As we approach our 12th Christmas and New Year, I want to extend a sincere thank you to all the staff and volunteers across the world who have worked so hard to make parkrun the place it has become. The generosity of the people involved in parkrun appears to have no bounds.
I also want to wish each and every one of you a very happy festive season and my wish for you is that next year will be better than any that has come before.
As I reflect on the past and gaze into the future, I find myself in a wonderful position. I am the happiest I have ever been; but it hasn't always been this way. Over the years there have been many occasions where I considered if the difficulties associated with delivering parkrun outweighed the benefits that it delivered. In hindsight, I suspect that I was simply doing too much, couldn't see the wood for the trees and that this view was shared by the team as we were under-resourced and our workload appeared like a mountain before us. It’s easy in situations like that, and where you find yourself dealing with a single unreasonable complaint or issue, to lose faith or become disheartened.
My levels of happiness are at an all-time high since we introduced a few changes to the team and the positivity associated with changing people’s lives for the better makes it all worthwhile. However it also helps to have a team working together and facing in the right direction. In May, we welcomed Nick Pearson as our global CEO and began the process of aligning the Country Teams more closely with the UK. Tom Williams has led the way delivering more events including the brilliant junior parkrun series while at the same time ensuring that we all understand and live up to the parkrun principles. We can now feel the benefit of Tom’s enthusiasm as he encourages all the teams in the countries where we operate. The parkrun Board are supporting Nick and Tom who are spearheading a new strategy, involving all parkrun territories, which should see us delivering one million weekly participants by 2023. Of course this presents us with significant challenges, not least the technology we develop and use. The success of parkrun over the past 11 years has largely been down to the simple yet effective use of technology, creating a seamless experience for volunteer event teams and participants alike. I’ve no doubt our technology platforms will evolve in the future.
This past year has seen parkrun’s influence at all levels of society grow. There are now more than 700 5k events and 79 junior events attracting upwards of 100,000 participants a week. We have spoken at a number of leading conferences on sport and activity and consulted with many governing bodies on how to improve levels of activity. We now boast more than two million registrations, 12.5 million recorded runs and around one million instances of volunteering. It’s no wonder folks want to talk to us.
parkrun is a unique organisation. Dave Moorcroft, a former world record holder for 5,000 metres, recently reflected on this at our country manager’s conference in Cork when he said: “There is no other organisation quite like parkrun. Where else can you experience the exact same feeling of community, openness, friendliness and common sense of purpose that you get with every parkrun no matter where you participate."
Finally, reflecting on our journey, earlier this year I spent some time with the team at Bromley parkrun. This event was celebrating its 300th parkrun and so has been a part of the family for more than six years. At dinner with Martin Cunningham, who has been on the journey since the early days of parkrun, he reflected: “In six years there has not been a day when I haven’t spoken to someone about parkrun. parkrun is the only thing that I can honestly say I have never spoken a bad word about.”
Well, that pretty much sums up all my parkrun emotions.
Thank you for your contribution, for without your involvement there might not be parkrun.