junior parkruns – inspiring the next generation to get active

Shortly after getting involved with parkrun at Eastleigh, I heard about the Junior parkrun at Bushy Park in Teddington. This is basically parkrun for under 14s. Each run is 2km (rather than 5km). The events are held monthly, typically taking place on the first Sunday of each month.

Although juniors can run alongside adults at a normal parkrun, these events are especially for the kids and young teenagers. Given how much children enjoy parkrun, this has to be a great idea.

With the media being full of stories of childhood obesity and a generation of children who seem to be being encouraged to compete in video games rather than in physical activity, we need to find ways to inspire this generation to get outside and get active together. parkrun, and specifically, junior parkruns could be (a big!) part of the solution. The government want to take action to reduce levels of childhood obesity by 2020 as detailed in their policy on ‘Reducing obesity and improving diet.

As regular readers of this blog will know, my son, Daniel, started running at parkrun a few months back and has now completed a dozen parkruns. He’s also taken part in the Eastleigh 2K Fun Run and won a good medal for his efforts and took part in this week’s Lordshill Road Runners’ Mile event (more about that later).
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Daniel loves parkrun and running ‘with Daddy’. He was even interviewed in a recent ITV Meridian feature on parkrun recorded at Netley Abbey parkrun. In the fun run, there were a few hundred children taking part and it was great to see them all enjoying the 2K (actually 1.4K!) course together.

When I first contacted parkrun HQ about being interested in setting up a Junior parkrun a couple of years ago, the events were being handled separately from the main parkrun events and they weren’t planning to roll out any new events due to a focus on expanding the main event series.

There are currently only a handful of Junior parkrun events in the UK at the moment with the biggest being held at Bushy park. This event celebrated its 3rd anniversary on Sunday and I’d hoped to take Daniel along but unfortunately we weren’t able to make it.

This week, parkrun HQ announced some amazing news; a review of the strategy and future growth of the Junior parkrun series and the appointment of Chrissie Wellington as ‘parkrun champion’ for Junior parkrun.

Here’s what the announcement said:

Chrissie is a four-time Ironman Triathlon World Champion and has recently retired from professional triathlon competition. Her enthusiasm and drive to make a difference to children’s health and to positively affect the position of women in sport is key to her decision to join parkrun. Chrissie’s first task is to review our existing Junior parkrun offering and to devise her own strategy to move this series forward.

Chrissie’s enthusiasm is amazing and I’m sure that she’ll drive forward the expansion of the series across the UK. To be honest, I couldn’t think of anyone better to be involved. Her book, A Life Without Limits, is well worth a read.

I’m very keen to be involved in setting up a Junior parkrun event in the local area and hope to be able to move this forward in the coming months. As an experienced Event Director and parkrun Ambassador I’d also be happy to help others set up Junior events once parkrun HQ are ready to move forward with their plans.

Seeing children participating in, and more importantly enjoying, these events is inspiring. Providing an opportunity for children to run with each other (and parents for those that need a little moral support on the run) outside the school environment will hopefully entice those children to enjoy running and physical activity at a young age and help establish the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle whilst providing a regular opportunity to enjoy an activity with other children.

parkrun and Junior parkrun also gives an opportunity for juniors to mix with different people outside their family, friends and peer group. For example, at the Mile event, Daniel ran with Jim Davies rather than myself which was a great experience for him. Daniel normally insists on holding my hand for most of the 5km but Jim didn’t have that pleasure!!

When Daniel attends parkruns, lots of people talk to him as well as give him encouragement as he runs at the event. These opportunities help entrench him in the community around the event and are bound to help develop his interpersonal and communication skills.

The future looks bright. Could parkrun and Junior parkrun help turn the fitness of our future generations from one of doom to something positive where more children enjoy getting active and concentrate more on healthy activities and life choice? I think it could! I’m hoping Chrissie will be in touch soon but in the meantime, Daniel and I will be attending Bushy Junior parkrun’s on the 2nd June. We can’t wait!!

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One thought on “junior parkruns – inspiring the next generation to get active

  1. That’s great! My two have run kids’ races with me a couple of times as well and they love the whole fun, supportive atmosphere that you generally find at races. Good luck in your efforts to help set up your local junior park run – I’m sure Daniel will be delighted!

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