parkrun Runners Peterborough
Copyright: Martin Gichuhi


Run the Parkrun? Are you Kidding?

By Trudi Purdy, wlr team

As a parkrun regular, I have missed my local event since it was closed due to COVID-19 and the beginning of Lockdown in the UK during 2020.

The effects of being active and outdoors are well-documented and I, for one, can vouch for that! Yes, I have managed to get out for little runs during that time but it’s just not the same.

With parkrun, there is the social aspect. I have missed the support of the marshals as you pound your way round the course. As well as meeting up with other parkrunners for a cup of coffee (and sometimes a bacon sarnie) at the end. And, the 5ks that I have run during lockdown don’t count towards my parkrun total – I really want to get my 50-parkrun t-shirt!

Parkruns across England were hoping to reopen at the end of October in 2020. Unfortunately, that plan changed and they weren't able to open again as planned. Good news is on the horizon though. With restrictions slowly being lifted, we finally have a return date!

The Junior Parkrun restarted on 11th April 2021. Based on the published guidance, the 5k events could technically return at the same time. However, there is an extended wait for the normal 5k events. Due to the other national restrictions in place and, a number of the 5k events regularly exceeding 1,000 participants, the organisers don't believe it would be appropriate for them to return this early.

The plan is to return when the whole of the UK can on 5th June 2021. You can read the full announcement here.

There will, of course, be a rigorous safety protocol in place when any of the parkruns start again. I have detailed some of it below but, I would recommend reading the whole COVID-19 Framework document before you attend your first, post-lockdown event. And, of course, the nature of the virus does mean that things can change and, although the plan is to re-open events in line with the government's roadmap, that could change by the time we get there so, keep an eye on your local event for news.

  • If you have ANY symptoms or have been asked to self-isolate, please do not attend a parkrun event to run, volunteer or spectate
  • Local lockdowns will affect relevant parkruns so, make sure your local event is going ahead before heading out to it
  • Social distancing guidelines should be followed before, during and after the event and masks should be worn in cafes, toilets etc.
  • First-time briefings will continue as they are essential to new participant welfare. They will take place 10 minutes before the start of the event, last no longer than 2 minutes and be socially distanced
  • Pre-event briefings will be kept to two minutes and only contain information critical to the event
  • Participants must only head to the start line when guided to do so by the run director to minimise the amount of time spent in close proximity to each other
  • All events must start promptly in order to minimise the amount of time participants spend in close proximity to each other
  • Participants will be asked to seed themselves appropriately, with faster runners towards the front, and slower runners/walkers towards the back.
  • Depending on the course design, start areas may be moved from the usual place if more space is available and risk assessed appropriately. Note: wider start lines do not always support social distancing as they can lead to congestion if the course narrows shortly after. This will be considered by event teams
  • Participants are permitted to walk or run at their own pace
  • During the event, participants should walk, jog or run with an aim of making use of all available space and minimising the amount of time in close proximity to each other
  • Participants should not spit anywhere on the course, high-five anyone else, or engage in any other non-essential contact
  • Other users of the park or area of open space should be given way to at all times
  • Finish lines will be in as open an area as possible and may be moved if required and risk assessed appropriately
  • Finish lines will be widened where possible and enough space should be given such that finish tokens can be handed out without causing crowding and to respect social distancing requirements where possible
  • The finish funnel will be lengthened if helpful to increase flow and avoid crowding
  • Finish tokens will be given out at the end of the funnel, not the beginning
  • Scanners will not be placed directly at the end of the finish funnel, rather they will be spaced-out and sufficiently far away from the finish funnel such that queues do not build up and social distancing can be maintained
  • Event barcode scanners will not be used, instead, barcode scanning will be carried out using the parkrun Virtual Volunteer application on the volunteer’s own mobile device
  • The number of volunteers scanning will be significantly increased so that the finish area can be cleared as soon as possible
  • Scanning of finish tokens and personal barcodes will be entirely contactless and at a distance, with participants holding their own position and personal barcodes, then depositing their position token in a receptacle after they have been scanned
  • Finish tokens will be washed prior to the next event
  • Volunteer bibs and lanyards will be washed after each event
  • Results will be processed at home in order to avoid gathering around devices used to process results
  • After the event, there should be no non-essential presentations, gatherings or celebrations
  • All participants, volunteers and spectators are required to maintain social distancing after the event

We would definitely recommend reading through the full COVID-19 Framework before attending your first, local event.

All that is left for me to say is, get back out there when you can, follow the rules, stay safe and enjoy! See you on the course!

Read on for my review of parkrun when I first started

Ever heard of the parkrun? No, me neither until October 2018.

I was about 4 months into my 4 stone weight loss and was walking quite a bit. Earning extra calories for the exercise I was doing so I could have my skinny lattes and the occasional bacon sandwich treat. But running? Phahahahahahahaha! Not a chance!

If anyone suggested Couch to 5K, or any kind of movement faster than a walk, I would say,

“This body is not built for running. I’m 46 for goodness sake!”


“If I ever see a jogger running along and smiling, then I’ll think about it.”

You too eh?

Well, that was a year ago.

Now I am a regular at my local parkrun.

So what happened?

