Last Saturday 6 October 2018, parkrunners around the world celebrated International parkrun Day, which marked 14 years since the very first event took place in London’s Bushy Park.
Since 2004, parkrun has grown to more than 1,650 events each week in 20 countries worldwide, with around 270,000 walkers, joggers, runners and volunteers every weekend.
As we enter our fifteenth year, we look back at those pioneering events that broke down barriers and blazed a trail to scanning barcodes in their respective countries for the very first time.
1. Bushy parkrun – London, UK
Where it all began! When the 13 parkrun pioneers above, and the five volunteers who joined parkrun Founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE that day arrived at Bushy Park on 2 October 2004, never could they have imagined that their Bushy Park Time Trial (as it was known then) would go on to become a global movement. You can view their results here.
Saturday mornings for millions of people have never been the same since, and Bushy parkrun has gone on to welcome more than 500,000 different parkrunners of all ages in the 14 years that have followed.
The course is flat and fast, so much so that it is where the parkrun World Record was set in 2012 by Team GB Olympian Andy Baddeley. You’ll also have plenty of people to encourage and support you, as Bushy parkrun welcomes more than 1,000 parkrunners each week!
Made up of a mixture of everything from original pioneers, first-timers, and international tourists making their ‘pilgrimage’ to the home of parkrun, the Bushy experience is one that rarely disappoints, and afterwards you can explore this beautiful Royal Park tucked away in west London.
On parkrun’s 10th anniversary in 2014, the runners and volunteers from that very first event were presented with special gold barcodes to recognise the significance of their tentative first parkrun steps.
2. Amager Faelled parkrun – Copenhagen, Denmark
For more than two years Bushy remained the only parkrun in the world, before the second event launched in nearby Wimbledon in 2007. Another 11 then followed in the UK before the first venture overseas.
Amager Faelled parkrun in Copenhagen, Denmark was the first parkrun event outside the UK when it launched in May 2009.
Located just to the south of the city centre, the course involves two laps of flat, common land, along firm trails, with few turns, making it a popular event for PB-hunters.
What else can you expect at Amager Faelled? In true Danish fashion, Bicycles! Lots and lots of bicycles.
3. Main Beach parkrun – Gold Coast, Australia
parkrun’s growth had begun to pick-up speed with dozens of new events appearing across the UK, and four more in Denmark, and then in April 2011 the free, weekly, timed 5k landed in Australia.
Main Beach parkrun on Australia’s Gold Coast welcomes more than 200 parkrunners each week, and is an out-and-back course walking, jogging and running parallel with beach and the Coral Sea.
Has it been a success? Well, since the launch of Main Beach parkrun, almost half a million different people in Australia have completed over 5.5 million parkruns between them, and there are now over 330 events to choose from!
4. Gdynia parkrun – Gdynia, Poland
October 2011 saw the arrival of parkrun in eastern Europe as Poland joined the parkrun family. The beauty of parkrun is it takes place every week of the year, and this can be a challenge in Poland where temperatures can vary greatly, with hot summers and extremely cold winters.
However, Poland has also become a hotspot for parkrun tourists seeking to claim the letter Z for their parkrun alphabets, as you have two events to choose from – Zary parkrun and Zielona Góra parkrun!
And it’s not just tourists that love parkrunning in Poland - the concept has been embraced by runners and local communities across the country, and there now more than 50 events taking place each week.
It all started with Gdynia parkrun, which is a straight out-and-back course starting at the Maritime Museum, and traveling along the seaside boulevard with views out across the Baltic Sea. With so few turns and a seafront setting, the flat course offers PB-potential.
5. Delta parkrun – Johannesburg, South Africa
South Africa is the second largest parkrun territory in terms of weekly participants, often welcoming more than 60,000 parkrunners on a single Saturday morning. With a strong walking culture and beautiful, if “undulating” landscapes, parkrun has become a strong part of South African culture.
Led by iconic ultramarathon runner Bruce Fordyce, who was instrumental in bringing parkrun to the country in November 2011 and now works as CEO of parkrun South Africa, barcodes are scanned in over 150 locations. To combat the heat, parkruns take place at 8:00am.
The inaugural South African parkrun which started it all was Delta parkrun in Johannesburg. Taking place in Delta Park to the north of the city, Delta has welcomed more than 30,000 different parkrunners so far.
