At small park BIG RUN we will honour Gaza

  • Tent camp You will find near the start/ finish line a replica tent camp which will be inhabited by Palestinians over the whole 24 hours. Intended to reproduce symbolically the conditions Palestinians are experiencing in Gaza today. They will share their stories, experiences and news from home with visitors. Next to the camp will be a tent with a photographic exhibition depicting the 1948 Nakba – horrible echoes of which have reverberated brutally into our present.
  • Torch of remembrance At 8.15 pm on Saturday 22 June we will hold a solemn procession taking a torch around the park course in remembrance of all those killed during the genocide. We will hand out LED candles to light your way, symbolising lost souls and to be placed at the solidarity tree after. The torch will burn all night.
  • One minutes’ silence During the closing ceremony we will hold a minutes’ silence to remember all those who have been killed in the events of the last eight months. This will follow a hopeful link up with our partner project Never Stop Dreaming in Khan Younis, Gaza, and other project friends in Ramallah, West Bank.

    We hope you will join us in these sombre events if you can. And we hope you will come and enjoy the whole event as well. Smiling, more than crying. Palestinians live a rollercoaster life where joy and tragedy sit uncomfortably and unavoidably side by side. For this weekend we will stand in solidarity and experience the same.

The whole programme can be viewed here.

small park BIG RUN is NOT a race!

One of the small park BIG RUN organisers ran in a fabulous fell race on Tuesday evening. It was exceptionally well organised, technical, friendly and fast! What struck him, once he got his breath back, was that as well as some notable similarities to our own event there were some very marked differences, well worth a little muse on. Read on to discover some of those musings.

The Burbage Skyline fell race is ten rugged kms in a figure of eight of rough tracks, paths, rocks, bogs, hills and even a couple of small river crossings around the top of the hills ringing the beautiful Burbage Valley. The pace is fast and even if it wasn’t in the plan, this runner couldn’t help but try to keep up with the others!

Despite turning myself inside out with effort I didn’t feature in the top half of the results! No shame there, there are some seriously impressive runners and the winning time would have been very impressive had it been around a flat track.

But it was illuminating that the way I measured my success was against others; every time I overtook someone, there was a small twinge of satisfaction and likewise when I was overtaken, something I had to get quite used to on the first hill, I was a tiny bit peed off!

Now, everyone who ran the race will have different motivations and targets – and no criticism is intended when I say that in the main I felt this was a very competitive race. It felt notably different to our own run/walk/hop/skip and juggle of an event!

In contrast to being a race, I think the small park BIG RUN is better viewed as a challenge. And though you can measure yourself and your effort – it is more with yourself and not against others that you take that measurement. The targets are personal. For some one lap is the goal and the achievement is high. In 2022 my dearly departed Dad, contending with dementia managed a lap, only months before he passed away.

The race’s great and much missed friend Graham Birkin (pictured here) did his lap in very poor health but walking with the loving aid of friends and family – no small achievement.

Others like Nick, Maggie, Davor, Cécile and others have done gargantuan efforts of up to 24 hours. One runner completed 155 laps but was still slightly regretful they hadn’t made it to the magic 100 miles!!! And to this end, they are coming back this year to try again.

Some set themselves a marathon, half marathon or laps target. Others challenge themselves not with numerical targets but with group plans like teams of runners filling hourly slots to fill up the whole day, or individuals doing one lap every hour for 24 hours, others just running the hours of darkness. Some arrive at 4am to greet the sun and some to reclaim their park. Some have hidden challenges that make it difficult to even make it to the park. For a refugee the bus fare could be the challenge. And others do it to raise money for the charities we support.

Many simply walk around the circuit with their friends and family, satisfied in the knowledge they are celebrating freedom of movement, waving flags and showing friendship and solidarity with Palestinians.

And some simply eat cake and drink tea – which is in its own right a wonderful thing to do!

All challenges, all different, all personal but all on the same course with lots of different people in a spirit of friendship.

What everyone has in common is that they are there – in the park, in the same place. A joint and joyous effort that affirms community spirit, friendliness, companionship and solidarity. All power to you!

small park BIG RUN is – in case you haven’t heard – on the weekend of 22/23 June.

You can sign up here.

Please donate here:

Buy a t-shirt, mug or buff here:

The Buskers’ Hour

Last time we held small park BIG RUN in Meersbrook Park in 2019, the final hour was coined Buskers’ Hour. And it’s back! Musicians are positioned around the run circuit to encourage weary final hour participants and kicking off the festive celebratory atmosphere for the end of run rally. It will be 11.00am-noon on Sunday 19th June.

