The Enduring Legacy of the Parkrun

It all began right here in Teddington. On the morning of October 4, 2004, the first park runners set out on the Bushy Park Time Trial – now called the Bushy Parkrun – not knowing that it would soon spark the countrywide movement known as parkruns. And today, parkruns have blown up into a worldwide phenomenon, which The Courier Online reports has drawn close to 3 million participants across 20 different countries. The ongoing global organising of parkruns everywhere is all thanks to its 350,000-strong legion of international volunteers, dedicated to providing free, weekly public parkruns available where they’re needed.

The rules are simple. Every Saturday morning, at your local public park, you can take part in a free 5-kilometre (3.1-mile) community run at your own pace. Although registration may vary per country and location depending on your local organisers’ resources, most of the time, literally all you need to do is to register online and print out your bar code. Later in the day, after you’ve ran, you either get an email or a text that tells you how much time it took for you to complete the designated course. 

Literally anyone can join. 

Whether you’re wheelchair bound, well into your 90s, overweight, or simply looking for a good excuse to get up and moving in the morning, you can finish the 5k at any pace you like. Organised by volunteers, The Conversation reveals that the value of the work that has gone into parkruns is estimated by experts to be £5m annually.

This, along with the priceless ability to bring people together, has inspired its fair share of powerful charities. In 2015, parkrun organisers teamed up with the charity Alzheimer’s Research UK“Research shows staying active may not only help maintain a healthy body, but could have knock-on benefits for brain health too. With that in mind, parkrun is the perfect partner for Alzheimer’s Research UK,” explained the organisation’s director, Ian Wilson.

There has actually been a long tradition of running for charity here in the UK. Tom Baker who heads Mobilisation at Save the Children admits that he himself has become positively obsessed with parkruns as a movement, recognising its ability to change people’s habits on a global scale. Baker attributes his obsession to how a parkrun encourages participation and not performance, makes it really easy for anyone to participate, and encourages community leadership. His own organisation, Save the Children, has the Asics London 10K, which is now well known as the world’s greatest road race. Having secured the necessary permits, the organisation offers a one-of-a-kind charity race that lets participants run through the heart of London, right past some of the world’s most recognisable landmarks.

It’s not always easy to run, but if you do it alongside a community of people with the same singular goal of completing a 5k course once a week, it can get easier. This is the enduring legacy of parkruns, possibly Teddington’s greatest export to the world.

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