parkrun: The Running Phenomenon That Is Taking the World by Storm

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Starting line of George parkrun in South Africa. parkrun: The Running Phenomenon That Is Taking the World by Storm

What started out as a simple gathering of 13 runners at Bushy Park in the UK on 2 October 2004, has since grown into a running phenomenon that is taking the world by storm.  On that day in 2004, a volunteer team lead by Paul Sinton-Hewitt organised what would become the first of over 21,000,000 parkruns that have since taken place in 14 countries around the world.  The number of participants has also exploded into a database of more than 3,000,000 parkrunners, including 240,000+ volunteers.  Impressive numbers by any measure.

parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt (left) with a fellow parkrunner.
parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt (left) with a fellow parkrunner.  [“parkrun 210117 086” by Occasional Gardener is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0.]
But what exactly is parkrun and why is it so popular?  The concept is surprisingly simple.  It basically boils down to a free, timed 5 km event that is volunteer-lead and takes place every Saturday of the year at every one of 1,067 (and growing!) parks and venues worldwide.  And, unlike many elitist running events out there, parkrun welcomes absolutely everybody.  From Olympians and national champions to shuffling grandmas and moms with strollers.

parkrun finish funnel.
parkrun 210117 078” by Occasional Gardener is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0.

And although everyone completes the same course at the same time at any given event, parkrun is not a race.  It’s everyone against themselves.  Volunteers send out emails with detailed run results to every registered parkrunner after each event, thereby giving them the opportunity to continually strive for improvement.  And, judging by the number of testimonies that are pouring in from far and wide, parkrun has become an extremely effective tool in helping people take charge of and improve their health.

Huddersfield jubilee parkrun.
Huddersfield Jubilee parkrun” by Simon Brass is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

And if you need a bit of extra motivation to get you up on a Saturday morning, don’t worry.  The coveted parkrun milestone club t-shirts are sure to do the trick.  After completing 50, 100, 250 and 500 runs, respectively, each parkrunner automatically becomes a member of that specific milestone club.  Club members celebrate these milestones with free technical t-shirts (see below) compliments of the national parkrun sponsors.  And, judging by the number of milestone t-shirts donned at every event, this concept effectively motivates many to keep at it.

parkrun Milestone Club T-shirts
parkrun 210117 083” by Occasional Gardener is licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0.

So would you like to be a part of the action?  Joining the growing parkrun community couldn’t be simpler.  Simply visit the global parkrun website and see if there’s a parkrun venue near you.  Then register for free to get your own, unique parkrun barcode.  Without this barcode you won’t receive a personal results email, so don’t forget it!  And that’s all there is to it.  Simply register, grab your barcode, show up and run.

Since its humble beginnings in the UK in 2004, parkrun has become a Saturday morning institution in fourteen countries.  These are Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Sweden and the USA.  This has lead to an exciting spin-off of the parkrun concept, namely parkrun tourism.  The so-called parkrun tourists make it their mission to complete as many different parkrun events as possible.  The perfect way to explore on the run!

So whether you’re looking for a free, regular Saturday morning event in your home town, or an exciting way to travel on the run, give parkrun a go.  Word has it that it can be highly addictive, and it’s not difficult to see why.  Regarded by many as the happiest, friendliest running family in the world, it’s no wonder that thousands of parkrunners are getting together every Saturday morning to celebrate each other and the joys of running (and walking!).  So go on – give it a shot!