With some runners near to completing the whole 24 hours, their services will be needed more than ever! We’re delighted to have eight groups of very talented musicians kindly donating their time, efforts and happiness to us.

These include highly talented singer-songwriters, a ten piece folk band, a community choir recently returned from Palestine, a Sheffield street band, a heavy metal acoustic duo. It’s going to be a blast!

This is the complete list. Thank you all!

1 Well Dressed Band are a community based folk band based in the Peak District
2 Cobalt Tales are a female duo based in Sheffield that tours the UK and festival circuit
3 Sheffield Street Band is a well known local collective of musicians
4 Julia Waldron is a wonderful singer songwriter/guitarist from Sheffield.
5 Megatron Death is inspirational heavy metal folk.
6 Tadhamon choir is an ensemble of singers very supportive of the Palestine cause
7 John , Guy, Rob and special guest are talented Meersbrook residents
8 Chrystine Moon is another fabulous local musician and singer songwriter.

Below you can see where they will all be playing on this map and also some lovely pictures of the musicians in their element!

Hope to see you there. Don’t forget to sign up! Or simply come along and support the participants and enjoy the fun.

Palestinian refugees – in their own words

small park BIG RUN organisers were enormously privileged to interview two Palestinian refugees earlier this year. The accounts they gave were moving, fascinating, frank, honest and inspiring in equal measure. We are very grateful to them for sharing their personal and painful stories.

  1. Interview with Sahar Awadallah
  2. Interview with Kholoud Al-Ajarma

Sahar Awadallah and Kholoud Al-Ajarma both told of how their families were expelled from their homes seventy years ago – and are still dreaming, three generations later, of their return.

A young Sahar pictured with her mum Reda Nateel, Dad Abdulrahman Awadallah and brother Omar Awadallah.

Sahar spoke of the insecurity she experienced as a child moving multiple times from country to country, with a bag permanently packed ready for the next upheaval. She spoke of her anger that she must seek permission to visit her hometown. And she also spoke of her annoyance at the double standards and hypocrisy that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has again revealed. Where it has now become OK to call for sanctions against a country accused of aggression and occupation – this was not the case for those calling for a boycott of Israeli goods who were often accused of racism and exceptionalism.

Kholoud Al Ajarmah

Kholoud told us of her life – where at first she didn’t realise she was growing up living in a refugee camp, she thought everyone lived like that! But slowly she discovered that although Aida refugee camp was her home, it wasn’t her homeland.

She spoke movingly of the tales her grandparents and parents would tell of their homes, now in Israel, where the cactuses tasted like honey, they ate fresh figs from the trees and they ate fresh bread from the oven. With weekly markets and friendly people all around. This memory stood in stark contrast to the refugee camp she found herself in, with its daily Israeli army raids and the smell of tear gas, rather than fresh bread, in the air.

Kholoud said that that although the stories her family told her seemed to be like fairy tales when she managed to finally visit their family homeland those stories turned out to be true. Beautiful countryside with space to live in, to return to, and air to breath.

You can listen to the interviews in full, by following the links below.

small park BIG RUN would like to thank both Sahar and Kholoud from the bottom of our hearts for their collaboration and cooperation.

  1. Interview with Sahar Awadallah
  2. Interview with Kholoud Al-Ajarma

You can find more information on refugees in Palestine here. And visit Badil (Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights).

Back in the park -SIGN UPS NOW OPEN!

Throughout Covid we continued to hold small park BIG RUN, but in the format of a virtual/DIY event where people did activities wherever they felt safe – be that their home, garden, or outside. After a two year gap we are delighted that the small park BIG RUN (#spBR22) will take place, for real, in Meersbrook Park, Sheffield, noon-noon, 18-19 June 2022. There will also be music, singing, poetry, tea, coffee, cake, lantern making, exhibitions and more.

SIGN UP IS NOW OPEN! With three distinct ways to participate.

  1. Sign up to participate in the event – from 30 minutes to 24 hours (we have had people do 24 hours before!) on a circular route through Meersbrook Park.
  2. Sign up to the DIY event – over the last two years small parkBIG RUN hasn’t been held in the park but wherever people felt safe to do their own DIY activities. If you are unable to attend the physical event in the park you can stull participate however you like, in a place and at at time of your own choosing
  3. Sign up to volunteer to marshal. The event depends on an army of volunteers to ensure the welfare of he runners and other park users. We would be so grateful you can spare an hour.

THE EVENT #spBR22 is a 24-hour group community challenge from Saturday 18 June to Sunday 19 June – noon to noon. You choose the time and length you want to run, walk or jog around laps of Meersbrook Park. From 30 mins to 24 hours! At noon on Sunday there will be a free one lap Fun Run link up with friends in Palestine and, all being well, refreshments in the Walled Garden.

