A birthday message – 2012

By Paul Sinton-Hewitt, parkrun founder
— Sunday 9 September 2012

October 2012 already. Its eight years since I started the first ever parkrun. Damn and blast! Where did the time go? Just think of all those runs I could have enjoyed had I not been planning, organising and delivering parkruns around the world.

For many of you this may be your first insight into how parkrun came about. I get asked how and why we started parkrun a few times every week and sorry to say this but I sometimes find myself struggling to repeat the tale. Nevertheless, I know how important parkrun has become to so many people, how it’s integrated into your families’ lives and how it has brought communities together where none existed before.

For those of you who know me, you will understand the dilemma I face personally. I am a strange creature in that I like the attention that parkrun receives but I’m not great at receiving this attention. This often leaves me answering people who want to know about parkrun with a simple, one line response: “parkrun is a simple, weekly, 5k timed run managed by volunteers”.

I started the first parkrun because I was injured and because I needed a reason to stay involved in the running community. Why didn't I just offer myself to my running club as a volunteer? Well, I didn't! Instead I came up with a format that I felt didn't exist in the UK and which I hoped would provide additional opportunities for club runners to explore their capabilities. It was so simple. I would have this 5K course that would be the same every week. I would make sure that it took place every week at the same time so that no one would every have to think too hard about its availability on run day. I would make sure that anyone could take part and that the runners accepted responsibility for getting around the course safely. I would keep the helpers to a minimum making sure that I could continue to offer this event every week of the year and finally I would do everything I could to publish the achievements of the participants. And that, in a nutshell, is how parkrun as you know it, was born!

Eight years on and I have to pinch myself every week as the results start poring in. What have we done? I am now a director of a company, presiding over a movement, managing a number of employees and with huge responsibilities to people all over the world to keep parkrun growing while at the same time maintaining the 5 basic pillars of parkrun. Extending the metaphor a little, we exist in 7 countries and exceed 170 parkrun locations. When you consider this a little further there are 7 national offices looking after 170 local parkrun offices with over 360,000 customers and with over 24,000 coming to the office each week. Yes, I know we don't use these words in parkrun land but I find this simile helps to put perspective on our achievements.

As we approach our birthday on the 2nd October, I want to offer my thanks and appreciation to everyone who has ever mentioned the word parkrun, to those who have run a parkrun and especially to those who make parkrun possible week in and week out – our precious volunteers. It is my wish that the whole parkrun community, every parkrun event across the world, take the opportunity on the 6th October to celebrate our birthday. I don't mind how you decide to do this. Have an extra coffee after the run, sleep in and miss the run, bring someone new to experience the family at your event, however you decide to celebrate is fine with me. I will be at the home of parkrun – Bushy Park – where I expect to blend into the sea of parkrunners and to enjoy the birthday alongside my family.

With immense gratitude and a colossal sense of pride,
Paul

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