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  • Writer's pictureLisa Brosky

It’s about running (and walking) too, but parkrun is community

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Anyone who knows me well has heard me use the word “parkrun” at least a billion times. It’s one of many cool statistics (the rest of them real) surrounding parkun and it’s because I #loveparkrun. So much so, I have the T-shirt. Several T-shirts, actually, to mark several milestones. I’ll explain shortly.


parkrun (small p) was started in 2004 near London, England, at Bushy Park by a group of friends who loved to run. It has become an international movement dedicated to fitness, wellness and community.


This free, timed 5K managed entirely by volunteers takes place every Saturday morning at thousands of parks in 22 countries across five continents.


When I ran my first parkun in February 2017, at Fletcher’s Cove, outside of Washington, D.C, I was the 3,234,986 person worldwide to sign up for my “barcode,” your ID number that can be used at any parkun. Today there are more than 7 million.


While there is a parkrun on practically every corner in Great Britain, it has become a growing movement in the United States. The first U.S. parkrun launched in June 2012 in Livonia, Michigan. Today there are 62 parkruns in 24 states and the District of Columbia. There are 5 in Florida, including my “home” run, Weedon Island Park Preserve in St. Petersburg. (Here are a bunch of us celebrating our 100th event.)



Since the first parkrun in Livonia, as of today, there have been a total of 9,537 events in the U.S, 88,205 finishers and 9,833 volunteers. On July 8, 2023, there were 2,890 finishers from coast-to-coast and 616 volunteers!


The most significant thing about parkrun: it’s not a race. While it’s a timed event, there is no time limit and no one finishes last. Our designated “tailwalker” is a volunteer who walks last to ensure everyone gets back safely.


parkrun is about covering the 5K distance however you want to do it: run, jog, racewalk, walk, a combination. Feeling a little skippy one morning? Go for it.


There are no medals or prizes. What it lacks in swag is more than covered by support and camaraderie. It’s you against yourself, surrounded by people who want you to succeed. And there’s coffee and conversation afterward, if you are interested.


parkrun is positive, welcoming and inclusive. All are welcome, regardless of ability or whether you ever tried a 5K. We’ll talk you through what to expect. It will be fun. Promise.


Are there some blistering fast paces? Oh yeah. The fastest times in the U.S. were 14:32 (male record) and 16:17 (female record.) Weedon Island’s records are 15:53 (male) and 19:18 (female.) I think of them as a cooling breeze as they whiz by me.


There also is the 53-year-old new runner who just set a 48-minute personal best and is over the moon happy. There are people who come to walk for exercise and companionship. Our final finishers typically come in a bit under 60 minutes.


Some come just to fill volunteer roles, from teens to seniors, and be part the community. They rock.


About those T-shirts. parkrun cleverly created milestone shirts, made of sports fabric. Thanks to sponsors, they are free to everyone who runs or volunteers. Run 25 times you get a purple shirt; volunteer 25 times you get a purple volunteer shirt. Milestones are 25, 50, 100, 250 and 500. It’s special to receive one and it’s motivating. Be sure to thank those people in the volunteer milestone shirts. They are the real magic of parkrun. Most parkrun volunteer roles (set up, tear down and tailwalker also allow you to run – double credit toward your milestone! Hint. Hint.)


If you’ve made it this far, please check to see if there is a parkrun near you. We would love to welcome you to Weedon Island if your close by or on your next visit to the area. (parkrun tourism is a thing. That's another post one day)


Learn about parkrun at parkrun.us.


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