Most of you will read the title of this and assume it’s about your finishing time! However that’s far from what I want to write about as it can get…
parkrun is infectious, it makes people want to! It helps them find an outlet! It makes a community! It builds and infects anyone who shows up and prints their barcode to want to come back. It is infectious - and not all infections are bad!
We are reaching critical mass here in Canada after just two years – you can have a conversation with a runner from a different province and chances are they may say “I have heard of parkrun! What’s it about again?” – That’s when I start to plant that seed of community…
I tell stories of people being so pumped that they want invite friends, or bring coffees and treats to an event. I tell stories of the guys that travelled from the UK just to get the “O” of “Okanagan” in their search to complete the parkrun alphabet.
Is parkrun successful? I guess that depends on your measure of success. If you use the fact that we have 20 now going in Canada, and the goal was 20 that would make it a success. If your measure is getting walkers, joggers and runners to 50 events then it is a success, it has accomplished that several times over. If the goal was to get a parkrun in every province then no, it is not a success – yet!
I was talking with a buddy yesterday and he, like I, has a very personal connection to parkrun, and we both try to talk to the Event Directors of each parkrun. We are both amazed that even if we don’t, they just keep on showing up each Saturday and putting on their parkrun. Then does this make it a success?
I define parkrun’s infectiousness by this: if I was no longer involved because I chose not to be, would parkrun in the Okanagan continue? By no means am I saying I’m the reason that it exists, and I feel that it would continue, with or without me. How could anything stop this infectious event? So with that, I would say parkrun is a success.
It is so infectious that when you miss it, or a parkrun is cancelled due to weather (or some other calamity) that you feel somehow cheated. Recently we had a results error, yet never once was a cranky word uttered, or did a smile leave the faces of our wonderful community! They just powered on, taking on the joy that is parkrun.
I have had people email me to see if they can walk because they are sick, or someone needs to get their child to parkrun, because the kid loves to run… so the question ensues – can I walk it and can you keep an eye on (child’s name) while I chill in the car just too sick to stand and wait for them to get back to start?
Some folks have emailed me and said that they are sorry that they missed last weekend, and they just wanted to let me know that they’d be back in two weeks! I have had a U18 (only 9) put up a lemonade stand, and sell cool lemonade to the parkrunners on a hot day, and after three days drop by and donate half of what they made to parkrun, for whatever it may need (cake, or coffee in the winter) etc.
What has the kid learned through parkrun? Community? Nothing is free? Serious work ethic? The joy of giving back to fellow runners and citizens? That child has learnt some big lessons from the infection that is parkrun! We have a few of our runners that are close to 100 parkruns, you bet they too are infected with the parkrun bug! They want to be among the first parkrunners that started parkrun in Canada to get to 100 Canadian parkruns.
When I spoke with one of them today about being one of the first to get to 100 their comment was “sure I want to be one of the first, but more important is the journey that parkrun has taken me on in my life in all aspects parkrun has become my second family”. What a great thing this little parkrun has become!
So yes, parkrun has infected Kelowna, it has infected my life; It has infected Canada and its families that participate. Like any infection it slowly takes over your system, and you find it impossible to say NO I’m not going today, It’s too hot, too tired, too sore, too cold or it too smoky. These are infectious times for sure.
Get one going in your world! Let parkrun infect you and your city, trust me you won’t be disappointed…
Bill Justus, Event Director Okanagan parkrun
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