Those taking on the adventurous Delta parkrun course are greeted by sand, gravel, hills, grass and boggy sections, with an average finish time of 41:09.
But the good news is you won’t be alone – Delta welcomes more than 1,000 people each week, with as many as 2,000 in January following the holiday period.
6. Lower Hutt parkrun – Wellington, New Zealand
With parkrun on the rise in Australia, in May 2012 New Zealand joined in the parkrun fun with the launch of Lower Hutt parkrun in Wellington.
Lower Hutt is a city based on New Zealand’s North Island, just south of Belmont Regional Park, and the Lower Hutt parkrun course is out-and-backer running along the eastern side of the Hutt River.
On a calm day, the flat course makes for a smooth 5k along the river, but if you’re not so lucky you can expect to have a headwind for company on one half of the route.
New Zealanders continue to start their Saturday mornings with parkrun, with more than 20 locations now across both North and South Islands.
7. Livonia parkrun – Michigan, USA
North America became part of the parkrun family with the launch of Livonia parkrun in the state of Michigan, the birthplace of parkrun USA.
The course is a large semi figure-of-eight loop, offering great views of Bicentennial Park. The event now regularly welcomes between 50-100 parkrunners per week, most of whom stay for coffee afterwards!
There are now 25 events in the USA, with more in the pipeline, and it all started at Livonia on that day in June 2012.
8. Malahide parkrun – Malahide, Republic of Ireland
The free, weekly, timed 5k concept crossed the Irish Sea in November 2012 with launch of Malahide parkrun, the first event in the Republic of Ireland.
Since then, it is no exaggeration to say parkrun has become part of Irish culture, with first junior parkrun, and then the 100th event also starting recently.
Malahide was where it all began, and the event takes place in the grounds of Malahide Castle, Dublin with the support of Fingal County Council. The event is now closing in on 100,000 different people completing their course.
9. parkrun Kolomenskoe & parkrun Severnoe Tushino - Moscow, Russia
parkrun Russia started in two parks in Moscow simultaneously on 1 March 2014, Severnoe Tushino and Kolomenskoe. The launch of parkrun in Russia showed that the free, weekly 5k could overcome both language and cultural barriers, plus extreme weather conditions – temperatures as low as -40°C have been recorded on parkrunday!
Severnoe Tushino is a slightly hilly one-lap course along the embankment of the Moscow Canal, among a beautiful apple orchard, whilst parkrun Kolomenskoe is an almost flat course along the Moscow River which can be great for a PB!
It doesn’t matter which parkrun you choose in Moscow, all events will welcome you for a post-parkrun picnic, which local parkrunners organise near the finish line each week.
10. East Coast Park parkrun - Singapore
South East Asia joined the parkrun family in June 2014. East Coast Park parkrun follows the picturesque coastline of East Coast Park, a beach park located on the southeastern coast of Singapore.
The completely flat out-and-backer offers some serious PB-potential for parkrunners on the hunt for the personal best – if you can overcome the high humidity!
The second event in Singapore after East Coast Park parkrun was – yes, you guessed it – West Coast Park parkrun! And they have been joined this year by the launch of Bisham parkrun to the north.
11. Uditore parkrun – Palermo, Italy
Uditore parkrun became the first parkrun event in Italy when it started on Saturday 23 May 2015.
The park easily accessible by public transport and not so far from the centre of the beautiful town of Palermo.
The course is a flat, four-lapper, and the event has a close-knit, family feel with an average of 20 walkers, joggers and runners, and five volunteers each week.
12. parkrun des Dougnes – Cubnezais, France
Le parkrun des Dougnes is located in the little town of Cubnezais in the South West of France, and was launched in June 2015. This three-lapper, is a favourite of parkrun tourists in the summer and can see its numbers triple in that period.
This parkrun is situated 30 minutes drive away of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: The Citadel of Blaye which overlooks the Gironde estuary, and the beautiful city of Bordeaux.
13. Okanagan parkrun - Kelowna, Canada
Oh Canada! As the second biggest country in the world measured by total area (after Russia, which already had parkrun!) it was only a matter of time before this vast and breathtaking country joined the parkrun family.
On 20 August 2016, the first Okanagan parkrun took place on a hot Saturday morning. The route is mostly an out and back, starting at a recreation park and local multi-use stadium, the Apple Bowl.
