Last year when the team here was getting fit for our overnight walk in support of the Walk the Walk breast cancer charity, I became aware of the Parkrun movement. It’s an inspiring story which began so modestly. A group of runners in London’s Bushy Park started out on a Saturday morning getting into training with a 5k run.
That was 12 years ago. Now it’s an amazing global phenomenon. There are around 2 million runners around the world going to one of 850 local parks on a Saturday morning. Just as impressive as the growth of the movement is the fact that it’s all run by volunteers – and more than 180,000 are turning out weekly to support friends, family and neighbours who have got the running bug.
Another aspect of the success is the efficiency of the enterprise. It could only work as it does thanks to the technology we have in the 21st century. If you want to join parkrun, you sign up on the website. You get given a unique identification barcode to print off and take with you. It’s essential to scan in with your barcode before the start in order to participate.
At the end of the run you give one of the volunteers your number so they can tell you how fast you have run. At every subsequent event you are given your speed and you are told each time you achieve your personal best. You can also be ranked against other runners if you wish.
But the great thing is the freedom. If you want to walk and not run or jog with a dog, you can do so. The founder of parkrun was Paul Sinton-Hewitt who has been awarded a CBE by the Queen and who gets my vote for introducing one of the most appealing health initatives of the 21st century.