I can remember so clearly the day I found out that there was going to be a parkrun near me. I’d gone to Mile End parkrun (about 45mins away on public transport) to run with a friend who was emigrating shortly.
Everyone was friendly on this chilly January Saturday morning, so when chatting to one of the other runners he asked where I had come from. “Loughton” I said.
To which he replied “there’s a new parkrun launching in Loughton next week! It’s called Roding Valley parkrun”.
So you know where I was that next Saturday morning, right?!
Well, I reached my milestone of 25 parkruns at the start of 2022 and made it my goal to reach 50 by the end of the same year. Which I did. On New Years Eve.
What Is parkrun?
parkrun is a series of free, weekly, timed 5 kilometer (5K) running events that take place in parks and open spaces around the world. The events are open to people of all ages and abilities, and are held at the same time every week, typically on Saturday mornings.
The first ever parkrun event took place on October 2, 2004 at Bushy Park in Teddington, England. The event was organised by Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who came up with the idea for parkrun as a way to run consistently, with friends.
The first parkrun event was attended by just 13 people, but has since grown to become a global phenomenon, with over 2 million registered participants in over 20 countries around the world.
How To Join parkrun
In order to take part (fully), all you need to need is register on the parkrun website and then use your unique barcode to track your progress. If you don’t have a barcode, you can still run, but your time will be listed as an “unknown’ runner.
You can use the 5km parkrunner results app (on apple, or available on google play too) to keep track of your progress, join challenges and follow friends.
5 Reasons To Join A Local parkrun
Events are held in over 20 countries around the world, and have become a popular way for people to get active and meet new friends. Whenever I travel, I always look up if there is a parkrun in the location I will be staying.
So far, I’ve only managed to attend one parkrun outside of the UK, and that was in Ireland. One thing I did love about their events though, was the 9.30am start; it made the world of difference.
Here are some more good reasons to try out your local parkrun:
parkrun Is Free & Accessible
parkrun events are completely free to participate in, making them an affordable way to get active.
The events are open to people of all ages and abilities, so anyone can take part making them accessible. Your running pace doesn’t matter (to anyone but you) and if you wanna walk the whole thing, that’s perfectly normal too.
My local parkrun seems to be lacking a lot of ‘middle of the pack’ runners so typically I either go for it and run, or just chill out and walk the 5km. Because…
You Get To Spend Time In Nature & Get Fresh Air
At the end of the day, whether you walk or run, you’ve still completed the same distance. And at the same time, you’ve gotten a good dose of fresh air and nature.
Studies have shown that being in nature can have a positive impact on both physical and mental health. Some of the benefits of spending time in nature include:
- Reducing stress and anxiety: Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, and to improve mood and feelings of well-being.
- Improving physical health: Being in nature can help to improve physical health by increasing physical activity and exposure to fresh air and sunlight.
- Promoting relaxation: The sights, sounds, and smells of nature can help to create a sense of relaxation and calm, which can be beneficial for both physical and mental health.
- Boosting creativity: Being in nature can help to spark creativity and to increase problem-solving skills.
- Enhancing social connections: Spending time in nature can provide opportunities to connect with others and to build social connections, which can be important for mental health and well-being.
Overall, spending time in nature can be a great way to improve physical and mental health, and to relax and recharge.
I love the views I get while running my local parkrun – I never even knew this open space existed before I went there for parkrun. Now I often go there to run, including a local Loughton runners meet-up that I created.
You Get To Meet New People
parkrun events are a great way to meet new people and make friends, as you can run and walk with others. Just last week I walked with a lady from Maldon Prom parkrun and we had such a great chat.
If you attend regularly, you’ll get to know other runners and have some accountability for turning up each week too, right?!
Before I started going to my local parkrun, I actually didn’t know anyone locally. This is what inspired me to lead Breeze rides locally, as well as starting a meet-up outside of parkrun for those who are new to running, want to build up some fitness or might not want to run 5km.
You Get A Great Workout
Running or walking in a parkrun event can help improve your physical health and fitness, no matter your current fitness level. How tough of a workout it is, depends solely on how hard you push yourself as you can go at your own pace and choose to walk, jog, or run the course.
If you are new to running or are just starting to build your running fitness back up, parkrun can be a good way to get active and to improve your fitness. If you are more experienced, you can use parkrun as a way to challenge yourself and to work on your speed and endurance.
I’ve loved using parkrun to complete Couch 2 5km sessions, to do harder intervals or even as part of my weekend long run when training for a half marathon.
Fun & Convenient
One of the best things about my local parkrun, is that it’s just one mile from my front door. This makes it so much easier to get up for, and all I have to do is roll downhill on my bike… or run or drive, which is so convenient. They’re also always held at the same time every week, so you can easily fit them into your schedule.
parkrun events are designed to be fun and enjoyable, so you can have a good time while getting active. Some of my favourite events have been Christmas – when lots of people get dressed up to run.
Bonus: They Are Good For The Environment
I added this one as a bonus as it’s good for your local area. With parkruns taking place in parks and open spaces, it helps to promote the use and preservation of these important areas.
Like I shared before, I’d never been to the space where my local parkrun is, before the events started there. Now I use the space for running, to play tennis and generally just to hang out during the warmer weather. There’s even a trail route that starts there which I’m planning on doing one of these days.
And a reminder; parkrun wouldn’t be what it is without the volunteers who organise and run each and every event. I try my best to volunteer as often as possible and it does help there are some roles you volunteer in which still allow you to run.
Are you a fan of parkrun? Or made it your goal to start attending?
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