|Predecessor||Bushy Park Time Trial|
UK Time Trial
|Formation||October 2, 2004|
|Headquarters||Phoenix Wharf, Twickenham, Middlesex, UK|
|Services||Global provision of weekly, timed 5km running events|
|Total individual runners (April 2018): 2,912,610|
|Total individual volunteers (April 2018): 352,633|
Parkrun (stylised as parkrun) is a collection of 5-kilometre (3.1 mi) running events that take place every Saturday morning at over 1,400 locations in twenty-three countries across five continents. Junior parkrun is a spin-off event that provides a 2 kilometres (1 1⁄4 mi) run for children aged 4–14 weekly on a Sunday morning. Parkrun events are free to enter and are run by volunteers, supported by a small group of staff at its headquarters.
Parkrun was founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt on 2 October 2004 at Bushy Park in London, England. The event was originally called the Bushy Park Time Trial. It grew into a network of similar events called the UK Time Trials, before adopting the name parkrun in 2008 and expanding into other countries. The first event outside of the United Kingdom was launched in Zimbabwe in 2007, followed by Denmark in 2009, South Africa and Australia in 2011 and the USA in 2012. Sinton-Hewitt received a CBE in 2014 for his services to grassroots sport. By October 2018 over 5 million runners were registered worldwide. Parkrun is funded mainly through sponsorship, with local organisers only needing to raise money when they launch an event.
Events take place at a range of general locations including city parks, country parks, national parks, stately homes, castles, forests, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, canal towpaths, beaches, promenades, prisons, racecourses and nature reserves. Runners who have completed the "milestones" of 50, 100, 250 or 500 separate runs are rewarded with a free t-shirt. Juniors also receive a t-shirt for completing 10 runs. Runners can travel to and complete any parkrun. Those that travel are termed "tourists" and can complete unofficial challenges such as "Londone" which involves running every event in London. The male world record holder is Andrew Baddeley who set a time of 13 minutes and 48 seconds at Bushy parkrun on 11 August 2012. The female world record holder is Charlotte Arter who set a time of 15 minutes and 50 seconds at Cardiff parkrun on 5 January 2019.
- 1 History
- 2 Event outline
- 3 Participation
- 4 Volunteers
- 5 Events around the world
- 6 Restricted and closed events
- 7 Milestone clubs
- 8 Parkrun tourism and unofficial challenges
- 9 Individual running records
- 10 Community
- 11 See also
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
- 15 External links
Parkrun was founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt on 2 October 2004 at Bushy Park in London, England. Sinton-Hewitt was born in Zimbabwe and went to Potchefstroom High School for Boys as a boarder in South Africa. He became a club runner with a personal best time in the marathon of 2 hours and 36 minutes. In 2004, Sinton-Hewitt was suffering from depression and unable to run due to an injury. He founded parkrun because he wanted to continue to spend time with his running friends. In a BBC Radio 4 interview he said that the idea for parkrun came from his time in South Africa 20 years earlier where he had experienced competitive races that took place on the same course at the same time each week. The first event had 13 runners, three volunteers and was managed by Sinton-Hewitt.
The Bushy parkrun was originally known as the Bushy Park Time Trial, and its results were timed with a stop watch, recorded on paper while washers stamped with a finish number were used as finishing tokens. Over the next two years the event took place every week with the number of participants and volunteers growing, and new technology introduced to streamline the processing of results. The second Time Trial was launched at Wimbledon Common in 2007; it was here that the model of having an identical structure at different locations began. That year saw a further six events established. They were initially known as the UK Time Trials before the "parkrun" name was adopted. There were five more locations added in 2008 including the first in Scotland and the first in Wales.
The first event outside the UK was launched in Zimbabwe in 2007, though this event no longer operates. The longest-running parkrun outside the UK was launched in Denmark in 2009. In 2010, there were 30 new events added including the first in Northern Ireland. In 2011 parkun began in South Africa and Australia, both of which have seen significant growth in event numbers, and in 2012 parkrun USA launched. Junior parkrun started at Bushy Park in 2013. Sinton-Hewitt received a CBE in 2014 for his "services to grassroots sport".
