Wascana parkrun Co-Event Director Karen Lawson takes a trip down memory lane, reflecting on how far the Regina parkrun has come, and what a free, weekly timed run can do for a community!
With this summer marking the one-year anniversary of planning for Wascana parkrun (with August 4th, 2018 being its official launch date), and with Country Manager Euan Bowman’s recent tour of parkruns across Canada, this blog post felt like a perfect opportunity to reflect on Wascana parkrun’s first trip around the sun!
So far, we’ve held 36 editions (with just a handful of weeks cancelled due to weather). We’ve had 213 individual finishers, 140 personal bests, a participation record of 45 (not including volunteers), and a total of 3,705 kilometres covered across 741 separate runs, walks, and jogs. We’ve had participants under the age of 10 and over the age of 70. We’ve had so many people eager to volunteer that on many occasions we’ve had to turn people down (and tell them to participate in the run instead). Amazing!
More than just a few stats though, we’ve begun to form a community — and that’s been the most incredible part. The “free, organized physical fitness” part of parkrun is a bonus, and was the reason why I was initially so interested in helping to establish an event in Regina. But it’s been the community aspect that has truly made the biggest impact on me, speaking as both a volunteer and a participant. (Multiply that by the millions of individuals worldwide who take part every year, and there’s no wonder why this event continues to grow.)
On Saturday mornings as I head to the course, whether it’s to volunteer or take part in the run, it’s incredibly gratifying to know that on any given week there will be: new connections developing; longtime friendships strengthening; parents setting positive examples for their kids; remote workers enjoying the most personal interaction they’ve had in a week; new and experienced runners alike clocking personal bests; a solid group of friendly people either basking in the sunshine or battling the elements; plenty of laughs being shared; and if I’m lucky, baked goods at the finish line courtesy of some of our core volunteers (thanks team). For me, I can’t say that I’ve gone home from a single parkrun without a smile on my face, or that I’ve been left without a great mood for hours afterwards.
We know that a sense of community promotes mental wellness, so it seems obvious that participation in an event like this would be beneficial to one’s mental health. Really, parkrun contains so many of the basic ingredients that contribute towards positive wellbeing: personal connection; routine; spending time in nature; physical activity; and personal accomplishment, to name just a few. But it’s one thing to read the theory (there is plenty of anecdotal and academic evidence on hand - like this, this or this - and quite another to see it in practice every single week!
When I first heard about parkrun in late 2016 and began to research how it might get started in Regina, there were only a handful of parkruns taking place in Canada — just three or four. When co-Event Director Craig put the wheels in motion and Wascana parkrun was first established, we were something like the 16th Canadian event. Now, less than a year later, we’re one of 25, with numerous others in the pipeline ready to be launched in the coming months. That’s 25+ of these positive communities being formed across the country, with thousands of people impacted! For such a simple concept, it’s pretty impactful. Ensuring overall mental health and well-being involves more than getting some fresh air in a park once a week, sure. But that free, weekly, timed run can go a long way.
Karen Lawson, co-Event Director, Wascana parkrun
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