A key goal of parkrun events is to bring people together to be part of a healthy community on a Saturday morning. The ideal recipe for a new US parkrun event is when multiple people are brought together by the desire to do something good for their community. This is exactly what led to the creation of Third Creek Greenway parkrun, which starts in Knoxville, TN on October 26th. The team share their story.
It all started with three emails.
After two years, Meredith had begun calling Knoxville “home.” A runner and marathoner, she had taken part in parkrun 5ks in the USA and UK, as well as coached cross-country and track and field. She emailed parkrun USA to investigate what it might take to start up an official event.
More of a plodder than a runner, Joe was due to move to Knoxville from the UK. Wanting to build links in his new community and set himself some new challenges, he sent a message to parkrun USA to see if anyone else was thinking of Knoxville as a location.
David, an existing Brit in Knoxville, had taken a trip down to Mountain Goat Trail parkrun in Sewanee to run at Tennessee’s first parkrun event. This got him major points in his friends’ running league table. He saw a callout for anyone interested in helping to set up a Knoxville parkrun and got in touch.
It was a bit awkward at first. Just scheduling video calls proved complicated enough, needing to take into account a 5 hour time difference for Joe in England.
But they went from being total strangers chatting on the internet to forming firm friendships around the shared goal of putting Knoxville on the “parkrun map”.
There are plenty of running groups, group runs, and paid-for events in Knoxville. What makes parkrun different?
Mountain Goat Trail parkrun in Sewanee started in 2018 as Tennessee’s first parkrun event
parkrun is fundamentally all about inclusion. Events are completely free and take place every week, year-round.
Everybody is welcome, whether their comfortable pace is walking, a slow and steady run, or fast and furious. parkrun rewards commitment to participating or volunteering through milestone t-shirts rather than speed at individual events.
Walkers are positively encouraged. In fact no-one ever comes last at a parkrun! The ‘tailwalker’ role at each event exists specifically to be the final person to cross the finish line, usually chatting away to others walking the course.
parkrun events are built on social support and community. Participants are cheered every step of the way by the volunteers, and a post-event breakfast meetup at a nearby cafe helps you get to know each-other over a well-earned coffee (or hot tea for the Brits).
And it comes with an added benefit. After you register once online and print out your personal barcode, you can show up at any of the 40 or so parkrun venues around the US. Or you can even go further afield to any of the 1500 venues worldwide! Your barcode brings you into a worldwide community of walkers, joggers and runners.
Once resolved to bring parkrun to Knoxville, our first step was to find a location that could host a free 5k each week.
Knoxville has a real outdoor vibe – with plenty of activities, parks and trails to encourage residents to make the most of the scenery in this lush part of Tennessee.
Third Creek Greenway has a lot going for it. Not far from downtown and the UTK campus, it’s one of the many popular greenway routes that criss-cross the city. A 5k course was easily devised that’s paved, accessible by public transit, and offers a few undulating points to keep life interesting.
Plus it takes place entirely under trees – shade that will be useful in the steamy Tennessee summers!
Practice events have been going on over the summer, a perfect way to test the course and build awareness. These have been followed by an excellent breakfast and they helped start a community that’s bringing together seasoned parkrun veterans and complete newbies, walkers and speed demons.
Most excitedly, we have met a number of people who said they normally feel too nervous and intimidated to attend group runs, but have felt empowered to come along each week and take part at their own comfortable pace. This is exactly the ethos and community that Third Creek Greenway parkrun is seeking to build.
There are so many people to thank for helping the event to get this far, with just weeks to go before the official launch on 10/26!
From very early on, Knoxville Parks and Recreation Department saw the benefits of having a free, weekly parkrun event in the city and recognized how the event supports their goal to help residents make the most of the great outdoors.
Knoxville Track Club is one of the largest running clubs in the country, whose mission of bringing residents into exercise to boost their health and wellbeing aligns fully with the goals of parkrun. Their generous donation was instrumental in helping launch the event, providing support for equipment, insurance, and the shared structures that help to support parkrun events throughout the US..
And of course everyone who has come out to support us each weekend with a practice run and breakfast! We’ve been joined by Knoxville natives, Floridean retirees, Welsh expats, young runners training for their event, experienced runners on a long Saturday run, plus a number of wonderful ‘barkrunners’!
It just goes to show how parkrun brings people together who may otherwise never have found one-another.
Finally, we are grateful to Andrea Zukowski from the parkrun USA team, who has been on hand for all kinds of guidance and answering questions!
Tennessee is the Volunteer state and parkrun is put on by volunteers every single weekend… We’re always happy to hear from those willing to volunteer! Volunteering at parkrun is fun and the experience of supporting your fellow walkers, joggers and runners is so rewarding. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in learning more.
See you on Saturday October 26th. Or any Saturday after that!
Third Creek Greenway parkrun
Dan Owen is Event Director at Fletcher’s Cove parkrun in Washington DC and a parkrun USA Ambassador. Dan explains how his parkrun family have been using the parkrun “pause” to connect with parkrunners all around the world. Another Saturday rolls around, and once more it’s time to face the surging nostalgia and gaping hole of those…
We can now confirm that parkrun events across the world will be suspended until the end of June. Please note that this represents a minimum time-frame for all parkrun countries and we expect most, if not all, closures to be in place for longer. Despite this announcement of extended closure, our view of…