Saturday, 2 February 2013

parkrun proximity

One of my great wishes for current runners (but not yet parkrunners) and for non-runners who may just end up running one day due to parkrun, is that they get a parkrun event near them sometime soon.

The overriding main reason why I first tried out parkrun was due to how close the event is to my home. I can jog to the start line in about 7 minutes from my front door. Now that is what I call convenient! In fact, due to parkrun growing organically and not advertising, it is only due to having been running in the park (due to it's convenience) that I saw one of the early events and investigated further. Otherwise, three years later and I may still not have known parkrun even existed.

There are so many reasons why parkrun is great and I won't bother to list them all. But, for example, the fact that parkrun is free and doesn't require a commitment to attend frequently helps to break down any barriers that non-runners have to trying it out. That in turn leads to more non-runners becoming parkrunners - great!

That said, and taking my home parkrun event as an example, for a city the size of Coventry you may expect a free running event to attract many more than the 350 (ish) we tend to average these days. That would of course raise the issues of "how big is too big for a parkrun event" and "when do you need a sister parkrun event", which I will probably follow up on with other posts sometime soon.

So why doesn't a parkrun event like Coventry parkrun grow even bigger? According to the 2011 census, Coventry has a population of around 318,000. Now I have no evidence to go on whatsoever, but I would suspect that if you plotted the homes of regular Coventry parkrunners on a map, I predict that the highest density of parkrunners would be closer to the park, gradually decreasing the further away from the park you get. I am sure there are some that come from further afield, but the majority from within a couple of miles I would guess. And I suspect that there are simliar trends at most parkrun events.

So if you take that one step further, people that live 5 miles away from their local parkrun are probably less likely to attend than those that live 1 mile away. And once you get to 10 or 20 miles away, it's starting to get down to a very few committed parkrun regulars.

As an example, this weekend I will be at a spot in Sussex where I would say it's 20 plus miles in every direction to the nearest parkrun. It wouldn't be convenient for me to attend one of those this weekend anyway, but at 20 miles it is starting to get to an unreasonable distance for me (and for most) to run a 5K run. The fact it is parkrun might tip the balance for me, but you are unlikely to attract newbies.

I hope this isn't sounding negative. It is supposed to be positive and here goes....

What I wish for is that one day parkrun will have grown such that every city, town and village (that wants one) has a parkrun event. I admit that not all places may have a suitable venue, but many, many will.

Where I will be this weekend has a suitable recreation area. It might have to be a 3 or even 4 lap course, but if there were a parkrun there and people became aware of it I am sure it would be a success as there must be several thousand people living within a couple of miles. Enough to have a successful parkrun event for sure. I don't suppose many of those locals, even the runners, know about parkrun yet or that they could apply to set one up if they so wished.

With the organic growth of parkrun, I am sure that these little pockets of parkrun absence will gradually diminish over time. I hope that is true both for the people that live in these areas and for those of us parkrunners that stay with friends and are unable to do a parkrun ourselves or take the opportunity to introduce our friends to the parkrun phenomenon on their own doorstep.

One day everyone that wants one will have a local parkrun. Or at least let's hope they do! Then they will all be as lucky as the rest of us.


  1. I think there's a whole world of (almost) untapped tourism potential in parkrun travel. There are so many towns, suburbs and villages that could and hopefully will start up parkrun events in Australia. I like to cycle to my two closest parkruns - in each case it's only a 20 to 40 min pedal. Not only is it a great warmup, but it's environmentally friendly too!

  2. My local (conservative) borough council, Wandsworth London, have steadfastly refused to support parkruns in their borough throwing up spurious objections. I have tried my councillors and MP too to no avail, so no chance to run locally for the borough's citizens. I take the train to Richmond Park about 10 miles away each Saturday to run, it is an amazing park and course, just one circuit in London's largest park with a deer herd that sometimes joins in before effortlessly accelerating past us


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