To misquote from that popular Blur number: “Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as parkrun. And morning soup can be avoided if you take a route straight through what is known as parkrun.”
I don’t want to get too far into the arguments around the publicity that parkrun has got over the last few weeks, but following the brilliant time we all had at the Temple Newsam parkrun pacer event this morning, I wanted to write about why people get so passionate about parkrun.
There have been quite a few misconceptions about what parkrun is in the news. For example it has been called a “running club” and the national parkrun organisation has been accused of running events across the country like a chain store. Firstly of course it’s not a running club and many of the people who regularly turn up at parkrun do so because they would have been terrified to approach a running club; experienced members of local running clubs rub shoulders with first-timers. Secondly, all local events are conceived, organised and run by committed local volunteers. What parkrun nationally does is provide support to them through the website, results system, milestone t-shirts etc etc. parkrun totally relies on sponsors to fund equipment, IT and free milestone t-shirts – the accusation that anyone is “on the make” would be laughable if it wasn’t offensive.
So given that parkrun IS a national and international network of weekly running events, what is it that makes people (including me) get so emotional about it? I think that in order to “get” parkrun you need to understand that it’s so much more. The thing is that parkrun is a community of the very best kind. All the people who come to parkrun be them committed club runners or those donning running shoes for the very first time have a common want to be active and fit. parkrun gives an environment without barriers for people to do that and what makes it a great community is that everyone is supportive of everyone else and great friendships are formed. parkrun is ignorant of class, race, culture, nationality, age, sex, fitness level and income. People call parkrun a “family” and I think that when people in a community call it that, it’s getting things right.
I hope that in the light of publicity, parkrun will shine and be seen as a great asset to local communities. I hope that relationships between parkruns and the landowners where they operate can all be as warm and mutually supportive as it is between Temple Newsam parkrun and Leeds City Council.
Finally, I will take one more liberty with the words of Blur: “All the people, so many people and they all go hand in hand, hand in hand through thier parkrun.”.
“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” Proverbs 26:4 NIVUK