Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Setting up a parkrun

As somebody who has set up a parkrun from scratch, I thought that it would be worthwhile to give an insight into this and it will hopefully help others who are thinking about setting one up.

The first thing I would suggest that you do is to go to a parkrun that has been around for a while and chat to the Event Director or the Run Director and shadow them and see what happens on the day and get as much information about set up and tasks as possible, if you are going to be put off then you need to do your homework.

If you have a venue in mind, try and think as a runner as well and not just an organiser, run round it yourself and look at the positives and negatives, if you find them, other people will also find them.

As a guide, you should be looking for the following things:

1. Parking
2. Toilets
3. Shelter
4. A cafe
5. A good start and finish area
6. A safe course that always has passage for other park users.

Try and get the support of friends or a local running Club and have a run round the course with a few people and identify any Health and Safety issues because you will need to complete a risk assessment and this will normally be completed with the support of a Member of the parkrun HQ Team.

Think about how many Volunteers you will need each week to run an event, each course is different and although events usually have a minimum number, you may need a lead bike or marshals on parts of the course that could be dangerous.

The minimum is normally the following:

1. Timer
2. Tokens
3. Barcode Scanner
4. Unreadable Barcodes

After that you can also have Marshals and a Back marker and Spot Checks on Times.

So, you need to think about having at least 4 people every week, the Run Director may also give the Run Brief and also Co-ordinate the Volunteers.

At Roundhay we have over 200 registered Volunteers and recruit every week and train people on every piece of equipment and also as a Run Director so that we are never short.

If you are satisfied that you could have a venue and could put a Team together, the next thing to do is drop a line to and say that you are interested in starting a parkrun.

parkrun will decide whether it is viable or not and normally somebody like Tom Williams will meet you and have a look at the course and advise you what is next.

Speaking from experience, what happened at Roundhay Park was that I met Tom and we walked the course and then I set up a meeting with the owners of the Park who were Leeds City Council Parks and Countryside and we gained agreement that we could hold a parkrun, with certain stipulations.  I would advise that you work very closely with the park, if you have no park, you have no run.

Once you have agreement to use the park, you need to complete a risk assessment and again, this would normally be completed with a Member of the parkrun Team and has to be agreed for safety and insurance purposes.

You then have to raise £2500 which is half the cost of the set up of a parkrun, the other £2500 comes from the parkrun sponsors.

This is the toughest part of setting up a parkrun in my opinion as money is scarce nowadays.

My suggestion is that you contact your local MP or Cllr as they have access to funds or they can talk to the right people to gain local council funding and that you also contact your local sports development officer for help.

At Roundhay, we secured our funding in about 8 weeks and this is pretty quick compared to some that I heard had taken 10 months, do not let this put you off, if you have belief in what you want to d, you will do it.

Once you have secured the funding and have your risk assessment, you need to put a Team of people together who can help you run the event, please do not become a one man or women band as I found out, this can cause more problems than needed, empower people who want to help and share the responsibility so that you can enjoy it.

Once you have a Team, you would agree a Test run and invite 20 - 30 runners and actually be shown and use the kit that you would have at a parkrun.  This is where you can learn who to use the kit and to see any potential issues with the course etc, this is very valuable time.

Once you have had a test run and all is well, parkrun HQ would give you a start date and you will provide information for your web page and set up a Facebook and Twitter page and start to promote the date and gain support.  It is worth contacting all your local running clubs as this is where a lot of support will come from.

Look forward to the first day, check all your kit and have a Run brief put together and brief your Team well and enjoy it!

Starting a parkrun is one of the most rewarding and amazing things I have ever done, and to see all the runners and Volunteers in your park is amazing.

If you get the opportunity to do this, please do and there are always many of us that have done it and we support each other in any way that we can.

These words and thoughts are my own words and you must contact parkrun HQ if you want any further information.


  1. This is brilliant Simon. Very interesting all the steps involved in setting up a parkrun.

    I will put a permenant link to this post somewhere on the homepage so that this is always visible.

    I hope this helps a lot of people start up their own parkrun.

    Thank you.

  2. Thanks Simon (and Ian). I'd be really interested to also hear from anyone who's managed to set up a Park Run in the US lately - I'm sure there must be some US-centric rules and regulations that have to be followed!?

  3. A pleasure Ian, hopefully it will give people an indication from the Event Director side of the house.

    Kaiveejay, I believe that they are in the process of setting up the first one in the US and so if you contact parkrun, I am sure that they would be able to tell you what the conditions were.


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