Parkrun – How to Miss the Point Completely

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I haven’t blogged for ages. This is, in equal measure, down to my own lack of spare time recently and the fact that I’ve not really been motivated to comment on anything in the news lately. Even with all the fuss about the Stoke Gifford Parkrun and the Parish Council wanting to charge them for the use of the park there, I wasn’t tempted to blog about it. Until, that is, I read this article Dan Jones: Fuming about a £1 fee to run in a park? Just jog on in the London Evening Standard on Friday.

The problem with inserting a link into a blog is, of course, that you don’t know whether your reader (I’m assured by WordPress Statistics that I do have one!) has bothered to click on said link and read what it points to. Suffice to say, in my humble opinion, Mr Jones has in his article spectacularly missed the point behind Parkrun.

In his second paragraph he says:

“Stoke Gifford has a park in which a few hundred people regularly get together to run as part of an initiative called Parkrun, which encourages people to do something which, if had they any gumption, they could do for themselves: put one foot before the other and don’t stop until you feel quite ill.”

I gather from this statement that Mr Jones assumes that those of us who go to Parkruns wouldn’t run at all if Parkrun didn’t exist. Many of those who take part in my home Parkrun are also members of running clubs and run several times during the week. I am not a member of a running club but I run at least five times a week not including my 5k jog on a Saturday at 9am.

Later in his article the reporter goes on to admit he jogs himself and would be mortified if he were asked for any money to do so but he also says:

I do this plodding entirely of my own volition, rather than through a nannying organisation, and could happily do it elsewhere if necessary. It takes the barest motivation to put on a pair of shoes and start running; a disgusted look in the mirror and a pang of self-loathing for eating all my children’s Mini Eggs is usually enough.

I believe that Parkrun is far from a “nannying organisation”. I can’t speak for all Parkrunners of course but I certainly don’t run out of “self-loathing” whether it be a “pang” of it or otherwise. I run to stay fit. I run a Parkrun most weekends because I enjoy the camaraderie of the other runners and volunteers  there. I like the sense of being a part of something organised, the encouragement and advice given to me by those who can run faster than me and the small amount of the same I hope I give to those (usually through pacing once a month) that don’t run as fast or as frequently as me.

My own daughter is the most unlikely of children to enjoy running. However she began coming to Parkrun as a volunteer. Now she runs most weeks. Whatever else Parkrun achieves I will always be eternally grateful that it has encouraged a teenager to take part in aerobic exercise once a week rather than lie in her bed listening to Spotify!

Several of my fellow runners have gone on to social media, or as Mr Jones calls it “that symposium of the feeble-minded”, and challenged him to come to a Parkrun to see for himself. Maybe, just maybe, that would have been a good idea before writing an article about something!