David Parry has become a familiar figure often seen out jogging around the area, or either running in, or helping-out at his local Conwy Parkrun held at the RSPB Nature Reserve most Saturday mornings, writes Don Hale.
Whilst many runners will probably know him from the parkrun, they might not realise he is also the Reverend David Parry, the Vicar of St Mary’s in Conwy, and the leader of the Bro Celynnin Ministry area.
He says that about seven years ago he had a mid-life crisis when he was working as a vicar in Liverpool, trying to fit too many things into an already overcrowded schedule, and admits this was the trigger that made him go out running, just to help relieve the stress.
David said he always hated running at school but now confirms: “I find it helps me to think and even with my praying. When I first took part in the parkrun, I was often the last to finish but everyone gave me such genuine encouragement.
“It’s a great community activity and I like the people involved. There are not so many things in life that give you such a good feeling. I’m not an elite runner but that half hour or so on a Saturday morning is great, and I’ve built lots of friendships. It’s something I really look forward to.”
David explained that when he first started running, he used to plod around the streets in the dark for fear of embarrassment.
He added: “I ran hoping I wouldn’t see anyone who would recognise me, but in contrast, people helped and encouraged me, as they could see I was trying to lose weight and get fit.”
At the time, he was vicar of two vibrant multicultural churches close to the Mersey at Christ Church, Toxteth Park, and at St Michael-in-the-Hamlet. He also served as an area Dean and an honorary chaplain amongst deaf people.
He said: “I was always working and not taking care of my health, so I joined a group of ‘beginner runners’ in Toxteth. I found running to be a real “stress buster” but at that stage I couldn’t run more than half a kilometre, but I stuck at it, and eventually completed about 50-parkruns around Liverpool, and I even ran in the city’s half-marathon.”
David was born in Scotland and brought up in the South of England, and used to be a social worker for a local authority.
However, he explained that he was called to the ministry about 25-years ago, and eventually became ordained as an Anglican priest.
For more than a decade, he was the Liverpool Diocese Director of Ordinands, and helped many people discover their vocation to the ministry. Later, his wife Eryl also joined the church. In due course, she was licensed with her husband after a varied career in retail management, tourism and event management, and is currently undergoing training for pioneer ministry.
The couple moved to Conwy in 2016, when David was appointed the vicar at St Mary’s and they now share a much more relaxed lifestyle, and love North Wales.
It was like a homecoming too for the friendly, religious couple, as David’s ancestors came from Llangernyw in the Conwy Valley, whilst Eryl’s parents are from Llanberis.
David’s love of running has since escalated to some 151-parkruns at eleven different and varied venues across the country. And he has even travelled to Southsea to run a parkrun with his nephew, and to Edinburgh to run with his daughter.
Conwy however, has been his most favoured venue with 90-parkuns so far completed, and another 46 at the Princes parkrun at Liverpool. Other regular tourist trips have been to Wepre and Penrhyn Castle, with others much further afield at the Fell Foot parkrun, at Newby Bridge, Portobello, Lee on Solent, Abingdon, and Havant.
David, who is 57, says his quickest time was at Croxteth Hall, Liverpool in just 24 mins 52 secs, but claims he is just a steady runner and usually averages just under the half-hour mark for his weekly 5K challenge. In addition, he has also helped-out and marshalled about 25 times, and says he loves the atmosphere and the genuine community spirit.
Last year he stepped up his mileage to take part in the London Marathon for the charity Action Aid, saying: “It was a great experience and I really loved all the training although I struggled a bit in the race. I still try to get out running up to four times a week, when I can, but I don’t like gyms, as they often seem impersonal and more for the elite.
“I have also run the Conwy Half Marathon three times but with working on a Sunday for the church, it’s not easy to find other suitable races on a Saturday – apart from the parkrun.
“I was at my happiest last November though in the scenic Conwy race, and it was good to hear some of the comments from visiting runners when we reached the top of the Great Orme, and all enjoyed those spectacular views towards Puffin Island. It made me feel so proud of North Wales.’