The story of McAllister parkrun is a story about how the city of Lafayette, IN is coming together to create a healthier, more connected community. The course follows the cart paths of a repurposed golf course. The event is supported by a broad coalition of community groups. This new event is the first parkrun event in the Hoosier State, and 31st in the US. Put it in your calendar for May 11 at 8am, and every Saturday after that!
It can be a real challenge in a busy world to make sure that we build time into our lives for physical activity. But, in Lafayette, a dedicated group of volunteers are hoping that starting McAllister parkrun will help everyone find fun, free ways to engage in healthy activity and make new friends.
Lafayette, Indiana is a mid-sized city located about 125 miles southeast of Chicago and 60 miles northwest of the capital, Indianapolis. Lafayette and its neighbor, West Lafayette, the Home of Purdue University, both boast scenic locations along the banks of the Wabash River. And, like many cities all across the United States, Lafayette has been working hard to combat public health crises brought on by changes in lifestyles, social isolation, and the misuse of legal and illegal drugs.
The Lafayette Lions have supported their community and local community organizations for a hundred years, always looking for new ways to stay relevant to their core service mission. One member, Charlie Short, believed the Lions should find ways to promote free physical activity, to “eliminate financial barriers to event participation and give everyone a chance to come out, have some fun, meet some new people, and be active.” A chat with a fellow Lion in New Zealand planted the seed of an idea … parkrun!
parkrun events are already popular in some other Big 10 college towns, including College Park, MD (above), and Ann Arbor, MI
What Charlie learned in his research is that parkrun (the “p” is always lower-case) is a worldwide series of volunteer-led, free, weekly, timed 5k (3.1 mile) events that take place on Saturday mornings. parkrun events are always free for participants, inclusive and welcoming to people of all paces — walkers are very welcome! — family and dog-friendly, and led by volunteers drawn from the local community.
Even before its launch, McAllister parkrun feels like it has deep connections to the community. In addition to the Lions, McAllister parkrun has gained the support of the City of Lafayette, the Tippecanoe County Opioid Task Force, and a broad array of community health organizations, with missions related to promoting cardiac health, stroke prevention, supporting individuals with diabetes, preventing and addressing drug use, and providing mental health resources. Other supporters include the Boy and Girl Scouts, community centers, family service agencies, senior centers, and physical fitness providers.
Rachele Raines, from Willowstone Family Services, said: “We are pleased to see a free, family-friendly event added to the Greater Lafayette community. parkrun events are excellent opportunities to stay active together throughout the year. Activities like these help build stronger bonds within families and communities, and help build resilience in children, This reflects the heart of our mission to strengthen individuals and families across the lifespan.”
Families at Des Moines Creek parkrun in Washington State enjoy getting active together outdoors
The McAllister parkrun team hopes that this free, weekly, fun event will attract a diverse group of participants, including people who might be inspired to get into shape and walk a 5k, senior citizens, anyone who would like to give back to their community by volunteering, and maybe even the next generation of Olympians. After all, Lafayette’s last home-grown Olympian was Ray Ewry, who won eight gold medals in standing long jump, high jump, and triple jump at the 1900, 1904, and 1908 Olympic Games and it must be time for another!
McAllister Park is located along the banks of the Wabash River. It is the site of a former municipal golf course, closed in 2013, now reopened as a multi-use community park. The parkrun course itself is paved, making use of what used to be golf cart paths. The clubhouse will provide restrooms and a post-parkrun meetup spot.
Participants should show up a few minutes before the 8:00 am start for a pre-run briefing. There’s no need for a complicated check-in process. Just bring your free personal barcode. Everybody is free to leave as soon as they are done, but participants are encouraged to stay around to support other parkrunners.
A standard feature of parkrun events is a post-parkrun meetup for coffee and conversation. This reinforces the community-building aspect of parkrun, allowing locals and visitors from out of town to get to know each other. Coffee will be available at the McAllister Park Clubhouse after parkrun.
The post-parkrun coffee meetup is popular at Mansfield parkrun in Ohio
Although parkrun is cost-free, and essentially swag-free, too, those who complete 50 events are recognized as members of the parkrun 50 club, and they receive a (free) shirt to mark that milestone. Further milestones come after 100 events and beyond, or for volunteers who lend a hand at 25 events. Junior parkrunners (under the age of 18) earn a milestone t-shirt after 10 parkruns, which is a great incentive for the whole family to take part.
parkrun is as much about community and social support as it is about fitness. Some parkrunners are speedy, but there are no prizes or swag, and a person who walks the 5k in an hour is just as important as a person who speeds around in less than 20 minutes. One of the most important volunteer roles at every parkrun is the ‘tail walker’, whose job it is to finish last, guaranteeing that nobody else will finish last at parkrun.
Tailwalkers at Terry Hershey parkrun in Houston, TX … with tails! (optional)
Website & registration: parkrun.us/mcallister
Children: very welcome! All ages from 4 upwards. Under 11s must stay with a parent or guardian.
Dogs: very welcome! One dog per person, on a short leash.
Strollers: very welcome!
Time: 8:00am, Saturdays. Year-round, starting May 11, 2019.
Location and Parking: free on-site parking. McAllister Park’s entrance is at the corner of North 9th St and Golfview Drive, Lafayette IN 47904. The start/finish line will be at the clubhouse, on your right.
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