It is no small boast to describe yourself as the largest sporting event in the world yet parkrun does exactly that. Founded in 2004 by Paul Sinton-Hewitt in Bushy Park in the UK, this collection of 5km timed running events now takes place in 14 countries, in more than 1000 parks around the world.
To participate in a parkrun all you have to do is register once on the website, print the barcode sent to you, and show up at a parkrun near you – even when you go on holiday! Managed by volunteers, parkrun is a free-for-all event. When the parish council in Stoke Gillford decided that they want to charge runners a fee to fund path maintenance, events were subsequently cancelled. A testimony that parkrun is serious about their principles of ‘weekly, free, 5km, for everyone, forever.’
After a meeting with Paul before running the London Marathon in 2011, ultra-marathon champion Bruce Fordyce brought parkrun to South Africa. It took Bruce seven months to organise the first parkrun and albeit reluctant in his role as Country Manager, he soon found that it re-ignited his passion for running in ways he could never foresee. Bruce soon realised that parkrun is “enhancing communities. Bringing them together. Bringing them a way to share a healthy pursuit in safe, friendly and usually very pretty natural surroundings.”
Relying on a ‘cookie cutter’ approach to events, parkrun in South Africa started out as a timed run but yet it was instrumental in changing the shape of parkrun by welcoming walkers. Bruce says: “These days you’ll see walkers – not just runners – of all abilities at parkrun. Youngsters who have dreams of breaking world records, old couples who walk holding hands, parents pushing prams, dads’ patiently coaching their young daughters. Young, old, fat, thin, fit, only just beginning. parkrun embraces them all.”
Today there are 96 parkrun locations in South Africa, 5 of these in the Garden Route and Klein Karoo.
The Hartenbos parkrun started on the 14th of March 2015 and takes place weekly from 08:00 at Kleingeluk on the Oudtshoorn Road.
Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hartenbosparkrun/
Find their page on parkrun’s website at www.parkrun.co.za/hartenbos/
The George parkrun takes place from 08:00 at the Botanical Gardens on Caledon Street.
Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/georgeparkrun/
Find their page on parkrun’s website at www.parkrun.co.za/george/
The first Knysna parkrun was held on the 31st of January 2015 and takes place weekly at 08:00 from 150m north of Loerie Park on George Rex Drive.
Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/knysnaparkrun/
Find their page on parkrun’s website at www.parkrun.co.za/knysna/
Being in a hotter region, the Oudtshoorn parkrun takes place every Saturday from 07:00 (Oct – Mar) and 08:00 (Apr – Sep) at Surval Boutique Olive Estate on the R328.
Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/oudtshoornparkrun/
Find their page on parkrun’s website at www.parkrun.co.za/oudtshoorn/
In Prince Albert, the parkrun takes place every Saturday at 07:00 (Oct – Mar) and 08:00 (Apr – Sep) from Odendaal Stadium on Odendaal Street.
Find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/princealbertparkrun/
Find their page on parkrun’s website at www.parkrun.co.za/princealbert/
Being entirely volunteer driven, parkrun relies heavily on corporate sponsorship. In South Africa, parkrun has teamed up with Blue Label Telecoms, Dis-Chem, Mr Price Sport and Discovery Vitality. 300 fitness points are awarded to Vitality members who complete a parkrun.
Dedication and commitment are well rewarded at parkrun. Runners who complete 50 runs are awarded a 50 Club T-shirt. There are also a 100 Club, a 250 Club and a 500 Club. Junior runners (under the age of 17) even have a 10 Club, while a Volunteer Club includes everyone who has volunteered more than 25 times. Do you need any more reason to make it to a parkrun near you?