Retiring Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford has backed a campaign to get children back on their feet after dusting off his running shoes for a parkrun event in Salford.
Just hours after competing at the penultimate event of his athletics career in Birmingham, the London 2012 Olympic champion was back at it as a tail walker, ensuring he brought up the rear in last place as part of #teamparkrun.
For the first time junior events are part of the parkrun programme this year, leaving Rutherford to reflect on the legacy the home Olympic Games as producing in front of his own eyes.
“It was a wonderful day seeing the excitement on the faces of the kids and the enjoyment that they seem to get from doing the parkrun, which is brilliant to see,” said the 31-year-old, who joined the public in running two kilometres around Buille Hill in Salford for #teamparkrun; a campaign that will see National Lottery-funded Olympic and Paralympic heroes inspire local communities across the UK to get active.
“I have been a big advocate of schemes like this because we are in a situation now where lots of children prefer being inside rather than outside.
“I think we need to engage them a bit more and show them the fun you can have at an event like this.
“Seeing them light up and have a good time was brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.”
The former long jump Olympic, world, Commonwealth and European champion is one of more than 200 elite athletes taking part in several parkrun events as part of UK Sport’s initiative to say thank you to the public for their support.
Every Saturday and Sunday, thousands of adults and children aged 4-14 take part in two and five kilometre runs in their local parks as supported by parkrun.
And six years after electrifying the nation by winning gold on the same day as Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah at London 2012’s ‘Super Saturday’, Rutherford was proud of the enthusiasm shown by Salford’s young athletes.
He said: “Legacy was a big talking point post London 2012, so to see as many come out on a Sunday is fantastic.
“A lot of these kids were not even born when I was winning an Olympic gold medal which makes me feel old, but it’s brilliant to see them grasp it with two hands.
“We have to build to keep getting more people out to do these park runs, so we can have a fitter and healthier nation.”
And with two young children at home, don’t be too surprised if you see the Rutherford family keeping fit at a parkrun near you.
“My two boys will most certainly be doing parkruns. As a parent I am so keen to encourage them in a healthy and productive way to enjoy fitness, sport and just being outside.”
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