Each month our friends at Leeds Building Society explore a parkrun event and the positive impact it has had on the local community. This month’s Community Story is from Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun in the West Midlands, which was the brainchild of local university student Sam Payne as part of a theoretical assignment.
The idea began as a project to look at ways to address some of the stark health inequalities in that area, and the data was so compelling that the concept went from paper to reality in June 2017. Since then, this parkrun has had a transformational impact on the wider community and the local park, as Sam explains…
My second year at university saw the dreaded word ‘dissertation’ enter my vocabulary! Tasked with creating a hypothetical initiative that would benefit the local community, and coming up with a plan to raise the funding needed, I set about designing a proposal for a new parkrun in Worcester City.
The data I gathered made me realise that a new parkrun could significantly benefit the local community. My research concluded that many people in Worcestershire suffered from a range of health inequalities, and people from the most deprived parts of the city were 10% more likely to suffer Non Communicable Diseases than those from the most affluent areas. Furthermore, there is a 10 year life expectancy gap between these two groups.
This insight, combined with local research that showed an overwhelming enthusiasm for physical activity that was affordable, informal and could be undertaken with friends, showed that a regular, socially focussed event such as parkrun could provide an accessible activity that met the needs, and desires, of people in our area.
After meeting with the City Council and the Mayor, they agreed to fund and grant permission for a new parkrun at Worcester Pitchcroft and over the past 18 months we have used our parkrun to engage with, and aid, the local community.
What’s been particularly impactful is the way that parkrun is positively influencing our community beyond a Saturday morning. For example our parkrunners funded a defibrillator that is accessible to the wider community as well as parkrunners. We regularly join a group of community volunteers to litter pick, and many of our parkrunners have assisted the council with tree planting in our park.
Our parkrun is also working on a collaboration with Worcester Blind College which would result in their pupils having the opportunity to walk, run and volunteer at parkrun with the assistance of guides.
Recently we partnered with the University of Worcester to participate in a research study that aims to understand the motivations behind volunteering at parkrun. The insight gained will help the physical activity sector to understand the factors the enable parkrun to engage so successfully with volunteers.
All of these examples have enabled us to improve the local community in more ways than just physical health. parkrun is viewed by the council and members of the public as a positive asset to our area.
Since we launched, more than 1,400 local people have taken part, 10% of whom were inactive when they first registered with parkrun. This is an average of 260 people walking, running and volunteering at our event every Saturday. What’s particularly encouraging is that the percentage of ‘inactive people’ in Worcester City, according to Sport England, has dropped by 2.4% since the launch of Worcester Pitchcroft parkrun. We are proud to be one of the initiatives that is helping to make our community healthier and happier.
Leeds Building Society are profiling communities up and down the UK to be their next Community Story. They’re also providing funding of up to £25,000 to help improve local parkrun communities. Find out more about the Community Reward Scheme here.
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