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Running

Parkrun For Beginners: Your Saturdays Just Got Flipped Upside-Down

How a free 5k running club for beginners took over your local park and revolutionised fitness

What’s parkrun, then?

If you’re a running novice, and you fancy taking up “that fitness thing” you’ve been meaning to do for ages, parkrun (lower-case P!) is your saviour.

A commitment-free antidote to those serious running clubs where members will happily wee down their legs to shave a few seconds off a PB, it’s an entirely free Saturday-morning running club, open to absolutely everyone, including total beginners.

“The whole set-up is really simple,” says Peter Golton, parkrun’s Volunteer Coordinator. “You register online, print off a personal barcode, turn up at the park with it and then run, walk, or jog your way round the 5k route.

“Every event is completely run by volunteers who hand finishers a place token, which is then scanned along with the runner’s barcode, so that their result can be uploaded onto the parkrun website later.”

Whaaaa? How long has all this been going on?

parkrun began back in 2004 as the Bushy Park Time Trial, an event that attracted a grand total of 13 runners – today, parkrun is held every Saturday at 9am (9.30am in Scotland – *cough*slackers*cough*) across 303 locations, with a whopping 596,819 parkrunners registered in the UK alone.

It’s also spread to eight other countries worldwide, although no longer exists in Iceland, where it “died a natural death”, apparently. Sob.

How good is parkrun for beginners?

A veritable fitness win-win, there isn’t really anyone that parkrun isn’t good for. ‘It’s ideal for anyone who’s thinking of exercising, but hasn’t run before,” says Andy Paterson, a regular parkrunner. “You get people running with their dogs, new dads running with prams… There’s a guy at my parkrun who must be 80, but he runs every week.

There’s a guy at my parkrun who must be 80, but he runs every week

“It’s a very non-competitive atmosphere. It also stops you drinking on a Friday night. I’ve run 105 times and only three of those were on a hangover, so effectively parkrun has stopped me drinking on 102 Fridays, which can’t be bad!”

There you have it: it costs nothing, there’s no pressure, and you get a free T-shirt if you run 50 times. Who’s in?


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