The popularity of parkrun
Posted: Mar 22, 2021
The parkrun (with a small "p") is a collection of more than 2000 5-kilometre (or 3.1 mile) events for walkers and runners that take place every Saturday morning in 22 countries around the world. In addition to that there is a junior parkrun over 2 kilometres (1.25 miles) for children aged 4 to 14 on a Sunday morning. The parkrun’s are free to enter and are staffed and run by volunteers, though there are a small number of paid staff at its headquarters. The parkrun was founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt with the first run being held at Bushy Park in London, England on 2 October 2004. The event grew from there being replicated in other UK venues. They were originally called the UK Time Trials with the name, parkrun, first being used in 2008 when expansion began to occur in other countries. The runs take place in many different types of locations including parks, nature reserves, forests, rivers, lakes, beaches, and even in prisons. Those runners who have completed 50, 100, or 500 of the runs are given a free T-shirt. Once a runner has registered on the parkrun website and obtains a barcode, they can travel to and complete any parkrun worldwide where they are often referred to as "tourists". The record holder of the run for males is Andrew Baddeley with a time of 13 minutes and 48 seconds and the female record holder is Lauren Reid who has a time of 15 minutes and 45 seconds.
Paul Sinton-Hewitt was awarded a CBE for his services to grassroots sport in 2014 for what parkrun has become. Currently there are almost 7 million runners registered worldwide with parkrun. This rapid growth is mainly due to its simplicity and accessibility. Runners only need to register online once and then just turn up at any parkrun event and run. An inclusive philosophy is also probably a factor as participants range from competitive and fast club runners to those who just walk the 5km. Wheelchair users, those pushing buggies with children and people running with their dog are welcome. The parkrun’s have been lauded as one of the greatest public health initiatives of our time for promoting physical activity and being a social movement for the common good.
Each parkrun event is run and administered by volunteers with the necessary equipment supplied by the parkrun headquarters. The volunteers are considered the heart of the parkrun movement and their efforts are acknowledged on the parkrun’s website every week. Recently the author, Eileen Jones travelled around the UK and visited many of the 730 parkrun venues there and talked to runners and walkers and explained how a 5k run on a Saturday morning had changed their lives. Her work was published in a book with the title "how parkrun changed our lives".
At the beginning of March 2020, most parkrun events were closed worldwide due to COVID-19 pandemic. At the beginning of 2021 events started to come back, especially as the pandemic began to be controlled in some countries.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.