parkrun is growing in Scotland

It’s been almost two years since I started making noises about starting a “Glasgow Time Trial” (parkrun, as they’re now known). And what a journey it’s been. A lot of time and effort by myself and others, but that work is offset many times over by the immensely rewarding experience being involved with parkrun almost every weekend since then has been.

parkrun’s principles of a fun, sociable, inclusive, free, weekly timed run are a wonderful, and it’s so good the idea just spreads – an ideal example of a meme.

When I ran the 3rd Richmond parkrun nearly two years ago (you can read my race report here), I was so struck by the light weight and relaxed system (Bushy parkrun is so big, it’s not quite as obvious it’s as simple). Compared to a lot of races, it just feels so relaxed. A handful of volunteers are needed to make the event happen. And then, the best bit, was how welcome I was made to feel by the other runners, and at the post-run coffee. I was so enthused, I got to thinking about an event in Glasgow, and so started the year-long journey that culminated in Glasgow staging the first Scottish parkrun. Together with Iain,the support of my wife Frances, the parkrun HQ team, all the other race directors I spoke too, we soon had the groundwork in place to start the ball rolling in Scotland.

The growth of Glasgow parkrun has been spectacular. From our first event with 44 runners, we’re now regularly topping 200 participants, and our attendance record is a whopping 250 runners. Over 2,000 individual runners have now taken part so far, and we have well over 3,000 people registered with it as their home run. Regular participants have made new friends, and involvement spreads

So when I heard that some runners who’d come over from Edinburgh to take part were looking to start a parkrun there, I was absolutely delighted. parkrun is such a flexible, fun and sociable way to get involved in running, I had hoped it was only a matter of time before we’d see another event in Scotland, but I’d not rated the chances of one starting within a year of Glasgow! I knew there was a lot of work behind the scenes to get the paperwork in place, and councils can be slow organisations to work with. Of course it transpired that Gary, one of the Event Directors, worked for Edinburgh council… But it’s the enthusiasm of the whole team that’s been the big driver.

The event’s starting with a bang tomorrow, and I’m excited to be going over to take part (it’ll be my 6th event, but just the 8th time I’ve run at a parkrun event!). Seeing the idea growing in my adoptive neck of the woods makes me burst with pride, and gives me just a tiny glimpse of what parkrun’s founder, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, must be feeling as he sees new parkrun events starting around the country/world, and the success of attendance of 3,000 runners every week taking part across the country.

For me though, whilst running is very much at the core of what parkrun is about, by far the best thing is the community and support it engenders. It’s really about the journey, and who you meet along the way, than the destination itself. Runners at the front of the pack are always great to see, but I get so much more from seeing participants from across the speed spectrum returning, growing and improving each time, learning from their experience, and pushing their own targets. It’s that determination to improve and to challenge, to have fun, to be supportive to others, and together to build something special that really unites parkrunners, and makes the event such a wonderful idea and privilege to be associated with.

The Edinburgh team have put in a lot of effort to get to this point. On the eve of the event’s launch I can’t help but be genuinely excited for them and the journey they have ahead. They’ll see and experience highs, and lows, along the way, but the sense of pride they’ll feel, as they watch runners tackle their challenges, will serve as it’s own reward. The participants, tomorrow and every week, will soon get a sense of that, and how parkrun is a wonderful addition to the local community.

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