In 2015 more than 80,000 people were gathering in parks across the world each week to run, jog and walk a parkrun – more than twice the number who take part in the annual London Marathon. 2016 saw 1.1 million different people completing a parkrun and 142,000 gave their time to volunteer. In 2018 on an average Saturday around a quarter of a million runners took part in 1,500 events spread over 20 countries.
All parkruns are 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) in length and are free to enter. Anyone can take part, from pensioners to parents with their children, people with their dogs, wheelchair users, people pushing prams, club runners or casual runners, although not all courses are suitable for all participants. Beginner runners, older adults and overweight people are common.
They usually take place at the same time, at the same place, on the same course, once per week. There is no formal procedure before the run with participants asked to arrive shortly before the start time and wait near the starting line. A run director will make announcements giving safety instructions and community news before beginning the run. Participants run or walk the course and are directed by marshals along the correct route to the finish line. As each runner crosses the finishing line a volunteer records the finishing place number and time. The information recorded by the timers is later uploaded onto a computer, which allows runners to be matched with their times. The results are uploaded to the parkrun website which also generates a number of statistics. The results available are finishing position for both male and female runners, the time taken to complete the run, whether or not a personal best time has been run, the total number of runs completed by an individual, their age grade result and their position in relation to other veteran or junior runners.
To have a time recorded runners are asked to register on the parkrun website, print out a personal barcode and bring it to the run. This needs to be done just once with the barcode valid for any subsequent parkrun in the world. Runners can still participate without registering or if they forget to bring their personal barcode, but they will not have their time recorded. If the runner does not have a barcode, their position on the finishers table will be recorded with the name "unknown" and no time.
A 2013 article in The Guardian noted the rapid growth of parkrun and suggested this was mainly due to its simplicity and accessibility: runners register online once, turn up at any event, and run. Inclusivity is also a factor, as participants have a wide range of running abilities, from fast club runners to those walking, a wide range of ages from children running with their parents to the elderly, also allowed are wheelchair users, those pushing buggies and people running with their dog.
A 2015 qualitative study by the University of Loughborough found that runners attending a parkrun for the first time were typically motivated for weight loss or an improvement in their physical fitness. On the other hand, there were a range of different motivations for runners to continue regularly taking part, with runners wanting to beat their personal record time, to reach a certain number of runs and join a milestone club, to enjoy being outdoors at the park, to make new friends through volunteering or to meet existing friends or family for the run.
The Daily Telegraph reported that "what's clever is that it’s not a race against everyone else but a timed run", and that trying to improve your personal best time is a great incentive even for slower runners. They commented that it does not matter how good or bad a runner one is: anyone can take part, from pensioners to parents with their children and dogs, and further explained that the success of the events is down to them being free and weekly because it allows people to get into a routine.
An article in The Telegraph said that a drop in gym usage can be attributed to a backlash against gym membership fees combined with the popularity of events such as parkrun and fitness tracking devices. Professor Kathleen Armour, head of the School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Services at Birmingham University said: "You could speculate that people have shifted from the gym to running" and that "the cost of using a gym is likely still to be a major factor behind the slump".
The Journal of Public Health reported in a 2013 study upon 7308 parkrunners that the events were attractive to people who described themselves as non-runners; with women, older adults and overweight people well represented. It added that participation problems have been minimized, with no upper age limit, no special equipment and no cost. And that while some participants ran before a parkrun, some are new to exercise, and parkrun offered the opportunity and support to become active on a continuous weekly basis.
One of the attractions is the chance to run in a pleasant park or location, some of the runs take place on National Trust land, for example Sheringham Park, which is noted for its rhododendrons, azaleas and stunning coastal views. The National Trust and other similar organisations are encouraged to host their parkruns despite not formally charging a fee because of the extra revenue generated by people visiting their cafés and gardens.
An article in The Guardian by Adharanand Finn said "for beginners, joining a race or running with others can be intimidating, but parkrun is set up to cater for British awkwardness. While it’s all very welcoming, if you don’t want to talk to anyone, you don’t have to". A July 2015 editorial in The Guardian praised parkrun, arguing that "The glitz of London 2012 failed to persuade the nation to get off the sofa. The lower-key success of parkrun shows a smarter way to boost participation in sport."
