parkrun – Quite Simply The Most Important Sporting Event On The Planet

Posted on February 5, 2016 at 7:00 am by Nicky Best | 24 comments

In the first POST I wrote for RUN LEEDS, I mentioned to Ben that I wasn’t a big fan of running. Now this is may be true, but one thing I can be certain of when talking about this extremely testing pastime is my love for what I consider to be, as it says in the title, The Most Important Sporting Event on the Planet. A bold statement indeed, but I believe it to be a fair one. Let me try to explain the reasons.


parkrun (which is always spelt with a lower case p) is quite literally a Run in a Park. But, it is also so much more. It is timed, it is free, it is all-inclusive, it is weekly (Saturday) and it is, at 5 kilometers a distance that is long enough to test every individual in that all-Inclusive bracket. There is also junior parkrun, a 2 kilometer, weekly (Sunday) event too and I will no doubt be touching upon this in future blogs.


What other sporting event can (and it has) have an Olympic Gold medalist stood next to an 85 year old Granny with arthritis on the same start line at the very same event on the same level playing field? No matter what ability, age, class, religion, race or nationality, you can, every week stand on that start line with all other walks of life and give it your all, or not, if that’s what you prefer. parkrun is a run at the athlete’s own pace, not a race.


parkrun has been going for the better part of a decade. It happened quite simply by accident when a young athlete named Paul got injured and couldn’t run. He decided he would get his stopwatch and time his pals as they ran around a park in London and he enjoyed it so much that he did it again the following week. A few people heard what he was doing and so he timed them too. Other people liked what he was doing and Paul encouraged them to start their own event and so it grew and it grew and it grew.


Eleven years later and it has grown, by word of mouth into an event that happens in eleven countries every week at 9am on the dot. It has over 2 million registered athletes and up to 150,000 of these athletes on average will gather on a Saturday morning and simply run. Participants only have to register the once and most certainly don’t have to run it every week. They simply turn up on a Saturday when convenient.


Now, you may ask. A free event sounds far too good to be true? Well, free it is and this is down to the many people who followed Paul’s initial action to stand on the sidelines so their pals could run. parkrun simply name these people, volunteers. Some volunteers do not run at all. Some athletes will volunteer in exchange for all the times volunteers have allowed them to run. This is how it works and it works really well. Not only do these events help with health and fitness, they also help to build communities. These reasons and so many more (which can only be found through actually attending an event regularly) are the reason I DO believe parkrun matters so much. I cannot emphasise that last point enough.


But why have so many people never heard of parkrun if it is so fantastic and so important?


Organically, parkrun has grown from its UK roots, to international success in Poland, Denmark, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Ireland. It is also available in France, Italy and the USA. It is in the latter country that parkrun has had its most frustrations from a managerial point of view. They only have five events at the moment and it has been very hard, to convince American backers to get involved. I will come to this point shortly.


Anyway, going back to the question in hand and to put it another way. “Does the Average Joe in the street know about parkrun?” – “And if they do know about it, do they fully understand the positive impact it is having on so many peoples’ lives?” This is the reason I felt obliged to write this post because the answer quite simply is NO.


As previously stated, people can only REALLY find out about parkrun through living and breathing it and attending at the event. I have banded the parkrun ethos around everywhere I have gone in recent years and I know many others do the same. I always encourage people to come along and spectate before they actually commit and I believe when they do come they generally get to grips with what is near impossible to sum up in a short article. I also know that the participation numbers mentioned earlier are very impressive for an organic event. But, in my opinion, eleven countries is just not enough. It is essential that everyone around the globe knows about it too.


Also, these people need to know that it is significantly more than just a run. I have had reactions from people saying things like, “I am not a runner” or “I couldn’t run a bath”. This is so, so frustrating. Until you have attended a parkrun you cannot comprehend now much more it is than just a run. Just ask my Missus, she is a perfect example and she doesn’t even run, but she loves the event and wouldn’t be without it. People who have heard about it, but haven’t acted on it because it is ‘just a run’ do not know what they are missing out on.


So what can be done?


Well, in my eyes parkrun has grown organically at a nice steady pace. The event was small and it was extremely important for it to grow and develop in this particular way. But times change. The world we live in has changed. There aren’t enough opportunities and there are too many people in too many areas crying out for all of its benefits. It is just too important for it to continue steadily in this vein. parkrun in my opinion, be it right or wrong, is ready to go to the next level, projected towards the international masses that have been unexposed and unconverted to it’s cause.


I understand it is parkrun HQ’s plan to start promoting it in the USA. This is incredibly important I believe. I have chatted to the Country Manager of parkrun USA a few times in the last couple of years and he has continually told me about the opposition faced when it comes to the potential backing of the project. So, hopefully a new direction and a new push will convince the Americans that they just cannot lose. American people are a strange bunch in as much as they always get a little suspicious if anything is FREE. I do think they like silverware too. But, personally I am not a big fan of medals and think the club t-shirts at parkrun, given for milestone attendances of 10 (juniors), 50, 100, 250 and 500 runs, are far superior to any medal because they are earned for an individual’s time and commitment. It is also very important to continually stress that parkrun is a run and not a race.


I am also led to believe that China will also be a target soon and that amazing nation paired with the USA and the existing countries hopefully will be quite simply too much for the rest of the world to ignore. I do believe the Americans will look back and kick themselves for not jumping on the bandwagon sooner and hopefully now the time has arrived for parkrun to be allowed to conquer the world.


