Many of you will know that parkrun started its life as a 5k ‘time trial’. Most of my friends were runners, I got my running club involved, and there was minimal signage and support along the route, meaning it was inevitable that we would attract people who were already runners. This was our natural starting point, and without these people that single event would never have grown into the global movement parkrun is today.
What I was always determined to create however was an event that was completely inclusive. We kept the concept simple, we didn’t impose time limits, and we welcomed anyone who wanted to take part. At the very first parkrun, we gave a prize to the final finisher.
For almost 13 years now we have been continually taking steps to encourage people of all ages and abilities. From the introduction of milestone t-shirts to celebrate participation rather than performance, to creating the strap-line ‘Walk It, Jog It, Run It’, to proactively reaching out to sections of society who are the least likely to engage with us but who have the most to benefit from increased socially-focused physical activity. The most recent step has been renaming the Tail Runner volunteer role to Tail Walker, which will play a big part in broadening our appeal.
With this in mind, I am really excited to let you know that parkrun will be teaming up with UK Sport and the National Lottery next month. Britain’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes will be volunteering as Tail Walkers at UK parkruns on Saturday 19 August, and I will be tail walking too. At several events, the athletes will be volunteering alongside people who regularly Tail Walk at their events, or who have put their hand up to Tail Walk on that day.
It follows on from the success of I Am Team GB last year, which saw around 60 GB athletes take part in their local parkruns after the Rio Olympics and Paralympics. This year’s initiative, known as #teamparkrun, is being backed by Sport England, Sport Scotland, Sport Wales, Sport Northern Ireland, the British Olympic Association and British Paralympic Association, along with a number of national governing bodies.
We know from our own extensive research that by far the most common reason for someone registering with parkrun and not participating is that they don’t feel capable of running 5k, so this is a significant step in highlighting how inclusive our events are. Since the earliest days of parkrun we have welcomed walkers, and the support and encouragement provided by the Tail Walker can’t be understated.
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