The out and back section is 2k, with the remaining 1k weaving its way around a beautiful creek. As for PBs, there’s a good possibility that you could achieve one here. The route is mostly flat with little distraction allowing you to concentrate on your walk, jog or run!
14. Haga parkrun – Stockholm, Sweden
Just a week after Canada, the inaugural parkrun in Sweden took place on Saturday 27 August 2016, and perhaps unsurprisingly it was in Stockholm where the first Swedish parkrun steps were taken.
To the north of the city you will find Hagaparken – home to Haga parkrun. The mixed terrain two-lapper changes with the seasons, from snowy parkrun mornings in winter to glorious sunny mornings in the summer.
The most famous landmark on the course are the Copper Tents, although the park is also home to the heir to the Swedish throne, Princess Victoria, who has been spotted out running on a Saturday morning (though not yet at Haga parkrun!)
With lakes, lawns and forests to explore, it’s the ideal venue for a relaxing morning basking in the post-parkrun glow!
15. Swakopmund parkrun - Swakopmund, Namibia
On Saturday 8 April 2017, parkrun was launched in the Namibian town of Swakopmund, and was the first venture across South African borders.
The Swakopmund parkrun course is flat and fast, and walks, jogs and runs along the paved route and the edge of the Namib Desert sand, close to the Atlantic Ocean.
16. Mbabane parkrun - Mbabane, Swaziland
Mbabane parkrun in Swaziland followed hot on the heels of Swakopmund in Namibia. Whilst Swakopmund is flat and fast, Mbabane is generally warm and humid and is run over the rolling lush green hills of the Mbabane golf course.
Despite the more “challenging” course, which consists of a single-lap with a sneaky hill in the middle, more than 1,000 different women, men, girls and boys have had their barcodes scanned at Mbabane parkrun so far.
17. Tøyen parkrun – Oslo, Norway
With parkrun long-established in Denmark, and the rise of the free, weekly 5k in Sweden, it was only natural that Norway joined in with the fun!
In August 2017, Tøyen parkrun launched, taking place in Tøyenparken in the north east of the beautiful city of Oslo.
The park handily located next to the Natural History Museum, and the Munch Museum, named after the famous Norwegian artist Edward Munch.
Munch’s most famous work is the iconic painting, The Scream, which inspired the mask worn in the series of movies of the same name, and those parkrunners taking on Tøyen parkrun may feel like screaming when they see some of the hills along the course!
18. Tampere parkrun – Tampere, Finland
Following closely behind the Norwegians, the fourth Nordic nation to join the parkrun was Finland, in October 2017.
With Finland being a winter sports powerhouse, parkrun faces some strong competition when it comes to Finns looking to get active, but Tampere parkrun welcomes between 50-100 parkrunners every Saturday.
Located north of the capital, Helsinki, the Tampere parkrun course offers plenty of scenery as it walks, jogs and runs out-and-back along the banks of Pyhäjärvi Lake.
And if you look really carefully, you may even spot a friendly Moomin!
19. Küchenholz, Neckarau, and Georgengarten parkruns – Germany
Germany has a rich history of running and is known around the world for big city marathons in Berlin and Frankfurt, to name just two. But you don’t need to be a marathon runner to enjoy everything this beautiful country has to offer on the walk, jog and run.
In a first for parkrun anywhere in the world, three events launched simultaneously on the same day in December 2017 in the towns and cities of Hannover, Leipzig and Mannhein.
Such has been the rapid rise in popularity of parkrun in Germany, in the short time since that historic day, another seven events have launched across the country with many more close to joining them.
Each of those pioneering courses offers something different; from the tree-lined straights of Georgengarten parkrun (Hannover), to the riverside setting of Neckarau parkrun (Mannheim), and the state park that hosts Küchenholz parkrun (Leipzig) each week.
20. Taman Pudu Ulu parkrun – Malaysia
Our final destination takes us to the baby of the parkrun family, Malaysia. The twentieth country to host parkrun, Taman Pudu Ulu parkrun in Malaysia began scanning barcodes for the very first time in April 2018.
In their first six months of parkrunning, more than 500 people have completed the course which consists of two small laps and two large laps of Taman Pudu Ulu Park, located to the south east of Kuala Lumpur.
Due to the hot and humid conditions, parkrun starts at 7:30am each week, but your treat for that extra early alarm is the chance to spend the rest of your parkrunday exploring the city, safe in the knowledge that your parkrun results are on their way!
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