junior parkrun, News - 13th April 2017

It’s not a race, keep the smile on your face


Hi, I’m Clare Fowler, I’m the Safeguarding Lead at parkrun UK and I’m going to talk about the ethos of junior parkrun.


A Run Director’s job doesn’t end when the last person has come through the finish funnel. Whilst you’re all wending your merry ways home, they are busy doing important admin. As well as processing results, they are asked to submit any ‘incidents’ to parkrun HQ. This could be unruly dogs, injuries, problems with courses, and other such things we need to know.


Part of my job as Safeguarding Lead for parkrun UK is to deal with any safeguarding incidents, however big or small. And I’m sad to say that every week I get multiple reports about pushy parents. As a parent of a three year old, and as someone who can struggle to ‘just enjoy a run’ (it’s a run, not a race, Clare), I know that if and when my little girl starts doing junior parkrun, I’m going to have to be self-aware that I’m not overly ‘encouraging’ her to a weekly PB, and that I don’t get frustrated when she stops because she’s seen a fascinating ant or a really big leaf.




Here are some wise words on the subject, from the brilliant Paul Graham, who masterminded Bushy junior parkrun many years ago:


Parents have a tough job. Do your children know how tough it is? 


It isn’t easy being a parent especially when your child doesn’t take a junior parkrun seriously, when they try hard but don’t run well for that all important PB, or when it rains, or when a shoe lace comes undone, when another runner gets in their way, when they arrive late and miss the warm-up. Boy, who would want to be a parent? 


junior parkrun is fun but it can also be competitive. But how can it be fun and yet competitive? 


It depends on your child’s mood and what they want from their Sunday mornings. If they want to have fun then they will use junior parkrun to play, but if they want enjoyment then they will be more focused on their sporting performance for a particular goal. Who doesn’t like getting a PB or getting those milestone wristbands? 


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Playing at junior parkrun and not using it as sport is ok. It is OK because play requires imagination but has no purposeful goal, no particular rules and no significant physical exertion for fun and self-amusement. Whereas sport requires a level of competition, skill, physical effort and emotional control for enjoyment. Both are vital to a child’s development. 


So when a child wants to play for the simple pleasure of being outdoors with friends, that is just as important as the days when they want enjoyment to perform well to set a new sporting PB. 


Personally I ‘play’ at running nowadays! It is much more fun than sport. 


If you’re a parent, even if you’re having a tough week, your child is throwing enormous strops and you’re exhausted, try to take a deep breath (and a double espresso) and remember to always let your children run for fun. Or walk. Or stop.


If you see other parents whose behaviour concerns you, either talk to the Run Director on the day, or email me directly




Clare Fowler

Safeguarding Lead, parkrun UK



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