The other day, I was listening to a motivational sports meditation on Headspace and the question was posed: Why do you do it? It got me to thinking about why I run and why, specifically, I (park)run.
Here´s a disclaimer. I do not actually (park)run. As in, I have never actually run a parkrun! I am a founding member of the Dømmesmoen parkrun team in southern Norway. During the process of setting up, I visited two parkruns in south London where I am from. But I have still not run one, including the one I helped to set up. I have been Run Director, Tail Walker, photographer and marshal. One day, when we are fully up and running, I will relish in running our course!
However, I write this sitting in Oslo airport, on my way home from running the Midnight Sun half marathon. A fantastic experience, in spite of pouring rain! I will never forget running through midnight, in broad daylight, with views of snow covered mountains en route. Amazing. But, as always with organised runs, the best thing of all was the atmosphere. Chatting to people at the start line and along the way; sharing congratulatory hugs and stories of endurance with complete strangers at the end. And it´s not just about the runners. All along the way, volunteer marshals cheered us on, sang for us, clapped for us, shouted funny things at us, held up signs like: Nearly there (fake news) that made us laugh breathlessly!
Recently, a friend told me that she does not see the point in organised runs when you can just go for a run. You know, walk out of your door and go for a run. By yourself. Or just run on your treadmill, in your basement, in front of Netflix.
So why (park)run?
The answer lies in community. I have always believed in connection over isolation. I have always favoured getting out there rather than staying in.
The problem with training alone is that there can be a tendency to not bother. If the weather is bad, who wants to run alone?
But, if the weather is bad, and you know there is a group of people ready to run with you and another group of people ready to cheer you on, well…. you might just get out there. And if you have started to get to know those people who are running and cheering, well, the pull becomes even stronger. You kind of want to go. Even in the rain. You don´t want to miss out.
parkrun is addictive. I have friends at home in the UK who see it as a lifeline. I was chatting with one friend recently on messenger and she said, “This country is so depressing at the moment, total division. But then I go to parkrun and realise how many lovely people there are and it restores my faith!”
And this is what it´s all about! parkrun restores faith because it reminds us of the power of community. When people come together – when people choose connection – good things happen. We actually meet our neighbours! Ordinary people going about ordinary lives, doing their best, exercising, volunteering, prioritising physical and mental health. What´s there to knock? Without connection, who are we? Without parkrun, where would we be? Well, on a Saturday morning at 9am, not doing very much!
I first discovered #parkrunpower (can I create a new hashtag?) through an old friend who became my inspiration for wanting to set up a parkrun in my local town. I asked her why she (park)runs rather than just going for a run: “I hate to run alone. I have no discipline. parkrun gives me a community, makes me feel part of something bigger. It gives me goals (50, 100, etc.) and makes me compete against myself. Without it, I wouldn’t have kept running. Also, just knowing that Saturday morning there’ll be a run somewhere I can go to gives me all the motivation I need.”
parkrun is social and it´s free. I am constantly inspired by watching strangers make connections every week. One Saturday, I listened to a wonderful conversation between two parkrunners. A guy from California (living in Norway) thanking a lady from Sheffield (a dedicated parkrun tourist on a work trip who had paid an extortionate amount in taxi fare to get from her hotel to our parkrun) for encouraging him up our hill of despair! Moments like this are truly priceless.
If you are not sure about organised runs or community events, I recommend giving parkrun a try. If you don´t want to run, you can walk. If you don´t want to walk, you can volunteer. If you are still not sure, just find out where your local parkrun is and pop by to watch for a bit. You will see many smiling people and be greeted with a warm welcome.