My home parkrun is Stratford. We recently celebrated our second birthday…we are 103 runs old. On the face of it for an event that’s about running and being healthier our year on year metrics don’t look too good. Since last year:
- The average time it takes to complete a run has gone up
- Our productivity has gone down
- We take longer to start each run
- We eat more cake
But if you dig a little deeper you’ll see why we are so pleased with our results…..
The average time it takes to complete a run has gone up
In our first year we had around 160 runners each week and on average it took them about 26 minutes to complete the 5km course.
A year on and we’re delighted that the average time is now 28 minutes. That’s because we’re now attracting not only more runners each week, but a more diverse group of runners. More people running for the first time; more children; more people in their 60s and 70s; more people who run with pushchairs or dogs.
We hope to see the average time get even ‘worse’ next year.
Our productivity has gone down
In our first year we organised each run with an average of 22.25 volunteers each week. A year on, with a simpler route we now have 27.65 volunteers each week. We’re delighted. We encourage as many people to get involved with being a marshal or timekeeper or barcode scanner as possible. Meeting up before the run, helping to put out the bollards, staking out the finish funnel, making tea, having a laugh and making new friends. Volunteering really gives you a chance to get under the skin of what parkrun is all about. We have quite a few people who volunteer regularly now but have never actually done a run and have no intention of doing one. They just love the whole community spirit and feeling part of something.
A woman came along to volunteer last week because she walks round the park at lunchtimes, heard about the Saturday morning runs and thought it would be great to see lots of people running her walk. So her first time at a parkrun was to stand still and encourage 300+ other people on their run.
All being well we will be even less productive this time next year. Is 30 volunteers a week being over ambitious?
We take longer to start each run
We try and start each run at 9.00 am.
We always do a short briefing before we start. It’s part H&S and part a reminder to be considerate of other park users. But we also like to celebrate anyone who has reached a milestone (10, 50, 100….even 250 runs). We pinched an idea from Leamington parkrun and now have bibs for anyone celebrating a special day so that other runners can say well done as they run past. For our birthday we had the wonderful Dave Moorcroft to give out some awards to runners and volunteers who’ve made the biggest contribution to our parkrun family this year. We welcome new runners, we welcome parkrun tourists and find out where they’re from and we thank our volunteers. Oh and we remind new comers about our cafe when they finish.
All this means that we do seem to take a little longer to get the runs underway these days.
More to celebrate means later starts.
We eat more cake
Most of the team who launched Stratford parkrun started out as regulars at Leamington where they’ve always had a wonderful donations only cafe. Our park has a rather odd concrete ping pong table near where we scan runners’ barcodes. Our very own Mrs Doyle has made a table cloth, a recycling box for the used cups and as well as tea, water, squash, biscuits and cake, we now have dog biscuits and fruit too!
What’s especially good now is that lots of people make cakes to bring along, either to celebrate a parkrun milestone or birthday or just for the hell of it…because they like making cakes. It means people hang around after their run. They chat, swap stories, catch up with old friends, take selfies, put their name down to volunteer the next week. We get lots of parkrun visitors and they all tell us how welcome we make them feel and how much they love our cafe.
We want even more cakes for our third birthday celebration next year.
We have come a long way in 2 years: 134,565km to be exact.
We’ve had 5,639 individual runners and 469 volunteers who have volunteered 2,567 times.
We had 397 participants on our birthday, who ran, jogged, or walked all the way round. 21, were completely new to parkrun, 40 visited us for the first time from as far afield as Manchester, Dunstable, Epsom and Leicester. 58 got a new PB (personal best).
But more important than any of that we’ve built a strong community that welcomes people in from the edge and lets everyone participate and share whatever they have to offer.