One of my daughters works for an organization which has as one its aims, to improve the health of the community. I talked to her about this and I said, “No need to reinvent the wheel. Just copy what parkrun does. What they do is just about perfect.”
Well what does parkrun do?
They organize 5km runs around the world every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. The closest parkrun will be somewhere near you. A parkrun encourages people to get out there and go for a 5km run. It improves the health and fitness of those that run.
Parkruns are also a social exercise. Either because you meet someone you already know or you gradually get to know the other runners. A parkrun will strengthen the community in which it is held.
Parkruns are as competitive as you want them to be. There is no emphasis on coming first or winning. People are applauded for 50/100/200 runs, not for coming first. You can make the race as competitive as you want. You can compare your time against other similar people in the past or people elsewhere in the world. You can see where you rank. You can give yourself all sorts of goals. You can just run and chat. You can take your dog or baby in a pram with you.
Another thing parkruns do is use the latest most up to date technology appropriately. Shortly after every run my time and photo has been up there in the clouds. It is incredibly good use of the latest technology without worshiping the technology or letting the technology take over. The aim is still to enjoy your run; to have a bit of exercise; to meet a few friends. Not to get maximum number of hits.
Parkrun tourism is another side. At our local parkrun we always see visitors from elsewhere. And I have just gone from Hobart and visited two park runs in England. A fantastic way for us tourists to spend our time. Doing what the locals do. Experiencing a new course. Meeting some great people.
Parkruns are free. No entry cost. Which means there is no cost or hassle involved in collecting a small entry fee from each participant. However there are some costs and chores involved. One solution seems to be, get sponsors to pay for things, in exchange for giving them the right to advertise to you via email. The other solution seems to be to get volunteers to help manage and run the event. This also seems to work. Most people I have spoken to assume that their time to help manage and run the event will come.
Parkruns do not discriminate. Every run I have seen has contained people of all different ages, sex, race, religion and orientation. I have not seen many activities where a 60 year old male can compete alongside a 10 year old female. I normally take the role of the 60 year old male.
I finish my spiel to Melissa. She has patiently listened to my sermon. I am a true believer. What will happen from here? Will the YMCA of Hobart learn from parkruns when they introduce new programs? Do they need to?