A SportsShoes Guide to parkrun

Established in 2004, parkrun is about to enter its 20th year!

parkrun events have been enjoyed by so many people across so many cultures in so many countries, so in celebration of its BIG birthday, we help to explain what the world's most popular and accessible community event is all about.


What is parkrun?

parkrun is a free community event where you can walk, jog, run, volunteer or spectate. parkrun is always 5K in distance and takes place every Saturday morning. Junior parkrun is 2K, dedicated to 4-14 year olds and their families, every Sunday morning.

parkrun is positive, welcoming and inclusive, there is no time limit and no one finishes last. Everyone is welcome to come along.

How did parkrun begin?

Of course, it was a bit more low key at the beginning…the first ever event was in Bushy Park, Teddington, UK, where 13 intrepid parkrunners got together on 2 October 2004. 

The volunteer team included parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt with Joanne Sinton-Hewitt, Duncan Gaskell, Simon Hedger and Robin Drummond. It took nearly two years before parkrun spread beyond Bushy. To begin with all results were collated on paper and the finish tokens were washers from the local hardware store! But eventually the technology ramped up and the parkrun registration and barcode result system was born. Now many hundreds of thousands of parkrunners are processed, websites updated and millions of results emails sent each week.

The parkrun community is growing all the time – but it’s all still based on the simple, basic principles formed from the start: weekly, free, for everyone, forever.


How does parkrun work and how do you sign up?

parkrun is free and you only need to register once whether walking, jogging, running, volunteering or a combination.

Click here if you have never previously registered with parkrun, this allows you to keep track of your parkrun journey. If you have registered previously and taken part in an event, there is no need to re-register. You’re welcome to go along and spectate at parkrun events without registering.

On the day

You’ve signed up, got your barcode and have picked your parkrun of choice. Good work!

There is no mandatory dress code at parkrun, you can wear whatever you feel most comfortable in – that could be shorts, tights, a comfy pair of jogging bottoms, or lycra. Anything that you feel comfortable volunteering, walking, jogging or running.

On the day, aim to arrive 15-20 minutes before the start. parkruns start at 9:00am in England & Wales, and at 9:30am in Scotland & Northern Ireland.

Most parkruns have somewhere you can leave your belongings, but it’s always best to just bring the essentials and check with your local event if you have any specific questions.

You don’t have to sign-in or register on the day and you won’t need to do anything with your barcode until you’ve finished.

Before the start

Around 10-15 minutes before parkrun starts, the majority of parkruns will then have a first-timers briefing.

This welcome briefing is specifically for anyone who is new to the event and gives you the opportunity to ask any questions.

The course will also be explained to you and you’ll get to meet other people taking part for the first time.

We know some people are more confident than others when it comes to crowds and meeting new people, so remember there’s no pressure at all to talk to anyone!

You are more than welcome to listen to music or do your own thing. Whatever makes you comfortable.

Then, the main briefing will take place. This is carried out by the Run Director, who will usually be wearing a black and white hi-vis vest, and generally takes place near the start of your parkrun.

Even if you’ve been before, it’s important to be quiet and listen to the briefing so you don’t miss any announcements or course changes, as well as the chance to celebrate milestones.

Then it’s time to start. The Run Director will usually count down from three, and then you’re off! It’s at this point that the timing starts.

During parkrun

As you make your way around the course, please don’t worry about being too slow or not being fit enough.

It’s absolutely fine to stop, only complete some of the course, walk-run, or walk the entire way – at parkrun there is no time limit. Literally, thousands of people walk every week. Every event has a volunteer Tail Walker, meaning nobody finishes last.

You also don’t need to memorise the course or carry a map! parkrun courses have marshals along the route offering you encouragement and support.

There will likely be other people out using the park, such as dog walkers, so please do be mindful during parkrun.

Click here for all other parkrun FAQ's.


What is the original parkrun in the UK?

Bushy parkrun, in Teddington, London, is both the oldest and the largest parkrun event in the UK, consistently getting over 1,000 walkers and runners and over 50 volunteers every week.


What is the hilliest parkrun in the UK?

Unsurprisingly, the hilliest UK parkrun in the UK is Whinlatter Forest parkrun in Keswick, Lake District. Also one of the most scenic and beautiful courses, it features almost 200m of ascent.

What are the best PB parkruns?

At parkrun, it’s all about the taking part – whether you walk, jog, run or volunteer. But everyone loves blowing off the cobwebs and going for a PB!  

Click here for seven of the parkruns across the UK that offer some personal best potential…


What is the most beautiful/scenic parkrun in the UK?

It's difficult to find a clear and definitive winner as everyone’s experience of an event is subjective.

However, Countryfile reveals 10 of its favourite rural parkruns, courses that not only deliver on the community spirit and inclusivity found at every event, but also on spectacular scenery. 

Click here to see them all.

National Park parkruns

Known as Britain’s breathing spaces, there are 15 National Parks across the country – areas of spectacular landscape that are protected so everyone can visit and enjoy them.

Click here to see a selection of spectacular parkruns that are hosted each Saturday in 10 of our National Parks.


Capital city parkruns

When heading off to Europe for a city break, the first thing we do when booking a holiday is to find the nearest parkrun!

With parkruns now taking place in 21 countries worldwide, we take a closer look at nine European capital cities that scan barcodes every week.

Click here to find out more.

Lakeside parkruns

With more than 530 parkruns in the UK on a Saturday, and more and more events joining the family all the time, the variety of parkrun courses is ever expanding.

We have cross-country trails, inner-city parks, seaside promenades and vast forests, to name just a few. And for those who like to be beside the water, you don’t have to travel to the coast to get your barcode scanned.

Click here to find out about five lakeside parkruns where you can really make a splash!


Other parkrun statistics UK

Locations: 815

Finishers: 3,057,277

Finishes: 51,248,868

All-time events: 256,624

Volunteers: 424,740

PBs: 7,872,961

Average finish time: 00:29:12

Average finishes per participant: 16.8

Feeling inspired?

Then what are you waiting for? Why not register today and find a parkrun near you!

Click here to view the full list of parkrun events.

Click here to view the full list of junior parkrun events.

Are you feeling inspired? Then join our SportsShoes Strava Run Club and become part of our inclusive community.
And for more inspirational tips to become stronger, better and happier, then check out our Motivation category. Because it’s no fun standing still.


Welcome to the SportsShoes Motivation Hub! From real-life stories, tips and inspiration, here you'll find everything you need to motivate you to keep pushing your limits and break PBs.

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