My sister happened, that’s what! She goes to the gym 5 or 6 times a week, runs, cycles, spins, has a personal trainer etc. The complete opposite of me. She suggested I join her at parkrun.

“You can walk it Trudi. Lots of people do. You don’t have to run it.”

All I can say is, don’t trust your very active sister!

Trudi's new trainers

I should have been suspicious when she suggested she buy me some ‘decent trainers’ for my upcoming birthday.

My first parkrun

I duly turned up at the local country park on a reasonably nice October Saturday, kitted out in my new trainers and running socks. Very apprehensive and very self conscious.

My sister said there would be all shapes, sizes and ages. I was more than a little sceptical but she was totally right!

Lady with Double Pushchair at parkrun
Copyright: Martin Gichuhi

There were kids, people with buggies, a disabled lad with a really cool bike he ‘cycled’ with his arms, people with dogs, George who is 80+ (or so it says on the back of his t-shirt!). And the atmosphere was brilliant.

I felt so welcome, not out of place at all and like I could actually do this!

Groups of people stood chatting and laughing, mingling, hugging each other. I was not the fish out of water that I expected to be!

At 10 to nine, I joined the ‘first timers’ briefing where they explained the route and the ‘rules’ (there aren’t many). Then the Run Director did a warm up speech. He congratulated people on their 50th parkrun (!), a hen do that were running together veil and all, mentioned birthdays, while we clapped and cheered. All 600 of us!

Then we headed off to the start. This is where my sister revealed her evil agenda!

“I thought we could start off with a gentle jog and just keep going til you can’t anymore, then we’ll do a fast walk okay?”

I must have been carried away with the atmosphere because I agreed! It could have been the fact that I was surrounded by all these people of various shapes, sizes and ages, I had a feeling of invincibility. I looked round at everyone and thought,

“If they can do it, so can I!”

That first parkrun was a real mix of fast walking and jogging but, I got round it. It was hard, my breathing sounded like a steam train and my leg muscles were screaming at me but, I did it.

I even sprinted (sort of) over the finish line to huge encouragement from the volunteer marshalls and my sister. My time was 49 minutes.

Trudi at the end of her 1st parkrun

"I am not ashamed to say I cried. Yep, bawled like a baby!"

I was a tad emotional (lol)! I was filled with a huge sense of pride, relieved that it was over and totally amazed that I was still alive!

But this picture has never rung as true as it did that day!

That first parkrun will stay forever in my heart. The atmosphere, the inclusiveness of parkrun, the encouragement from the marshalls and my fellow runners, my sense of pride and amazement – it will always be special.

As my weight loss journey continued, so did my love for the parkrun.

I’m still not a fan of running but, every Saturday, come rain or shine, I join my fellow parkrunners at the start line. I can run it without stopping now.

I am part of something; we share the pain and the triumphs. parkrun is like nothing I have ever experienced before. I like to think of it as parkrun power!

On the odd occasion that I can’t make it, I miss it. I won’t lie and say I look forward to it, and I have to be honest and say that I am thinking about my latte and bacon sandwich the whole way round.

But every time I cross the finish line, it reminds me of what I am actually capable of, what I can achieve and how far I have come in just a year. I now run it in under 35 minutes.

My advice to anyone starting out, or on their weight loss journey?

Check out your local parkrun, you may surprise yourself. And find some people to join you. You'll spur each other on.

These days, there are a few of us that go every Saturday. A couple of colleagues from WLR, a couple of my friends and, of course, my taskmaster sister! We are #teamparkrun!

parkrun website

History of parkrun

The first parkrun took place in 2004 at Bushy Park, Teddington. Paul Sinton-Hewitt, 55, an IT worker who ran for South London Harriers athletics club, decided to set up a different kind of event after getting a hernia and torn hamstring. He says,

“All of a sudden, you're the person who comes to the club to see your friends while everyone else goes running – and the last thing I wanted to do was sit in the clubhouse, waiting to socialise,”

“I'd been the recipient of lots of people's goodwill, and decided it was time to give back. With parkrun, I could get my mates to come and see me every Saturday, which was selfish – but I could also give something back to the community.”

At that first parkrun, 13 runners got together to run. The volunteers collated their timing results on paper and the finish tokens were washers from the local hardware store.

parkrun has been a total runaway success since that first gathering. Always run by volunteers, it's totally free to take part. And the emphasis is on it being a run, not a race. The only person you are in competition with is yourself!

To get your time, you need to register on the site and download a barcode - make sure you take a physical copy with you as they have to scan it to work out your time. Simon says,

 “I'm surprised something so simple and obvious has become a runaway success. But it's free, it's community-owned and it speaks to the things people really want.”

By 2007, events evolved to Wimbledon, Richmond, Banstead, Leeds and Brighton. The first international event was created in Zimbabwe.

By 2011 there were 55 new events, with the first events introduced in Australia, South Africa and Poland. There was also a special event in the UK army base at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

In 2013 Parkrun introduced a Junior series, a weekly 2km event for children.

Now there are parkruns in:

  • 18 countries across 5 continents
  • 95,973 events have been held so far
  • 1,471,617 runners have taken part
  • In 478 locations
  • 90,117,970k have been clocked up by parkrun runners!

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