I have now completed 51 parkruns, with 44 of them being at my local parkrun, Penrith Lakes (I’ve also been a tourist at Lawson, Menai, The Ponds and Cronulla). I’ve also volunteered there 14 times.
We have roughly 250-300 people each week at our local parkrun and I definitely don’t know everyone! But I know a lot of people. And through not only running (or walking) parkrun myself but also volunteering, I’ve gotten to know a lot of people. Enough to be able to tell that certain people are having a great week, and easy run or are injured, based on when I see them (either mid run or at the finish line). On some of our courses (we have three different courses that run at our parkrun, based on the availability of the venue) we have the opportunity to cheer others on as they pass us. It’s a great feeling to wave, hi-5 and cheer on fellow runners.
Being a regular at parkrun means other people get to know you, too. They check up on you when you are injured, or have missed a few parkruns. They cheer you on. You can carpool to be a parkrun tourist (on the odd weeks when our parkrun is cancelled).
In a world where communication has become superficial, due to online platforms, parkrun provides you with a real, human community. A community that sees you when you are red-faced, sweaty and smelly and still wants to see you again next week. A community that celebrates the big milestones (Junior-10, 50, 100 and 250 parkruns) whether you finish in 18 mins or 1h8mins.
A parkrun is also a community that values family. There aren’t a lot of sporting events where the whole family can participate – from newborn babies (there was a 6 day old baby there today!) to grandparents and great-grandparents and everyone in between. There are parents pushing prams, or carrying babies and toddlers in carriers. Well behaved dogs are also welcome! Where else can the whole family, including pets, participate in a sporting event together?
Each week, parkrun would not happen if it weren’t for the volunteers. So it’s only fair to contribute to this awesome community by volunteering. It’s perfect for the days when you have a running event on the Sunday and need to have a rest day on Saturday. When you are injured, you can still be a part of the community by volunteering. There’s something for everyone, even things kids can do (with supervision), so injury doesn’t have to stop you from being a part of it all.
And best of all, parkrun is totally free! There are no fitness tests, no pre-requisites, no exclusivity. If you’ve got a pair of shoes and can propel yourself by walking or running (or by wheelchair at some parkruns that are fully accessible) then you can participate.
So what are you waiting for? Head on over to http://www.parkrun.com.au to register yourself for free and find your closest parkrun, if you haven’t already. Or if you have registered and participated but only show up now and again, I encourage you to commit to going more often, even if you can’t go every week.