Last week, Parkrun made the decision to delete its course records. And it made no difference to the thousands of runners and walkers who still took part the following day.
I started running after losing my dad to cancer in 2010. I signed up for Race for Life. The training gave me focus, a release, and an opportunity to fundraise in his memory.
Race for Life is an event that I hold dear and still participate in. Unfortunately, it’s not something that can be done every other month or week (though I would if I could). While discussing this, a friend recommended Parkrun to me. I wasn’t sure at first because she is a very good runner, but she convinced me that it is for everyone.
I did my first Parkrun in Glasgow and soon became very invested in the number of runs I’d completed, earning milestone T-shirts. I then started volunteering, which I love, and became completely hooked, completing my 200th run last weekend.
Through the concept of “Parkrun tourism”, I’ve explored parts of Scotland I wouldn’t have previously considered visiting. Some of my favourites include Fort William, Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire, Stirling University, and Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute.
Community, routine, stability and the great outdoors
Parkrun offers so much beyond the obvious benefits of exercise and fresh air. And during the Covid lockdowns (aside from missing friends and family), I realised that Parkrun was the thing I missed the most.
I even find spiritual benefits in Parkrun. Those of us who observe the Pagan Wheel of the Year love to be out in nature, and Parkrun gets me out every Saturday morning, no matter what.
I enjoy observing the seasonal changes as I jog around my local Parkrun. The snowdrops have now appeared and, next, I look forward to the pink cherry blossoms, the buzzing of bees, and, in autumn – my favourite time of year – I anticipate the cool air and the colourful leaves drifting from the trees.
For me, my run is a time to be mindful and grateful for our beautiful planet while getting some endorphins. As the world becomes more virtual, Parkrun offers us things that humans need and seek out: community, routine, stability, the great outdoors, even adventure.
As a social media user, I was aware of recent online drama occurring relating to Parkrun that has been framed as a “trans debate”. But this hostility just isn’t evident in the parks in the real world on Saturday mornings. The overwhelming majority of us are not training for the Olympics: we simply want some fun and exercise.
Judging by the massive Parkrun participation in Scotland last weekend, I think I speak for many when I say that nothing has changed – the run was as joyful as ever, and the inclusive ethos remains of great importance.
People run with buggies, children and dogs, and New Zealand recently had the first 100-year-old Parkrunner! Seeing this broad spectrum of humanity is part of the magic.
Gemma Clark is a teacher, campaigner and local radio presenter