What Is Parkrun?
Every Saturday morning thousands of runners and volunteers travel to their nearest Parkrun. This is a free 5km event which takes place at a multitude of locations across the world every weekend.
Parkrun is an event which is open to all. Whether you have never ran before or are just getting into exercise and are starting out walking, you can take part. There are no age or ability limits, and no cut off times. There is always a volunteer tail walker who ensures that no-one is left behind or finishes last.
The courses are measured using professional surveyors’ wheels and each kilometre is marked out for runners. 5km is a great starting point for people getting back into fitness or starting out for the first time. It is also a good distance to use as speed work for more intermediate runners.
There are also Junior Parkruns which take place on Sunday and are a distance of 2km. Participants must be aged between 4 and 14 to enter.
All Parkrun events are run entirely by volunteers, and without them, there would be no event.
Why Is It So Popular?
For me, Parkrun allows me to push myself harder than if I was doing speed work on my own. You have the race atmosphere of being surrounded by other people which can help to motivate you to work harder. At my nearest Parkrun (I have 3 which are pretty easy to get to), there are regularly over 300 runners.
The fact that the event takes place every weekend means that it is to track training progress. It’s good to be able to use the same course each time and know that it has been measured so that base runs are accurate to check for improvements. It is also readily available so that it matches your training calendar and schedule.
My very first Parkrun took me over 46 minutes, however recently I managed my first sub-35 minute Parkrun. Since then I have managed to get my time down to 31:17 official Parkrun time (33:15 Garmin time). I like how easy it is to monitor my progress and I can take part whichever weekend suits me, rather than having to fit my training around a specified 5k event.
5km is a good distance for a Saturday morning as it doesn’t take too much time out of the day. The race starts at 9am UK time and takes me less than 35 minutes, allowing me to go and get my shopping done afterwards before heading home and enjoying the rest of my day. It is definitely a great way to start the day, and the weekend as a whole!
Some people incorporate Parkrun into their longer run by either running more laps before or after the event, or run commuting to and / or from the event.
My nearest Parkrun is West Park, Wolverhampton, which can be very scenic in the summer and autumn months. In the autumn, there are a lot of different bird species present, as well as squirrels and other wildlife.
The social aspect is another amazing point of Parkrun. Meeting like-minded people and being given support from other runners and marshals along the course makes for a nice atmosphere. My first Parkrun took me over 46 minutes, but I still got encouragement from everyone. Parkrun is not about being the fastest, or who finishes first, but about the effort that each participant puts into the event. It’s about getting up and taking part.
It’s free! This one is pretty self-explanatory. Getting the race atmosphere without having to pay a penny is definitely a huge attraction. The fact that there’s no entry cost also makes it more accessible and allows runners who usually run solo to meet other runners.
There are also milestone t-shirts which are given out for free after taking part in a certain number of Parkrun events:
- Participate in 10 events (Junior Parkrun only)
- Volunteer for 25 events
- Participate in 50 / 100 / 250 / 500 events
The t-shirts reward participation and are a way of encouraging people to be more active.
If you haven’t participated before, I would definitely recommend trying out your local Parkrun. You get to meet like-minded people, take part in a great event without paying a penny, and enjoy some scenic park locations.
To find your local Parkrun, please click here.