To complete the full set
Updated: Sep 10
So tomorrow it’s going to be another D, as in Dulwich Park. For your info my other D is Delamere Forest which I did in 2019. Not that I am a ParkRun alphabet tourist. Otherwise that would mean travelling to Poland, to run in the Zielona Gora ParkRun, although I did have to go to Queensland to get my U! But when away from home, as today in south London, I try to make the nearest ParkRun – nowadays there are 729 in the UK, and so not difficult to find one. Each one is virtually the same, even abroad. You just turn up for the 9.00 am start and follow the runner in front of you! But there is an elect company of ParkRunners who aim to run the entire alphabet. Every so often at home in Ormskirk we greet visitors to the Sports Centre at Edge Hill university who are able to add O to their collection. However, the English language being as it is, X provides the usual spoiler. Sadly there is no ParkRun anywhere in the world which fits the bill. Maybe the good citizens of Xenia in my wife’s home state of Ohio could volunteer so that the real enthusiasts can complete their 26. But there is something in human nature which likes to complete the set. Our former postie was able to visit each of the 92 league football grounds. Nowadays, an expensive exercise. And special credit has to be given to Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall who in 2017 visited every single railway station in Britain, all 2563 in just 14 weeks. “We wanted to do something memorable,” commented Geoff. But why? A sense of completion? A need to give structure? Or to misquote mountaineer George Mallory, “because they’re there!” The apostle Paul had a goal, a structure to his many travels. As he writes to the church in Rome he was yet to visit but was on his list: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation.” (Romans 15:20). In fact, it has been estimated that Paul travelled some 12,500 miles on his missionary journeys, all with the aim of going to each town or city where Christ had not been proclaimed. Quite a list! So he explains “So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.” (Romans 15:`9) This ambition inspired this adventurous apostle, even though he encountered many setbacks and dangers. In one throwaway remark to the church in Corinth, he mentions without elaboration that he had been shipwrecked some three times. “I spent a night and a day in the open sea,” he recalls (2 Corinthians 11:25). And that doesn’t count a possible trip to Tarragona as he explains to the church in Rome. “But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to visit you, I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to see you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there.” (Romans 15:23) And what motivated him in his mission was simply the love of Christ As he explains to the Christians in Corinth “ for the love of Christ compels us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14) Or as an experienced evangelist once explained to me, to be so grabbed by the love of Christ. For as the much travelled D L Moody explained, "If God is your partner, make your plans BIG!" And it was this same urge, this same motivation which moved John Wesley to aim BIG, to travel an amazing 250,000 miles to share the Gospel of Christ in all weathers and to virtually every place in the country, far more than a mere 2563 locations. Mind you this took over 50 years and most was on horseback. But even so, some commitment, such resolve. The challenge for us in serving Christ: can we match the enthusiasm of the ParkRun alphabet tourists? It will need both imagination and resolve. I know of one person who delivers a sparkie gift parcel each month to everyone living in a retirement complex, in Christ’s name, I guess about 60. Or praying each day for everyone in our road or office or class. Or learning a verse from every book in the New Testament. For serving Christ in each other is our true purpose, our calling, rather than visit all 1249 McDonalds in England or climb all 446 mountains in England and Wales. And to aim for an entire set gives both structure and discipline. As Charles Spurgeon once observed, again just down the road from here: “One of the greatest rewards that we ever receive for serving God is the permission to do still more for him. "