With parkrun resuming around the world, many of us will now be thinking about returning to our favourite free, weekly, timed activity.
But what does a parkrun actually look like, and if you’re a first-timer, what can you expect to see at your very first parkrun?
We’ve put together this handy guide, explaining just what a parkrun looks like.
Right now, we can’t tell you if you should expect to have your usual coffee after, or if you’ll get to hug your parkrun friends. But when parkrun is unpaused, we can tell you to expect the following as always.
Not everyone is there for a PB and you don’t have to be either
Not everyone at parkrun is there for a PB (a personal best). As parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt says himself, “it was always about the coffee” and many parkrunners are there to catch up with friends, feel part of their community, and take part in a 5k in their own way.
There is a Tail Walker so you will never come last, and many parkruns offer pacers to help you achieve goals anywhere from 20-50 minutes. There are walkers, joggers, runners, volunteers and spectators just enjoying the fresh air in their local park.
Your personal parkrun goal is always welcome. Maybe you could be an event’s 40 minute pacer, or a hi-vis hero one week, or maybe you want to go and have a chat with the event team?
parkrun isn’t just about achieving a running PB.
Not everyone is an olympic runner in fancy gear
Super speedy runners, with heads glancing down at gadgets, wearing fancy shoes and lots of lycra, are not all you’ll see at a parkrun.
parkrunners wear everything from fancy dress, to jeans and a t-shirt, and a leather jacket has been spotted more than once.
And parkrunners in wellies are not unheard of either.
There is even the odd dinosaur on the start line!
Plus, your best party dresses are welcomed too.
If you would rather participate in a walk with some friends, without any sports kit, parkrun is definitely for you too.
All you need at a parkrun is some comfortable clothing and your barcode.
A briefing and a place to leave your belongings
Never done a parkrun before, forgotten your favourite route while we were on pause or a seasoned tourist wanting a map of a new adventure? No worries!
Most events have someone dedicated to giving a First Timers Briefing. You’ll get a course introduction (or refresher) from an event expert who, along with other volunteers, checked the course beforehand and can answer any questions you might have.
And don’t worry, parkrun events have usually thought of everything. Check your local parkrun’s event page and social media where they’ll mention everything from toilets, parking, post-run coffee and options for leaving your belongings while you walk, jog, run, volunteer or cheer.
If there’s anything not covered, or anything you’re unsure about, just drop the team a message on social media or via the event team email listed on the website. A local member of the team will get back to you and be more than happy to help.
There will be people there just like you
We’ll let you into a parkrun statistic we love to celebrate. The average finish time for parkrunners around the world is 33:03, down from 22:16 in 2005. The time participants take to complete a parkrun is constantly getting slower, as more and more people of all ages, abilities and walks of life join in.
Your average parkrunner may be pushing a pram, or completing the course in a wheelchair, they might be walking with an elderly relative or chatting their way around with a friend, but there will be others there just like you! We promise. If you’re wondering about the suitability of any parkrun course to accommodate pushchairs or wheelchairs, just check the event’s webpage or social media and get in touch with the local team.
Many parkrunners tell us that coming to a parkrun was one of their first steps to a happier, healthier life and they just wish they’d joined in sooner.
Another thing that is certain, parkrun’s hi-vis heroes will always be there to cheer you on at the beginning, the middle and through the finish funnel. No matter what time you finish in.
Marshals, Time Keepers, Barcode Scanners, Pacers and Tail Walkers, are all there to help you along the way.
Be it your first time or 500th parkrun, we never want you to feel lost or like you don’t belong at an event, so never be afraid to ask for a little parkrun guidance from our wonderful volunteers.
Now you’ve read this guide and you’re a parkrun expert, we’d love to see you at your local parkrun.
Maybe you’ll bring a friend or make friends there. Just remember that every parkrunner you see will have started out one parkrun at a time, just as you are now.
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