Oak Grove parkrun, which launches June 1st, aims to create a healthy community that links towns on the Kentucky-Tennessee border and the military families that call nearby Fort Campbell home.
A parkrun brings so many health and most importantly community benefits. Community was at the forefront of Event Director Zack Lever’s thinking when he decided to start a parkrun in his community. Zack is a retired US Army Command Sergeant Major. He leads the team of volunteers that is starting Oak Grove parkrun, directly across from Fort Campbell Kentucky, home of the Army’s legendary 101st Airborne, Air Assault division, a.k.a. the “Screaming Eagles”.
Walkers are just as welcome as runners at parkrun
parkrun (always spelled with lower-case ‘p’) is the name for a series of free 5k run/walk events held on Saturday mornings, year-round. What started as a simple meetup for a dozen friends in one London park in 2004 has now grown to around 1500 events worldwide with over 250,000 participants every week.
At parkrun events the focus is on community and sustainability rather than on competition or swag. All ages are welcome, from 4 to 84 or more. Dogs and strollers are welcome too, and only add to the fun. There are no prizes for finishing first, and the volunteer tailwalker ensures that nobody finishes last at parkrun.
In the US parkrun is still a relatively new concept, though US participation is currently doubling every year. Oak Grove parkrun is the 33rd event in the US, and the second in Kentucky, following the launch of Joe Creason parkrun in Louisville in 2018.
Crissy Field parkrun in San Francisco takes place on a former US army airfield
Zack learned about parkrun from social media forums, and had been following for 2-3 years, always with an eye on bringing an event to his own community. Co-Event Director Tony Vierra is a sometime running partner of Zack’s, and Zack sold him on the idea of bringing an event to Oak Grove.
What motivated Zack to start a parkrun in the first place? Zack: “The inclusiveness of parkrun is just fantastic. From the walker and talker to the fast runner looking for a personal best, parkrun is for everybody. In fact, at the informal trial events that we’ve been holding every week ahead of the official launch, the largest contingent has been walkers. It really is community fellowship at its finest.”
A key feature of parkrun events is the post-parkrun meetup for coffee and conversation at a nearby cafe. Oak Grove parkrunners will meet at nearby Mugsy’s Coffee. It’s a welcoming place to catch up with old friends, or to meet new people.
Mugsy’s Coffee is the place to be after Oak Grove parkrun
In some US cities it can be difficult to obtain a permit for a free, weekly 5k run/walk event. But when Zack started scouting possible locations he faced an unusual challenge. Multiple communities were taken by his pitch and he was faced with a choice of where to hold the parkrun.
Oak Grove War Memorial Walking Trail Park always seemed like the ideal location. It sits directly across from Fort Campbell (Gate 7), a perfect setting for bringing military and civilian communities together.
Some military families remain in the area for decades, making it easier to put down roots in the community. Other families have to move regularly. Zack moved his family 14 times during his military career. He sees parkrun as a great way to make community connections.
Joe Creason parkrun in Louisville started in Spring 2018
Zack looks forward to a time when there will be parkrun events near many military installations, providing a point of connection for families as they move from place to place. Some service members have discovered parkrun while based in the UK, where there are over 500 parkrun events around the country every week. The recent launch of Seewog parkrun in Germany has attracted a good following of Americans from nearby Ramstein Air Base. Many of them will be happy if they can find a parkrun nearby when they return to the US.
Oak Grove War Memorial Walking Trail Park pays homage to the veterans from all U.S. wars and conflicts by displaying a series of markers along the asphalt paved, wooded trail. Special monuments are on site for Vietnam War Veterans and a heartfelt poem for Soldiers. The public park is well lit and features picnic tables, benches and restrooms. The earth friendly meandering trail offers a scenic respite to both nature and exercise enthusiasts.
One of the supporters of Oak Grove parkrun is Christian County Health Department. Their goal is to bring more wellness opportunities to the county, and the new parkrun event clearly serves that. Obesity rates in Christian County are higher than the national average, and the health department would like to improve that.
Other supporters for Oak Grove parkrun include local company BDX Graphix, and the staff of Kinnard Mission Training Complex.
Zack found a lot of support from the Oak Grove tourism coordinator Whitney Stewart and its director Traci Cunningham in receiving permission to use this park.
The park is conveniently situated just a short hop from I-24, making it easy to reach from nearby or more distant cities. With millions of parkrun participants worldwide, “parkrun tourism” is definitely a thing, and it can draw visitors to towns that they might not otherwise think of visiting.
For example, one year ago Mountain Goat Trail parkrun started in tiny Sewanee, TN, and the event has brought many visitors to Sewanee from across the US and overseas. This included Zack and team, who recently made the drive to Sewanee to get a first-hand look at how a parkun event works.
Mountain Goat Trail parkrun in Sewanee, TN is the closest parkrun to Oak Grove, KY
TIME: 9am, every Saturday.
REGISTER: go to parkrun.us/register, fill out a simple form, and you’ll be emailed a free personal barcode that you print out and bring along on Saturdays
CHILDREN: all ages welcome! Children aged 4 and older can participate with their own barcode. Under 11s should stay with a parent or other responsible adult at all times. Strollers very welcome.
DOGS: very welcome! No more than one dog per person, on a short leash.
FACEBOOK: Oak Grove parkrun
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