GOOD NEWS | Ultramarathon champ Bruce Fordyce to provide 200 defibrillators at park runs

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Park runs are organised entirely by volunteers and held on a Saturday morning.
Park runs are organised entirely by volunteers and held on a Saturday morning.
  • Legendary South African ultramarathon athlete Bruce Fordyce plans to provide 200 defibrillators to park runs. 
  • He has completed 437 park runs. There are on average seven million park runners around the world.
  • It  will cost Fordyce R4 million to purchase 200 defibrillators.

A legendary South African ultramarathon athlete has his sights set on providing 200 defibrillators to park runs across the country.

Bruce Fordyce, who has won the Comrades Marathon eight years in a row and nine times overall, is supporting a new challenge to provide each park run event in South Africa with a defibrillator to help save lives.

A defibrillator is a device that gives a high energy electric shock to the heart of someone who is in cardiac arrest.

Park runs are a free timed 5km run, jog, or walk in a park, nature reserve, beach golf estate or similar safe environment, held every Saturday morning and organised entirely by volunteers.

A group of park runners and volunteers.
Park runners enjoying the outdoors.

The first park run was introduced to residents by South African-born athlete Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004 at Bushy Park in London.

Initially, only 13 runners took part in the event, however, there are now more than 2 600 park runs around the world, and more than seven million registered park runners.

Speaking to News24 hours before his next big park run in the Outer Hebrides in northern Scotland, Fordyce said it had always been a dream of his to bring the initiative to his home country.  

Bruce Fordyce plans to distribute 200 defibrillators at park run events.

READ | EXCLUSIVE: Comrades Marathon legend Bruce Fordyce chats to Sport24

"There are currently 23 countries that partake in park runs. I launched the first one in SA in 2011 and I knew that we could make a difference in the lives of thousands of South Africans if we brought park runs home. This event is a place where runners, joggers, walkers, and volunteers gather to have fun and to experience happiness.

He added:

Park runs do wonders for people's health but more importantly, they bring communities together. Our first SA park run was at Delta Park in Johannesburg where 26 people attended. We now have about 200 park runs in SA, Eswatini and Namibia with 1.2 million registered members in the country.

The adrenaline junkie has since completed 437 park runs at 257 different venues globally and said he did not plan on stopping soon.

"I continue to run park runs and will continue for as long as I can. Two weeks ago, I ran the Kleinplaas park run in Potchefstroom, this really is an astonishing event and does wonders for mind and body."

According to Fordyce, park runs were safe but to make them even safer, he planned on supplying defibrillators.

Park runners enjoying the outdoors.
Parkrun runners enjoying the outdoors.

"Globally, defibrillators have saved lives and could do so here in SA. Thankfully, critical heart-related incidents at park runs are exceptionally rare. But, when they do happen, the chances of survival are 65% higher when a defibrillator is used within minutes, according to park run's comprehensive reporting database," he said.

The cost of a defibrillator is around R20 000, and he plans to roll out 200 which will cost R4 million.

A group of ladies who also take part in park runs.

"This will be an ongoing project. It will be quite a challenge, but I know South Africans love to rise to challenges and the resilient spirit is legendary. Globally, defibrillators have saved many lives. Now it's our turn."

Fordyce has joined forces with Backabuddy to raise the funding for defibrillators and has so far managed to raise just over R14 000.

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