The power of parkrun
The power of parkrun

As parkrun celebrates its 14th birthday this weekend, just days after their 5 millionth person signed up, we look at why this simple concept has changed lives for people across Kent.

Started by Paul Sinton-Hewitt and 12 brave souls at Bushy Park in South West London back in 2004, the parkrun name arriving some years later, it was clear from the start that they were on to a winner.

It was simple and it was inclusive. Turn up at 9am on a Saturday, run for 5km, have it timed and try to improve the week after.

If only they knew then what was to follow. Kent alone now has 18 parkruns on a weekly basis, with the phenomenon having gone worldwide, so much so that parkrun registered their 5 millionth person in the past week.

It’s almost hard to comprehend how successful parkrun has been and measure the impact on the lives that it undoubtedly has.

For most people coming into parkrun, it proves to be the gateway into becoming a “proper runner” – whatever that is!

The main thing though is that it is inclusive, supportive, fun, embracing, inspirational…

The list goes on.

One thing is for sure, it doesn’t matter where you go for your parkrun fix on a Saturday morning, you’re sure of a warm welcome and people just like you, no matter what your age, ability, size or shape is.

That’s the thing that has made parkrun appeal to so many. If you want to run fast, you can. If you want to walk the 5km, you can. If you want to chat the whole way round, of course you can.

No one can tell you how to run your parkrun – it’s yours after all.

Run by the hardy bunch of volunteers that turn up, week in, week out, it couldn’t exist without them. There in their hi-vis tops, they’re all there to make it happen, so like minded individuals can have their supported run.

Without them, parkrun wouldn’t exist and we should salute (at least thank) them all.

The best thing about parkrun though, is that it is completely free at the point of entry and shall remain so forever more. What other physical activity could you do for free, every week?

Surely this has helped it become the success story it has. Keeping it free allows people from all walks of life to engage, take part, feel included.

A city banker can run with the school dinner lady, a mechanic with a nurse, a soldier with a factory worker. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, how much you have run before, 5km is always 5km.

There are no medals and nor should there be. Yes we all celebrate someone achieving their personal best, but everyone should be applauded for how long it has taken them to complete. In fact, the person that comes home last may well have had to put in more effort than the person coming home first.

One thing for sure about parkrun though is the mental health benefits from all involved. Fresh air, activity, meeting new people, having a chat. It can only be a good thing.

From tiny acorns, great oak trees have grown. That’s both the parkruns themselves, but the people that take part and volunteer.

It’s hard to think of anything else that allows six year old children to participate on the same terms as someone ten, twenty, thirty years their senior. In fact, parkrun has given people in their later years a whole new lease of life.

Rekindling their love of running, parkrun has enabled the older generations to come along, relive their youth, do something they love and feel part of something truly epic.

Kent has a rich choice of parkruns in which to choose from. The beautiful Whitstable coastline to Great Lines in Medway, from the rugged hills at Bedgebury, to the river path at Maidstone, there really is a venue to suit all tastes.

With Walmer & Deal having become the latest parkrun course to get off the ground in Kent in the past few weeks, we’re now spoilt for choice for venues in the county.

So, what are you waiting for? Register online at www.parkrun.org.uk

The Kent venues are:

Ashford parkrun

Bedgebury parkrun

Bromley parkrun

Canterbury parkrun

Dartford parkrun

Dartford Heath parkrun

Folkestone parkrun

Great Lines parkrun

Lullingstone parkrun

Maidstone parkrun

Malling parkrun

Orpington parkrun

Pegwell Bay parkrun

Shorne Wood parkrun

Sittingbourne parkrun

Tonbridge parkrun

Tunbridge Wells parkrun

Walmer & Deal parkrun

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