FUNDRAISING We raise funds for the Khuza’a play and heal centre for traumatised children in Gaza and the Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship fund which supports Palestinian women to study at university. Last year we raised over £12,000!
Read more about the two charitable initiatives and how you can help fundraise here.

THE THEME IS REFUGEES Each year we pick a different theme to raise awareness of a particular problem for Palestinian people. Read more about the theme here.

ALL ARE WELCOME The event will be as inclusive and welcoming as possible. We would like to help overcome the many barriers experienced by people from marginalised groups, ethnicities, religions, genders and disabilities. If you require support to help you participate, please contact us.

STAY IN TOUCH! We publish a regular newsletter in the months leading up to the event in June – if you would like to get updates about the event, the projects we support, information about Palestine and more please sign up here!

CONTACT US! / SPEAK TO US! / JOIN US!  We have multiple social media channels! We’d love to hear from you. And remember if you share stuff please use our hashtag: #spBR22

Our channels: Facebook – Webpage – Instagram – Twitter – Email – Strava

RUNS IN PALESTINE – In 2019 seven runs took place in Palestine at the same time as ours. They were held in the spirit of friendship and solidarity. Plans are still being made for 2022 but we can happily confirm there will be a run in Nablus. Below are picture of the Nablus 2019 Run for Freedom/small park BIG RUN.

Below is a small selection of photos from our last Meersbrook Park event in 2019.

We hope to see you 18-19 June, noon – noon SIGN UP HERE!

Goodness gracious, Great Gym Sheffield!

Many people do their small park BIG RUN DIY activities in groups, with some amazingly creative and impressive efforts recorded. Since the beginning five years ago Good Gym Sheffield has put together 24 hour teams who have performed some extraordinary and inspiring efforts. Here Good Gym Sheffield member Andrew tells us what they did for #spBR21.

“Good Gym Sheffield joined Small Park Big Run on what has become an annual fixture for us. We had 18 runners – and between us we covered the whole 24 hours – often with more than one runner out at any given time.

“There were some truly amazing efforts – Dana ran for the whole 24 hours, running over 100 miles on a treadmill and raising over £1,500 for the SPBR charities; Rachel ran a mile each hour for the whole 24 hours; Celine ran the Limestone Way [46 miles]; and Katy ran the Round Sheffield Run – twice [30 miles]!

“The mere mortals in the team hit the trails in the parks, woods and streets around Sheffield and the Peak – with one or two unable to resist the lure of the Meersbrook Hill.

“At midday on Sunday a number of us joined the event in Meersbrook Park – and the weather was kind enough to let us sit out for a picnic and enjoy the singing and music. We’ll definitely be back next year – supporting the event once more – and “looking forward” to 24 hours on the hill.

“Until then our thoughts are with those in Palestine.”

From all at #spBR21 thank you Good Gym! Find out more about Good Gym Sheffield here

Dana’s 24 hour treadmill run 19-20th June

I have taken part in this event ever since I knew it existed. I joined small park BIG RUN (#spBR21) at Meersbrook Park in 2019 (having posted leaflets about the event with GoodGym) and then contributed 3 hours of running last year as part of the DIY lockdown event. I knew this year I wanted to try a solo challenge. As a Palestinian, the charity focus is always close to my heart, but more so now that so many others are speaking up and sharing the truth, there is so much good done already, but it is ever more necessary now.  

My Gazan father was forced out of his home as a child, becoming a refugee and we have family still living in the apartheid state.  Being Palestinian and British means I feel it is my duty to speak up and be proactive. The sense of collective community and kindness shown by Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange (SPaCE), Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund and the local Meersbrook and Heeley community to help improve the life chances, aspirations, and opportunities for the most marginalised and silenced voices in the world means so much to me. Shukran for all donations, be they solidarity miles or money.

I’m aiming to try to cover no less than 120km, so averaging about 5km an hour.  If I can push towards 150km I will be proud – but the resilience to be on a treadmill, in my Baba’s Garage is going to be one of the more challenging aspects of my run. I am trialling my hourly speed at present, playing around with splitting my hours into fast and slow intervals to keep energised, allow food, and clock up the mileage.  A day of discomfort is nothing compared to the conditions and treatment of Palestinians controlled by illegal occupation since 1948 and the pain of those (like my father) who find themselves interrogated and refused return to see loved ones.

I run to hopefully one day be able to see the village where my family comes from. To see it in more than just photos. #FreeFreePalestine

If anyone has any recommendations for my running playlist – English or Arabic classics (big fan of 90’s arab pop!) send them through.

If you can spare some money to donate to my efforts please visit the link: 

‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free’.

