As a prolific runner, Parkrun often features in my Saturday mornings, and in thousands of others’ around the UK alone. As its name suggests, Parkrun is a run in a park – yet it is so much more.
With over 600 parkruns in the UK, and over 1500 worldwide, there is an overwhelming multitude of people coming to these locations every Saturday morning at 9am to run a timed 5km… for free. Although this may seem surprising, it relies solely on volunteers, who cheer on the runners, walkers, and joggers around the course. There are many roles that a volunteer could play: a marshal (so the runners go the right way), barcode scanners, people who can hand out finish tokens, timekeepers, and of course the tail walker (who walks at the back to make sure everyone gets around the course safely). The welcoming community that is created is why people return to parkrun every weekend or volunteer time and time again.
Although it is run by volunteers, there are goals to aim for. There are t-shirts for 10 runs (for under 18s), 50 runs, 100 runs, and 250 runs. Furthermore, there is a 25 volunteer award t-shirt, giving those who don’t want to run an opportunity to work towards something as well.
At many locations, there are also junior parkruns, which are a timed 2km run (or walk!) for ages 14 and under, something that years 7-9 and some year 10s would be able to try. This is a great start for building up to the 5km distance, and is a great opportunity to get initially involved in the parkrun community.
The parkrun community is very inclusive, welcoming anyone – from ultimate beginners to sub-17 minute runners. It doesn’t matter if you walk, run or jog: it is completely up to you how you complete the 5k distance. After each parkrun there is also often a cafe where parkrunners are often found, having a chat as the results are processed. Every tiny achievement is something to be celebrated, and the feeling of euphoria as you smash your PB is something that shouldn’t be passed on.
Not only is it free, but the only thing you need to do before coming is to make an account, and print off your barcode, so that the barcode scanners can scan that, and your finish token when you have finished the run – your name and time will then appear on the results page a few hours later.
Even if you are on holiday, if you are inclined, you can find your nearest parkrun and go along as a tourist, presenting the chance to have a change of scenery. This could even lead to a PB (personal best), as it could be a faster course than your local parkrun. For example, it might be very flat, on tarmac. However, parkruns that have hills and are on grass are just as fun; why would you back away from a challenge?
Ultimately, it is up to you. Do you want to improve your fitness? Get involved in the parkrun community? Gain a sense of achievement?
Near Soham, there are many parkruns for people to enjoy; these include Littleport, Milton (Country Park), Coldham’s Common (Cambridge), March, Kings Lynn, Brandon, Wimpole Hall, and Bury St Edmunds. There is also a parkrun being set up in Soham… so what’s stopping you from trying parkrun? Why don’t you give it a try?
By Gemma Bridges, Editor in chief