The cancellation of Little Stoke parkrun has outraged and saddened the running community. For those who are unaware (and honestly, how can you be unaware by now?), parkrun is a a free, weekly, timed 5k run held ever Saturday in countless locations throughout the world. The event depends on volunteers to run.
I enjoy parkrun. I dip in and out and I can do that because it’s there. It can be what you want it to be.
On Tuesday, there was outrage and sadness throughout the running world when Stoke Gifford Parish Council announced that they intended to charge parkrun for the events. There’s been a heated debate about this, but needless to say, this goes against the ethos of parkrun. We’re encouraged to stay active with campaigns such as #thisgirlcan. What about the Olympic legacy? parkrun isn’t just a run.
My home run is Greenwich, which is held in Avery Hill Park. I dabble in tourism though and have clocked up 14 different locations so far, including Jersey. At each event, I’ve loved how friendly and welcoming they all are. I’ve volunteered a few times as well.
It builds communities
Contrary to what Giles Coren might think, some runners like to run with other people. parkrun makes and builds communities. People make friends. We live in the age of social media. We text friends, we don’t pick up the phone. We email. We chat on Facebook. An activity which encourages people to get together, talk, make friends, is surely a good thing? I met one of my good friends at my local parkrun. Another good friend of mine often go to different parkruns together, including a fabulous trip to Jersey!
It encourages activity
I know of lots of people who have started a couch 2 5k plan, finishing with their local parkrun. I know people who have started running at parkrun. I know people who see parkrun as part of their weekly exercise routine. The health benefits of running are numerous and with the government claiming that we’re in the midsts of an obesity crisis, anything that gets people moving more can only be a good thing. It’s so easy to skip a run or bail out of going for a walk. When meeting a friend, or going along to parkrun, it’s much easier to go, even if you don’t really want to.
It encourages volunteering
parkrun is run by volunteers. I believe there are only 12 paid members of staff at parkrun, worldwide. Each event is run by a core team of volunteers, who recruit other willing individuals each week to give up their time. The event set up, the results processing, the timing, the barcode scanning, everything is done by volunteers. It’s a lot of fun, occasionally stressful and only takes an hour or so of your time each week. It’s a great way to give back to the community and parkrun recommend that runners try to volunteer 3 times a year.
It supports local businesses
parkrun events are known for being friendly and virtually every event has a preferred cafe they go to afterwards, where dozens and dozens of runners descend for tea, coffee and even breakfast. “Our” cafe at Greenwich even opened for a couple of hours on Christmas Day so runners could have a cuppa and a chat after.
It’s for everyone
15 minute 5k runner? Come on down! Walk it in an hour? Great, come on down! It doesn’t matter. It’s inclusive. Just get stuck in.
It CAN change lives
Maybe it sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. Although I wasn’t fit enough to run a full 5k after having Rose, I started going back to parkrun because I knew that even if it took me a long time, being in that environment would encourage me to complete the distance. I also had a bad time after having Rose, feeling sad and empty. Going to parkrun really helped me on those Saturdays as it was something for me and everyone has their own personal reason for running.
parkrun is more than just a run.