Isn’t it wonderful when you stumble across something which you’ve sort of imagined in your head only to discover that it actually exists in the real world?!
I started running a couple of years ago (encouraged by a colleague who has a couple of marathons under his belt) and with every expectation that once I’d completed the 2011 Great Birmingham Run I’d probably stop. In fact I’ve really got the taste for it. It’s the perfect form of exercise for me. No special equipment. No membership fees. No fancy personal trainers or classes. I just put on some basic trainers, open my back door and I’m off.
My favourite time to run is early in the morning, before the rest of the world is awake. I don’t go very far…..2 or 3 miles in the week and maybe 5 or 6 at the weekend. But it’s a great stress buster and beats lying in bed trying to get back to sleep.
There are several other regular runners in my village…..mostly much fitter and faster than me. From time to time I’ll talk of maybe going on a run with one of them. It’s never happened so far for one reason or another……time preferences, weather, work or family commitments.
Then a few days ago I bumped into my friend Simon at a village gathering and he mentioned parkrun. One look at their website and I fell in love. A 5k run at 9am every Saturday morning in over 230 of the UK’s parks. This Saturday Simon and I finally got our act together and set off for Newbold Comyn Park in Leamington Spa.
It was a great event. 234 runners aged from 12 to 72. Serious Club runners. Mothers and daughters. Three generations of one Sikh family. First timers and proud wearers of 100 Park Run t-shirts. A hastily erected starting line, a few instructions from a megaphone and we were off. With a rather wet and muddy, largely cross country route, with a long, deceptive climb about half way round and it’s no wonder the times ranged from 18:19 to 42:28.
A cup of tea and a piece of cake; a bit of friendly banter and by 10.15 the whole thing was over. The park was once again the domain of Leamington’s dog walkers.
The first parkrun was organised by Paul Sintin-Hewitt in 2004. He thought it would be a nice idea for a bunch of friends to go on a short run together in Bushy Park in LOndon. He could never have imagined how it would grow. There have now been 23,000 events involving 380,000 runners in the UK and new events are starting all the time. I love this statement of intent from the parkrun website:
“Our goal is to ensure that every event we create is able to live forever.”
Initially a UK only phenomenon parkrun has now reached Australia, Denmark, Poland, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA. I just found this Moscow link on Instagram…..
What I love about parkrun is the way it so simply and effectively brings together the internet, volunteering and a passion…..to create something that is real, participatory and inclusive. Simon heard about it from his friend Sue, I heard about it from Simon, I’ve told my friend Steve……and so it goes on.
There’s a small amount of sponsorship from four relevant companies but their involvement is very low key and unobtrusive – both at the runs and on the website. The sponsorship pays for the bar code scanners and laptop which allow runners’ times to be recorded and posted to the parkrun website and the ‘flags’ which mark the start and finish.
The London 2012 Olympic bid spoke grandly of using its millions to create a legacy of participation in sport. Quietly and without a penny of public subsidy parkrun is doing just that.
Why not have a look and see whether there’s a run in your local park? If there isn’t then you could always start one. You can find all you need to know right here.
You’ll love it.
Runner in green vest http://www.flickr.com/photos/100467110@N08/10359830126/