Parkrun: 7 Reasons Why You Should Run It Regularly
It’s 7am on just another ordinary Saturday morning. I jump out of bed and into my running gear. As I lace up my running shoes, my mind wanders back to 10 years ago when at this hour on a Saturday morning I would’ve still been in bed, probably with a sore head after a long Friday night work drinks session, or possibly yet to go to bed, making my way home as the sun rises. I smile to myself knowing those days are behind me and I'm focused on living a healthier life. One of my New Year resolutions was to get fitter and stronger this year, whilst training alongside my wife. Having a young son to look after has proved to be a challenge when trying to squeeze training runs in, especially if both my wife and I are trying to run on the same morning or evening. One activity we’ve found that allows us to run together this year is Parkrun on Saturday mornings.
Launched in the UK in 2004, Parkrun is a free, 5km timed run, usually through or near a park (hence the name) and is organized by volunteers. Parkrun operates across Australia in 183 locations and has spread from its home in the UK to other parts of the world also. Below are 7 reasons why we have grown to love Parkrun this year and why, if you’re not yet running Parkrun, you should consider taking it up, or if you do participate in Parkrun, why you should continue!
1. An exercise date in the diary every Saturday morning
Establishing and sticking to a routine is an important step in achieving your exercise and fitness goals. Parkrun is on every Saturday throughout the year. As it’s a regular fixture in the diary and is on at the same time each week, it’s easy to tick off one of your weekly workouts with a Saturday morning Parkrun! During a long working week, the thought of a Saturday morning Parkrun can often provide something to look forward to. Not only that, having a morning run scheduled each Saturday morning means you’re less likely to have 10 beers or wines on Friday night and write off your entire weekend…
2. Runners (and walkers) of all levels take part
Most of us are not elite athletes. The good news is, you don’t need to be one, nor feel the pressure to compete with one, as Parkrun has been designed to be all inclusive, to provide a set up and course that runners and run/walkers of all abilities can enjoy. Nothing formal happens at the end of a Parkrun, there is no medal presentation on a dais, no anthem playing, no speeches from sponsers, instead what typically happens is puffed, red-faced runners who are trying to catch their collective breaths after the 5kms, stand around with hands on their knees or their heads, smile at each other and often throw an arm out to congratulate the other runners who finished near them, usually a complete stranger. I’ve witnessed on many occasion early finishers standing at the finish line cheering and clapping in other runners and run/walkers for their effort in completing the Parkrun. There’s an underlying feeling of respect and camaraderie shown to runners of all levels, which eliminates any pressure to compete or the idea that Parkrun is only for 'good runners'. Of course, there are a few fast runners who participate but there are also people walking prams, jogging with their dogs and others who Instagram or take phone calls along the way - a huge mix. At Parkrun everyone is made to feel welcome and included.
3. A timed weekly run so you can measure your progress
If you’re a numbers guy or girl and you like to measure your progress, then Parkrun is for you too, as it provides you with a weekly run time, a recorded PB for each course, a gender position and an age grade (a percentage figure indicating how well a runner has done relative to their age and gender). How is this recorded? When you sign up to Parkrun you receive a registration barcode that is scanned at the end of the Parkrun along with a small plastic barcode indicating your finishing position. The timekeepers match up the recorded times with the positions and voila, you have an official time and position!
4. Prams and kids welcome
As a parent with a baby or child who is still in a pram, it’s hard to find time to exercise, even more so if you’re a single mum or dad. As mentioned above, pram runners and pram walkers are encouraged to participate in Parkrun and having a son under the age of 2, I’ve found it especially handy to be able to run with the pram when my wife is running one week and vice versa when I'm running the week after. I’ve been surprised by the speed of some of the other pram-running mums and dads out at Parkrun Rhodes - some of them really go for it and set a cracking pace! Oh and you don’t need to have a fancy, expensive running pram to run or walk Parkrun with a pram, some Parkruns, like Rhodes, are run entirely on a concrete path, making life easier – there’s even play equipment at Rhodes Parkrun for the kids to play on afterwards.
5. A way to give back to your running community
Parkruns are run by volunteers which makes it kind of special and unique compared to other more formal (paid) runs. There’s typically one or a few Parkrun directors in charge of the Parkrun course and then the remainder of the people you see in hi-vis lime green (close to the 'Onsport green' colour!) are other runners who have kindly given up their time that week to be a timekeeper, a barcode scanner, a course martial or photographer. Anyone can volunteer to help out and it’s great to be able to give back to your running community by volunteering your time one week. It should be noted that whilst it’s encouraged, there’s no pressure to volunteer, you can just turn up and run Parkrun each week if you wish to do so.
6. It's as social as you want it to be
If you’re looking for likeminded running folk that you’d like to run with or hang out with before or after the Saturday morning run, you’ll most likely find them at your local Parkrun. At Rhodes Parkrun for instance, many a Parkrunner can be spotted at the local cafes in Rhodes / Concord afterwards – a favourite hang out of ours is the café Three Spoons on Victoria Avenue in Concord which you can drive around to or to get there on foot it's a short walk under the train line. So if you’re looking for a regular event where you can sweat with others and be social together afterwards, Parkrun could be for you. Equally, if you’re ‘all business’ and like to exercise on your own and head straight home afterwards, you can easily do that too and no one will judge you for it.
7. Long enough to be a challenge, short enough to not take up your entire Saturday
A 5km Parkrun is long enough for those who are regular runners to get a timed, quick run in to check their speed, fitness and how hard they can push over this middle distance, but it’s not so far a run that weekend warriors who run once a week, fortnight or month find it too challenging to complete. Plus, being a shortish distance, it's typically completed somewhere between 15 minutes and an hour, so you’ll be done and dusted before 9am (in the case of Parkrun Rhodes which starts at 8am) and you can then get on with the rest of your Saturday, having banked your exercise for the day and enjoying those lovely running endorphins for the first hour or so afterwards.
In summary, Parkrunners run Parkrun for many reasons, to get fit, to enjoy a running community, to have a regular timed run to measure their progress and many other reasons, however, I believe Parkrun's value lies in the simplicity of the weekly structure that allows participants to run for the simple joy of running alongside other likeminded runners of all levels.
If you haven’t tried Parkrun before, give it a go, you never know, it may become a Saturday morning ritual like it has for us. To find a Parkrun in your area visit Parkrun Australia events.
If you have a view on Parkrun, please feel free to leave a comment below, we'd love to start a discussion.
Happy running, if you see us at Parkrun Rhodes soon, please say hi!