park what? A guide for beginners

I live in two worlds.

One where parkrun is a weekly occurrence. Where people know their run total and what milestone they’re working towards.

Some in this world could also tell me how many courses they’ve run at, where their nearest event not done yet (NENDY) is and other stats relating to their unique barcode.

The other world is one where when I mention parkrun I’m met with a questioning look.

So if parkrun is new to you, this blog is for you.

If you have friends who are in the other world, this is for them so you may share it with them and hopefully encourage them along.

What is parkrun?

In brief, it’s a free, weekly, timed 5km run, held almost always on a Saturday morning at 8am. When it’s winter and you’re in Otago and Southland, then it’s 9am.

You register once, for free, and receive via email your barcode. Print this out and bring it with you to any parkrun event. It’s your ticket to a free 5km wherever there is a parkrun.

It was set up by a lonely, injured runner who missed his friends – because he couldn’t run with them.

So he (Paul Sinton-Hewitt) created a 5km time trial in his local park (Bushy Park, London, UK) one October Saturday morning in 2004.

There were just 13 runners but now there are around 7 million registered parkrunners around the world.

There are parkrun events in 22 countries, and your barcode can be used at any of these.

How does it work?

It’s run by volunteers, which is how it is free.

There’s no need to register, so no pressure to show up if you’re not feeling up to it.

There’s a run briefing before each run to give our any special announcements and then you all start together.

When you finish your time is recorded, you are handed a finish token, which you take, with your own barcode, to a volunteer to scan both. The parkrun event keeps the finish token to use next week, you keep your barcode.

Results are processed after the event has been packed up and you receive an email with your time.

Will I be last?

Not unless you choose to. Each event has a tail walker volunteer whose role it is to be the final finisher.

Do I have to run?

No. even though it’s called parkrun you can run, walk or a mix of both. So long as you are moving forwards under your own steam you are welcome.

If you use a wheelchair to move around then you are welcome to participate and receive a finish time. Some courses might not be suitable so please check ahead of arriving with the event team.

What makes it fun?

This is where it’s all down to you.

I love parkrun because it makes me feel good about myself. Even though I’m never going to finish first I know that I’m doing my best on that day just by showing up.

I love meeting up with friends old and new. I love seeing the smiles on other people’s face.

There’s the challenge of trying to not stop and walk even though I really want to (and I sometimes do, and that’s okay too).

It’s not a competition, but you can make it a competition by trying to do better than last time.

I also like the tourism it’s given me. I’m one of those parkrunners who likes to visit other events. It gives me a reason to go away and explore a new area – and to meet new parkrunners.

Signing up for parkrun has been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Even when I’ve not felt like running during the week, I’ve still gone to parkrun.

The link to register is: https://www.parkrun.co.nz/register/

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