Playful running – parkrun

I am not a runner – but I do love parkrun!

In case you don’t know about parkrun, it is a 5km (3.1 mile) timed running event, held each week in hundreds of parks across the UK and beyond. It is entirely free to take part, and is open to runners (and, indeed, walkers) of all abilities.

Last Saturday was the 3rd birthday of my local parkrun, held in the beautiful surroundings of Raphael Park, close to the centre of Romford on the outskirts of London. One of the joys of parkrun for me is seeing the park change with the seasons each Saturday morning throughout the year.

Last week there were 314 participants, from ages 10 to 80+, with times ranging from just over 17 minutes to just under 53 minutes – and everything in between.

As these times illustrate, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re an elite runner or a slowish walker – everyone is welcome, and everyone receives encouragement from the other runners and brilliant team of volunteers (without whom no parkrun would take place).

Indeed, one of the things that I love the most about parkrun is the ‘tailwalker’ – a volunteer who stays right at the back to accompany and encourage the slowest participants. However slow you think you are, you will never be last!

Perhaps the best recommendation I can give is that I – who had not run in the 30+ years since school, and who still doesn’t run at any other time – have now clocked up 83 parkruns! If someone like me can get so enthusiastic about running, it just goes to show what a great event parkrun is!

So, having recently written about work, rest & play – and the need for a better balance in our lives – where does parkrun fit in?

Well, to be brutally honest, it certainly feels like bloomin’ hard work! And staggering around the course is hardly restful!

Yet parkrunning is ‘work’ that I choose to do, not that I am obliged to do – and, however hard I find it, that choice makes parkrun feel much less like work and much more like play. And whilst certainly not ‘rest’, participating in parkrun has one of the benefits of rest, in that it helps to restore me from the rigours of a week’s work.

True, parkrun could be more playful if I didn’t add the self-imposed ‘obligation’ to finish in the best time I can – if I were happy just to trot round slowly, chatting with the other runners and enjoying the surroundings. And perhaps I should do this once in a while.

But there’s nothing wrong with a bit of hard work – especially if we’ve chosen to do it. I enjoy the challenge of ‘completing against myself’ and against the clock (though not necessarily whilst actually running!) And I enjoy it particularly because I’m doing so not on my own, but with others who have the same love of parkrunning.

So, if you’ve never experienced this yourself, why not give it a go? Simply find your local pakrun, register online, print out your barcode – and then enjoy the run! You won’t regret it!


Thank you for reading this. Please do share with others, and let me know what you think – and especially if it encourages you to do parkrun! Thank you!

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