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What is parkrun? A quick guide to the running event for everybody

A group running in the park
What is parkrun? We explain what makes this weekly global running event so great, and what you need to join in (Image credit: Hinterhaus Productions)

Are you a runner wondering if there’s an event out there for you that doesn’t involve pounding pavement for 26 miles, competing against world class athletes or knowing anything about VO2 max? Even though “ultra” and “extreme” are all the rage these days, you might just be looking for something fun and inclusive where you get to do your favorite activity and meet some new people. If this sounds like you, you might want to try parkrun. What is parkrun, you ask? Read on for the answers to all your questions about parkrun, from how it works to the benefits and everything you need to do your first one. 

What is parkrun? 

A group of friends running together on a trail

Parkrun is a series of weekly 5km runs that take place in parks all around the world (Image credit: Thomas Barwick)

Parkrun is a series of weekly 5km runs that take place in parks all around the world. Parkrun started in the UK in 2004 as the Bushy Park Time Trial and has since grown to 2,000 locations in 23 different countries across five continents. Over six million people have reportedly participated in parkruns across the globe.

Parkruns take place in city parks and country parks as well as other open space locations such as forests, beaches, nature reserves and around lakes and reservoirs. Parkrun is free to enter and is open to everybody, and by everybody we mean everybody: children, wheelchair users, people running with dogs and people running with strollers. And, despite the name, you’re just as welcome to stroll it as you are to run.

Parkrun is not a race, but each event is run by volunteers who will record your time, if you’d like. Parkruns typically take place at the same time each week, so for example in the UK, parkruns take place on Saturday mornings at 9:00am.

Though it’s not required, often people who have completed the Couch to 5k program go on to do a parkrun as a means to celebrate their completion or continue their training.

How does a parkrun work? 

Thule Glide 2

Have a young child? Bring them with you to parkrun in a stroller and they can take part too (Image credit: Thule)

Parkrun is an organized event, but it’s not complicated to join. You can search for the nearest event on the parkrun website and if you’re not interested in having your time recorded, just show up before the event start time. At the starting line, the organizers will go over any safety procedures and other announcements and then you’re off. The route will be marked so no need to study up in advance.

If you’d like to have your time recorded, you need to register on the website, which you only have to do the first time. Then you’ll get an individualized barcode which you can print out and bring to the event. When you cross the finish line, you’ll be handed a finish token and this will be scanned, along with your barcode, to record your time on the parkrun website. If you do multiple parkruns, you’ll simply bring the same barcode each time. You’ll be able to check your results on the website, and track your personal progress.

What are the benefits of parkrun? 

Two women run on the beach

Parkruns take place in city parks and country parks as well as other open space locations such as forests, beaches, nature reserves and around lakes (Image credit: Westend61)

There are always benefits to exercising outdoors, sometimes referred to as green exercise, and a 2020 review of parkrun literature in Preventive Medicine Reports shows that in addition to the improvements in personal fitness, participants reported that the social interaction in a pleasant outdoor setting was beneficial to mental health by helping to reduce feelings of isolation.

Additionally, parkrun is thought to have some extra special advantages because it is free to join and so inclusive. Whereas you often need to qualify athletically to take part in competitive running events, or pay to join a “fun run,” there are no restrictions on who can join parkrun. A 2021 survey by BMC Public Health of 60,000 parkrun participants found that respondents from the most socioeconomically deprived areas reported increases to their activity levels and improvements in their health and wellbeing since participating in parkrun. 

What do I need for parkrun? 

Three women running together through a forest

Parkrun is thought to have some extra special advantages because it is free to join and so inclusive (Image credit: Thomas Barwick)

You don’t need any special apparatus for parkrun, but here are our best suggestions for a fun and comfortable parkrun: 

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.