Parkrun (Or Walk) Keeps Growing

It’s true that in the early days of parkrun, the people who took part were mainly those with some experience of running, but as we have broken down more and more barriers to participation – whether it be walking, jogging, running or volunteering – we have welcomed more people for whom physical activity was not the norm. In doing so we are redefining what it means, and looks like, to be physically active. Paul Sinton-Hewitt, Founder of Parkrun

An expanding world-wide movement

By Roger Childs

Every Saturday, at 8.00am, over 200,000 people around the world run or walk 5km.

Yesterday from Otaihanga Domain along the south bank of the Waikanae River, 55 Kapiti folk, and a few visitors, did just that.

2017 saw this wonderful free event include five new countries: Germany, Namibia, Norway, Finland and Swaziland.

There are now 1,300 parkruns world wide and over 4 million people of all ages and levels of fitness are registered. New Zealand has 18 locations and it will only be a matter of time before centres like New Plymouth, Hastings, Timaru, Nelson, Invercargill, the West Coast and Gisborne join the list.

Plans to keep growing

Paul Sinton-Hewitt kicked it off at Bushy Park, Teddington, England in 2004. For the first race there were 13 runners and 4 volunteers.

The idea was to provide a free event which would encourage people of all ages and levels of fitness to take on a regular challenge.

The aim for the early 2020s is to  have

  • 12,000 events
  • 25 countries
  • one million participants every weekend.

In 2017 there was a big push to attract people for whom physical activity is not the norm and to encourage handicapped folk to join in.

Volunteers and technology

In New Zealand sponsorship from NZ Home Loans, plus helpers giving freely of their time, means that participants pay nothing.

The volunteers are vital to the smooth running of parkrun, as they

~ organise the start/finish area

~ put out the turn-round cone

~ set up drinks for finishers

~ do the bar-coding at the finish

~ tidy up after the event.

Before the start, everyone is welcomed, especially new runners, people from overseas and elsewhere in the country. All these folk are warmly applauded.

The technology is a key part of the efficiency of the events. You can do the run then drive home and find an email waiting for you. In the email you get your time and a full set of results.

In the latter you get heaps of information: all the placings, age categories of all competitors, a percentage value on your performance, how many park runs people have done, whether there have been PBs (personal bests) and so on.

This is all possible because when you finish, volunteers zap

  • your place disk
  • your personal bar code.

Give it a go!

Parkrun provides a personal challenge: to run, or walk if you wish, 5km.  You can race it, jog it, go with your kids, push a stroller, take the dog, whatever.

It’s easy to register and it costs nothing. Go to  https://www.parkrun.co.nz/register/

Once you’re registered, the key thing to remember is to take your bar code to the event! (You’ll receive six.)

 If you forget, no worries, one of the volunteers will take your name and place. Tip: Laminate your bar code so it will last longer.

Park run is a great way to get fitter, lose weight and feel better. You also get to know plenty of interesting people. It’s got to be good for you!