Parkrun is free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone and are safe and easy to take part in. The Parkrun phenomenon started with a mere 13 runners drawn together by Paul Sinton-Hewitt on 2 October 2004 at Bushy Park in London, England. Since this seminal day Parkrun has spread to over 1,400 locations across 23 countries and boasts over 5 million registered runners.
Along with South Africa in 2011 Australia embraced Parkrun and has since grown to have 550,000 people (2% of our total population) registered to run at the 354 locations across the country. Australia, with its relatively small population, proudly represents over 10% of the total runners world wide. In my own region of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, seven Parkrun locations have sprung up in recent years. This number is set to grow as the popularity of Parkrun shows no sign of slowing.
As it is so popular one must ask the question, what brings people to Parkrun? I believe that Parkrun is not just a free run in the park, it is a physical representation of all that is good in the concept of community. Parkrun defines community; it brings people together around the common goal of simply running. It encapsulates the notion of ‘by the people for the people’ as there is no profit or materialistic gain from any external party. What you put in, you will get out. Community is not a unique concept for our society, society was founded on the idea of community, but it appears that Parkrun has made it work better than any other fitness-centred community venture that has come before it.
If you are unfamiliar with the Parkrun experience, first you must register through the Parkrun website. Registation provides you with an individual bar code to print and bring along to your chosen event. Starting en masse, you will cover a set 5km course at whatever speed you wish. Volunteer timekeepers will record your time and provide you with a second bar code. Both bar codes are presented for scanning into the Parkrun system. Later in the day, an email is generated to give you an online score board through which you can monitor your progress week to week.
Parkrun embraces simplicity, as it only has one goal, to cover 5km. The experience awards various milestone T-shirts, but you are required to earn them by running hundreds of kilometres across the weekly events. It is organized, but that organization is fluid and is complementary to your own level of preparedness. Want to bring your dog, you can! Want to bring your child in a pram, you can! Want to set a new PB for 5km, you can do it, just as you can walk or crawl or skip the distance. Parkrun is the encapsulation of the concept of ‘build it and they will come!’ And it is this ‘build it’ element of community in each of the seven Parkruns in my region that I wish to tap into and explore over the weeks ahead.
As your own personal running tourist, I want you to see what is unique about each of the park runs through my eyes. From the course that it is constructed around, to the people that run and walk the distance and volunteers that give up their time for others to make the event special. I would also like to explore the after run coffee scene and give you a taste of the Parkrun community. Hopefully you will join the movement and maybe travel to the Sunshine Coast to experience first hand what I have shown you through my words. The seven Parkruns I will review are: Noosa, Nambour, Mudjimba, Kawana, Brightwater, Baringa and Golden Beach. First cab will be Noosa.
I am hoping to publish my blog on Sunday following my run. So, stay tuned or email me if you wish me to look at something in particular or you may wish for me to travel and review your Parkrun in the future. In the meantime, you can register for Parkrun here. Click on any of the hyperlinks to the Parkruns around the Sunshine Coast from the paragraph above to see what each of these unique locations have to offer you.