In 2007 I moved to South West London and joined a Triathlon Club, Thames Turbo Triathlon. On our regular Saturday morning runs the coach would jog us over to the start of something called the Bushy Park Time Trial. Over 100 people would gather to run 5km. At the finish someone with a laptop would add your time to the list.
Nine years later and parkrun is a global movement with hundreds of events and over 1 million 5km runs completed. Somehow, I’ve only taken part in just over 60 runs to date, but it’s now firmly part of my weekly routine. Parkrun tourism is responsible for my rediscovered enthusiasm.
What is a parkrun tourist?
With parkrun events are taking place in communities across the UK. You can arrive at any start line, run 5km and have the time recorded against your profile. The course is always 5km and while the profile might differ (some flat, some hilly) the events are reassuringly consistent. Coordinated by friendly volunteers and a field made up of elite club runners, weekend warriors, joggers, runners with dogs, parents with buggies and people discovering running for the first time. At various points since 2007 I have been in every one of those categories!
With all those events you never need to miss a parkrun. If you’re away visiting friends, or staying in Edinburgh for Christmas, you can get out and take part in your nearest parkrun. As you participate the statistics are added to your profile page. This can encourage a Pokemon mentality of Gotta Catch ‘em all, at least it has in me.
There’s no official tourism rule book, but any time you show up at an event that’s not your home parkrun - you’re a tourist. It’s quite likely the event director will ask tourists to make themselves known, a lovely touch that gets a bigger cheer the further you’ve come.
For the serious tourists their week will be spent thinking about where Saturday might take them. Some people probably have it mapped out, their year planned in advance. My approach is a little more chaotic and started with wanting to know my new local area. I worked my way through Tooting, Brockwell, Dulwich, Crystal Palace, Fulham Palace, Hilly Fields and Nonsuch Parkruns. Now the thought of repeating a parkrun makes me uncomfortable. Every Friday night, based on current alcohol consumption and childcare responsibilities for the following day, I decide where to go.
Parkrun helps you celebrate milestones with T-Shirts. You will see runners with 50, 100 and 250 shirts. Volunteers are celebrated with a shirt after helping out at 25 events and juniors recognised for running 10 parkruns. For parkrun tourists there is a leaderboard. I am just 3 runs away from my 20th different parkrun and a place on the “Most Events” list.
Map of parkruns I’ve taken part in
Zoom out to see anything outside of London. Big version of the map at benunsworth.co.uk/parkrun/.