Have you heard people talking about Parkrun? Or maybe during a morning run you found yourself passing some flags and people in neon vests, wondering if it was a race?
Even better, it’s something you can join to find running friends!
On October 2, 2004, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, feeling down about an injury that squashed his hopes for ever running a marathon, gathered 13 friends for a timed run in their local London park. That self-organized fun run eventually became an official organization known today as Parkrun.
Parkrun is free, weekly timed running event held in local parks across the globe every Saturday morning. Everyone is welcome to join, no matter the pace, running background, or ability.
Since that first run with Sinton-Hewitt and his friends, Parkrun has expanded across the world. In April 2019, Japan became the 21st country to host an event. In its 15 years of existence, over 6 million runners have participated in the free event.
Most of you reading this are suddenly coming across Parkrun USA events and wondering how to get involved, so here’s your primer!
How Parkrun USA Works
Participation in a local Parkun event couldn’t be more simple:
- print your barcode (which serves as your timekeeper. No barcode, no results)
- show up on Saturday morning
Registration is completely free and all paces and abilities are welcome.
While the runs are timed, the events are non-competitive. From parents pushing kiddos in strollers to dogs, prisoners and Olympic athletes, anyone with a desire to get outside for some fun and exercise is encouraged to join.
There are currently 41 Parkruns across the US and Canada. Check out the events page to find one near you.
How long is a Parkrun?
The average distance for them is a 5KM, which is 3.1 miles. However, they do offer a 2KM option for the little one’s who need something shorter to start!
No Parkrun in your area?
Then start one! Parkrun organizers are happy to help anyone bring an event to their community. Simply reach out to them and they’ll provide the information you need to get started. Or use this as a reminder to take advantage of the group runs already in your area!
Is this a good way to start running?
If you’ve checked out the couch to 5K program and are still feeling really nervous about signing up for an actual race, this couldn’t be a better option!! You’ll truly find it’s just a group run, with the benefit of being timed so that you can see progress as you continue training…but sans pressure!
Can you walk a Parkrun?
Heck yes, don’t let the name fool you. It’s not just for runners. It’s for everyone.
Benefits of Participating in a Parkrun
What’s not to love about free weekly 5k run?
Parkrun is all about inclusivity and being made available to anyone and everyone who wants to participate. No one will be turned away.
Want to walk the whole route? Go right ahead.
Want to try and cross the line first? That’s cool, too.
Want to get the whole family moving? Awesome, it’s available to all paces and ages.
There are so many reasons to join these weekly runs.
Improve your marathon time.
5k races are a great way to do that! As long as you don’t treat it like an all-out effort every single week, then the distance will help with speed, turnover rate, and could even lengthen your stride, contributing to better marathon performance.
Get out of a training rut.
It can be good to shake things up from time to time. If you’ve just finished a long training plan, take a break and run for fun without the pressure.
Find new friends in the running community.
Parkrun acts a bit like a running club, but again without the pressure. There are no group workouts where you’ll feel self-conscious about everyone watching your performance. Since Parkrun attracts repeat runners, there’s a chance you’ll make new friends.
Stay fit when you have a lack of motivation.
Sometimes, we just don’t feel like getting out for a run. We’re burnt out, the weather sucks, there are plenty of reasons. A free weekly run will keep you going when you don’t feel like it and may even help rebuild a habit.
Discover new routes on vacation.
Finding routes find routes in an unfamiliar place can be overwhelming. Join a local event and the organizers set the route for you! Great for those of you who find my runsploring a little scary.
How Do I Volunteer for Parkrun?
These free, weekly timed events are volunteer-led. Some events have sponsors to help with basic costs, but happen largely thanks to the dedicated volunteers.
If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to put on a race, this is a great way to get your feet wet and give back to the running community.
- Volunteer opportunities range from event directors to photographers and race marshals.
- To learn more about available roles in nearby events, update the volunteering options on your personal profile page to opt in to receive volunteering emails.
- Each event will have a future roster listing the available positions for each race.
- If anything appeals to you, email the address at the top of the page with your full name, barcode ID number, and availability and preferences.
- Once you’ve confirmed your interest, the volunteer coordinator will send out a roster confirming roles for the next Saturday event.
Alternatively, you can also chat with the event team during a run. This will put a face to the name and you can ask any questions you have at that time to learn more about different positions.
Like the running incentives, Parkrun also rewards volunteers for frequent participation. Those who have volunteered 25 times receive a free volunteer t-shirt.
Have you ever participated in a Parkrun event?
What did you enjoy most about the event?
Other ways to connect with Amanda
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