Thirteen years ago (on October 2, 2004), 13 people gathered to run the Bushy Park Time Trial – the very first Parkrun. Parkrun is now the biggest running event in the world, taking place in 17 countries, with more than 200,000 people walking, jogging, running or volunteering every week across over 1,200 events – and it’s still free, for everyone.
“The most important aspect of Parkrun are the social connections and friendships that form,” says Tim Oberg, CEO and founder of Parkrun Australia, who’s been very open about his own battles with anxiety and how the Parkrun network has helped him to cope. “It’s a 5km run or walk, but people come back 50, 100, 200 times, it’s their opportunity during the week to connect with friends, family and the Parkrunning community.” Oberg commends Parkrun for connecting communities and around Australia. “Parkrun is a local community event, but a lot of people love travelling around to other parkrun events, because they all have the same positive vibe. The people there want to be changing lives for the better.”
In Australia, Brian Peters from the Gold Coast, whose local Parkrun is Main Beach, has been to 324 events. “He has been almost every week since we started,” says Oberg. “We have been amazed and inspired by the growth of the community involvement in each Parkrun and the friendships that it has created between runners, walkers and families that take part week after week,” says Lian de Charmoy who is the co-country manager of Parkrun New Zealand. “We are extremely thankful for our close friendship with Paul Sinton-Hewitt who had the vision to start this incredible, but simple Parkrun phenomenon.”
In New Zealand, Martin O’Sullivan from Lower Hutt has participated in 225 Parkruns. “He has run all 17 events in New Zealand and a number overseas,” says de Charmoy.
This Saturday, October 7, Parkrunners around the world will take photos in their recognisable “apricot” coloured T-shirts and use the hashtag #parkrun13 to spread the word of this fitness phenomenon to even more people around the world.