News - 11th May 2020
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Spotlight on: Denmark

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The parkrun family is made up of 22 countries around the world, and we’ll be taking a closer look at a number of them.

 

This week it’s Denmark, and we speak to those involved back in the noughties who brought parkrun to Scandinavia…

 

The very first parkrun took place on Saturday 2 October 2004 in London’s Bushy Park, started by Paul Sinton-Hewitt. parkrun then grew around the country, before a brief spell in Zimbabwe, but Denmark remains the longest-standing parkrun territory outside of the UK.

 

It’s 11 years since the first event in Denmark was held at Amager Fælled in May 2009. The man behind the launch of parkrun Denmark was Jonathan Sydenham.

 

“Bringing parkrun to Denmark is one of my proudest achievements” writes Jonathan. “I became a parkrunner when there were still only two or three events in the UK.

 

I would fit my visits home around getting down to Wimbledon Common and later Brighton so I could get a parkrun in. Surprisingly Hove Park is still the venue where I’ve done my largest number of parkruns!

 

It was in Brighton that Paul Sinton-Hewitt and Roger Wilson came down to see me to discuss starting Amager Fælled parkrun in Copenhagen. I wanted to be able to parkrun every Saturday and not just a few times a year.

 

I also wanted a training run for Cityløberne, the running club I’d just started on the back of a huge novice runner programme organised by DGI, one of the two Danish sports organisations. Cityløberne came complete with Henrik Poulsen. Without Henrik, Amager Fælled parkrun would not have endured.

 

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(photo credit: Rich Kennington)

 

Henrik also taught the Event Directors from almost all the other Danish parkruns that started subsequently.

 

Henrik and I, with help from my wife, spent most Saturdays in the first years putting on each event as Amager Fælled parkrun slowly grew in numbers. “

 

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Jonathan and Henrik, the duo behind the launch and success of parkrun in Denmark

 

Another key person behind Amager Fælled parkrun and parkrun in Denmark is Anne Petersen “Amager Fælled parkrun had already been going for more than three years before I discovered it” says Anne, pictured below with a parkrun finisher.

 

“Sadly, I don’t remember where I heard about parkrun – but I did my first parkrun August 14, 2010, and have run eight in total – plus eight Freedom runs. Four of my parkruns were early in 2012!

 

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Later that year, in August 2012, an acquaintance suggested we go and cheer at the marathon runners at the Copenhagen Ironman triathlon event in the city, and that’s where I had my cheering debut.

 

I enjoyed the opportunity to yell, scream, applaud and jump up and down, and fortunately I knew of a place where I could do it 52 times a year and not just once!

 

I don’t remember how I got into volunteering, but it combines well with cheering, and parkrun has become my Saturday morning habit. “My” parkrun isn’t huge, but it’s very “hyggelig” as we Danes say.

 

The original TAG Heuer timer, long since outdated and replaced by other timing solutions and the Virtual Volunteer app, still works, but it’s been a few years since it printed the times on a long piece of paper.

 

We’re looking forward to the next 10 years – though we would not mind a few youngsters joining the core crew!”

 

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There are now eight events in Denmark, with Nordre Faelled parkrun in Randers being the most recent event to open in November 2018, a whole six years after the previous new event, Amager Strandpark in Copenhagen.

 

Other events in Denmark are now approaching 10 years, and a couple have already passed the 500 event landmark.

 

They are made of strong stuff, the Danes, and there have been very few cancellations over the past 10 years, with some events having an unbroken history stretching all the way back over this period. It was with a very heavy heart therefore, that these resilient events have had to cancel recently due to the Coronavirus restrictions.

 

in 2016 parkrun launched in Sweden, and Finland and Norway followed soon after. Since then, the Danish events have been working closely with the rest of the Nordic countries, and with Malmö Ribersborg parkrun just across the Öresund strait (and across that bridge), this has resulted in some memorable occasions.

 

Notably, the New Year’s Double in 2019, where many parkrunners took the opportunity to run events in two different countries on the same morning. This involved a parkrun in Copenhagen, hopping on a train and then completing the double in Malmö, Sweden.

 

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Denmark is frequently voted the happiest country in the world, and it’s no surprise that Danish parkrun events have their local quirks.

 

For example, a number of parkruns in Denmark are famous for using flour to mark out the course, sometimes instead of arrow course markers.

 

Environmentally friendly, plus, the flour gets washed away or eaten by the birds afterwards, and doesn’t need to be collected afterwards. Smart! And unsurprisingly to anyone who has visited Copenhagen, the vast majority of parkrunners arrive by bicycle.

 

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There has been a resurgence of interest in getting new events started in Denmark and we are working to see if we can get a couple of these over the line in 2020, once parkrun resumes.

 

The Coronavirus situation has halted progress right now, but when we emerge from the existing restrictions, we hope to get things moving swiftly in the right direction again!

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