Community philosophy – Zoom workshop exploring philosophical concepts relating to Palestine and beyond

For her ‘small park BIG RUN DIY activity’ Kate Halliwell has very kindly offered to run a community philosophy workshop. Read Kate’s invite below and please think about signing up!

“If you would like to explore concepts such as justice, damage, equality, race and human rights come along to my Community Philosophy Zoom session. We’ll share our ideas, beliefs and experiences to delve deeper into various themes relating to Palestine and beyond. Since we are all philosophers at heart, no knowledge of philosophy is needed. Just bring a spoon! Saturday 20th June from 3pm-5pm.

“If you would like to join, please email by midnight 18th June.

A person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera

Description automatically generated
A Library of Life Community Philosophy workshop – June 2020

“I will send you a zoom invite (the day before). Note: Maximum 10 people, first come, first served. Suitable for age 16+

You read more about the community philosophy approach here.

Arif Ali is taking it all in his stride

Arif Ali will be running the small park BIG RUN as a member of the big Steel City Striders team that will cover the whole 24 hours in hour slots. Below, Arif tells us about his approach to running, what it’s like to run in Ramadan and sends a message of support to our friends in Palestine.

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, beard and outdoor

Who are you? Please introduce yourself!

Hi, my name is Arif, I was born in London, and moved to Sheffield over 14 years ago, when I came for my first job in Sheffield. I enjoy IT, and my work is also in IT. And obviously I love running

Tell us about your running journey. Why did you start?

When I used to be in London several years ago, up until 2003, I used to run regularly around Wanstead Flats area. We used to do this on approx. twice a week and with the group of people I was running approx. 15 kilometres a week

When I moved to Sheffield in December 2003, first, I got lazy, and secondly, I blamed the hills for not running; so, I got really unfit and put on some weight.

As of January 2017, I re-started running, in the aim for raising monies for Cancer Research UK (CRUK), on the basis of how much the NHS and the Cancer support did for my mother.

This was a very slow process, and very tiresome. I joined the gym, and my first attempt only lasted about 10 mins doing about half a mile. However, I slowly progressed over a few months, and I found that I was able to do about 5K on the treadmill, and within that time I found out about parkrun; so, I decided to take that on in March. I’m proud to say, that my first parkrun time was 34:14.

After a small break of small injuries, I was back on it again in September, especially with my first ever 10K race coming up at the end of September

I discovered the Couch to 5K (C25K) group run by a few Striders, and joined up; this gave me so much, that it helped with my running, with posture and form. There’s much more detail in my blog post about this.

What’s so good about the Steel City Striders? ?

I joined the Steel City Striders (SCS) in September 2017 just before doing the Sheffield 10K. As it’s a big club you have a variety of people with newbies and some people with great experience. I learnt loads from the Facebook group, where I was given great encouragement, advice and support. Further from that, running regularly in the training runs, I have met some great people with great experiences. Just by running with these people, I have learnt loads, and have been able to apply the advice that they have given. This has helped me a lot over the past 6 months, with my running journey.

The Steel City Striders contingent at the Sheffield Half Marathon

Why are you participating in the small park BIG RUN?

I am a runner, and also try to support campaigns where possible for Palestine. This event combined both factors together.

What do you hope it will achieve?

I would hope that it can raise further awareness of the issues in Gaza and the rest of Palestine.

What do you think you will get from participating in the small park BIG RUN.

I would hope to speak to people, and find real life stories on issues in Palestine as well as having some fun at the same time.

Do you have a message for our friends in Gaza?

Stay firm and resolute, our prayers are with you, and hopefully you are able to get freedom that you seek.

What has it been like training for this run during Ramadan?

This was my first year running in Ramadhan, and I was quite nervous and apprehensive. The main reason being was about hydration and tiredness after the runs. I had also signed up for a race, which was being staged 5 days after the start of Ramadhan too. I found a small post from a Muslim football coach who had a few great pointers, I picked on a few of these, and I believe this has helped overall. When I did my initial run I felt good and there were no adverse effects later in the day. You can read more about my experience of the race in my blog.

Overall after this experience, I will have managed to do more miles in the month of Ramadhan. With a week to go I have managed  106 miles, and my record in a Gregorian calendar month is 110 miles. I am expecting to beat that by about 10 miles if everything goes to plan.

So, all in all, it’s been a fantastic month when it’s come to running!

Anything else you’d like to say?

I hope we can raise more money than last year, and we can go beyond that. I hope this is an enjoyable event for everyone, and we can raise awareness of the issues in Palestine.

Many thanks Arif!

Arif’s blog • parkrun  • couch25K • Steel City Striders  • Training and fasting