News - 5th September 2017

Partnering with your local parkrun USA event


As parkrun events spread across the US, there are more and more opportunities for organizations and groups to partner with their local parkrun.


The number of organized 5k running events in the US each year is staggering, with estimates reaching 20,000 or more events, with over 8 million finishers. 5ks account for more than all other running events combined. It seems that every organization would like to organize a 5k event. That’s understandable, as they’re happy, healthy events that are a lot more broadly accessible than longer runs. But organizing a 5k requires a whole lot of work: permits, funding, entries, t-shirts swag and prizes, police, timing, advertising and publicity, and so much more, for something that lasts barely an hour. There are probably many more organizations that would like to hold a 5k event, but they don’t have the resources to do so.


Meanwhile, your local parkrun does only one thing, but it does it very well. It offers a well organized 5k event,  in an attractive setting, at zero cost, with experienced, enthusiastic organizers, a simple and effective entry and results system, all permits and safety issues taken care of, and minimal set-up and take-down effort. And it does so 52 times a year. There are no t-shirts, prizes, or other hoopla. But how important are those to you anyway? The focus of parkrun is on human connections and community building, and chances are that this is closer to what your organization cares about.


So instead of the hassle of organizing your own event, why not partner with your local parkrun? The parkrun team can do the parts that they do well, and you can focus on the things that you care about and that your organization does well, such as engaging with your community.


You also don’t have to be constrained to a one-off format. Since parkrun takes place every week, you have an opportunity to think outside the box and do something that is more than a one-off event.


Why should your local parkrun want to partner with you? Because what they care about is more participants, more community building, and ultimately more people coming back each week to build healthy habits and healthy communities.


There are lots of interesting examples from different parkrun USA events, but we have barely scratched the surface. Some organizations simply choose the local parkrun as a venue for a special event. To do this you don’t even need to plan with the parkrun team, as you can just register and show up (but it’s nice to warn the local parkrun team). Clermont Waterfront parkrun in Florida, Fletcher’s Cove parkrun in Washington DC, and Livonia parkrun in Michigan have had visits from large school groups. Fletcher’s Cove also had a visit from Bridges to Independence, an organization that helps individuals and families out of homelessness. Crissy Field parkrun also hosted a big visit by Running for a Better Oakland, a Bay-area non-profit that focuses on youth development.


At Durham NC parkrun there is a long-standing relationship with local running club Carolina Godiva Track Club. According to the “most clubs” listing on the parkrun USA website, their members have done more than 1400 runs, making them the most prolific club at a US parkrun.  And at Mansfield OH parkrun they have a formal partnership with the Richland County Public Health department, which recognizes the value of parkrun for creating healthy individuals and communities.


Some parkrun USA events partner with organizations that share an interest in the specific park where the parkrun takes place. Leakin Park parkrun in Baltimore has strong ties to the Friends of Gwynns Falls Leakin Park, which aims to bring more people to this overlooked urban gem. Roosevelt Island parkrun in Washington DC has a partnership with the Friends of Theodore Roosevelt Island, a group that supports the preservation and protection of the unique island memorial.


At College Park parkrun in Maryland they have multiple partnerships with different local groups that have overlapping goals. This is helping the parkrun to become a point of pride for the local community. The Fit for Christ Catholic Bootcamp is a year-round fitness program that encourages participants to take part in different physical exercise activities throughout the week, accumulating “points” for doing so. The program offers points for taking part in parkrun, which is free and easy to access, and many members have taken part. A majority of members are Hispanic. College Park parkrun has a formal partnership with Prince George’s County Parks Department, which shares an interest in free fitness activities. PG Parks has arranged for tree planting by the start/finish area to provide shade, and they are arranging for signage in the same area to promote the parkrun to trail users.


College Park parkrun has strong ties with the Prince George’s Running Club (PGRC). PGRC has traditionally held a New Year’s 5k race, but in 2017 they teamed up with parkrun to hold a joint event, with the bonus of a big post-run meetup at The Board and Brew, the regular parkrun hangout. In the spring they held a “PGRC Day” at the parkrun, where the club provided most of the volunteers and took the opportunity to promote the club’s various training runs and meetups. The club has introduced new runners to parkrun, and parkrun has brought some new members to the club’s training groups.


Also, College Park parkrun has developed ties to various groups at the nearby University of Maryland. They teamed up with the university’s Good Neighbor Day in April, an event focused on bringing students and community members together for service activities. This fits with the parkrun team’s goal of strengthening campus-community ties. And the College Park team is looking forward to hosting the UMD’s annual Homecoming 5k in October, when the parkrun will be used to showcase strong community, beautiful trails, and multiple coffee shop options for visiting alumni. The Homecoming organizers have expert staff and a large audience, but little experience in organizing run/walk events. So joining forces with the local parkrun is a win-win arrangement.


These are just a few examples of how you can create a win-win partnership with your local parkrun. Please use the comments to weigh in with more ideas.

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