I know that Parkruns are nothing new but as I plan my New Year’s Day run I thought it worth writing a bit out this great ‘activity’.
It was thanks to Discovery Vitality that I came across Parkrun . This is an international movement which encourages people to get out of bed on a Saturday morning and have some fun outdoors. Participation in outdoor activities are becoming a bit of an anomaly in most households so it’s great that someone thought of a way to encourage people to get out there – and for free for that matter.
Parkruns tick quite a lot of boxes for me: Outdoors, physical activity, quality time with my dogs and husband, an opportunity to compete in a non-threatening environment because you’re ultimately only competing with yourself, taking part in a social activity – Parkrunners are friendly and Vitality points. What more could you ask for really. Yes, we don’t have a mountain or ocean but there’s nothing I can do about that.
In South Africa Parkrunning is most important for two reasons: We have a real obesity problem and historically a lot of people can’t afford to exercise or have a safe place to exercise for free (jogging in your neighbourhood alone not always the best idea). Parkrun now gives people access to safe venues and because you’re timed you can measure your progress. You can also run/walk at your own pace so no matter how unfit you are you can start (at the proverbial) “somewhere”. Physical activity has always been a chore for me but now I look forward to the weekly run and my future self thanks me for it.
The second reason is more obvious in that it brings South Africans together. It’s great to see the same people week on week and know that they have gotten out of bed for the same reasons you have. It’s easy enough to have chat with them and so you can make new friends. Being a volunteer really open up potential for this as you spend quite a lot of time together setting up. Also It’s become popular to Parkrun no matter where you are over the weekend and so Parkrun has become a way for people to explore each other’s cities. JHB is infamous for having ‘nothing’ to do and ‘nowhere’ to go other than a mall so it’s nice to show off a bit of our natural beauty and social tendencies to people from other parts of the country. Jo’burgers are not all money driven snobs.
I hope that 2016 will see several more Parkruns starting up as it becomes more and more popular. Some runs now easily have 1000 runners a week and I suspect these numbers will only grow as people realise that Parkrun is also Parkfun (sorry, I couldn’t help myself).
So, this is my new thing, it could be your new thing. Try it out.