Writing in The Independent on 4 September 2018, Jonathan Liew, their Chief Sports Writer, said "parkrun is not simply one of the biggest sporting events in the world, but one of the most important, largely because it entirely upends what we have long been told sport is about." He discusses how sport has become ever more something the public pay to watch, packaged ever more expensively, with the sports people lives tipping over into light entertainment, concluding with the comment "parkrun offers something entirely different: community, opportunity, the outdoors, the simple pleasure of sport and people. In so doing, it has resurrected a vision of sport that has been in recession for a generation."
Each parkrun event is run entirely by volunteers. To assist the volunteers, parkrun HQ provides the necessary equipment and there are several different volunteer roles at each parkrun event. Every event has a 'volunteer' page, with the same basic information about how to get involved as a volunteer, as well as crediting those who have made the effort in the most recent week. The Parkrun website credits those who volunteer each week as "the heart" of parkrun, and integral to its not-for-profit status. It also provides a useful range of responses to commonly asked questions about volunteering, with information on each of the different roles, in its FAQ section. At the outset of Parkrun, the central organisation sought to simplify the volunteering process to allow new events to be set up with a low number of volunteers, this simplification now allows new volunteers to assist with minimal training.
Each event has a core team who has received permission from parkrun HQ and the location owner to stage the event. The individual roles are typically filled by different volunteers each week and include the following; a run director who manages the event making announcements and starting the run; a timer who records the time taken, marshals who direct runners to the correct route, barcode scanners who scan finishing tokens, event setup and close down volunteers, tail runners, pacers and result processors.
According to Steve Flowers at the University of Kent’s business school Wikipedia and parkrun are both examples of "people’s innovation", they’re driven by volunteers rather than professionals, they’re horizontal rather than hierarchical, and they’re not about making money. What drives the volunteers is a sense of purpose – to have fun, gain experience or just help.
Events around the world
Parkrun is held in the 22 different countries listed below as of August 2018.
Parkrun in Australia
The first Australian parkrun event was held at Main Beach, on the Gold Coast, on 2 April 2011. ABC News remarking on parkrun Australia said "there are competitive runners aiming to win but there are just as many people running for the fun of it. If people want to race each other, that's fine, they can, but if you want to walk that is fine too. Everyone is welcome, from kids to grandparents, it's one of the few sporting events that a family can do together."
Parkrun in South Africa
Parkrun South Africa was started and promoted by ultramarathoner Bruce Fordyce. The first parkrun took place at Delta Park in Johannesburg on 12 November 2011 and had 26 participants. It is now one of the larger parkruns regularly drawing up to 1200 runners and attracting tourists as the first one in the nation. The record attendance was at North Beach, Durban, which saw 2527 runners on 20 Jan 2018.
Parkrun in Ireland
The first run in Ireland was at Malahide Castle on 10 November 2012. The rollout of parkruns in Ireland was assisted by funding from the government's Department of Health with the aim of empowering local communities and encouraging individuals and families to lead active lives.
Parkrun in Poland
The first Polish parkrun took place in Gdynia on 15 Oct 2011. Poland has the first parkrun to cross the border of another country. Cieszyn parkrun starts in Poland but crosses into the Czech Republic before returning to Poland. The record attendance was at Gdansk parkrun on 27 Dec 2015 when there were 1111 runners.
Main events (5km)
Updated as of 10 August 2019
Former event countries
|Zimbabwe||Zimbabwe Rolf Valley|
Junior events (2 km)
These events are weekly, free, 2 km running events for runners aged 4 to 14. Parents are allowed to run with their children but aren't eligible for a placed finish. Juniors who have completed 11, 21 or 50 junior runs are awarded a coloured wristband.
|Country||Locations||Cite||First event name||First event location||First event date|
|United Kingdom||233||||Bushy Juniors Parkrun||London||1 April 2010|
|Ireland||15||||Rush Junior Parkrun||Dublin||13 December 2015|
|Australia||3||||Southport Junior Parkrun||Southport||22 April 2018|
Parkrunners are normally permitted to record only one run per day, even if they attend more than one. Over the festive season extra parkruns are scheduled at different times of day and parkrunners are allowed to record two runs. On New Year's Day 2017, a Sunday, globally there were 15,589 runners who completed a 'double'.
