Happy New Year! It’s 2020 and with that a new year, and decade, for parkrunning. Here’s a word from our parkrun Canada Manager, Euan Bowman.
As you may have learned recently, parkrun Founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE was honoured with a very prestigious award, the Royal Society of the Art’s Albert Medal. Paul and parkrun were praised for its position being at “the forefront of practical innovation”.
In his presentation Paul mentions how it was never in the plan on day one to be the global phenomenon that it is, but attributes success because “people are good”. parkrun communities worldwide are emblematic of how amazing communities are, and how they can look after those in need and be inclusive to those who need it. In 2019 parkrun celebrated its 15th birthday, and Paul gave us a sneak preview of what to expect in the next 15 years - being in 50 countries, across ten thousand locations with over 10 billion participations.
Canada and North America are at the start of their journey, but the next 15 years are forecast to show extraordinary growth. A fun fact: by 2030 the vast majority of participants who will have joined us have not yet heard of parkrun.
Given that it’s the start of a new year, and decade, it’s a natural time to look back and take lessons from what has worked and what hasn’t. We hope that from a walking, jogging, running and volunteering point of view things look relatively simple. From the country manager perspective sometimes there are some frantic phone calls and hastily written e-mails to ensure everything Is in place for Saturday morning.
Key to the success of the robustness of an event is ensuring training and equipment is delivered well in advance of event number 1. After that from week to week, events are self-organising and require very little input from anybody outside an event core-team. That’s quite incredible when you consider in Canada we have almost 40 events weekly, and astounding when you zoom out and browse the 2,000 strong event map.
In 2019 that caught us (well, me), out a little! As I mentioned in my last blog, we experienced so many new events in a short time frame. We launched 16 Canadian events in as many weeks and while this was forecast I didn’t think about it happening in such a short time frame. So for me this involved a few car trips to pick up event kit from my local FedEx office and then frantically assembling boxes and packing tokens and first aid kits. My house had hundreds of hi-vis vests waiting to be counted, and by the end of the summer my new friend at the post office and I knew each other by first names.
Thankfully our fantastic community of ambassadors was able to step in and help with the training and announcements. This was not a luxury we had in previous years but because of our new broadened reach we have many very experienced volunteers willing and able to help out. They were a lifesaver!
So, there’s a first what worked and what didn’t for 2019. This year we have a much better new event kit deployment system in place, and our ambassadors are on standby to help new teams train up. As we grow, this will become even easier as we gain more and more experienced volunteers.
What else will be new for 2020? Our focus will be on making it easier for prospective event teams to set themselves up and access the resources that parkrun offer. There is no longer a start-up funding requirement for events, and insurance is completely covered on our side which is something that almost all landowners and administrators ask for. We also hope to further streamline how events access and ask for help and assistance.
To be ready for incredible growth we do have many more steps to take and these will align as the events and participants join us. There are many exciting developments underway, but you will always have the same inclusive and ‘simple’ feel at your local free weekly timed 5K.
As part of our community of volunteers, we enjoy putting these events together because we experience first-hand and understand the benefits of getting together for a social walk, jog, run or volunteering stint every Saturday morning.
Have a great 2020 and I’ll see you at a parkrun!
Euan Bowman, parkrun Canada Manager
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