AND THEY’RE OFF: A Saturday well spent by participants of Emerald's first parkrun.
AND THEY’RE OFF: A Saturday well spent by participants of Emerald's first parkrun.

Parkrun popularity continues upward dash

TWO and a half years ago, Jen Bennett was scrolling through Facebook when the Parkrun concept caught her attention and she thought, “What’s this all about?”.

Yet last weekend she watched 145 people complete the 5km course that she traced and tested to establish Emerald’s parkrun event.

October marks 15 years since the world’s first official parkrun in London, and 30 months since Emerald took up the weekly habit.

“It took me about a year to set up,” Jen said.

“The hurdle for us was getting the course marked out, because I wanted to make our parkrun one that doesn’t loop on itself.”

The Botanic Gardens presented itself as the ideal location for a 7am jog that kept early exercisers visually engaged and passed parkrun’s course requirements.

Ater an auditing process and some fundraising, the first park-runners took to the track in April 2017 and Jen found herself the Emerald parkrun event director.

She said her expectations were quickly surpassed.

“I originally estimated 40 people would turn up and that then it would die out.

“But here we are, getting over a hundred people a week, which is great for fitness in the community.

“We get first-timers, walkers, runners, children - people who just want to get out there and give it a go.”

Emerald parkrun is coordinated by five volunteers each week who direct the running, keep time, and ensure everyone stays motivated.

“It’s not just about running,” Jen said. “It’s about a community coming together and encouraging everyone.”

“And once people try volunteering they come back for more.

“You’re talking to people and runners thank you as they pass - it’s a great feeling.”

The puffed participants typically get together for coffee afterwards, giving volunteers time to enter data from the morning, which is available online.

The most people at a single Emerald parkrun was 304. The total number of registered runners is 1,500, and the distance run over the months 60,000km.

Those figures will continue tracking upwards, if Jen’s hopes of spreading the weekend ritual are realised.

“Next year will be our third birthday. We get new people every week,” she said.

“It’s free and it’s fun, and it’s a great Saturday morning.”

Visit the Botanic Gardens at 7am on a Saturday to participate, or find Emerald parkrun on Facebook for more information.