Events take place in a range of general locations (that need not actually be a park), including city parks, country parks, national parks, stately homes, castles, forests, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, beaches, promenades, prisons, racecourses and nature reserves. The runs have different degrees of difficulty, with hilly runs harder to complete than those that are flat. The running surface varies with many city park parkruns being run on tarmac footpaths, closed roads, grass or a mixture of all three, while forest and country park parkruns are more likely to be on trails. The weather affects the difficulty of the course with trail runs more liable to be affected by mud or leaves than runs on tarmac paths. Runs that take place in hotter countries often start early in the morning to avoid excess heat and runs in snowier climates have a course chosen to minimise the effect of the snow.
Restricted and closed events
Permanent event closures are rare. Zimbabwe was the first country to host a parkrun outside the UK. The event started in 2007; however, it subsequently closed several years later. Parkrun Elliðaárdalur closed in 2012 due to operational difficulties in the winter, and Hillerød parkrun in Denmark closed in 2013. Camp Bastion parkrun was hosted at a military base in Afghanistan, which shut in 2014. The most notable permanent closure to date was at Little Stoke in 2016, after a conflict over charging for access with the local parish council, which drew international media attention.
More frequently, parkruns have formally closed at a location, but in actuality relocated to a venue nearby and adopted a new name. This has occurred for a variety of reasons. Notable examples include Hatfield Forest parkrun and Heartwood Forest parkrun.
|Country||Event name||First event||Last event||Reason for closure|
|Afghanistan||Camp Bastion||30/9/11||11/1/14||End of Operation Herrick and camp closure|
|Zimbabwe||Zimbabwe Rolf Valley||2007||2009||-|
|United Kingdom||Little Stoke||3/11/12||7/5/16||Conflict with the local authority|
|United Kingdom||Caldicot||29/7/17||14/10/17||Dispute over land rights, relocated|
|United Kingdom||Hanbury Hall||2/7/16||31/12/16||Location difficulties|
|United Kingdom||Heartwood Forest||29/7/17||6/10/18||Location difficulties, relocated|
|United Kingdom||Hatfield Forest||21/3/15||23/9/17||Location difficulties due to increasing attendance, relocated|
|United Kingdom||Wythall||16/9/17||16/9/17||Location difficulties|
|United Kingdom||Bodelwyddan Castle||18/8/18||29/6/19||Bodelwyddan Castle closure|
|South Africa||Three Silos||5/12/15||29/12/18||An alternative to the suspended Nahoon Point parkrun, which resumed in 2019.|
|Australia||Town of Seaside||20/6/15||25/8/18||Local noise complaints, relocated|
|Australia||Woodford||19/5/18||13/4/19||Location difficulties, relocated|
|Australia||Heirisson Island||6/9/14||11/7/15||Issues with island residents and Aboriginal rights protestors |
|Ireland||Tramore Valley, Cork||26/9/15||23/1/16||Access issues due to a high volume of car traffic after being featured on RTÉ.|
|United States||Moberly||10/28/17||9/7/19||Parkrun's decision to suspend the event|
Several parkruns have restricted access to the general public due to the terms under which they are permitted to take place or their location. Many but not all take place within the grounds of prisons, the first of which was Black Combe Parkrun at HMP Haverigg in November 2017.Results for closed parkruns are published on the main website, but the names of runners are anonymised.
|Country||Event name||First event||Reason for restriction|
|United Kingdom||Black Combe||4/11/17||Prison - HMP Haverigg|
|Australia||Dhurringile||20/4/19||Prison - HM Prison Dhurringile|
|Ireland||The Glen||7/7/2018||Closed residential centre, recovery from addiction & substance abuse|
|Ireland||Progression||1/9/2018||Prison - Mountjoy, Dublin|
|United Kingdom||Cromhall||19/1/2019||Prison - HMP Leyhill|
|United Kingdom||Lower Drummans||6/1/18||Prison - HMP Magilligan|
|United Kingdom||The Grange||1/5/19||Prison - HM Prison Kirklevington Grange|
|United Kingdom||Walton||20/4/19||Prison - HM Prison Liverpool|
|United Kingdom||Bickershaw||22/9/18||Prison - HM Prison Hindley|
|United Kingdom||Springhill||9/6/18||Prison - HM Prison Spring Hill|
|United Kingdom||Keppel||28/7/18||Wetherby Young Offender Institute|
The number of runs by each participant at all events is recorded and available online using individual login details. When a runner reaches a certain number of runs they join one of the "milestone clubs". There are five different clubs to which a runner can belong: the '10 Club' for runners aged 17 or below who have completed 10 or more runs, and the '50 Club', '100 Club', '250 Club' and '500 Club' for anyone who has completed that number of runs. Anyone in the world entering a 'club' is awarded a free colour-coded T-shirt with a number on the back to represent the club they are in. The T-shirts are coded as follows; ten runs for white; fifty runs for red; one hundred runs for black; 250 runs for green, and 500 runs for a blue T-shirt. There is also a purple T-shirt for those that have been a volunteer 25 times or more.
