Did you know South Africa is the parkrun country with the most walkers? At parkrun no-one needs to worry about being the last in the finish funnel, about being too slow, or feeling isolated and alone. At every parkrun event, anywhere in the world, it is the volunteer Tail Walker who is always the last one to finish.
parkrun South Africa president Bruce Fordyce tells us more about why we love walkers at parkrun.
‘Walk, jog, run or volunteer’ is one of the most famous and familiar parkrun slogans. Almost as important as ‘don’t forget your barcode!’
From our earliest parkruns in 2011, South African parkrun participants have been encouraged to remember these welcoming words. Everyone, everywhere around the world, is a valued part of every parkrun, no matter what their cruising speed.
At parkrun no-one needs to worry about being the last in the finish funnel, about being too slow, or feeling isolated and alone. At every parkrun event, anywhere in the world, it is the volunteer Tail Walker who is always the last one to finish. Some events choose to have more than one Tail Walker, and there is often a party atmosphere at the back.
The Tail Walker is an important symbol in parkrun’s commitment to welcoming, supporting and respecting everyone no matter how they choose to participate. There is no cut off time at parkrun. People can walk, jog or run at whatever speed they want, safe in the knowledge that they will all be made welcome, appreciated and applauded.
In South Africa, we are delighted that almost 30% of those completing the 5k each week are walkers. And we are proud that our average parkrun finish time is 42:43; the slowest in the parkrun global family.
No matter where you finish at parkrun you are always greeted with enthusiastic shouts of encouragement and warm rounds of applause.
We believe that in the early days of parkrun here in South Africa, the rapid growth in numbers can be partly attributed to the fact that our slowest walkers knew that no one would laugh at them, and that they would always be given a finishing time and position no matter their time.
The last finishers at our parkruns, accompanied by the Tail Walkers, usually take well over an hour to complete their 5k. This is true of parkruns all over the world.
I’ve joined the Tail Walkers many times and found it to be a wonderful experience. When the pace is slower there is more time to get to know your fellow parkrunner, to laugh, and to chat. Lap courses are especially good fun as there is always some very amusing banter and camaraderie as people move around the course.
Many parkruns take place in beautiful surroundings on fascinating courses. Those walking often have more time to appreciate the scenery.
Walkers are no different to runners in their drive to improve. Everyone wants to read that encouraging email message after parkrun, or be congratulated on a new personal best, and parkruns can provide the perfect platforms for anyone, anywhere, of any ability, to achieve their goals.
I remember, a couple of years ago I visited Mashishing parkrun in the Limpopo province here in South Africa. I saw a lady walk briskly across the finish line and punch the air with a loud exclamation of “yes!”
She told me the reason she was so happy is that she’d just broken an hour, for the first time.
Since 2017, an amazing 151,776 people have volunteered as a Tail Walker at parkrun.
Walkers are and will always be a vital, and welcome part of every one of our parkruns.
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