Each week, throughout the world, runners and walkers gather on a Saturday morning at a parkrun event to run or walk 5 km. Many ‘parkrunners’ have become firmly committed to attending each week. These parkrunners have progressed from initially becoming aware of the weekly event to professing allegiance and even feeling a bit ‘odd’ if they miss out.
Currently, the number of parkruns in the world is just over 1300 and in Australia, we are nudging 270. The number of events since it first started is currently 198,531 in the world. As a community event, parkrun does an amazing job of reaching out to so many in our community. But why?
In a recent article by Tom Williams, the Global Operations Officer of parkrun Global, Tom identifies that “It was never really about the run, that parkrun and parkrun junior appeals to our desire for health and happiness in a community setting.”
Further reasons for parkrun’s popularity and success have been explained by Theodore Turocy, Professor of Economics at the University of East Anglia. He explains the success of parkrun with the EAST framework for behaviour change. The framework as designed by the UEA Behavioural Insights Team and as it applies to parkrun is summarized by Professor Turocy as follows;
I would like to propose an extension of EAST to EASTER, that is with the addition of
Why do some parkunners profess strong allegiance to parkrun?
When the EASTER concept is applied well to a parkrun then is it any wonder that participants want to return each week and start amassing a considerable number ‘under their belt’. They have established a strong allegiance to the event. How does this process occur where an individual participant progresses to that place of committed and continued involvement? The process might be explained by the PCM model of behavioural change. The PCM, that is, Psychological Continuum Model is a theoretical framework proposing that participants move from an initial stage of awareness to a final stage of allegiance, passing through attraction and attachment to an active leisure activity. (Funk and James, 2001).
These hierarchical stages of change as it relates to encouraging allegiance to parkrun might be described as follows:
The weekly parkrun event encourages social cohesiveness in the community, as well as promoting regular physical exercise as beneficial to the health of individuals.
To explain the success of parkrun locally, nationally and globally, look at the concept of EASTER. parkrun can fulfil each one of these six criteria; Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely, Enjoyable and Regulated.
To explain the strong allegiance parkrunners show to their local event, look at how participants can move through the stages of Awareness, Attraction, Attachment to Allegiance in the Psychological Continuum Model of change.
John Robins and Miriam Tan
1. Rocha,C.M. and Grateo,O.A. (2017). The process toward commitment to running—The role of different motives, involvement, and coaching. Sport Management Review (yet to published – available online here in abstract form)
2. Funk, D. C., & James, J. D. (2001). The psychological continuum model: A conceptual framework for understanding an individual’s psychological connection to sport. Sport Management Review, 4(2), 119–150.
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