When Andy Fisher launched the Albert parkrun in Middlesbrough, eight years ago, the whole family was dragged along to help out. ‘We had 26 runners at the first event,’ says Andy, a keen runner, who stumbled upon parkrun while on a work trip to London. The Middlesbrough event soon became a weekly ritual for the extended family. Tracey Quinn, Andy’s sister-in-law, was there on day one to volunteer. ‘I never thought I’d end up actually running,’ says the 49-year-old. ‘But 5K seemed achievable. Initially my sister June and I would run a minute, walk a minute, but it went from there and we soon got the bug!’
It took Tracey’s niece, Louise (June’s daughter) a little longer to be convinced. ‘At first I and my two cousins Alice and Lily just didn't understand why anyone would want to put themselves through the pain,’ she laughs. It was her mum’s diagnosis with breast cancer in 2009 that led to Louise run. She took part in a Race for Life with her aunt and cousins to support June, who cheered them on from the sidelines.
Running also helped June regain her strength after the cancer treatment. ‘Going down to parkrun, even when I couldn’t run, raised my spirits and gave us a chance to spend time together as a family,’ she says.
The family’s running exploits have gone far beyond the 5K mark. ‘In 2012 I, mum, Tracey and Alice signed up for the Great North Run,’ says Louise. ‘It was on the date that would have been our late nanna’s birthday, so it felt just right. We trained together, which was brilliant.
It was very emotional when we crossed the finish line – the four of us broke down in a sobbing mess.’
Tracey has taken over from Andy as parkrun event director. ‘I just love the many friends I have met through running and parkrun,’ she says. ‘I’m a believer in completing, not competing, and I encourage runners of all abilities and ages.’ Even her 16-year-old daughter, Lily, has succumbed, completing her first half marathon in May this year.
This October, Tracey will clock up her seventh marathon, in York. And earlier this year she, Louise and June took on the London Marathon. ‘Mum was plagued by injuries and struggled with the longer runs in training, but we were the three musketeers and we were going to do this!’ says Louise. ‘Race morning was the most surreal morning of my life! There I was with my 58-year-old “marathon virgin” mum, about to run the world’s best marathon. We ran the whole way together and crossed the line holding hands, in tears. We found the rest of the family waiting with champagne and as we stood there I thought about how far we’d all come together. I can’t imagine our lives without running.’