Anyone that knows me knows how much I love Parkrun. Many don’t understand when I say I’m excited to get out of bed at 8am on a Saturday morning to run 5km but for anyone that does the same they probably love Parkrun as much as me.
I recently compared the invention of Parkrun to the invention of the Lightbulb, a bit extreme I know and I got a few confused looks but I hope I can explain here why it’s so great.
There is simply no other sporting event that brings together such a diverse range of people for a diverse range of reasons quite like Parkrun. I was already aware of this but a few weekends ago I volunteered as a marshal and this fact really hit home. It was clear that the top 50 runners were all club athletes, looking for a nice tempo run to start their weekend, with maybe one or two trying to hit Parkrun PB’s. The following few were clearly avid runners also looking to hit PB’s. Then further down the field you could see those who were coming just to have a chat with their friends whilst exercising at the same time and getting themselves up in the morning, with those who were new to running and their friends and family helping them out along the way. A pregnant lady, a man pushing his son in a wheelchair and a blind man being accompanied by a guide all completed the 5km course that day and it was truly inspiring to see the legacy that 13 runners going for timed run in the park 14 years ago have left with society.
The best thing about it is, there is no pressure to do well from others, only encouragement and enthusiasm, the pressure is a much as you want to put on yourself. It isn’t a race but you still get a position, a time and a category position that all count towards your Power of 10. You can treat it like a race if you want but you really don’t have to and no one is judging you if you run 5 minutes slower than your PB. Everyone is there for one sole purpose to get active and to feel good, whether that be breaking 17 minutes or breaking 30 minutes. Not to add it is only 5km, a distance capable for a large amount of society to run, jog or walk safely.
Furthermore it’s not just for runners, the amount of willing volunteers that make this event happen every week never fails to amaze me, these are people that get out of bed on a Saturday just to help others get active. Even for the volunteers, the atmosphere and energy is still there. I know many volunteers who volunteer each week because of various reasons and state how it has really enhanced their quality of life. A friend recently told me how her Grandad had achieved ‘Parkrunner of the Month’ for volunteering multiple times and how it has changed his life since he has become lonely over the years.
Last Saturday Newcastle University Athletics and Cross Country Club helped out at Parkrun. They provided all the volunteers for the event as well as pacers to try and help people get PB’s. When organising this the enthusiasm wasn’t really there, I was anxious that I was making people do something they didn’t want to do and would be annoyed at me for getting them out of bed at 8am on a Saturday. But the Power of Parkrun took over, the marshals all came up to me at the end saying how great it was, naturally runners thank you when you’re holding a gate open for you, so getting 600 thankyou’s on a Saturday morning or helping someone to run a time they’ve never ran before is a very gratifying and fulfilling experience. Everyone is so friendly, chatty, happy and fulfilled whether they have ran or volunteered, and there is not a better place to be on a Saturday morning.
The amazing thing is isn’t just in Newcastle, this is widespread all over the country. Every Saturday morning hundreds of Parkrun’s are taking place each week where thousands of people are taking part and hundreds of volunteers are making it happen.
Starting in 2004 when 13 runners went for a timed run in Bushy Park, Teddington it has since taken place in over 20 countries. 2.9 million people are now registered Parkrun runners and over 350’000 volunteers have given back. There are Christmas Day Parkrun’s and News Day Parkrun’s. Last year I took part in the Christmas Day parkrun with all my family whilst the New Years Day Parkrun gives everyone a chance to start their New Year well.