parkrun – a phenomenally great idea

Earlier in the year, I heard about parkrun. Founded by Paul Sinton-Hewitt, these are free 5K timed runs held around the UK on a Saturday morning at 9am. All you need to do is register once, print a barcode and simply turn up at one of the events.

At the time, the nearest parkrun to Southampton was the one in Basingstoke. That was just too far away for me to travel so I was very pleased to hear the rumours that one was going to start in Southampton. A few likely locations sprang to mind; Fleming Park in Eastleigh, Royal Victoria Country Park near Hamble, The Common in Southampton or possibly Itchen Valley Country Park in West End.

A few weeks later, the location and start date were announced; Lakeside Country Park in Eastleigh. This is situated 3 miles from where I live and one of the closest parks. Ideal!

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the first couple of parkruns due to other commitments. However, I attended event #3 and have run 7 times since.

You simply turn up, head for the start line, run as fast as you can, cross the line, collect a position tag and get that scanned alongside your own personal barcode and head home. More often than not, I was home 70 minutes after I left.

After attending about 5 or 6 parkruns, I decided that it was time to volunteer. parkruns are free due to sponsorship from Nike, Lucozade Sport, Sweatshop and London Marathon and the generosity of about 10-12 volunteers each week. At the same time, I thought that I could support the event by starting up a fan page on Facebook.

This soon developed further into race directing a couple of the events. parkrun really gets addictive like that. Although there are many that simply run each week, a growing number of regular volunteers are emerging and helping to create a great atmosphere at Lakeside.

I’ve really enjoyed getting more involved in organising a couple of the parkruns. This has entailed organising the team of volunteers, managing them prior to the event and then processing the results post event.

On Saturday, parkrun royalty came to support Eastleigh’s 21st parkrun. Its founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt and several of his team and family members. It was great to get the opportunity to speak with him and get his advice on improving our parkrun.

I shall be race directing the event every 4 weeks and hope to be actively involved in the continued success of Eastleigh’s parkrun.

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