June 2 is Global Running Day, so we’ve decided to share an article we included in “The People’s Friend” in 2018 about the wonderful work of parkrun, which encourages people to improve their health and happiness by walking, jogging, or running at community events held all over the UK.
It is important to note that parkruns may or may not be taking place in your local area, depending on current coronavirus restrictions. It’s best to check the parkrun website or social media for information.
When Paul Sinton-Hewitt organised the first parkrun in 2004, he never expected it to be more than a single event.
Fourteen years (and a CBE for “services to grass roots sports participation”) later, parkrun is a brand name. It has over one and a half million participants, and has spread to 19 countries over five continents!
It takes place on a Saturday morning. At 532 locations across the UK, runners – registered on the website for free – can turn up to run, jog or walk a five-kilometre course.
Registration sees you issued with a barcode that is for ever yours to identify you at any events.
You must do this online, as they simply don’t have the manpower to register folk on the day – it’s all volunteer-run. But the good news for those with limited access to a computer is that you only need to do this once.
The relaxed atmosphere of the runs means that friends are made quickly. For many exercising in a group, it provides that little extra push of motivation when it can often be hard to drag yourself out into the British weather!
If you fancy a week off, they welcome volunteers to help marshall each event. If everyone volunteers just three times a year, it is enough to keep the organisation sustainable and free.
With most runs taking place around nine a.m., you’re free to enjoy the rest of your Saturday. It can make the weekend feel a little longer to be up, out and home before some people have even finished their first cup of tea!
In addition to Paul’s CBE and “Best Event Series” at the National Running Awards, parkrun has won “Participation Event of the Year” at the Sport Industry Awards and an award for “National Inspiring Initiative” by the Women’s Sport Awards.
Last year they rolled out the idea in prisons, hoping to improve outcomes for inmates with the benefits exercise provides.
Celia, who runs in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, had already lost eight stones in a weight-loss programme when she took it up.
“I started at the back and finished at the back. The support from other runners was fantastic. I ran again the following week and got a personal best.”
Andrew, from the Hull parkrun, was unhappy with his weight but had a sedentary job as an HGV driver.
He started jogging, but was doing it in the dark to avoid other people. Then he joined the local parkrun, joined a running club and was soon training for his first marathon!
It is habit-forming!
Parkrunner and author Fiona Gibson tells us what she loves about the runs.
“What has been brilliant is that it is really habit forming. I’m less inclined to charge at the wine on a Friday night, plus it’s lovely to get home by ten-thirty and you have already done a run! Saturday mornings are lovely after it, actually.”
Fiona offers some advice for first-timers.
“Don’t feel at all pressured or self-conscious – there are runs for every individual. You can plod along, do a slow jog, walk, or alternate. It is really supportive and you are only going for thirty to forty minutes. It’s not that far and you will build up really quickly!”
For more on Global Running Day, click here.
For more features from “The People’s Friend”, click here.