Meet parkrun Adventurer Olly Spake

This story originally featured in issue 1 of the Runs With A Barcode magazine.

I noticed on Facebook that a friend and colleague had participated in a run at a location near home I’d always wanted to explore.

Being an occasional runner I thought I’d try it and hopefully kickstart a new health regime.

I looked it up and arrived the very next week at Shellharbour parkrun’s Event #3 and hid in the back and slugged it around a pretty challenging course for me.

Somehow within a month or two I’d made some great friends, tried volunteering and was trying to find new ways each week to ham it up for the photos!

But what really got me started? It was the people – it was impossible to not feel welcome and encouraged, and to want to share in a great experience.

My home parkrun feels like a real home. I’ve grown to love the community I’m a part of and feel a connection with the place and people that have given me so much over the last six and a half years.


Nothing sums up parkrun home for me more than arriving before anyone else at or close to sunrise, to be able to see the light spreading across my favourite vista, to set up the scanning table, grab a coffee and start to say hi to as many of my parkrun family as I possibly can.

parkrun has become a huge part of life for me since my first few events.

Shellharbour’s parkrun community has helped me discover a love of running, volunteering and even hills!

From the first few friendly faces who welcomed and encouraged me, these great people have become like family at times.

They’ve shared coffee chats, celebrated births and achievements of my children, mourned the shared loss of friends and given me a reassuring yet simple moment that is often the highlight of my week.

My main goal is to keep parkrunning! I’d love to help others discover and share what I’ve been fortunate to enjoy for so long already.

Amongst that, I look forward to discovering many more parkrun events and their communities around Australia and beyond.

Results-wise, I long to break a certain time barrier at my home event, but I’m quite probably too ill-disciplined in my training to ever hit that one!


It’s really hard to pick a highlight.

I’ve loved sharing parkrun with my family – my wife, daughters and mum.

I’ve enjoyed a couple of great parkrun adventures together with mum and my eldest daughter Hannah so far, which I can’t imagine having done in any other pastime.

But beyond that, a real highlight was being a part of the Shellharbour parkrun event team hosting the inaugural parkrun adventurers podcast listener meet-up in 2018 (known as Palm).

Having listened to the podcast from almost the start, it was a thrill to meet so many familiar voices and names, and to enjoy an awesome morning, for which much credit is deserved for the inspiration of the meet-up Gary Murphy and our then-Event Director Brendan Scollary (who is central to so much of Shellharbour parkrun’s success).

Future adventures

There are many parkruns I would like to visit, I’m bound to forget some, but here it goes…

Queens Domain and Kingston Park parkruns in Tasmania; I grew up there and I’m heading back for the first time in 20 years this November.

Add to that Southampton parkrun – being the UK home for so many in my family.

Bere Island in Ireland sounds magical, Umhlanga in South Africa would be amazing too. And now I’ll have to add Puarenga in New Zealand to that list too – it sounds fantastic!

I also volunteer at parkrun. While I thoroughly love Run Directing, I love to be on hand as timekeeper to cheer each and every parkrunner across the line.

I’ve also got a big soft spot for volunteer co-ordinating, which I was lucky enough to do for the best part of a couple of years to support the Shellharbour team and encourage others to try out new roles.

You can hear more about Melissa and Olly’s adventures on the parkrun adventures podcast. Follow the facebook page for more information.

Get your free copy of this first issue here.

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