So many runners turned up for the centenary celebrations run, they exceeded the number of finishers that could be recorded by the volunteers.  

The Wits Parkrun on Saturday, September 3, 2022, the university’s Homecoming Weekend, broke its four-year attendance record when 500 people turned up.  The previous record of 435 was set on March 7, 2020.  

Nicholas Whittaker (20) and Jason Vermeulen (19) came in together to win the Parkrun during the university’s centenary celebrations, both completing the hilly 5km around main campus in less than 17 minutes.  

Parkrun SA CEO Bruce Fordyce, who compared the Wits Parkrun to the Monaco Grand Prix as participants run around buildings, joked that one’s IQ increased by 10 points because of all the knowledge surrounding one during the run.  

The main attraction on the course is “the most famous tree in Joburg” according to Fordyce. The massive 110-year-old Eucalyptus grandis (‘blue gum’ tree) stands proudly on the Gavin Relly Green at over 44 metres tall and has seen the history of Wits University in its entirety.

Run director Andrew Thatcher stands on a car to grab the record crowd’s attention. Photo: Colin Hugo


The Wits Parkrun started in 2018, was closed during the covid-19 pandemic, only reopening in July 2022 after the university relaxed its vaccination policy. Vermeulen said the covid-19 pandemic meant “[a] lot of people just never came back [to Parkrun], which is sad”. 

Run director Andrew Thatcher said that the Wits Parkrun is special because he is “able to give back to the Wits community” by volunteering. The psychology professor says he loves the transformation the university has undergone over the years.  

This was echoed by Fordyce who said he hoped Wits would “[continue] to be the best university in South Africa” over the next 100 years.   

FEATURED IMAGE: Bruce Fordyce (middle) addresses the record crowd before the start of the centenary Parkrun as Andrew Thatcher (right) watches on. Photo: Tannur Anders