In Praise of Parkrun
Like a lot of us runners these days, I got into running because of Parkrun. I can’t really remember why I decided to give it a go; I wasn’t persuaded or co-erced by well-meaning friends, and no doctor prescribed getting my lazy butt cheeks off the sofa before I had a heart attack. If I recall correctly, I just thought that it might be a nice way to get a bit fitter. Little did I know what staggering round a park for 5K (stopping twice) would do for me, and how it would turn me into someone who could not only run continuously for hours, but love doing it too. Parkrun, you created a monster.
Parkrun, in the highly unlikely event that you don’t know, is a free weekly 5K run held in venues all round the country (and indeed abroad). It’s billed as not being a race, and for 90% of the participants that’s true. The timing aspect gives everyone targets to aim at and a means to measure progression (who doesn’t like getting a PB?!). But the real reason why Parkrun is so incredible is that it has generated so many stories of empowerment of the disenfranchised, and how it has played a key part in aiding physical and mental health. And it’s free, asking for nothing in return except that I respect all my fellow participants, and if possible volunteer to marshal occasionally.
The organisation is incredible. No well-meaning but rough round the edges events here. Over the past two years, while still attending my local park run where it all started for me, I’ve become a minor park run tourist, visiting others for a change of scene. And they are always amazing – slick, and yes, professional.
Then there’s the community atmosphere of a park run. Despite the fact that it’s a timed event, and you are informed of your finishing position and so on, it feels much more like a supportive club for experienced and non-runners alike. Many of the venues require the run to be over a number of laps, or include out and back stretches which mean that the fastest and slowest runners are always coming into contact. And I’ve honestly never heard any ‘get out of the way’ type comments, but on more than one occasion I’ve heard the slower runner call out ‘well done’ as the other shouts words of encouragement to the person they’re just overtaking.
Parkrun encourages, and demonstrates the best in us.
So this is my little slot to say ‘thank you’. To the organisation and the sponsors who fund it, and to the volunteers who work so hard to set them up then keep them running so well.