I love parkrun. I ran my first one back in January 2015 and was immediately hooked. My weekends now feel empty without running or volunteering at an event on Saturday morning. parkrun has been so integral to my and so many other people’s running journeys. If you haven’t yet been along to an event (or need a reminder to visit one next week), here’s some of the reasons why nearly 3million people around the world participate at a parkrun each week.
1. It’s free
parkrun takes running back to its roots, to just meeting up with friends for a run in the park. It doesn’t cost anything to sign up or turn up and run, and it will stay that way forever. Everyone is welcome to come along to an event, but if you want to get a time – then don’t forget your barcode!
2. It’s timed
At the end of each event, you get your result emailed to you, with the time you ran that week. It’s a great way to benchmark your fitness over a training period, or over years! My overall PB is at Mile End parkrun from July 2016 (before all the marathon craziness started!), and while I’ve come close a few times since I’d really like to beat it again soon. However, your time is also a great reminder that no two events are the same: you can have multiple PBs from visiting different events, because the courses can vary dramatically.
3. It’s a run, not a race
However pay attention: parkrun is a run. It is not about winners and losers, you don’t get a prize for coming first (other than personal satisfaction). You can be the ‘first finisher’ at an event, but you can never ‘win’ a parkrun. This speaks to the inclusivity ethos of the event, where every participant is important no matter what their finish time. We run parkrun to beat our past selves, not each other. Each event now also has a volunteer tail-runner who ‘sweeps’ at the back of the group. They will always be the final person to cross the line, so you can never be last.
4. It’s an excuse to travel
parkrun events can be found in 17 countries, from the very north of Scotland all the way down to Tasmania, and there are new events being added every year. I started my parkrun journey in Sydney, ran a lot of different events in London, and now am part of the core team in Paris. I’ve also run in Copenhagen, Edinburgh, multiple states in Australia and am hoping to add Canada to my list in July! Closer to home you can still do a lot of traveling to visit different events, and each one is so different from the other. It’s a great way to see and experience a new little piece of the world.
5. You can give back to your community
parkrun is free thanks to the volunteers who give up their time each week. Runners are asked to volunteer 3 times a year so that the events can be run, however some people choose to become part of the core team and volunteer most weeks. At my first home parkrun in Mosman, Sydney, there is a lady who has volunteered over 100 times! This year I’ve become a lot more involved in the volunteer side of the event, and am currently at 18 volunteers. It’s a great way to give back to an event that means so much to me – plus I love cheering on the runners!
6. You get to collect t-shirts
Milestone t-shirts are a big motivator to keep coming back to parkrun. The first milestone is the red ’50’ t-shirt, which shows a big commitment to the event. It took me over 1.5 years to earn it, but I was lucky enough to be back at Mosman parkrun for the celebration. After that there are t-shirts for 100, 250, and a few 500 shirts too! You can also get a ’25’ volunteer t-shirt, and a ’10’ parkrun t-shirt for children under 18. I’m currently on 99 parkruns, so the black one will soon be mine!
7. You make new friends
I have met so many amazing people from parkruns all around the world, and am lucky to call them my friends. These are not people I would normally have contact with day-to-day, but because of our shared love of the event and our dedication to coming along each week we have found a common bond. People will often go for a coffee after the event, and chatting with others there (or during the run) is a great way to connect.
8. It’s more than just a run
Yes, parkrun is a weekly event on a Saturday morning, but it has far-reaching benefits. The organisation is involved in public health initiatives to encourage more people to get involved in sport, and also partners with charities such as the Alzheimers Society in the UK. It’s had such a positive effect on society, and I truly believe that it is something special.
9. There’s a podcast about it!
People love parkrun so much that two of its runners have now started a podcast, called Free Weekly Timed. Each episode is 29 minutes long (the average parkrun finish time), and covers a variety of fun topics and interviews to do with parkrun. There are only two episodes so far, but I’ve really enjoyed listening to it so far.
10. It’s the best way to start your weekend
Getting up to be at parkrun for 9am (or 7/8am in Aus!) can be a struggle, but starting your weekend with a run is the best thing ever! You always feel better after exercising, and after parkrun you’re ready to get on with all the things you have planned for your two days of freedom. Alternately, it’s a great excuse to not feel guilty about vegging out because you’ve already been for a run! Whichever way you look at it, parkrun is simply the best.