Catford parkrun- a free, timed, five kilometre run that takes place every Saturday at 9:00 am in parks up and down the country- is turning 85 (weeks!) old. I spoke to organisers and runners to find out what makes parkrun so special, and why everyone should run a parkrun.

I started running parkrun at the start of May, and since then I haven't missed a Saturday (well, maybe one or two) and am nearing my 25th. I found a 5k run to be just the right length for me, and the overwhelming sense of community spirit really inspired you to get up and going. I had entirely fallen in love with the whole event, so I got in contact with David Rose, event director to find out why I was one of many who felt this way.


"I’m glad to hear you’ve fallen in love with parkrun," he wrote over email. "I became a bit obsessed with parkrun about 7 years ago. I loved the fact that there was a place for every kind of runner at the events from the speed demons at the front to a middle of the pack runner like myself and the walkers and joggers." He creates the event over a year ago when he heard that there was a huge appetite for it in the community. "We have a group of 5K Your Way participants every month whose lives have been affected by cancer who use parkrun to meet and exercise together. We had a volunteer who was deaf last week and we had our run brief translated into sign language a[n]d we have a regular Visually Impaired runner who comes along with a guide to take part in the event."


parkrun is entirely volunteer-run, with a regular group of marshals, timekeepers, tail walkers and barcode scanners all making the run  possible for up to 250 runners who frequent the park every week. "I think that many people enjoy being able to give something back to the event," David said. "... with parkrun being such a local event makes the sense of community stronger having people coming along every week to support a free event." But it isn't just David who feels the ripple effects of the volunteers' consistent work. Flora Tregear, 15, who I encouraged to start parkrunning several months ago writes: "I love the community spirit of it, and it's an excellent way to exercise!"

Everyone I spoke to was also keen on stressing the importance of parkrun. "parkrun is really important as it is a great encouragement to get up in the morning and have a productive day." Flora adds, while David tells me, " I think that exercise and fresh air helps with mental and physical health and parkrun being free and accessible means that more people take part who wouldn't necessarily do something like this on a regular basis."

So why should you parkrun? Well, it’s entirely free and completely accessible, with people running jogging and walking at every speed. It is also massively beneficial for your mental and physical health as you get some fresh air as well as develop relationships with those you run with. Moreover, the sense of community is heart-warming and gives you real hope. But don't just take it from me. David says "If you are even just thinking about coming to parkrun please, please come along. One of the things that parkrun HQ has said in recent years is that the average time of a parkrun is getting slower and that is exactly what they are aiming for, it means that the events are being more inclusive and appealing to more people with varying abilities [The average time has gone from 22:17 in 2005 to 32:29 in 2018]." Flora tells me "[D]efinitely come and try the parkrun! It's lots of fun and there's an amazing sense of achievement as you cross the finish line." But in David's words: "it does become addictive so be prepared to give up your [S]aturday lie-in!"


By Esther O'Neill, Newstead Wood School