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Let's Learn About...
You may have heard of parkrun, the Saturday morning event happening across the world, but you may not have realised how inclusive it is. 

parkrun is a 5km event, but it is so much more than that - you don't even have to complete the course to call yourself a parkrunner. Everyone is welcome to go along, whether you walk, jog, run, roll, volunteer or spectate. (Read all the way to the end to learn about people with disabilities and their experiences at parkrun!)

parkrun is a positive, welcoming and inclusive experience where there is no time limit and no one finishes last. Sounds like our kind of fun.

While parkruns are postponed until restrictions lift further, there are heaps of ways you can still participate, and prepare for their return. Read on to find out how, and let's learn all about parkrun!

Love Sport? Let's learn about... parkrun

Not About The Run

To understand parkrun, we have to let you in on a very important little secret. Whisper it quietly, but parkrun isn’t actually about running — it’s a place where you make friends. 

parkruns are completely free and the concept is simple. Before you go along the first time, register on the parkrun website and print your unique parkrun barcode. This barcode is then your passport to every parkrun in the world every Saturday. There’s no commitment, no specialist equipment needed and no experience necessary. Just turn up whenever you feel like it and join in however you choose. 

Importantly, ‘joining in’ at parkrun means lots of things: whether you choose to walk, jog, run or roll the 5km course, help out as a volunteer, or simply spectate and socialise on the sidelines, everyone is considered a parkrunner and everyone belongs to their local parkrun family. 

Perhaps the most important part of parkrun is that each event finishes with a social gathering at a local cafe or community space where people have the opportunity to meet new people and make new friends. 

Combating Loneliness

parkrun origins

A man named Paul was going through a difficult period of his life after his marriage broke down, he lost his job and he suffered an injury in a short space of time. Almost immediately Paul became socially disconnected and depressed, and knew he had to find a way to stay connected with his friends and his community. So he marked out a 5km course around his local park and invited his friends to come and walk or run the course each Saturday morning at the same time. Paul volunteered his time to mark the course and record their attendance, and in turn they joined him afterwards for a coffee and a chat in the park cafe. 

Before long, around 600 people were coming along each Saturday to ‘parkrun’ and they weren’t lycra-clad professional athletes. They were mums and dads pushing prams, parents and grandparents taking part with children, people walking their dog and those who used the volunteering opportunities to learn and develop new skills. There were a range of different ages, shapes, sizes, fitness levels and cultural backgrounds, all united by one thing they had in common: they were neighbours, and if it wasn’t for parkrun they probably would never have met.  

The growth of parkrun

Communities around the world began asking if they could have their own parkrun. 16 years later there are now 5 million people in 2000 communities across 22 countries who are ‘parkrunners’, and the concept hasn’t changed at all: parkrun is free, forever, for everyone. 

Where is parkrun?

There are more than 400 parkruns across Australia with 670,000 people taking part, and almost a quarter of the events are in Victoria alone. From Bairnsdale to Bendigo and Mildura to Mt Beauty, there’s a good chance there’s a parkrun near you or there will be shortly! 

Each parkrun event is established by local people who want to create an asset in their community that everyone can access, in a way that is enjoyable and beneficial. In Australia for example, more than 10% of people choose to walk the 5km course each week and 40,000 different people have volunteered at their local parkrun. Each course is accessible, traffic free, and is held in public open spaces: same time, same place, same course, every week throughout the year. Just bring your barcode and have fun!

Interestingly, the average finish time of parkrunners in Australia gets slower every year — a sure sign that events are attracting an increasingly wide range of fitness levels.

Completing not competing

Nobody wins at parkrun and nobody comes last — the focus is on completing not competing. To recognise and reward participation instead of performance, parkrun developed Milestone Shirts to incentivise regular attendance. Helping out 25 times earns you a Volunteer Shirt, while completing the 5km course on 50 occasions is also rewarded with a shirt. Further shirts  are earned after 100, 250 and 500 parkruns, while juniors receive an additional shirt after their first 10 walks or runs. More than 250,000 parkrunners globally have earned at least one milestone shirt. 

A global community, now online

While all parkrun events in Australia are currently suspended due to Covid-19, the parkrun community is still thriving digitally. Online activities such as 'School of parkrun' that’s designed to help parents and carers who are home-schooling, global online quizzes, and live Q&As with a wide range of health professionals and celebrity parkrunners have been created to keep the parkrun community supported and informed. 

What’s more, everybody can log their own 5km walk or run each week thanks to '(not)parkrun', a virtual event that anyone can do whenever and wherever they want. Just register online for parkrun as normal and start recording! 

Who does parkrun?

parkrunners are as diverse as the locations the events take place in. Across Australia, around 8% of participants report that their day to day activities are limited because of a health condition or disability which has lasted, or is expected to last at least 12 months.

The parkrun blog is a catalogue of positivity with thousands of first person articles written by parkrunners about how parkrun has empowered them to transform their lives. 

People such as 10-year-old Veronika who lives with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and a congenital heart defect, and was told when she was six that she would never walk. Veronika had other ideas however, defying that prognosis and earning her parkrun 50 milestone shirt last year.
Joseph Oosterhoff is also beating the odds. The 15-year-old has undergone numerous procedures for health conditions which have plagued him since birth — bilateral retinoblastoma (tumours in both eyes) which meant four rounds of chemotherapy as a toddler, followed by diagnoses of multiple learning difficulties, motor dyspraxia, expressive language disorder and autism. It was then discovered Joey was living with the early signs of scoliosis that required complete corrective surgery. Undeterred, Joey is now a proud member of the parkrun 100 Club. 

And what about the Hopkins family? Mum Deborah, dad Cameron, daughter Mikayla, and twin boys Ben and Josh who are both diagnosed with autism. Remarkably, all five of them completed their 100th parkrun on the same day, with their fellow parkrunners marking the day by wearing blue —  the colour of autism — to recognise their incredible milestone. 
 

How do I get involved in the time of COVID-19?

As well as recording your own virtual (not)parkrun events online, you can also go along to your local parkrun course in your own time to walk or run the route. parkrun has designed an interactive map to help you find your nearest parkrun, which then allows you to click through to the website of your local event.  You can find the route map and written descriptions on the ‘course’ page. The event website also has lots of other helpful information including how to get in contact with the core volunteer team. 

Whoever you are and wherever you are, there’s something at parkrun for everyone. So when parkrun events reopen again in the future, why not go along and say hello? Who knows, it might just change your life in a way you never expected. 

Find your nearest parkrun here - scroll down, enter your postcode and the closest ones will come up.
  • Register on the parkrun website here. 
  • Read more parkrun testimonials here
If you would like any more information, please visit the parkrun website or contact request@aaavic.org.au.
More Information
For Victorian site locations and more information, head to the AAA Play's Find An Activity parkrun page here.
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