Coming up to 2 and a half years of parkrun in Richmond, B.C., Becky Maybury tells us about how their fun, friendly parkrun community has grown – and why it’s so exciting!
I want to share 2 snapshots with you from ‘WebFMS’ (which is the system that your event teams use to manage volunteer rosters, communications to parkrunners and results processing):
Do you see it? The first shows our volunteer roster from one of our early parkruns, where our full volunteer team was comprised of people who had previously registered with and experienced other parkruns around the world (including Ellen, representing “The Other Richmond” in London!).
The second shows a full event team comprised of home-grown Richmond Olympians! But why did this simple difference fill me with so much pride that I actually decided to write a blog about it?
How parkruns form
Forming an event in a very cosmopolitan area of Canada, we found that many of our initial volunteers, supporters and runners were people who had first heard about parkrun elsewhere.
They had experienced a parkrun before, were familiar with the concept and were excited and motivated to help establish their favourite free, weekly timed 5km run in their current city.
Although by 2016 parkrun was the world’s biggest running organization, when we launched here few Canadians had heard of it, and so we attracted fewer first time participants. Of course, some newbies did come along, curious to see this strange new weekly running event after doing some research online – but not too many.
How parkruns develop
Over time, and as the pictures above show, it’s safe to say that word has spread, as people hear of a free walking and running event happening in their community and come along to check it out. We’ve been well-supported by the Richmond News, and list our weekly events on Facebook and other local events sites.
More often than not, though, people hear about parkrun by word of mouth. Friends telling their friends, family and coworkers, and encouraging them to come along not only to run or walk, but to socialize too.
As word spreads, we love to welcome new walkers, joggers and runners to parkrun and support their goals to get outside and be active; on New Year’s Day, we had 28 first timers!
By the time they have taken part as runners a few times, many participants will have become aware of our culture of volunteering, and some help to support the event in a volunteer capacity – which brings me to the second photo of the all-Richmond volunteer line-up. To me, this signifies how far we have come in growing our community beyond a small ‘core’ team of volunteers, and how established we now are in the city!
The word is out!
The growth of our local community in Richmond mirrors what we’re seeing more widely in Canada, as parkrun is starting to generate a buzz across the country! We’re thankful to our sponsors Saucony for helping to lead the charge and get the parkrun word out there.
We’ve also been featured by Canadian Running Magazine and helped by volunteering at big running events like the BMO Vancouver Marathon, and the Montreal Marathon.
Our presence is growing, and the number of events and runners is growing too!
Where we’re headed
We’ve found that we can put on an event for around 100 people with as few as 6 volunteers – although more volunteers are always welcome! But I look at the army of volunteers elsewhere – Root44 parkrun in South Africa, for instance – which regularly attracts 1200+ runners and needs a team of somewhere in the region of 35 people for each event!
Whilst it’s terrifying to think about how we’d cope if 1200 runners turned up this weekend, when we consider that the ultimate goal of the parkrun organization is to provide opportunities for people in all communities to live healthier, happier lives, I could not be more excited to see parkrun in Canada grow - because that means seeing more and more participants and volunteers welcomed into our awesome community!
Becky Maybury, Richmond Olympic Event Director
P.S. If you originally registered with a parkrun in a different country, but would like your current event in Canada to be your ‘home’ parkrun, you can send a simple request to parkrun support here
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