Participation is for everyone at parkrun

parkrun participants

The message from the participation phenomenon that is parkrun is loud and clear: we’re open to all.

It's a simple concept: turn up on a Saturday and walk, jog or run 5k and with 700 free, timed events taking place every single week around the UK, you’re never far from your nearest one. 

In addition to the 5k events, there are also junior parkruns which are 2k events held on a Sunday for four to 14-year-olds and their families. 

parkrun are committed to breaking down barriers to participation and making their events truly open for all.

“You can take part in whatever manner suits you,” said parkrun’s Global Head of Health and Wellbeing Chrissie Wellington.

“We know that there is a fear of not being fit enough to do parkrun, so we want to convey the message that anyone can take part in any way that suits them.

“You can walk, jog, run, or you can come along and volunteer or spectate. If you don’t want to complete the whole event, you don’t need to.

“There’s no experience required and there’s absolutely no pressure to run.

“The events are free to take part in and you don’t need any specialist equipment or clothing. The environment is incredibly welcoming, non-judgemental and supportive. 

In recent years parkrun has been working hard to reach out to people with disabilities and long-term health conditions including through the parkrun practice project which links GP practices to parkrun events

"parkruns are not races. Those who walk, run or volunteer at parkrun are all ‘participants'. We call the first person to cross the line the 'first finisher', rather than the ‘winner’ and the last person to cross that line is always the volunteer Tail Walker. 

“We’ve always firmly believed that parkrun brings about an array of health and well-being gains, and this has been supported by research. The recent Health and Wellbeing Survey conducted by Sheffield Hallam University has shown that volunteering especially benefits people in multiple ways.

“For a lot of people, the opportunity to be active is secondary - the main benefits are social and linked to being part of a community. 

“There’s not that many activities that friends and family members of different ages and abilities can participate together at the same time.”

The organisation has been working hard in recent years to reach out to people with disabilities and long-term health conditions, including through the parkrun practice project which links GP practices with parkrun events. 

Currently over 1500 practices have signed up to the initiative across the UK, and the project has recently launched in Ireland too. 

The parkrun practice initiative seeks to promote the health and wellbeing of patients and staff, and create whole communities centred on wellness.

To some, the prospect of taking part in parkrun could still seem daunting, but Chrissie has a few handy words of advice.

“If anyone does have a disability or a condition and they are wondering about taking part in parkrun, then they can contact Head Office or the local event team (the contact email is on the bottom of every event webpage), and we will either be able to help or signpost to the most available resources.

“A great approach is to go down to an event and watch and talk to people there. Most events have a cafe where participants gather after the event, which provides a great opportunity to chat to parkrunners and ask any questions. When you actually go to an event you see first-hand that parkrun is for everyone, including you!”

For more information visit: https://www.parkrun.org.uk/