News - 17th December 2020

Keeping connected: Lockdown in numbers


It’s been a year like no other, but, in some ways at least, a year in which we’ve done what we always do: using data to help guide our way. parkrun’s Global Head of Analysis Mike Graney talks us through a year of incredible insight.


With over two million different participants at parkrun globally over the course of a normal year, finding an efficient way to gather insights from such a broad spectrum of walkers, runners and volunteers, young and old, and from diverse backgrounds, across the parkrun world, is a challenge.


A major source of data and insight that has supported our decision making through 2020 has been gathered through online surveys emailed to the parkrun community. Based on what we already know about parkrunners, we are able to select a representative portion of parkrunners to help us build up a view of participants thoughts and feelings (across a wide range of subjects), and then use that information to help us make decisions.


Over the course of this year, we have surveyed more people than ever before and gathered in excess of 130,000 individual responses from the parkrun community. We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to fill in one of our surveys. You really are helping us understand what is important to you in a way that we have never been able to achieve before.


Now in its 24th week, the “return to parkrun” surveys, which monitor the community’s intent to return to parkrun, as either a walker, runner or volunteer, have received almost 80,000 responses.


Our data shows that the people taking part in the “return to parkrun” surveys had, between them, in the twelve months leading up to the pause of parkrun in March 2020, completed over one million parkruns, and volunteered more than 200,000 times.


While these surveys have shown a real resilience in terms of the desire to return to parkrun, we remain aware of the toll that the pandemic and associated lockdowns have taken on the parkrun community.


Across the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand we have carried out further research work to build our understanding of this impact.


The common thread running through the responses remains the strong desire to reconnect with people. At least seven out of ten respondents in each territory indicated that connections with others in their community have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Among the large majority of those surveyed, who consistently told us they are ready to return to parkrun, a key motivator across all territories was to feel part of a community again.


In November, we emailed all adults who had volunteered at junior parkrun events, in the UK and Ireland, during the twelve months before March 2020. Once again it was relationships with others that was a recurring theme in the responses. Eight out of ten parents felt that their children’s connections with their friends have been harmed over the past six months, and the clear majority of respondents felt the lack of volunteering at junior parkrun meant they have spent less time with their friends, and reduced their number of social connections.


The junior parkrun survey also illustrates the breadth of response we receive to our surveys. Volunteers at every single junior event in the UK and Ireland provided a response. More than 150 events returned 20 or more individually completed surveys, the equivalent of a full volunteer team on a Sunday morning at the average junior event.


If we add in to the equation the ongoing range of surveys we undertake on a regular basis, such as those tracking trust in parkrun (which remains at least 92% in the territories surveyed), plus regular surveys to understand volunteer experience, then we have gratefully received survey responses from at least one participant at 95% of parkrun events across the globe this year.


We might not all be back at our local parkrun events just yet, but we will keep on listening, learning, and getting through this, together.

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