This time last year, to mark International Women’s Day 2020, parkrun countries came together in a global celebration of female participation.
Here, we look back on that special day, the legacy it left behind, and parkrun’s ongoing commitment to breaking down barriers to participation for women and girls.
On the 8 March 2020, compared to a typical Saturday, we welcomed an incredible 15,000 additional women and girls to parkrun events around the world, with almost 151,000 women and girls walking, jogging or running.
Named after International Women’s Day, the IWDparkrun also saw the biggest number of female volunteers ever recorded at parkrun with 2,000 more female volunteers than a typical Saturday, and 400 women and girls volunteering for the very first time. In England, the day saw a special partnership between parkrun and This Girl Can.
Whilst one off celebrations like IWDparkrun provide us with a great and valuable opportunity to shine the spotlight on our commitment to inclusivity, our work certainly didn’t start and definitely doesn’t finish there.
We continue working hard to understand and remove many of the barriers to participation that people face, including women and girls. We’ve made changes to the delivery of our events, for example introducing First Timer Welcomes and renaming the Tail Runner role to Tail Walker, to reflect our commitment to encouraging participation by those who want to walk, and at the same time addressing the fear that some have of coming last. Our imagery and messaging has also changed to better reflect the wide range of people that take part, showcasing the incredible women and girls of all ages, abilities and backgrounds who participate in our events.
Prior to the pausing of parkrun due to COVID-19, the number of females taking part in parkrun was growing year on year and the IWDparkrun provided a much needed springboard for lots of people to be more active over the past year.
Helen Morgan told us her story about how taking part in one event can be life changing. Encouraged by her friend, Helen took part in the IWDparkrun as a first timer. She was bowled over by the welcoming, fun and friendly atmosphere and credits the IWDparkrun with sparking a new love of running which she shares with her dog Cookie. Since March 2020 Helen has regularly run twice a week and also takes part in online home fitness sessions. She said, “I’ve got the running bug! I loved my parkrun and can’t wait to get back to it once the restrictions are lifted”.
Clare Jones’ story is equally uplifting, and shows just how powerful parkrun participation can be in encouraging people to carve out a new, healthier path.
Clare got to the point where she could barely walk due to osteoarthritis and assumed she would never be able to run. Then, her physio recommended she be more active. She saw the IWDparkrun being advertised on social media, and the message of inclusivity inspired her to give it a go. Following lockdown, Clare began recording her (not)parkruns and also kept in touch with her local event, Riverside parkrun, on social media. She has now completed a virtual 50k challenge, raising over £100 for charity, and has inspired her 24 year old daughter to start running regularly. Clare loves the fact that they can now run together and, thankfully, the pain in her knees has almost disappeared entirely. Like Helen, Clare has been bitten by the parkrun bug and says that she “… can’t wait to be able to do a real parkrun again at Riverside!”
Since the pausing of parkrun more than 45,000 women and girls around the world have completed almost half a million (not)parkruns with an average finish time of 37 minutes and 32 seconds. Over half (51%) of (not)parkrunners are women, and we hope that this will translate into parkrun event participation when all events resume around the world.
The signs are positive, with females comprising 50% the 57,350 people who ran, walked or volunteered last weekend across the parkrun territories that have resumed.
Although our celebration of International Women’s Day 2021 is a little different to last year, we nevertheless remain resolute and committed to our goal of encouraging women and girls to participate in parkrun, as walkers, joggers, runners and volunteers and, like Clare and Helen, acting as incredible role models to others.
As more and more events reopen around the world, we look forward to welcoming everyone back and building on the success of previous years in making sure that parkrun truly is open to all.
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