Why we’re crazy for parkrun


  • READ BELOW: How parkrun got me out of the pub

It’s the worldwide phenomenon that’s getting South Aussies off the couch, bringing communities together and fuelling the bottom lines of cafes everywhere.

It’s parkrun — always lower case, always one word — and it’s basically a 5km organised Saturday-morning fun run.

The difference between parkrun and other running events, and the main reason for its incredible popularity, is that this is running entirely without judgment.

Olympians and world champs line up alongside weekend warriors and people who haven’t gone beyond a gentle jog in years.

Wheelchair athletes, the blind and the elderly can all be found at your local parkrun. The ethos is one of radical inclusivity and encouragement.

For Adelaide business development manager and father of two Paul “P.K.” Kitching, 53, Saturday just wouldn’t be Saturday without parkrun.

“I love parkrun because it’s totally inclusive, and while you may think the name suggests it’s a running event, it’s not really,” P.K. says.

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media_cameraGlynn Foot with his daughter running near the River Torrens. Picture: Tom Huntley
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media_cameraParkrun Mount Gambier: Deb Thompson. Picture: Frank Monger

“It’s just about completing the 5km — you can run, walk, skip, jog, take your dog … just do it at your own pace.”

Parkrunners register on a website and receive a barcode, and their times are emailed to them at the end of each event. And this, P.K. says, is where the only element of competition comes into it — in parkrun, you’re racing against yourself.

“I love that parkrun is timed and that you get sent the results so you can try to improve each time,” he says.

“But for others, it’s all about catching up with friends and family. Ask any parkrunner and they will talk about the coffee and breakfast after the event as much as the parkrun!”

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media_cameraNatasha Maree. Picture: Tom Huntley
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media_cameraCaroline De Suosa. Picture: Tom Huntley

When P.K. is not actually participating in parkrun — he usually runs at Mt Barker — he’s either volunteering as one of the run directors or talking about it on the parkrun adventurers podcast, which he contributes to as a roving reporter.

“The numbers getting to parkrun these days is incredible,” he says. “And with benefits including increased fitness, better mental health and the chance to chat with friends and family instead of spending time indoors stuck to a screen, it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular.”

Marathon runner and Commonwealth Games medallist Jess Trengove did her first parkrun in Scotland in 2014.

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media_cameraKatherine Benson and Katie Lloyd. Picture: Tom Huntley

“I was there for the Commonwealth Games and it was already huge there,” she says.

“Then I ran the original parkrun in Bushy Park while in 2017 while I was preparing for the London Marathon.”

Trengove, naturally, is no slouch on the parkrun scene — her fastest time is a blistering 16min 22 sec — but she agrees with P.K. that it is about much more than running fast.

“There’s a really strong community vibe and the local runners will get behind their own events,” she says. “It’s all run by volunteers and they’re always there to cheer on the runners and direct them.

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media_cameraLuke Ballantine pushing the pram with Andy Simpson. Picture: Tom Huntley

“You’ll see dogs, prams, young children and people of all abilities. It’s so great to see.” Trengove says the instant feedback after each run adds to the fun. Her ultimate aim is to run every parkrun in Adelaide.

“I don’t think I could do every one in the state because there would be more than 52 in a year but I’d love to go to every parkrun in Adelaide,” she said. “At the end of the day though, I really just love catching up with people and seeing the joy that people get from running. Get out there, even if you want to walk it the first time. You won’t be alone.”

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media_cameraJim Corbett from the Harriers Athletics Club Picture: Tom Huntley
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media_cameraNicholas Pavia, 12. Picture: Tom Huntley

For Scott Trickett, parkrun began as an activity that was fun, active and low-cost.

Now, six years on, he and his family run every weekend. He even handles parkrun Australia’s marketing and communications.

“Much more than a run, parkrun is now a social movement,” Trickett says.

“Our goal is for parkrun to positively influence people’s health and happiness around the world. The traditional running market is fixated on outdated and divisive communication.

“We have an opportunity to demonstrate that physical activity is for everyone, and hope to lead the way in changing that perception.”

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media_cameraRunners, including Gordon Knight, taking part in Park Run along the Torrens River. Picture: Tom Huntley

How parkrun got me out of the pub

Parkrun began for me four years ago. Back then, you were far more likely to find me downing a pint at the pub than running laps in a park.

When I did run, I’d develop knee pain or feel too tired to get up the next day and do it again. I was fat and unfit — and a bit unhappy about it. A friend invited me to do Torrens parkrun and I was sceptical at first. Why run with other people? Why not just run? She explained it was a chance to get involved in a community of runners — to make Saturday morning the time to catch up with mates and shoot the breeze. And unlike Friday pub night, which always left me at least $50 lighter, it’s free. Apart from sex, what else costs zilch, is a load of fun and makes you fitter?

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media_cameraBrendon Bascombe with son Luka, 6. Picture: Tom Huntley

I lined up for my first parkrun and Pavlovian reflex saw me get ready to race. At 8am, the runners took off ­­– and I never saw the leaders again. I sprinted, then ran, then jogged, then took a bit of a walk break, then actually stopped dead and stared at the ground. And then something pretty cool happened. Other runners checked on me. They told me I was doing well and to run with them. I jogged again, then broke into a canter — and they kept willing me on. I crossed the line in 26 minutes and 30 seconds.

Since then, I’ve completed four marathons. Next month, I’ll line up in a 100km ultra-marathon. I’ve lost more than 8kg and my parkrun time is down to a tad over 18 minutes. I spend money on running shoes instead of beer, I holiday in trail-crossed forests instead of beach resorts, and I have more energy, more focus and more friends. Thanks parkrun!

— Gordon Knight

Check it out as this guy leaps and bounds his way through the city of Vienna. He scales walls and buildings, and even a children’s playground, with such amazing ease and grace. His impressive street gymnastics, combined with some very beautiful shots, make this parkour video a very compelling watch. Credit: YouTube/alexxparkour

EXTREME: This Guy’s Parkour Skills Are Absolutely Outstanding April 21

Originally published as Why we’re crazy for parkrun



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