I’ve been quite a supporter of my local parkrun – a weekly timed 5K event that’s free for everyone to participate and run entirely by volunteers. Not so long ago I made my 25 Volunteer milestone, and have ran the course about 6 times.
So it’s absolutely crazy to hear that over in the UK (where the parkrun movement first started), Little Stoke parkrun is at risk of ending due to a council decision to charge parkrunners a fee to use the park for the one hour a week. There was a massive wave of support against this charge, including UK Olympians Paula Radcliffe and Kelly Holmes. You can read about the situation here.
What’s dangerous is that this could set a precedent where councils worldwide could impose a fee – something that is currently in place for personal trainers and bootcamps where there is profit being made.
The fact that parkrun is free to all is removing the first barrier to entry for those looking to get into exercise – and I’ve met some amazing people who every week go out and chase their 5K goals. No volunteer receives any payment so there’s no profit made at all during any event. If anything there’s a need for outside sponsors to help offset costs incurred to those run/event directors setting up new events.
Much has been said in the past few days on the topic, including some confronting statements regarding the groups of people running around. Given that we are all contribute through rates and taxes, there shouldn’t be any discussion regarding pay per use. Additionally with the argument to do with right of way when sharing the park, my local parkrun does make everyone aware that the event is on via various signs and marshals around the course, however all runners understand that the park and path is there to share. In fact, all the visitors who happen to be in the park during our parkrun always end up in discussion and finding out what it’s all about (and hopefully they’ll join us the following week!).
Finally, as someone who runs solo, it’s always a nice change of pace to run with a group on a Saturday – I typically find that I’m faster in this scenario rather than by myself. May just come down to the fact that I’m much more of a casual runner when it’s up to me. Additionally parkrun is kid-friendly, with the juniors reaching their milestone at 10 runs no matter what time they complete it in.
I definitely hope that this plays out in favour of the parkrunners, not only for fear of how this is going to hit parkrun worldwide, but also for the community itself- events like this definitely bring everyone together with the same goal in mind, to go out and best a 5K.