2018 was another exceptional year for parkrun in Australia.
Statistically, we continued to grow in every key metric whilst continuing to deliver an incredibly high standard of free, weekly, timed 5km events in all corners of the country. Obviously, this simply couldn’t be done without the continued enthusiasm and passion of our thousands of volunteers and I would like to pay tribute to each and every one of them here.
Looking at the numbers, we established 82 new parkrun locations (+31%), delivered 16,224 events (+37%), registered 164,601 people (+11%) and saw 44,024 people (+26%) volunteer 158,372 times (+35%). Our community is now 709,014 strong and these people completed 1,925,207 5K performances (+29%) this year… Simply staggering!!!
I’d like to start by thanking our valued sponsors and partners for their support. Obviously being a free event the financial support we receive from our sponsors is crucial in enabling us to recruit and retain our staff (we now have eight staff in Australia) and fund our growth. Our ongoing relationship with Medibank reached a new level this year as their Free + Active program expanded, with the goal of getting 1.5 million Australians active by 2022. For us that meant Medibank funding the establishment of 40 new parkrun locations over 12 months, culminating at Eastern Gardens in Victoria in August.
As Medibank flourished, we also welcomed The Athlete’s Foot and we are looking forward to seeing this partnership grow in the years to come.
One of the most significant operational achievements of this period occurred in March when, after many months of planning, the parkrun Global Board signed off on our proposal to launch three Junior parkrun events in Australia on a 12-month pilot. We have since established these three events at Southport (Queensland), Westerfolds (Victoria) and Cannonvale (Queensland) with the two Queensland events supported by the state Department of Sport and Recreation. I have had the privilege of being the Event Director at Cannonvale juniors and it has filled me with joy, week after week, to see so many children and their parents turn up and get active on a Sunday morning.
In April our team helped support the establishment of our 20th parkrun country, Malaysia, with the launch of Taman Pudu Ulu parkrun in Kuala Lumpur. This was several years in the making so it was a thrill to see this one finally come to life.
One of our key targets over the last 18 months was for every parkrun location to have access to a defibrillator. In July 2017, 63% of events had access to one of these life-saving devices. I’m thrilled to say that by the end of June 2018 every single parkrun location had access to a defib. This is a massive achievement and reaffirms our commitment to making parkrun the safest possible environment for people to be active. A special thank you to the hundreds of parkrunners who donated to this cause.
In September we held our second Event Ambassador conference to provide an opportunity to say thank you for the huge contribution our lead volunteers make to parkrun. It included a mix of updates, strategy, future planning and social activities over three days on Cockatoo (Ninja Warrior) Island in Sydney Harbour.
Looking to the future, our new Head of Health and Wellbeing, Glen Turner, has just joined us from the parkrun UK office. Amongst other things, Glen will be looking to replicate the success of the UK’s parkrun in prisons program and launch the groundbreaking parkrun Practices initiative, enabling GP surgeries to formally link with their local parkrun to give patients the option of physical activity rather than traditional medication.
One of the highlights of any parkrun year is hearing from you, our parkrun community, as you share your inspiring stories. One such email came across my desk last week and I’d like to share it with you here -
“Having only attended my first parkrun in Aug 2017, I can’t even begin to share how much I have learnt, how I have grown, how much I have laughed and smiled.
From touristing extensively (30 different events so far), to volunteering ambitiously (18 different vollie roles completed including RD), parkrun truly has flipped my life upside down – for all the right reasons.
It has brought more adventures, more joy and more play into my life. It has given me a welcome space to build community that is focused around something fun, light-hearted and social – which is a welcome break from my very meaningful, but sometimes far-too-serious work.”
This pretty much sums up all that is good about parkrun so thanks to all of you who have shared your journeys with us this year.
My parkrun year has been wonderful, but not because I’m getting any quicker! In fact, this has probably been my slowest ever year at parkrun due to the fact that I’ve been pushing a double pram most weeks whilst running alongside my eldest child Jack, who is 6 (always at arms reach of course). Jack has really started to enjoy his parkrunning this year and he’s gotten a fair bit quicker too! His PB at the start of the year was 33:18; he then ran 32:43 in August; 30:30 in September; 28:35 in October; and then finally 27:55 on December 22. To cap off our parkrun year my whole family volunteered at Airlie Beach parkrun on Christmas Day, something that we have made a tradition since moving here 3.5 years ago.
In closing, I would once again like to thank all of our Board Members, Event Ambassadors, Event Directors and volunteers for the respective contributions they have all given over the last 12 months. These people are the true heroes of parkrun and their efforts have improved the health and happiness of hundreds of thousands of Australians.
Long live parkrun.
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