What is Parkrun?

This question can be answered in a well informed manner over on their website but here I am to give you a brief, less eloquent summary, as well as my own short experience.

There are lots of parks around the UK (and in fact, globally) that host a free, weekly timed 5k every Saturday morning. Each area has a route which has been measured accurately and every week the event is hosted entirely by volunteers. You simply register online, print your own unique barcode off and bring it to every event with you, where it will be scanned once you finish the 5k. Later that day you'll be sent an email with your official time, meaning you get to race to your own personal best or even better, just run for the hell of it.

If you needed any further inspiration to join your local Parkrun, here are some reasons to go to one (even if you're not a runner):

For the community

I've always felt hugely welcome at the few events I've been to and from the reports of others, it seems the atmosphere is the same around the country (and world!).

You will have the opportunity to make friends if you are new to an area. There are chances to chat to others before and after (or during, if you're able to...) and often some groups go for coffee/cake afterwards at a local cafe where available. I've found all my local Parkrun groups have a Facebook page, which is another way to keep in contact with people and special events that might be taking place near you.

They have a briefing beforehand at every Parkrun so if you are nervous or want to meet those in charge, you can find out about the route, any special considerations and get an overview of what to expect.

It's free!

Completely free. There's no cost to get involved in a Parkrun and there never will be due to the support of it's partners, and everyone who gives up their land, time and donations to the cause.

If you're looking for something to do with friends or family (or even your dog) on a weekend that is sociable, inexpensive and keeps you fit, then this is absolutely perfect.

The motivation

Another great thing about Parkrun is that it occurs all year round. When you start to feel demotivated or at a loss of what to do with your weekends, there will be a local run somewhere to help kickstart that habit.

I find it really hard to get out and about in the winter when it's dark and cold, however, knowing I can fit in this 5k every Saturday gives me the confidence to get up earlier on a weekend. It's also a brilliant addition to any race training you might already be doing (at the moment, it is the only reason I might be able to stay upright throughout a half marathon!)

Brownie points

Okay so you won't get a shiny gold star but even if you aren't able to walk or run a 5k, you can still help out as a volunteer. From time-keeping to token sorting, there's a role you can take on that not only helps out the Parkrun community hugely, but you get that warm fuzzy feeling of helping out and generally being a good egg.

If you're speedy, you could even complete your run then volunteer afterwards for twice the community spirit.

So you're thinking about doing your first Parkrun, I hope? There are a couple of other sources below I want to direct you to just in case you're not quite sold on the event and what it stands for...

- The unofficial Parkrun podcast 'Free, Weekly, Timed'
- This inspiring story, if you're worried about finishing last
- This video on The Running Channel of first timers at an event
- Contra, an ethical clothing brand created by the Parkrun founder