All over the world, and also in South Africa, hundreds of thousands of parkrunners line up every Saturday to take part in the weekly parkrun event in their neighbourhood or town.
In the parkrun event, which is said “will always be free, for everyone, forever”, participants can run or walk 5 km.
It is not a competition – the only competition might be against yourself. When you register (also free) and have your time scanned after an event, you can watch your progress in time, and will know when you have achieved a personal best time (PB).
Seven tips to enjoy parkrunning
Whether you are a complete first-timer or you have been coming for years as a volunteer parkrunner, make use of these seven tips – as published on blog.parkrun.com – to make sure you start 2023 off the best way parkrunners know:
1. Wear something comfortable. You do not need expensive sports gear and a brand new pair of trainers for parkrun. Just wear something you feel comfortable in.
2. If you have not already, register for parkrun and take a scannable version of the barcode to get it scanned once you have completed your 5 km.
3. Bring a friend or family member. You are never alone at parkrun, but if you are nervous about being on your own for your first 5 km, bring a loved one with you.
4. Arrive early. For your first time, it is recommended to get there 15 minutes early to listen to the first timers’ briefing, get to know the course, and have a quick chat with the parkwalker volunteers. Part of the parkwalker role is to help answer any questions you might have if you are feeling nervous.
5. Choose from over 2 200 locations. At parkrun, you are a little spoilt for choice with more than 2 200 events across over 20 countries around the world to pick from. Visit parkrun.co.za to find your nearest event.
6. Make it yours. Parkrun can be whatever you want it to be, so complete it your way. There are ways to get involved that do not involve completing 5 km, and there is no pressure to complete the whole course. You can also just head down to your local parkrun event and watch what is going on, soak up the atmosphere and get to know your local team.
7. Relax. Once you have finished your 5 km, you will feel fantastic.
Seven reasons to do a parkrun
According to magazine.co.uk, general practitioners are starting to prescribe activities such as parkruns for patients. Health writer Rosalind Ryan found out more about the ways a parkrun transforms your health:
1. It gives you a (scientifically-proven) buzz
In a 2018 study by Glasgow Caledonian University, 89% of parkrunners said taking part every week made them feel happier, and boosted their mental health and body image. A parkrunner says the support, sense of community and personal achievement keeps him coming back each week.
2. It could add years to your life
The Royal College of general practitioners (GPs) has launched an initiative to prescribe parkruns to patients. The aim is to help inactive people get moving or move off lifelong medication for conditions such as diabetes. GPs who have already prescribed parkruns say that it has helped their patients with anxiety, depression, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
3. It connects you to a community
“Parkrun actually began as a social intervention,” says Chrissie Wellington, former triathlete and global head of health and wellbeing for parkrun. “The founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, was a runner but was injured and missed seeing his friends. He set up parkrun as a way of staying in touch, and that social aspect continues today – you can come and feel part of something special.” It has all been proven by research published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, which found that working out with others significantly reduces stress and improves our quality of life.
4. It can keep the whole family fit
It is never too early to get your kids into exercise. A long-term Swedish study shows that childhood exercise has a protective effect on our health as adults, including boosting your brainpower.
5. You do not need to run to reap the benefits
The volunteering aspect of a parkrun is vital, as the whole event is co-ordinated by volunteers – from marshalling runners to organising the finish funnel. As research proves, volunteering can increase one’s life satisfaction, lower levels of depression and help you live longer.
6. It connects you to nature
There is a wealth of evidence to prove that exercising outdoors in green spaces has numerous health benefits.
7. It enhances the effects of endorphins
Parkruns may even boost the effects of endorphins, the brain’s ‘feel-good’ chemicals.
On Old Year’s Day, on Saturday, 31 December, Old Year’s Day, at parkruns around the world, there were:
1 807 events;
315 138 walkers, joggers and runners;
35 976 volunteers;
11 859 first-timers and
22 406 PBs.
Visit parkrun.co.za for more information.