Parkrun tourism and unofficial challenges
Parkrun tourists travel especially to seek out new runs. Runners, when they sign up on the parkrun website, are asked to pick a "Home parkrun", usually the one they live closest to and are likely to frequent most. Parkrun tourism is broadly defined as anyone travelling to a run that isn't their home parkrun. Tourism can involve running in a neighbouring park, town, region or even country with some runners travelling to a different run every week.
Parkrun challenges involve completing a number of different runs in a particular way which are personally meaningful but not officially sanctioned. These include "Londone" which is completing all of the parkruns in London. The "alphabeteer" is running a parkrun beginning with each letter of the alphabet and challenges such as "Stayin' Alive" which is completing 3 runs beginning with B and 3 beginning with G. A Google Chrome and Firefox extension details further challenges such as "Groundhog Day" which is running the same time at the same parkrun location in two consecutive weeks and "Regionnaire" which is to complete all of the parkruns in any region.
Individual running records
- Female world record holder (running unassisted): Charlotte Arter set a time of 15:50 at Cardiff Parkrun on 5 January 2019
- Male world record holder (running unassisted): Andrew Baddeley set a time of 13:48 at Bushy parkrun on 11 August 2012
- Female world record holder (running assisted): Elaine Sherwin set at time of 15:12 at Kingsbury Water parkrun on 11 February 2017 with a canicross dog
- Male world record holder (running assisted): Ben Robinson set a time of 12:24 at Kingsbury Water parkrun on 18 November 2017 with a canicross dog
- Female record holder (wheelchair): Lizzie Williams (15:27, set at Dulwich parkrun)
- Male record holder (wheelchair): Danny Sidbury (11:29, set at Dulwich parkrun on 29 September 2018)[better source needed]
- Age-graded record holder: Fauja Singh with 179.04%, set at Valentines parkrun with a time of 38:34 on 31 March 2012 (the day before his 101st birthday)
- Global record holder for highest number of runs: Darren Wood with 723 runs (as of 6 June 2019)
- Global record holder for the highest number of different events: Paul Freyne with 469 different parkrun locations (as of 6 June 2019)
Parkrun endeavours to promote health and well being through a number of initiatives. Its mission statement is "a healthier and happier planet". In the UK parkrun has partnered with the Royal College of General Practitioners in order to promote healthy living through increased physical activity, socialisation and mutual support.
Most events are run with the support and sometimes the sponsorship of local authorities. A notable conflict occurred at Little Stoke parkrun. Parkrun does not set up events where charges would apply to the organisers or runners. Little Stoke parkrun had begun with the council's permission in November 2012. In April 2016 the responsible parish council in Stoke Gifford, Bristol, England, voted to charge runners a fee to participate. Despite an online petition and support from the Minister for Sport, the council would not change its decision, so the parkrun was permanently cancelled. In April 2017 the British Government announced that in future local councils in England would not be allowed to charge for parkruns in a public park.
- List of Parkruns in the United Kingdom
- List of Parkruns in the United States of America
- List of Parkruns in France
- UK events currently also includes those for Jersey, Guernsey & Isle of Man (which are Crown Dependencies and so not technically in the UK ); the total for the UK has been reduced accordingly.
- South Africa events currently also include those for Namibia and Swaziland, the total for South Africa has been reduced accordingly.
- Both events started on the same day.
- Three events started on the same day.
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- "Minister backs free Parkrun after Stoke Gifford furore". BBC News. 21 April 2016. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- "Ban on council park fun run fees proposed in England". BBC News. 15 April 2017.
- Bourne, Debra (2014). Parkrun: much more than just a run in the park. Chequered Flag Publishing. ISBN 9780956946072.
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