In many ways our planet is at one of the lowest ebbs in its entire history and this is a very important time for us all. parkrun can become one of the most important factors of world solidarity in the future and what better way to do it than with the simplest of sports? And yes I do think it will become known as a sport in its own right as it grows. We have sports like Foot-ball and we have sports like Basket-ball. The list goes on. Well I believe the WORLD will have a new sport to celebrate and a sport that the people can really call their own. I believe that sport to be park-run


I’m going to stop at this point because, quite simply I could talk about parkrun and its greatness all day, every day. I have only touched on a small tip of the parkrun iceberg. I will include my own parkrun story in my next blog for Run Leeds, but can I just leave you with this very simple message.


Sport Belongs to EVERYONE, so please let’s all embrace the sport that IS for EVERYONE …


… parkrun. So much more than just a Run in the Park!



To get yourself involved please access the parkrun website here:

Leave a Comment


  1. Brian Platt

    February 5, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Great article and so true.I started in 2008 at the first run in the North West at Bramhall and have never looked back.

  2. Neil Holloway

    February 5, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    Great write up! #loveparkrun

  3. Lynn Dyson

    February 5, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Love ur story, can I just say I am no runner but the buzz I get out of parkrun and the friends I meet is amazing…can never wait for the results to be available and love to challenge myself every week ?

    • Nicky Best

      February 5, 2016 at 8:05 pm

      I love hearing peoples own personal stories about parkrun. I love the human side of it more than anything. Thankyou for your lovely comment. I will think of u tomorrow when I’m waiting for my result,laf. Happy parkrunning Lynn xxXx

  4. Claire

    February 5, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    I have been a parkrun participant for the last 6 months and the impact it has had on my life is massive. I have not only made lots of knew friends and got my husband out running with me, it has opened up a whole new window of opportunity for me. I was new to running but through parkrun I met people who helped me realise it isn’t about how good you are or how fast you can run its about the enjoyment. I joined my local running club shortly after and am now working towards becoming a run leader. Well done parkrun. Nicky is right you have to try it!! ?.

    • Nicky Best

      February 5, 2016 at 7:59 pm

      So glad you chose parkrun Claire. I remember you being unsure at first(I think everyone is) and it is so very hard to sell it unless you sample it. And u did,so good on yer,as they say in Bramley,laf xxXx

  5. Steve Wood

    February 7, 2016 at 5:09 am

    Good article. Would just like to have that we also have a parkrun here in Singapore, the only one in South East Asia.

  6. Helen Appleton

    February 7, 2016 at 6:32 pm

    Wow fantastic write up brother. You need a parkrun column. So glad you made me see the parkrun light. Well done.

  7. Emma

    February 7, 2016 at 11:05 pm

    Loved your piece and feel the same way about such an amazing unique life changing event. I used to run weekly at the Edinburgh parkrun, but moved to Vancouver last year. Was extremely disappointed that there was no parkrun event. I have since been linked up with other passionate parkrun advocates and we are trying to get parkrun Canada off the ground.

  8. Aileen Galvin

    February 8, 2016 at 12:42 am

    Great article and cannot agree more. We ran Clermont parkrun near Orlando yesterday – they are lucky enough to be on the radar of all the visiting Brits so get a steady crowd. The other US parkruns are not quite there yet. Home parkrun for us is Edinburgh but I’ve also been lucky enough to run two Leeds parkruns – Cross Flatts and Woodhouse Moor, both lovely courses where we met friendly runners and volunteers. We’ve also attended parkruns in Ireland and Australia. I am now on the trail of the ‘most events’ uk and global lists – well and truly addicted.

    • Nicky Best

      February 9, 2016 at 1:11 am

      WOW. You are a true worldwide tourist. I hope to get to these farflung places myself one day. The furthest I have got from my home run of Oakwell Hall is Malahide parkrun in Dublin. Hope you can join us at Oakwell Hall? Happy Touring x

  9. Brian Jones

    February 8, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Very good article..
    I really enjoy the parkruns – my girlfriend who is an avid runner got me back in to running after a few years and am so glad she did – I’ve lost 20 pounds and feel great!! Looking at doing a full marathon this year – never thought I’d be doing anything like this again!!
    As you say I think the Americans would be very wise to get this format rolled out across their country especially in relation to the major physical and psychological benefits AND it’s FREE!!!

  10. Mike

    February 9, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    Hi. Just for info, all parkruns in Scotland start at 9.30am and in Australia they start at either 7am or 8am depending on State.
    Other than that a great article.
    Cheers, Mike

    • Nicky Best

      February 9, 2016 at 10:54 pm

      Cheers Mike. Yes,I was aware of the different starts,I actually did one in Dublin a couple of years or so ago at half 9, but it may have clogged the piece up if I’d gone into all the different starts times. It was already getting quite long. Thanx for your reply pal. Happy parkrunning

    • Matt

      February 10, 2016 at 2:07 am

      Mike – in Tasmania the parkruns start at 9am.

  11. Kristy

    February 16, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Love this article! I’ve never been a runner, actually really dislike it, but I’m a huge fan of parkrun and and have run more than ever before in the parkruns I’ve participated in. I totally agree that it’s the most important sporting ever on the planet! Nothing quite like having a bunch of strangers cheer me on as I hobble in after my 5km run/walk.

    • Nicky Best

      February 16, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      That’s soo great to hear Kirsty. With parkrun they won’t be strangers for long,hehehe. Thanx for your kind words sweetie xxXx

  12. Steve Amor

    March 24, 2016 at 7:51 am

    Actually parkrun starts at different times around the world…. 7am Queensland, Australia …. 8am South Africa and New South Wales, Australia …. And 9am in the UK (because you all sleep in…)

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