, nothing gained from it other than the huge appreciation from all of us, a true legend in her own right.

There are many more people that could be single out, the list is endless! In a world of sport where the term legend is bandied about so much these days, I thought it only right that the unsung heroes got a mention. What constitutes a hero, a legend? Mo winning numerous Gold’s at the top of the sport? All the numerous footballers who bask in the glory of fame and money? I’m sure they all do their thing and give something back but I just thought I’d use this opportunity to highlight some of the ordinary folk who go above and beyond to make running such fun in so many different ways.


Ian Anthony

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