I decided to finally check out the running craze that is parkrun and I was pleasantly surprised!
I first became aware of parkrun about 3 or 4 years ago. Several people from our running club were starting to talk about their parkruns on Saturdays and posting their runs on Strava. At the time, I wasn’t really interested for a few reasons: 1) I was usually busy doing other things on a Saturday, like riding my bike, 2) my training plan at the time didn’t account for a quicker run the day before my Sunday long run (see previous point about the bike), 3) I didn’t really understand the concept and didn’t put any effort to figuring, and 4) there wasn’t a parkrun close enough to my home to make me want to find out more.
A few years on, and more and more people are talking about parkrun. If you are new to the concept, it’s pretty simple. According to the parkrun website,
parkruns are free, weekly, timed events across the world, organised by local volunteers”.
Apparently, there are more than 1600 parkruns around the world in 20 countries. Until looking the information up for this post, I had no idea it was so widespread! The runs are all 5km long, although there are junior runs which are shorter.
A few weeks ago, a new parkrun was started near my normal morning run spot, upping both my convenience and interest. Also, after some indecision on my current training goals, I settled on one more 10k run this year. This means that I want more opportunities to increase my speed. Enter parkrun.
I registered online a few days before and printed my barcode – a must if you want to enter a parkrun. This morning, I grabbed my barcode and headed to the local run. I was probably way to early, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect or what parking was going to be like. Just before 8 am, I joined the crowd of people – about 150 – near the start line for the introductory remarks. In addition, there were several people who were clearly volunteers as they were wearing bright orange high-vis vests with parkrun on the back.
Our run director for the day called our attention and started off by introducing herself. She asked if there were any first timers, and when I and a few others raised our hands we received some applause. She asked if there were any milestones – there were none – and if there was anyone visiting from other parkruns. There were runners from other parkruns nearby, interstate and overseas! I really felt that this welcome of newcomers and visitors made the event feel like an inclusive and welcoming community.
After the introductions and housekeeping, we made our way to the start line and were off. It was great to have so many people running around me, and it gave me more motivation to run faster (as well as some people to try and beat). I managed to finish my 5k faster than I had expected. When you cross the finish line, you are given a barcode which marks your place. You then take your personal barcode and your finishing barcode to the volunteers who scan both. A few hours later, the results are posted online and you receive an email with your personal time and place details. It’s very efficient, especially given how simple the concept really is.
I love running and the fact that basically anyone can do it, and I always try to encourage others to give it a go. It really seemed to me that parkrun has embraced this idea as well. The beauty of the event is in its welcoming atmosphere and the fact that it is free. This lowers the barriers to entry that some people might normally perceive. There were experienced runners, beginner runners, walkers, families, parents pushing prams, and runners with dogs all taking part in the event.
The fact that all parkruns are 5km timed events also means that you can benchmark yourself against other runners worldwide. Also, if you are the kind of person who gets really nervous at the start of a race, it is a great way to practice starting in a crowd and working through those jitters.
I have heard the argument that parkruns have eroded participation in the larger, more traditional paid runs. This does have an effect on the traditional runs’ ability to operate with road closures, insurances, and the medals they hand out. However, I have no doubt that parkrun has also increased participation in running events, and gotten more people to get outside, enjoy their local park and be active – that has to be a good thing.
Have you done parkrun? What do you think about the concept?