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What is parkrun and should you do it?

Updated on May 8, 2023
stereomike83 profile image

Having returned to running a couple of years ago, Mike ran his first marathon in London in October 2021 after almost 2yrs of training

parkrun: The Basics

parkrun does exactly what it says on the tin. It is a run, in a park!

Every Saturday around the world you will find people taking part in a free, timed 5km run. What started as a few friends in West London has become a global phenomenon that keeps on growing. Today there are over 1700 parkruns spread across 22 different countries.

I started to do parkrun about 2yrs ago and it 8s now a regular staple of my weekends, followed by the shorter 2km Junior parkrun on a Sunday and I hope if you're not a runner yet, reading this may encourage you.

The Pastures parkrun with the backdrop of Alnwick Castle
The Pastures parkrun with the backdrop of Alnwick Castle | Source

A Brief History

The first ever parkrun took place in Bushey Park, London in October 2004. Organised by Paul Sinton-Hewitt, 13 runners took part in the 5km time trial. The time trials continued for a couple of years before the name parkrun was introduced in 2007. Since then the brand has spread beyond its home in London, the first overseas event occurring in Zimbabwe in 2007. Junior parkrun started up in 2010 as a shorter 2km alternative for under 14s.

By the time parkrun celebrated its 15th birthday in 2019, over 6m people were registered worldwide. Quite an increase on those first 13.

Why should I take part?

The best thing about parkrun is it is truly for everyone. It doesn’t matter how quickly you can run the event, as it is open to all. You may be a faster runner, aiming for times like I currently am, or you may be a young kid just entering the world of running who needs to stop/start like my kids. You may be old and only able to walk or taking part in a couch to 5k scheme. The key thing is that you only need to travel the 5km.

parkrun actually takes great joy that the average finishing time of those taking part has gotten slower every year in recent years. What this means is that more and more people are taking part and getting fit and this is great. Indeed, to emphasise this point, events have a tail walker, a volunteer who will always make sure that no one finishes last.

parkrun is also all about community. It is a great opportunity to meet new people who are all taking part. Be it running or, volunteering, it is everyone pulling together that makes the event. The event is fully run by volunteers and volunteering is open to all. Without the support the event wouldn’t happen and I love mixing up my running with taking on a volunteer role now and then.

All in all, the event is great fun and sets up your Saturday morning perfectly with most runs starting at 9am.

Roundhay Park parkrun in Leeds
Roundhay Park parkrun in Leeds | Source

Where can I take part?

As mentioned earlier, parkrun is currently in 22 countries worldwide (Apr20). Below is the list of countries and current number of runs. Why not check out the parkrun website to see if one is near to you? What’s more, you are never constrained to just doing one event. You can travel around the world and it gives something extra to take in when you are on your travels. On my personal blog I have written my very own parkrun Tourism Guide based on where I have taken part to date.

  • UK (694 events)
  • Australia (386)
  • Canada (40)
  • Denmark (8)
  • Finland (3)
  • France (8)
  • Germany (32)
  • Ireland (93)
  • Italy (17)
  • Japan (15)
  • Malaysia (2)
  • Netherlands (11)
  • New Zealand (30)
  • Norway (5)
  • Poland (75)
  • Russia (77)
  • Singapore (4)
  • South Africa (225) - Includes 2 in Namibia and 1 in Swaziland
  • Sweden (11)
  • USA (44)

How do I take part?

Taking part at parkrun is really easy so there is no reason to not give it a try. You just need to follow the below steps:

  1. Register at the parkrun website (this is the UK link but just Google parkrun register to get your local site)
  2. Print off the barcode that is delivered to your email
  3. Turn up at your local parkrun, listen to the briefing to find out about the course and then walk/run your 5km
  4. At the end scan your barcode and you will be emailed your time
  5. Feel good about yourself and return to step 3!

A few more images from my parkrun tourism

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Wakefield Thornes parkrunBakewell parkrunTemple Newsam parkrun
Wakefield Thornes parkrun
Wakefield Thornes parkrun | Source
Bakewell parkrun
Bakewell parkrun | Source
Temple Newsam parkrun
Temple Newsam parkrun | Source

Do you parkrun?

Are you one of the other 6m parkrunners across the world? If so I’d love to hear where your local parkrun is and where you have visited. If you haven’t run before and this inspires you, then I would love to hear about that in the comments below as well.


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